Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Punkgirl's Back

     I got a call from the school guidance counselor on Thursday, which is generally never a good thing.  Imagine my surprise when he was calling to tell me that Punkgirl was doing so well in her 7th grade math class that the teacher recommends moving her up to the next level.  As my proud mama chest swelled to its high point, 3 things clicked in my head:

1.  Punkgirl had had a tough couple of weeks at school.  An issue with another child (who was harassing her non-stop) had culminated with the school canceling an outreach program that had allowed the girls to volunteer in the Special Needs program.  The official reason was that there were too many children volunteering for such a small group; but the teacher had let slip that there was too much of an issue between the two girls.  A meeting with the school administration had assured us that Punkgirl was not at fault, and she was issued an apology for the comment.

2.  She was already taking 2 advanced classes--English and Social Studies, which required loads of extra work.

3.  Math was not her strong suit.  She was doing well in it because it was at a nice, comfortable pace, and she was a perfectionist.  If I moved her, would she be so stressed about potentially getting a B that I would be kicking myself?

     Two sentences caught my ear, and they settled the issue for me.  "We would have to move her social studies slot." 
     More changes for my routine-thriving tween.  
     "And you know, there will be the added benefit of not being in the same class as J."

     Wait a minute.  Rewind to last week, before my meeting with the administration, where the Vice Principal--much to his later chagrin--suggested we move MY daughter so they wouldn't be in the same class, and I made him understand instantly that I wasn't moving my daughter when she wasn't the one causing the problem.

     I decided to talk it over with Punkgirl.  As I suspected, she did not want to move from her usual Social Studies AND Math classes. I feel like we challenge our children a lot, and while in some cases it is a great thing, I just think in this case it is too much.  I plan to call the school with my decision today...but my question is, knowing what you now know, would you hold your child back from the more challenging class? 

(Previously posted on BlogHer as "Would You Hold Your Child Back?")

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Grass Is Always Greener

     Next week I start a part time job.  It's two days a week, and it will take the financial strain off of our family.  It's something I know has to be done...and yet I am completely torn up inside.
     When I began my first blog, "Suck At Home Mom's Cranky Blog", it was to get out the frustration of being tied to home after years in the workforce, and to overcome the feeling of being "less than."  There were no evaluations of my performance, no raises for a job well done, etc.  As the months wore on, I called myself the "Stuck At Home Mom", because I felt like there would be no opportunity for me to contribute to society while nursing this little terror I call Rose.
     It's only now, as I face the daunting and emotionally draining task of re-entering the workforce, that I realize how good I had it.  Rose is high-maintenance, in every sense of the word.  She's incredibly smart, and therefore has to be constantly challenged or she starts building ladders out of stuffed animals to climb over the safety gate.  She's fully attached to breastfeeding, so she requires the boob more than I would think necessary at nine months old. And she hates to be alone, so when I leave the room to go pee she stands at the gate and cries, only to laugh when I come back.
     But I know all of those things, and we have a routine, and we have an unspoken agreement (since she only says "Dada", "Hi", "Mama", "Kittykitty" and "Up") that she give me lots of smiles and pictures to compensate for this high-pressure job of being her caretaker.  On Tuesday, that all ends.  My mother, who is a wonderful, caring, amazing grandmother somehow scares the crap out of Rose.  My other children, knowing that Nanna is the best spoiler in the world, find this both amusing and baffling, but all it does for me is wonder if I'm making a colossal mistake.  I'm about to unleash her high-maintenance-ness on my 68 year old Mom with a heart condition, knowing that Rose will probably scream her head off for the first few weeks.  I'm about to put Rose under the care of a loving and wonderful but to her scary grandparent.  My heart is breaking, and yet I know of no alternative.
     I can't seem to make money online.  I am in the middle of writing a book (yes, I really am), but it has nothing to do with what I blog about and it's not even close to completion--and if it were, I certainly have no money to have it published. I am grateful to be able to have this job...but I worry that for me to suddenly be gone 8 1/2-9 hours for two days per week is going to destroy our breastfeeding relationship (because even though I'm trying to gradually substitute the mid-day ones, there really is not enough time to properly wean her.)  It's a catch-22, and I know--the grass is always greener.  It should seem like the best of both worlds...but I worry worry worry.  The date is drawing nearer, and I am dreading it.  Have you had to make this decision?  What did you choose, and how did you accomplish it?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Trying to Change the World

This was previously posted ok BlogHer as "Never Stop Trying To Change The World

     Last night I attended Open House at Punkgirl's school.  She had reminded me at least four times to visit room 205, the classroom where she helps out the Special Needs program.  She has been working with the program since last year, when another child had introduced her to it, and from the first moment it has been her niche.
     She taught herself sign language over the summer, making sure that she would be able to communicate with all of the children this year.  She was thrilled when a child who never remembers names remembered hers. And she has as a screensaver a picture of her with the kids in the program, captioned "My Second Family."
     So imagine my horror last night, when the Assistant Principal told me they were ending the program that allowed the students to help out in the Special Needs program.  His reason seemed plausible enough, that they had four teachers and only a handful of students, so they didn't need the helpers.  But it didn't ring true, in light of the fact that another child had been harassing my child just last week, and that both she and Punkgirl help out in the SN program.  Never mind that the other girl had given Punkgirl a nasty note last year that threatened "If you show your lesbian ass in there again I will out you."  PG handled that by outing herself, and continuing her assistance in the program.
     Never mind that the teachers had told her that they were 100 percent supportive of her, and that she was their favorite helper.
     Never mind that they told her that the program was a "safe space" for her.
     Never mind that she is one step away from depression, and that one step is this program.
     This morning I called the school to discuss this with them, and to give the guidance counselor a heads up, and I got the Asst. Principal.  Without getting rude, there is a reason he is the Assistant.  While I tried to communicate the importance of the program to my daughter, she was busy calling me on the other line.  She was in tears.
     When I spoke to her, I found out that the teacher had told her that because of the "problems" between her and the other child, they weren't going to be allowed to attend any more.
     I exploded.  I was enraged.  I am ok with doing what is best for a program.  I would even be ok--infuriated, but ok--if the Assistant Principal had told me the night before that there were just too many issues, or if it was the only way to keep the girls away from each other. But he had not said that, so I had had no chance to prepare my child, and to let her know that SHE was not the problem.  Because she wasn't.
     Coffeeguy insisted on coming with me to the school, and I will forever be grateful.  My words were jumbled into a maelstrom inside my head, but his were not.  In concise terminology he conveyed disapproval, discontent, and disdain to the Principal and AP, that they had not only poorly communicated, poorly executed, and poorly managed this situation, but that they had done right by none of the children.  As one administrator started to say that they had to do right by the kids in the special needs program, he countered that---by yanking the volunteers out he was disrupting their schedule, and confusing them--"where are my friends that came to visit me every day?"  When they tried to say the school system "was not so poor that they needed students to work with the children in the special needs program", I countered with "But it's clearly so poor that it can no longer offer volunteer opportunities that allow the children to feel as if they are helping their community?  Thus keeping them from spending that time getting into trouble?" (This was my one, pointed, coherent addition to the argument.)  Coffeeguy ran that meeting like a board meeting, and he was the CEO.  We agreed that the best interests of the program have to come first, but that instead of handling it properly it was basically a giant clusterfuck.  The only credit I can give is that the Principal did offer to speak to Punkgirl about safe spaces in the school.  He plans to address the communication issues, and the implementation of other programs to allow the children to volunteer.
     So now, instead of waiting for her to come home and tell me what a great day she had with the kids in the program, she came home and cried in my arms.  My brave 12 year old, who never cries, and who has had to cry far too many times in Middle School.
      Coffeeguy had told the Principal not to be surprised to get a strongly worded response from Punkgirl in a letter about the removal of the program. She may not like the decision, but she'll agree to it--even if she'll also never stop trying to change it. She is doing that as I write, with the admonishment to be respectful, if succinct.  She is unhappy, she is devastated, she is sick about it.  But she'll never stop trying to change the world.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Did Not Marry My Best Friend

15 years ago today I did NOT marry my best friend. You read that right.

-The man I married didn't know my ups and downs, my neurotic tendencies, and he didn't know when to just go with them the way a best friend does.
-The man I married didn't know how quiet I get when I'm upset, so he couldn't badger me to tell him what's wrong the way a best friend does.
-The man I married couldn't encourage his best friend to write, because he hadn't yet learned how much I love to do so.
-The man I married didn't know how to hold my hand through heartache, or how to hold my gaze in joy.
-We didn't have kids, so I couldn't admire the way he protects them, and engages them, and he couldn't admire the way I do the same.
-The man I married didn't know how to tell me the things that bother him, or how to work through things that bother me.
-I had never seen the man I married sing in his off-key voice just to soothe his baby, so I couldn't completely adore that.
-The guy I married didn't play guitar, so he couldn't be patient and teach me so we could play together.
-The man I married didn't know that I like to dance, so he couldn't muster up the courage to dance at least one dance at every wedding just so his best friend could be happy.
-The man I married didn't know how much I love tea, so he didn't bring me a cup every morning just to be nice.
-I didn't know the man I married liked cheap beer, so I couldn't tease him about it the way buddies do.
-The man I married didn't know that I like cheap EVERYTHING, because I'm what my father liked to call thrifty.
-I didn't know the guy I married would become Clark Griswold, making each of our family vacations a trip into a magical land.
-The guy I married didn't value my keen sense of direction, not yet having gotten lost so many times in Disneyland.
-The man who married me did make me laugh...but he didn't know the way I can be "air-tickled" and that puns make me giddy the way besties know.
-The man I married couldn't lean on me as much as I lean on him, the way best friends do.
-The man I married didn't know how to share things with me, the deepest secrets that best friends share.

The man I married was not my best friend.  He was only a shadow of the man he would become.  Today I AM married to my best friend, my confidante, my love.   Happy 15 years, baby, and thank you for becoming my best friend. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Priorities of a 5th Grader

     Last night was the Open House for my son's 5th grade class.  I was annoyed about having to go, because I've been to it before for my daughter and because they do the same thing every year, but I knew Happyboy would be sad if I went to his sister's Open House and not his, so I sucked it up and made my way to the Elementary School.  
     I always feel out of place--when I worked I had no time to donate to the school, and when I stopped working I had Rose, so I still couldn't spend time in the classrooms.  I am awful at small talk, and my kids have a few friends in the neighborhood--but not actually ones that go to their schools (they have friends at their schools, but they are not the same ones that are in our neighborhood.)  This means that I really don't know the other parents, the teachers don't always recognize my face, and I spend my time looking down at my kid's desk feeling like the nerd with no friends.  
     There is always a "surprise" from your child on said desk.  A letter, a question, something you have to respond to so you can't even lie and go to Target and just say you went to Open House.  This year each child wrote their 5th grade goal, and each parent responded with their goals for the child.  Now, I know schoolwork is not high on Happyboy's priority list, but I assumed he could fake it for the teacher.  Below is his goal paper and my response to it: 

     As you can see, he's a TMNT fan.  He's also more interested in art and music than any other subject.  I was almost angry, but in the end, it was so him, I could only laugh.  Trust my boy to leave something to take my mind off of being a nerd.  Happyboy, I hope you rock fifth grade.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

10 Things You Should Know About Breastfeeding

1.  Your baby will suck.  I don't just mean physically.  You will be torn between feeling your natural love for her and wanting to give her to the first Gypsy you see.  For free.
2.  You'll do it wrong.  A lot.  And since she can't tell you why she's screaming or not sleeping or pooping out that sickly sweet-smelling poop, you won't even KNOW you're doing it wrong.
3.  Your baby will be dumb.  That's right, I said it.  After feeding PERFECTLY when she came out of your womb, she'll forget how to nurse.  She'll FORGET. HOW TO NURSE.
4.  You will be dumber.  You still won't understand what you're doing wrong, and you'll absolutely hate it, but you'll refuse to give in and give her the bottle you know would be easier.
5.  Your baby will be a tyrant.  "I want the boob, right now, in the middle of Market Basket.  NOW, MILK BITCH, NOW."
6.  You WILL be the milk bitch, and Market Basket employees will think you're stealing something under that blanket (or if your baby is like Rose, who refuses any kind of cover and rips it off, the Market Basket employees will either admire your rack or be scandalized at the sight of your suddenly bare nipple.)
7.  Your baby will shit on all of your dreams.  Well, ok, not your dreams.  Just your sheets, your baby clothes, your pajamas, and your pillow.  Breast milk poop stains are almost impossible to get out.
8.  You will become a crack addict.  A breastfeeding crack hormone addict.  Did you know your body releases feel good hormones as you breastfeed?  You will hate it, but the bf crack hormone will keep you coming back for more.
9.  You'll be signed up for gymnastics.  Because your baby will feed standing up, upside down, over your shoulder, or however she wants.
10.  You'll become a boob expert.  Because nobody knows boobs like someone who has to use them for work, pleasure, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, comfort, and pain.  Pain because breast infections, cracked nipples, biting, pinching, and weaning all hurt.
11. (I know, I said 10, but sometimes I can't count--because I'm up all freaking night long.) You will, believe it or not, as much as you might hate it at first, miss it when it ends.  You have been the sole sustainer of a human life, and as much as I'm not into all that earthy-crunchy crap, you have made a difference in the life of a child.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breaking Promises

     We were supposed to end the summer with a big goodbye, by repeating the best reward from all the summer challenges.  Punkgirl and Happyboy voted on dinner at the beach, which was pretty fun the first time around, is something you can really only do in summer (unless you want sand in your eyes and don't want to go in the water at all), and was cheap enough to fit into my non-existent budget.
     When the Tuesday before school came around there was just no way we could do it.  Coffeeguy had to work late, Rose had been up all night, and I had no sandwich bread or anything feasible to transport to the beach.  At 4:30 there were thunderstorms.  We told the kids we would make it the first day of school celebration, and had a movie night instead.  They fought over the movie, finally agreed on one, and only mentioned not going to the beach about 7 times.  
     On Wednesday, Coffeeguy had two people out at work, and he would probably be late.  Although he made it home by 5, I had already had the conversation that we couldn't go today (complete with angry accusations of "you said TODAY.)  The weather was supposed to be much better by the weekend.  We said Friday.
     Punkgirl was pissed enough to go to the INTERIM guidance counselor (hers was on maternity leave) to tell them how upset she is that she didn't get to go have dinner on the beach.  I was pissed enough that she was pissed that I spat out "Life doesn't always go the way we want it to! You deal with it and move on!"
     Friday it was freezing.  Knowing the pissy response I was going to get at the idea of not going, we gave them a choice:  We can go today, and not swim, or go tomorrow, and POTENTIALLY swim.  It was going to be 15 degrees higher tomorrow, and more than likely warm enough for them to go in the water.
     Cue the sulking faces and the pouty behavior.  As they sat down to watch the Goonies (which you can't help but laugh at, which is why we picked it) with popcorn and candy (having replaced Beach Dinner with another Movie Night) I began to analyze Punkgirl's reactions to postponing the trip.  We didn't do that often, and I found myself getting increasingly angry that she was all bad moody because I had to move ONE of the 90 activities I had planned that summer.  Sometimes things can't be set in stone, sometimes we have to be flexible, sometimes we just damn well can't do them at all---
     In the midst of my mental tirade I figured it out.  I wasn't angry with Punkgirl for being disappointed that we had to move our plans to another night.  I was mad at myself, for making her upset enough to go to a virtual stranger to settle her thoughts down.  I had parents who were divorced, and there were times where my father didn't show up after we waited anxiously all day.  My mother would say he had to work.  I remember being mad or upset, and my poor mother could never tell me that Dad couldn't take us today because she smelled alcohol on his breath.  I saw it as a broken promise, that Dad didn't want to spend time with us, that he had to work too much.
     Even as an adult, when my relationship with my Dad was great, and I talked about how awesome he was, my mother never told me why he couldn't make it on those days.  It wasn't until a few years after he had passed that she let on how tough it had been.
     Neither I nor Coffeeguy were alcoholics, and we weren't divorced.  Our broken promises were caused by inconvenience and weather.  I realized that Punkgirl was feeling the same way I had felt, like Mom & Dad just didn't want to spend time with her.  I felt awful.  So I decided, then and there, that I would make up for it.  We not only would go to the beach on Saturday, we would have dinner, they would swim and I would call their favorite cousins who live near the beach for an added surprise. We would bring the leftover candy from movie night.  It would be worth the wait, it would be fantastic, and it would change my "broken promise" into a fulfilled one.