Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mountain Day - Carpe Diem!

It's Mountain Day!

That's my alma mater's "get out of jail free" day. The president of the college picks a beautiful fall day to cancel all classes. The point wasn't to catch up on homework. She encouraged all students to head to the mountains - or, well, at a minimum to spend the day outdoors. Some picked apples, some had a picnic, some just enjoyed "Paradise Pond".  It was always the best fall day!

I have pictures from Mountain Day showing my friends and I playing on the playground equipment with huge smiles on our young faces.

Today I am hoping to keep the spirit of Mountain Day alive in Bridgewater. I started the day walking with friends. Then I had an al fresco lunch with other friends where the conversation was as spicy as the salsa. There are 22 things on my to do list. (I counted). I'd like to it off and spend the ENTIRE day outdoors. Can I still summon my inner Mountain Day spirit and head to the Sourlands with the kids after school for a hike instead of making them do their homework? Can "call insurance company" and "fix flexible spending mistake" or "sign C up for cheer event" wait one more day?

I guess the answer is no. I can embrace Mountain Day, but I can't escape my life today where no one rings bells that announces to everyone "take the day off!" I can take an hour or two - or even three. But when it comes down to it, life is about balance. I hope you enjoyed today's break from the rain. It's back on its way. And I hope the students that got a free day took advantage of it. Midterms are looming... and a semester is a long time.

Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best laid plans sometimes get waylaid...

No BOE meeting for me tonight....

I accidentally left the keys in the ignition this afternoon. The car wasn't running but the lights automatically stayed on, so when it came time to drive the kids to TKD, the battery had died. T came home from work to give the car a jump, but by that time I'd missed the early TKD class. Instead of driving home at 7pm to give me plenty of time to make an 8pm meeting, N took the later class which didn't get out until 7:50 - and I walked into our house at 8:15. If the meeting were going to go on until 11pm, I could probably make the effort and have it be worthwhile.... but I decided a good night's sleep after a long day was probably a better use of my time.

Short blog today. Use the time you would have spent on this blog doing something nice for yourself. Pour yourself a cup of tea, take a nice bath and listen to a little evening music or this Beethoven beauty instead.

Monday, September 27, 2010

BOE tomorrow night - new school year, new concerns!

This year my schedule - rather, my daughter's schedule - makes it difficult for me to attend Board of Ed meetings. Will you join me tomorrow night?

I have lots of items I could bring up. Some are regular themes like large class sizes and worsening communication since the "greening of the district", and the hope for improvement in BOE's and BREA's negotiation skills as they work out the new teachers' contract. I'm also miffed that the entire 7th grade missed 2 classes to attend a rally on selling magazines. Really is that good time management?? It's a building issue, but shouldn't the BOE know about this kinds of stuff? (My friends have complained a potpourri of concerns including: the cost vs. benefit of the 7th grade environmental trip, the fact that parents weren't informed that they need to update their e-blast profile when their kids change schools, and the perennial favorite: busing problems- but I'll let them voice their own concerns. They know where the Wade Building is.)

My issue du jour:
The district is about to get an influx of $398,882 . I want to tell the BOE to return these funds to the classroom by- not spend it on extra-curriculars! The mycentraljersey.com blogger Dick Bergeron was nice enough to write a blog entry outlining the restrictions attached to these funds after I posted a comment. Apparently there are few restrictions to the funds, making it easier for it to become a non-academic slush fund. The BOE has a tendency to appease sports groups serving very small numbers of kids, while forgetting that most people want money to go to the classrooms where kids are getting their educations. Here is my plea in a nutshell: hire back as many CLASSROOM TEACHERS as you can because it is the easiest way to improve the state of our schools. More teachers = better teacher/student ratios = more attention to each child's needs.

There are always issues to bring to the board's attention, but the best strategy is to keep it simple. One thought per meeting and avoid long, detailed speeches that the BOE largely ignores. A united front helps but historically has not always swayed votes. For me, tomorrow's meeting is about spending the new funds. There are plenty of others to bring forth.

I'll be there - with knitting in hand!

New Zumba Class in Bridgewater

(Written Saturday evening, posted Monday)

Ow! My butt hurts!
My stomach muscles are twinging
Don't ask about my thighs...  they are on strike...

And I haven't exercised since Friday morning!

But I feel GREAT!

On Friday I took my first Zumba class. Zumba - as far as this novice can tell- is basically shaking your bootie to a latin beat, a little belly dancing and some salsa-meringue-south of the border dance moves with a side of core training, now being offered at Bridgewater's newest dance school, The Lois Allen School of Dance. The ladies and I went on Friday morning and I'm hooked! Bring on next weeks class!

Dancer, owner and local Mom, Loralyn Gaughran makes it fun for everyone. I haven't ever done Zumba before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I can say that I'm in relatively good shape and was sweating after only 5 minutes! Although I felt a little silly at first, I really got into it and even began to shake my unwilling shoulders. Next time should be a bit easier.

I also can say that in all the classes I've taken through my adult years (various aerobics, step, kick boxing and strength training classes) Loralyn did the most thorough stretching at the end. I'm already looking forward to next week.

Congratulations, Loralyn on your new school! It's inspiring to see a friend's business expand and blossom.

If you can't wait, Loralyn is teaching a class Tuesday evening. Check the schedule for time and other details.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Desperately seeking patience

Childhood is as a series of phases. Some I never thought my children would get past. All that is required though (so far) is time and patience.

There were minor ones - like when C would wake up at 6am, and I'd half-sleep on the sofa next to her while she watched The Lion King II over and over and over. The music still sits hidden in my brain.

I was certain that we'd go broke keeping up with N's insatiable desire for Thomas trains.

Would C ever stop calling out for milk in the middle of the night? Long after I stopped breast feeding - and according to my father I did it longer than is socially acceptable (about 18 months) - she would wake up demanding a bottle. Until one day when T had had enough and cut her off cold turkey. That's when we realized she really could scream! She got past that.

Would N ever stop sucking his thumb? One of my friends once said that she sucked her thumb until she was 12 when she discovered cigarettes. Thankfully N wasn't quite that old.... he finally quit- in first grade! He's only 10 now, and hopefully he won't get a taste for cigarettes!

Yesterday I had a "doh!" moment: K-5 teachers prefer that you don't make your kid suffer through 90 minutes of math homework - if they take more than 30-40 minutes, send in a note. N would do a few problems and then whine. I'd catch him staring into space or something and yell. He'd tear up, say it was hard and he was thinking. I'd feel bad but yell again 2 minutes later when he was again distracted to get him back on track. He finished the homework eventually but the only thing he learned from it was that math can be painful. Exactly the lesson he doesn't need to experience.

C's phases seem to be a series of expensive, very time consuming activities. I rationalize that it is better than if she were staying home watching TV, but my life revolves around her timing. Yesterday, in the midst of me filling out forms and writing checks - many checks - for cheer leading competitions, she shoved a form into my hand. I sighed. It was for lacrosse... in the spring she wants to try lacrosse.  When did mothering mean being a chauffeur first and a parent second? Again - I need to look at the big picture. She is fortunate to be able to try new things. I'm fortunate to watch her.

This is all part of the grand scheme of life's phases. In the blink of an eye they will be gone to pursue their own lives, and I will suffer from the loss. But in the midst of it - today - I can't drag myself away enough to see the big picture. I just react in haste from situation to situation.

Things change: C doesn't even like milk anymore. N's trains are in a box in the basement. He stopped sucking his thumb, but still needs a reminder for brushing teeth. C sleeps beautifully through the night, and gets herself up every school day before 6am. She still can't drive, so this phase will last many more years but it isn't a bad thing - I love to hear her and her friends sing together in the car.

Patience apparently comes naturally to some. The patience that gets you through difficult patches. At work, with friends, with marriage, with family. What would my life look like if I were more patient by nature?

I keep yearning for something new. A new job - a new adventure. I need the patience to appreciate this phase: rides, homework, sleepovers, misunderstandings, rushed dinners where someone always complains about the food. Someday I'll be beyond this phase, be cooking whatever I want, eating whatever I want, whenever I want. Not stressing over my kids and their school work. But, remind me now: I'll miss this later. Just as I miss singing to my kids each night, or making homemade baby food, or walking proudly with my babies in a pram wishing they would go to sleeeeep so I could get some rest. Poof it's gone!

I know I went through phases myself: I used to line up the vegetables in my Cambell's soup, making an unwanted mess. I refused to let my Mom wash or brush my hair - my neighbor had to come do it. And I absolutely refused to keep my room neat. I think I'm still in that phase.... I'm the stay-at-homer with the messiest house in Bridgewater... it's just a phase though!

And so is the worry of each day. N's homework is complete. Another baby-step in phase "school age". Far from the last math assignment! There's plenty yet to come. I've said it before: patience is a virtue but it's not my strong suit! I better stock up on it. Otherwise I will look back and wonder why I squandered what really are the best days of my life.....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creative morning

This was a good morning.

This was a GREAT morning!

My daughter got herself ready and on the bus and I stayed in bed, gaining an extra 1hr and 45 minutes of sleep! Last night I quizzed her on Latin vocabulary. Coquus is kitchen, servus is slave, impluvium is the basin in the atrium where water comes in from the conpluvium, the angled roof.... was latriat he barks? Hmmm... I wonder if she remembered more than I do. I hope so!!!

When I finally dragged myself out of bed and made my son some breakfast, he drew me a picture. Yesterday I bought some Mums. One of them sits between our kitchen and family room.
Actual plant
N's drawing


Although he likes art class at school, he never was a kid who drew or colored much at home. I'm not saying he is talented, but N has never been interested in drawing before and I'm thrilled!

A little while later I checked the time on my cell phone I found a message from dear friend. It said:

Just saw glee for the first time ever. Heard "What I did for love". It always impressed me that you did that - you can do anything you want. You rock. :)

She was referring to the fact that in high school I sang a solo at the talent show. I wasn't particularly talented, and certainly was neither popular or pretty, but I was willing to give it a try. I don't remember whether I hit all the notes or whether my voice cracked.  I never knew I impressed anybody - I figured my friends thought I was crazy or stupid or both. Guess I have to start watching Glee......

What comes around goes around. I'm happy that my kids are trying new things, and my friend was impressed that I tried something ages ago. It has been a long time that someone said "you can do anything you want" or called me "impressive" (to my face at least) in any way. Positive reinforcement feels good. I need to remember to give it to the people in my life more often!

Sometimes a great start makes enough happiness to shine through the whole day. Happy Thursday, folks!

The Case of ID - and why this blog doesn't have my name

Since I write such personal things on my blog, and if you know who it is anyway, and most of my readers do, why do I keep it semi-private? Why do I use only initials when I describe someone - lately I've started calling my dog by his full name, but he doesn't have a social*security*number (although he has a police record!) - but otherwise if I ever refer to you or someone else I know, unless they are a politician or a member of the education community, you get an initial or two. That's it.

A former colleague of mine has recently changed jobs and is now the Webmaster for a city of approximately 120,000 people. She has spruced up their online profile and updated it in several important ways, including creating a Facebook profile.

In her free time she is also very active on the net - with both a large presence on Facebook and a blog. In the summer she and her husband travel all over Europe in their RV and blog about their adventures. This summer I was especially jealous of their wine tasting....

The city has an ongoing case with a citizen regarding a specializes housing subsidy that is available for low-income residents. This program requires that inhabitants help to build their own house. (Not completely by themselves, of course). Apparently - and I haven't followed this at all - a handicapped man was found ineligible for this program, I presume because either a) he can't do the required work, and the point is you do it yourself or b) he is eligible for other kinds of subsidies only for the handicapped. I cannot say for sure and every article I've read says that the city cannot comment on an on-going issue, which is how I think it should be handled. Nonetheless, there have been various forms of protest on behalf of this man. Again, I have no idea how serious they have been.

But someone who is supposedly acting on behalf of this handicapped man went a little coo-coo and took his protest too far. He went online and complained. Then when ID (my webmaster-friend's initials) said she would sensor him, he called her something that could be roughly translated as "old bitch" (or just "old lady" (it's in children's music), but I've also heard it used as "bitch" too) and found personal information on ID: her cell phone number, her e-mail, her home phone number, her address, what she made last year, how much savings she has and how much taxes she paid and published it on the Facebook page for the city she works for (the one she administers), and he told people to contact her to lodge a complaint about this man's denial of public build-it-yourself housing.

ID has been in both of the two local papers regarding this breech of internet etiquette.

There are crazy people out there. People who wish you harm or can harm you without wishing to. Take two minutes and check yourself. Google yourself. What do you find? Are you on social media then double check what others have access too. (For example I don't have my cell phone number and my e-mail isn't my everyday e-mail but a hotmail account I started specifically to give to stores, etc. Even the e-mail linked with this blog isn't my private e-mail). A hasty check just showed that if you put my full name in, you get my party affiliation and a link to a private investigator company to give more information. The "teaser" information on the "click here for more" (for only $29.95 apparently you get it all) includes the street I live on and the first 3 digits of my phone number. You also see that I was manager for a project from nearly 10 years ago....that e-mail was deactivated 7 years ago. Good luck trying to find me there!

There is etiquette in the online world, folks. And like with other laws not everyone will follow them. Some get stupid and get caught. Others don't. Just like in "real life".

Monday, September 20, 2010

How many is too many?

I have spent a week now in the Library at my son's school and the classes seem way too big. How does a teacher get anything taught when there are so many kids?

This year N has 27 kids in his class. This seems to be the norm at his Intermediate school. One teacher said that she has 26 kids during regular class, but that number rises to 31 during math when kids move around due to differentiation.

I also heard about a kid in the high school who had to take a test standing up because there aren't enough chairs in her classroom.

How many kids is too many? Is there a magic number? I would have said 16-20. Large colleges can have lectures with 500 people. But this ain't about college!

When I think back to 5th grade I remember Mrs. Hoffman's class fondly . At one point there were 31 kids in that class! Our desks were lined up in 5 rows of 6 desks. Nonetheless it was my favorite year. I believe I learned a lot that year. Maybe I learned a lesson that I didn't realize: great teachers deal what's dealt to them. (Not that I think they should have 30 kids in a class!). Out of those 31 kids, I felt like I was her favorite in the class. Turns out I'm not the only one who felt that way. Did she make all 31 kids feel just as special?

This isn't the first time public schools have been in the economic dumpster. I just hope my son comes out of 5th grade thinking he's learned a lot. If everyone feels that way, then it's a good chance the teacher is just as great as Mrs. Hoffman!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Change of seasons

During the day yesterday it still felt like summer here and as I write this, the weather today looks just as promising. But last night at the football game where I watched C and her fellow cheerleaders strut their stuff, I could tell fall is here. Time to change the blog's template until the snow starts falling. One of my readers has said that she prefers to read dark text on a white background, but this fall I'm changing things up a bit. I hope she continues to read. If not, she should check again in December....

Also, I am changing the Poppet Jones' Diary section of my blog. It is not interesting to see my weight fluctuate between 5-7 pounds, sometimes a few up, sometimes a few down. Weight isn't my real goal, anyway. It's health. So in the name of positive feedback, I plan to keep a log of how much I'm shaking it.  Hopefully this will inspire readers to join me in my ever-pathetic fight to keep somewhat fit. There are plenty of better examples running around Bridgewater, but as far as I know they don't have blogs. I am using mapmyrun.com to keep me honest. It's on my phone and maps where I run or walk. It automatically updates a calendar. Who knew JJ and I walked nearly 5 miles the other day. Not bad, indeed! It was sunny and warm yesterday when I jogged for 4 miles! I'm really not much of an athlete. Lots of people I know are much better and in better shape, but I actually like it.  If only I ate like a runner.... I'd look like a runner too.

Today I plan to do the same thing with the house as I've done with my cyber-room: clean-up and bring in the fall colors. Pottery Barn's latest catalog sits on my kitchen table. Leafing through it (ha) made me realize that I have plenty of things in my own stash that I've grown to love. So I welcome you to stop by next week to see our bland colors alive with oranges, yellows, browns and forest greens accenting our home.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

To Soccer Mom, From BW Soccer Mom, "SOMEDAY"

That's what I just wrote on the Travel Section of the New York Times. I'm putting it in my desk. I'll probably find it in 5 years.

When I was young, all I needed was a rail pass, a passport and some financial assistance from my ever-generous Dad (usually after I depleted my savings on things like a hair cut that cost more than a week's lodgings (French would have been useful!), unexpectedly finding myself on a 1st class only train and a meal I couldn't really afford). I used to manage to backpack through Europe alone with no problem (ok, once I did have a multi-lingual travel companion, but what the hell were my parents thinking when they let me backpack through Europe with a boy they met 3-4 times?! Another time I started to travel with a friend. We went our separate ways: she ended up being a professional travel writer - my dream job!)

The Travel Section today is completely focused on Latin America. Ever since I got to know some very cool exchange students from places like Peru, Brazil and Colombia I've wanted to be brave enough to explore their continent but have yet to step on South American soil.

If I worked I'd have the money to go. If I worked I wouldn't have the freedom to travel. Now that I don't work, I have the time (theoretically, at least) but I don't have the financial freedom to take off and explore only for my own enjoyment? But there's another think that takes away my freedom: my own choices.

How come I've let having kids preclude me from having my own adventures? I don't think it's marriage, since the summer after we married my husband sent me off to Europe for 4 weeks of backpacking without him. (And we have much more money (but more debt) now). But I had worked for a year as a travel agent and longed to see friends overseas. Things have changed. Now my priorities are making sure my daughter has a ride here, there and everywhere.

Maybe I'm thinking this because as I type this, my good friend SM is kicking back in Hawaii where she is visiting a brother who moved there. She invited me to go with her and I said no thank you. It didn't even occur to me to bring it up as a topic at dinner because I knew that heading 1/2 way across the world during the busiest week of the school year was a no brainer. It wasn't happening.

By why not?

Why do I keep making these choices? Book fairs over Kauai's beaches? The old me would have said Kauai without a second thought. I've been there and know the paradise I'm missing. But today I'm drinking coffee in my kitchen and later today it's my turn to drive the cheerleading carpool. Today I get to watch C and her friends in short skirts do dances and jump around, having fun.

If I were tasting ice cream in Argentina, I'd be alone and probably lonely, missing out on what will prove to be a beautiful Saturday evening. No matter how great the dulce de leche.... I wouldn't have my loved ones with me.

And for all my chaotic life choices, one thing I am happy about - I am never lonely! It's here my friends are. Here my destiny keeps me and here I take care of those I love!

So I guess I'll open up the Book Review. There's a story about a Chilean writer... but actually upstairs in my room I'm reading a FANTASTIC children's book, The Dreamer. I can go to Chile, and I only have to walk up a flight of stairs and turn left. I invite you to join me. You won't be lonely, you meet your obligations and you won't get jet lag!

Editorial note: I didn't mean to invite you into my bedroom with me - I meant to invite you to READ the book.... sorry for any confusion!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week one: summary

It was the first week of school. I've been working nearly full time as co-chair of my son's book fair. It's a lot of work but I enjoy it. I hope that the PTO appreciates it - I got more help soliciting from friends than through PTO channels and I am less than impressed with the new leadership thus far!

Since it is a BEAUTIFUL sunny Friday afternoon and I would rather be outside walking/running Diego than typing in the kitchen, I'll keep it simple.

C: Middle School isn't as bad as expected. Latin is going to be a lot of work - more than C expected. Cheerleading is still cool. How do you pass Latin? Ora et labora....

N: Two teachers (co-teaching) and I'm not sure which one I'll like better, but both T & I came home with the impression that he got 2 great teachers! X-box Live is addictive (and yes, inappropriate for his age level - guess what, Mom didn't get it for him).

T: Glad that the equipment arrived, so he can reseed the back yard. Won't the yard ever just grow? Grow-die-grow-die-grow-die.... it's almost like the kitchen: clean, cook, eat, mess, clean, cook, eat, mess in an unending spiral.

L: Was in a funk after dream job fell through without as much as an interview. Am trying not to give up before I've really started.

Diego: Thinks Mom needs to get off the running kick. Can't we just sniff ever post, pole and mailbox and turn around?

Weekend is just a stone's throw away. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

it's not really green

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. It is 7:45 am and I have been doing PAPERWORK since before 6:30. Haven't even had my coffee yet!

I won't get time to write a real blog today either as my to do list is 12 bullet points long and I haven't remembered everything on there, but I do want to continue my discussion (the one in my head, the one you can't hear) of BRRSD and the NJ Monthly standings, and such lists in general. I want to walk and talk with friends. I don't want to continue faxing papers to the flexible spending office or sign yet another form that I had to print out for school.

When did paperless simply mean not BRRSD's paper???? I'm not mad that they are trying to save money. I'm mad that they are having us print stuff in the name of being green. I don't mind paying for my paper in lieu of using tax-payers funds. I do mind the fact that it is completely unclear what forms are relevant and need to printed, and which are not applicable.

Ah, I digress....

One more question on the to-do-list in my brain:

* NJASK (New Jersey's answer to No Child Left Behind testing)

When are we going to get our kids' scores? And WHY haven't we heard anything? I know another district received their scores several weeks ago. I am wondering if our scores were so bad that the powers that be don't want to inform parents! Call me paranoid.....

Call me "the paperwork lady"! Back to the fax machine...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Attention Wegmans Shoppers...

A friend just sent me this about Wegman's reusable bags. I only have one. This is Wegmans' statement from their website.

After a nearly-no-sleep sleepover I have spent the better part of the day in bed. And I am heading back there now. See you tomorrow, cyberworld. Phone, cell and e-mail can wait until tomorrow morning. Kids are on Diego duty.

Soccer Mom's off duty!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What not to say....

My good friend posted on Facebook yesterday that one of her kids' teachers said, "Ok. You all need to stop talking now. I hate this class already."

As of now she has 20 comments. Several comments were negative towards tenure (the program where teachers who have worked for 3 years in their position get a "job for life" and it is nearly impossible to fire them). I certainly understand resentment towards tenure. However, I also understand the comments - several left by teachers - saying that this isn't indicative of how the vast majority of teachers feel or teach. Some, like me, begged her to contact the school (I said she should bring it higher, to the Assistant Superintendent). She said her kid didn't want her to.

What would have I done? I would have called. Immediately! It isn't in my nature to wait and see. I'm hot headed and I just can't help myself. 

Would that have been in the best interest of my child? Probably not. It would be easy for the teacher to find out who called. That would give a teacher ample fuel to "punish" my kid through indirect means. We've all seen that teachers can treat students unfairly.

One of the bad things about Facebook is that it is designed for people like me. The hot-headed, fast typing type. I'm always quick with a response to people's status. 
The school district, on the other hand, is NOT designed for people like me. When I have made complaints to the school about a teacher or a program or a curriculum issue, or a general trend - this blog began with me being upset about how hard it is to get a child into special programs - I have NEVER changed anything! The principal sides generally with the teacher. The Board of Ed claims they want input, but they really just want to say they have invited people to speak. They rarely give a direct response to anyone at the podium and I am not sure if I have ever heard anyone's input result in any change. (One on one they may say something different, en masse they never say much at all and tend to vote unanimously). The PTO... well, let's just say it depends on who is running the show and while I'm biased toward a certain couple of gems, I cringe at hearing the names of others. Some are clearly on the PTO with ulterior motives (just as certain BOE members). It leaves the average Mom feeling helpless. So why complain?!


But back to the student-hating teacher mentioned above: what can you do? What should you do? Is the better course of action to contact the school and end up in a he-said/she-said debate with the Principal who will generally side with the teacher he/she hired, and risk a bad relationship with the school where you have to deal with the staff for several years to come? Is it better to go straight to the Assistant Superintendent who seems to have no idea what really goes on in a classroom? Is it better to bite your tongue, and tell your kid to deal with it? Then again, if teachers hate kids enough to tell them aloud on the first day of school, and they "have to stay" in their job, isn't it in the TEACHER'S best interest to get out of the classroom and your responsibility as a parent to help prevent this teacher from continuing in the classroom? Since you can't fire someone for saying something like that, isn't the best course of action to find a different job within the system where he/she doesn't actually have to deal with students? Why did the budget crisis lead to firing tons on non-tenured staff but this beastly teacher gets to stay? Would merit pay have helped to get rid of such a hateful teacher? Probably not. 


In general my kids said they heard more about disciplinary procedures, than on what they will be learning this year. Perhaps all teachers (beyond K-3) have to start this way to nip problems in the bud? All I know is that no one had homework but me - and mine was signing my name to papers... at least one was regarding consequences for negative behavior. Nothing about promoting good behavior or good results. 


I have taken several hours to write letters of recommendation for various teachers throughout the years. Each holiday I've spent a small fortune to remind teachers and staff that we care. It's when things go wrong that it's a conundrum.


I've said what I would do if my kid came home with a description like that. Like it or not, my nature would push me to contact the school. But what would you do?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clean slate day!

It's the first day of school in Bridgewater.

With or without kids, I've always felt the first day of school is still an important event.  I loved the idea of a new outfit and new outlook. Everyone has the chance to make new friends, and learn something. There is no baggage, and the people you meet could make a huge impact on your life as a new mentor, or an arch enemy.

The air of opportunity is in the air. Can you sense it too? Maybe I just feel it by living vicariously through my kids. Maybe it's the impending change of seasons - well, it's still in the 80s today, so maybe that's not it. Maybe it's knowing that with every September everything starts over, yet somehow remains the same.

C had a good first day as a Middle Schooler. She described her teachers as nice but boring. Luckily she decided she won't need quite as much time in the morning. Her alarm went off at 5:30am - mine at 6am. The bus came at 6:55. Wow that was an early start.

I must check now. Where's my son, the 5th grader? He's walking home from school.*** I wish I could walk with him, but he's on his own with the neighborhood kids. Life goes on.



***Oh - there was a fire alarm that went off at his school just as buses were being loaded and now everyone has been held. N should have been home already and hasn't left yet. Guess I have to be patient and wait to hear how his day went.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

US Scare!!!

For 9 years and one month I have boycotted USAirways. It is my own personal boycott, and I am sure it has not affected their bottom line in any way. This weekend I accidentally lifted my boycott. It's a safe bet that I won't fly them for at least another decade. And I will never send my kid with them again!

I  let C fly to Florida (using Continental mileage) to visit EL who moved there this summer. It was a very big deal for me to let her fly alone. When I booked the ticket I was specifically asked if any passengers were 12 or under and I clicked yes. She flew out via Continental from Newark without incident and without having someone follow her around from Continental. Home was a surprise to me: it was via USAirways to Philly. I hadn't even realized the two airlines were in an alliance.

USAirways forced my friend to pay the $100 unaccompanied minor fee, even though we felt she didn't need to be "babysat". We just wanted to follow her to the gate - which I could do without charge at Newark when she left on Friday. When we booked the ticket and even when I checked in, Continental made no mention that there were additional fees due to USAir.

Upon check-in in Florida, USAirways took my information - name, address, etc. I heard C give this to the agent while I was discussing the $100 with LL (EL's Mom) on the phone.  After a long discussion, LL paid the fee, and she and EL were allowed to follow C to the gate where they stayed until the flight took off.

When I got to Philadelphia to pick her up things were problematic. The agent in Florida apparently hadn't put my information into the computer (or the Philly agent couldn't find it), so I was refused entry to the gated area to meet her flight. They said I had to wait until the flight attendant brought C to the gate agent. According to the agent, the procedure was that only once they confirmed that my identity was the same as what was written on her card (which C didn't have - maybe a flight attendant did?), they would call down to the check-in desk and let me get her. The problem is NO ONE told C she was supposed to wait, and she disembarked from the aircraft at the same time as the rest of the passengers. When the gate agent understood that C was on her way out of the plane and I wasn't able to meet her at the gate, and they hadn't kept her in their care, I didn't even get an "I'm sorry we lost your daughter". I just got a bitchy finger pointed toward where passengers leaving the C-gate would be expected to come. Luckily she knew to follow the signs for baggage claim to find me. Thank goodness for cell phones. They worked better than USAirway's staff!

The $100 was completely in vain. I couldn't meet my daughter at her gate and she wasn't in the care of a flight attendant. To me it seems that the only procedure that USAirways was able to follow was to collect the $100 fee!

USAirways has no concern for children flying with or without their parents. They care only about the money they collect for tickets and fees.

I am inviting you to join me in my boycott. Avoiding USAirways is much easier than flying with them, even if it means renting a car!

Monday, September 6, 2010

3rd time's a charm

After blogging about my fear of being obsolete, I realize lots of people need me.

My Dad needs me... and all I do is yell at him. He got a new laptop this weekend (he needed my husband to help him pick it out and set it up), and while I wish I had the boundless patience to deal with his necessary questions, I find that I lose my temper easier with him than with anyone else in the world. Why is it that I am kinder to a stranger at Wegmans than to the people closest to me?

Speaking about being needed and being kind to strangers, I am still on the 2010 knitting frenzy. This weekend I knit a hat. My friend has jumped through more than a few hoops to become pregnant, and I wanted to make something special for her new baby. My friend suddenly lost her Mom about a week after her baby was born, and my heart is breaking for her, at the same time that I am so thrilled for her!  So at the risk of spoiling the surprise (as if a new Mom who is also taking an MBA has time to read my blog), I'll post a picture of my newest creation. It looks a bit like a birthday cake, but I haven't finished it, yet...

4 different yarns - one cool result
I realized LOTS of people need me. N wanted to know why I wanted to go back to work. I said that my kids were starting to be so independent. "I still need you!" N retorted. I stand corrected. I am not obsolete! (I love having a son! Daughters just don't admit to needing their mothers.)

Besides the hatless, my son and my dog and my husband and my computer-illiterate father, I have friends. It seems as though everyone is going through their midlife crisis this summer. Since no one I know has the funds to spend it on a hot car - like a man might - we have spent a lot of time talking things out. I need my friends to listen to me, and I listen to my friends when they need me. Co-dependency at it's best!

And, the school needs me. I am co-chairing a book fair starting Friday and I offered to help another book fair at the school where my children no longer attend. I love that school, I'd almost have more kids just to send them to Mrs. R's kindergarten class! I miss it already and my last kid finished there in June.

And the Board of Ed needs me. They need me to tell them what they don't see or maybe want to see in a public forum. They need to be reminded how most kids/families experience the district. They need to hear about priorities and opinions beyond their own. They need to see that we care and we vote!

The working world needs me to. It just doesn't know it yet! 

And, the daughter who seemed not to need me on Friday, certainly needs me today.What could she possibly need me for?

A ride home from Philadelphia airport.

I'll leave in a little while - long before her flight is due in. Why? Because I need an hour to myself. Maybe I'll stop in Philly and treat myself. I could use a massage... a pedicure or a long lunch! Or all three, but I'll settle for an overpriced coffee.

I need me too!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Obsolete??

It was an emotional day for Bridgewater's soccer mom.

It seems that my plan to go back to work has had a setback and I am taking it a bit harder than when I originally was given the no go (in person at the end of the interview). Some of these feelings were left over from a job interview that didn't go my way. Basically the interviewer said she was afraid to hire someone who was returning to the workforce after being at home because she was afraid my heart wouldn't be into the job. "I want someone who wants to own it." On my end there were huge red flags when two different women separately told me that they regularly send and receive e-mail at 3am. When I questioned this, saying I am not a night owl and 3am working hours would render me useless the following day, I saw the writing on the wall. Clearly 3am e-mails were a deal breaker for both of us.

So this encounter reiterated my impression that women in the workforce find women like me to be lazy. Are stay-at-home Moms doomed to stay barefoot in their kitchens forever? Let's be honest, the question is about me. Am *I* always going to be seen as unable to cut it in the workforce because I haven't been carting my cookies to the office for the last six years? Has it really gotten so bad that measly project managers are expected to work 24/7? I never got far enough to negotiate but I promise you that this job was not paying an executive salary! And even then, what kind of salary-class is high enough to warrant working at 3am? My husband regularly is online and working at that hour, but he truly functions well at night. I don't. So shoot me!

At the same time, it seems my shelf-life at home just got shorter. This is what initiated the noontime water works. Today C flew by herself to Miami to visit a friend who moved to Florida earlier this summer. I cried as though I were sending her to the moon for a year. When I thought about it a bit, I realized my tears weren't from the desperation of missing my daughter. I was sad because it is one more thing that she can do on her own. She no longer needs me to take her exciting places. Am I becoming obsolete on the homefront too?

My husband laughed at me when he heard me describe how I cried at the airport. He sees it as a good thing that she is independent enough to do this by herself. It supposedly shows we are doing our job as parents by teaching her to make her way in the world.

I still was sad because "C no longer needs me".  Then N piped up from the back seat...

"What about me? I still need you, Mom!" That made me feel like a million bucks.

Sitting in my childhood bedroom, looking at the curtains my mom sewed for me for my 12th birthday I realize you always need your Mom.

You don't always need a 3am e-mail! In fact, this job which was basically in pharma advertising would never be so pressing that I am needed to be up 24/7.

The right job is out there. I know it, and I'm not finished with my current position yet! It's a work in progress... hopefully I'll find a way to make the two things (my kids and my work) co-exist.

No more tears. Putting your daughter on a plane for her own adventure is a starting point, not an ending point. Those adventures don't come cheaply - hence the need will only intensify for me to go back to work!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Are we there yet?

Put a fork in me, 'cause I'm done!

I am quite sure my sister-Moms are with me (that sounds so "Big Love")! It is time for the cherubs to return to their rightful place behind a desk at our local public school, where I hope they forget the Facebook/Textation spelling that they practiced faithfully all summer!

I love my kids, but I am sick of fighting over who took the dog out last, or about removing wet towels from the floor. I'm sick of every time someone enters the room it is only to ask me for something: Can XYZ come over? Can I sleep over at X's house? Can we go to  ToysRU? Will you take me and 3 friends to the mall, the pool or the movie? "Can I...?" is not how I wish to begin every conversation with my kids, and lately that's the way it's been!

I wish that my son would spend the majority of his time without a television or a video game.

It was a great summer. I can't count how many times I needed a bathing suit and towel, or how many hours we spent with friends doing fun things (often requiring said suits).
Two of our 2010 guests living it up Down the Shore

Off the top of my head these are a few of the summer's activities (in no particular order):
  • Tubing down the Delaware
  • Riding the Ferris Wheel at Toys are Us
  • Visiting Lavalette beach
  • Shopping for goodies in Chinatown
  • Dorney Park (waterpark)
  • Weekend in Providence, RI (just Tore and me)
  • 2 weeks with grandparents - water skiing, playing at the beach and so much more
  • Wine tasting with my Dad
  • Philly overnight
  • Museum of the Earth, Ithaca NY
  • Both kids had at least 20 sleep-overs (maybe if we count actual kids the number may be closer to 50)
  • Parties at the pool
  • 4 day trips to Seven Presidents (Long Branch)
  • Volleyball at Duke Island Park
  • Taking the dog to eat Ice Cream in Somerville!!!
  • YMCA camp in the Finger Lakes (C only)
How many meals did we share with people we care about? Countless! And the summer is going out with a bang... the nasty Mom, that mean Mom who always yells, but always says yes in the end, did so again. C is going to fly BY HERSELF to Florida and back for the weekend.

While I can't wait for the new school year to start, I  know I am anxious about the new schools they are attending. I was reminded today that middle school girls are ungodly rude - some more than others. C seems confident enough to handle the bitchiest of girls. So why worry? N is in a class with his very best friend. No matter what he won't be alone.

I shouldn't throw away the last week of summer! I know soon enough I will be living my life around a 5:30am alarm clock and will wonder where the summer went. Today I will continue our Carpe Diem lifestyle by spending another day at the beach, hoping that the impending hurricane doesn't cause rip-tides and put the kabash on our plans.

How are you spending your last days of summer?