Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Confidence of Kindergarteners

Yesterday, this little guy from Kindergarten came running full speed into the office to see the school nurse for his "be good" pill. He is one of my favorites because he reminds me of how I imagine my husband as a 5 year old. This kid is always running, talks loudly, and says exactly what he thinks. The only difference is about 50 years.

So, I slowed him down, gave him a hug and reminded him to have a good day. The little guy looks at me with a big smile and announces at the same decibel as a jet plane taking off for flight, "I've had a good day today - ALL DAY!" It was 8:15 a.m. I love his confidence.

No sooner had I quit laughing when one of the Kindergarten teachers stopped me in the hall to tell me about one of her students. She has a child who is Vietnamese. His parents are very supportive - but you wouldn't say they have a great command of the English language. When the teacher called the parents the day before to let them know how their little sunshine had been acting, they assured the teacher that the child was "on punishment."

The next morning, there was a note of apology from the parents and this.

I'm sure they meant to have him swear to be good but something got lost in translation. Still, it speaks of confidence.

But nothing speaks of confidence quite like this Kindergartener's (future ex-wife of someone) writing.

Ahhh... To have that kind of confidence again. Now I've got to check out this classroom. I have no idea what this teacher is teaching in there.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Eagles Concert as Told Through a Texting Conversation

Me: We R here. Awesome and so much fun! And loud like I like it.

Mr. Strong (from here on out referred to as him): Ok. Take it easy.

Me: R U sayin I'm a witchy woman?

Him: I can't tell you why

Me: Don't act like such a desperado

Him: I'm just the new kid in town and maybe the only one not at the concert

Me: Well at least I don't have lyin eyes

Him: Maybe I will see you one of these nites.

Me: That's how it is living in the fast lane.

Him: Hey. Do you have the credit card? Don't take it to the limit again.

Me: But the lingerie I got gave me a peaceful easy feeling. It will for U 2.

Him: Come home soon! I can show you how love will keep us alive.

It was an amazing concert. Definitely worth only getting 2 1/2 hours of sleep. And a special thanks to Mr. Strong for feeding the kids, taking care of the dog and cleaning the kitchen. And most especially for waiting up for me to get home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How My Son Temporarily Lost Consciousness

Last night, at the photography class my son and I are taking together, I mentioned that I would be home very late the next night because I'm going to the Eagles concert a few hours away. That was when he made some comment that went something like, "The Eagles? Mom, they're so old."

That was also the moment I accidentally dropped my heavy camera with the gi-normous zoom lens on his head.

Really. It just slipped.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Track

Before Mr. Strong and I were married, we used to go to "The Track" to walk and talk. Now that we are married, not so much.

The Track is a basic quarter mile track next to a middle school near my home. I have an aversion to treadmills since they usually require moving copious amounts of laundry before using - and I don't do laundry before the sun rises. This must afflict a lot of people as the track is a popular place to walk or run. You should have heard the uproar when they had to close the track for 2 weeks to resurface it.

Because I work primarily with children, there are many, many parents who don't understand that what I do at work is not what I wish to continue to do when I am not at work. And because these said parents wouldn't control their children from hanging out with me in the evening when I would walk and run at the track, I was forced to find a time when no children were present. Hey, I need a break. It's not a crime. And because apparently I'm a glutton for punishment, I finally settled on 4:30 a.m. as the witching hour at the track.

One might think that one would be running alone in the dark at 4:30 a.m. - but one would be wrong. There is a regular motley crew that shows up almost every day. So this tribute is to you, the regulars...

First, there is Grandma R. She is the one who introduces every one to each other. She also makes me realize that my hopes of sleeping in as I get older are probably going to be dashed. Grandma R. is truly an amazing person who loves life and all people. Lucky for me that I met her because now she volunteers at my school 4 days a week in the Severely Impaired Special Education classroom.

Next comes Mr. UPS. He runs and runs and runs. Run, Mr. UPS man, run. And because he looks like he could open up several cans of whoop-ass with his teeth, we all feel safer.

Ah, and then there is Ruby. Really, she is a gem. She is a single mother of 4 kids. Her ex is a physician's assistant (PA) who fell for a little nurse. Ruby must have run off all her frustrations because she seems to be the happiest person out there.

Can't forget Ms. Art History who teaches at the local university. She has a story for everyone. And a memory like an elephant. That must be how she stuck with art history. She can remember all the art work and the artists without looking at the label for reminders.

Also, there is Mr. Middle School Teacher who always walks with his dad. That's nice. I think I'll call my mom and suggest she meet me at the track at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow. I'll let you know how she responds (but I'll leave the expletives out - don't want to ruin her reputation).

And a special thanks to the police department who drive by over and over to keep an eye on us. I used to think they were helping to keep us safe. Now I wonder if they are worried that we are interested in the goods inside the school. Wouldn't it be funny to see how they'd react if we were all running around with a TV or computer in our arms? Yes?

The biggest part of the tribute is saved for the end. Thanks to you, Mr. Weather Man, for letting me know when the temperature dips into the "are you insane, you shouldn't be outside" zone. I admire your accuracy. And I appreciate the 30 extra minutes of sleep.

Happy Tuesday, ya'll!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Now Don't That Beat All

A few years ago, I had a meeting with a parent who wore a t-shirt that said, "PORN - It's cheaper than dating." I kid you not.

Do you know how hard it is to make eye contact with a Dad who would actually wear that shirt to his child's school? Would you be surprised to find out we needed to discuss behavioral issues? No?

Today, we had a meeting with some parents who gave me that same "jaw-dropping" feeling. First, the background info. Bam-bam is a student with diabetes. One day, he tried to run away from the school because we he wanted to go home with his mother. I won't bore you with the details but it ended with Bam-bam tearing up my office and being retrained by a school resource officer and a teacher. Amazingly, the parents were mad with everyone at the school. Looking back, we shouldn't have been amazed. This mother wiped her son's butt until he was in 2nd grade.

Now, when Bam-bam runs away, we report that he is running North on whatever street. Please send for backup. That way the little kid (&*#@) can just tear up the patrol car. I like my office to stay nice and neat.

So, now that you have the visual of the type kid we are dealing with (you do have a visual, right?), let's move on to the meeting we had today. Bam-bam's parents were told that Bam-bam wasn't passing his classes and was in danger of being retained. Apparently, all those low grades from when he refuses to work are having a negative impact on his overall performance.

That was when the dad stood up to announce to me that his son was NOT going to be retained. And his reason was this. When he dropped out of school in the 8th grade, he went to take the GED. And did you know that he scored the highest of anyone in that group taking the GED? And so, therefore, his son did not need to be retained nor did he have to complete all his work to prove to the world that he was smart. And everyone in the sanitation department knew that he was one of the smartest ones in the department.

I may or may not have piddled in my piddle pad. And now I'm looking for a deal in Vegas. I think I have the poker face down now.

I was only kidding

This past weekend, my husband and I had to go to my mother-in-law's to meet with the rest of the family about what we needed to do with her. Apparently, opening the door wearing nothing but underwear is not acceptable in our part of the country.

She can't help it that she gets confused and forgetful. It's just what seems happens to retired teachers.

We went out to eat Saturday night at a nice Italian restaurant. My mother-in-law ordered an eggplant parmigiana. She didn't even eat one bite of it. Just like a kid, she was *full* from drinking soda. She did however order dessert. We grabbed the plate away before she could begin to lick it clean.

This should not have surprised anyone. The woman exists off of bread and cake and candy. She hasn't eaten vegetables her whole life so why start now?

Feeling uncomfortably full from eating chicken saltimborra (or something like that), we headed back to my mother-in-law's house. Soon afterwards, I went to bed only to awake an hour or so later with the worst stomach cramps and nausea.

I stayed in bed for a while trying to will the pain away. My teeth were clenched and my eyes watering. Finally, I got up to go bow to the porcelain goddess. And again. And again.

On Sunday, we finally made it home so I could pass out on the sofa. It took about 6 hours to eat 12 saltine crackers before I was brave enough to eat a cup of vegetable soup.

Throughout this ordeal, I kept reliving a conversation I had with one of my teachers. We had just gotten an email about the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter. She was taking it seriously. Me, not so much. In fact, I said I could never give up peanut butter. A little salmonella poisoning from any food could just be the start of a diet for me.

Such a smart one am I. And seriously, I was kidding.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm just talked out

A sampling of just some of my responses today...

"Well, you are right. This really isn't a good time to talk. Did I forget about an appointment? Oh, well, you see, we have a few teachers at a training and I have to be out here at car duty. If you don't mind, could you leave your name and number with the secretary. I'll call you back as soon as I can and set up an appointment. I'm sorry that you don't like the teacher. This really isn't a good place to discuss this. Would you mind if I called you back. Really, I can just look up your phone number. I'm not in a position to decide to move your child from the teacher's class. I'm sorry if you think I'm being rude. I'm just trying to safely get all the kids into the building. Please understand that I will call you back as soon as I have a chance."

"I don't know if we are going to have any furlough days. We'll find out when the governor announces whether or not we are having furlough days. From what I hear, it could be up to four days. Let's be thankful we still have jobs. Don't forget to focus on the positive. Remember, we still have our jobs and our benefits. Aren't you glad you aren't one of teachers laid off like the ones from ___ system? Isn't this math time? Shouldn't you be teaching?"

"Sometimes parents can get arrested. Why do you ask? I've never heard of someone getting arrested because they smoked cigarettes. Yes, I know cigarettes are bad for your lungs. Usually people get arrested when they break a law. Yes, I know your grandmother loves your uncle. And I'm sorry for your cousin. Oh, say that again? Uh.. umm.. I think you should ask your mom about that."

"Why were you crawling on the floor? But the teacher said for you to sit in your chair. Oh, you didn't take your vitamin today? Well, even so, you are responsible for your choices. Yes, I know that your mom says the vitamin helps you be good. Yes, I am going to call your dad. Well, if you were my little boy you'd be in trouble at my house, too. Really? Well, not playing with the Wii for a whole day should remind you to do what the teacher says to do. No, Johnny didn't make you crawl on the floor. Just a minute ago you said you crawled on the floor because you didn't take your vitamin. Yes, I know your mom always believes you. That's why I'm calling your dad."

"Why did you take your friend's purse? Well, just because you wanted to see what was inside something doesn't give you the right to take her purse. No, I don't believe that it was an accident. What can you do to make it right? Well, I don't believe it was the devil making you do something. That was your choice. No, I'm not saying your mom is wrong. I'm just saying that you have choices to make."

"I was just doing a walk through. Relax. I know I haven't walked through so far this month. No, I'm not looking for anything. I've just had a lot of meetings at the school board office. Please, just carry on as if I wasn't here. You are doing fine."

"I understand that you are stressed. What can I do to help? Well, there is nothing I can do if there is a furlough day. Please just don't worry about it. We don't even know if it is going to happen yet. Let's just worry about it if we find out it is happening. Remember that it could be worse. Let's just focus on the kids for today."

"Yes, can I help you? Well, I'm the principal. Yes, really, I am. Thanks for saying I look young. Yes, really, I am the principal. Oh, you want a tour of the school. I'll be more than happy to show you around. Where is your child currently going to school? Oh. So, do you live in our school district and just go to ABC School? No? Well, are you planning to move into our district? Oh, well, I'm sorry but our guidelines state that only students who live in our district can attend this school. I'm sorry you don't like ABC School. Have you talked with the principal there? Yes, you are right, he is older than me. I hope you get the situation worked out."

"Are you okay? Yes, I know. Technology can be a bummer when it doesn't work right. Well, the media specialist can't fix everything right away because she is teaching lessons. You'll just have to wait until she can get to you. No, I don't know how to fix the computer. I'm sorry that it messed up your lesson. Maybe you could just go to Plan B. Oh. Well, I would recommend having a Plan B on hand at all times. Well, I'm sorry you don't roll like that. Let's look on the bright side. I'm sure you could find a bright side if you really tried."

"Oh. I'm sorry you are upset. I'm sure the teacher didn't mean to hurt your feelings. She was just concerned because your son wore shorts and a t-shirt to school without a jacket. You did realize that it was 21 degrees this morning. Yes, I understand letting kids pick out their own clothes. No one is mad at you. We just wanted to be sure that everything is ok. You are right. There is no law against wearing shorts in cold weather."

"So the nurse called you? Hold on, let me find out what is going on. Uhmmm...ummm... it appears that your child was scratching.. uhm... a lot.. in her private area. Well, yes. Children sometimes scratch there. But she is doing it so hard that she made a hole in her pants. And her underwear. We think something could be wrong. Oh, I see. Yes, I remember when my children liked to take bubble baths. Well, we need for you to come get her and take her to the doctor. We will need a doctor's note about what is going on. Well, so that we know everything is ok. We are not in a position to make decisions like that. I'm sorry that you think we are thinking poorly of you. Let's just agree that we are all looking out for your daughter."

Whew! I'm exhausted!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I am absolutely pathetic with numbers. I don't even like the show Numbers. I might if I actually watched it. But I'm just not inspired. Give me a show about ultimate fighting. Or about cops chasing down men in wife beaters. Now I'm all over that.

Some how, someone at our school system's main office thought it would be a good idea for each school to do their own Needs Assessments. Basically that is a fancy word for the process in trying to figure out what the hell you are going to need for the next school term. In other words, work on your own budget. But not for what you need now. What you predict you will need. Fine time for my Magic 8 ball to be lost.

We all have to sit together and listen to random lectures meant to motivate and inspire. It sounds much like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

How am I supposed to figure out what we need 6 months or more from now?! Now I try to get input from my teachers. Usually they ask for curriculum that won't get approved. I don't know why. All I know was there was a reason. I could tell because the finance guy's mouth was moving. We'll put it on the list anyway. At least they'll have to say no and I won't have to remember the reason (something about the funding formula) it wouldn't get approved.

Besides, I clearly remember telling my algebra teacher that I would never use the information she was imparting to us. I don't want to be wrong.

Sure, this is probably a *better* way to figure out the budget and needs ... actually getting information from the individual schools. They make me miss the old days where they told us what we were getting and how much money we had to spend. That way I could complain and whine and bitch about not being heard. And about the stupid choices they made in the budget.

Now I have to tell my teachers that it was ME. I'm a number-tard! I didn't think of asking for [insert object here]. It was me, me, me! Argh!

Gotta go! I probably need to start reworking the budget to include some protective gear for me. Now, how can I term that so that it looks like instructional needs?

Monday, January 19, 2009

8 Years

I was 5 and he was 8 when he came zinging into my world. Really. That was the noise we heard. Zinging. Awestruck by his gift in handling crayons, I let him color in my coloring book. He could actually color in the lines! He was loud. He loved to laugh. He taught my sister and me to jump from bed to bed. And we fell in love with him.

My step-brother came into our life much like a tornado nestles into a mobile home park.

Sometimes he was angry. Other times, he was overly enthusiastic. He fought authority. He fought with his new sisters. He was just different. I was amazed by the range of his emotions. Sometimes I hated him. But most of the time I loved him fiercely.

While I was in junior high school, I was beginning to put together all the reasons my brother was different. He sucked at baseball because he threw like a girl. But he could help you figure out how to cut your kinky ass hair so that it was cool enough to be tolerable during the Dorothy Hammill era. By the time I was in high school I had figured it out. My brother was gay.

Being gay in Smalltown, Georgia is not a recommended way to become accepted by others. Most of the folks in town still believe that being gay is a choice. And if you make that choice, why then dear friend, you are going straight to hell (said with Southern Baptist hellfire and damnation accent).

So, we made a pact. We would just act like nothing was amiss. And no one knew anything about it. That is until my brother was beaten up outside the gay bar on the county line. I thought I would die when that story made the paper. And I found out how cruel kids can be. I cringe with the memories of how badly I wanted to fit in with the cool kids – those cool kids who were such assholes.

My brother soon left to live where he could find himself. New York. Washington D.C. San Francisco. And finally, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Conversations became sporadic. And yet still deep. We both complained about boyfriends. And our parents. Until one day, my “I’m pregnant” was silenced with his “I have AIDS.”

When we went to get him from Cincinnati to bring him home, I was struck with the grief in knowing that we were bringing him home to die.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of my parents who had to stand up to scorn and ridicule because they stood by their son. And the power of family was enough, at that time, to heal him. He bounced back. He laughed again. And, at times, he even raged.

For five years, we had our ups and downs – along with a few medical scares. We began to joke that our brother would out live us all.

But eight years ago, that all changed.

I miss him. I miss how he gave me advice when I didn’t want it and he was in no position to give it. I miss his hyena cackle when he was making fun of us. I miss his funky Christmas gifts that always had everyone wondering. I just miss him.

This Tuesday Tribute is in memory of my brother who died on January 22, 2001.

A Troubled Student

A couple of weeks ago, I found some of my old report cards. Ah, the memories. Since my mother was a teacher, I heard many lectures from her about my grades and motivation. They always ended with comments like "You will NOT embarrass me!" Sadly, I know I did embarrass. I've tried saying things like that to my kids in hopes they would act right and fly straight. At least the times they didn't are pretty darn funny now.

I think one of my favorite report cards is the one from my 6th grade year. Here. Take a gander.

I'm sure you'll notice that F- circled in red. Yeah. Well, I can explain that. You see, the teacher got mad at me for not finishing a project the way she wanted and she gave me a failing grade (and I did a better project than most of the bozos in my class - but she didn't like for students to do anything but her step by step directions). And so I got mad and refused to do any more work in her class.

I wasn't worried at all about this grade. I had a plan! In my head, the principal would see this really low grade from a girl in the GIFTED CLASS (what a joke that class was). He would then march down the 200 corridor to fire the teacher. If the teacher were fired over the grade then my mother would feel sorry for ME because of the mean, mean teacher lady who was picking on her precious daughter. Of course, the grade would be changed to an A+ as a payment for all the injustice.

Let's suffice it to say, it didn't work out quite like I had planned. And it really didn't help that the teacher circled the grade in red (as if it needed any help standing out). She totally messed up my backup plan to change the F into an A with a simple pen swipe. Who ever heard of an F-? And check out the Explanation of Grades. I can remember some of the comments from my mother: "You could have at least made an F+ but nooo... you had to make an F-.... you will NOT embarrass me..."

And I got kicked out of the gifted program.

Sometimes, I think I'm a descendant of those guys in the Keystone Kop movies.

On a good note, these report cards help me get in good with my current posse of troubled students. They are amazed that their principal could have ever been so much like them. And I appreciate their creativity in getting out of assignments, etc. They ought to get some good grades for some of their unappreciated ingenuity. Really. And who knows. Maybe they'll grow up to be your child's principal.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Dangerous Place

If you want a job that you take seriously with little opportunities to laugh, I don't suggest working in an elementary school. Maybe you should be a funeral director. That or work in the finance industry. As for me, I love working in the land of never-ending laughs.

Yesterday, while observing one of the speech teachers, this was the conversation I heard.

Speech Teacher: Look at this picture. Can you tell me the name of this animal?

Tinkerbell: Dats a bunny.

Speech Teacher: You are right, that is a bunny. Can you tell me another name for a bunny.

Tinkerbell: Well, some teeple call it a wabbit but in my tontry we tall it a bunny. (Interpretation - Well, some people call it a rabbit but in my country we call it a bunny.)

Speech Teacher (trying not to laugh): What country is your country?

Tinkerbell: Georgia (said with complete exasperation for the stupidity of adults).

Often, it is hard to keep a straight face. I'm still humored by the little boys who whip out their stuff to pee on the playground. It is hilarious and I sometimes feel bad for people who live to be so stuffy.

In another incident, Eeyore was brought to school by her uncle. As can happen some mornings, Eeyore was doing the Eeyore shuffle with her head hung low. When I asked if Eeyore was having a rough start (it is safe to say that Eeyore is NOT a morning person), her uncle laughed and said Eeyore was mad. Apparently, she needed a dollar for something in her class and she did not believe him when he said four quarters was a dollar. I love when *problems* are this easy to fix. A simple detour to the school secretary and a quick magic trick to turn four quarters into a dollar almost got a smile from Eeyore. And an almost smile before noon from Eeyore is about as good as it gets. She is more entertaining than an episode of the Wiggles meets the Teletubbies, for sure!

I think my favorite quote of the day came from Barbie Stickers. After air stabbing her pencil and scissors at her teacher because she didn't want to work, she made a visit to me. I tried to talk with her but Barbie Stickers just hissed at me like a cat. Since it was right at the end of the day, I took Barbie Stickers out to the car pick up line where her mother was waiting. While getting in the car, Barbie Stickers started screaming at her mother. One of the things she screamed was "School is dangerous!" This from the girl making stabbing motions at her teacher.

Don't know why, but I thought I would die laughing. Maybe it is a dangerous place after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Attitude Adjustment Attempt

Have you ever had one of those days where you pushed your emotions to the side and sincerely tried to help out an undeserving soul? No. Oh, well. You'll probably not relate much to this story.

Yesterday, the parent of a boy - let's just call him Booger - came to the school to meet with the teachers and me. Booger is well, much like a booger you can't flick off. He doesn't do anything really, really bad. For instance, he has never stabbed another student with a pencil. And he hasn't ever taken a child's lunch money in the bathroom. But the sum of all his irritation adds up to a lot of stress. The 'I'm sinking on the Titanic and I don't think I can swim that well' kind of stress.

Booger has a diagnosis of ADHD. Whoop-dee-doo! So does my son. And my husband. And my darn dog. We are dealing with his impulsivity and his need to always be in motion while making humming sounds that sound like bees on crack. That part is a no-brainer. What we struggle with are all of the arguments, the eye rolls, the refusal to follow directions, and the I'm going to kick the back of this desk so that everyone on this hall can appreciate the neat reverberating sounds it makes... For the record, Booger has had some good days and we've made a pretty big deal about that. I remember both of those days well.

Booger's mom dismisses all of his behaviors because he has a diagnosis of ADHD. He is accountable for nothing. This is very frustrating to deal with (Look, there is a blunt object upon which I must go bang my head...).

But back to yesterday's meeting. I asked Booger's mom to stay after the meeting so we could discuss her upcoming appearance (today) in truancy court for all of Booger's tardies and absences. She stayed despite her verbalization that she needed to get to the nail salon. Even though the mother had been rude and full of attitude, I felt compelled to coach her through what the possibilities would be when she was in front of the judge. I emphasized over and over that she would need to be respectful - especially when the judge was talking to her. This judge can be rather tough - and he is especially tough on parents with a bad attitude.

Now let's take a Batman leap to today. Booger's mom's name is called. All is solemn and quiet because this is a freaking Juvenille Court. And there is an ornery judge present.

And in walks Booger's mom. Laughing and carrying on as if she were going to party like it was 1999. Only they don't have parties in court rooms. And it was 2009.

There was a collective gasp. I think the entire court room knew this was not going to bode well for her.

Without going into the details of the blood bath, I can sum it up by saying that it did not go as planned. The judge EXPELLED Booger until Booger and his mom have a psychological evaluation and the doctor reports back to him.

Booger's mom seemed to not care. When she came to pick Booger up from school after court, she had it all figured out. She had made the decision to put Booger in a private school or to Home School him (that really scares me given how *responsible* this mom can be).

And I'm rather pissed with this mother. After all the coaching to HELP her, she did exactly the OPPOSITE!

Hmmmmm... Now that I think about it, Booger acts just like her. Yet another example of how nuts don't fall far from their tree.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Taylor the Duck

All I'm going to ask is this... Is it the picture or the spelling?

Tuesday Tribute to my Shower Door

Dear Shower Door,

Do you miss me? I miss you. Hopefully, it wasn't too painful when Mr. Strong jerked you off your track and leaned you outside. He hasn't been happy with your bottom for a while now. If I could explain it, I would. He just has an obsession with bottoms.

You are probably wondering how we are doing in the bathroom without you. Mr. Strong seems ok. Me, not so good. After having a shorts and tank-style Christmas, it seems especially cruel to have no shower door when the temperature has plunged into the 30's. Shower Door, I always did like how you contained all the steam within your four walls. This helped me keep my legs groomed. Shaving while one has chicken skin, well, we can just say that isn't working out so well. At the moment, I'm considering abandoning the razor and just simplifying with a braid.

Hopefully, Shower Door, you'll be back on track sometime this weekend. Just in time for the weather to warm up. Until then, I'll just cuddle up in the corner with the soap dish. Don't get jealous. By the looks of the bruise on my shoulder, he offers no comfort.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Full Moon Fever

Last night, I looked at the moon. I'm sure most people thought lovely, beautiful thoughts while my immediate reaction was "uh oh!"

Barbie Sticker girl had a rough day today. Her mother brought her in late. We heard Barbie girl before she even graced the front doors. That typically isn't a good sign. But I will say that I'm proud of that mother because it would have been so much easier to stay home as the girl was demanding.

Before we could even get Barbie girl good and settled, Pretty, Pretty Princess started up. This is our last week with Pretty, Pretty Princess as she will soon be going to a special psychoeducational center until she is calm enough to come back to our school. She seems to be trying to reaffirm our decision to move her to the other school. I definately got my exercise by holding her until she quit deciding to make our lives miserable.
At least she didn't smell like urine today. So there's the silver lining.

My mind is tired. My mind is tired almost more so than my body. And my sense of humor might have already gone to bed. So maybe I should do the same.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Serviceable Service

Apparently, part of my wifely duties includes helping out Mr. Strong with his catering business. While I don't remember this being stated in the marriage vows as I may or may not have been drinking, I usually have fun helping out.

Generally, you can tell a lot about the people getting married by the decorations (or lack of). Fussy arrangements = fussy people. And fussy people are no fun. Another big clue is how the guests are dressed. Men in tuxedo t-shirts are usually a guarantee for a good time.

When I pulled up in the church parking lot (hmmm...a non-alcoholic affair because in our town, only the Jews and Catholics allow drinking on sacred ground), the first guest I saw was a tall guy with long braided hair and a head band. Yep. The gods were smiling on me.

Next, I traipsed into the reception hall to eye the decoration. Simple tulips in vases. Very nice and non-fussy!

By all accounts, things were looking good.

Now a typical wedding reception without alcohol usually lasts for an hour to an hour and a half. Apparently, alcohol is needed to make people want to hang around for longer. And copious amounts of alcohol is definately needed if dancing is expected.

For whatever the reason, I am usually volunteered to be the cake cutter at wedding receptions. Why anyone would trust me with a knife is beyond me.

This bride and groom (a lovely couple, I assume) wanted the guests to start eating at the reception while they posed for pictures with the wedding party. This lasted for an hour and a half! Which meant there I was, guarding the cake while hungry, hungry people came up to stare (glare). And really, the cake was lovely. It was baked by the same lady who made the cupcakes for mine and Mr. Strong's wedding. There, see for yourself. See. There were a bunch of cakes!

Another 30 minutes passed before the bride and groomed were finally cornered to cut the cake.

So now picture this. We've been standing around for approximately 2 hours with the guests. They've been waiting for the cake (because really, the lady who bakes the cakes is that good!). And now they are already in line for cake or sitting on the edge of their chair ready to jump up and attack anyone who gets in their way (you would, too, if you'd been waiting this long without alcohol).

Honestly, the cutting of the cake is a science. And since I failed science in 6th grade, I probably should not be the one cutting. But cut the cake I did. Some pieces are larger than others. Some have more icing than others. Oh, well. That's what happens with *free* help.

Excuse me? Oh, you wanted a smaller piece? Just eat what you want and throw away the rest? Oh, you need a another piece? Here. Let me cut you a chunk.

And the one person who took the cake (if I can't use that phrase here, where can I?) was the pretentious guest who waited for me to cut her a piece instead of just picking up a prepared plate from the cake table. Then when she told me that she needed a piece for her husband, I very nicely smiled (while thinking "pick it up yourself, bitch") and handed her another plate with cake. She didn't need to know it was the piece that someone smelled then put back down to get another piece.

Ah. It is good to have reminders about why I work with children.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Do, Ra, Meme

If it were any day besides Friday, and a Friday evening at that, I'd probably have many, many stories to tell you about my day and my life (or lack of). Oh, the stories are there. It's just that it is hard to get them straight through the gentle hum that rings in my head. That hum is loudest on Friday evenings when it can even out-hum the voices in my head.

Not really being obligated, but just uninspired, I took on the challenge of the meme from Cat. First, I had to look up meme. Having seen that word but not really knowing the meaning, I thought it was a sort of narcissistic issue. According to Wikipedia (all their information is accurate, right?), an Internet meme is simply the propagation of a digital file... Oh, don't go away. Just look it up yourself one night when the sandman is being elusive.

Well, here are the rules.

1. Go to your documents
2. Go to your 6th file
3. Go to your 6th picture
4. Blog about it
5. Tag 6 friends to do the same
6. Find 6 new friends

This picture was taken recently at an old, abandoned school that is in the process of being torn down. There have been many vandals and varmits. This was one of my favorite pieces of graffiti. Actually, maybe it came in second place. My favorite was the one written in brown spray paint that said "This was written with shit." I love when vandals get creative!

While we were browsing about this cluttered, falling down building, three teenagers came into the building to look around. This was the conversation that followed.

Blonde girl: What happened here?

Me: This building used to be a school and now they are tearing it down.

Blonde girl: But what happened to this place (motioning with her hands the surrounding chaos that happens when ceiling parts are mixed with other rubble).

Me: Well, uh, um... They are tearing the building down. I don't know why but that's what is happening here.

Blonde girl: But how did all this stuff get like this? What happened?

Me (realizing that the phrase "tearing down the building" doesn't help the little blonde comprendo): Ummm... there was an earthquake?

Blonde girl: Ohhhhhhhhhh!

And that is how the rumor started that there was once an earthquake in my town despite the fact we don't even remotely exist near a fault line.

As for who is tagged next. Hmmm... You, and you, and you there. And hey, could you each tell a friend? Thanks!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Am Loving the Barbie Sticker Girl

Last night, I dreamed about little Talia, a sweet, 6 year old who unexpectedly died in her sleep from complications of Sickle Cell Anemia about a year ago. She was quite a storm when she first came to my school. Once the PE teacher had to carry her to the office because she refused to walk. And another time, I had to pull her out of the car because she wanted to stay with her mother.

But now I miss her. I miss her smile. And her cries. And most especially her hugs. She made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.

And that brings us to Barbie girl - one of my newest students. The one who needs stickers to get out of the car. Yep! She is rather challenging. And I'm up for the adventure!

You could say we are bonding. When she refuses to do her work, I've helped her do it - hand over hand. When she growls, I'm ignoring her. Until she stops. Then I praise her.

And I hug her. And soon, she'll hug me, too.

Read more about kids here. If your not moved, then you are a rock.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year, New Students, New Experiences

Today is the day the students return (yay!) and as always, the time after the holidays is when we lose several students. More importantly, it is when we gain some more students. Although, we usually lose and gain about the same number, it never works out as an even swap.

For instance, we lost Max. I could cry! He was the 3rd grader who could read on a college level. I've been putting all my chips on him to raise the test scores.

And we gained Annaliese (not her real name). She is a cute and boingy 1st grader. Who doesn't know how to spell her name.

No big deal, you say. Well. When asked, her mother couldn't spell her name either.

Why in the love of all things chocolate would you name your very own offspring a name you couldn't freaking spell?! I realize that she *may* have some learning problems (mom, that it - but then again, there is that theory about apples and trees...), but she seemed with-it enough to have some coping skills (suggestions for mom: write the name on a piece of paper in your purse, tattoo it on your body, etc).

We also got Hayley (again, not her real name) - also in 1st grade. According to Mom, she likes Barbie stickers. And that is important to know because she likes to run away. And bite. And the biggest thing that sets her off is not having strawberry milk, you do have strawberry milk, she really likes that strawberry milk, and what will we do if she doesn't have strawberry milk....

Now back to the Barbie stickers (I kept getting lost in this conversation), well, the Barbie stickers are what she needs for a reward for simply GETTING OUT OF THE CAR. I think my mornings are about to get interesting.

Can you hear me now? "Whhoo Hoo! I like the way you stepped out of the car! Nice move. And the way you held on to your backpack AND closed the door at the same time. Why that was awesome! Here. Have a Barbie sticker."

On a serious note, I truly am excited about the kids coming back to school. They are adorable and entertaining (sometimes, I wish they were a little less entertaining - especially when I a become a chew toy). We seem to have a lot of kids being raised by parents who want to be their child's buddy. There seems to be a fear of guidance and consequences. Everything in life can't be positive - in fact, people learn from mistakes (sometimes).

Speaking of learning from past mistakes, I've got to go. Need to go find some Barbie stickers and strawberry milk.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tuesday Tribute to Target

It was a dark and stormy night. A cold, bitter wind blew in from the North so cold and so bitter that the earth began to crack and crumble. From the ruble rose up Lucifer himself screaming.

“Arrrgh! The ice! The ice! Hell has frozen over!”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be about the same time that I will once again swap dinero for merchandise from a Target store.

For those of you who might be confused, we filed a police report on Saturday night because my son’s car was stolen. Or so we thought. Apparently, the demented folks at Target take issue with cars being in a parking lot. Gasp!

While I realize that their job is to push the red, I didn’t think that would mean making people see red. Or helping me push their bottom line to the red (yes, I shopped there that much).

Both Mr. Strong and I went to talk with the manager. The manager and her customer service helper must have made the highest marks in the “How to Piss Off a Customer So They Never Return” course. For the record, there was no need to belittle and make us feel small and stupid. That is mine and Mr. Strong’s job to do to each other and we need no interference from a store with a heiney hole as their logo.

“It’s private property. We can call a tow truck if we want.”

Charming, eh?

That charming attitude cost my sweet 18 year old $155 and a lot of angst and worry. Not to mention the dent in the front bumper, the paint chip on the side view mirror, and the torn up section of the back bumper (But according to the imbeciles who towed, it was like that when they picked it up. Right… Because noticing the little things are what you do best in life. Hey, wipe your chin. You're drooling.).

Now about the signs. You know, all the signs about the “towing if the car is left one minute after we turn off the lights” – Yeah, those signs. Well, they don’t exist. Apparently because “it’s private property.” Hell, I’ve seen cars on the side of the road for longer than they’ll tolerate.

But you have to lend it to Target for their part in stimulating the economy. I wonder whose idea it was to join forces with the towing company? Maybe there are some incentives for the little extra damage to the car… Maybe there are some cool Isaac Mizhari decorations available to hide the damage (though I’ll never know…).

All I can say, Target, is when it comes to customer service, you missed the mark.

As of today, you’ve officially made me a Wal-Mart customer (oh, dang it, dang it! I really have a phobia of hanging out with people who don’t wear shoes.). And it is a scary world when Wal-Mart reigns in customer service.

Hold me.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I Think I Found the Problem

Found this yesterday when I was cleaning out the files.

My Preschool diploma. Except it is really my Kindergarten diploma. Probably my teacher was too cheap to get diplomas with the right title.

But dig the name of the Kindergarten.

I was destined to look for buy one, get one free drink specials.

A Dent in the Night

Nothing makes your heart pound quite like the phone call in the middle of the night (hey, midnight is late for most folks) from your 18 year old son who has gone out with friends. Now that my son, Mr. Happy, is a college student, I don't have a curfew for him. In fact, I rarely hear him come in from his almost nightly escapades. No need to remind me that this won't qualify me for mother of the year (I am still waiting to just be nominated because the thought would mean so much to me) but I trust him. Really, I do.

At 12:07 a.m., the phone roused me out of a deep sleep. And on the other end of the phone, I could hear Mr. Happy's voice. But it sounded little. And scared.

Mr. Happy: Mom. There is a little problem. Just a little situation. I'm not sure what to do. I really don't know what I should do. (For the love God, tell me... tell me... tell meeeee......)

Me: Are you ok? What happened? (Thump, thump, thump goes the heartbeat in the ears.)

Mr. Happy: Uh... ummm.... (Oh my friggin God! Just say it already! Are all your limbs attached? Can you breathe through your pie hole?)

Me: What is it? What is it?

Mr. Happy: My car is gone. (Really? Not in a crash... but GONE?!)

Me: What do you mean? (In my defense, my IQ is lower until I've had a shot of caffeine.)

Mr. Happy: Uhh.... I had my friend bring me back to my car and it isn't here anymore. (Wha?! The car is missing?)

Me: Where are you? (For some reason, pictures of him in a rough, gang-riddled neighborhood flashed in my head.)

Mr. Happy: I'm at Target. (Really? At Target? Where they have video cameras filming the parking lot?)

Me: I'm on my way. Go ahead and call 911.

Mr. Happy: You aren't mad? (Sadly, what flashed before my eyes were moments when I had been mad at him.)

Me: No, baby. You can't be responsible for what a car thief did. (The stupid, rotten, low-life thief... How dare you make my child feel bad! And how dare you remind me of my less than glorious moments in motherhood. May you rot in a car graveyard hell!)

This post is in memory of a cute, little red '03 Toyota Matrix with 100,000 miles. May your tires attract nails and may your engine explode.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Deliverance Country

Today, at the newest, hippest, coolest nail salon in town, there were issues. The issues were not with the actual place. Who wouldn’t be happy with awesome, purple massage chairs that are so new you can still smell the naugas that died for their cover? Or with the funky lighting in the water that ecclesiastically soothes your tired, calloused, cankered feet? Or even with the lovely water served in a stumpy wine goblet with both a slice of cucumber AND lemon?

No. The issue was with the men.

That’s right MEN in my favorite (for the moment) nail salon! They do not belong there (please note that I am all for equal rights, but really – who can respect a man who goes to a girly nail salon).

I tried to stay focused on the Sandra Bullock chick flic playing on the tv (further proof that nail salons are a place for women) but my eyes were drawn to the various guys sitting in the purple massage chairs. Much like flies to shit.

The first one was a rough looking guy. The kind of guy you’d find at your local biker bar slamming shots, throwing darts, and pushing himself onto women with big hair. He glared every time I glanced his way. I think he feared that I’d blow his cover. His secret is safe with me as part of my therapy involves staying the heck out of biker bars.

The second guy was an old man. I figured he couldn’t reach his feet any more. And possibly, he was a bit blind. He just smiled and said hello to everyone. Everyone. Even the shadows.

It was the third guy that creeped me out the most. He looked to be young enough to be cool (he wasn’t) and yet old enough to drink. He came in wearing zip up boots. My children used to wear zip up shoes back in the day before they could tie laces. But I digress. The most prominent thing about this guy (besides him getting a pedicure, may I remind you), was the huge, honking cross on his necklace. You could see it shining prominently under his colorful scarf that he'd worn despite the 70 degree temperature.

Now I’m not opposed to religion. I have fond memories of it. But I do take issue with people who feel compelled to shove it down the throats of unwilling participants.

As this guy was getting his pedicure, he asked the Vietnamese pedicurist (it is a word, I Googled it) if she was saved. Not understanding, she just smiled and nodded. While clearly, English is not her native tongue, she just may be on to something since Jebus-boy left her alone for the remainder of the pedicure.

As luck would have it, I got moved to the drying table right after he did. When he asked me where I went to church, I couldn’t bring myself to respond like the pedicurist. In the end, I decided to mimic the biker guy and I simply glared at him.

That trick works, too.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bear Hugs

About a month ago, at school, we had a 2nd grade student having a tantrum. He's a big, boy who is extremely babied by his mother. When I came upon the scene, the boy was running around the playground while screaming at his mother. Apparently, he wanted to go home with his mother after she had brought him his lunch (maybe if she'd brought him a treat she could have tricked him into staying).

We politely told the mother to go ahead and leave because we could handle the situation. Of course, that was before we realized just how crazy this child could be.

With the mother gone, the boy began screaming even louder. Since loud screams aren't generally conducive to children learning, we - being the DARE officer, teacher, and myself - decided to move him to the office. It took all three of us to catch him and then carry him to the office.

While in the office, the boy continued to rage and scream. According to my secretaries, it sounded like I had decided to play table tennis with a herd of wild baboons.

And the screaming went on and on and on.

After an hour or so of us pretending to ignore him (and not noticing the blood running from our ears), the boy decided to up the ante by clearning off the items on a table and pulling the books off the bookshelf. Nice of him, right? When he began pounding his head on the concrete wall, we sat him down on the floor and restrained him so that he wouldn't hurt himself. Basically, the teacher just hugged him and the officer and I held his legs to keep him from kicking us (this we figured out after I got kicked in the face). Within minutes, he calmed down. Unreal. If I'd known that, I would have held that boy sooner.

Now as bizarre as this sounds, tantrums are just a fact of life in an elementary school. Not common but not out of the question. Just like a pig loves slop, some kids love to demand attention in the most inappropriate of ways. Restraints are only used if they are in danger of hurting themselves or others (for instance, one shouldn't let another kick one in the face).

After a while, I called the child's mother to let her know what had just transpired and that now the boy was okay. She became enraged! "How dare you people TOUCH my child!"

We were shocked. This crazy child had taken up our ENTIRE afternoon, destroyed my office, and made countless parents coming into the office wonder what shenanigans were going on at the school, not to mention the affect that the child had on our personal well-being (and I got to sport a couple of lovely bruises for a few days afterwards).

My children are understandably jealous. When I told them this story they both recounted times when their arms were no longer attached to their sockets for merely hinting at an attitude. A kick in the face? Why they figured that they'd have been buried under the house.

The next day, the mother came in again, still mad. She demanded to know what our policy was on "Bear Hugs." The secretaries just gave her a blank look and deferred to me. Upon further questioning, she said her son claimed he was held in a bear hug (which is pretty close to accurate). When told there was no policy on bear hugs, she said that she was going to be sure that the school system created one. ARRRGH!

I wish I were kidding and there is no way I could make this crap up.

Can you just hear it? Bear hugs, you say? Ummmm... well, yes. Here it is on page 37 of the student handbook. The Bear Hug policy clearly states that blah, blah, blah...

After going to the superintendent's office and to several board members, the mother finally dropped the subject. And to this day, the mother still refuses to speak to me when she comes in (And I so enjoy talking with her. Really. I always speak to her just to see her stiffen up and turn her head as if he had just smelled a turd.).

So life is good and all is well and time passes.

Yesterday, Mr. Strong, Mr. Happy and I went to an old, abandoned school to look around. This school is in the process of being torn down and there are books, toys, desks, and papers everywhere. It is a bit like time stopped.

And there I found it. Who knew it existed. Ta da! The policy on bear hugs does exist.

I am so recreating this to hang in the front office.