Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Catch a Thief

I think I have a solution to the "I Can't Stand My Kid's Current Classroom Situation" ordeal.

Yesterday, I was in the classroom doing my usual 5.5 hours-to-life sentence, when there was a stealing incident. A kid stole another kid's watch. At three separate times during the morning, the teacher stopped class. The first time she asked the kids to search their pockets. No watch. The second time, she had them take off their sweatshirts and put them in their locker. The kid whose watch it was, began sobbing uncontrollably, saying this was a watch her mother had given her and I have heard that this kid's mother died a kind of violent death. (!!!) The third time the teacher - who halted everything because of crying kid whose entire table was now involved and no one was doing any work anyway - asked me to search their lockers. As I was digging around in the lockers and feeling very conspicuous and weird about it, the miniature perp was caught and the watch found in his jeans pocket. To top it off, after all of that drama and wasted class time, the thief was not punished. At all! No missed recess, no trip to the principal's office, nada.*

My heart goes out to the kid whose watch was stolen. That poor girl, weeping like that. I get sentimental stuff like that. I have a plant my father (NOT bio-dad!) has given me. When it doesn't look well, I panic that it might die, which would somehow be like my dad dying all over again. Which is stupid, I know, but there it is.

There's another first grade teacher whose classroom I'd like to visit. Each time I have walked by her classroom, I slow down a little to check it out. Every time, I saw quiet children, attentively listening or diligently working at their desks. Quietly. That teacher is in charge, in a non-nun, wrapping-the-knuckles-with-a-ruler kind of way. I like that!

Anyway, I see a meeting with a teacher and a principal in my future. If the kid was not punished, then that makes me furious. I don't want OC in a wishy-washy, free-for-all classroom with a kid or kids who are studying hard for their debut with fingerprinting ink and a mugshot photography session. I'm also mad about the wasted class time, not to mention that I don't feel that it was right to ask me to search lockers. Not that lockers shouldn't be searched (Oops! Can of worms!) but that I'm not sure I'm the one who should've done it. Too much time is wasted with a bs language curriculum, this was the last straw. What I'm wondering is, why do I feel nervous, as though I'm about to do something wrong or bad by asking for a different classroom? Now this teacher will be all "why don't you like my class?" and hate me. But, oh yeah, I forgot I'm not in junior high and it doesn't matter. We're all adults here! I can ask for another teacher and it won't be the end of the world.


Okay. In sixth grade I was moved to a different classroom because I had a friend I talked with too much. I loved this teacher, whose class I had to leave at my parent's request. I don't think the meetings they had about it were pretty, but I don't know because I wasn't there. All I know is that after I went to the other class, the teacher never liked me. I never got that. It wasn't my fault, except for the too much talking thing. So, that's in the back of my mind. I don't want this to be a bad experience. Every day already is, yikes! This is the solution to a problem. That is a good all around. Except, this current teacher will lose my volunteer hours and newly-acquired expert locker-searching skills.

(Whoa, what is up with all the hyphenation in this post? I just noticed.)

* At least, not that I know of as of the time I left school yesterday. I will confirm this before I begin my tirade, which I have written down in case I lose momentum. Go, me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All I Want For Christmas That's Fit to Print

I've been Christmas shopping. It's early, I know, but not if you are shopping online. Shipping times are ridiculous this time of year. If you don't order by the first week of December, your shipping times and rates become very large (and in charge).

This website features toys made in the USA. Toys manufactured without lead or rufies, AND benefitting our local citizens? Hm, wow, imagine that. Shocking. Gratifying. It also features a wizard so you can shop within certain parameters, like toys about animals or planes or art; for boys or girls; within an age range. Whatever. I am not making any money by mentioning this, I just think it is good.

Occidental Girl is keeping it local.

It's funny now that OC is older, she has a lot to say about what she wants for Christmas. It's great, because trying to guess what she wants and then watching her ignore the carefully purchased gifts was not fun. Not that that every happened. This way, she has no one to blame but herself if she is disappointed.

Uh-oh, now, Occidental Girl is keeping it shallow.

As for me, I hope to buy some of the books from the FIVE PAGES which is my wish list at

Occidental Girl thirsts for knowledge. And cds.

Monday, November 26, 2007

There's No Discount for Direct Butt-Plopping

Thanksgiving has passed, and I am still able to wear the same pants. This small victory is mine. How was yours?

It turns out you CAN get college advisors to meet with you. You just have to call the right college.

I am going earn my degree here, at the Bend campus.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bio-dad Dearest

It turns out that my bio-dad, who had a stroke two years ago, is now a burden on his 84-year old mother. Surprise! My grandma takes care of him in her home. She is not able to do this without considerable detrimental physical side effects to herself, but is unwilling or unable to express herself and/or get help. My bio-dad is unwilling to leave her home.

I received an odd phone call from grandma last week. Odd because we rarely talk on the phone. It was made in secret, she said, because she wanted me to know that she thinks my uncle is trying to take my bio-dad's things and money. She also asked me to send cards and letters to my bio-dad because "he's depressed". Newsflash: he's been very depressed for YEARS.

Last week was a fun week, what with the clandestine phone call but also because I received a letter included in my birthday card from my aunt which detailed various family members's illesses, mental conditions, and financial difficulties. Ultimately, her seven-page epistle ended with a plea that I step in and solve the problems.

How? And, um, how???

I don't feel responsible for this mess. However, if there is something I can do to help that would remove the burden of daily care from my grandma, I would be willing to do that.

I have a long history of no contact with my bio-dad. The clinical-sounding term "bio-dad" sort of gives that impression, I think. He's been depressed for years. He's been inappropriate with me and has never made amends. He barely survived my parent's divorce and spent subsequent years living in the past. He lived in his memories of me when I was little, before the divorce.

It was weird, weird, weird for me growing up around him. Luckily, it was only every other weekend. I had no way to cope with it in a healthful way until somewhat recently, which is the reason I can say I don't feel responsible. Because I'm not. (Responsible mental healthcare rules!) I don't feel guilty, either. I don't really know what to do, if anything. Doing nothing is an option.

However, like I said, there's my aged grandmother who I would help if I could. I don't know that I can help, because that would involve forcing people to do things they ostensibly don't want to do.

I need to find out more information from other, saner family members. I'll update you on that.

Does your family look a little better now? Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Which the Wind Blows This Way and That

Interesting content, sometimes it takes a few days to materialize.

I'm up to my ears in college catalogs (online versions, so the metaphor doesn't really work but sounds better than I've got bookmarks of college catalogs) because I've decided it's time to finish my Bachelor's degree. I have an A.A.S. plus extra credits lying around, so, while waiting to get pregnant I might as well go get smarter.

A manila folder lies on the table full of research into the schooling options for OC. She cannot stay where she is unless options for a more challenging curriculum are available. She is not ready for second grade, but she needs more instruction. Otherwise, it's either a large-ish chunk of change for private school, or homeschool. Let's read that again, shall we? I said homeschool. If you had asked me one year ago if I would consider homeschooling, I would've laughed and said no, because those are the weird kids in the weird families who spend a whole lotta time together. I have learned SO much about homeschooling recently and the non-weird families who do it that I'm considering it quite seriously. Amazing what a little information will do to one's viewpoint. Like I don't have enough to do but decide the educational futures for two people in one fell swoop. I'm not cooking the turkey on Thursday, but I am making the spinach dip which requires thawing of frozen, chopped spinach and mixing one day in advance. I had best focus.

Breaking news: I have a paying newspaper writing thingy. The first column ran earlier this month, and there will be one or two per month in the local weekly paper. It won't pay the bills, but it is a great opportunity to regularly write. An external deadline does wonders for my sense of priorities, and so it forces me to write nearly every day. Good practice. In other news, I will not use the word thingy in a professional writing arena. Just here, where I'm amateur and proud of it.

Speaking of here, if only I would update regularly. I realize I neglected to post Halloween costume pictures. If nothing else, there will be more pictures.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Birthday Girl

My birthday was Wednesday. The plan was to go out to a nice dinner, my husband and I.

We were at dinner when I looked up and noticed a woman coming in who looked like my friend, J. It couldn't be J because she lives three hours away. We were out to dinner on a week night, and no one drives over the mountains in the middle of the week for dinner. Except, it was J! She was there to surprise me. We spent the night at the resort nearby, (bow, pa chick, pow) and then my husband had booked spa treatments for me the next day. Luckily, J had helped him pick some things out, otherwise I might've been polished instead of buffed.

I was completely surprised. Honestly, I was in a little bit of a bad mood before dinner because of a crazy family phone call I had that day, and because my husband received a (expletive deleted) business call. It wasn't a client.

It was my birthday, I wanted to discuss my crazy family, bio-dad's side. (I don't talk about him much but if I did I would post a LOT more than twice a week.) If anything makes me feel better, it's unloading my burden onto others. Share the love, share the burden, I always say. Do I say that?

Spending time with a girlfriend was exactly what I needed! This is a friend I've had since 7th grade when she moved to our little town with her Guess? jeans and Esprit shirts. Yeah, we eyed her pretty closely for like, a week. We had to. As girls, it was biological and thus out of our control. She might've dated all of OUR guys, you see. Soon, we came to our senses and all became friends, and it's been Kumbaya ever since.

I kept the poor girl up until 1 am with the talking and the analyzing. It wasn't my fault, I've been all stopped up what with not having a girlfriend with which to analyze and discuss everything beyond a point which makes sense. She was like...prunes, for my emotional well-being. There's a picture for you.

The spa was two hours worth of salt-scrubbed, herbal wrapped, massaged delightfulness. I can't even tell you.

Now I'm 34 and my skin has never looked better. At least, better than it has for a really long time. My emotional health? Everything's moving along nicely there thanks to the prunes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Her First Reference (of Many) I Don't Understand

My six-year old daughter and I were watching "Gilmore Girls" and during the credits she suddenly said, "Hold on" with such authority I thought she found an easter egg. She picked up the remote to reverse the frames.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"I thought that said Barbara Park, but it didn't."

"Who is Barbara Park?"

She looked at me as if I was inquiring into the identity of the fat man in the red suit who brings the presents, so obvious was the reference.

"She writes the Junie B. Jones books!"

Of course. And so begins* my own special brand of parental ignorance.

*Begins! That's a good one. As if it up until now was displayed only enlightenment.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Day Off

I get to stay home today! I don't have to deal with kids! I'm not really happy about it as all that, but I've been feeling depleted lately. Being in the classroom three mornings a week in a place where energy levels encroach upon frenetic, all of this after my large morning coffee is a heady combination.

The kids in OC's class are sweet. They are also unfocused. There is good reason for that second thing.

The teacher is basically a good teacher, but I have some criticisms. For instance, I watch the kids wiggle and squirm as she talks. And talks. And talks and talks. She will give them instructions consisting of 48 steps and expects them to not only sit still and listen, but also remember back to Step One after she's gone through the other 47, and every imaginable corresponding exception. They have five stations where they can work independently while individual reading groups are assembled. At the beginning of the day, she goes through the numerous options of what they can do if they complete their work early. Listening to her describe the options makes you want to pull your hair out. It sounds something like, "If you get done early put your work in the basket. Then you can either go to the word wall or read the room. If you read the room, do it two people at a time. Or four. Four is okay unless you get too loud. If it gets loud I'm going to have to reduce it to two. You can go read the word wall, but same thing. At the listening station, you can listen to the tape but be careful. I've asked the PTO to order us some cd's so if they do then it'll correspond to our literacy stations and you can listen to those. But we don't have those now, so use the cassettes. But be careful. And don't press the red button! That records."

I am not making this up. She talks about what she's thinking, what the PTO might do, blah blah blah. All the while the kids look around for something, anything that might help them make sense of this strange world of too much unnecessary information.

Most do not so much complete their work early as fail to do much work at all. They'll start out doing something, get to talking, get bored, wander around, disturb other tables. Oy.

Another example: I asked the teacher if she would mention to the class that they should sit at their tables and wait for me to come around. When they do their writing, I go around the room and help kids with words they can't spell, and for many I will write out their entire sentences and then have them copy them in the proper place, going over capital letters, lowercase letters, etc. and I was having any number of children get up from their seat, incessantly tapping on my shoulder asking for help. It created a mass of kids around me at any given time and contributed to the classroom noise rather than productivity. I thought it better that the teacher say something like, "Hey kiddos, stay seated and wait patiently for our lovely classroom assistant who will be there to help you ASAP. Raise your hand, but stay seated. Keep writing, do your best, and I or (me) will be there to help. Capisce?" Instead, she took TWELVE MINUTES (I know, because I watched the clock) to talk about what they should do and why and what that means in the whole scheme of life and new world order and such. This left only 18 minutes for actual work.

It's all I can do NOT to roll my eyes in front of the kids when she launches into one of her spiels. I'm an adult and I get lost in all her talking, I don't see how the kids can absorb any useful information which may be hidden in all that speech after being bombarded by so much of it without a break. That's complaint number one.

Complaint number two is that this room full of first graders - mostly 6 year olds - are expected to make up sentences and write them on their own. They don't know what a sentence is! They don't know what words are or how they're spelled, some don't understand capital letters vs. lowercase letters, much less vowel and consonant sounds, and yet they are expected to - gag - be creative. Existential bullshit!

It's such a waste of time to have them sit there and think of a sentence and then muddle through an effort at writing. Most of them sit there, stumped. I go around to help and come up with most of their sentences, and I would do it for the whole class but for lack of time. They should be copying sentences from the chalkboard that the teacher wants them to write, and those sentences should include the week's spelling words and easy nouns. THIS IS CALLED LEARNING. Creativity is for second graders! Seriously, I don't get this.

Third complaint: All the kids in the school - including Kindergarteners - go to what is known as computer lab, but which would be more appropriately named Porthole to Time Suckage, or, Room For Young Underachivers, or no! Better yet: I Can't Decipher Letter Sounds, But I Can Point, Click and Fill In Shapes With Color. Kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, and even third graders do NOT NEED TO USE A COMPUTER, in my opinion. They need to know how to READ, they need to know how to WRITE, they need to learn parts of speech and basic math so that by the time they get to fourth or fifth grade, they will have surpassed those basic hurdles. They will learn technological things in a flash. It's what kids do. If they can't read by fourth or fifth grade, what then? Wal-Mart is always on the lookout for greeters. Several kids in OC's class do not know their letter sounds, but boy howdy, can they fill in a shape with a nice shade of blue! Useful.

The classroom is full of bright children, some of whom are labeled "advanced" while others are "normal" and others as "lagging behind". I can already see the "advanced" kids float down like sand while the laggers make scant, marginal progress. The entire class could ALL be elevated but for inane techniques which get in the way of actual learning.

The most sad part of all of this is the lost potential. The kids are capable - all of them - but they need clear, straightforward instruction and repetition of facts. That's exactly what they're not getting.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Human Behavior

A life is defined through relationships with others. If that's true, then my life has gotten very narrow. Or maybe it just feels that way.

I mentioned to my husband that I was looking forward to hosting bunco this week at our house. This way, maybe someone would remember me, might want to call or stop by and have coffee. I said, very quietly, "I want a friend." And I meant, here, now, and a very close one at that! Someone I can confide in with my most terrible thoughts, and they won't think ME terrible or off my nut.

My husband said, "You just need to get out there, put yourself out there." When he said the words, he wasn't really thinking about it. Because if he was thinking about it he would realize that there isn't much on the list of Ways To Put Yourself Out There that I haven't done.


Get involved at your kid's school? Three mornings a week, plus an hour reading for SMART.

Find a church to attend? Almost regularly.

Sign up for a group? Spanish group, which is how I came to have a Spanish-speaking and English-practicing Mary Kay lady; bunco; PTO meeting; fall carnival at school; college (once I get past the advising office which is staffed with the minions of Lucifer).

I have a hairstylist. A part-time writing gig. I know a couple of other moms. With all of these people I am talkative and inquisitive and friendly, each and every time I see them (more or less). I also force myself to be outgoing and convivial at things like soccer games until I'm sick of hearing myself ask questions and sick of hearing myself talk.


Everything is connected. You reap what you sow. If those are true, then I am connected to some people who don't need yet another friend, and at some point I am going to meet a very desperate, lonely woman, and I will brush her off.

I do okay most of the time. I realize this is going to take some effort and so I take lots of deep breaths and try to relax and give in to the waiting.