Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer in the Suburbs

I am one week into summer vacation and it is less a summer of love and more a summer of Sam. The boy and I had a lovely month without preschool, without his sister, and we lazed it away in a haze of books, trains, PBS, and play dates. It was not a hard life. In the morning we went to the gym or ran errands. Lunch was followed by quiet time or nap time, his preference, then some playtime until we went to pick up his sister. In the afternoons, things tended to get rowdy between the two, usually one bout of tears, a few quality minutes of sharing and kindness, then dinner, bath, books, and bed. It wasn’t too bad because they weren’t together for that many hours.

And then, summer vacation began.

My kids, like most, prefer structure. Give them an empty day and they try to fill it with murder and destruction. My son’s last question to me at night is to ask what we are going to do the next day. My daughter chooses her wardrobe based on the day’s events so prior knowledge is essential. However, the first week of vacation, I made the rookie mistake of assuming that since the week prior had been a madcap dash of parties and dance commitments, and the week ahead would be spent in a family-themed episode of Say Yes to the Stress, that a week of calm was in order. It’s not like we sat home and stared at each other. We went to the movies, we went to a birthday party, we went to play with friends, we went to the toy store, we went to a picnic, and we even went to a local pool. Do those sound like empty days?

unfortunately, they were not busy enough. They still managed to try to kill each other a dozen times per day. There were screaming matches, WWF-style throw downs, copious amounts of tears, and some actual bloodshed. If one asked for grapes, the other wanted blueberries and then fought over which one wanted which. If one stopped to read quietly, the other would stomp like a T-Rex all across the books. Using the stamp and ink pads resulted in a Smurf for a child, using scissors and paper made it look like an Origami convention gone horribly awry, and anything that required them to actually clean up after themselves ensured a Chernobyl-level explosion. In short, my kids were right bastards.

I did what any parent would do – I complained to my friends. Luckily, one gave me the fantastic suggestion of creating a fun jar. Just take regular every day fun things, like riding a bike or breaking out the Play-Doh, write them down on slips of paper, put them in a jar, and when a kid inevitably whines that he or she is bored, out comes the jar, out comes a slip and they get to do that activity. Enforced fun – what’s not to like? We divided our slips of paper into three categories: inside, outside, and special events. This gave me the ability to keep us indoors on the hottest days and help monitor the amount of money spent on crazy activities. Kids may bowl free this summer, but that’s about all that’s free. Given a choice, my kids would go out to eat every night, which I am sure has nothing to do with my cooking and everything to do with the novelty of getting both M&M’s and ice cream for dessert. So far, we are still working on the choices. I vetoed play dates as an option because I like to set them up in advance. They vetoed nap time because, really, who wants to pull that as an activity? I may keep some blank paper and palm some of the more date-specific rewards such as the dollar movies, open plays at indoor sports centers, and other random activities.

We have a crazy busy week ahead of us with incoming visits from out-of-town guests and outgoing events where we are the incoming guests, so the jar won’t go into effect until next week where I can test its effectiveness. Currently, I’m cautiously optimistic about its success. My only hope is that I don’t have to add a fourth category that includes such choices as Sam Adams, Captain Morgan, and Jack Daniels or worse, Cooper, Virtua, and CHOP.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I Learned in Kindergarten

Today is the last day of kindergarten. I assume my daughter learned a lot, she is not one to come home and chat about her day. Mostly she just wants a snack. But I believe I have learned quite a bit about how to survive the daily onslaught that is our educational system. Obviously, this will change as my daughter actually adds say, real homework, to her daily routine, or a uniform, or a flow chart for her after-school activities. But for now, just for this one year, this is what I learned.

1. Backpack. Size matters. It has to be big enough to fit in a standard-sized lunchbox, but small enough not to overbalance them in a stiff wind (even though it will almost ever hold any books.) It must be checked daily. Water bottles, hair clips, the occasional small toy, and the never-ending stray crayons must be removed and put into their proper home.

2. Folder. She had a folder that came home every day. It contained every single piece of paper she had colored, cut, and pasted, as well as every note from the teacher, PTA, student council, cafeteria, superintendent, nurse, and room mom. It was also the source of birthday party invitations. This folder was a gaping hole of environmental destruction and had to be sifted very carefully, piece by piece to separate the actual useful information from the random art. Placement in this folder was very important: left side for home, right side for school. I intend to burn it in effigy.

3. Paperwork. In this day and age of e-mail, paper was still king in her elementary school. Nothing was sent electronically. Everything had to be signed, initialed, notarized, and practically fingerprinted. I learned the hard way to fill everything out and send it back immediately lest it get lost. (Putting it in a “safe place” just meant finding it two weeks past deadline.)

4. Money. There is no such thing as spare change once your child is in school. Quarters are a hot commodity. They buy pretzels. Small bills are also essential. No mother carries a twenty. What would we do with it? Fives and singles are the currency of the school yard.

5. Art. There is no craft as precious as the one you put in the trash yesterday. Random scraps are treasured gifts from friends. Everyone has a different way to deal with crafts. Find your own and stick to it. I employed a three prong method: fridge, playroom wall, or (after a suitable waiting period) trash.

6. Gossip. All the best gossip occurred at drop-off and pick-up. I made sure to figure out who had the best gossip and immediately befriended her. She had all the good stuff, not the water-down PTA version of events. I shall miss her. Luckily, I already know who has the goods at our new school.

7. Play Dates. Just say no.

8. Teachers. Nothing says “thoughtful parent” like the occasional gift of tissues, wipes, and sanitizer. I bought in bulk and deliver new supplies at the first outbreak of cold, flu, or stomach bug. A hand-pump of Purell a day could keep the doctor away.

9. Lunch. The school lunch is still a frightening thing. What are chicken fries? When did nachos become healthy? I let buy once a week on a pre-approved day. The rest of the time, she got water or milk, a sandwich, and fruit. No snacks, no cookies, no chips. Trust me, she got enough extra junk food during her school day, I didn’t need to add to it.

10. Volunteer. By doing what I could to get into my kid’s classroom as often as possible, I was able to get a much better idea of which kid to avoid, which teacher did what, and how well (or not) her classroom was handled. Of course, the downside was that once you go in once, you wind up going in for everything. The upside, lovely end-of-year gifts for being a good parent.

Next year, we are going parochial. God help us all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rated R for Ridiculous

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

One of fellow bloggers recently found a web site that will determine how your blog would be rated if it were a movie. (Not only am I ripping off her idea, I am totally ripping off her latest blog post. Remember She Who Must Not Be Named, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) Of course, I had to try this. Hers was rated NC-17, which impressed me to no end. Sadly, I only earned an R. Is it wrong that I am disappointed?

As with the MPAA, the site listed the specific examples of what made my blog rated R. I used the word porn four times, death three times, sex twice, and dead once. That’s it. Ugh. I feel like there are Curious George episodes that are dirtier. Plus, I am sure I used the word fuck at least three times, which should surely bump me up into NC-17 territory. When did I become so friendly? I don’t want to be friendly. I want to be snarky and rude and funny and intelligent and witty and odd and occasionally morbid. To steal yet another joke from the other blog, I feel like there should be far more necrophilia posts based on my rating. In this day and age, just going pantless is enough to earn you a PG-13. Maybe I need to start going braless too?

Plus, who decides if talking about death is only for mature audiences? True, I try not to discuss porn with my kids and sex jokes tend to go right over their heads, but kids understand death. Hell, last year in pre-k, the children in my daughter’s class were asked to draw a picture of their favorite pet and the resulting gallery was like a modern art wailing wall of the recently deceased. It would have been disturbing if it wasn’t so funny.

I don’t necessarily aspire to raunchy, but I’ll take naughty if I can get it. I should actually be glad I at least earned a red-band R. If there were a Blockbuster for the blog world, at least I’d still be available to rent. The big box retailers would still carry my words. I may even wind up in the dollar stores of the world, deeply discounted, but still available to own. My NC-17 rated friend cannot say the same.

So at least I’ve got that going for me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Inter-Marriage E-mail

My husband and I have both had pretty rough week. The first heat wave of summer always knocks me on my ass and pretty much locks me indoors. This week, it kept me in with a potty training child who is working through the big boy/little boy issue. Lots of tears, lots of having to leave places (such as parks on beautiful mornings) due to tears, lots of me day dreaming about getting drunk in the afternoon, etc. My husband has also been suffering through his own hell week and has spent almost every night working late and then coming home to turn on the computer until the wee hours. In short, this week sucked.

When I couldn’t get basic errands run yesterday, I sent my husband an e-mail asking for him to run them for me. This is a pretty common occurrence as it is basically a get out of jail free card. He works late, but blames in on the errand. I get a necessary task done, so ignore how long it takes him to do it. It’s one of the little ways we stay happily married. However, sending my dearly beloved an e-mail can be a tricky thing. He has a habit of ignoring them or reading and deleting. My most common messages are sent via text and read either, ETA? or Milk, please. There are no cutesy messages about missing him or looking forward to the weekend. Those would immediately put me on the Do Not Open list, never to be read again.

However, I figured both he and I needed a little bit of humor to get through our days. Luckily, he felt the same. So, my few readers, here is the e-mail chain between the two of us about running errands. Enjoy.

Dear Husband,

I am having problems motivating my employees. They refuse to dress appropriately and that is causing a breakdown in my ability to handle my daily responsibilities. Also, they seem to want me to micromanage every aspect of their performance which is leaving me very little to no time to actually manage any of my own. One employee seems to have an undiagnosed hearing loss, temporary memory loss, as well as separation anxiety from his partner, Lightning McQueen. The older, more experienced employee seems willing to take control, however, I fear her ideas of appropriate behavior and mine are vastly different.

As such, I have been entirely prevented from achieving my three goals for the day: the acquisition of rolls from the purveyor of choice, the acquisition of beef gravy from the grocery store, and a quick stop at a local pharmacy for such much needed medicines.

I would have used a more immediate form of communication to confer this information to you, but unfortunately, our employees are also now using company communication equipment for personal use.


Your Wife, SAHM

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I do hope that you realize that your employee’s behavior is your responsibility, and your inability to lead them reflects poorly on your managerial skills.

Your unsuccessful completion of your tasks will result in disciplinary action, please be on the lookout for the form that I will require you to sign and return, in duplicate.

As it is a mission critical task, I will handle task 3, and pick up your medications this evening.

The other two tasks will have to be delayed until you can complete them tomorrow, and alternative plans will have to be made. I am open to suggestions at this point in time.
I appreciate your help in attaining the perfectly medicated state necessary for me to do my job properly. This will avoid my heart exploding and the extra hours that would cause maintenance. While I realize that managing my charges falls squarely under my job description, the attainment of our vertically-challenged staff was actually a dual venture and dual responsibility must be accepted. As to the tasks that are not deemed mission critical, no alternatives can be discussed until there is a set deadline placed on when they will be presented to management.

Unfortunately, due to our current corporate culture, any deadline given will undoubtedly be changed abruptly and without warning, so I may have to call in a third-party vendor to provide sustenance.

Also, will happily fill out all forms, in triplicate, if only I can then file them appropriately.

Your appreciation of my completing your tasks is noted, and the maintenance department is thankful for the OT avoided, as they have been under some resource strain lately.

While some responsibility for the recruitment of the vertically-challenged staff is mine, and the responsibility for leading and training these staffers is also a shared responsibility, in this instance, I cannot accept responsibility for their current behavior.

Using a third-party to fulfill the gaps left by the non-completion of tasks 1 and 2 shows good “out of the box” thinking, and you are to be commended for that. This allows the team to complete the assigned mission, without adversely affecting the overall timeline. Please follow the established procedures for purchasing from a third-party vendor, with the expectation that the purchasing dept should be able to complete their tasks by 7pm ET.

Due to the current economic environment, and the ongoing green initiative, the filing of forms in triplicate is prohibited; please consult your handbook for the proper completion steps of those forms.
And that, dear readers, is how we wound up having take-out Chinese for dinner last night (at 8:30) after he stopped at CVS.