out of sync

As so often happens in my life.  I’m out of sync.  I’ve been working for my chosen mayoral candidate like I’m getting paid, I’m encouraging voters like, I dunno, it’s a right people have DIED for and then I see this:  Only 16% of LA voters voted.  It’s not just the mayors race I was keen on.  The school board race is darn important and a battle between entrenched LAUSD ( a behemoth) and parental choice.  Comic and former co worker John Fugelsang recently twittered “If you supported the Iraq War you don’t have a right to complain about the deficit.” Here, here. If you live in LA  and you complain about city services, pot holes, the schools, and you didn’t vote SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE.

Don’t tell me candidates don’t talk about what they would really do to solve problems.  Yes, they do.  I was front and center, and not looking that good, the day after the election.

from LA Daily News

Eric Garcetti came in first, but didn’t get 50% of the vote so he and Wendy Greuel now have a run off for May 21st.  Sure, he starts with general campaign stuff, but then did get into specifics  ( I’m sure it’s the same for all the candidates).  On TV that night they only showed a quick clip of him saying something general.

Do parents understand that the school board makes choices that directly affect their children’s schools? That even if you don’t have children you have a stake in how our future generations are educated? In other cities they must.  Chicago has 48% for city elections.  One of my picks was defeated, one won and the other Antonio Sanchez is in a run off.  I do not live in his district, but I still go and hear him speak and wrote a little check for the dude and while I did I yammered on about changes I wanted to see to the school system.  Do you think they listen to people who don’t show up, knock on doors or write checks ( not Bloomberg money here, probably enough to get some subs for hungry volunteers)?  Why would they?

In this country people have died trying to vote.  In other countries they still do.  It’s your responsibility to be educated about the issues and the politicians.   If candidates seem to have a narrow scope it could because they are targeting the handful of people who come out to vote, unions and old people.

In LA everyone else is too busy complaining about the pizza and pining for snow.  Be where you are, live where you live.

 

This is why you should cook for people

So few people cook that if you do they will think you are a rock star.

They will talk about how good your cooking is.

Especially if it’s a pot luck.

Rex’s school said they were doing a community night. Now, none of us parents really understood what that was.  I had been cajoling the room parent ( a dad, thankfully who gets acerbic humor) that we needed  a wine night for the parents to bond.  I’ve been down this road and after pre school the parents aren’t as much fun.  Let’s hang out while we still like each other.  But, this community night threw off our planned wine-o night.  Well, that’s okay, I’m sure it’s a chance for them to tell us how genius our kids are when they finger paint or some profound reflection about blocks.  Don’t we all want to hear that stuff? So we all trekked into the teeny, tiny classroom per instructed and brought something to eat or drink, per instructions.  I made a savory tart.

However, it was really a wine-o night in a teeny, tiny preschool room with teeny tiny seats.  One of the teachers was there, but there was no slide show about development or where they were going to go to college.  The parents are a great bunch and we did all enjoy the gab, but it would have BETTER to have been in full sized chairs. Also, there were only a few bottles of red wine brought ( my kingdom for a dry white) and when one latecomer brought in a  bottle after all the others had been drained, the opener had vanished.  I snuck into another group of captive parents to grab theirs. 

I hurt for them.  They were in the teeny tiny chairs IN A CIRCLE. No chance for sex jokes in that set up. They looked glum.  I ran back to my room.  ”Ha, ha, the Dolphin room ( names changed to protect the innocent) is in a circle”

“suckers”  jeered one dad. As I tore into the last remaining bottle.  Back off I yelled, in my head, it’s all for me!

So, the other issue is the FOOD.  One other mom made meatballs, good choice.  There was a cheese plate on a dish that wasn’t level, so when you went to the cut the cheese (no fart joke intended) it kept flopping over.  There was a couple of other things in PACKAGES.  In some cases, not out of their packages. How appetizing. No one touched them.

I made an inadequate savory tart.  Ricotta cheese, some spices, carmelized onions on puff pastry.  I had high hopes for it, but it was a bit on the dry side.  I have done better in the past.  But, people like it, because so few people cook.  People don’t even know what home made food looks like anymore.

I could get evangelical, but instead I’m going back to the drawing board for my savory tart.

The morale of the story is: cook for people, they appreciate it and drinking is more fun in an area where your kids don’t nap.

Saving for college (sponsored)

As frequent coolmom readers may know my family had our savings stolen from us thanks to Madoff, Stanley Chais and other cronies.  My entire retirement, forced to sell our home and Vivien’s and my step kids college fund vanished.  Nothing like having your future put in jeopardy to focus the mind.  After that disaster I have become far more active and alert to the issue of building a nest egg.  As we all know, in the economy that might mean putting change in your kids piggy bank. And as you may have heard college costs are akin to the space program, so some planning is in order

Recently, a bunch of So. Cal bloggers converged in my favorite restaurant, Campanile, natch, to discuss saving for college.  As the wine flowed ( wine, it should be the official drink of motherhood) we discovered that the mom bloggers went from “What is a 529?” to a the super savvy “why is California one of only 13 states in the union that doesn’t give a tax incentive for 529′s?”

MY POV at dinner, lady on the right is the smarty pants who runs Scholarshare, far left always fun Sarah from MomsLA, and my new fave Kristen from Rage against the mini van. My wine glass at bottom of frame.  Dry, white, with minerality.

The dinner was sponsored by Scholarshare.  This is the State of California’s 529.  Each state has them, but only one per state.  If you are in the “what’s a 529″ camp think of it as a 401k for children.  The money grows tax free until your child goes to college, or a trade school, not for a motor cycle.  Anyone can contribute at anytime… so if you would rather grandma not buy another Barbie for your daughter, ask her to put that money in the fund.  The reason Scholarshare took us out to dinner so we ( the various bloggers) would write about it is this:

1) they just started with a new fund. , TIAA-CREF which they are fired up about.

2) they have lowered their limit for entry.  To start get into their fund one only has to start with $25.

3) Contest!  Scholarshare is having a contest on Facebook till Sept 26th.  They want people to “tell their story” about saving for college.  Winners are chosen at random so if you don’t have a super sad sack story, it’s cool, you still have a chance. Two winners will get $1,529 ( get it, 529, get it?) for their kids, you guessed it, 529.

4) They have lowered their fees.  Since we have been rebuilding our financial selves Mark and I have been automatically deducting money from our account for our little kids into a 529 from a different state.  Thumbs up for that plan as I don’t count that money in my monthly budget, so I don’t miss it.  However, after this dinner I did think …hmmm I need to check my fees on our 529. (according to Scholarshare The annual asset based management fees now range from 0.18 percent to 0.62 percent, vs. 0.25 percent to 1.06 percent with old plan).   A child can have more than one 529 so theoretically I could open one with Scholarshare with the State of California and even keep the one in the other state.  I won’t say which one it is, but it rhymes with Ball Sacka.

Here is when I put the wine glass down and really started paying attention: I asked the well spoken rep from Sacramento what is in it for the State of California to get the word out about a fund that they don’t make money on? She said… wait for it… because they know that if people have 529′s they will cost the State less money. If people don’t save they are shelling out for more grants and loans.  Now, we know how bankrupt frugal this and other states are, and if their pencil pushers have crunched the numbers and figured 529′s offset their load they are probably right ( then I picked up the glass again)

Here I am listening, being interested and calculating in my head.

On that last shoot I did with my kids ( previous post) I tried to buck my kids up by telling them they were putting money towards college.  That does help Vivien hit her mark, but Rex countered in a sing song voice, “mommy, I’m not going to college.”  As he shoved red vines in his mouth taken from the craft services table (craft service is Hollywood for junk food) I’m going to chalk up his negative attitude about college to him missing Oliver.  However, if my 3 and half year old still feels like that in 14 and 1/2 years  ( oh, that is going to go fast) he can take the dough and go to junior college, carpenter school or I can give it to Vivien for her education.  No buying tattoos with this money.

No, not a motorcycle.

So, check out the plan, the contest also HERE.. sidebar… Scholarshare is sponsoring a talk October 17th that I am very interested in.  UCLA’s Dr. Dan Siegel will speak on “12 strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind”. I’ve read one of his books and got a lot out of it.

back to school brain

 

The first day went great.  She loves her teacher.  It was nice to see some parent friends, but I couldn’t settle.  One single mom friend asked “will you be my wing man to find me a husband?”  Normally, I’d be all over that strategy, but I was looking for new cubbies.  ”I’m focused on back to school.” In my head I sounded like Arnold in the Terminator  ”where is Sarah Connor?”  Then also conincides with the total absences of Dolly.  Dolly is our main baby sitter and does a total wash/scrub/clean of my house every week.  She is with me some nights, but because my husband is gone- always– and I can’t be left alone with these kids. Although I do love going to Campanile for some wine and food and talking to adults.  ANYONE who walks by.  I wanted to be a mom, not a prisoner.  She is gone for a few weeks on a trip.  I have no glass to break in case of emergency.

Oliver has JUST left for college and I find I’m quite sad at his absence.  A little flavor of empty nester while I still have a little kid who vomits in my face.  With second grade comes almost nightly homework.  …ugh, that’s another post.

How is the school season for you?  How long till you get in your groove?  Does it ever kick in? And would you have washed the dress?

The parent volunteer debate

I SAID YOU ARE GOING TO VOLUNTEER!

Even though “Stunt Mom” got me out of volunteering in the video in real life I have said “yes” to leading a group of suckers new parents to weed and trim our pathetic  approachable school landscaping.

I was an RA in school ( actually we were CA’s become we were a “community’, but same diff)  and last year a school parent.  I’m kind of an enforcer at heart.  But, I also like to buck the system.  I was recruiting and training a mom to be a room parent this year,  ”you can’t worry if people like you. Who cares, you have a job to do.”  Really true in life in general.

So, Mom.me asked me to write a rebuttal to a lady who was complaining about mother’s who asked her to be more active in the school. She didn’t want to be.  She called people like me “PTA moms”. Not accurate.  It’s like calling a stranger who jumps your dead battery the Automobil Club, but I think she uses it as a catch all for involved parents.  Those pain in the asses.

Those know it alls.

Those ME.  So click here to see the essay I wrote.  Let me know what you think.

Learning to Handwrite (sponsored)

Back to school time!  Gotta get the school mojo back now!

I really try to keep Vivien’s sharp brain sharp over the summer. Sure she gets to watch more cartoons, but I always have a workbook that we do a bit of math and spelling and such throughout the hot summer. There is so much data about how kids forget over the summer and it takes teachers 6 weeks of instruction to get the kiddos back on track.
Since I am raising a 21st century kid I’m on her. As she enters 2nd grade I know the homework is going to be more and she will probably need to bone up on some handwriting. Though I plan for her to be a rocket scientist she is still a little girl and bright shiny objects are a great carrot to get her to work. So, when Papermate asked me to partner with them in a video I said, Oh, yeah, let’s write it up.

 

 

Mulching madness

I worked my self into a sweating delirium mulching two large landscape areas at Vivien’s school.  The few who could volunteer, declined.  So many people backed out I didn’t even ask anyone else.  Mark went with me to the site where the city gives out free mulch.  Quality mulch I might add.  Here I am bagging my own.
mulch
We loaded into the Campanile van and the next morning I drove to the school solo. The school was closed while the staff worked on report cards.  I clipped plants, dug my water diversions trenches a little differently and weeded.  Then I unloaded the free mulch bag, by bag, or plastic box.  I had both.  I had no pockets so I had out the key to the van in my bra.

After a couple of hours getting sweating, but making this one area of the school look better I started to leave.  I loaded my shovel, wrench, spade, clippers into the van.

Where is the key?  My bra had moved up half way up my breast with all the physical movement.  I had lost the key.

I had lost the key after I had dumped mulch over EVERY PLACE I HAD BEEN.  I was a panicking.  I lost Mark’s van key once before.

Volunteering at our school doing landscaping.  We never found that key and I had to spend about $300 to get a new key made.  I got down on my hands and knees and started to go through every square inch of mulch.  Keep in mind it’s a fairly large area.  Each of the two beds is about 15 to 20 feet long.  A dad at the school is one of maintenance workers for the site.  He was very kind and dug through the trash with me and combed through several square feet of mulch.

That damm mulch.

It’s one key with a Petco tab on it.

We couldn’t find it.  I dreaded calling Mark who was with the kids at Rex’s hip hop class.

He sounded annoyed, but thankfully he said the magic words, “I have a spare.”

I didn’t think we did.  I waited till he could drive over.

“Stop putting your key in your bra.”

I know, I’m sorry.

Sigh.

super mulch day : mulching as therapy

My lack of work is a blow to my pocket book, a boon to my daughter’s school.  I love being asked my “schedule”.
I don’t have one.  Save shuttling and feeding my children.  A few meetings to try and find new locations for The Tar Pit.
I just had to give up my beloved spin class.  I can’t afford it.

The kitchen is going to be seeing more as well as I attempt to make more food at home and employ more of the knowledge I have gleaned from Chef Peel.
But, today is Super Mulch day.

mulch

I’m dressed like crap and ready to scoop up free mulch the city gives away in order to spruce up our underfunded public school. I’m the head of the landscape committee.  I’m basically the whole committee.

Living the dream.

How long should Pre school be?

Preschool anxiety time… not for Rex.  For me.  Mommy separation issues. Not for Rex.  For me.

Rex has graduated to going to pre school two times a week from 8:45 to noon.  He could have done 3 days a week, but I decided against it.  He is my last baby and I wanted him a little longer. I mean look at him! I know I’m biased, but it can be hard to be away from that little guy.
rex

Now, the school, which I like, is asking if we would like to have Rex stay for lunch.  So his day would be two days a week till 1pm.  My first thought: HELL NO.

Too long of a day for my not quite 3 year old.

Now, are kids who are in day care all fine? Sure.  In the abstract.  But, for my little little cherub?
rex

Me: Vivien only went to school till noon when she was his age

Mark: but she went 5 days a week

Me: oh, yeah.

Me: It’s going to cost more.

Mark: it will cost 10 dollars.

But, won’t he be so tired? I think when I pick him up he will be face down on the lunch table snoring.

Now as a mature parent in control of her small children’s life I did the sound thing.  I asked the 35 month old what he wanted to do.
rex
I got a nod to “would you like to stay longer and have lunch with your friends?”

Sigh, guess we will try that… but not till next week.

How long is the right time in pre school?

Transition preschool

The call it transisition… two year old’s who are starting down the pre school path.  Do they Need to go?  No, certainly a pile of blocks at home would make them plenty happy.  But, us parents decide, “it’s time”.  Time to get these little chubby legged beauties socialized.
first days
Vivien started preschool, five days a week, at two year nine months.  I couldn’t do that with Rex.  1) because I’m no longer a trophy wife and need to pay my mortgage, and not blow the savings on preschool 2) since he is my last baby I could not give him up so young.  I know what’s coming.  Sullen, no cuddle, where’s my allowance teen years.  I want to savor, “momma, I love you.” as much as I can.

So, I found ( I’m not going to use the “we” pronoun, school hunt is all me) a nice school that takes em young and let’s you do a few days.  Rex qualified for the 3 day a week 9 to 12.  Gulp.  How about 2 days?  I said. Okay, he’ll be the oldest, but that’s fine.

It’s a sweet, ernest school. We had to go to three meeting meetings a couple of playdates and the teachers visited Rex at home before the school began. Viv’s was an A list Hollywood school that just wanted the check to clear.  The first time parents looked very serious about all of the dictates of the school.

“don’t say, “good job.”,  by the way, that’s tough.

Mark and I were like, “I know you will keep them alive, can we go now?”

Monday was Rex’s first day at school.  I, and the other moms, stayed at the school till the end.  Which was about 11, because the kids all were pooped from focusing on sand, water, trains.  Oh, the life.

Tuesday, I stayed again.  I know why Rex was tired when he left.  He is tiny and was concentrating for 2 hours on stuff that wasn’t Bubble Guppies.  But, why was I so bushed?  I sat and tried not to talk to the other moms — they tell you not too–read a People magazine and my Android.  I was starving and tired.

I always want to do jokey asides ( surprise).  One point one of the teachers was reading a book .  But, she had introduced it as a song.  So it was kind of sing song, talking singing.  Trying to go with it, but a little off.  A joke formed in my head, that traveled to my mouth and I couldn’t take it, I had to share it.  I turned to a mom crouched on mini chair like myself in a tiny play kitchen and said, “I think this is more a Joni Mitchell song.”

She stifled her laughter.  That made me feel good.

Next week I told Rex I’m going to leave him there for a little bit, but I will come back.  Mommy always comes back.

“You will?”  The teacher told me not to rush it or they might regress.

Like, poop in their pants regress, cause I think he is still there.

By the way, preschool teachers who change diapers, you are stars.  Thank you and I don’t know how you do that.
first days
Rex seems to be enjoying himself.  Could I have just kept him at home?  Yes.  Is this an expensive way to get a couple of morning workouts in? Yes.  I think I found this place and went with it, but I didn’t need to.  I don’t want him to go to school more than this.  If I was working full time that would be a different story, but I want to be with him.  I think my daughter is in school too long.  I see why people homeschool.

Well, except for my children would be feral if I was their teacher.

Now, the next test is when I do leave Rex.

Will he cry?  I think so.

Will I be able to take it.  hmmm