Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anonymous, let's chat

You know who you are, Lower Falls person. The one with the AOL webmail address using Comcast on a Mac. If you want me to take any of your comments seriously, I suggest you learn how to spell, punctuate, and use proper grammar. Because I don't even bother to read crap from illiterate morons that think they know what they're talking about, but actually haven't a clue. Thanks for all your 'advice' about your school. Unfortunately for you, I have a child that attends that school too, and every single word you said about it was not only an absolute lie, but it has been my experience that it is the exact opposite of what you've claimed. I've had nothing but EXCELLENT relationships with the teachers and the school. So sorry, but with your pathetic excuse for writing, along with your claims about the teachers my daugter has, I think you should be regarded for the idiot you appear to be. Tell your mommy I say "Hi" and if she continues to threaten the kids, the next step is a formal action, and I won't be the only parent involved. Oh, by the way, your comments are going nowhere but in the trash. Sorry, but it's MY blog and I control what goes on it and what doesn't. You don't like it, write your own blog. I'm sure that the myspace folks would think you're the coolest thing since rotten cheese.


(Oh, and sending the same post 5 times from two different usernames doesn't work either. Kerplunk!)
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Meeting 1 update

This could be the first of several meetings in order to solve the issues I've brought to the table concerning the Girl's educational issues this year. Attendees at the meeting were the school principal, the school psychologist, the head of special services (SpEd), my advocate and myself. The meeting was held in the principal's office and started about 5 minutes late, as usual.

We started out by discussing the English teacher. I brought with my the Girl's entire portfolio with some documents she had written marked up to show the subjectivity of the grading. There was no discernable rubrik to show why her grades were so low, but after looking at my examples from the NY Times Book Review and the Chicago Manual of Style, all were in agreement that the grading needs to be explained and the teacher needs to be reinformed about the Girl's learning issues, i.e. follow the damn IEP. It was agreed that the principal and the school psychologist would meet with the English teacher and discuss the grading rubrik and the subjectivity of the teacher's edits, which all agreed seemed unusually harsh. We spoke about how the Girl has gone from an eager English learner to one that has become blaise about even trying, because she knows she'll only get a C- with no chance for advancement. This did not sit well with the group, and they vowed to make it better. We'll see.

Then we moved onto the Math teacher. I started out with the threatening, and they all immediately agreed that this was in no way to be supported. What I was suprised about is that the principal was aware of the problem since other parents had already brought this to his attention. I think now that I have as well, and that I've got legal people behind me, they're probably going to insist that this woman stop threatening.

We also covered her continual screaming. No surprise there, either. They've had plenty of complaints, it seems. So WHY is this woman still working there? And lastly we touched on how the Teacher makes the Girl feel, especially when she's constantly threatening to fail her. The upshot is that the principal and the school psychologist are going to hold a meeting with the Teacher and the Girl to try and work out a solution that is agreeable to both parties. I asked that they let the Girl speak her mind, intimating that she's probably going to swear and call names, but I think she should have that right after so many months of pent up anger and frustration. Once that meeting is held, we'll have a followup meeting where I can talk to the teachers if I choose.

I was polite, well spoken, very well prepared, and exhibited power. I didn't back down. I didn't yell, but I was strong. I got my words heard, and I am going to get some action. That's all I really wanted, for my daughter to be respected and for her IEP to be followed. A little professionalism would't hurt, either.
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How I prepared for The Meeting

The Meeting at the Girls school is on Tuesday morning. This is how I've prepared for any hint of confrontation:
  1. Collected all pertinent tests and papers, neatly filed in expanding file folder.
  2. Assembled several of the top style guides for editors, including Strunk and White, Chicago Manual, etc.
  3. Gone through all math tests noting when SpEd teacher gave Girl the incorrect answer that she subsequently got marked wrong. (I did mention he gives her the answers on her math test, right?)
  4. Edited the last couple of English papers for subjective comments and unfair grading.
  5. Called our attorney and put her on attention that this meeting was occurring.
  6. Bought large water bottle as they never offer you a thing to drink, the cretins.
  7. Bought box of Altoids so as not to offend.
  8. Set alarm for extra early so I can shower, dry, and flatiron my hair and look fluffy clean.
  9. Set out decent outfit.
  10. Practiced snarling. (just kidding!)
  11. Printed out all email between teachers and myself that I will use as last minute ammunition.
  12. Collected statements from the Girl's friends who have heard with their very own ears her claims that the Girl does NOT have an IEP.
  13. Said numerous prayers that I don't reach across the table and throttle anyone (again, J/K).
  14. Sharpened my claws on cat's scratching post.
  15. Bought myself flowers to cheer me up.

Will post updates as they become available.
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Monday, February 27, 2006

Mars and Venus and maybe Saturn, too

You know how you're supposed to pretend that there really isn't much of a difference between the genders. Total codswallop. Do not buy it for a minute. Girls have social skills, even the ones that seem to be outcasts, nerds and geeks. They have some idea of how to make a phone call, handle a conversation, make a plan, have a goal. Boys...not so much. As a mom of both a boy and a girl, who happen to be the same age but absolutely and completely socially different, this can make for some really ugly competition and frustration.

Over vacation, the Girl was barely home. She made plans with everyone in the Northern Hemisphere. She hit malls in towns I've never even heard of, she went to the movies, she had sleepovers and she slept over other kids houses. She would run in to the house, yell as she tromped upstairs "I'm just getting some clean clothes" and be gone. I've never seen her happier. Busy, lots of plans, dinners out, phone calls galore. What girl doesn't want all that at the tender age of 13?

On the other hand, the Boy refused to make one phone call, didn't see a friend the whole week, and complained about being bored. We hit the library twice, we went shopping in some of his favorite haunts, he walked to the CD store nearby and picked up some music, and he played with his sister on DDR (which is still a HUGE hit!). But he WOULD NOT make a plan. OK, in his defense, most of his school friends he can't hang out with because they're smoking dope and he can't be around that. I admire him for setting up boundries for himeself and refusing to get caught up in the peer pressure of smoking dope. He's on way too many meds to add pot to the mixture, and he's acutely aware of that. Plus, he's been in enough trouble to last a lifetime and he knows he doesn't need any more.

BUT... because he won't make plans, he gets frustrated when he wants to get together with friends but they already have plans, or he has appointments that he's forgotten. I just don't know how to make him get that you have to plan ahead. Today at family therapy just he and I went, and we spent the whole hour working on this. I think some headway was made, but he's such an anxious little guy to begin with, and I see him in the grips of social anxiety because he's such a perfectionist about himself. My heart aches for him because I know what a great kid he is, and how much the other kids like him. I've seen it with my own eyes. It's just that HE doesn't know it, or he doesn't trust it. Being so much younger than his classmates has finally caught up with him. They're starting to drive, he's got 3 more years to think about it.

Watching your teen in pain is just the more horrifying feeling a parent can have. It is so much harder than watching your child get an injection or fall off a slide. This is the gut wrenching ache of fitting in, of social acceptance, of self-esteem. It's so painful for me to watch my kids when they doubt themselves. I can't make it better, and that's the worst hurt of all. No more kiss and make it better stuff. Boy do I miss that!
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Sunday, February 26, 2006



You know you wanna click. So do it.

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Computers.... can suck

This could be exceptionally boring. Just warning you!

The Girl and I went over to a friend's house today for a nice visit. While we were gone, the Boy took it upon himself to download some stuff he's SO not supposed to download. No, not porn or music, freaking AOL instant messenger. I'm a former AOL employee. I wouldn't use their crappy software for love or money. If we can't IM with Yahoo IM, then we don't IM. Not knowing that AOL loads crap upon more crap on your machine if they get the chance, he happily clicked "yes" to anything they offered. Thus, he brought my computer to a screaming halt. When I got home, all there was on the screen was the infamous DOS blinking underscore and he was scared.

Of course, I figured out pretty quickly that the machine wasn't going to to reboot because he had some weird DVD in the drive and for some reason the machine kept looking for the Restore CD. I pulled out the DVD and the machine rebooted immediately. But it was working pretty oddly, sluggish and just recalcitrant. I had to do something quick, because I can't work on a machine that doesn't want to cooperate.

First I did an Add/Delete and got rid of a ton of crap that he's downloaded. The kid hasn't met a Demo game he didn't fall in love with, despite the rule that we don't download without asking. Sigh. AOL wouldn't go away. As usual. I absolutely HATE that damn piece of shit. He loaded the entire AOL software, not just the IM. I got rid of the IM, but the AOL software remains. I have no clue of how to get rid of it except by deleting every frigging file by hand.

Next I ran AdAware and noted that he had plenty of cookies he didn't need. Gone. I showed him how when he downloads stuff, it brings lots of hidden files. Blank looks abound.

And finally, I defragged the hard drive. Talk about a painful experience. It took close to 4 hours, but oh, my computer is happy again. I'm not sure which of the activities made the computer hum again, or maybe it was the combination of all of them, but things are groovy now and a lesson was learned (hopefully) by the Boy who downloads anything that looks remotely interesting.

Ah, to be free of crud on my hard drive. So much space to roam. 74% EMPTY. Life is good again.
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Saturday, February 25, 2006

When you just don't know what to do

I can't tell you guys what the issue is, because it's not our family that's going through hell right now. I can't tell you who or why or how, but I can ask that you send a lot of good vibes to friends of ours that are having very hard times and need all the vibes they can get (and more!).

You know how sometimes you're just helpless and you have to stand by and watch people in a lot of pain? How you want to do something, but honestly, nothing you can do can help to make it better except to be there and let them know that you offer a safe place? How you think that if only you could do A or B, it might help to make a difference, but in actuality you can't offer either A or B, and even if you could, it wouldn't help. It's so frustrating for me. I want to help. I want to make things better. I can't stand to watch people in pain. I especially can't stand to watch children in pain. But I can't do anything right now. I've done what I can for now, and I know that what I've done is such a drop in the bucket, but that's all I can do. It has nothing to do with my disability or my financial options. It has to do with just being able to change someone's lives for the better, and at this point, I'm not superhuman and I can't make the world all better. I would like to, but I can't.

I'm sad because I've SO been there and experienced so much of the same stuff our friends are going through, but they don't need to know that. It's not about me, it's about them. I know that in the long run, getting out of bad situations is horribly painful and very difficult, and sometimes even when you're long gone, the old stuff comes back to bite you in the ass. For me, watching someone go through the same kind of stuff that I went through is more than sobering, it's horribly difficult. I want to believe that things change, they improve, there is more protection, but the deal is, unless people in a relationship are honest about the evil that permeates their lives, they aren't going to get help. And why should anyone choose to be honest with me, especially people that don't know my past because I don't share it readily. It's that old dicotomy of being open to share the pain, or closing off the pain and risking not being able to share when you need to.

Oy, what a complicated life we all lead. It seems so easy sometimes, getting up, doing the kid and house thing, making dinner, watching some tv, and then going back to bed, rinse and repeat. Then something happens totally out of the blue and it all changes. Pain that you buried comes bubbling back up and you fight back the tears while you watch your evil shit repeat itself in someone elses life. I hate this. I really can't stand feeling like this. Why is it that everyone is going through such hard times in my life? Can't someone somewhere get a break?
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Friday, February 24, 2006

I succumbed

I created a Johari Window. I swore I wasn't going to do it because what people in real life vs what online people know of me are so different. But what the heck... give it a try. Tell me what you know of me.

And oh, I need to get out of TTLB's slithering reptiles and move on up to the flapping winged birds in the ecosystem. To move up, I need links. If you're on my blogroll and I'm not on your's, please return the favor. I am sick to death of slithering and need to break free and flap my wings. So my dear internets, linky loo.
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Deadly honest here

I want to go to BlogHer. I want to go so badly I can barely stand to look at the list of attendees as it grows daily. I want to hang out with some of my favorite bloggers, and one hog snorting husband. I want to learn some new stuff about the future of blogging from some of my blog heros. I want to go back to my old haunts in the San Jose area and say "hi" to a couple of old friends. I want to socialize with other bloggers and talk about those universal blogging topics like "should I blog this or is someone in real life going to be miffed if they read about it in my blog?" I want to ask some bloggers how they can stay eternally funny despite the fact that life is biting them in the ass. But mostly I want to go because I think I've got a lot to learn and a lot to offer. I want to improve my blog, I want to make it more interesting to the masses, I want to be more topical, and I want to be able to help our community at the same time. I have directions I want to go in, I have ideas I want to share, topics I want to bounce off people and I can't do that on my blog. So I need to go to BlogHer in the worst way.

OK, that's the justification for my wanting to go. What's stopping me? Oh, come on. You know. Money, evil, satanic money. I don't have it. This would be probably the most expensive weekend I've ever spent. I've checked out the plane fare, and it's so not cheap in the middle of the summer. The conference itself isn't outrageous, and there are some sponsorships available to the right blogger (me, pick me!), but that still doesn't cover travel and accomodations. I can't do it. I can't justify it. It so sucks.

I was momentarily jealous of the Bloggers in Amsterdam thing, but I can deal with the disappointment. I got to live there and those folks only get to visit. But I really really really want to go to BlogHer. I'd even drive out there if I could drive and had a car that would make the trek, neither of which are plausable. I think it sucks that they keep having this conference on the west coast. I'm so over California.

So purty please, give me some ideas on how I can get someone to sponsor me?
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

True Shoe Confessions

While I am of the female persuasion, I'm not all that into shoes. I know, you're all fanning yourselves after your apoplectic fit. But you know, shoes are all relative. I have big feet. Not enormous, but larger than your average bear kinda feet. When I go to a regular shoe store, I can't find a thing. My feet grew substantially with my twin pregnancy, thank you kids, and they grew much wider as well. From a rather normal 9B I went to a 10.5 E or even a EE, depending upon the shoe. They didn't shrink back, as promised by my OB. So I mosey along on my big dogs, wearing a few pairs of shoes that are comforable and fit. For any special occasion, I'm screwed. I can't wear heels at all. I can do a 1" heel and maybe, if there is no dancing or standing around, I'm good to go.

My shoes are all fairly ugly. They're comfy as hell, but they ain't winning any Oh My God, they're Adorable! accolades anytime soon. I have very few pairs of shoes because not only am I blessed with large wide dogs, I've also got the world's most sensitive feet. I swear it, I can't stand to have things on my feet, especially if they touch my toes. When God was giving out feet, he must have been joking around when he got to me. "Give this baby enormous feet and make them extra sensitive!" I can't wear socks, for example. They drive me nuts. If I were a little kid today I'd be diagnosed with sensory integration disorder because I'm ridiculously sensitive to noise, elastic, tags, anything on my wrists, neck, or feet, etc.

Around the house in the winter I wear two pairs of shoes. My Ugg boots, which I can wear without socks and are warm and comfy, and my Stegman boiled wool clogs. No socks needed, they're quite warm, and easy to slide on. I'm allergic to wool, so both pairs of shoes make me itch like nuts after a while, but I can deal with that because I'm a stoic and I own the giant size bottle of Sarna lotion.

In the summer, I swear slide sandals with suede upper soles. I can't stand leather soles on my bare feet. I most always stick with Clark sandals because they have suede bottoms and they are adjustable, so as my feet swell from the heat I can make them bigger, and when I've taken a double dose of Lasix, I can make them smaller again.

Today, however, I succombed to purchasing the fugliest shoes of all I own. They're just hidious, but man are they comfy. You know that I'm talking about: Crocs. The first time I saw them I wondered who would be stupid enough to buy them, but so many people have told me about how comfy they are, when I saw them on sale half price at a sporting goods store, I decided to try them on. They are H E A V E N L Y. They're so light you barely feel them on your feet. The toe box is very wide so there's a total lack of touching of the toes. They have a upper sole with little nodules that massage your feet and keep your feet alert but happy. Yes, they are horribly ugly, but I bought a pair. And I'm wearing them right now. My sore tired feet are so happy they want to dance. Maybe I ought to kick those kids off Dance Dance Revolution. They've been on it all day!
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Questioning which way to go

For a long time, we've been feeling rather lost in the wealth of choices we have here in our community. When we came back from California, we rejoined the synagogue that we had belonged to for years before we left the state. I'd been reasonably happy at this particular shul, despite some issues that bothered me. I think that's normal for any person that belongs to a house of worship regardless of the denomination. Usually our choices of where to worship are based on childhood memories, family ties, and comfort. The shul we belonged to wasn't at all like the shul of my childhood, which was a positive for me. I also had no family ties to it at all, and although it wasn't particularly comfortable, I didn't feel like an outsider and I was reasonably active both as an attendee and a volunteer. Yes, I had some beefs, especially with the children's services held for school aged kids, which were run by some very overbearing men. But overall, the kids were comfortable, I wasn't miserable, we had friends in the congregation and the Rabbi didn't drive me over the edge so it seemed to work for us.

Then we moved to California and I began shul shopping. It was virtually hell. It was so depressing that I would come home shabbat after shabbat and cry. One shul I liked was just way too far away. The Rabbi was nice, he had worked in our town in MA and was familiar with what things are like here, but I couldn't stand the high holiday services, where hordes of people showed up and didn't even know the slightest bit about how to behave, never mind how to worship. That one was out of the running.

Then we tried another shul that should have been dubbed Millionare's Shul. Ugh. So cold and unfriendly, and at a bar mitzvah, the Rabbi, whom I found personally repellant anyhow, had the audacity to invite a young woman to speak without talking to the bar mitzvah family. This young woman spoke about the horrors of the Palestinians in Israel and she did so in front of quite a few relatives flown from Israel for the simcha. These relatives were survivors of a terrorist bombing and the last thing they wanted to hear was about the plight of the their attackers at their relative's bar mitzvah. This was so appalling to me that I had absolutely no desire to join this shul.

We visited Orthodox, Conservative, and even a Reform congregation, and nothing felt remotely right. Finally, someone in passing mentioned a shul that wasn't close by at all, but appeared to possibly be a good fit. We visited, and joined immediately. It was an unusual and wonderful shul, filled with very involved and knowledgable congregants. It had two minyans, a 'traditional' that was a mixed seating Orthodox minyan, and a second egalitarian Conservative minyan. You could go back and forth between the minyanim. Each were entirely lay led, and there was, thankfully, no cantor. I'm not a real cantor lover. Ok, I hate them. They drive me nuts. The Rabbi was delightful and friendly, his wife and kids were fabulous, the congregants were a wonderful mixture of people from single parents, gay couples, multicultural families, and plain old hankie headed women. I loved it. I became very active, volunteering for many things and happy to feel so at home in a congregation so different than anything I had ever belonged to before. I was miserable when we left, because I felt that this shul was my spiritual home.

Again, when we moved back we rejoined the congregation we had belonged to previously. But this time things were different. The Rabbi had changed, and certainly not for the better. He was unpleasant. No, he was downright nasty. The cantor pretended he had never seen me before. A good half of the congregants ignored us and couldn't be bothered to say "hello". Now that the kids were out of day school, they were signed up for Hebrew after school programs. The Boy's teacher tossed him out of the school within 3 weeks, saying he couldn't handle him. The class had something like 9 kids in it, and every single one of them were boys on IEPs, including a couple of pretty difficult autistic kids. My kid argued and, having had a day school education for several years, didn't fit into the educational mix. But to get tossed? Unheard of! The Rabbi never said a word to me about it, even when I made an apppointment to talk to him. He had no suggestions as to what I should do to prepare my son for his Jewish education, either. Meanwhile the Girl's teacher was such a moron that she called me, concerned that the Girl didn't know the Aleph Bet. When I told her that not only did the girl know her aleph bet, but she read Hebrew fluently and spoke it pretty well, too, this woman was floored. She had never asked, she just ass-umed that my kid was an idiot because she had never been to Hebrew school before. The whole experience lasted about a month and I pulled her out, too.

But the last straw was when my father died, and the Rabbi failed to acknowledge it. Yes, he knew, but he did NOTHING. He didn't inform the congregation, he didn't ask about a minyan at our home, nothing. I got more support from my Rabbi in California than I did from our current Rabbi. Needless to say, we didn't return the following year.

Next we joined a congregation that was known as the new, hip place to be. Hip wasn't quite the accurate discription. It was bizarre. Turns out that the Rabbi was much more of a Renewal, Buddhist, renegade Rabbi than I could handle. We only lasted a year there, too.

Last year I was so disgusted with Judaism we just didn't go to shul. From an extremely active member, I just blew off going because nothing seemed to fit what I wanted. Nobody seemed interested that my upcoming 13-year old twins had no b'nai mitzvah training, that I couldn't afford to hire anyone and needed volunteers to help out, and that due to circumstances I'm not going to blog about, it was nigh impossible to get the Boy the training he needed. As their birthday approached I was morosely depressed because I couldn't give my kids what they should, by all rights, have had. I had no place to turn and nobody to help me. I consulted with several Rabbis and they all said the same thing, "You have to belong to our shul for 3 years and have your child enrolled in our Hebrew school program or a day school to become a b'nai mitzvah here." Now, that's not really fair, because the Girl did have an opportunity to have an aliyah last winter on a Thursday morning and she refused. She talked to me privately about it and I understand why she refused, but she could have done it. The Boy can go to any Chabad shul and get an aliyah and have it over with. We have one around the corner, for heaven's sake. But he won't because the Girl can't have an aliyah there and he refuses to do it if she can't. Stalemate.

I'm just blowing it off. I've given up. They're not going to have a simcha. Maybe when they're older, they might opt to have an adult one. But they're so angry at Judaism right now, and I don't blame them one bit, since they've been hugely screwed by Judaism and completely marginalized by our particular community, that they just don't even want to consider being actively Jewish.

I'm completely at a crossroads here. I miss going to shul horribly. I feel as if something has been cut from my heart as we go week after week, month after month, without a service to attend. In fact, I can't even remember the last time we attended a service on Shabbat. I really can't.

I started calling around to shuls again, hoping against hope that I'd find something that I could deal with. The shuls here are huge. There is one that has 1700 families right in our town. Huge scares the crap outta me, but there are advantages to big. They have money to donate to camp scholarships. Very important. They have large Chesed groups that might help out with meals and some stuff around the house. That would be a dream come true. There are more likely to be kids that my guys already know, thus making it less threatening for them to return to the fold, as it were. But, but but.... one large shul that we felt comfortable going to, and where we have attended HH services in a small library minyan, has an organ. That's just not acceptable to me. Cannot deal with an organ, cannot deal with a choir, can't stand a cantor. This severely limits me to either the Modern Orthodox shul, and that won't work because of the seating issues, where the Boy would have to sit by himself in the men's section, or the very snotty and overbearing Minyan held downtown. While I like a lay led service, I am so not interested in competitive Judaism and this particular Minyan is just way too competitive for me. Plus the kids are all day school kids, and that won't work for us.

This leaves me with only a couple of options. There is an up and coming shul in the next town that might possibly work, but it's not close and I know only one person there, and it's not someone I'd feel comfortable hanging out with. She's fine, it's her kid that's the issue. Can you say Sex and DRUGS and Rock and Roll? So not what I need in my life.

Or, we could join the hugest of the shuls in town and attend a small chapel minyan there that's held twice monthly. This seems to be the best option for me, and the kids are sorta kinda willing to try it out, sorta kinda-ish. But there are some pitfalls. While this is indeed a lay led minyan, and I like that, usually in small minyanim like this, it's sort of a closed circle socially. Now I might be putting the cart before the horse, but I'm a tad bit worried. I need to fit in socially as well as spiritually. I'm kind of a social misfit. I'm extremely introverted. I know this comes as a shock to many of the readers here, but it's true. I can barely make myself talk to someone I don't know, and I'm just horrible at small talk. Give me an issue and I can go on and on and on, but small talk? Not so much.

I need some thought here. I need help not only deciding what might be the best option, but also how to break the ice about who were are and what our needs are. Any ideas?
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I gotta learn how to make a slide show.

Here is the Girl's reaction to her new toy, Dance Dance Revolution. Click to see a classic Girl face. The Boy is telling her that this was his idea. OK, I'll let him take credit. Please ignore mess on hall chair. Kids use this as a closet despite the fact that there is a hall closet oh, 3 feet to the left. I'm choosing my battles, as they say in parenting books.

Here's the Boy trying it out after we set it up, but before she got home. He was having fun beating the game, but he's going to have to learn how to control the game through the mat. It's kind of confusing. Pretend you don't see the mess on the coffee table. This is a perfect example of what I'm always bitching about vis a vis the Girl. This is all her crap that she leaves all over the place. Time to stuff it all into another bag, I guess.

Here's the Girl dancing her tushy off on DDR. She's getting 'big air' in the second picture. She's been at it for over an hour now, and she's still jumping. I so love it when I score big with something and it keeps them busy for a long time.

I think we've got a huge hit here, if the Boy stops trying to control the Xbox. That could be a real issue. I think we're going to have some rule setting to do.

Update: They were up playing on this until well after midnight when I shut it down. I've never seen them play together so cooperatively for so long. Maybe 6 hours without one major fight. It's a miracle!
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I finally broke down

We had a gift card for Toys R Us, and we also had a Cranium game that we had to return as we already had one, so today the Boy and I headed out to Toys R Us (evil empire store that it is) to buy something I've been promising the Girl we'd get for at least a couple of years, since the Boy bought his Xbox. She's babysitting right now, but when she gets home she's going to be so fricking excited she's going to freak.

You see, we are now the proud owners of Dance Dance Revolution complete with hard mat. It's fabulous exercise for the Girl, and for the Boy, it's a way to get him tired out when his meds wear off. It should be a win-win situation if only I can stand the music. I will learn to love it, I promise!

I think the next Xbox game we get is Karioke Revolution. It will drive the kids crazy, but I love to sing and I think I'd like to have an outlet to let off some much earned stress.

I'll post pics later, once the Girl gets home and trys it out. The most fun of getting the kids something they've really wanted for so long is seeing how incredulous they are that it's actually in our house. I figure that this will give me 'good mommy' points for a while, and I need them, especially since it's school vacation week.
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Monday, February 20, 2006

This one, not so cute

The Girl has a razor sharp sense of humor when she's in the mood, and she can really get us to laughing. Lately she's come up with this ditty, and I'm thinking it's more annoying than cute, but it does get me laughing. When I call her to come and do something she's not in the mood to do, like the dishes, cleaning her room, picking up her crap off the floor, etc. this is her new response:

"I'm sorry, I'm not available right now. If you leave your name and number and a brief message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. BEEEEEEEEP."

Ha ha ha...(not).
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Cartoon contest has me ROTFLMAO

But maybe you're not going to find it so funny. In response to the rioting and violence from the entire Muslim population over the publishing of a supposed anti-Islamic cartoon by a newspaper in Denmark, an Israeli cartoon publishing company has started the Israeli Anti-Semetic Cartoon Contest. This contest is for Jews entrants only.
Amitai Sandy says "the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest is a response to an Iranian newspaper's competition for cartoons on the Holocaust...We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Amitai Sandy, graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!
If we can't laugh at ourselves, we sure don't want anyone else to laugh at our expense appears to be the reasoning. Warning, the cartoons can be offensive. They are also funny as hell. I am not sure that they're for everyone, but give the contest a try. I think it's good to look at another culture's humor in the face of adversity. But overall they're funny. Offensive, but funny. One in particular had me choking with laughter. I can't wait to see all the entries as they come in.

Sandy goes on to say, " Many have expressed the concern that the cartoons we published here will be used out of context by real anti-semites to spread further hate against us. To this I say: Anti semites will always find excuses for hatred, with or without our help. We’ve been accused for everything from 9/11 to hurricane Katrina, the killing of Jusus and the original sin. In my opinion, the only solution for racism is good education - education for thought and for doubt - so that people think twice before they accept everything they watch on TV or read in the newspaper or hear from their leaders or rabbies as truth from heaven. Just think twice!

Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air interviewed Sandy on Feb 16th about the contest. You can find the interview on the NPR website.

This is one example from the entries received. This cartoon is by Daniel Higgins of London, UK.
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Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1970
"Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?"

It is the weirdest thing. All the music of my high school years is being brought back into my house by my son. Today he listened to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and I couldn't help thinking back to the time when I saw this performed live. Having all this retro classic rock music in my life again is the most tangible way of remembering those things that happened way back during my high school days. Once he was playing Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" and I went way way back to a night where I had the most amazing sex with my then boyfriend in, shall we say, an altered state. I could almost feel the heat of the evening with oppressive humidity, the room walls covered with rock posters, drinking lemonade and getting so into the music that I almost couldn't separate myself from the song.

When the Boy plays Jimi Hendrix I think of the day I skipped school and took the bus to downtown Hollywood to get "Are You Experienced" as it was released at noon. I had to be the first one to have it because the music spoke to me back then. I was a kid that grew up in the 60's when the world was changing so fast that adults really didn't have a clue what was really going on. Or at least my parents didn't. I was immersed in Hendrix and Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane. I would listen to the music as loud as I could, considering that my record player in those days wasn't even a stereo. Only real audiophiles had stereos. The first albums I bought weren't even put out in stereo, they were mono. It was a long long time ago.

Laughing his ass off at Mom as she's singing.

I was a wild teenager. My parents were incredibly disinterested in me, and didn't seem to know where I was and what I was up to. By the time I was in high school I was averaging about 60 skipped days of school per 180 day calendar year. I used to take the bus into Hollywood and hang out, or go to the beach and lay in the sun. When I learned to drive, I would take the car my brother drove to school an hour early each morning for marching band practice (he was SUCH a bandgeek) out of the school parking lot, drive to the beach or to a friend's house or whereever, and then bring the car back just in time for school to be over. I'd 'meet' my brother in the parking lot and we'd go home. He never knew until I told him years later.

As a kid living in LA during the 60's, I was exposed to illegal subtances at a very young age. My kids read my blog, so I'm not going to say what or anything else, but those of you that know of the time and place can imagine what things were like. I can remember going horseback riding with friends and getting completely lost in the hills behind my house. Hills with nary a tree in sight. They were rugged hills, with tarantulas and rattlesnakes and other creepy things, and I'd be wandering around property that I knew like the back of my hand, totally lost amongst the spaced. Interesting times.

Some of the music the Boy plays is from the next big era of my life, the end of grad school. He will put on the Ramones or the Sex Pistols and I'm dancing my ass off in a club that used to be on Landsdowne St across from Fenway Park. This was during the time when I spent every night I possibly could clubbing and just dancing until I thought my lungs would burst. Loud loud music, throbbing music, music that let me forget my crappy life as a teacher and made me feel like the world couldn't be better. I was a regular at one club called Spit, and even had a member card that I'd flash at the door and get in free. That was so cool.

When the Boy plays this music he likes me to tell him about all the bands I've seen, and about some of the highlights of the concerts. It's hard for him to believe that his grey-haired mom has seen bands that he loves. I've got ticket stubs from pretty much every concert I'd been to since the early 70's, and he likes to look at them and say "Wow, what was this Grateful Dead concert like?" or "What do the Psychedelic Furs play again?" I don't see myself as a particularly cool person these days, because the stuff I'm into now probably is so outre it's not funny, but I did have my moments and music was always a big part of that time.

I get such a kick out of my kid loving my music. I get even a bigger kick out of knowing that he's discovering most of it on his own. I tend to listen to the Ipod, which is such an antisocial and solitary activity, or I listen to CDs while I'm blogging, when the kids are asleep, so he often has no idea of what I like other than to look at my Itunes list or to check out my CDs. Sometimes he'll pick out a CD like "The Pixies" and listen to it and give it a thumbs up, and then it becomes part of his repetiore. I love that. I love watching him discover music and fall in love with it just like I did as a kid. I think it's the most amazing thing to watch him develop his own musical tastes, different than the damn hip hop crap his sister and all her friends listen to. I love that he is open to lots of different types of music, that he'll listen to Bob Marley and love it just as much as he loves David Bowie and the Beatles. He's become so discerning in his tastes. It just floors me.

The saddest thing is, two of the Girl's best buddies both have fathers that are very well known rock DJs in Boston. These guys have the biggest collections of records and CDs you have ever seen, and the Girl and her friends have no appreciation of it at all. But the Boy, he'd kill to get at these collections. That's why I'm going to try hard to cultivate a friendship with one of the families. The Boy needs to be exposed to stuff like this.

Rock on, people.
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

One more day

Those of you who don't live in the Greater Boston area probably don't know why Monday is such a special day. No, it's not just President's Day. It isn't the biggest day of the year to purchase furniture and cars, although that is important, too. No, it's the starting of Spring Training. I am so excited I can't stand it. I've been literally on pins and needles all week waiting for the first reports. I understand Trot Nixon is already in Florida. Tickets are already on sale for the preseason games. In only a couple of months, baseball will be officially underway and I'll be obsessed until October.

I love this time of year. It's all good, things to look forward to. Theo's back, the front office seems to have calmed down, we have a relatively decent pitching staff, and although we're maybe lacking on some infield talent, I'm confident that we're going to have a good year. Everyone thought that after Johnny Demon left to the evil empire that this upcoming season would be at best a rebuilding year. But Manny is still with us, David Ortiz is looking fine, Curt Shilling has finally healed, Bronson Arroyo is looking mighty adorable, it's looking to be a great year.

Go Sox!
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Saturday, February 18, 2006

We dodged a bullet here

Last school vacation the Boy was sick the entire vacation, leaving us stuck in the house and feeling miserable. Last night the Girl was running a fever and looking grey and miserable. I just couldn't believe she was sick the very first night of vacation. Noooo! But this afternoon she perked up and is now feeling fine. Phew. So fine that we went to the library where I made her pay for the fine she's had for over a year for taking out some DVDs and hiding them because she wasn't supposed to take out DVDs during the school week. We lived very close to the library and the kids often walked there in the afternoons to get CDs and check out the movies.

She paid her fine, and we went up to the 3rd floor to the media center and the kids picked out 6 DVDs and a bunch of CDs to borrow. I also got some CDs. Our library allows us to take 6 DVDs and 20 CDs at one time. Books are unlimited as far as I know.

After the library shooed us out as they were closing, we went to the bakery nearby. It's usually closed by 4, but was open today as they have new owners. The kids picked out a few small items, and I picked out my personal favorite, 7 layer cake. This is a Jewish bakery so everything is dry as it's all baked with oil rather than butter, making everything pareve. We went home and I made dinner. After dinner we brought out the treats and I was talking about how I love the 7 layer cake, and the Girl said, "but there are only 6 layers." I argued and then we started counting the layers. One...Two...Three...Four...Five...Six... Damn! There were only 6 layers on my 7 layer cake. New owners be damned! I want my last layer.

The Girl got a mini apple pie and a heart cookie with pink sprinkles. She has never outgrown her love of pink sprinkles, or any sprinkles for that matter. Her absolute favorite breakfast is the "all pink" breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Strawberry glazed donut with sprinkles, and strawberry milk. Just looking at it makes me nauseated, but she loves it.

The Boy had a terrible time deciding and finally got this huge almond cookie with chocolate icing and a M&M cookie. He munched happily and then said that he was too tired to eat any more. Since he eats constantly, that was a surprise statement.

That's the update from here.
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Friday, February 17, 2006

Not just Worthless....

But really funny looking too. Just downloaded some old pics off my now working (YEAH!) digital camera, and there was this gem of the Worthless Pet. Crazed and Confused, eh?

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Yahoo! February vacation is officially ON.

Yes, sports fans. It's that time of year those of us lucky enough to participate in: winter vacation. Some of you are saying "What?" because you don't have a week off in February to celebrate the week with the worst possible weather. You get out of school in early June, whilst us lucky parents of kids in the Northeast have kids in school until the last week in June. Sometimes camp starts before our kids are officially out of school. Depends upon the number of snow days we get. Maybe that's why our superintendant never calls a snow day.

Many of the luckier kids have already left for the skiing vacations in Aspen or their cruises in the Caribbean. We stay home and bicker. Such fun!

So how did our vacation start? Well, let's back up to last night, when I was up the entire night because I am a wicked insomniac and I need something better than Ambien but my health coverage won't pay for anything but Ambien. Asshats. I'm tired, folks, really really tired. But the mind still goes and even though the body is willing, sleep alludes me once again. At 1 pm I go upstairs to turn on the soaps, as I can usually fall asleep during them. True to form, I'm out like a light until the Boy comes home and wakes me up. Two hours of sleep. I guess I can deal. Then I lay my head back down and again head towards snoozeland when the Girl comes home hyper as can be and starts yelling for me to come downstairs. She's brought her friend and her friend's mom, whom she has decided will be a great new friend for me. So I stumble downstairs, unbrushed hair in pseudo-bun atop my head, mega giant T-shirt and white sweat pants, barefoot, unbrushed teeth. I look my best to meet a new friend. Shit! But new friend finds it funny and we hit it off. She talks faster than the Girl or the Boy, which makes her the fastest talker outside the Isuzu commercial. My poor brain, which is working in slo-mo tries to keep up.

Welcome to vacation week, moms! Several people have asked me what my plans for vacation are. Plans? What are those? I plan to get the kids to pick up their rooms so I can once again see the pretty wooden floors I seem to remember are down there somewhere. Maybe we'll hang the pictures sitting on the dining room floor. After all, we've been here almost a year. It is about time, right? Perhaps a movie. Maybe a trip to the camping store to get The Girl the last items she needs for her winter camping trip upcoming in early March. Do you think they sell electric sleeping bags for the spoiled princesses that will be accompanying her? Speaking of sleeping bags, she has to venture down into our basement to find the winter camping bag. Yes, I honestly do have a 3-season down sleeping bag, and the one season missing is summer.

The Boy is already nagging for me to take him someplace. Like I want to go out in the raging windstorm. Not gonna happen. Nagging. One step up from whining. Welcome to my world.
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm feeling the pain of longing

Dear Hershey's Chocolate, Inc.

You had a brilliant idea recently. You have created a lot of new flavors of Hershey's Kisses. During the 'holiday season' I discovered a particularly delightful new flavor, Cherry Cordial kisses. These are the most delicious chocolates I have eaten in years. Unfortunately, after the initial introduction they were all snapped up off the shelves within hours, and those of us who craved them could no longer buy them. During this dark time I tried other flavors like caramel and mint, but frankly, they weren't that great. They didn't have that burst of fondant flavor like the Cherry Cordials. They were overly sweet and somewhat bland.

Right before Valentines day, I was in Walgreens picking up a prescription and wandered over to the candy isle to pick up a bag of Valentine Hearts (Necco candy, right here in Boston) and what did my eyes behold. Three bags of Cherry Cordials. I snapped up those suckers with lightening speed. Me, the diabetic who is perpetually banned from sweets, hoarding chocolate. But I couldn't help it. They are seriously addicting. I brought the bags home and placed them high out of reach of my children's hands. These are for me, I told them. Within hours, one bag had already disappeared.

Later on, my son admitted that he stole the bag and brought it upstairs and ate it. I hate him. I hid one of the remaining bags downstairs, and brought the other one upstairs and hid it in my bedroom. By the next afternoon, the bag in my room had been emptied, and not by me. This time it was my daughter who was the culprit. This leaves me one measley little bag. One small bag to keep my addiction replenished until the next holiday.

Will you have them for St Patrick's Day. What about Easter? July 4th? Rosh Hashona? I need to know. I need to be able to plan ahead and save my pennies so I can buy these by the case. They are that good. While searching the web looking for places to purchase these delectable morsels, I came across a petition for your company to produce more. I concur. And I signed.

Please, Hershey's. I've been a loyal customer all my life. My family and I love your kisses, but these Cherry Cordials are beyond anything else you've ever concocted, even Peanut Butter Cups. You must make them available all year round.


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I am a bad, bad, bad, bad person

Yes, it's true. I suck. Not all the time, but a lot of the time I have a tendancy to lean towards serious suckiness. Today was one of those days. Just look at these examples and see if you do not agree.

I cancelled my colonoscopy appointment again. This is the 3rd time I've cancelled. I know I have to go, I know it's important, but I just so cannot get into the whole pre-procedure thing that I'd rather not go and risk serious illness or death than drinking that stuff. It's disgusting and there is no other word for it. I keep hoping that they'll invent a new way to do this without a thorough colon cleansing beforehand, but so far, no dice. So I suck. I'll make another appointment and I'll cancel it, too. I need someone to take me by the hand and drag me to the hospital. Yes, I have to have it done in the big scary hospital because of my defibrillator. That sucks, too. I'm bad.

This morning, just as the Girl was leaving she shouted out to me, "I'm letting Worthless Pet out." I mumbled something back, turned over and went back to sleep. Then I forgot all about him. Usually during the day he sleeps in a box under my bed (don't even ask) or in the linen closet or someplace equally dark and quiet, so I often space him out. I know, I'm a bad pet 'guardian'. When I work up later on, I got all busy with phone calls and dealing with some business stuff and school stuff that I promise I will not blog about for a while (I can hear that collective sigh of relief), and then of course I got all into my soap. Next thing I know the Boy yells out "Hi mom, I let the cat in." and it's 3:00 pm. Yeah, I left the cat outside the entire day. It was warm enough, but this is an animal that must, in all circumstances, check his food bowl hourly, ditto for the litter box. He likes to survey all that is his, and staying out for 7 hours with snow on the ground probably scarred him for life. But who would know, because he's on my bed in what we like to call "coma sleep", the sleep of a cat who is so exhausted from the world that you can't rouse him until say, 3 am when he absolutely, positively has to have a treat of kitty crack right this second and he means NOW. Luckily I finally wised up and now keep a pack of kitty crack on my bedside table, which of course means that he wakes me up by knocking things off the table, one by one, in a sort of kitty version of chinese water torture.

Look, there goes mom's glasses. Plop. Now it's time for the chapstick. Plop. Oh boy, hand lotion. That will make a big noise. PLOP. Hmmm, this book looks exceedingly heavy. I'll send it to the floor in one sweeping motion. Plop. And so on....

Lastly, I got a call today from a high ranking school employee to talk to me about my blog. Can you believe it! It's ok, I happen to really like this person and we get along well, and I explained that I don't edit myself on my blog for anyone, that the blog is for me to write about what is important to me, and if someone is upset by what I wrote, then they shouldn't keep reading. But I do feel badly that some teachers were upset by my writing. I don't mean to alienate the entire teaching profession. I definately respect teachers on the whole, and feel that they get an incredibly raw deal financially and emotionally. However, that does not mean for one second that when there are teachers I feel are doing wrong by my kids that I won't complain on my blog about them. I will, and I will continue to do so until the whole brouhaha is straightened out to my satisfaction. This blog is my personal way of getting my frustrations out, sharing my emotions and my feelings and especially my thoughts about the life that goes on around me. I don't think I could endure being essentially housebound if I didn't have this outlet, and I'm certainly unwilling to self-edit to sooth someone's hurt feelings. I'm happy to try and be more sensitive about my writing, but it is my blog and it's my place to vent about all sorts of stuff, not just the schools. I trash the entire US government, for heaven's sake. But again, if I hurt your particular feelings, I'm sorry. Just lay off my kid and everything will be hunky dory again, OK?

So, in conclusion. I suck and I'm bad and that's just the way it is. Deal with it. I do every freaking day.
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I'm thinking of taking up alcohol

I am an insomniac. I can't sleep at night because I'm so stressed out lately. I'm thinking that maybe cocktails might be just what I need. Thing is, it's been years since I've had a drink. I'm not an alcoholic or anything, I just don't keep alcohol in the house. I think that's fairly prudent with two teenagers in the house. I did buy vodka a couple of years ago to make Limoncello for Purim. I gave one bottle away, the second bottle is still in my freezer, and I never remember it's there.

Lately I've been seeing a lot of those bottles of mixers for cocktails like Appletinis and Mojotos. I've never had either, but the mix looks really tasty. The bottles are so pretty. Nice bright colors, too. I haven't a clue as to what to buy though. I don't know what I like. I haven't really had cocktails other than margaritas, which I love, since college. That was, oh, eons ago. I used to like a Tequila Sunrise and Gin and Tonic. I never liked anything ultra sweet or very dry. I wasn't a Whiskey Sour or Gimlet type of girl, either.

What I'd like from you, my cheeky little monkeys, is some suggestions for easy, drinkable cocktails. I think I'd prefer to have something au currant, so maybe I wouldn't feel like such a loser if I ever should go to a bar and have a drink. Not that this is going to happen, but being a former Girl Scout, I like to be prepared for all occasions. I can't really afford a lot of different types of alcohol and I don't really want much in the house, but I'd like to try drinks with either Vodka, Gin, or Tequila. No whiskey or scotch for this mama.

What say you all?
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Enough already

I don't have Olympic fever. OK, I've admitted it in public. I think the winter Olympics are boring. Plain old yawnaliciously boring. I can watch a bit, but I can't stand the voiceovers and the constant overcoming obstacles sob stories used as background filler bore me to death. Like, do you know anyone that hasn't overcome obstacles? I sure don't. Of course, I don't know any royalty either. I like to watch a tiny bit of speed skating. It's really beautiful to watch, and those athletes, don't they look like they're wearing giant condoms?

Ski jumping thrills me. Moguls just look to painful and all I can see is the skier in the operating room with an orthopedic surgeon cutting the knee open. Nope, don't like that one at all. Downhill would be great if there was any snow in Turino, but since there isn't, it's kinda painful to watch skiers pile up at the bottom of their run.

I hate ice skating. I mean, I don't hate the sport of skating, although I have never ever, not even once, been on ice skates. Not too much opportunity for it growing up in Los Angeles, and I do have weak ankles. Besides, I'm scared shitless of falling down and killing my bum. So ice skating has never held much attraction for me. I don't like the men's costumes, which are creepily like lion tamer costumes, and the women's costumes, tres ugly. Fugly.

I wish they would show hockey on NBC, as we don't have cable, but that's not going to happen because you can't fit a whole hockey game into a 1/2 hour, can you? So no hockey for you. Curling? What the hell is that sport? Does anyone outside of Canada even know what it's about? And those mascots? The Giant Marshmallow Head guy? Did that actually take a real designer to think of that insanity? Bad, bad design.

So, I'm not into the Olympics and I wish they were over already. Another whole week of it. Admit it, you're really missing beach volleyball about now, aren't you?

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ok, I lied. So sue me.

I promised just a couple of days ago that I wasn't going to bitch anymore about the whole school thing. And I even skipped a really ripe post about the screaming math teacher because I did promise, after all. But you know what? It's not going to happen. I have to say something. I have to say what I'm feeling, first because I know that my blog has been the biggest thing to hit the educators of our school in a long time. I guess they're not familiar enough with blogging to realize that I know who comes to visit. So hi, all you educators! Happy to see you, even if it's not under the best of circumstances. I hope that maybe by reading the thoughts of a parent with a child in the system you'll get the idea that all is so not well within our public school system.

We've got big troubles here in river city, and by acknowledging that things aren't working very well, we can improve the system. Or, in the case of a certain math teacher, we can call our kids liars for complaining to parents about her constant hissy fits. How's that working for you, Mrs. Math Teacher? Because it's so not working for me or the Girl. By the way, if you think that my child is the only kid that complains about you constantly, think again. I've heard this from every friend she has, over and over, complete with pretty damn good imitations. You're only fooling yourself if you think that claiming that "The Girl only hears what she wants to hear" is going to hold any water.

So anyhow... on to my rant of the day. Or, to be more factual, all of my rants of the day. I got a letter from the school today listing who is going to be at this upcoming meeting. You just won't believe who isn't going to be there. Ok, guess. Give up? Why, the teachers. THEY weren't invited. We've got administrators coming out of my ass, but no teachers. Who did I request to meet with? The teachers. I don't really want to hear any psychobabble admin speak, I don't want to hear that everyone is so upset because I'm confrontational. and I so do not want to hear about how my child is doing great and C's are a good grade, especially when she deserves better. So I'm pissed off. No, I'm frothing at the mouth. I am so not happy. Tomorrow I have to make the phone call to say that I want to speak to at least two teachers face to face. I believe they know who they are. If not, and they're reading, it's you Ms Math Teacher and you Mr English Teacher. Both of you are on my blackest of black lists right now.

So let's break down why I'm gunning for bear. Ms Math Teacher, the one with the daily hissy fits, last Friday went ballistic on my kid and her friends C & B in team time (the New Study Hall). She claims that they were (gasp) talking, and started in by first telling them to move, and then, as they were moving, threatening the Girl and her friends with failure on the next math test for talking in study hall (like what does one have to do with the other?) and then, when they argue and claim that this is unfair, she threatens to fail them for the year. I heard this from more than just the girl, and I know she's prone to exaggeration, so I email the teacher and tell her that she is NOT to threaten my kid and if she has any problem with her, than call me, but NO MORE THREATS. She sends me back this email:
The Girl has heard what she wants to hear.
I am not happy with her lack of work at team time and her consistent
talking while others work.
Her test grades are one part of her grade. Homework, participation,
complete corrections also effect the students over all performance.
Ummm, did this answer my point about threats? It did not. Did it address that she has no right to threaten the Girl with failure in math because she was talking in study hall? Nope, it didn't. I bet you can now figure out why I want to talk to this woman face to face. I think we need to get a few things clear, and I'm not going to accept any excuse for threatening kids with failure. She doesn't like me kid, fine. The kid isn't always the most likeable person on earth. There are days when I have trouble liking her, but I don't threaten to toss her out of the house when she talks out of turn.

Now, lets turn to Mr English Teacher. He cannot, under any circumstances, give the Girl anything but a C- on any paper she writes. Today she got a paper back and I looked carefully at his 'corrections'. Almost every single mark on her paper was subjective. He would rewrite sentences they way he wanted them to sound, and then mark her off. Not that the sentences were wrong, because they weren't. But because subjectively he didn't like the way she put something and thus said it was wrong. Now, in my working life, I taught writing for 10 years at a major University in Boston. I am a professional writer, and have written many books, none of which anyone in their right mind would choose to read, but whatever. I know about editing, and I sure do know about writing. I understand subjective editing, and I know that in ALL cases, an editor suggests but the author has the final say in how a sentence is written. Everywhere on earth except in this teacher's classroom, evidentally. So I went over every mark he made on the paper, and I corrected his corrections*. I also have the previous paper she wrote, and I will be doing the same thing with that one. I want to talk to him about this, because it is just wrong to mark off on a subjective basis. He didn't grade for content, in fact he only made two small comments on the content. He looked for grammatical errors, typos (yes, he marked off for typos) and for sentence structure that he didn't like. What really pissed me off is that he didn't even know how to use the common marks of an editor, instead using question marks, which mean absolutely nothing to a writer. In other words, ineffective editing. How disappointing to my kid who tried so hard once again, and was let down by this guy who told me to my face that he doesn't give higher than a C. But that's not true either, he only gives MY kid the C. She got the lowest grade in the class again. Her paper wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad. It was definately B work, and she was one point away from a D. This so sucks.

I'm so at a crossroads here. I just can't stand these two teachers. Her other teachers? No problemo. They seem professional and caring and nuturing and they know their subject matter. But these two bozos... I don't know if I can stand 4 more months of such unprofessional behavior from adults. They are TERRIBLE teachers. Both of them do nothing whatsoever to encourage students to love learning. In fact, my Girl who used to love math has learned to hate it from Mrs Math Teacher. She used to love English. She's a published writer. She loves to write. Now, not so much. She's so discouraged because she knows that no matter what, Mr English Teacher is going to give her a C-. Why should she bother?

I want to pull her out so badly. I want her to feel good about her work and as long as she withers away in these two classrooms, she's only going to learn to feel badly about herself. Isn't that just want a girl in middle school needs to learn: self loathing.

Great Job, Mrs Math and Mr English Teachers. You suck. You really really suck.

(and you have no idea of how much I wanted to name you by name)

* Did you know that contractions, like didn't, aren't allowed in book reports? Neither did I, nor did the Girl. But she got marked down for it. Now you tell me that's not subjective. And stupid. I'm sure the NY Times Book Review, which I read religiously, would be most surprised to learn this rule. Moron.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A different kind of love

I mentioned the other day that I had written a piece about love for the MommyBloggers Valentines Day extravaganza. It's been posted now, and I'd like to direct you there for my rather unusual viewpoint on familial love.
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What's the worst thing about winter indoors?

Bloody noses. Gross disgusting bloody noses. Noses that all of a sudden drip rivers of bright red blood onto your clothing, the floor, and your shoes. Noses that give you no warning whatsoever, but just start bleeding because there's not enough drama in your life at that given second.

First you have to find some kleenex immediately to hold over the gushing nostril. Don't put your head back, because then the blood drips down your throat and that's way too gross to even comtemplate. Believe me, don't do it. Just pinch your nose at the bridge and, if you're really gushing, stuff some tissue up the nostril to stem the flood. Keep pinching for a few minutes and it will eventually stop. Just when you're getting everything cleaned up, there's this huge clot of gluey bloody phlem you have to hack up. Just yummmmy.

Last thing is to find some way to get the blood stains out of your clothing. You know you left that Shout stain stick someplace, right? Oh yeah, it's on top of the television in your room, the last place you had a bloody nose. Man, this sucks the big one.
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Guess who is visiting my blog?

I'd like to welcome the educators from my town that are visiting my blog. Evidentally, you've heard rumors that you're not getting the best press here. Do you want to know why?

Let's see, we've got the math teacher that throws screaming hissy fits on a daily basis and threatens my kid about failing math and not graduating and never amounting to a hill of beans. Plus she takes up crucial class time to throw her tantrums, and then has no time to teach. I'm pretty sure that deserves some discussion on the blog.

There's the SpED teacher who can barely write a coherant sentence and can't spell common words. He likes to give out the answers to tests so the kids get a better grade. Unfortunately, he gives out wrong answers much of the time. He's a popular contender for person I least want to blog about, but can't help indulging in his fabulous blogging material.

There's our superintendant, the guy who won't call off school if there is a raging typhoon, a tsunami, a blizzard and an earthquake all happening at the same time, because what's more important, the safety of the children or the sanctity of the school calendar? Tough call, eh? But it doesn't much matter as long as we celebrate diversity. Diversity means, become a lackey of the rich influential pushy parents and the rest of the kids, well that's just too bad. Can't help everyone, can you?

There's the incredibly racist principal from the suckiest middle school in the city, the guy who wears a do-rag and basketball wifebeaters to school. Oh yeah, he's one you really have to dig deep to find anything to respect. He's the jackass that made such trouble for the Girl last year, and miraculously, she's not been in trouble since. Hmmmm.

There's the English teacher who believes that nobody should get higher than a C in his class, and that C's are actually good grades. Sure does make that student body want to work hard in his class. I mean, how discouraging can you be?

There's another English teacher who was such a bad writer I once corrected something she wrote in bright read pen and gave it to the (then) principal, who was beside himself when he saw it. I can't find the example anymore, but I just checked out this teacher's web site and found a decemt sample of her writing. Believe me, it's about 10 times cleaner than when my kid had her. I think she might have learned that parents read the homework web sites, too. Can you see all the mistakes? Hint: which and that are not interchangable.
I hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving break and that you are rested and ready to begin a new unit. Today I am giving you a sheet called Poetry Circles which identifies the five parts of the unit. This is going to be a short letter so that I can spend most of class today explaining the unit and letting you begin reading poems. I hope that by the end of the unit, you learn how to read and analyze a poem. And I hope that you find some poems that you love and gain a deeper appreciation for poetry.
You will be working in small groups called circles in which you will practice various roles which will help you learn the analytical skills needed for getting the most out of a poem. I will assign some poems to you, and some will be your choice. You also will be writing original poems. Because the unit has so many different parts, it will continue into January. There will be due dates for homework and projects as well as quizzes. It will be important for you to check the white board every day and to use your assignment notebooks. As always, hold onto this letter and look at the dates on the bottom.
Fridays will continue to be our reading workshop days; book shares and independent requirements will proceed almost as usual. The next checkpoint for an independent reading book is December 9, with an independent reading log--worksheet only--not a final draft(!) due no later than December 16. (Book read between 11/11&12/9) Note, I am checking the worksheets only this time. You will all have a lot to do for the poetry unit, and I saw a lot of improvement on the last set of logs. I will give you a different assignment for the book which will be due on December 23. You’ll like it; food is involved.
I am going to end this now so that we can start the poetry unit. As always, let’s have a great week (s).

In their defense, there are also some good and dedicated teachers who encourage the kids, who make learning fun and enjoyable, and who have not yet gotten so burnt out that they can't stand being in a classroom. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough of these teachers in our middle schools. I know it's the hardest age to teach. These kids aren't a piece of cake to live with, either. But if you are paid to be in a building with them for 6 hours a day, can't you at least make an attempt not the hate the kids? Can't you at least try to make them feel good about themselves? Can't you attempt not to yell and scream at the kids for talking in study hall or for not having an assignment handed in on time?

My middle-schooler has enough learning differences that just listening and trying to master the material is physically and mentally exhausting to her. There are days when she comes home from school, lays down on the sofa and passes out from sheer exhaustion. In the meantime, she's got teachers that refuse to honor her IEP, that demand more of her than she's able to deliver, and that refuse to learn about her learning disability in order to understand why she is so verbal and talks incessently. This is part of every teacher's job, and the only way I seem to be able to get this point across is to threaten them with my educational attorney. Yes, I do have an attorney that just handles special education issues. Isn't that a sad statement?

I often wonder what happens to the kids who don't have parents to advocate for them. I wonder what kind of crap them have to put up with from vicious teachers who find it fun to cut down kids and make them feel badly about themselves. What happened to the job of boosting self-esteem? Why isn't that still a priority?

I know I've ranted on and on about middle school lately. I realize that it's not all that interesting for those of you who don't have kids in this age group. But I'm telling you all this stuff so you'll go into the middle school years with your eyes wide open. You'll need every ounce of your emotional strength to get through these three years. We've only got 4 more months and then it's behind us forever. My advice: start hoarding your antisepressants now. You're really going to need them once middle school invades your life.

I promise this will be the last middle school rant for at least a couple of weeks. We do have that upcoming team meeting!
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The definition of Love

With Valentines Day around the corner the women of The MommyBloggers have been posting various treatises on Love. They're posting one new entry every hour from 8 am to 8 pm starting yesterday and going through Tuesday evening, Valentines Day. I've been reading all the entries posted so far, and some of them are so poignant and beautiful that they take my breath away. There are poems, prose, secrets revealed, funny stories about the past, and some really interesting looks at parenting and mommyhood.

I wrote an entry that will be posted on Tuesday afternoon. I'll remind you all later on, but in the meantime, if you haven't yet gone over to check out the various posts, go for it. They're amazing and you might find some new blogs you had no clue ever existed!
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17 Fricking Inches of Snow

And the damn superintendent of our school system has not called off school. As usually, every town and city around us is cancelled, but nope, we have school tomorrow. Never mind that our huge long driveway hasn't yet been plowed. Never mind that the sidewalks for walkers like my daughter aren't shoveled, making only the street available for walking, and never mind that the busses are notoriously unreliable and unsafe in the snow, we have school. This superintendent never seems to learn. Last time we had a blizzard he didn't call school and there were bus accidents galore. This time, my kids are going to stay home until the sidewalks are plowed and the streets are safe. My kids lives are more important than this jackass getting one more 'snow day avoidance' notch on his belt.

We'll be sledding down the hill tomorrow and maybe trying to shovel out the back walkway and stairs. As of right now we're completely snowed in and it's still snowing a bit. I'm not complaining about the snow, because we've had a fabulous winter of warm sunny weather, but geesh... call off school and keep the kids safe.
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How could I possibly skip this opportunity

Have you heard the news? Our vice president Dick (shoot'em up) Cheney jumped out of a car yesterday to shoot some quail, and instead shot his friend and fellow Texas mulit-millionaire Harry Whittington in the face. Best of all, they didn't disclose this information for 24 hours after the shooting. Shoot'em up Cheney was using a pellet gun and sprayed pellets into Whittington's face and neck. What a fucking moron. Playing cowboy, oh, excuse me, avid hunter, by jumping out of a car with a shotgun in your hands? What the hell kinda idiots have you all elected (don't blame me, I'm not only from Massachusetts, I ONLY vote Democratic for apparently obvious reasons) to represent us? His boss, the dithering idiot that can't speak a coherant sentence and takes a vacation every other month to rest after his hectic schedule of making bad decisions and political gaffs, and now Heart Attack Cheney. What a government to be proud of! It's Dumb and Dumber do Washington.
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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Update on the big news of the week

PBS is planning to unveil a new television show in the fall. It will be called Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman (who is an animated dog). It is a reality game show geared towards the 8-10 year old set, and they are seeking 6 local children to play the parts of the contestants. The Girl and Boy have auditioned for the parts and got a call back this weekend. They were weeded out from quite a few kids, and now there is a second callback. I don't think the Boy will ever be called back, as he was decidedly grumpy today and didn't want to cooperate. The Girl was much more animated and has a good chance of another callback. A couple of kids, from the younger ages, already got callbacks. But for the older teen role, we didn't see anyone in the couple of hours we were there.

The filming will be done on weekends, during school vacations, and almost full time during the summer. The way the auditions were handled was pretty interesting. They hired a lot of older teens, looked to be college aged kids to interact with the kids. The took groups of 8 kids at a time, and first they asked if anyone wanted to sing or do something to show a hidden talent. One girl today belted out a song like she was interviewing for American Idol, while her mom stood outside with all the other parents and was holding a huge file of headshots and photos of parts this kid had, going back to infancy. The poor kid was kind of fugly, and very very 'trained'. She didn't get a callback and Mom wasn't the happiest camper. Most of this group of kids didn't appear to have much talent other than being kids. My kids aren't particularly talented in showbiz stuff either. But they don't have to be to take part in this show. They want kids who are adventurous, smart, curious, and can talk to an animated dog. The dog was the Boy's stumbling block. He just couldn't get beyond the dog. That's fine with me. If this wasn't something he wanted to do, then he would have made our lives miserable anyhow. But the Girl does want to do it.

One of the questions they asked kids was to tell about one things they really wanted to do in the future. The Girl answered that she wanted to cross one of those rickety rope bridges like you see on TV going from mountain to mountain. They said that was the first time they had every heard anyone answer that, but the truth is, she really DOES want to cross one of those bridges. She's a total daredevil and thinks all that stuff looks cool. Me, I'm clutching my heart and feeling faint while watching it from the comfort of my sofa.

So, that's what's been happening at Chez SnackenHaus. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, there will be other things that will.
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Friday, February 10, 2006

Parade of hats

We're watching the opening ceremonies of the olympics in Turino. As always, my favorite part is when the teams march into the stadium in their 'traditional' winter garb. OK, it's not traditional, but it's designed by someone famous and the hats... oh the hats. Some of you silly monkeys are shoe people. Me, I'm a hat girl. I do love a good hat. Not the Queen Elizabeth II hats that you wear to lawn parties. Nope, I like them silly and warm and strange. I've got a couple in my own collection that could make you draw your breath in amazement. Hats are what's happening, kids.

Evidentally, it's in the genes or something, because as I was taking a casual bathroom break, Mongolia marched in and the Boy, ever the clever kid, screamed out, "Wow, look at those hats. Genghis Kahn would be so proud."

Not as proud as I am, methinks.
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Middle school tirade: Update

Well, fiddlestix! Today I get email bright and early from the assistant to the principal regarding my email to the SpEd teacher who needs SpEd himself. Seems he was so outraged by my demands to actually have a team meeting he was beside himself and couldn't respond, so went to his boss. Fine with me, I like her and have a lot of respect for her.

She emails me saying that the tone of my email was adversarial. Uh, you think? Sure it was adversarial. I was PISSED and I told him I was pissed. I also said that I'm not particularly nice when annoyed, remember? Anyhow, she wanted to make peace. I sent her back a copy of Mr SpEd's email, with a statement attached about how this adversarial little conflict happened and why. I get back another email with her getting why I was ticked, and guess what? The teachers can't wait to meet with me. They're chomping at the bit. It's like they won free tickets to the World Series or something. Emails from her secretary suggesting convenient times, like 8:00 am is EVER convenient. Two of them. Dying to get me to tell her when my time slots are free so they can rush to the conference room and perhaps provide a spa-like atmosphere. Maybe some meditation, or at least some fine wine.

It's just amazing how much can be accomplished with just those few words "I might have to contact my attorney." It's like whole world opens up and light dawns over the collective Marbleheads or something. Whatever. I don't particularly appreciate playing hardball, but man, do not cross this mother.

You know that scene in "The Harder They Come" when Jimmy Cliff says "Don't Fuck Wid Me" as he's crossing his opponent's chest with a knife. Zoro-like? That's me. Just don't fuck wid me.
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