Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Open Letter to Joe Corbi

Dear Joe Corbi (assuming you are a real person),

I am the harried mother of four (three of them are actual public school fund raising kids), and I would just like to tell you:  1.  I hate fund raising.  2.  I would like you to publish the winners of the flat screen TVs (seriously, who doesn't already have a flat screen TV - our family excluded) and mini-fridges.  And, 3.  I was also wondering if you could lower your expectations a little for next year. 

I'll try to explain my situation to you by way of some history and a time-line and I hope you will understand.

At the end of last school year the kids' school PTA decided it would be more financially advantageous to "get out the pleading early" before all the other schools do.  So, we got our fund raising packets last Friday.  Now, I will preface this letter by saying:  I get it.  I understand the reasoning behind fund raising.  I support our schools.  And, I truly do appreciate the PTA.  That being said, fund raising and the prizes for fund raising make me want to try on teeny tiny bathing suits when I am bloated, and with four kids, lots of mirrors, and bad lighting.  And, frankly, sir - I'd like you to go with us (don't worry - you don't actually have to enter the dressing room with me - although if we don't get our flat screen TV or at least our mini-fridge I might ask you to.)

Here's my timeline to give you an insight into what a mother of four (three of them actually in public school) goes through with fund raising every year (two times a year if we're lucky!).  Just in case you never had friends or kids (just sayin' - it kinda seems like you've never actually had either).

Friday -  The kids get in the car truly giddy and talking in high pitched voices upon receiving their fund raising packets (I am assuming right before lining up to be released so as "not to forget to tell mom the Good News" - and yes, our kids do look like Jehovah Witnesses walking around our neighborhood soliciting).  Here is just a sampling of what they were screeching,




Later Friday - After we got home and they dumped all the trip-licate sheets of order forms, multiple catalogs, Parent Instructions, Helpful Hints for Selling, and Deadlines You Don't Want to Forget (thank you, Joe, for being so thorough) TIMES THREE on my kitchen table, here is a sampling of what they were saying in mostly normal voices, "Okay, we need to just sell 200 + items....Wait, mom is that two hundred or two thousand? get the flat screen TV.  Hmm.  Well, maybe I just want the iTouch."  "Mom, Kaitlyn's mom said she was going to take her packet to work with her and sell all of Kaitlyn's stuff.  Can you do that?  Wait.  Mom, do you work?"  "Mom, it says here the gummy worms cost $140.00.  Or is that $14.00?  Either way it seems like a deal to me."  "Can we play video games now that we were good our first week back to school?"

Sometime Saturday - My oldest spent a little more time researching the prizes being offered by your company.  He figured out (or read) that he needed to sell 75 items to get the coveted mini-fridge.  He then told his sister she needed to sell 200 items to get a flat screen TV.  This is a sampling of their pitiful conversation (spoken in hushed voices). 

Boy - S., I don't think you'll be able to get a TV because I am not sure mom and dad even know 200 people.

Girl - Well, I'm gonna try.

Boy - Yeah, I'm still gonna try for my fridge.  Let's divide up the people we know that we usually sell to.  (They proceeded to divide up our ill-fated neighbors and left no neighbors for Girl 2.  This caused a huge fight later.  I will spare you the details.)  We better start selling now.

In a flurry of activity (kind of resembling Christmas) catalogs were delivered Saturday to a spattering of neighbors (I am sure our neighbors love us even more than they did before and let me tell you - with four kids frequently loud, naked, and throwing balls, bullets, candy wrappers, etc. in other people's yards - we are loved in this neighborhood).  Meanwhile, I started to review the information and figure out what my kids actually had a chance (in Hell) to "earn." 

Saturday evening - I told all the kids how fabulous it would be to earn a 13" Loop Pencil.  Here's what I sounded like (in a loud, excited voice), "Hey guys!  Don't you want a 13" LOOP PENCIL?  How cool is THAT?  You need to sell 1-3 items.  I think we can do that!  That's THREE ITEMS TOTAL.  I am SURE we can do that.  Let's all count on a LOOP PENCIL.  Shall we?"

Sunday - Joe, I am not sure where you live.  But, we live in South Texas.  We are having Extreme Weather and a Stage Three Drought right now.  In case you are not familiar with heat:  Basically, we could cook all the food you are selling on our driveway and your undies stick and slick right to your body each time you step out on your front porch.  IT'S HOT.  So, Sunday afternoon when all my kids decided to go hard core, retrieve their catalogs, place some orders, and get to the business of winning the flat screen TV, I really wish you could have been here.  But, you weren't.  So I had to sit outside and monitor their selling.  It was positively joyful.  They came home sweaty, thirsty and walking slowly, but with orders.  Three each!

Monday evening - They had a group meeting to reassess what they might be able to win.  Again, sample conversation (in somewhat defeated voices).

Boy - Well, it looks like I can't get my fridge.  I am totally asking for one for Christmas.  But, I am still trying for the Cell Phone Scan Radio with Light.

Girl - Yeah.  I am not too sure now about the flat screen.  What IS the Cell Phone thing?

Boy - I am not sure.  I will ask mom.

Girl 2 - I am still asking mom to order the gummy worms.  That's really all I want.  And, I guess I'll take the Cell Phone thing if it has apps.

Yesterday - All of them collectively asked me, "Mom, what's a Cell Phone Scan Radio with Light?"

So, Joe, here I will digress a little and ask you, "What the %$*& is a Cell Phone Scan Radio with Light???"

Last night we were sitting outside melting slowly and monitoring orders and soliciting.  Gradually my three children came back.  Hot and sweaty.  Here is how it went.

Boy - Mom, do you know anymore people?  Do you have anymore friends?

Girl - Are we gonna get the flat screen, mom?  Seriously?  I was thinking we could put all our orders together?  But, if we're not gonna get it, just tell us now.

Girl 2 - Mom, are you gonna ever write down the gummy worm order?

Boy - Are we gonna get to go to the Cookie Party?  Do we really even want to?  'Cuz it's hot and I'm sick of selling.  Also, can you really win money in that box you go in and all the money whirls around?  I'm beginning to think this stuff is just kind of a scam.  I am kind of all for straight donations to the school now.

Me - We are not going to get the flat screen.  I do not have anymore friends.  I am not ordering the gummy worms.  My underwear is stuck to my rear and we need to go inside.  I am writing Joe Corbi a letter tomorrow and I suggest you ask Kaitlyn to let you know how the Cookie Party goes.  Time for bath!

So, Joe that's all I got.  I hope you understand how I feel right now and why I was compelled to write to you.  You seem like a great guy and God knows I love your cinnamon rolls, but seriously 200 items???  Next year can you remember a few things before making your glossy?  We (or as I like to think of us - Average Joe American Family) are not popular (we are too busy having our kids fund raise to make more friends to buy our fund raising crap stuff), we will probably live in the desert by then, and still probably won't have a flat screen.  So, for US, to make it more fun for US, can you put some cool prizes in there?  And please, please, please publish your winners.  I want my kids to know that there really are winners.  There really are people with 200+ friends.  This isn't just a scam. 

Thanks, Joe!  I appreciate it.  And, while you're at it, a box with whirling money for parents just because would be great, too.  :o)

Feeling the love,

Mother of Four (three of them being actual students)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'll Take Parenting for $10,000 or The Honeymoon is OVER

How long, after the school year starts, does it take a third grader to completely meltdown over homework?  THAT is the question that will someday win me a million dollars.  Or at least that's how I like to think of the time I am doing right now in parenting boot camp.  Someday it's gonna payoff.  Big!

For those of you not counting, yesterday was the sixth day of school and that's when it all started to unravel.  And the cause?  Place Value or as I like to say "The Value of Zero".  Huh?  (I know!)  I won't bore you with details.  Here's the Meltdown Recap.  Read it and weep.  Or, if you are a smarty pants, read it and snicker.

Third Grader:  silently sobbing at homework table (which, in our house, looks remarkably like the kitchen table)
Me:  ignoring her
Third Grader:  sobbing more loudly
Me:  ignoring her
Third Grader:  excessively loud huffy breath and then a full-blown sob/scream
Me:  ignoring her
All other children (including the two year old):  MOM!  ARE YOU LISTENING!  S. is SCREAMING and we can't do our homework.  MAKE HER BE QUIET!

Did I ever tell you how my home is like a bastion of compassion?  It is.

Me:  in my frighteningly calm voice:  S. are you okay?  What's wrong?
Third Grader:  in her equally frightening quiet voice:  Hm. hm. hm umph. hm. hm.
Me:  What?
Third Grader:  Hm. hm. umph. hm. hm. hm.
Me:  WHAT?
Third Grader:  My homework is too hard.
Me:  going to homework table and looking at her homework - which is place valueHard place value.  Hmm.  Well, when something is hard for us, does crying and throwing a fit help?  (Thinking - Yes.  Yes, it does.)
Third Grader:  No.
Me:  Well, what might help?  (Thinking - chocolate - preferably dark.  And a beer.  Preferably light.)
Third Grader:  Looking at the example?
Me (after glancing at the first question:  In the number 2,467,985,470,887,476 the underlined number has what value?):  Yes!  I think that will help.  (Thinking - Gosh, I hope so.)

So, that's pretty much it.  We muddled through place value (With me frequently consulting the examples and my third grader assuring me that her teacher would tell her if I had done it wrong on Tuesday.  Thank you, teacher!).  My third grader was pretty sure there was a difference between "0" and "0,000,000."  I argued that I was pretty sure zero meant zero.  We ended in a stalemate.  Teacher will decide today who is right. 

Aside from the fact that I started dinner wondering if I am smarter than a THIRD GRADER, I am pretty sure it ended well.  I thought the value of zero was zero, but I could be wrong.  Nothin' like some third grade teacher who is half my age to make me call into question everything I have ever known about place value.  At least I still have a game show future.  If you are a Math Person (guess who's not), feel free to weigh in - and by that I do not mean chastising me for being Not Smarter Than A Third Grader. 

Hope you are surviving The Beginning of School, and if not - take heart, eat some dark chocolate, and drink a light beer.  You'll be better for it.

Yours truly,

I Miss Summer

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Undying Love and Amazon Cloud or Nothing As Sweet As the First Time

Now you may be thinking you are about to read a post about hot steamy ah-hem, but 1.  Get your mind outta the gutter, and 2.  You should know by now that I am freakishly prudish and would never write about that.  No, today's post is going to be about how I found love in technology after 20+ years with my polar opposite and how you can, too.  I know, not nearly as exciting, but you're stuck with it.

Let me just give you some of my quick marriage history in case you are "new".  I have known my husband since ninth grade.  I have known that we are as opposite as Bono and Barry Manilow for about that long, too.  So, naturally when hubby wants me to try things, do things, listen to music he likes, and generally do what he likes to do it is perfectly natural that.......I would rather poke my eyes out with sharp sticks.  That being said, we have been married longer than Abraham, so we have found a way to work that.  That brings us to about a year ago when he started asking me if I thought I might like to listen to music while I am running.  And my immediate response was, ""  He said, "Well, just think about it."  And then later (after I'd had about 5 minutes to think about it) I said, "I think I'd rather run with heavy weights on my ankles."

Remember I said opposite?  This guy listens to music from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep (notice I did not say bed because he goes to bed with ear buds).  I really don't care to listen to music most of the time (unless I am, say, ON THE DANCE FLOOR).  It's not that I don't like music.  I do.  I have favorite bands, I try to stay current so as not to embarrass my children, and I can even (on occasion) tell you who sings a song (as long as the singer is prolific like Madonna or Prince or Ozzy not someone obscure or someone who can be easily confused with someone else like Madonna, Prince, or Ozzy), but other than that you can usually find me doing something else.

Hubby is also a repository of Music Trivia.  And when I say, "He's good."  I mean, "He's good like Google or"  A million years ago when we were dating he made me mix tapes all the time which I listened to.  Nowadays I just use him for his infinite knowledge.  I have been known to ask him at odd times (shouted from the bathroom, texted from my phone while I am grocery shopping, right before I fall asleep, right when I wake up), "Hey, babe, who sings that song blah, blah, blah."  Now, remember I am no music connoisseur so often times my questions go specifically something like, "Hey, babe, who sings that song that says something about a girlfriend and a month of the year, but I can't remember which one, I think it was in winter, and it's kind of like a disco dance remix and his voice kind of sounds like he's talking like a robot?"

And I KID YOU NOT (you would actually have to witness this - and some have - to believe it) hubby will cock his head slightly to the left, question me a little (Oh could you mistake it for say the B52's?  And does it also say something about sentimental?  To which I will say "Um, yeah, right.'), and then you can almost hear this clicking sound in his brain and then he'll say, "Yeah, I think that's blah, blah, blah.  I think I have that right here."  At which point he will grab his iTouch, iPad, phone, whatever and click some more and I am HEARING THE SONG.  It's like uncanny and the most magic I usually see in a week.

Incidentally this is number #547 of why I am still married to him.  (I make this list in my head - so it's #1 to you.)

So, as you may have guessed a few weeks after he asked me if I wanted to listen to music while running, he bought me an armband thingie and made me a 2011 "mix tape" called a "Playlist."  That was about six months ago and today (since I am half-assedly training for a third-marathon) I decided to give that thing a whirl.  I found some ear buds, strapped on that armband thingie and set off to run.

Keep in mind I've been a runner for longer than I've known hubby and today was the first day I have ever run with music.  Until today I truly thought I would prefer to run and just think (we all know how much I love to do that).  I also have been known to use this time to pray (before you snicker, just know I might be saying a rosary for you and if you are one of my faithful readers you probably need a rosary said for you).  Well, let's just say you might need to get your own connection with The Almighty now  because I might be addicted to running with music.

Because I love you and I want to share the deep and personal experience I had this morning of being in love and knowing that I married right, I am going to allow you an intimate view of my personal life.  No, it's not a video camera in the bedroom - it is a look at My RunRun Playlist incredibly NOT made by me, but made by hubby (that's where the love and marriage counseling come in)!  Consider it an early Christmas gift from me to you and you can thank me later.

I am linking these up so that if you already know the song you can jam out to it, and if you don't know the song you can consider broadening your horizons just a wee bit.

Here goes, run along with me:

1.  Gold Digger Kayne West Ft. Jamie Foxx.  Now before you start preaching to me about Kayne West, let me just tell you I LOVE THIS SONG.  Hubby knows my overall feelings about Kayne, but he also knows that I love this song.  I would NEVER have met this song if it weren't for him.  Thank you hubby.  We are off to a great start.
2.  Gold Watch Lupe Fiasco.  So, here's the thing about my husband.  He knows me THROUGH and THROUGH.  He knows that I love Lupe Fiasco (could be because I say it a lot), but here's the thing:  My FAVORITE song is The Show Goes On.  Hubby knows this which is why he didn't put that song on there (or at least that is what I am telling myself as I am well into my second hill).  He put a different song on there that is equally grand if not better so that I can broaden my horizons.  I LIKE your thinking, babe.
3.  Heaven Los Lonely Boys.  Now this song just takes me back.  It's a little slow for running, but I can see hubby thinking of me while he downloaded this song onto my playlist. 
4.  Hi-Definition (feat. Snoop Dogg and Pooh E).  Oh, man.  Just click the song.  Lupe and Snoop???  Heaven.
5.  Paradise City Guns N' Roses  As soon as this started playing I actually may have forgotten that I was running.  Now, this just proves that hubby is an oldie but a goodie.  AND I will let you in on a teensy secret that few have been lucky enough to witness:  Hubby does a MEAN Axle dance impersonation.  Picturing this actually made me sprint.
6.  Red Red Wine UB40.  So, this could be hubby's only Mix Tape Faux Pas and I blame it on him not actually being a runner.  This song could have actually slowed me down and I am pretty sure it made me want to go home and smoke a.........cigarette.
7.  Rapper's Delight.  Sugarhill Gang.  Oh my.  I almost cried when this song came on!  If you are not a runner - play this song and you almost will HAVE to run.  "Ho-tel, mo-tel Holiday Inn..."  Tell me that doesn't make you wanna run???  Hubby, I think I love you.
8.  Rehab.  The late Amy Winehouse.  Wow.  I almost felt like saying a rosary when this came on.  Who knew she'd be dead when I played this song on my mix tape???  It was creepy and spiritual all at the same time.
9.  Ride With Me.  Nelly.  MUST BE THE MONEY.  Love.  This.  I did feel a little like smoking again though.  Just sayin'.
10.  Run Around.  Blues Traveler.  Totally unexpected after Nelly.  Great move, babe.  You know just how to mix it up! 

Okay.  That's not all, but that's all I'm gonna give you.  I did run for one hour and fifteen minutes after all and I don't want to totally bore you.  Just know that when I was literally BREAKING DOWN.  Saint of Me by the Rolling Stones came on.  Hubby must know that Mick Jagger is possibly the only man that could make me keep running when my knees are screaming, "STOP or we are QUITTING."  Before you leave me a comment saying that this may be just like a date night and not a true key to a Happy Marriage.  Dont' worry!  I have already thought of that.  I know that tomorrow when I hear UB40 I may actually be annoyed.  But, that's where the second part of the title comes in.  I will always think back to the first time I heard the Playlist and I will have to smile because hubby loves me!

So, if want to stay married more than 20 years I have just a little advice for you.  Get out there and make your spouse a mix tape.  Or, if it's your spouse that's the music addict tell him/her you want a mix tape.  And then start running or doing whatever you do.  That's all I got for today.  Happy Mixin'!  And, you can thank me later for saving your marriage.  ;o)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Not New Year's, but I'm Ready for a Resolution

So, I am not quite sure why, but I feel like some resolutions.  August 25th?  Could be I'm ready for the New Year?  Don't know.  Don't care.  Here are my August 25th Resolutions (don't worry - there aren't many):

1.  Throw some useless crap away daily.  Or at least ask hubby's permission to do so.  It's HARD living in just under 2000 square feet (and no, that's not a typo) with six people who are growing daily (not me - hopefully - my kids). 
2.  To SLOWLY make my house cozier and to like my areas more daily.  I HATE to decorate and I suck at it.  But, I am learning and I can make small adjustments on my own.
3.  To read something great everyday.
4.  Learn to make more yummy drinks (not just alcoholic - but those, too).
5.  Do more with photos.

Okay, that's it.  How did I measure up today? 
  • Hung a papercutting done by my very talented sister about 2 years ago in my niche and made my niche look how I have wanted it to look for years.  I took a photo of it to show you, but I can't download it to my new Toshiba.  Damn.  Will try to fix that later (after I shower - which incidentally was added to my list for today - thank me later ;o).
  • Made a stack of about 10 periodicals for hubby to recycle or MOVE out of my space.
  • Started The Reader by Bernhard Schlink and read some of my favorite blogs (I have many, many more but I am on a schedule damnit).
  • Made a great pot of tea with my new favorite tea maker from IKEA  One Decaf tea bag (any brand will do), two raspberry Celestial Seasoning bags, and a dash of ginger.  Pour very hot water in the pot and brew for five minutes.  Serve immediately over lots of ice.  Oh, yummy.
 Wish me luck and hope you are surviving the new school year!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CLEP study guide for parent orientation

Last night marks the third time I have been "oriented" to being a parent of a second grader.  Thursday night I will be oriented to third grade for the second time, and later this year I will be First Communion parent oriented for the third time (Catholics are harsh ).  And, as I was sitting there intrigued and fascinated, I  thought about CLEPping.  Remember that?  Maybe you are going through it now, or maybe you are old enough to have a child going through it.  I remember it from high school Spanish.  And I remember experiencing CLEPping again for college math courses.  For those of you inexperienced with it - it's when you can just take a test in order to "CLEP" out of a subject that presumably you already know.  Officially CLEP stands for:  College Level Entrance Program. 

So, as I'm sitting there last night learning how to make sure my second grader is doing her math facts in the appropriate amount of time I stumbled on what could be my million dollar idea.  (Good news, eh?  I was tempted to text hubby during his Important Work Meeting - which prevented HIM from attending said orientation - to let him know.)  My idea was/is - why not have presumably knowledgeable parents take a Parent Orientation CLEP for each elementary grade level???  Now, I know what you are thinking....but, Monica, IS there a CLEP for Parent Orientation?  Well, that's where the idea comes in! I decided to design one!  I am starting with second grade since I figure I know that pretty well now.  Lucky you - you can get in on the ground floor and read my rough draft today (aren't you happy you got up and stumbled over to your laptop?).  Here it goes (let me know what you think)...

CLEP for Parents of Second Graders (correct answers to follow - you will need to turn your laptop upside down)

1.  True or false:  Parents must actually review their child's homework before signing off on it for the entire week and sending it back to school.

2.  True or false:  The second grade teacher likes it when you never check your child's Take Home and Leave At Home folder in order to remove graded papers so that by Labor Day the folder is bursting to the brim and a new folder must be purchased.

3.  True or false:  A progress report can be like a swift kick in the pants was in the Old Days Before Progress Reports.

4.  Multiple Choice:  Homework for a second grader should take approximately:
a.  The amount of time it takes to pull each of the hairs out of mom's head one by one.
b.   5 hours after the screaming subsides OR until their favorite after school program comes on TV.
c.  As long as it takes mom to figure out what the heck a prepositional clause is.
d.  a. and b., but not c. limited clause on d.

5.  True or false:  Cafeterias nowadays accept all forms of credit but not actual cash.  Actual cash will wind up in a mysterious place known as "I don't know what happened to it."  And mom will end up owing the cafeteria $1,892.98 at the end of the year for one lunch (that wasn't even very healthy because Jamie Oliver hasn't been to our school yet).

6.  True or false:  Library books and textbooks are the property of the school and should they be lost or damaged see #6. for the cost to parent.

7.  True or false:  Student attendance at school is critical for learning at school to occur.
Author's Note:  This seems like a giveaway to me, but at least five minutes is spent each year covering the importance of attendance.

8.  True or false:  Should your child be legitimately sick you must write a note explaining in detail the sickness (not just He/She was sick.).  Example:  "Please excuse Johnny.  He was sick with projectile vomiting and diarrhea causing me to scrub the floors till you could eat off them, wash the sheets which hadn't been washed in weeks, and bathe the dog."  Parent must sign note in blood.

Author's Note:  If it seems like I am shouting on #9...I am.

10.  True or false:  Your kids' public school teacher does an often thankless, underpaid job and usually loves your kid as much (and sometimes more) than you do and you should try and be nice to her or bake her some cookies sometime or send her a gift card.
That's my CLEP test!  Let me know how you think you did.  If you are worried that you didn't do too well, no worries:  I will be publishing a study guide soon.  (I decided against publishing the answers here upside down - you can send me $10 and I'll send you the correct answers - big ideas ain't cheap.) 

Happy Hump Day and Happy Parent Orienting,

Quitting the Day Job

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back In The Saddle...or at least on the farm

Hello, friends.  It's been about...oh....since JUNE since I've blogged.  I do not have a great explanation for my absence (four kids 24/7, needy husband, vacation plans, cooking, cleaning, laundry, blah, blah, blah), but I am going to try to make it up to you.  After being gone for so long, I was soooooo tempted to just roll up my blog and go home, but instead I have decided to persist and write what I got!  Not Pulitzer Prize, but here it goes...

Random Thoughts on the Second Day of School 2011

1.  5:45 a.m. rolls around fast when you go to bed at 11:30 p.m.
2.  My children who were positively giddy about getting up the first day of school were not nearly so excited about it the second day of school.
3.  It doesn't take long for procrastination to rear its ugly head when you are alone in your house with a napping two year old.
4.  The two year old will actually nap when her older three siblings are GONE.
5.  There are a few things eight year olds can get away with that adults just can't.  Example:  Smelling armpits incessantly to see if you need deodorant yet.
6.  My nine year old boy has taken a sudden interest in what I am wearing every time we are headed out of the house.  To said nine year old boy:  Thank you, I can dress myself.  I have been doing it for over 30 years (well over).
7.  Coffee with a friend after First Day of the New School Year Drop Off did work well to ward off tears for a short time.
8.  It may be time to put more than three things on the to-do list since I am finding I can get them all done with only one child by 8:30 a.m.
9.  Showering may be put on the list again.
10.  Summer 2011 was hands-down the BEST summer yet and I am blessed to have experienced it.
11.  Call me nuts, but the end of another summer and the beginning of another school year remains a bittersweet time for me.  I am happy that we are moving forward and I am sad that we are one year closer to separation.

In the vein of the great Alcoholics Anonymous I will not say I am back to blogging.  I will be cautious and say instead I am back to blogging today!  I recognize I could fall off the wagon again at any time.

Here's to a Happy School Year 2011, friends!  :o)