All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, November 19, 2010

If I organized parent teacher conferences

Every fall, parents across the country wait to be assigned some mutually inconvenient time for parent and teacher to conference regarding the academic progress (all 8 weeks of it) for each child. Now I'm sure for the parents of the gifted & talented students, there is a certain joy of expectation. For the parents of kids with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans for those not in the know), these autumn-fests are not the highlight of the social calendar. I will admit to a certain "oy vey" feeling in my stomach heading off to hear how my ADHD Son1 likes to shout out in class (MY Son?), talks in class-- a lot (no WAY?!), and needs to work to curb his impulses. (REALLY? Wow- I hadn't noticed he was impulsive, seriously?). I will hear that Son2 has issues transitioning from one task to another (GET OUT) and may, at times, simply close his books, push them to the side and have a good long day dream. That is the inevitable point at which I, year after year, suppress what would be a very poorly-timed giggle and try to rein in my own attention.

I don't mean to diminish in any way what the teachers do with my kids. But they're in 5th and 7th grades now. I want to hear something new. Since that would mean going to some other kid's conference which is frowned upon, I think we need to rethink the way we have parents and teachers meet. How 'bout we just cut the pedantic pleasantries and we cut to the heart of the matter. You would like, in no particular order, for me to enforce with my sons that they need to:

1) Give homework at least a passing glance
2) Stop shouting out every answer, every time, every day
3) Attempt to walk a semi-straight line to transition to class on time
4) Remember books, at least every so often
5) Chain the homework planner to their persons to ensure ready access when it counts, like say, when planning homework.

Ok? We're good to go? Pedantic pleasantries and filial formalities resolved, here's what I think we should be doing. We should be having wine. Yes, I know it's not allowed on school property, but maybe just this once we'll sort that out. What we have here are stilted interviews with parents wanting so badly to hear good news, while conditioned to one teacher after another telling them what the issues are. I can barely get through a holiday dinner without valium so I am well aware that their behaviors can be disruptive in group settings. I'm not being negative. I'm being honest. I'm their mom. I know Son1 & Son2 are scatter-brained, talk a lot, and lose important stuff. No sense wasting tax payer time telling me again. The mood's all wrong. We need to work as partners; we need to break the first marking period ice. We need... to toast.

The wrong mood all started back just a few weeks into the year, with Back to School Night. I know you need to run down the budget crisis, the NJ ASK (or whatever standardized state test du jour you respectively have), and shock and awe us with your enthusiasm for our kids. But I'm a middle school parent, and looking around the not so crowded gym, I'd say the bloom is off the rose in the parent interest level by middle school. Our kids don't leave us cute pictures on their desks and nice letters to Mommy. The novelty of sitting in their little desks is gone. The "fun" has passed. Hell, Son1 won't even tell me his locker# and combo for fear of snooping. But yes, parents should be more engaged in the education. I whole heartedly agree when I hear that. So draw us back in, with wine.

Trust me, if you uncork it- they will come. If I ran back to school nights, they would have been open house style cocktail parties to kick off the year ahead, rather than stilted, marginally attended PowerPoint displays that the teachers clearly put a lot of work in to for no where near the parent showing that they should get. We could have had punch in Phys-Ed, Oktoberfest in Social Studies (it's kind of cultural), and studied fermentation in Science. A little intro by the 6th grade Jazz band would have been nice. Can ya dig it? I knew thatcha would.

If I ran Parent-Teacher conferences, they would be very intimate little tête-à-têtes. We'd discuss test scores over brie. Perhaps some crostini would be shared as you encouraged me and I encouraged you. As these are small gatherings, one more one on one, I'd suggest we serve by the glass. Those little airline bottles may be ideal too. Ooooh I know! Set up a mini bar in the corner. While I cracked it open for some Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies that seem to invade all mini-bars, I'd grab a Chivas or two. By mini-bar rates that would be about $52. Doesn't seem so hard to raise the moolah to send the 8th grade to Washington DC now, does it? Think about it.

These are just my humble suggestions, for you to find some ways to build parent interest during these tween years when our own kids drive us to drink. I may submit this to the Superintendent. It's too late for this year, but maybe they could take some action for next year. I wish I thought of this sooner. This afternoon, we have Son1's Social Studies, Science, and Math teachers all in a 45 minute span. Without advance warning, they'd probably think it a little odd if I showed up with a baguette and Bordeaux. Ah well, it’s their loss.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I'm elated for Prince William

Why do I care about Prince William's engagement? Well, apart from the fact that I feel the world could just use some happy news right now, it gives me hope. Sure, there's all the joy and hope surrounding any newly engaged couple. But that's not what I mean. It gives me hope because in this world filled with trashy reality stars and crazy drunk celebs, he opted for... a lady. I know, I know. Don't jump on my apparent lapse of royal protocol.. Technically, she's not a "Lady," but a commoner. What I mean is, she's not a skank. PRAISE GOD.

I watch TV, check out magazines, catch some YouTube clips, and each and every time I am left with this skin-crawling feeling of what my sons may bring home one day. It starts at a frightening age, this skankamorphosis of young girls. Our house is adjacent to an elementary and middle school. Those cute little outfits of first grade become a little too sparse by sixth grade. It's well reported that sixth grade girls are more highly developed than previous generations. (It's absolutely true. Dr. Oz even said so.) Couple that with the shrinking clothes and the role models of Rihanna with her F*** You necklace and Snooki with her... well, her entire self- I'd freeze blogger embedding all the links... and girls are being shown that skank is the new black.

In this day and age, it seems like every young woman in the public eye must have fake boobs, fake tan, fake hair extensions, and be, in the immortal words of Bill to Russell on Fat Albert, "like summer vacation... no class." Along comes Prince William, son of one of the most glamorous women ever, with his bride to be. And she's n-o-r-m-a-l looking. She's beautiful, yes. She is gifted with a tall, slender figure and yet she looks, dare I say, "human." Don't think they don't have skanks in the UK. They brought us Big Brother after all. He just didn't pick one of them! Kate Middleton has already been photographed for years, and always appears very tastefully dressed. Good God, how I hope she'll be plastered on every magazine for that alone. Team her with a young man who wears suits, while we've deluded ourselves into thinking argyle sweater vests are "boys formal dress wear" and pajamas (on adults) in restaurants are ok, and it gives me hope.

I remember getting up really, really early in the morning to watch his parents' wedding while out in California that summer. All of us, even the non-Anglophiles, feel like we've watched him grow up from hyper, mischievous little boy to the now betrothed 6'3" man. So then, I look at my Son1 and Son2 (my own heir and the spare) and I think, "ok, there's hope." There's hope that boys settle down in to articulate gentlemen. There's hope that young men may learn once again how to dress well, and not look they are always heading off to play basketball. There's hope that my prospective daughters-in-law need not be hoochies.

So this evening, I'm tucking in to some cozy time with  the TV, getting my WASP on with all the media fanfare and contemplating where I can find a kick ass hat to wear to the church service to which I will assuredly be invited. William, on behalf of your beloved late mother, and on behalf of all mothers everywhere~ thank you for picking a nice young lady. Not a skank.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Day My Name Changed to Mom

Today is one of the most specials day of the year in our house. It's "Family Day." Family Day is what we call the day our adoption papers were finalized in the Russian court, and we became parents to Son1 and Son2. For the rest of my days, my name would be changed to Mom. In honor of the day upon which my descent into madness kicked off, I've been reflecting upon the things I wish I knew then. For all the Home Studies and parenting classes, there's a lot that falls through the cracks.

I don't think many of these are exclusive to adoption, really. Deep down, I think we all could have used some practical guidance on the following:

Parenting ages you at a rate once reserved for US Presidents.
Did you every notice how fast the President ages over a four year term? Did you ever stop and look at your old DMV photo when the license expires and the new one is taken? Eight years ago I looked like Janet Leigh, now, Mrs. Bates. Knowing this in advance would have enabled me to stockpile face creams, massages... maybe a vial or ten of botox.

Washable red markers are, alas, not fully washable.
Just as new red tshirts wreak laundry havoc and Hawaiian Punch will ruin any garment, the red markers will stay with you.My advice- remove them at once from all Crayola boxes. Lose them, toss them, crush them, shred them... whatever it takes.

Your parents really did live to embarass you.
How do I know? Because I DO live some days to make Son1 squirm into a near-teen sweat. Treat me like a jerk in front of your friends just because you think it's more cool, and I assure you, every girl you date will learn I call you Cocoa Bear, be tipped off you will be 30 and still playing video games with a Dath Vader helmet on, and hear about your incessant need to run around naked as a jaybird still. So don't push me, Cocoa Bear. ; )

Kids smell.
Really, they do. They start out with that powdery baby smell and any stray odors are blamed on the diapers. This is only so you can bond with them. And then when they realize they smell, the overcompensate with toxic fumes like Axe. Had they smelled at 2 and 4 the way my laundry does now, I would have gagged and done a rethink.

And lastly... You will suck as a mom, and that's ok.
Whenever I come clean on some massive parenting fail point, I'm always amazed at the kind responses. I'm assured (ok, sometimes astounded) by the volume of equally bad flashes of judgment confessed by you all. It does my heart good to know we all suck at this at times, and that life goes on.

Boys, we love you and adore you more than you could ever know. You make my heart soar. My blood pressure could use a break. But even with all the madness, noise and mayhem, I am so thankful to God for each day you're in my life, for each day I am blessed to call you "sons."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Speak Up or Shut Up Time

There are so many reasons to vote, and so few really good excuses not to. Here are some of my favorite things about going full frontal 19th Amendment!

You’ll have every right to bitch
If you vote, you have a certain ownership stake. You can gripe. Non voters should not pass judgment, much in the same way we as parents are entitled to bitch and moan about things our kids do, but would never want a stranger saying a peep.

Cool flag stickers
Even in my 40’s, I can still rock an “I Voted!” flag sticker like all get out.

On site bake sales
Sure, I should avoid muffins, brownies or(and) cupcakes at 8:00am. But these lovely treats are on display outside the middle school polling place each election to raise money to send our 8th graders on their DC trip. I am not giving in to sugar lust, I am helping send our borough’s youth to the epicenter of democracy.

I’ve seen other states that have these lame little tables w/ stations for privacy. In my town, we still get the magic curtain. Aside from trips into the lockable ATM alcove, how many other times is total privacy mandated? You want no one scoping your actions, and your actions can change the world. I’m thing of putting a voting curtain around my shower to see if my kids will leave me alone then.

The silence of the booth
Under the guise of re-reading the public questions 27 times, I’ve been known to linger in some cases to enjoy the peace of the booth. Heaven. They must think I’m the least decisive person on the planet.

Use of something I learned in school(house rock)
A few times each year (if I count primaries, school board and budget votes), I go through the motions of something we learned in history and civics. Do they even still teach these things in school? I kind of feel like my kids can rattle off gobs about other cultures but would trip over the term lengths of a senator vs. congressional rep. Maybe I’ll plop them down in front of some School House Rock, which, let’s be honest, can be credited as much as our schools for teaching us about adverbs, conjunctions, lonely old bills here on Capitol Hill, nouns (you know- a person, place, or thing), and the preamble to the Constitution.

This election day, I say thanks to all the amazing service people who have given years of their lives, and sadly, in some cases, life itself, all to protect my freedoms. I’d also like to thank faithful fan Jenifer in LA for reminding me of the suffragettes, who traipsed around for hours in those crazy big hats and bustles in wind, rain, and searing heat protesting to win me this right… all I do is haul my ass out of a Lexus in the parking lot. Suffragettes, I tip my parasol to you historic divas!