Troll Opinion

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is a little Trollish Gem I very recently recieved:

You are so obviously a superior educator to anything else that exists in the school system. Have you given any consideration to home schooling? It is not a great idea to continue to antagonize your kids teachers as human nature will ensure that a negative attitude will impact on your child’s education. She already has learning problems and these are unlikely to be lovingly catered to by an antagonized teacher.

You suggest that you could sit in as an observer? Please, go and ruin your own kids life by yourself. I predict that whichever route you chose, your kid will end up as a educational basket case. Despite your many qualifications, you are a very stupid and self centered woman and you deserve all the misery coming your way.

Mikeave you considered home schooling?
First I am going to assume the last sentance is "Have I considered homeschooling?" I know your name is Mike, as you sent the email with your full business contact info. I wonder if your Boss at Gemini Structured Carbon knows you are using the company email to jot off hate mail to Bloggers...

It is however a fair question when stripped away from your personal feelings about me, my professional expertise and the quality of my mothering.

No Mike, I haven't. While I do indeed have superior qualifications to many teachers currently serving in the school systems, I also BELIEVE in the school system. I believe that there are dedicated, wonderful teachers who serve in the public school systems in spite of rotten funding. I believe that there are families who deserve excellence in their public school systems and as such should be involved and active in the decisions about their childs schooling as PARTNERS with the school system. Education is never a spectator sport.

Part of what I do is train those teachers in University, talk with them about what children deserve, what families deserve and impress upon them that when they dismiss a parent and her concerns because "They" know better because "They" have the teaching certificate that it is a very very bad choice.  And was my child ever lovingly attended to by this teacher? The first words out of her mouth to us were "Emily has a MULTITUDE of ISSUES - Emily has trouble paying attention and asks me to repeat things over and over..."

Look, I don't believe that every teacher and every child have a deep connection. I, and every other teacher on earth will tell you there are some kids we like more than others. Some we click with, others ...not so much. However,  in my dream world of "competant" teaching, I expect that my child will be known as a learner by her teacher. Part of that is knowing her IEP information and making specific changes to the way some information is delivered.

I also believe in accountability, Mike. Teachers don't get to become teachers and then sit on their collective asses for the next 25 years resting on what they learned in 1973. They progress in the field, or should be counseled out. The reason teachers like the gem my daughter currently is encountering is that Parents never SPOKE UP. Or they were silenced because they were afraid of what the teacher might do to their child. Or Principals who Should have counseled these types of teachers out years ago just never wanted to rock the boat. So we all have to suffer - but mostly the children who are stuck with these teachers most of all, because you know what happens in teachers rooms with the door shut?  Whatever the teacher wants.

In one of my lectures, I tell my students that I have observed there are two types of people who are drawn to the teaching profession - Those who really love children and teaching....and those who like to exert control over people they know can't really do anything about it. 

Well, I am not a fan of people who like to decide when a child can pee because they CAN. Those people are bullies, and I do not suffer bullies well.

I am sorry, Mike, that your parent or parents pissed off your teacher and you were some how penalized for it. That comes over loud and clear in your note. It wasn't right. Someone should have protected you. Had you been my child, I would have protected you. Shit, if I you were in my kids class and I SAW it, I would protect you. The bullies credo doesn't just work with my child. I tend to be that person who speaks up about everything. I am also the parent who will discipline other peoples kids on the playground if needed. But I bet you already guessed that about me.

As to my suggestion that I sit in the classroom, I have sat in on MANY of Emilys classrooms. In fact, if a teacher resists that suggestion I get nervous. What do they Not want me to see? If they are secure in their teaching it shouldn't matter if I am sitting in or not. Did you see the part about Ms Deb? I did my Masters Thesis work in her room with her reviewing the information I gathered. She was Em's teacher for 2 years. I knew that she was the same teacher regardless of if the parents were in the room. I TRUSTED her.

I do not trust this current teacher. I have been given no reason to trust her and she has certainly not shown the depth of her profesional knowledge by ignoring me, failing to read my childs IEP or not responding to notes I have placed in the agenda.

Finally, the reason we keep Em in public school? Because it is important to both her father and I that she experience all types of people - Kids, Families and yep, even Teachers. Private schools tend to be limited to those who can afford it, thereby canceling out some families by virtue of economic situation. Educational elitism (and I am SO not talking about what Neo-Cons like to pretend is some evil force) is probably one of the deepest divides in North American Society. No child left behind, my ass. How about every child who can't afford to get the hell out of the public schools left behind?

While it remains to be seen if my daughter ends up the "educational basket case" you predicted
[For the record, I am pretty sure she will be fine], your final wish for all the "misery coming my way" is sweet.  Not unlike the person who wished I would just kill myself now so my daughter won't grow up to be the same shallow bitch her mother has become.

A very happy new year to YOU Mike.

Fear of Family

Monday, December 28, 2009

I woke up last night in what is the closest I have come to a panic attack in a long time. Of course, being awake was a bit shocking as I had taken a muscle relaxant, melatonin, rescue remedy sleep and a strong hit of ibuprofen. By rights, I should have been firmly out until at least 10 a.m., coasting into 11 a.m. some mornings if I can ride the sleep wave.

I dreamt of my grandfathers funeral. In fact, I was so sure he had died that I was reluctant to open my email this morning since I knew that the message would have come.  While his death would be sad , he is an elderly man and is in increasingly fragile health. His wife, my grandmother, died last February. They had been married for over 60 years and I have read the statistics on how long one spouse lives after the death of the other after that length of marriage.

It was at her funeral, or the propect of her funeral last Febraury that the last real panic attack struck. I started to write about it then - detailing how I was laughing as the plane bounced in increasingly bad turbulance. Another plane would crash later in the same day under the same conditions, and as I flew back towards the place of my birth I was less scared of going down in flames as I was of facing my family. Imagine yourself on my flight - looking at me as I giggled and chortled louder with each bump and jostle. The rationale in my mind was that it was all right if I died, at least I would get credit for trying. And that this could be my epitaph.

"She tried"

I loved my grandmother. It was she who cared for the infant Dawn while my mom was in nursing school and father was in marine corp basic training during the Vietnam war.  I was the best beloved.  It was at her knee that I watched my first gardening occur, running through the orchard behind their house.  It is the spearmint hedge in her yard that I remember running through. She was a reader and books littered the house. Music too.  I used to dance with her to the Lawrence Welk show, during when the bubbles would blow around the set.

So back I went - twenty five full years since I last step foot in the Ohio Valley. Terrified of everything. Daring some god to knock me out of the sky...wishing for it.


The Unwatched Pot

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I feel like I owe you all an update, but sadly there has been nothing.

No response letter. No phone call, no Anything.

Which seems to me to be an odd tactic. Generally, the parents who were willing to write letters and send them with copies to everyone in their own individual envelopes? Those weren't the ones you wanted to ignore. Those were the MOTIVATED parents. You know, the ones that you should have been taught in Teacher Education can be your best allies - or worst nightmares, depending on your overall teaching skill.

As I do drop off during the week and Terrance does pick up, he reports that he has gotten many odd and inquisitive looks from various staff who were CC'ed.  No one has talked to him, but he gets the distinct feeling that the message was received loud and clear.  Emily reports that people are allowed to go to the Bathroom now - or even drink water in class. Revolutionary!  Of course, she also reported that Mrs. XXX had announced that she wouldn't be teaching them anything new until the New Year so that made our hackles go up a bit.

I go in tomorrow for my volunteer Library stint, so I will be better able to gauge the fall out by the way the other teachers approach me.  Terrance suggested I go in today to help serve at the "Taste of the Nations" potluck that the kids are having. I suggested that he didn't want to send me in there with a pan of macaroni and cheese and a knife while I was still feeling ignored and aggrieved. The great "Taste of the Nations" food fight and massacre averted.

Add into this general miasma that both my husband AND daughter asked me on Monday if I was close to my period. Separately and unbeknownst to one another.

I am not. I have a good almost three weeks before my period, which made me snarl at both of them that my bitchiness couldn't be put down to hormones. So maybe instead of trying to blame my hormones, the world should just straighten the fuck up and fly right.

In hindsight, that does sound hormonal. But I dare you to say it to my face.

Yeah, I thought not.

Back At Ya

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

December 8, 2009

Dear First name of Teacher,
Thank you for your response to my November 24th 2009 letter regarding the use of bathroom and water bottles. I am enclosing a copy for your reference.

While I appreciate your feeling that no one is being put through “unusual restrictions”, I respectfully disagree.  Your verbal statement during the parent teacher portfolio evening that it was distracting for some children to have water bottles in class, therefore you banned all water bottles seemed a bit heavy handed. I inquired if Emily was one of those children with whom you had experienced a specific disruption or behavioral issue around the use of water bottles. You answered No. I further inquired if you felt free to have a beverage with you during your time in the classroom. You indicated your coffee maker in the back of the room. I questioned whether the students might not perceive, as I did, a double standard around your concerns about drinking in the classroom.  Surely, if you are able to maintain your concentration around a beverage, there have got to be children who can also do so. I further suggested that perhaps you can wait until recess or class breaks to drink your coffee to maintain an aura of equal rules for all people in the classroom.

You further indicated that the children are free to use the “fountain.” As pointed out in my previous letter, I would prefer that Emily Not use the common water fountain. Surely, in this era where children are being asked to use hand sanitizer upon their entry into the school building, the use of a common fountain where any person can put their mouth on the faucet and transfer any number of viruses or bacteria cannot be considered to be “best” preventative health practices.

Respect is an active two way street. In my experience, students do not respect a teacher who does not respect them. I would suggest that by not allowing water bottles, or requiring that a child in puberty be required to plead his or her case to you as to why they need to use the bathroom in front of their peers is fundamentally disrespectful. Furthermore, I would suggest that applying a “rule” that applies to all children due to the behavior or concerns of behavior amongst a few is disrespectful.  As you know, students of this age have a very keen sense of fair and unfair. Experiencing the consequences of your own actions is helpful. Experiencing the consequences of others actions in the form of restrictions or punishments is punitive.

I know there are other teachers, Cycle 2 and 3, who allow water bottles to be present in their classroom. If a child abuses the privilege, then that child is dealt with on a case by case basis.

I know that there are other teachers who have a system of bathroom passes in which a child would merely take the bathroom pass on an as needed basis, use the facilities and return when they were finished.  To my knowledge, this doesn’t cause undo disruptions as the students are able to self regulate their turns in the bathroom.

Towards a different matter, my Husband and I were both very concerned by your unfamiliarity with Emily’s IEP information. To start off your discussion with my husband with the statement “Emily has multiple issues” is not one I would normally suggest when trying to build a good parent school connection. To follow that statement with a criticism of Emily’s “lack of attention” citing her need to “ask you to repeat directions” troubled us greatly. It is clear in Emily’s IEP that Emily needs clear directions, preferably in written form, so she can rely on her tool box of skills to self guide. Furthermore, when I suggested that Emily needs tactile math materials and you seemed unfamiliar with the term, I must confess a loss of faith in your ability to provide the best educational setting for my daughter.  Had you been thoroughly familiar with Emily’s IEP, you would know that as a child with non-medicated ADHD, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Speech and Language issues and a slight brain injury that Yes – she has attention issues. She needs to be placed in a spot in the classroom in which she is not easily distracted. She needs tactile math materials, as simply telling her how to solve a problem, or giving her timed minute quizzes does not activate her best learning modality.  Yes, she has spelling issues since she has difficulty in hearing the individual phonemes in any given word, which is why she has been receiving speech and language support since she was 3.  My husband and I spoke at length with XXX  XXXXX  as to the content of Emily’s IEP, and he assured us that he would work with you to make it clear the modifications that need to be made to help Emily be successful.

Finally, the issue of responding to notes in the agenda or workbooks. It was always our understanding that if the parents wrote in the agenda, and by extension, the workbooks, that we would get a written response from the teacher. As I expressed on Thursday the 3rd, we have written a couple of notes as to the accurateness of material presented in both the math and grammar workbooks.  As Terrance and I physically sit with Emily and check over her homework, we are quite attuned to the material coming home.  We had not received any indication from you that you received these concerns. You stated on the 3rd that you address these indications “with the class as needed”. I would like to emphasize that this is not enough for Terrance or I.  We have always maintained a close relationship and fluid communication with whomever Emily’s teacher(s) may be.  I feel very strongly about a strong home/school connection being an integral part of a successful education, both in my roles as Parent and Educator.  We need to know we are being heard and responded to, as well as being kept up to date and informed of life in the classroom by you. In this way, we can make sure that we are all on the same page and supporting the same goals.

I would also like to extend the offer of my educational consulting experience. I have a wide background in classroom observation and assessment and would be happy to come and observe. In fact, up until last year, I regularly came to Emily’s classrooms to observe. In fact, her K-1 Teacher, Ms Deb, became my collaborator in my Master’s Thesis – which became my Doctoral Dissertation

Terrance and I are happy to meet and discuss these concerns further. It seems that a meeting regarding Emily’s IEP would be the most logical place in which to begin. I expect that Mr. TXX  will be contacting us with the revised IEP per our discussion with him on the 3rd.

I look forward to your response.

Cc: Ms. Principal
Cycle Three Teachers – Mrs X, Ms XX , Ms XXX
IEP Coordinator
(The reason all these people are cc'ed? She decided to CC all of these people on her response to me (written on MY letter) Two can play the CC game.)

A response

Monday, December 07, 2009

I know, I know. It isn't fair to get you all ready  and leave you hanging like that.

Yes, the Parent Teacher Conference was on Thursday and Yes, It went spectacularly wrong. This chick has now also pissed off Terrance, which is hard to do if I have already announced I don't like you. He tends to be supremely If I don't like someone, he will do his very best to take their side.

Let's just say she blew that out of the water. By the end of the discussion, she even had him quoting what the specific modifications indicated on Emily's IEP MEANT. In all of our years of schooling, this is the first time Terrance has ever - and I do mean EVER - taken the IEP seriously. Previous to that, he thought I was coddling her or that I was looking for something to be wrong with her.

As I told him last night, I was just preparing and arming us all for teachers like this woman...ones who would tell us about the "multiple difficulties" our daughter was having. How she "wasn't listening" and asked the teacher to repeat instructions.

This story will be told...but I am a little too close to it at this moment. The urge to run into her classroom and choke the everloving shit out her is still strong. So patience. That story is coming.

I will however share the response letter I finally received from her...after I specifically ASKED on Thursday night, letting her know I was still waiting for a response.

It was handwritten in the corner of my typed letter, returned in the same envelope with her name crossed out and my name written under that. I didn't even warrant the respect of a clean piece of paper or new envelope.

" Emily has the 2 statements regarding water bottles/drinking and use of bathrooms correct. Children are encouraged to use the facilities before and between classes, asking to leave the class in an "emergency". Children are also free to drink before and between classes. If they  are thirsty during and it is independent work times, they leave for drinks. So no one is being put through unusual restrictions.

Mrs XXX. 
cc/Principal XXXX
Cycle 3 staff"

Terrance read the letter to me Friday because I was so angry on Thursday I may have waited outside for this bitch to go to her car and tackle her had I read it then.

There will, of course, be a written response. CC'ed to the entire freaking school board. With this little gem photocopied and included. Any one like to add points to be included? My other education peeps who don't like oppressing and demeaning students out there want to chime in?

As she smiled her fake smile at me that night, I once again had that cool sensation of .... Pity.
The momentary feeling of "Oh my. You really do not know what kind of can of whoop ass you are opening here."

But there will be more, I promise.

Scent of Fear

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Friday afternoons I volunteer Emily's school library.

This isn't new, by any means. I have been working with the librarian during this shift since Emily started at the school in 2006.

What was new, however, was the greeting given to my by one of Emily's teachers last Friday afternoon.

As the librarian read in French, this teacher came over to the desk and leaned over.

"Are you Emily's Mom? I mean, You are Emily's Mom right?". she whispered.

"Yeah. Hi.", I whispered back.

"I just wanted you to know that I saw the letter you wrote, I mean, Mrs XXX showed it to me - and I have no problem with kids having water bottles in my class."

Now. As of this writing, I have not been addressed by Emily's teacher in any way shape or form. No note. No call. No smoke signals or Semaphore. Not even an Aldis Lamp.

At the moment that the French teacher leans over to whisper these words to me, I know there is blood in the water. My mother shark instinct kicks in and my vision narrows.

"Oh." I whisper back. "I've not heard anything from Mrs XXX regarding that note as of yet..."

The teacher is young. I am guessing that she did not agree with the little facist policy makeover intiated by the senior teacher and decided to address me. What I further believe is that she did not know the teacher had decided to ignore me. Most of all, I don't think she has realized that I am a teacher and education professional ...and that I now also know that Mrs XXX has decided to complain about Emily's Crazy Mom to the other teachers - AND has shown them my letter.

Parent Teacher Conferences are this week.

Shall I sell tickets?

When Insomnia and Pop Culture collide

You get this.

Yes, I made them - and Terrance is buying them for us for the next meeting.

I may have become a Mom - but that doesn't mean I have to go down without a fight.

The Letter to school

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 24, 2009

First name of Teacher here,

I wanted to take a moment and ask for some clarification regarding the policy around water bottles and bathroom use in your classroom.

Yesterday, Emily arrived home complaining of a sore throat. My first thought is that she was dehydrated and needed to drink some water. I asked her if she had been using her water bottle during the day, as she knows that I like her to drink water through the day – especially during the fall and winter.

Emily shared that she was not allowed to bring her water bottle to class, nor drink anything in class. She reported that she had to keep the water bottle in her locker and could get a drink between classes/recess. Furthermore, she told me that the children were no longer able to use the bathroom during class time, except for “emergencies” when they needed to seek a teacher’s permission to do so.

It is my hope that Emily has mis-understood or mis-stated these “rules”. As I am sure you can appreciate, I would prefer Emily to have access to water whenever she is thirsty. Furthermore, I prefer her to use her water bottle rather than use a common water fountain due to potential transmission of a wide variety of viruses and bacteria.

As to the bathroom access, I appreciate that it can be tempting for children to wander the halls during classtime. However, it alarms me that any child would feel hesitant to use the bathroom as needed during the day. As each child has a different body rhythm and needs, it is surely hard to predict what each child’s possible toileting needs would be during any given day.

I was fortunate to see Howard Gardner speak about fifteen years ago. During his lecture, he shared that he looked at the policies each school had around controlling children’s bodily functions , ie. Eating, bathroom functions, drinking. He noted that in his experiences, only two types of places attempted to regulate the how and when of human bodily needs. One was schools. The other was prisons. That statement deeply impacted me as an educator.

I reviewed the school handbook and saw no mention of these policies or rules. Again, I am hoping that this was simply a misunderstanding on the part of Emily and appreciate your clarification on this matter.


Just like prison

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh, Mrs XXX.

You just can't seem to resist can you? Whatever little Napoleonic dreams of dictatorship you possess, whoever you believe yourself to be in your mind? I am not having it.

Now, according to my student teachers at McGill...You are retiring at the end of this year. I was pleased to hear that when the student shared it with me. My drive to fight you was lessened. I could simply wait you out for the year, and then move on.

I even bowed out of the Governing Board running. I am busy. Well, busy avoiding what I should be doing mostly, but I know my patterns well. I volunteer to avoid my responsibilities. Then, I find no time for what I should be doing because I am doing all the things I have volunteered to do..... I know, I know - I am working on it. Acknowledgment is the first step, right?

Perhaps it was when you figured this out that you decided to let your megalomania run loose...

This is the conversation I had with my daughter today after school:

Em: My throat really hurts.
Dawn: Are you drinking enough water? You could be dehydrated. Are you bringing your water bottle to school?
Em: We're not allowed to bring water to class.
Dawn: What do you mean?
Em: We're not allowed to bring our water bottles to class, we have to leave them downstairs in the locker.
Dawn: WHAT? You aren't allowed to drink water during the day?
Em: Well, when we aren't in class. We also can't go to the bathrooms during the day during class.
Dawn: I'm sorry? What? You aren't allowed to use the bathroom?
Em: Not unless it is an emergency.
Dawn: When did this happen?
Em: I guess the bathroom rule started today.
Dawn: Why?
Em: I don't know, I guess it is just a rule that Mrs XXX made....


Now, I am aware that my daughter is a normal child and as such, I do not take what she says at 100% accuracy. I will verify this. With a Letter. To you and the principal. And I suggest you respond for once. I know you love to ignore our notes to you in the agenda...but Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up, and I don't think you want the two of us coming in fully loaded for bear...or in your case, vicious warthog.

There is a place where the people are not allowed to control their movements or bodily functions. Do you know what it is?


I wasn't planning to engage you again. You, however, have forced my hand. If there is one thing I hate, it is teachers who enjoy controlling and bullying children. Who died and made you the boss of who gets to drink water during the day? According to my daughter, you feel free to drink coffee throughout the day.

Oh, lady. Get ready.

The other half of my brain

Monday, November 16, 2009

"I've got a bone to pick with you"

The voice of my best friend wanders out of the phone and pierces my spine.

Oh Shit. Did I do something? Its true that I can be incredibly oblivious to things that normal humans with normal social aptitude pick up on, so in reality I most likely DIDN'T do something, or forgot or just missed the cue completely.

Now the Other Mrs B and I have been friends since 1994, when we appraised each other through a screen door on the lake and decided that the person we saw was OUR kind of people.

We have seen each other get married...she was the first person at whom I waved my positive pregnancy stick (all the while not-so-secretly skeeving her out by the idea of my urine very near her face) and had me greet her after the premature birth of her now 4 year old son after her consultation with the lactation consultant and the industrial breast pump. To characterize her face as "stricken" at that moment would be understatement - and not because of her sons early arrival. She had just been hooked up to a milking machine by a stranger and her expression conveyed JUST that emotion.

She is lovely Chanel Makeup and a person who DOES her hair, and knows how to whip up meals and boil lobsters. I am her best friend, who walks out in the green rocket dog sneakers, black skirt and a Zombie T-shirt, no makeup, thank you very much. She always looks great - and once decried "How do you people beautify yourselves?" when she discovered that I own ONE mirror, which is in the bathroom...which has no outlets for hair dryers which I never noticed because I don't dry my hair with a dryer.

These things aside, we fit side by side in a completely comfortable way. We have spent weekends and vacations together, lounging in the living room or hotel room together, not talking - doing our things, occasionally cracking up in laughter as we push the limits of being in the same room and yet still using chat boxes to talk about our husbands.... This habit is an offshoot of when we lived next to each other and would stand on our porches, looking at each other, talking on the phone.

The idea that I have upset her is so foreign to me that the words "bone to pick with you" actually make me sweat a bit.

"Okay, What is it?"

"When you visit my house and I leave beautiful towels out for you, in a lovely display in the bathroom, Will you PLEASE not dig out the funky old towels from under the sink to use after your shower?

My laughter rushes up to wash relief over me.

"I thought those were the Good towels", I said. "I thought those were, you know, the Show towels."

"Dawn - I put those towels out FOR YOU to use. Do not get the old towels from under the sink..."

I pause "In my defense, I am a Mom. I don't assume that the nice towels are for me at this juncture in my life."

She laughs. "Listen next time you are here, I am going to make a large towel arrangement on your bed to indicate that these are for YOU to USE..."

"You know what you need to do? Take a class to make towel animals. Then I will know they are really for Me."

The problem of friends

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Its been a tough week at our house - and No, not just because we are all stuffy and overtired. Although that certainly hasn't helped.

No - most of the drama is about Emily and her "friends". Or who isn't her friend. Or who is, but shouldn't be...or who will be if she gives them XYZ, OR who she wishes would be her friend, but doesn't like her.

I remember this part of puberty, of growing up. And it frankly sucked. There is no starry eyed romanticism in my head about the years of my own puberty and the negotiation of what having and being a friend meant. While I, like most humans, was able to find a couple of real friends to connect with during this time of turmoil, it makes it no easier to watch my beloved sweet daughter go through the same awful process.

As Adults, we aren't generally very helpful. We have ridiculous sayings - "To HAVE a Friend - BE a FRIEND!" . To offer this and the other inane non-helpful, exclamation ridden pablum is to implicitly convey to our children that this is easier than we KNOW it to be. Added into this festering pit of human frailty is Hormones. And Body Changes. To my daughter, I suspect it feels like the world truly is conspiring to get her. I mean, I know how funky I can get with PMS, and I have a detailed and thorough knowledge about what is going on with me.

Most nights, I try to get in a little cuddle time with her. She is nearly has tall as me, so it isn't as easy to scoop her into my arms as when she was three. My intent, however, remains the same. To remind her that she is MY baby girl and that I will always be her friend - even when she is at her most unlikeable.

No sympathy

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's been a week.

Last Sunday, Terrance made some moaning noises about not feeling well. But honestly what is new about that? The man is perpetually either sick or tired, and frequently both sick AND tired. After nearly 2 decades, I simply tune it out to the background noise of the house.

I ignored him, as per my wifely duty. I went about my day, tired from Halloween and getting Em de-toxed from her sugar high without resorting to specific threats of bodily harm. Add into my mix the rabbits. I've not yammered on about the rabbits too much here...but they are a lot of work. No, they don't need to be walked rain or shine, but great googley moogley - I spend more time than you can imagine cleaning litter, chopping salad, washing floors - only to be patently ignored by both rabbits who then act as if the second coming of the Rabbit savior has appeared when Terrance walks into the room.

Um, yeah. I am a little bitter about that.

Because Terrance is a perpetually sick person, moaning and whinging about the state of everything from his sinuses to his lower back, I have naturally developed a resistance to paying attention. Add into my callous nature the fact that my Mother, as a pediatric nurse, had to view an organ or other disturbing shows of bodily fluids to agree that we were actually sick and you get a pretty hardened judge of illness.

On Monday morning, Terrance and I begin the dance:

Terrance: "I don't feel good"
Dawn: "Mmmmm"
Terrance: "I think I have a fever"
Dawn: "Hmmm"
Terrance: "I didn't sleep at all last night"
Dawn: "Oh. Mmmmm"

With each non committal murmur emerging from me, he feels the need to amp up the symptoms:

Terrance: "I think my sinuses are bleeding."
Dawn: "Oh. Did you take any sudafed?"
Terrance: "No, but they are bleeding"
Dawn: "You might be dehydrated..."


By the time I get home, he is ensconced on the couch.

Terrance: "I think I have a fever"
Dawn: "Why do you think that?"
Terrance: "I can't get warm and then I get the chills"
Dawn: (pause - looking at Terrance from across the room) Did you take your temperature today?
Terrance: "No"
Dawn: (Sigh) "Ok, let me feel your forehead..."

This is a crucial moment. When I give in and agree to feel foreheads, I May be on the road to acknowledging that he May indeed be sick. Since I live with a grade A hypochondriac ( the man had his glasses autoclaved when Emily had conjunctivitis as an infant), Terrance assumes he has whatever might be in the news. In this case it is, of course, H1N1.

Dawn: "Oh. Well. You do feel a bit hot. Let me go get the thermometer..."

I pop the thermometer in and wait for the beep. I wait quite awhile.

Terrance: "well?"
Dawn: "You seem to have a fever...."
Terrance: "what is it?"
Dawn: "103.7 - I think you need some ibuprofen, let me get that for you"
Terrance: "Should I go to a hotel so as not to infect you and Emily?"
Dawn: "What?!?!"
Terrance: "Well, Its probably H1N1, so maybe I should go to a hotel room for the next week..."
Dawn: "Why don't we wait a day or so to make sure it isn't a random virus before you go all Bio-Hazard on us, Ok? It could resolve by the morning..."


Its been a week. A week of shivering and dry cough and fevers that spike to 103.8, then drop to 95.5. We knew he felt better yesterday when he got up and started bossing us around - pointing at rooms that needed to be cleaned. The doctor remains amazed that neither Em nor I have contracted it as of yet, although I chalk it up to years in childcare in which we most likely had strains of similar things that give us some vague immunity.

Although, I must admit, I have one hell of a headache tonight.

A sucker for Holidays

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I seem to have gotten talked into purchasing not one, not two, not three but SIX pumpkins today for carving.

While certain eleven year olds promise to help carve said pumpkins by at least scooping the guts out, I know in my heart that this is bullshit said specifically to lure me into the hell of carving all these pumpkins.

One would think I had learned from the apple picking situation a few weeks ago when someone ended up with 12 pounds of apples that are in a bag in the kitchen.

Today I announced that I was thinking about making and canning applesauce in order to use the apples up, only to be met with the heartfelt please of Terrance to NOT can applesauce. He then cited a canning episode circa 1996 whose proceeds were thrown out when we moved in 2006 after having lived in the darkness of the basement for years.

I am however remaining firm in my boycott of the Gingerbread House, which last graced our household in 2002, when I flipped out after attempting to get the walls to stick together and having the icing harden and then the child I was doing this "for" abandoned me, leaving me alone at the table until 11:30 p.m. and filling my heart with unreasonable holiday hatred.

While purchasing our pumpkin bonanza, the clerk asked "Wow - How many kids do you have?"

The assumption, I suppose was that I must be the mother of Six to have purchased Six pumpkins.

I stared at her. "One", I answered and then indicated towards the door where Emily could be seen peeking in. "She's out there guarding our chosen pumpkins. Apparently she is concerned that some pumpkin thief is going to run down the street and grab our pumpkins between the time we chose them and the time I purchased them."

The poor high school gal doesn't know what to say, so she simply stares at me.

"If you don't have enough carved pumpkins at Halloween, a puppy dies", I say.

Then I walk out to herd my pumpkins into the back seat of my car, leaving the silent clerk watching me exit.

Not a receptive audience

Monday, October 19, 2009

When crossing the border to come back to your home - which is not in the country in which you are a citizen - do not, under any circumstances, decide to be funny and answer the question: "Are you bringing back anything with you to Canada?"

With this response: "(Giggle) A hangover?"

Because the border guard will not find it funny and then you will subject to a great deal of questioning AND lecturing about why it isn't funny to say that.

Where My Wild Things Are

Monday, October 12, 2009

I was six years old when I first saw the book.

My surroundings are what I imprint upon. I was on the floor which had your standard issue industrial school carpeting. The cubbies were to my left and formed the wall that ran the length of the room. The bathrooms were behind me.

The teacher whose name could have been Mrs Walker (?) was sitting on a blue chair in front of us.

Now, books and I have always been friends. There are pictures of a sleeping three year old Dawn, hiding in her closet with the lamp, surrounded by books. I remember being in those closets - small, dark, tight spaces of safety. Me and My Books. Later on in life when I felt stress or anxiety, diving into a book was my first reaction. My college room mate would laugh as I would bring home a massive stack of fiction to read in between studying for other exams. "They relax me", I would explain.

This book, however, was different. From the moment Mrs Walker held the book up I knew that this was special - something I maybe shouldn't be seeing - and so I held my breath throughout the reading and when she had finished, I stood up and asked if I could hold this book. I needed to absorb this book. I needed to possess this book.

In fact, the next library day found me at the librarians desk asking about where I could find this book to borrow and my first memory of ordering from a book club was my amazement seeing that this prized book was one of the ones offered and begging for the 50 cents to order it.

The book was, of course, Where the Wild Things Are.

Now, psychologically, the adult Dawn could deconstruct why the book was so important to First Grade Me. A tale of the Wild Things who were both menacing and loving - terrible and fierce and Max - the boy who tamed them with a magic trick - this tale was not so far off from my life in the world of Adults. I navigated some pretty Wild Things in my day to day life, and while this was perhaps the most stable time in my remembrance of my family life, it was still business as usual.

It was in 1976 that my father threatened to kill Santa if he came into the house on Christmas Eve. I locked the door behind him as he ran out on the porch with his loaded shotgun, looking for Santa to shoot.  I had the sense to hide before my mother got the door unlocked and my father began to search the house for me.

Now, I had seen my father shoot things. Our Pet Dogs when they wouldn't stop barking. Rabbits. At the car as my mother pulled out of the driveway...with his child(ren)in the car. His unpredictable behavior made him the undisputed King of the Wild Things.

My mother, while a bit more stable in her overall demeanor, had her own role in the kingdom of my Wild Things. A role which would take center stage  once my parents divorced. As long as I did as she wanted, she was a benevolent ruler in the Kingdom. Benign neglect, I have called it - feral childhood. Yes, we were fed and clothed. But there were conditions - always conditions.

My mother was not Max's mother. There would be no hot dinner waiting for me when I woke. No, more likely I would be told that I was ungrateful and didn't deserve to have dinner - but if I insisted than I could make it myself since she was not my slave and furthermore since I had the audacity to complain, I should really start saving up to buy my own food.

First Grade Dawn didn't know all of this. She only knew that there was a book that whispered to her in a way she had never experienced. It was a book that told her that it Knew Adults were not what they seemed, and revealed them for what they were. Odd monsters with feathers and fur, feet and beaks, human noses on animal faces.

The book knew that the Wild Things Roared and Gnashed and Stomped as they pleased. However, when Max saw the Wild Things he was not afraid. No. Max was in charge of the Wild Things. He was the Adult in the world of Wild Things, the voice of reason.

And Like Max, First Grade Dawn wanted to be in control, to tame her Wild Things with her magic tricks. And also like Max, First Grade Dawn wanted to go home and be someones child, somewhere where he was loved best of all. Loved Unconditionally.

It was the first time I heard a book speak to me in the secret language of the best stories. Maurice Sendak winked at me from behind the pages of the book - He knew what adults were and had hidden the truth in those pages, right in front of them. They read the pages to us, and I felt delightfully subversive as his critique of the Big People in charge of our lives was laid out in front of them.

A door was opened for me as Mrs Walker read Where the Wild Things Are to me - and 18 other children - in 1976. I sailed over and across weeks and years and a day - and have never looked back.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I wouldn't say that I am at a truce with Emily's teacher.


I would characterize it as being stopped at a red light, and eyeballing the asshole in the car next to you who is going to try to cut you off as soon as the light turns green while making that split second decision as to whether you are going to Gun it OR just let them pass you while pretending not to notice.

Most of the parents at the school with whom I have spoken have nearly all said the same thing - Leave it alone. Some of those parents have had issues with the same teacher and they have all, one by one, said to me "You can't win. She won't change."

Add into this consideration the news that it is the fifth grade report cards that the high schools look at here in Montreal when they make their admission decisions. If she wants to be considered for the better high schools, she needs to have a strong report card. Pissing off the teacher and writing about her on the internet is NOT, I hear, the way to help your child get to a strong report card.

In fact, one of the Moms got into such a panic when I told he I was writing about the teacher on my blog that she infected me with some of her panic. Like when the lead gazelle bolts with no predator in sight. "You can't do that" she whispered to me. "If she sees this, that's it - your daughter will never get into a good high school...."

At which point all my self critical voices jumped onto that whisper and began to echo the thought. In fifteen short minutes, I spiraled to Emily in her mid 30's, unemployed and still living at home fighting with me about how I ruined her chances in life during 5th grade by opening my big mouth and writing about her teacher.

Thankfully, the other voice - the one that gets irascible and feisty when told not to do something? She put a chokehold on the critical voices and put an end to that pretty darn quickly.

So, we wait. Interim report cards just came out and Em seems to be doing fine. She complains about the amount of homework she has - but what 5th grader doesn't? She doesn't seem to love this teacher, but she doesn't seem to hate her either.

Terrance and I were always attentive to Emily's homework and we are more attentive now. From the perspective of Emily, she doesn't really talk about what she has learned. She and her father and I go over her homework and make sure she understands the work - be it grammar, math or science.

Being the academic geeks we are, Terrance and I correct the mistakes in the textbook and send in detailed explanations as to WHY the word defend can not be paired with the suffix "able" unless one is using it during a legal argument OR why the use of the suffix "ture" is incorrect. It SHOULD be the suffix "ure", but due to a multitude of words USING the "ure" suffix ending with the letter "T", it is commonly mistakenly assumed to BE "Ture"...

She must LOVE us. I can only imagine she is Dreaming of the parent conference day when Emily's parents come in to visit. We never get answers back - just more of our anal retentive fussing into the lightless void.

Yep. Two years of this, as Em will have her for 5th and 6th grade.

Still deciding whether to hit the gas, or let it pass....

Preaching to the Irritated Choir

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It was at the curriculum night that I decided, in a spur of the moment action, to put my name forth for the home/school governing council.

To be honest,my all consuming hatred for the shirt man was the impetus. I was determined to crush him and do everything in my unholy power to make sure he lost the contract for shirts for the school. You do not, Sir, get to scream at me that my check is "No Good" over and over and just have that slide. Oh no. And to top that little shit sundae with you not delivering the shirts we TOLD you we were purchasing and me then having to calm my hysterical kid because the god damn shirts didn't get delivered?

And you took my money.

I hope your life has been enjoyable up to this point, because I have now rearranged my priorities to make your future a living hell.

This was Tuesday Night. I calm Emily, Terrance calms me ( and prevents me from running the two blocks to the school so I can personally stomp this guy with my highest, spikiest heels) and we put the matter to the side.

Emily is a bit anxious at the best of times, but any kind of teacher/parent meeting, or field trip, or any other thing which does not comply to her well ordered schedule can send her into a tizzy. She checks, she re-checks, she triple checks to make sure we KNOW the curriculum night is Tonight and that we are BOTH coming. Yes. We are both coming.

Terrance warns me before we leave the house to be nice. Be nice? What ever could you mean? I am the picture of suburban calm and demure motherhood. I am wearing a skirt...and a funky t shirt...and my rainbow skull sneakers. I am harmless.

We walk in and the principal sees me and turns away.

My reputation precedes me. I see my letter has had an impact. Or perhaps it was my crusade last year against the special ed sector of the English Montreal School Board when I cc'ed my local Parliament representatives. Not that I can vote here, but I do write a well put together letter and no one asked my voting status or ability.

Terrance leans in, "Wow. I have never seen her move so fast before."

I glare at him. His job is to keep the attackers off of me for as long as possible, and/or push me out of the way in an assassination attempt. His commentary is not needed.

We see some parents with whom we are familiar and sit down. Minor chit chat occurs. The new school website is unveiled. Parents look attentive and then the nominations for home/school begin.

I lean into Terrance, "I should nominate you", I say loudly.
The four heads of the parents in front of us whip around

"Thats a GREAT idea", they collectively say.

I mess with Terrance some more. "Yeah hon, I'll nominate you and then I will help you out if you are out of town for that meeting."

The other parents are looking positively pleased at this prospect. There is lots of agreement and encouragement. Terrance snarls back through his not quite smile, "I'll nominate YOU, Dawn".

The greek chorus of parents in front of us begin their declarations of agreement to this amended plan.

Whats this sir? A Challenge? Have you slapped me with your glove? Thrown down your gauntlet?

I ready myself for the renewed verbal spar when my husband does something so unexpected as to render me speechless. He legs it out of the gym. Gets up and takes off. Holy Crap! I smile at the greek chorus of parents - "Sure, you can nominate me" I say. I begin furiously texting things such as "chicken" and "coward" to my husbands phone.

Now that my handler has fled the scene, all bets are off. Who KNOWS what I might say? BWA-HA-HA-HA!

But I don't. I get nominated, I don't get voted in I find out later that week during the secret parent ballot vote count and I walk up the stairs to my child's new classroom where I will "meet" the teachers and be given an overview of the Cycle 3 curriculum. Terrance is still absent.

I get to the class and sit down with Emily. She shows me her desk and how she has straightened it up for my "visit". We ready ourselves for the Curriculum presentation. I continue to taunt my spouse via text message.

So, there we are. All the parents of Cycle 3 who have attended this evening. The four classes have about 120 children all told and there are maybe 40 families in attendance. Now, I am going to take a leap here, but I am guessing that the families that DID show up to this evening....Well, they are the ones who are the "involved" families. I am guessing that THESE families are the ones who send in their forms promptly and pay their school fees during the first week. I am further going to go out on the limb to say that these parents send their children into school with the entire list of school supplies purchased AND probably check over their child's homework nightly. I don't have any empirical evidence of this, but long experiences has taught me that this is the Choir right here. You don't need to preach to THEM.

Oh, but I would be wrong. The preaching begins. My daughters teacher leads the charge with the God Damn Shirt Lecture. My jaw drops. I am staring RIGHT at her and she just goes on and on about the school uniform shirts. She expands this lecture to include that blue pants with stripes are not acceptable, nor are blue sweatshirts with any logos or markings other than the school uniform. My Stare becomes an Outright GLARE. Not satisfied with the descriptions of the type of blue pants that would be acceptable, she then lectures the group of parents on what their child may wear on Free Dress Day, freely giving her opinions of outfits which are NOT acceptable, including, but not limited to, jewelry and/or makeup.

Sitting next to me, Em peeks from the side to see how I am handling this. I am in full glare with my mouth Open and eyebrows raised. The lecture continues.

I turn to Em and say - not quietly - "Does she lecture you all day like this, or does she teach you anything?"

Em stifles a giggle and whispers "No, she does teach us some things, but she does this alot."

Mrs XXX then moves her lecture to the finer points of school supplies and why everything on the list should be purchased. One of the other teachers picks up with her spiel about science and technology. Oh Thank God. Its CURRICULUM!!! The French teacher does her part and my jaw unclenches a little but I continue to stare at Emilys Teacher.

I have now Written you a letter about these shirts. I have written a letter to the principal, and you have the cojones to stand in front of ME and lecture ME about these shirts? For a good 20 minutes? You have lost your ever loving mind.

Furthermore, you just blew your last chance of redemption with me.

I almost feel sorry for you.


White Shirted

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ah, so where was I? Ah, yes. Stuck in a Curriculum night being lectured by a woman who was rapidly pissing me off.

First, because she conveyed no warmth to the parents of incoming students...looked at my spouse and I like we were the village idiots when we asked a question to clarify the list of school supplies And her endless harping about the school uniform shirt.

Now, I Admit it. I did not buy the school uniform shirts last year.

At first it was simply because I wanted to speak to the uniform guy and make sure that I was buying the right size shirts. Emily has been whipping through sizes in the past two and a half years at an alarming rate so I honestly just wanted to make sure I bought shirts big enough to get through the year.

I called him. I called again. And again, and again. After leaving numerous messages and waiting nearly two months for a return call, I gave up in November and simply bought a bunch of white polo type shirts. Screw him, I figured. It was not killing me to not give this man 250 bucks for ten white shirts she would trash in minutes.

No one asked me last year about why Em didn't have the school uniform shirts. She was in a white shirt (without the school logo) and her blue bottoms every day, so it isn't as if I was dressing her like a Bratz doll and sending in to wreak havoc on the uniform code.

Within two days of the new school year, however, my kid is having a full on panic attack because her new teacher is telling them over and over about the UNIFORM and how SHE MUST HAVE IT, OR ELSE. Ddduuuuuuudddddeeee. Chill out. I will order the shirts. School starts on Monday and by Tuesday I have sent in the order form for the school uniform shirts.

"Did Mrs XXX see your order form? Is she going to chill it with the Uniform shirt talk now", I asked Em on Tuesday afternoon.

"Yes, she sent it to the office. Do you know when they will be in, cause she said soon she was going to start checking to make sure we were IN our required uniform and we would be in trouble if we weren't..."

"I can't control how fast the shirts get in, but Em - she has seen your order go in. She KNOWS you have ordered shirts. We can't do anything else but that - if you get in trouble then she will be deeply sorry she went down that path..."

Emily is quiet. My voice has that rattle. The Mother rattlesnake rattle through which my next move is clear. Pulling over, and marching up the stairs with daughter in tow to have a little "talk" about these shirts with Mrs XXX.

Em wisely drops it. Until that Friday, when she bounds out of school and hands me the still sealed envelope with her uniform shirt order. "Mrs XXX gave this back to me and said the office said you have to call or order online. Can you do that as soon as we get home, cause Mrs XXX said she was going to start checking next week to make sure we had our uniform shirts on... "

Oh friends. Oh My.

I will just pause a moment in my re-telling to let you ponder my reaction to this tidbit of news.

Let us suffice it to say, I first went online and attempted to locate a internet ordering option for these shirts. By 4 p.m., when I had found NONE WHATSOEVER, I first called the school and left a very clear message on the school answering machine.

I then called the Shirt company and left an even Clearer message on that voice mail, with my added critique of their customer service from the previous year and the promise that I would be sharing my impression of their company with ALL the other parents I could speak with, the principal AND the Home/School Parent Representative.

Then I fumed. And spluttered. I am generally not a threatener of action, but a Do'er. I don't do well sitting on this energy. So I wrote my first email to the Home/School Parent representative explaining my history with the shirt people and now my frustration at having my daughter freak out about these shirts because her new teacher was vaguely holding some nebulous punishment over her head.

The very kind parent rep wrote me right back, offering her suggestions for actions, her understanding of my frustration and offering her phone number if I wanted to speak about this further.

Sufficiently soothed, I went about my plan. Letters to the principal and teacher were written, copies of the emails to the parent rep were included - I am nothing if Not thorough in my documentation. Monday morning, the letters went into school, with my email address and cell phone number attached.

I hear nothing. I ask Em if she gave the teacher the letter.

"Yeah, I gave it to her", Em shrugged.
"So? Did she say anything to you after she read it?"
"Yeah, she said she felt like my mother was scolding her..."

Oh Mrs XXX, that was a bad move. Perhaps in hindsight, we will agree that this was a fatal move, but the game has not yet finished so we can not make those endgame pronouncements. The CORRECT answer, Mrs XXX, would have been for you to reassure my daughter that you understood that we were trying to get her the school uniform shirts - and that she would NOT be in trouble. But Nooooooo. You chose to subtly criticize her Mother in front of her while giving her the whiff of your disapproval at being "scolded". I mean you ARE the teacher after all, right?

By Wednesday, the shirt guy finally returned my phone call ( since I can only assume the principal has now called Him and warned him to call this crazy mother NOW) and leaves a message. I called Thursday around noon, sitting next to Terrance on the couch to keep me vaguely calm.

Shirt guy makes HIS opening move. Which is to start yelling at me, Immediately.
His opening shoutfest is :

To which I - still calm - explained I was AWARE of that since it had been sent back from the office the previous Friday. At this juncture he begins Yelling:


with me trying to ascertain just what the fuck he is talking about - cause I have NO IDEA. I am the one who has experienced rotten customer service and NOW I am having some man scream at me that my check is no good?!?!? WHAT?!!

My voice starts to raise. I start to shout and Terrance reaches over and grabs the phone from my hand...just about at the point when I am going to tell this man EXACTLY what he can do with his overpriced shirts, and the offer of my assistance in placing those shirts in my suggested areas. Terrance shuttles me into the bedroom and closes the door so he can speak with this man without me doing my best "Girlfriend on COPS" impression, shouting over his shoulder that I am going to Kick this mans ASS.

Terrance speaks with the man and tells him exactly what shirts we need. The man informs Terrance that he will be at the school on Tuesday to deliver the shirts and Terrance tells him we will bring cash for the shirts. I fume. We agree that Terrance will go and get the shirts alone, as we can all see that putting this man and I in the same room would be unfortunate.

Emily is told her shirts are being delivered on Tuesday. She can sleep easy knowing that she will be in compliance with the school uniform policy.

Tuesday comes and I stay far away from the school. I get the phone call from Terrance. He has been and seen the man. He has brought the money for the shirts.

He does not have the shirts.

What? WHAT? We told his man exactly what we needed on THURSDAY and he did not bring the shirts AND he TOOK our money????!!!

This was the evening before the curriculum night.
Things were not looking promising.

A Bad Beginning

Friday, September 25, 2009

If there is one lesson I have learned as both a teacher and mother, it is this: During the first month of the new Parent/Teacher/caregiver relationship, it is REALLY important that all parties set a good tone. The Teacher/caregiver is the lead in this new relationship, as the parent is pretty vulnerable and in a defensive position by default. I mean - this is their KID and regardless if you have 29 others in the room and have been doing this for umpteen billion years this is still THEIR CHILD.

They have resisted the urges to drown this child during screaming fits about parsley on her plate at a restaurant. They have not yet left this child by the side of the road after enduring 4 hours of "Blues Big Musical Adventure" or more frequently these days, the waxing poetic of the skillz of the Jonas Brothers or vocal stylings of Miley Cyrus. They have not yet stabbed the other parent during a fight about the others parenting style/skills/ability. With this child entering puberty, the temptation to flee her becomes and turn to drinking becomes stronger. In short, they have made it to this point on the strength of their fear of prison alone.

Your job - as teacher - is to make sure the parent understands that you know their child is special. That you are listening to them. That you know they are listening to you. You need to project humor. Confidence. The general aura of "everything is going to be all right - we'll get through this together."

I can speak to this job, because I have done it. I have calmed hysterical parents of both genders when they flip their shit about very small things. I have conveyed that they are not being silly and that I completely understand their concern, because this beginning time in the parent/teacher/caregiver relationship is as important as this time in the Teacher/Child relationship. A misstep on the teachers part during this phase can take forever to repair ...if Ever.

Which brings me to the lecture I, and others, received last Wednesday night. During the curriculum night at my daughters school. When we were supposed to be hearing about CURRICULUM and the PLAN for the school year.

I don't have to tell any of you that I am a keen observer of other teachers. I've made a living of it so far. I know the messages being broadcast between words...because I have crafted and delivered those messages. I still do.

Of the four teachers that my daughter could have gotten for the next two year cycle, we seem to have drawn the Eeyore of the lot. It isn't simply her age, of which it is indeterminate, it is her manner...her persona. Her terrible, terrible teeth.

We kind of guessed on the first day when Terrance and I corralled her after school to seek clarification on WHICH oxford concise dictionary she wanted for the class list. I mean - there are LOTS of versions of this dictionary. A school Edition, a hardcover - one edited in 2004, or in 2005. Being two oldest children, Terrance and I wanted to make sure that we provided the PRECISE one on the list.

There we stood. Dawn and Terrance - both speaking to the teacher. Asking questions about this dictionary. Because Terrance and Dawn make sure that the teacher and child have the exact thing they requested on the first day of school. Lists are made to be respected!!

She looked at us as if we had both lost our minds. Which could well be true...BUT. The correct response SHOULD have been. "Wow! I was unaware that there were so many versions - The school edition is fine..."

Her answer, "What? Didn't I put it on the list? Cause that is the one I want."

Silence as Terrance and Dawn stare back at her...having been pretty sure they collectively just explained that what she had on the LIST had many versions - did she have one in mind?

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick...............

"well - it doesn't matter - its for her home study space anyway...."

and with that she turned away from us. To be fair, she was getting kids lined up for the bus which I know is a hectic operation, BUT.....

"I don't think I like her", I muttered to Terrance. He rolled his eyes, "You don't like anybody."

Ok. Fair enough. I OWN that judgment.

Now comes the careful questioning of Emily. What did SHE think of the teacher? How did SHE feel in the classroom?

As any 5th grader, Emily is most concerned about 1. What friends are in the class and 2. How much homework she will be expected to produce.

As far as she is concerned, she likes the majority of girls in her class and so far, the homework is manageable. Life is pretty good.

"But", she said," Mrs XX reminded us that the school shirt uniforms are mandatory and she is going to be checking to make sure we are wearing our shirts. And we can't have pants with any stripes or anything on them."

Shirts, as you will later learn, are quite a sore spot with me. That is story to be told in this larger story arc, but not yet. Suffice it to say that I boycotted the required shirts LAST year, sending her in with plain white shirts rather than those with the crest silk screened on them.

Emily pushes me. "I brought you the order form home so you can fill it out and I will take it back tomorrow cause I need to have these shirts or I am going to get in trouble. Mrs XX says she will give us a couple of weeks to get our shirts but after that, we'll be in trouble..."

Grrrrr. Fine. I fill out the order form and cheque for 200 bucks and send it back into the school. In fact, ALL forms get filled out and returned, with all cheques for the school year fees. 225 for this, 60 for that, 150 for the other....another 200 for the shirts...100 bucks for girl guides renewal. Sigh.

Emily delivers the shirt order to her teacher to be passed down the the office.

"Did she see that you were ordering shirts? That she can hold off on giving you the shirt lecture cause they are coming?"

On Friday, Emily brings me back the order and cheque. "Mrs XXX said the office said you need to order online - can you order as soon as we get home cause I am going to get in trouble if I don't have these shirts..."

And, that, my friends, is all this whole fiasco began.

Girl, you'll be a woman soon

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If I have to have one more discussion about vaginal mucous and its consistency, frequency, color or texture I may have to kill myself.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can I take a moment to express my utter dislike for the Shakira song - "She-wolf"?

Not because I dislike Shakira, nor her right or the right of any other woman to be a "she-wolf" in or out of the closet.

Its that dreadful howl she insisted on inserting in the song. That is the weakest most pitiful howl EVER. That howl indicates a sick and sad she-wolf...certainly not one who is an alpha and being chased by other he-wolves.

Furthermore, I get the distinct sensation that she fell across the word "Lycanthropy" in her word-a-day calender and then decided she would be clever and craft a song around the word.

And while I am kvetching about artists - Hey L'il Wayne. Stop with the metallic computer voice over yours. We don't want you to branch out into rock. Stick with what you are good at, as I am pretty sure your other career options include sullen Wal-Mart restocker or the guy at the gas station who ignores the customers while texting on his phone until the line becomes unbearable.

This goes the same for you - T-Pain. Stop spending your cash on those stupid hats. The gravy train is going to pull away in the near future and you don't have alot of other career options either. You may blame it on the Al-AL-Al-Al-Al-AL-Cohol, but I would suggest poor financial planning is more likely the culprit.

And Finally. I fucking hate Nickleback.

Me and My Big Mouth

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back when I was gainfully and steadily employed by a Government Agency, we had a joke amongst my work colleagues.

Let's NOT send Dawn to any meeting where we don't want to offend any attendees, because inevitably - regardless of the meeting - She WILL say something that will get her "Un-invited" to ALL the meetings. She may do this in the first meeting. She may hold out and do this at the middle of the series of committee meetings, but rest assured...It WILL happen.

This little personality quirk has not made me terribly beloved to most supervisors, and believe me, if I could stop it I would. It has cost me more reprimands and punishments than I care to recall. Even as I am sitting there with Dawn-Ego saying "Don't Say it! Don't Say it! Let it Go! Do Not Open your Mouth..." things will slip out.

Like this meeting in the Governors office. As in the Actual Gov's ( at the time) office - at the giant table with the huge leather chairs, where the Executive Council meets, when I said this:

"Seeing as I am the only person at this table who has worked with REAL LIVE children and families, I think these standards that you are writing are ridiculous."

This was edited down from what was in my head which was :"You people wouldn't know a real child if they jumped up and bit you in the ass, furthermore you're are all terribly, disgustingly condescending about poverty and you generally couldn't find your asses with both hands and a flashlight."

While I got in trouble for what I really said, I was congratulating myself for NOT saying what was going on in my head. Small victories is what I am all about.

Which is how I ended up nominated last night for the Home and Parent Governing Council at Emily's school.

Those poor , poor people. They know not what they have done.

Lazy Sunday, Emily Style

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday Morning:

Em: “Mama, can you get up and make me some eggs”
Me: Yep, just let me wake up”
Em: “Ok…Are you awake now?”
Me: “Emily – You have to give me a minute. Your mother doesn’t move so fast”
Em: “Ok Mama. Are you getting up now?”
Me: “Do you see me moving? Do you see me getting up?”
Em: “Yeah. Are you going to make me eggs?”
Me: “Emily, for the love of all that is holy. I am getting up. I am going to make you eggs.”
Em: “Why are you going to the bathroom? I thought you were going to make me eggs”
Me: “I can not cook with a full bladder. Let me go to the bathroom”

She stands outside the door and waits for me to emerge.

Em: “Are you gonna make the eggs now?”
Me: “Yes. What kind of eggs do you want – 2 eggs scrambled?”
Em: “No.”
Me: “What? You got me up to make you eggs. What kind of eggs do you want”
Em: “What kind do I usually have?”
Me: “Scrambled.”
Em: “Ok, Then two eggs scrambled”

I cook eggs well. It is one of my failsafe dishes. I make them light and fluffy and present them to her on a plate with peaches on the side.

Em: “Mama, I’ve been thinking. I don’t want eggs.”
Me: “You got me up and hounded me to make you eggs. Now you say you don’t want the eggs. What on earth could you want?”
Em: “I’d like two glazed doughnuts- cause don’t you want to go to Dunkin Donuts and get yourself some coffee?”
Me: “I’d highly suggest that you eat those eggs, cause there is NO chance that you are getting anything resembling a glazed donut. But might I commend you on the effort to get me to drive out to get you some. Well played, chief.”
Em: “Ok Mama. These eggs look good But if you go out for coffee, can you get me two glazed donuts?”

Part II:

Me: “Emily, we all need to cooperate today and clean up our rooms. Can you please take care of your room?”
Em: “OK – but what are you going to do?”
Me: “The laundry and then cleaning the living room..”
Em: “Ok.” She disappears into her room. She emerges 3 minutes later.
Em: “I’ve been thinking Mama. It makes more sense for me to clean my room AFTER I play – cause I will just get it messy again. Sop I think I should Play FIRST and then clean. That’s a good plan, right Mama? Right? Cause I’ll just get it messy again if I clean it first”
Me: “Go sell that story to your father, Cause I am totally not buying that”

Why am I afraid when a seven year old can out-logic me twice by 9:30 in the morning?

Originally Posted January 2006

Lesson Learned....Never Aim for the Head

Friday, August 21, 2009

By Popular demand, The Back story of "Another Mothering Fail":

Hello all. Sorry for my little “hiatus”. Work has been, well, blecky, and I am premenstrual. Never a stellar combo. Add in the perpetual “My Balls hurt” moaning and you can well imagine the joy that has been present in my home. I am surprised they haven’t knocked on my door to do a holiday special.

Some aside notes: Yes, the Doctor has demanded that we have 20 sexual encounters before they can test his sperm sample for being “clear”. Until then, we can consider his penis a potentially lethal weapon.

We tried for the first time last night. I was terrified. I believe that I lay there like a blow up doll. I kept waiting for the whole thing to fall off on me. Talk about pressure.

He relates that he “feels better” today. Yeah right. I can see where this is going.

So today, I offer for your enjoyment, one of My most spectacular failures of mothering I was ever able to muster up. I present “The Day I caused my daughter to have a black eye cause I threw a Bitty Shoe at her in a fit of irritation” or “Why I almost had to call the Child Protective services people (….or me) on Me”

Last winter, Terrance had gone away for a business trip. I generally can keep my shit together for 5 days, then the veneer starts to crack and I look a little wild eyed and crazy.
At this point, I was driving her into school – which was 15 minutes PAST where I work, and then driving back to work, then after work driving to pick her up and then beginning the 45-minute to hour commute home. Since I picked her up at 5:30, I would get home at 6:30 p.m. or so. Not conducive to starting dinner, right? So every night when Daddy was gone, I would pick her up and take her to a different restaurant. It serves an all around need – we eat, I don’t have to cook, everyone is happy!

So, on the Thursday night in question, I decided that I wanted Thai food. I really, really wanted Thai food. Emily doesn’t care for the Thai restaurant cause she doesn’t like statues. We get to the door, she seems the statues and she starts to scream. Loudly. I am smiling at the Thai restaurant people, as my daughter crawls under my coat screaming “No, Mommy, No, I don’t like statues! Please don’t make me go in there!”

I smile at the worried looking hostess and try to say calmly “Can we have a table far, far away from any statues?” My coat is screaming and moving around. I lift the child and my coat and proceed to carry her to the table where I plop her down on the chair and whip off my coat – “See”, I say, “no statues! Calm down!”

We have a fairly pleasant dinner, after I assure her that the Tandori chicken is not the devils food, and that the jasmine rice is quite delicious!

I reward her with a new Bitty baby outfit. It is Blue and Velvety and she is excited. See – Life with Mommy is Fun!

Full and happy, we drive home. It is 7:30 p.m. and so, like Mommy’s all over the world, I am really, really ready for Em to hit the sack. We read, we snuggle and then it’s off to bed for her.

Except this is clearly not part of her plan. Instead, she hits the floor- in a full blown tantrum. She cannot find her new Bitty Shoe. I remain calm.

Me: “Did you check the car, next to your car seat?”
Me: “Emily, there is no reason for you to have this reaction.”
Me: “seriously Emily, you need to calm down – have you looked in the car?”
(There was more screaming at me, that I will leave to your imagination)

Me: (Voice raising) “Emily, I swear to god, that I if I go out to the car and find that damn bitty baby shoe, there is going to be hell to pay. I am throwing every last god damn bit of Bitty Baby shit away!!!!”

I run into the January cold night in my bare feet and pajamas. I whip open the car door and there it is – sitting right there – the blue velvet bitty baby shoe. Right where I said it would be.

I fly into the house and round the corner. I am Steaming mad. Psychotic Mommy Mad.

I throw my child’s bedroom door open and scream


And I throw the shoe in her direction. Now mind you, I wasn’t aiming at her head, really.

But like all moments of clarity, I watch as the shoe flies, in slow motion through the air. It makes a perfect arc and connects with her eye.

GGGGGAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSPPPPPPPPPPP. Did you hear the sucking intake of my breath?

My daughter grabs her eye and wails. Oh…………………Shit………………………….

I run and grab her hand and wrench it from her eye. I see the black and blue developing.

Em: “You hit me in the Eyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee.”

I burst into tears and run for the telephone to call my husband.

Terrance: “Dawn, calm down. Now what happened? You threw a bitty baby shoe at her? You hit her in the eye? Why did you aim for her head? Never aim for the head, honey.”

So, he calms us both down and I apologize profusely to my daughter. She can tell she’s got me now. The Mommy guilt is wafting off of me like 5 day old fish.

But here’s the thing. I have to take her to school tomorrow. I ain’t got a quiet kid. She is about to relate in gut wrenching detail how Mommy popped her in the eye with a Bitty Baby shoe. Her eye is clearly bruised. I am fucked.

I also, at that time, was managing the registry for all those in the state who had been convicted for child abuse and neglect. If the teacher calls in the bruise, she is calling me into….well, me. Double fucked.

So I must do the Mommy walk of shame into the classroom and explain what happened last night in my house. Yes. I have to hang it all out there, since my kid is definitely talking. I get about halfway through the story and burst back into tears.

Em’s teacher hugs me and tells me that it’s all right- every parent in this room has lost it with their kid and done something that they regretted, including her. A hard spanking, an arm grab, a thrown bitty baby shoe. Nobody talks about it, she says, but we all have our moments.

And so, I share with you all. My Moment. My bad, bad mommy moment. And I can assure you; she milks that baby for all it’s worth. If you ever meet her just say “bitty shoe” and watch the story tumble from her mouth.

Originally posted November 2005

Let's call a spade a spade, shall we?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Part of the beauty of being a white American has been that we - as a group - get to "Opt out" of the ugly side of life.

We get to come up with phrases like "It was just a Joke - can't you take a JOKE?" or other elaborate boondoggles that surround issues of race and culture which are designed to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate what is apparent to everyone.

Racism is alive and well - and thriving - in the United States.

Sure, I see it in Montreal too - but this culture has a very different history and so its brand of racism is based on entirely different factors.

When a police dispatcher gets to forward this photo to her police dispatcher friends on their Police email accounts from their Police Computers of "Air Force One"?

Racist. Nope, not freedom of speech. Not a joke. Referring to our President as a Nigger is racist.

Those of us who grew up in America know what he word nigger means. It isn't even as veiled at the term "colored" - nope. It pretty much sets the stage for what one is going to assume is a Racist comment. Really no line of delineation there.

How about this one?

Any guesses? She loves gardening and has planted the first sustainable and organic garden on the grounds of the white house since the Victory gardens?

Noooo. We all know what this means, wink, wink. Because you know - Black people in America were SLAVES...and SLAVES WORKED THE FIELD to make crops for their WHITE MASTERS, thereby contributing to the wealth and status of those white masters at the expense of their own lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Did we mention she is black here? No, of course not. We really mean she just like gardening. Alot.

And because Black American women haven't suffered enough in the way of denigration, lets remind them of the times when they could be raped and lynched for being black. Lets remind them that too many of them are still being raped and that when they call the police dispatcher to report that....Oh yeah. The police dispatchers who forwarded the Nigger email take the call.

Well, it was a JOKE, remember. Geesh, Black people are so thin skinned when it comes to jokes.

A joke like this:

So, a Nigger - complete with bone in Nose and feathered headdress, AND the soviet hammer and sickle. This is quite a nuanced image. But really, its just a joke about health care.

And here's one of my Faves:

Wow, White guys. Imposing the faces of three black men onto KKK members. Not even a veiled try there.

You are collectively scared shitless aren't you? It isn't about socialism - which you wouldn't know if it bit you in the ass since none of you have read the works of Engels or Marx beyond repeating what you hear on talk radio. Its not about health care BEING socialized since many of you are benefiting from Government Health Care through federal health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, the know, all programs the scary government run. Its because a BLACK man - unashamedly Black, with a Black wife and Black children - is running the country. A Black Man - who knows all the innuendos and backstory on all these images being served up since it has quite literally been beaten into the collective memory of African-Americans. A Black man who isn't afraid of you - with your gun toting protests and beet red faces screaming about things you know nothing about except that someone has stirred up the reality that having white skin doesn't make you better than someone else. And then you can quote the "founding fathers" who, lets face it, wouldn't have liked you either as they were traveled men of wealth and learning and you are a crazy mob who blindly repeats things they hear from other terrified white guys.

We are not in a post racial society - and only the deluded and purposely blind white people could tell you that we are. Electing this President doesn't mean we DON'T have to have the conversation that many of us are terrified of having - and not just with other safe white people. Cause we can still call the President a Nigger in private. With our safe white friends. They get the joke after all. We don't need to hide behind jokes and images and pretend ignorance of what symbols and words may or may not be racist.

The election of this President has ripped off a very infected scab on the face of America. People crying about wanting "their America to come back" - just say what you mean. The America where the President looks like YOU. The America where you can pretend that we are well beyond racism. The America where you can forward your funny jokes to one another and no one complains. Well, maybe that while lady who married the black guy and has the bi-racial daughter, but we knew she was a race traitor anyway.

Guess what. That America isn't coming back, and its death rattle is long overdue. It will kick and scream and try to get you to go along with the innuendos and winks. Cause your their friend, right? You look like me - We have the same background, right?

Nope. Some white people have turned in their membership cards at the door, me included. And I would highly warn you to watch your words around the other white people you assume to be part of your club. Because the first one of you to make one of these jokes in front of me ( and yes, there have been fool hardy souls to do so) will have your racist ass verbally handed to them so fast that they won't know what hit them.

Don't rest in peace, racist White America. You are a herpes sore on the ass of a fine country and you have got to go.

Another Mothering Fail

Monday, August 10, 2009

Really it wasn't shocking. This latest incident. Since the incident with the Bitty Baby shoe, I have regularly confessed my less than stellar mom ability. My plan is that if I confess it first, she'll get alot less money for the tell-all book I expect her to someday shop around. At the very least, the therapist can read it as a first hand account from the pages of my blog.

I can go a long time keeping my cool. The medication helps of course, but in general I don't get riled up too often. This made me an excellent teacher of young children. Those nervous teachers never last long with the young ones as it quickly becomes a game of "drive the teacher bat shit nutty".

(Can I get an Amen from the teachers out there?)

Between my calm demeanor and my super awesome "teacher look " ( which also works on Undergraduate students and random co-workers) I can manage most situations with aplomb.
You might even find yourself compelled to apologize to me for unknown reasons after I affix the "look" upon you. Unless you happen to be my child.

If you are my child ( and occasionally my spouse), your ability to ignore the flashing warning sirens and shaking of the rattle on my tail is legendary. If you are my child, your ability to think I am kidding when I say "You need to calm down and listen to my words, you aren't listening to me and I am getting angry" is something to behold.

So what put her so far over the edge that I drove the car around the block a couple of times and then threw her water bottle at her when I finally DID come back?

A Spider.

And not even a big one.

We were leaving for camp/work. Things were going smoothly. Lunch, backpack, dry bathing suit and towel were packed and ready. We got into the car and I began to back out. As in actively driving and looking behind me as I attempted the taunting of death that is pulling out of my driveway. Looking behind me scanning for delivery trucks who will TRY TO KILL ME when she lets out a blood curdling scream, opens the door and throws herself from the slightly moving vehicle.

Ok. So it is true that she scared the shit out of me by leaping out of the car. This is a child who, at age 11, will still sit in the back seat and complain that she can't unbuckle herself. Therefore her speedy and deft ability to free herself from the seatbelt AND get the door open was a surprise.

Now you have two screaming females in the driveway. One in the car - with car halfway out of driveway, the other in the driveway - running away.

I can't recall the exact words I was screaming, but I believe they were several expletives, her name and "Prithee gentle child of mine, what troubles you?" or some other less gentile version of that phrase.

From a good 15 feet away, and with face COVERED in snot/tears, she screams: "SPIIIIIIIDDDDEEEERRRRRR"

Ok. Now I know the enemy. And I spot it. On the door. And it is not a death-leap from car worthy spider. I've seen those kind, and this ain't it.

"Emily. Stop Crying, Get back over here - open the door and knock that spider OUT"

More intense sobbing. Mucous emerging from passages. Some kind of jumbled, hiccuping ball of words is shouted at me. I fix my stare at her.

"Emily Damali" ( Dear lord, the middle NAME is coming out - this is mother speak for you, missy, are in some serious trouble and better get yourself together STAT)

"You find a stick and walk over here, open the door and knock that spider out of the car."

More incoherent mucous mumbling. Did I mention yet that this is all Pre-first cup of coffee? Because it is.

"I swear to you Emily Damali, if you don't knock it off this second, I am driving off without you."

Mind you, the door to the car is still wide open.

From Emily, there is pointing and sobbing and screaming. I back out like the Dukes of Hazard and make my passenger door slam shut. I drive away. Not really, of course. I drive around the block hoping that she will come to her senses and start to breathe again.

I circle the block and pull back into the driveway. She is sitting on the front step. Glaring.
Oh yes, my little jedi. Your teacher look, while good, does not match mine. You scare me not.

"Emily. Get a stick. Get back over here and knock that spider out of the car. It is a teeny tiny fraction of the size of you. Yes. I understand you do not like spiders. However, you need to problem solve this. Now get over here and TAKE CARE OF IT."

There is an edge to my voice. You parents know that edge. Shit, I know the edge from my own mother. It is the "Dear Lord Baby Jesus, do not make me come over there and beat your ass" edge. It is the "I am trying everything in my human power to not completely lose my shit and run through the yard trying to catch you while you scream about spiders" edge.

She stands and first tries to tell me there are no sticks in the yard. I simply stare at her. I mean, come on. If you are going to try to bullshit me, give it a real effort. She find the previously invisible stick and marches back over. Opens the door and throws the stick in the direction of the spider. Which misses the spider completely. Most likely it provided the spider with a cooling breeze as it soared by.

I stare at her. We are now in a battle of wills, my daughter and I. I immediately feel the balance of her teen years hanging before us. Will I be one of those mothers - fixing every problem, smoothing every wrinkle?

Oh No, Mo-fo. You are going to do this if it is the last thing you do. I pick up the water bottle she has tucked in the cup holder. And I am sorry to say, I throw it at her legs. And it makes contact. Thunk. She now has forgotten the danger of the spider. The danger of her mother is in the forefront of her attention.

"HEEEEYYYYY! THAT HURTS!!!" she screams.

I am in full mother rage. Teeth clenched. Nose breathing. Lips pursed. Palms and armpits sweating.

She stares at me. She looks in the back of the car. She looks back at me.

"Can I use your sneaker to get the spider out?"

"Of course. Please. Be my guest."

And in less than 5 seconds, the spider is knocked from the car door and made a "former spider" by a Converse sneaker wielding girl.

She gets in the car. Our silence is deep. Our wrinkle in time not yet corrected.

I drive.

I offer the olive branch with this question:

"What could I have done differently in that situation?" and allow her to criticize my mothering safely - for both of us.

By the time we get to camp, we kiss and I wish her a lovely day.
She lingers. "I love you, Mom."

"I love you too, my brave girl."
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