always on the brink, trying never to show it...

Monday, September 11, 2006

it's a new year

I have a kid who loves second grade. Wahoo!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

the break up

It finally happened. My boyfriend and I broke up today. I handed his key back to him, wished him luck and told him he could call my cell if he needed to. He asked, "What will I do without you? You're my confidante." I smiled encouragingly at him and gave him a hug. And I left.


That was beautiful, wasn't it? It really happened. Then I came home and announced at dinner that we'd broken up, which probably wasn't an entirely brilliant move since my kids hadn't known I had a boyfriend and were probably a little aghast and troubled by the idea that GB was sitting right there listening. He is my husband after all. But it's really okay with him. I started to talk about that once but that was the day I inadvertently pooped in my pants, and well, an almost 38 year old woman who defecates all over herself with no provocation simply takes blog priority, you know?

Anyway. Back to my boyfriend John. I first saw him years and years ago, probably eight or so of them ago, back when I worked at the school that, if my current school is second cousin school, this school is, oh I don't know what, but something even more removed than second cousin, that's for sure. But as I was saying...

I was sashaying through the office of that school--this was back before kids when I still sashayed places--and noticed a man and woman sitting together, clearly waiting to be interviewed. I thought that was interesting, you rarely see a package deal like that at a school interview. Plus the woman looked vaguely familiar to me, somehow school--like formative years school, not work school--related but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I let it go because it was just an interview and not like I worked with them yet.

And they both got hired. And at first I was confused because she kept looking familiar to me but had grown up a good 30 miles away from where I'd grown up and that's forever away when you're a kid and I was also confused because they did everything together, even eat out of the same salad bowls and almost seemed like a couple but I could swear he was gay and it was just so confusing. And I really liked them both. As people--I'm always a fan of fellow progressives. As teachers--spectacular, bilingual, love kids and their quirky ways, both very well educated.

And I knew I really loved my boyfriend when I learned which other district school he had come from--turned out he'd worked in the district and brought her over from their old district and transferred into our school with the caveat that he'd only come if she was hired--and I worked at that school too but couldn't quite put my finger on why I always felt creepy when I was at that school until he pointed out that it was like working in a cult. That was it! It was love except that he was taken. Plus me being married was also a bit of a sticky wicket. And I think I may have been pregnant too. Puts a damper on things. Still, I was pretty sure he was gay which makes it okay to have him as my boyfriend. Except that he wasn't then.

Then he moved on and into administration at Country Club school, which, you may recall, is not one I've worked at. And that was a little bit fun because his girlfriend--who, by then, I figured out is married with two of her own children, which just made me lean more toward it being okay to have him as my boyfriend--oh! and I'd also figured out that we went to the same college, only I was a senior when she was a freshman and I knew her because I'd worked in the dorm cafeteria and you see everybody when you work there! That was nice to figure that out--anyway, his girlfriend particularly enjoyed calling him at Country Club school because the secretaries always put her right through because they thought she was his mistress. Bwah-ha-ha-ha! But I digress.

So about three years ago he was moved into my teeny tiny school that I work at as the principal. This is the beloved younger sibling of Country Club school, Country Club Jr. And that was great. Because I ended up being his right hand gal because CC Jr. has no asst. principal, just me the psychologist. Plus since his mistress isn't there, he needed a confidante and guess who won the contest? That's right. Me! I got to be the new girlfriend and I am proud of it.

I wear it like a badge. I refer to him as my boyfriend John with close friends and colleagues. I take every single opportunity to sing his praises to the superintendent. Until he told me to shut my piehole because they were starting to look toward moving him permanently to the district office and he doesn't want that job because he prefers to be with the kids because he tutors them in the afternoons and never yells at the naughty little boys who are mostly just being little boys and he totally gets that and everybody loves him.

I love him.

And it turns out he is gay after all and has a partner and everything so it is completely acceptable to be his girlfriend and GB even refers to him as my boyfriend John. As in, "Your boyfriend John called. Something about a meeting tomorrow." That's right. I'm a wanted woman. I'm sashaying again.

But then I moved to second cousin school this school year and it's just too much and something has to give and I keep letting my boyfriend John down and, well, the rose has lost it's blush. So we needed to face facts and realize that it was time to go our separate ways. And now his other girlfriend has moved over to CC Jr. school, which is bittersweet for all of us since we've become a trio but John can't be as open with her now as he once was seeing as how he's her boss now. But I digress. This is really about me and my boyfriend John, not John and his first love Irma. So we started our long, drawn out break-up sometime in January and he just asked that I be careful how I replace myself. Plus he's moving to Florida as soon as he finishes his doctorate anyway because he's the guardian of the child of a good friend (I suppose she's his girlfriend too) who is terminally ill. So the breakup was coming sooner or later. But doesn't that just make you love him more?

So today I handed him my key except that it was the key to my office and not some other less socially acceptable key. I'll really miss my boyfriend John.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the neverending year

I seem to be embroiled in a school year that just won't end.

I'm not entirely sure how or why it has happened, but here I am. Everyone around me happily tra-la-laing their ways through their days, summer vacation spread blissfully out before them, while I prepare a 17 page report and motivate myself to sit through a very long meeting on Monday morning, complete with lawyer and advocate.

I want to scream and cry and throw myself onto the pavement just so that I can be entirely certain my point has indeed been made.

My only consolation is that I do not seem to be alone in my feelings. I am joined by many of my colleagues who feel similarly to me. That makes me feel a little bit better. Why just today at a birthday party that made me see how very little I do for my kids, I had a conversation with one of the principals in my district, who happens to be married to the poor woman who will be the administrator at my meeting from hell on Monday, and he evidently feels the same way.

It just won't end. Not only is school *still* not out, once it's finally over for the students, I'll have five more entire days after that to continue working.


It just won't end.

On the bright side, it's going to end very soon. And then I get to go on vacation until late August.

It's just that it keeps stubbornly keeping on.

Friday, May 26, 2006

cease fire

It's graduation week in this fine country in which we live. Well, graduation month I suppose. The university I attended graduated last weekend if the schedule there is still similar to what it was when I attended, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth...Or, as my darling LB likes to say, "...Back in the 60s and 70s, when people didn't have bathrooms..." I'm not sure exactly how old he thinks I am, or where we pottied back then. Anyway, here in the college town where I find myself living and raising a family (and paying a hefty student loan for GBs education), it's graduation week.

Last weekend we had the school fair. Put on by the PTA, which I have joined, as you may be aware. Nice affair, it's grown larger in the last few years. This year it seems to have been particularly successful.

Anyway, I had two jobs for this fair. One job I was not supposed to have, and that was as the room mom. Somehow at the beginning of the year this job was foisted upon me. Now, it's not that I have a problem with being room mom on principle, it's that I happen to be at work four out of five week days and, well, that becomes problematic when little things like classroom parties, snack day, field trips and PTA fair come up. Because the room mom's primary job is to man the booth at the PTA fair each year. Six hours of your school year, sewn up in September. Now, it's held on a Saturday so in theory I should be able to pull this off. Especially since there are two room moms in our class. Alas, the other room mom was also assigned as room mom to her older daughter's classroom, so there we have it. She's backed up over at that booth, which is quite popular. However, what is truly problematic for me about this is my other fair job, and that's a pretty big job.

I'm in charge of food. All of it. 500 hamburgers and buns. 500 hot dogs and buns (sold out an hour before the fair ended--note to self for next year). 128 cases of soda. sold out. 15 cases of water. sold out. 12 cans of disgusting looking nacho cheese sauce and 9 cans of equally gross chili sauce. sold out. It's a busy affair. Mustard. sold out. My job is to order all the food prior to the fair, coordinate pick ups, drop offs, handing outs. Coffee and donuts the morning of the fair (6:30 a.m.). Answer questions. 1500 pounds of ice. It's not that it's hard, it's just very tiring in the last 48 hours before the fair, and on the day of the fair I really have to be available to all the people selling food, not standing behind a popcorn machine next to a snow cone machine dancing madly because I am going to pee my pants and the family who signed up to work at the booth for a mere sixty minutes is nowhere in sight. That's where it becomes difficult for me to be room mom and in charge of two really big things at one time.

And we had a very popular booth this year. Nobody enjoys a snowcone more than a kid, and especially on a warm day. Now, generally the teachers work the booth for an hour or two, but recalcitrant teacher did not sign up to work that day. whatever. I had steeled myself to be polite and act as if GB and I had not basically asked to have her fired and then all that angst for naught.

At some point during the day I was able to leave the booth and wander around with the kids. It was then that we abruptly met up with her at the hamburger booth. She apparently had steeled herself as well because she gave LB a big hug, me a big smile and started idle chit chat. I noted that I'd heard she was graduating (see? I can bring it around) with her master's degree. She laughed and said something about having to spend some late nights typing over the next week. We both laughed and I commented that the thesis was the worst part of it all for me, that by then I felt I should just be done, etc. Then she acknowledged. She said she'd been telling the kids in the class how they were getting the worst of her (uh-huh), that the last two years have been the worst two years of her life in so many ways (oh yeah?). Trying to smile the whole time. I acknowledged by sharing that the worst year of my life was when EB was a baby and things were wacky all around and at the end of that year I got kicked out of the school I'd been working at. Big smiles all around for that little anecdote. Nothing personal, you know.

Still, I get it. She's stressed. No excuses, no justification, but I've been there. I choose to take my anger out on adults generally, but whatever.

This week was Open House. Now, she's been a little more standoffish with GB, who, you may recall, essentially threatened to kick her ass last time they spoke. He picked LB up from school one day this week and said she'd turned her head to avoid eye contact. Well, she pulled it out again and to her credit, mustered up her professionalism and approached us when we hit the classroom at Open House. I asked her how the thesis writing went. Not well. But they're letting her walk anyway and she has to finish it up this summer. Eh, I did that too, it happens. We laughed. Then she dropped her little bomb. Because, you know, she couldn't really finish it because there had been too many things *wink* *wink* recently, keeping her from concentrating, from sleeping, apparently from functioning in any way. GB and I both smiled at her vapidly and moved on.

Part of me is a little shocked that she actually tried to guilt us into accepting responsibility for her lack of a thesis. Part of me wants to laugh in her face. Part of me is shocked that she's actually getting a master's degree because I cannot imagine that it's actually in education, and if it is, it is certainly not in anything having to do with understanding children and their development. A lot of me thinks that's just icing on the cake. Rather than stopping to look at herself and her methods, she lays the blame at someone else's feet. Refuses to accept responsibility for herself, her speech, her actions. Yet expects a six year old child to not learn from that example and instead accept responsibility for his behaviors that, while definitely must be a pain in her ass, are far more age appropriate than lots of hers have been. Mostly though, I'm just happy that she has apparently actually been disciplined because she's learning to shut her mouth when it comes to my kid and my kid is no longer crying in the morning saying he doesn't want to go to school.

Some lessons we learn the hard way.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

little miss popularity

So I think I may have mentioned the PTA once or twice in previous postings.

I think I may also have mentioned that I'm a joiner.

When my son hit kindergarten, I joined the PTA. At first that was difficult. I had a hard time figuring out when the meetings were being held. I'd look at the marquee in front of the school for signs and signals...I'd watch for the monthly school calendars that never seemed to come home with my son...It was a mystery to me when these super secret meetings were being held. Sure, I'd made it to the very first meeting of the school year, and I also made it to the Back to School Night meeting. I even paid my membership dues. But the actual meetings escaped my notice entirely.

Don't let this awe you too terribly much. As a child, I had significant issues finding the Dr. Demento show on the radio and I don't believe I was ever successful. Later on I couldn't figure out what day of the week Saturday Night Live was televised. Hard to believe I have a master's degree, isn't it? (aha! but you see, the university was large and therefore easy to find!)

Nevertheless, I finally stumbled my way into a meeting on the second Thursday of whatever month I finally figured it out and I've been a faithful PTA hanger-on ever since.

And apparently the PTA is lacking in sheep because I very quickly found myself heading up the food for the annual school fair and then as quickly found myself secretary of the PTA.

So this year I go to my PTA meetings (the second Thursday of every month except for one month when the president had to drop her son off to college in another state and that month had paltry attendance) regularly and take notes on what everybody says. Except for those politically incorrect items that the president tries to encourage me to write.

For example, last month, we were being given more information about the principal's colonoscopy, prostate biopsy and apparent abscess than I personally want to know, and she leaned over and whispered, "Write that we talked about Jim's ass." This led to a completely inappropriate guffaw on my part followed by a quick hand slapped over my mouth. And you know, poor Jim, we're all picturing his rectum now, you know? I mean, imagine the indignity of it all! There he'll be next year, trying to preside over us--and we generally tend to border on inappropriate when we don't jump right into the abyss of politically incorrect sexual harassment--and I, for one, will definitely be picturing his ass. And right after that I'll imagine him smoking out because he and I went to the same college (which is really a coincidence since it's definitely not local to where we live) and everybody there smokes out (ok kz, not everybody, but almost everybody else did).

But I digress.

Anyway, so this year I'm the secretary and I listen to the president, who really is quite funny and very intelligent and doesn't really seem to care that she wades right into the quagmire of impropriety in her story-telling, which is probably why I find her so amusing. And it turns out that the people who bought the house next door to me when the old lady died two years ago know her quite well. In fact, she has brought them up several times even though I frankly have not found them to be particularly friendly...Or, at least, I had not a few weeks ago...But anyway, a while before that she confided that she really really really really dislikes the fiancee, but loves the fiance. And she talks about it quite freely and frequently to me and I mostly try to smile and say things like, "I really don't see them very often, they are quite busy."

And then a few weeks ago it was spring break, and it was Friday evening, and all the neighbors who were on spring break were out in the front yard and the new neighbors came over and pretty soon we were (well, mostly me because I'm the smallest of them all and they can all apparently drink me into the gutter) a little bit loaded and the new neighbor mentioned how the PTA president doesn't like her and I was vulnerable man! I couldn't respond, I just mostly gaped at her like, well, like I'm not sure what. My husband mentioned deers in headlights later, and both of the other female neighbors gave me consoling pats on my arm and told me they tried to send me warning looks.

I did not confirm the dislike. I absolutely, positively, did not say anything out loud to confirm that the president of the PTA does not like the fiancee living next door to me.

But I also did not deny it. I think what I said was, "We're working on her."

Which I suppose kind of confirms it in a roundabout way, doesn't it?

So in that moment, I gave up the vice presidency for next year. I've also been drinking less alcohol since then.


So anyway, at the next PTA meeting (where we talked about Jim's ass--see? Now you're picturing it too, aren't you?), I had to confess and I figured, "Well, that's it, I'm out. No longer in with the in crowd."

I know, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But you don't know the president. She is also the registrar for soccer. And tee ball. And she has something or other to do with baseball. She has her fingers in almost every single pot in this little town. She is powerful. And I also like her because she's pretty darn funny. So I was disappointed in my lack of discretion.

She didn't say much, but did mention it to the VP, who is definitely her best friend ever and generally believed by most people I know to be just about the nicest person living in this city. And they both have sons the same age as mine and of course, they got the good first grade teacher this year (see previous post). So even though she didn't appear to be particulary angry about it, I figured I'd pretty much sewn up ostracism.

So the next week was PTA convention. I didn't go. No point. I keep the lowly secretary position next year instead of moving into the VP for the current VP who will be president next year. The day it began, I saw the vice president with the president's son in her car, obviously picking him up from school for her friend. Who is no longer my friend, obviously, since I blew it for her.

The next evening, the phone rang and when I picked it up, it was the PTA president asking me if I'd seen her son, he'd been picked up from school the previous day, etc., etc. At first I panicked and got a little freaked out. Oh my God, has her son been kidnapped?

Then I realized.

I'm popular! She likes me anyway and she's calling me from the PTA convention! She was joking of course, because I'd make a remark to the VP when I saw the wrong child in her car. She even called the fiance to get my number--who told her he doesn't have my number, when he wants to talk to me he yells over the wall--and somehow she got my number and I got the drunk phone call!

I'm in with The In Crowd.

That's right.

Little Miss Popularity.

That's why I'm a joiner.

Friday, May 12, 2006

son versus teacher, round 98

So I have a six-year-old son. Whipsmart. A little oppositional. Kind hearted. On the active side. Kind of a pain in the ass in the classroom I'm sure, because he's definitely a pain at home. But since he's my son and I recognize me and my husband in him, I love him madly. He is my sun.

He's been battling with his teacher this year. Which means we've been battling with his teacher this year.

There have been various incidents.

Like the time he led the other students into standing up all together in the middle of a heated discussion with his teacher...

Or the time he had a friend lift him up onto the tetherball so he would swing around the pole...

But what sends me over the edge, both as a parent and as an educator working in the field, is that she seems to think it's perfectly fine to use humiliation and degradation as a tool in her classroom.

And that it is allowed to happen.

Things like calling children stupid or sneaky or telling them to shut up don't sit well with me. So to that end I met with the principal a few weeks ago, after asking the teacher to implement a behavior plan with my child. Which she did for a sum total of five school days and then never did again. *sigh*

Anywhoo, the principal was, of course, profusely apologetic and assured me it would all be taken care of immediately.

Then he went to the hospital because there's something going on in the butt area (I know way too much about the staff members at that school--unforeseen hazard of PTA involvement).

So, this week, while I was taking a few days off from work with a younger chickenpoxed child, Gertrude's mother came to me and said she wanted to make sure I knew about a situation that had occurred on the previous Thursday.

uh, what situation?

Seems my young boy was playing sleeve slap fight with his little friend Gertrude in the classroom. I have not been able to figure out what part of the day this was, but it seems to have been during the first few minutes of class since he and Gertrude have already been separated in their seating assignments.

[side note; son and Gertrude are good friends, very similar in their activity levels and energy]

Anyway, son's teacher asked son if he had hit Gertrude. Son said he had not. Son's teacher asked Gertrude if son had hit Gertrude. Gertrude affirmed that he had. Teacher then announced to the class that son was suspended from school and escorted him to the school office, where he apparently spent the entire morning but was not spoken to by anyone. He returned to class at lunch time.

As Gertrude relayed this story to her mother that evening, she noted that son had not really hit her though, not realizing the implication behind this statement. Gertrude's mother took that as a teaching moment with poor Gertrude, who now feels terribly about the whole situation and is very cutely making up for it by taking son to a karate party this evening. Gertrude's mother felt the best remedy was to tell me the whole story (thank you, since nobody at the school seemed to think I needed any notification!), to do with what I saw fit. Gertrude's mother is also a teacher, so we both understand the implications behind this--it is illegal for the school to have disciplined my child in this fashion without having notified his parents in any way.

And let's not even get into the fact that he was disciplined for something that did not actually occur...

So I sent my henchman husband in to deal with recalcitrant teacher.

And they went toe-to-toe. Shouting. Implying. Inferring. Both unapologetically livid and defiant, from the way he relayed the story. I think his exact words were, "If she'd been a man, I would have kicked her ass. Why did you send me over there?"

For that exact reason. I needed her to unequivocally understand that it is simply unacceptable to humiliate and degrade my child, and to do so is to risk everything.

And then I went to make nice this morning with the assistant principal. But not very nice. One thing my husband asked the teacher was, "Do I need to remove my son from your classroom?" And I told Jekyll [I privately refer to the principal and asst. principal as Hekyll and Jekyll--in a loving way, of course] the whole story "I'm so sorry LB, I was not informed that he'd been suspended..." and reiterated the question. "Do I need to remove my son from the school for the rest of the year or can you assure me that he will be emotionally safe?"

The thing is, I really like this school. I loved his kindergarten teacher (and he was no prince in that room either, but she is, erm, well the truth is that I stalk her and I would marry her if I had any lesbian tendencies whatsoever, but I don't so I leave it to stalking). I love the third grade group, the fourth grade group, the fifth grade group. I don't know the second grade group but I hear they're good and they've got his second grade teacher lined up for him already, who is roundly agreed (even by poor, stalked kindergarten teacher) to be a great match for him next year.

I just can't stand the first grade teachers, who seem to be the most bitter group of unfucked old biddies in the world.

Sorry. I know that's crass, but I do think that's really it. The PTA President even asked her husband to take one for the team with son's teacher (because that's what a good PTA President does), but he had to turn us down. That's why he's not invited to participate in our PTA parties.

So, suffice to say that son's teacher will be disciplined this afternoon. I guess I feel a little badly for her as a fellow professional, that's a terrible feeling.

You know, I expect that we'll have issues for many years to come. I have a prep school picked out for him when he hits high school and I'll begin sending him to their summer camps beginning next summer. Kids like my son are very difficult. I've been there but I was more covertly subversive with teachers and generally used my words to sting them (fourth grade, in response to my teacher commenting that he didn't think I liked him; "You're right, Mr. M. I don't like you. Clearly you don't understand children and I think you're probably not a very good teacher either." oops). My husband was more of the type that my son is. Openly rebellious. In your face oppositional. Messing with you just for his own amusement. But he runs cognitive circles around me, as I suspect our son will also someday do.

But humiliation and degradation should never be tools in the classroom setting.

And my son's teacher should be fired.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

crawling toward respite

We opened up the pool this weekend.


I used to be a fan of winter. I still am I suppose, but back then, it was that I was a fan of winter as opposed to enjoying summer. Sure, I've always enjoyed my summer vacations, but mostly I watched soaps, shopped, cooked for the husband, whatever. As a season, I largely preferred winter.

I felt (and to a certain extent still do) that summer sucked primarily because you simply cannot cool down and if I'm naked and sweating but not exercising or having sex, well, that's bad.

On the other hand, in the winter you can layer. Bundle up. You can always find a way to "beat" the weather. With blazing heat, not so much.

But now I'm a home owner with a pool. And it's all good.

We put the thermal blanket on the pool last weekend. Nevermind that there were no signs of spring in the air last weekend. We were set. And sure enough, the pool reached a less than warm 76 degrees on Saturday and the kids jumped in and swam around. Yikes. I prefer to wait until it reaches a nice, warm, bathtubby 90 degrees myself.

The point is, we are now on the road to summer vacation. And now summer vacation means so much more than it did before kids.

Now it's long lazy mornings, sleeping in, waking up slowly to a cup of coffee and another chapter in the latest book while the kids watch some cartoons.

It's taking early morning walks through the neighborhood with my son, doing nothing special, no hurries, no worries.

It's taking evening walks with the whole family, doing nothing special.

It's eating outside around the pool, everybody a little bit burned, hair askew, swim suits soaked.

It's long days and nights, marked only by the rising and setting of the sun, weeks marked by family events, which only occur on weekends.

It's boredom. Complete and utter boredom.

Bliss. I cannot wait for those eight weeks.

We begin our summer vacation this year with a week at a resort where we own a "timeshare". We love this chain of resorts and had been to two others before purchasing. Once there, we park ourselves on the beach during the day, riding the waves, collecting the shells, ordering drinks--our son leans toward the virgin pina colada--before heading in for showers and a dinner at the restaurant. Kids go to bed, parents read and turn in.

Boring I know. But blissful for us.

I've come to love summer, and these days, nothing signifies summer more than a dip in the pool

Today my husband joined the kids. I sat in my chair and perused my magazine. I'm happy to wait until that thermometer hits 90. I might consider a dip at 88. But nothing lower than that.