Saturday, October 27, 2012

"It gets more ridiculous every day"

It's hard to complain about a school when I just had such a positive meeting with several of its staff members. I'm looking forward to positive results in the weeks to come. BUT...

"I sense a blog coming on!" was my friends comment when I told her the following story:

My child needed a physical - as all kids do to participate in athletics - or, in his case, to participate in the lottery to take part in one (a school with over 1500 kids, there are about 45 slots for skiing).

My son handed the physician-completed physical form to the school nurse. She handed it back to him because it was incomplete. "Have your mom bring it back to the doctor," she told him. What was so vital?

His basic vitals... his pulse was missing from the form.

Now, I am quite sure that the first thing they teach in any nursing class is how to take a pulse. Even *I* can manage to take a semi-accurate pulse.

But our nurse, who apparently needs to be very careful about this sort of thing (oh, by the way, every single item in the physical was marked "NORMAL" and he was cleared for all sports) told me over the phone that the pulse needs to be from the time of the physical. Our tones were both frosty - my frustration countered by her cold, "of course I know how long it takes to take his pules..."

I need to either have Somerset pediatrics fax it to her (which they can't do since I have the form, they don't) or have them write it in, and bring it back to the school.

I understand that there are very few nurses per kid in our crowded schools. I understand that it is important to have accurate medical records on children who do sports - not only as a District CYA but as a matter of safety. BUT what I don't understand is why the nurse - presumably an RN - couldn't just call the pediatrician's office and ask for the information. Yes, I think it is reasonable that I expect a school nurse can and will take my son's pulse if it is missing, or make a 30 second phone call, rather than making me run back and forth to the physicians office again (I've already been there twice to drop off and pick up the form)! Why doesn't logic seem to have a place here????

The other question is: Why am I getting worked up about this (enough to spend 30 minutes writing this blog)? Is it loss of my time, the price of gas or the principle of the matter that bugs me most? Maybe it is something else?

My friend and I couldn't help mention that the raise also covers the nursing staff. She said, "2.9% and she won't take 15 seconds to take his pulse so you don't have to drive back and forth to Bedminster? It gets more ridiculous every day."

And thus a blog title was born.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Oh, what to wear?

It's going to be a busy day for the Poppet Household in Lake Woebegone ("where all the kids are above average"). Or is it Stepford (my friend's name for BW)? Today we are hosting the Field Hockey Team for the final pre-game Pasta Dinner.  Pasta dinners are something I can make with one hand tied behind my back - it's the pre-arrival straightening that has me a bit worried. I need to remove all evidence that people actually live here.

What kind of message do our clothes send?
Because of the dinner, I can almost guarantee I won't make the BOE meeting where one of the hot topics is implementing a dress code at the high school. (If you plan to go, remember it is at JFK school in Raritan).  The dinner ends at 7:30, so even if everyone is gone by 8pm, I promise I'll be in my pajamas, horizontal on a sofa by the time JFK is filled with community members saying the Pledge (of Allegiance).

There may be talk of the contract, which is still being deliberated by the B-REA and BOE. (In a nutshell: 0% raise for 2011-2012, then 2.9% raise for each year 2012-2015).

But the meat of the meeting will be the dress code. This is the only time I can remember that an invitation to a BOE meeting requesting parental feedback has come into my inbox. Here's my 2 cents:

Tasteful & short but how do we put that into policy?
BRMS dress code is excellent - clear and reasonable. I'd like to see the high school similar but a bit loosened. They are in high school, after all, and should be allowed more freedoms.

However: my daughter found BRMS's code biased against taller girls. Her argument is that since it is based on inches above the knee, taller girls cannot wear the same skirts that normal girls can wear. A simple remedy would be to have the length decided by using hand-length instead. This also reduces questions on "where on the knee do you begin".  If kids can touch the end of the skirt/shorts - it's acceptable. Can they not, then it's too short for Middle School?

Regarding BRHS: I think that it is fine to "expand the boundaries". Spaghetti straps are fine and shorter shorts/skirts are OK. BUT I think clothing should be tasteful. My daughter's shorts are toooo short. But since she doesn't have a dress code, it is much harder for me to police what she wears. This may be something a parent should be doing at home, but other than being short, her taste is conservative - not sexually provocative - I generally let it go. How do we legislate tasteful? We can't write "you know it when you see it" in the dress code. It is a question of what kind of image do we want kids at the high school to portray to themselves and to the community.**

No matter which school, I think teachers need to adhere to the same rules. It is hypocritical for teachers to enforce a dress code that they themselves don't (have to) follow.

In terms of boys: I REALLY don't like to see jeans half way to the knees. If it exposes more than the edging of their fruit of the looms, especially below the "department of public works", wear a      belt!

Finally something about dress code should include something about respectful messages on t-shirts. If it insults the reader is it considered "bullying" or threatening? Or is that a free speech issue?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's simple

"Nothing scares terrorists like a girl with a book" (what about a girl in a bikini with a book?)

I read that (I'm paraphrasing) today on Facebook.

My baby girl loved it when I read to her. "Good night moon" (Can you find the mouse?)

As a toddler she still loved it. And on it went. "Some are red, some are blue, some are old and some are new..."

We went through many phases of fine and fun literature (and some books I'll thankfully never open again). Ooing over pictures in Angelina Ballerina and then laughing over the storylines. And sometimes discussing how bossy Angelina could be.

Then she became a school girl and we read to each other. Starting with "The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat".

Then there were the American Girl doll books - and I'd read to her for HOURS.

And then... of course... it came time. She started only reading books like Judy Blume's Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing independently. Novels and series.

And now, we share books, like the Uglies series.

I hadn't realized that she models after me: I love to read. Everyone in my family (my grandmother, parents, brother and sister) loved to read. I grew up surrounded by a house of books.

I'm thinking of all the wonderful books she still has left to discover. The world is her literary oyster.

Thankfully she lives in a society where we absolutely take the rights of girls to read for granted.

My thoughts are with the family of the girl who is starting to recover in an English hospital.... imagine a world where our daughters would be shot for wanted to be educated.

How lucky we are...........

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blogbreaking News

Today, Dick Bergeron's blog spilled the beans on the B-REA/BOE forthcoming contract. It looks like two contracts: a 2.9% raise for teachers for each of the next three years but 0% raise for 2011-12. Another way to interpret it is 2.1% yearly over 4 years... which is very close to cap.

How do I evaluate this? Is it a 9% (almost) raise over 3 years or over 4 years (which would lower the annual raise if divided by 4 years)?  I would have bet money on a 2.5% increase.... so I'm also a bit surprised.

I don't know the exact details: Does it mean any more in "deliverable"? Will this equate to even LARGER student : teacher ratios if it comes time to cover a potential gap? The BOE does rely on "breakage" (the cost difference salaries of seasoned teachers who retire and the new teachers who replace them) to cover budgets that spend beyond regular taxes. What if there aren't enough retiring to cover almost a 1% increase beyond the cap? This is one of those times that I'm irritated that no one at the BOE had a kid at Eisenhower last year to appreciate how many grades continue to feel the ramifications of cutting 65 teachers only a few years ago. What's cutting a few more teachers to make budget?????!

How do teachers feel? Are they feeling cheated since they had a much cushier deal before or thrilled to have almost 3% per year "in these times" (both economics and the new tax cap)? I'm hoping that this will ease relations between teachers and the community - and that teachers will stop politicizing classrooms. On the other hand - maybe they see how well hardball worked out for them and in two-three years we will be back to negotiations square one.

 I am very curious where Dick got his information (and if the source is reliable).  Are the numbers "legit" or "bogus" and if the truth is that we'll be shelling out nearly an entire percent above cap, what do we do if "breakage" isn't enough to cover the gap? What programs will I be fighting to save? What committees will I be serving on to find band-aids for future fiscal bleeds? Dick's blog has left me with more questions than answers.

Will the BOE give a formal response? And what will they say?

Luckily it is a Sunday night. There's a new episode of Call the Midwife tonight!!! (You can view earlier episodes on PBS.org) If you like it, thank my brother. He said he got this series to air in the US!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hungry?

From the L's snack drawer. Carbs and fat
I have been a bit annoyed by the uber-focus on school lunches. It's really ridiculous when no one is forced to purchase lunches, that so many people who send their kids with brown bags (or perhaps Vera Bradley lunch bags with a matching ice pack??) have so much to say about the issue. So the US government wants to make them healthier and cut down on the crap-content?  Good for them. If you don't like what Michelle Obama is trying to do - promoting exercise and healthy eating - maybe you're not the target audience anyway!

My kids buy their lunches more often than bringing them. Neither complained about the rise in whole-grains or the smaller size. In fact, my son - hadn't noticed at all - and a 7th grader who is growing by leaps and bounds should be hungry if he isn't getting enough to eat!

I also don't buy that home-brought lunches are so much healthier (or even much cheaper if you send fresh bread and cold cuts and fruit). The staple lunch for Americans is still PB&J on white bread. Fat, sugar and empty carbs. The creamy store-brand peanut butter on my shelf has 16 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons. While 1 teaspoon of store-brand grape jelly has 13 grams of carbs. Let's be honest - who uses a teaspoon on a sandwich...?

And that doesn't include the chips, "fruit snacks" and other crap that are considered appropriate sides. Fruit juices have TONS of carbs. My son likes vanilla milk. Each single-sized portion is 250 calories.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet...

a nation "is praying for" a girl who is my daughter's age who was shot because she dared demand that she be allowed to go to school. Shot in the head at 14 (or maybe 15, the stories seem to be confused) years old, is horrifying to me. Extremism at its worst, bravery at its best.

Sometimes it's amazing to compare what's written in the Patch with what is going on in the real world. Just looking around the state (or even Somerset County) you find neighborhood schools that kids can't safely walk to; juxtaposed with the private institutions that cost upward of $ 30,000 just for tuition a few miles away. There are areas of New Jersey where teachers can't reach out to parents (and vice versa) because of language or cultural barriers. Or apathetic parents who don't believe in "budding in". Or maybe there aren't even parents around. A couple of weeks ago I saw "Dropout Nation" produced by PBS's Frontline. It is amazing how even within the US there are areas that seem like a foreign third world country to me. It was filmed in Houston, but this could easily be Trenton or greater Newark.

But even within the city boundaries of Bridgewater (excuse me, Township) children qualify for the free lunch program. One elementary school has enough needy children that if the demographics change only slightly, BRRSD would be forced to offer (or maybe it has been already - I haven't followed up) a free breakfast program. Being forced to offer the free breakfast program is based on percentages of students with need. But the percentages mask the need of actual number of students. Even though these kids make up a low enough percentage not to create a mandate for the school to offer breakfast, the need is still there and people in our town are going hungry.

Instead of worrying about nutritional or caloric content of school lunches, how about taking the time to pull through your pantry and find food to donate to our wonderful "Safety net" The Somerset County Food Bank, , SHIP (Samaritan Homeless Interim Program) or one of many programs that serve our area's needy?

It seems every time I open the Courier News I find an article that highlights a need in our area or an organization (or a person) addressing hunger, poverty, illness. I think that it is great when people are involved in improving the community, even at the school level, but it's also important to think about HOW we focus our energy. Today I hope to spend a few minutes going through a closet or cabinet. I encourage you to do the same: just one cabinet/closet. I'm sure you have enough to share. And there are certainly more than enough who need your charity right here in our own backyards.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Choices

Field Hockey at BRHS's turf field
I had a chance to spend the morning in NYC.

It would have been a beautiful day to eat a croissant while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or taking in one of a gazillion outdoor markets.

But this morning I did something even better... I watched the Bridgewater Raritan Freshman Field Hockey team beat its opponent. C played defense and while she was on the field quite a bit, the offensive players got a bigger workout.

Now my sister is coming with her kids, and we are going to enjoy an unseasonably warm and beautiful day at the Visiting Nurses Association Rummage Sale. If they consider it rummage in Far Hills, then I have a feeling it is high-end stuff in my world.

What else will the day bring? Hopefully a long run and some good food. Otherwise, sky's the limit. What we do on any given Saturday is about choices.

Today I'm choosing hanging with the family. Not a bad choice, I hope they like being outdoors, because that's where I plan on spending this beautiful Saturday. Back to rain, wind and chilly weather tomorrow. Not the best forecast for Somerville's Arts and Main Fall Festival (which I always try to hit) tomorrow, but we'll see. Either way, I have a ton of indoor activities to choose between: baking, knitting, decorating for fall (cleaning goes with that too) and reading.

Have a great weekend folks, no matter what you choose to do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

a day to myself

Today I had a special day to myself.

Or, well... part of day....

I ate pancakes.

I went for a walk.

I bought a book with a description that was so similar to my life that I think it is actually an inside joke (no, I won't tell you the title).

I knit.

Now I'm "back in the saddle" - picking up kids while at two different activities, carpooling and making dinner (doing laundry, too).

A few hours of paradise were just what I needed to restart the motor and revive my spirits after a particularly hectic week.

And now back to carpools, clean-up and laundry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

three days at a time

You're supposed to be taking one day at a time.

I feel like I'm on hyperdrive. Taking three days and cramming them into one.

The last couple of weeks I've been juggling two part time jobs, with chairing a book fair, hosting my father and all that is expected of a SAHM (I just learned this term for "Stay at Home Mom"). It's been a challenge to keep the balls in the air. Some days it is the little things: commuting. Some days we haven't had dinner. Sandwiches for dinner is unusual at the Poppet household. Last Friday I spend 3 hours folding and sorting laundry. It was literally the first chance I had gotten. On Monday I went to bed at 7:45 pm. I had to be on the road by 6:30 am.

With the economy the way it is, I can't be choosy. I'm looking for full-time work, but for the moment, splicing two part time jobs is the best I can do. The irony is that now I've stopped looking for a full time position, which is the goal from taking on new jobs. (That, and paying bills).

I've missed seeing my friends, as I used to do. But I like having people in my life whom I refer to as "colleagues". I enjoy the work - at both jobs. Each have their own individual pros and cons.

Another con? I think I'm losing my mind. I double paid my credit card bill, depleting our checking account. Followed by running all over town to try to get people/organizations NOT to cash my checks. Hasn't worked well enough and today's agenda includes trying to beg for mercy from PNC to reduce some of the fees. I'm sure tomorrow's agenda will include multiple phone calls regarding bounced check fees from various irate recipients of my should-have-been-good-as-gold checks. Oy! (This might have happened if I were at home).

On the upside, it feels good to be earning money. And I don't think prioritizing sleep (so that I can make it through 12 hour workdays - i.e. two six hour gigs) is the worst thing in the world. I've also been taking time to work out at Strength and Honor Fitness. It's a grueling thirty minute workout but the endorphins feel great when I'm done.

That's all the time I have to write today. Who knows how long the ride is to Cranford. I've never done it during rush hour.