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

Bone head mom

I might as well have yelled “fire” in a crowded theater.  Here is the story…

Once a week I volunteer for Vivien’s class when they go to their school library.  By every week I mean every few weeks as we are at a public charter school that is underfunded and rents space, so we are often kicked out of the library if the landlords need it. It’s a great little library and our librarian is a dad who volunteers tons of time to sort, organize and label books, coordinate parental volunteers.  He is the kind of parent every school needs ( hundreds of).

For my daughter’s class another dad and I show up to read the class a story and help them pick a book to check out  for the week ( or two months depending upon the next time we get in the library).  Afterward we sort and re shelve books.  Rather I do, some parents don’t, I’m not naming names, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed. (arched eyebrows)

The other parent had read the book the last few weeks so I was eager to read this week.  Let’s face it, that’s the money job, right?

” I need a ringer” I said to Librarian dad.  He picked something about a dragon that was fun and I can’t remember the name because I got so in the zone while telling the story.  I had a little bit of opening night jitters, but I really sold it to the K-1 crowd.  I had them eating out of my hand!  Only a few inappropriate interruptions of non-sequiturs ( you know when a kid says something like, “my grandfather has an ax”.  That’s nice kid, I’m reading a story about a dog)

Well, flush with my bang up job of reading I moved on to helping them pick a book. I knew Vivien was proud of her mom and she was being such a good girl I helped her first.  Ha, whom I kidding, I always help her first.  When I was sorting before the class arrived I noticed two books with unicorns.  I filed it mentally, “must tell Vivien about unicorn books”.

Now, here comes the bone head mom move. I said ALOUD

“Vivien, there are two books about unicorns”
uni

UNICORNS she and her 3 best girl friends yelled.  But, here was the problem.  I MENTALLY noticed the books, I didn’t PHYSICALLY put them away.  As I scanned the stacks I did need to also assist some other kids.

“Where are the fairy tales?”  one little girl asked.  Check, found that. Meanwhile, their teacher is starting to do the countdown.

“You all have 2 minutes to find your book and line up.”  I am finding NOTHING about unicorns.  Now, I have introduced the concept of scarcity to these little girls and Vivien and her best friend, who had walked in holding hands were now at war.  I had found a book about moons or bunnies or somethng and tried to sell it to Vivien in lieu of unicorns, she took the bait, but so did her BFF so there was a conflict about who would get it.  Another girl said they should do “eany-meany”, but they had a fight over that which caused BFF to go and hide under a table as Vivien shouted,

” I don’t want her to count on me.”

“Oh, Librarian dad”  I summoned.  “Where are the unicorn books?”

“Hmm, I don’t know.” It was hard to scan the books, repair a friendship over the din of “stupid, stupid” that was running through my head.

“Vivien’s mom” asked a little boy “where is a shark book?”  Scan for sharks and unicorns.

“Here it is”  Librarian dad found the first one.  Vivien tossed the other book aside and grabbed it.

“I want one too!”  yelled BFF.  Fortunately, the other two girls, who are about 6- 9 months older and possess a whole other level of maturity, had found books about butterflies and pirate girls, yes, I did sell them on them and it worked. Phew.

“Here is the other one”  my white knight said.

“Line up!”  The teacher commanded.   Just as I handed the boy a shark book.

“I got this one.” he said toting a book about turtles toward the door.

Vivien fell in line behind her BFF.  They were smiling.  I gave her a kiss and off they went to class.

As I sorted I said to library dad.

“Wow, what a blunder!  Why did I tell a group of 5 year old girls that there were unicorn books when I wasn’t totally sure where these books were?”  I knew the answer.  I wanted to be perfect mom.  The mom who volunteers, who cares about her kids school and also brings joy and happiness to her daughter.

“Yeah”,  Library dad said.  “That was pretty stupid.”

I know there is no name calling in school.  But, he was right.

Landscape Mom

Can’t say I haven’t thrown myself into volunteering at our public school.

1) because I believe the onus is on the parents to do so

2) I’m so grateful not be paying private school tuition anymore

3) I get a chance to gaze at my kid by doing so

4) her school started right after my dad’s memorial and I found being busy, with a purpose helped me feel better.

5) because I want her school to be prettier than my public school was–wouldn’t take much.

So, I just successfully completed heading up a landscaping project at her school.

I’m sure you know that California is now near the bottom of US states (47) when it comes to funding public education.  So, there certainly is no beautification budget.

One are near my daughter’s classroom was bugging me. This part of the yard looked pretty sad.  Some dead plants, dirt, water pooled in ruts after the rain. It took a little investigating to figure out the culture, who do I talk to ?  Who do I get permission from? Who are the allies I need to get onboard?IMG_0324.JPGIMG_0325.jpg

I also am fortunate to have an old friend, Larry, who is a great landscape gardener. He came and consulted and wrote up a design for me, suggested plants, helped me get them at a lower cost and got me a couple of workers to till the soil.

Since there is no irrigation we had to pick plants that need minimal water, which are not usually the most colorful. So I decided that some fo the kids should make mosaic stepping stones to create color and a playscape.  Larry suggested adding a rock river bed.  It would help with the drainage problem the area has.

Our art teacher was enthusiastic about the project.  So two mornings Mark and I were stirring concrete in a plastic pan on the ground under the hot sun while poor Rex ambled around. First happily, then with a look of “are we every going home? It’s nap time people”.  While 5 and 6 year olds showed up in groups and the art teacher, and I explained the process.  Get in a team, create a design, place the broken china, flat marbles, broken tiles  (side bar, hard to buy broken tile.  Just buy tile and break it, live and learn), sea shells and beads. Then we poured, hmm, well, not poured, more like spooned the concrete over it. I used 12 inch planter saucers as the form and they worked out very well. The stepping stones popped right out the day after they were made.

In order to cut down on the expense,which we bore for the most part ( not because people aren’t givers, but I really only asked one family, who did give generously.  I felt bashful about asking people especially as I know people are at different levels of prosperity) I asked for volunteers to do the install. I booked a gig the day of the install so Mark was in charge of that great group of parents.  I felt like I was missing Christmas morning.  The next day when I dropped off Vivien I raced to see the new landscaping.  If there is one thing I love it’s before and afters.  What a difference. IMG_0330.JPG Kids were jumping from stepping stone, to stepping stone.  The rock river bed proved more costly than we had anticipated.  It’s 1,500 pounds of rock.  Mark and a few other parents did all of that.  The children like to run in it as well. Which is cool, but I worry a little about the design being corrupted.  I was out with a rake trying to keep order the other day.  Yes, probably futile and I suppose it should evolve and be useful to the students.  But, it’s amazing how much more they interact with that space then they did in it’s old form.
IMG_0330.JPG
One of my CORE beliefs is that aesthetics and architecture make a great deal of difference in the life and education of a child.  I know the junior high and high school I went was, physically awful.  It was depressing.  When I started in broadcasting it was around the time of the LA riots.I went back to my old school which now had a lot of students who lived in South Central. I interviewed some of them. They conceded that yes, probably stupid to burn down your old neighborhood. These were smart kids, none of them had partaken in that destruction, yet, they understood it and helped me to understand it.

“Our neighborhood has no trees, no grass. We have liquor stores. We don’t feel respected growing up in such a place.” Then one student said something that became the name of the radio documentary I made and it always stayed with me:

I don’t want to be here.”

I want my daughter and other kids of Los Angeles to want to be in their school.  To feel respected.

Which means I’m now the Chair of the Landscape Committee. Cool, Landscape Mom.

First day of Kindergarten

We have crossed another milestone.

Getting to school on time.  Not the specialty of the Brogdon Peels. But, for pre school, heck, who cares?  Well now it’s the big time, the start of elementary school.  Public school.  They need their funding, you can’t be late.

I took Vivien out the day before school started for what my use to call “Day Outs”.  It was a day we got with out mom alone and she bought us new school clothes and we could pick where we wanted lunch.  I keenly remember the excitement and pleasure I had in saying “HoJo’s!” as my lunch pick. I took Vivien a tad more up market, Bouchon. Pomme Frites and croque madam. We got some practical clothes.  Mostly Gap kids.  I tried to be original, but they have good stuff and a good price. It was a fun day and nice to look forward as opposed to the mourning I’ve been in.

The night before school I laid her clothes, enforced a strict bed time…for everyone.  It was Chef Peel’s night off, but most nights this will be tough for the late worker.  I had announced we had to be out the door by 8:05am.  We were driving away at 8:10.  Not bad.100_4111

There was a crowd at school as all the parents, grandparents, siblings were there.  We found her teacher outside and lined up with the rest of the crowd.  Vivien put her hands over her ears.  She had been excited, but clearly this was not fun for her.  Mark got down to her level.

“Vivien does this all seem confusing?”

“yes”

“Noisy, too?” He explained to her that other morning it would be less chaotic.  He told her she was brave and hugged her.

We got to walk with the kids to class and stood as they took their place on the rug I had cleaned the week before.  I restrained myself from bragging to the other parents, “hey, you could eat of that baby!  Where were you, huh?”  After one story we were kicked out.

Vivien was brave.  “bye mommy, bye daddy” she said barely looking at us as we shuffled out of the room with the other ejected parents and Rex.

I didn’t cry. I did fret all day.  Should I have held her back?  Was she ready?  Is this the right school for her? Why was “nurse jackie” in the comedy category at the Emmy’s, when it’s more of a drama.  Well, the mind wanders.

Mark and I were there to pick her up ten minutes early.  Had she done okay?  Had they feed her?  It was suppose to be beef tacos.  Did she like it?  Would she be turned off to education for the rest of her life and become a fat sloth who slept on my couch as an adult and stole change from my purse to get cigarettes? 100_4122

“How was your day Vivien?”

“fun!”

Maybe I could keep my change.