Friday, August 7, 2015

Because I do my best to keep my promises...

So... four years ago, I posted  this after I had made a soccer bet with the Impertinent Daughter.  Her coach had moved her to play forward, after several years of playing defense, and her confidence was shaky.  To boost it, I bet her that if she got a goal, I would get a tattoo.

She got a goal in her very next game, and the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were, "Mum, you're getting a TATTOO!!"

Well, it's only taken me four years to make good on that bet, but finally, here it is, designed by my own Lady Lion... the tattoo...

It's fresh, so forgive the swelling and shininess.  Still, I think the tattooist did a great job!

She's happy, and so am I.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Because It's Just What Parents Do... Right?

Every once in a while, I will click "Like" on a Facebook post that I find... resonant, or that strikes a chord with me, and every once in an even greater while, I'll comment on one of these posts.

Now, these aren't posts made by my friends, necessarily.  Sometimes, it's a post from a page I've liked or I'm following.  Sometimes, it's a repost from something else.

Most of the time, I'm pretty quiet, even on Facebook, but then there's those times when I just... well... I have to say something.

What?  I'm Southern.  It's what we do.

Like, once, on the Amy Poehler's Smart Girls page, there was a post about school dress codes and what one girl was doing about a so-called violation at her school, and how ridiculous they could be, etc.  I couldn't help chiming in about an experience the Impertinent Daughter went through, how one of the Assistant Principals at her school (who was actually running things at the school, but that's a whole other jar of pickles) suddenly decided that girls at the junior high were no longer allowed to wear button down shirts, BUT... the boys could.  I, of course, went to find out why, because I knew the woman was nuts, but I kind of wanted to know what the logic (!) was on this particular issue.  "Because boys can unbutton them."


I promptly informed the woman that if this was a genuine issue, then parents should be notified, assault charges should be filed, and the boys in question should be suspended, so what's going on with this?

Turned out there were no actual boys unbuttoning actual girls' shirts, and I pointed out the idiocy of that and basically, by the end of the week, that particular dress code issue disappeared.

My comment was much shorter than that, but basically, that was it.  This was an issue, this is how I dealt with it, this was the result.

It... pretty much blew up, and the last time I saw it, a couple of months ago, it was edging 900 some odd likes.  Plus lots of comments to MY comment about what an awesome/brave/cool mom I was to do this, and I thought, "but... isn't that what a parent does???  Your school lays down a ridiculous rule, YOU know it's ridiculous, your fellow parents know it's ridiculous, and so... one of you steps over and says it's ridiculous, the rest follow suit, and BANG... ridiculous rule gone.

So... today, the Richard Dawkins page posted about the ten reasons the new Texas textbooks are dangerous for students, and first, I face-palmed, because... OMG, Texas, why???  And then I commented.

Now, here's the thing.  As a parent in a small Texas town, I am often confronted with the ridiculous in my kids' education.  No, I'm not kidding.  I have had a teacher openly proselytize in class when my daughter was in 5th grade.  The woman wasn't my daughter's main teacher, she was her Language Arts teacher, and she figured, "hey, I'm retiring, I don't have to worry about these ridiculous rules that prevent me from acting on the tenets of my faith, here goes nothing!!"

Yeah, that went over real well.  After going to the school to talk to both the teacher and the principal about the reason We Don't Do That In Public Schools, also with a demonstration of what would happen if they did, Mrs. I'm About To Retire decided her pension was worth protecting and stopped.

There was the time my son was in first grade and his teacher, inexperienced and so new the ink on her degree was still smudgable, told me with great pride the way she and the other first grade teachers were going to teach their students about racism.  They were going to separate the classes into girls and boys, and the boys were going to be the privileged group and be allowed things like getting to drink from the water fountains first, being able to get their snacks first, etc. And the girls would be the oppressed group and have to go second.   I had to stop her in the middle of her enthusiasm to explain to her that if they did that, they weren't going to be teaching the kids about racism.  They were going to be teaching the kids about sexism.  "But... how else can we teach them about racism?" she asked, stunned.  

"You take the kids and get them to count off in ones and twos.  Then pick a day, and  ask all the ones to wear, say, a green shirt on that day, and the twos to wear a purple shirt.  And on that day, the purple shirts get to hit the water fountain first, get their snacks first, get the swings first, etc, and the greens have to wait," I said.

"But that's silly," she said.  "Just because of the color of a shirt!"

"Exactly," I said.  "That's racism.  Just because of the color of someone's skin."

It's horrifying how long it took her to get it. 

Oh, let's see, and how about the first year the Impossible Son was in junior high, and I had to go talk to the principal because one of the assistant principals told my son, when he had some open sores on his hand, that he needed to keep them bandaged because, and I quote, "you can get AIDS from touching the tables and desks in the school."

And this woman was a former science teacher.

There was my daughter's 8th grade year, when the algebra teachers at the junior high decided that they didn't like the textbooks the district selected to teach algebra, so they decided to write their own over the course of the year and basically winged it.  No textbook.  Just endless handouts, and if you missed a handout, tough cookies.  I hate to say this now, but... in a bizarre way, my daughter was fortunate when she caught mono a second time and missed something like thirteen weeks of school.  Why?  Because she then had myself and my husband as algebra teachers.  Between the two of us, we make a pretty decent algebra teacher, I have to say.  Well, the two of us, PatrickCMJ and ViHart on Youtube, several f-listers on Livejournal, and at least three websites online.  Every day during those thirteen weeks, I was at the junior high, either picking up or dropping off schoolwork.  It SUCKED, but I learned more about the quality of my daughter's education during the two years she had mono than I did at any other time, because I  was one of her teachers.  I already knew it sucked, but you could say I found out how much it sucked at that time.

But you know what?  She passed with straight A's that year.  And she was a Presidential Scholar that year.  Boo.  Yah.

Oh, and let's not forget the madness of her third grade year, when math education in her district got weird.  That was the year her class started taking the TAKS test, and she got this teacher that all the other parents raved about being so awesome.  And at that time, I still had faith in her teachers and the school.  Until her math scores started dropping, and after many tears trying to help her with her homework, and looking at her textbook, a tome entitled "Everyday Mathematics," and actually sitting in on her class a couple of times to try to figure out what the disconnect was, I was forced to tell the Impertinent Daughter to nod and smile when her teacher explained math problems in class, and bring her work home so the Husbandly One and I could teach her how to actually do it. I told her to repeat back all the strategies the teacher explained on how to do this stuff, and ignore it and do it the way we taught it to her. 

It drove her teacher nuts.  But I told her it was okay, and not to worry about it, just repeat back whatever the teacher tried to teach her, but do it our way.  

Do you know, she was the only kid her her class to pass the math TAKS with above a 90? She got a 98.  And one of only like... five or six kids in her entire grade to get Commended?

Or how I had to sometimes fight to have my kids' teachers assign them homework in the first place!!  Why?  Because there were times that that was the only way I could find out what my kids were being taught, and figure out how to even help them when there were problems!!!

When the Impertinent Daughter was in sixth grade, the junior high principal,who barely lasted a year, told his teachers, "if you can't teach it to them in the forty five minutes you have them in class, then they're not going to learn in when you give them homework that night."

Well, you know what, dude?  In my house, yes, they will.

I am sure some of you will wonder why I didn't just pull my kids out and homeschool them.

Why?  Because I know what I lack as a teacher.  I lack the patience and organization to do it full time every single day.  And while I know a lot, I don't know everything, and I don't know how to teach everything.  I realized that when I homeschooled the Impertinent Daughter for kindergarten.  If she'd been an only child?  Maybe.  Maybe I could have done it.  But... I couldn't do it with two.  But that's a personal limitation.  When the Impertinent One started first grade at the public school in town, she was the only kid in her class who could read (she was already reading at a third grade level), write more than a simple sentence, count up to 100, add and subtract... everything the state required a kindergartner to be able to do before starting the first grade.  The only one.  And all the other  kids had attended kindergarten in the district.

I know what I lack as a teacher.  But... that doesn't mean I can't supplement what my kids are learning from their public school education.  Because... that's a parent's job.  My mother did that for me.  So... I guess I just kind of assumed that all parents do this.  My kids were watching the Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel back when they were actually educational channels.  And they were watching PBS.  My husband and I took them to the library, and the zoo, and the museums, and everywhere else we could think of, and we read (and still read) to them, and discuss things.  We read the newspaper, and the internet, we watch the news, we watch movies and historical films, and documentaries, and we visit antique stores and discuss the wild and crazy things we find in them.  We talk to old people, and we take trips, and... do everything we possibly can to expose them to as much as we can so we can raise a couple of well rounded people with open minds.

Because that's what we do.  What parents do.  Our children are world citizens, right?  So... we want them to reach out and embrace it and love it and be endlessly curious about it.

So... when I saw that post on the Richard Dawkins page, I liked it and commented on it.  I said, "I am going to try not to hyperventilate over this, then do what I have always done, go through my son's textbooks, point out the obvious omissions, go to the library, dig out books for him to read, and encourage discussion.  So tired of being ashamed of the state I live in... ugh..."

Because I am.  So very tired of being ashamed of Texas.  Very tired.

I commented on this yesterday.

The comment itself is already up to 218 likes.

Apparently, this resonated with a lot of people.  

This makes me wonder if we can get this reversed... again.

Come on, Texas.  Get your shit together.  

We can do this.  It's what parents do.  We need to fix this, because it's not going to get any better without us.

Let's go.  Let's do this thing!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When Writers Meltdown...

Last night, I had a meltdown.

In times of crisis, I am usually pretty calm, mostly because of my dad and his, "if you panic, you're no good to yourself or anybody else" philosophy.  Inside, I'm freaking out and mentally flailing in whatever handy mental compartment I have available, but outwardly, I tend to focus on whatever the situation is and how to deal with it.

There are exceptions, however, and last night... was a pretty big exception.  

Over the years, I have learned to backup my writing.  I have an external drive for our desktop, and one for my laptop.  I also have various flash drives.  And I also use Google Drive and iCloud.  Yes, I know that's all redundant, but in light of the hard drive crashes and accidents we've had over the years we've had computers, I've learned that redundancy is my friend.  Because I've lost a lot of writing files in those hard drive crashes, and every single one of them hurt.  In fact, the hard drive crash of our last PC, combined with some comments from people who shall remain unnamed, drove me into a seven year writing block that was acutely painful.  

I need to write.  It's painful not to write.

So, I back up and back up, and that's great, but I admit that sometimes, I'll let things slide a little.  Maybe I'm up late writing, and I'll save what I was working on, but I won't back it up to the flash drive or Google or iCloud, etc, because I just want to go to bed and crash, and I'll do it in the morning.

Last summer, one of our cats spilled one fourth inch of water over my laptop in her never-ending Quest for Fresh Water and killed the hard drive, and the last chapter of the novel I was working on.

One new hard drive and and expanded iCloud later, I've gotten better at remember to back up.

I also have the habit of slipping my flash drives into the front pocket of my jeans for the portability of being able to work wherever I am.  I did that yesterday with the intention of working on getting the first fifty pages of The Pestilential Adventures of Mrs. Osgood Peabody into shape to send to a publisher, but I was having a bad Hashimoto's day and instead curled up on the couch under a blanket to watch "Criminal Minds" on Netflix with my daughter.  Later, I changed out of the jeans and into a pair of fleece pajama pants with big pockets, fulling intending to transfer the flash drives into those big pockets, because I still wanted/needed to write, dammit.

And proceeded to get sidetracked by having to answer a question from one of the kids, thus totally forgetting about the flash drives.  Problem is, it kept niggling at my brain that I urgently needed to do something, but could never fully remember what it was, because succeeding events kept driving back to the back burner of what passes for my mind.  Even after the Husbandly One got home for work, I could never get it to come up to the front of my mind and remember what it was I needed to do.

But it bothered me.

And because last week was pretty rotten autoimmune-wise, THO was working to get ahead on the Laundry Monster.  So he was gathering up random clothes to throw in the washer.  I reminded him that the Impertinent Son needed his running tights washed because he has a track meet on Thursday, and went to grab them while he picked through my stuff for things to wash.

He grabbed my jeans.

I noticed and thought, "Wait," but... nope.  Nothing.  

It wasn't until later when I thought, Okay, so I won't get any work done on it tonight, but I should probably get the flash drive and back Mrs. Peabody up to Google Drive... and that was when it hit me.

"Did you wash the jeans I was wearing today?" I asked THO breathlessly.

He looked up from his book.  "Yeah.  I washed both pair that I found on your basket.  Why?"

I didn't answer, I just ran for the laundry room, stopped the washer and opened it and started digging.  And found one of the flash drives almost under the agitator at the bottom of the laundry tub.

But not the Mrs. Peabody drive.

I pulled every single item of clothing out of that washing machine, dripping wet, and shook them out, felt in every pocket, every sleeve, every leg, every arm, every single nook and cranny... and no drive. I felt around under every side of that agitator in the washing machine.  And no drive.

I went back to the living room where I'd been sitting, on the off chance it might have fallen out of my pocket, and I was fighting back tears as I pulled the couch cushions off.  And no drive.

My son noticed and asked what was going on.  And by this time, I wasn't fighting back the tears any more, because it was sinking in that the drive had probably gone down the drain.  I filled him in on what had happened, and he said, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll get Cailly and we'll help you look for it.  It's probably not anywhere near the washing machine."

I nodded and popped the drive I'd found into a small container with rice to help dry it out.  And went back into the bedroom to look in the clothes basket and around the floor, just in case.  And felt progressively worse and worse and worse, and then... I completely lost it.

All that work.  Fighting through writer's block, and uncertainty, and finally getting my writing groove back.  Working on a piece that was getting positive feedback.  And it was gone.

It felt like the universe was trying to tell me something.  Stop.  Quit trying.  You're never going to get anywhere.  You're never going to succeed.  Look at how old you are.  It's never going to happen, so you should just give up while you can.  Give up, grow up, just stop.

In the meantime, the Husbandly One was disconnecting the washing machine drain hose to see if the drive had possibly gone down and doing everything he could to help.  The kids were alternately looking everywhere they knew I had been, and coming in to comfort me as I sat there, a completely wet mess.  

I gave up.  And it was as we were straightening the covers on the bed that I spotted something familiar on the quilt.

The missing flash drive.

After nearly suffocating THO with a tearful hug, then going to share the good news with the kids, you bet your effin' BIPPY I went and backed up everything on that drive to Google Drive and iCloud!!!


Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Chip, Or Not To Chip...

The Husbandly One and I have such awesome communication skills sometimes.

I only have two lunches to make in the mornings now, the Impossible Son's and the Husbandly One's, so it's not such a frantic thing as in the past.  As such, I'm a little more relaxed in the mornings, which is a good thing, considering how creaky the autoimmune thing makes me now.

So this morning, I'm making the Husbandly One's lunch and I admit, I was a still a little under-caffeinated and moving a little slowly.  Sandwich was done and it was time to add chips, so I hooked the step stool with my foot (because I'm fun-sized, yo!) so I can get to them.  They are kept on the top shelf of our cabinets which are, of course, way above my head.

As I stepped up to get them, I looked over at THO and said, "You know, I had quite a fight to hang on to these chips yesterday," as I reached for the bag of sour cream and onion potato chips.

"Yeah?" he said sort of absently, because he was at the table, drinking coffee and surfing Facebook.

"Yeah," I said, pulling the bag down.  "Your son discovered the bag and practically emptied the damn thing in a 'small' bowl.  He's doing the 'eating everything in sight' thing again.  I had to confiscate the bowl and rescue the chips!"

Both THO and Mr. Impossible love sour cream and onion chips.  Thing is, where THO has learned moderation and to ration them out to himself, Mr. Impossible is still at the Hoover stage of his appetite and will eat an entire large bag at one sitting if we let him.  So THO basically hid this particular bag of chips so he'd have them in his lunches this week.

I had opened the bag and was about to put some in his lunch when THO turned around and said, "Oh, we have chips at work, so you don't have to put any in my lunch.  Unless you just want to."

I frowned at him.  "So..."

"You can put them back," he said, watching me.

"Okay," I said slowly, rolling the bag up and clipping it, then getting back up on the step stool to put them away.

They are in my hand, about to touchdown on the shelf, when he says, "Or you could throw them in my lunch... if you want."

I stop, stare at him, then slowly start to take them back down off the shelf, preparing to unclip them again.

"Honey, we have chips at work," he said.

Breathing slowly and evenly, I don't unclip them, and start to put them back on the shelf.

"Unless, you know, you just want to put them in my lunch."

I study his face.  He's not teasing me.  He's entirely serious and has no clue. Okay.  I start to get them down again.

"Honey,  I said we have chips at work!  You don't have to put any in my lunch!"

"AAAAAUUUGHHH!!!  Will you make up your mind???"

THO looks shocked.  "What??  What did I do??"

"We have chips at work, unless you want to put them in my lunch, but you can put them back because we have chips at work, unless you want to put them in my lunch, which one is it??"  I glare at him.  "I have not had enough caffeine for this!!"

Yes, he apologized, and thus he has survived to live yet another day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Ring them bells with an iron hand so the people will know..."

A Facebook discussion group was established for our small town/county a little over a year ago, and I have to say, it has been a hugely positive thing for the most part.

I am sure there are people who work for our small school district who don't feel the same way, but after having a child in the schools here for twelve years, through good and bad, having a visible forum for local parents to air concerns has forced our district to change.

No longer can they count on problems just going away as soon as parents leave the building, or as unsubstantiated rumors.  It's right there on Facebook, in black and white (and blue), and everyone can see it.

I wish we'd had this discussion board years ago, like when Mr. Harper, the wonderful AP Physics teacher at the local high school, finally gave up on being treated right by the district and left to teach where he'd be happier.  Or when there were no textbooks for the math and science classes.

I'm glad we have it now.  I'm seeing more and more parents posting about the issues at the junior high that have been continuously swept under the rug for years.  The bullying issues.  The huge fights that happen on the Maple Street walking path after school.  The inconsistent way things are treated.  It's infuriating, and I'm glad it's getting a spotlight.

I'm glad some of the policies at the elementary school my son used to go to are being spotlighted, too.

I'm hoping this continues.  I remember the discussion when a bond election to build a new high school was coming up, and how many people in our town truly did not realize how badly it was needed.  In their minds (and there are still some people who persist in this belief) there is no need for a new high school.  They truly do not see that our schools are practically bursting at the seams, and the current building is falling apart.  It has reached the point where it's cheaper to build an entirely new school than it would be to repair the existing building and add on to it.   There are still people who think it is "too fancy" for us, and it is very hard for me not to laugh hysterically at them.

Really?  Are you kidding me?  We are so far behind other districts, in education, in facilities, it's not even funny.  And I just mean basic, bare-bones facilities, not the bells and whistles.

Maybe I'll raise these issues on the discussion board later, but for now, I'll simply be grateful that the district's dirty laundry is finally being aired.

Monday, November 3, 2014


So... I'm in menopause.

This presents my body a bit of a quandary where my thyroid issues are concerned.  See, because my thyroid is basically kaput, my internal thermostat is off kilter, and I spent a great deal of my time being cold.  This is great during the summer, because this means that while everyone else is sweltering and complaining about how hot they are, I'm usually comfortable.  Come on, I actually carry a jacket around during the summer, because I never know when I'm going to start shivering.

Of course, the flip side is that during the winter, while everybody else is saying how nice it is that it's cooler, I'm freezing to death.  Well... not to death because I'm quite obviously here and alive.  But, I get very, very cold, to the point where my hands and feet will hurt, and while the rest of my family is comfortable sitting around in sweats and maybe a long sleeved shirt, I'm wrapped in six or seven layers of clothing, with at least three pair of wool socks on, and a knit hat, and a scarf wrapped around my neck, oh, and don't forget the fingerless gloves!

It's kind of embarrassing sometimes, and there have been times when we've been out in public and I've had someone, usually male, look at me with false sympathy and say, "Oh, are you cold?"

I used to try to explain the thyroid issue, but now, I find it much easier to simply lay my ice cold hands against whatever bare skin presents itself.  If I'm feeling nice, I'll take their hand, or lay my hand against their cheek, and they'll usually respond with suddenly widened eyes and an, "Oh, honey!! Let's find you some hot chocolate/a warm place by the fire/heater/let me get you a blanket!!"

If I'm feeling irritated and, okay, let's face it, vindictive for being patronized, I'll lay my icy little hands against the back of their neck or, if they're one of those entirely offensive people who never wear jackets or long sleeves when it's freezing outside (of whom my son is one) and thus standing there with bared arms, I might slide my hand against their inner bicep or against their back.  That usually results in a shriek or whoop of some sort (seriously, y'all, my hands are really cold), lots of shivering and offers of hot toddies, blankets, heaters, anything just don't put your hands on me again, for gossakes!!

This has changed somewhat, though, thanks to menopause.  Oh, I still get cold!  I still wrap up and shiver and stuff, but... now...


Don't get me wrong, I am totally rocking the not having periods.  And not having cramps that my mother "affectionately" dubbed "The Screaming Mimi's" when I was a teenager.  If I had to choose between having The Screaming Mimi's again, or going through labor with my kids?

I'd choose labor.  Seriously.  That.  Bad.

So, I am really, really good with not having periods.  Really.

What I'm not good with are the thermostat issues.

I spend all day cold, bundled up and shivering, and by the time bedtime rolls around, I'm looking forward to bundling up under the covers and cozying up to my own personal heater, also known as the Husbandly One.

I slip into bed, snuggle up to him, and for about, oh, I'd say thirty seconds, everything is right with my world.  I'm snuggled up to my favorite husband, I'm blissfully, wonderfully warm, and my eyes start to drift closed...

And it starts.  Heat starts to travel up from the small of my back.  Suffocating waves of uncomfortable, not so blissful heat, and I start sweating, and I have to push away from my suddenly too hot husband, throw off the covers, and lay there, panting as I sweat and start pondering turning the ceiling fan up just so I can stop sweating.  I can feel it coming off of me in waves, and I wonder if I'm going to have to get THO up so I can change the sheets when... I start to shiver.   Goosebumps start on my arms and thighs, and my toes and fingers start to ache, my teeth begin to chatter, and I have to pull the covers back on before I start shaking.  Because... I'm cold again!!!

I want to yell at my body, "Hey, make up your effin' mind!! Hot or cold, hot or cold, you can't have both, so decide!!  Either let me snuggle up under the covers or lie on top of them, just make up your mind!!!"

Stupid hormones.

It's like being in the middle of Antarctica wearing only a light cashmere cardigan over your sleeveless tee, hurrying toward the thick heavy parka and mukluks you know are just right there, waiting for you.  And you've just managed to get the mukluks on and are struggling into the parka when BAM!! You're suddenly in hottest, most humid place you can imagine.  Like... the Amazonian rainforest or something.  Or Nairobi.    And just when you're stripping off your sweat-soaked sleeveless tee... BAM!!!  Antarctica again!!

And this is only at night.

If I wanted to sleep during the day, I could do it in perfect comfort under the blankets.  No problem.  I've done it, as a matter of fact, when I got hit in the face by the Wall of Fatigue and just couldn't stay awake any longer.

But during the night?  Ugh.

I'll survive this, but for now?  Not enjoying this aspect.

THO is properly sympathetic (he is, at times, a wise, wise man) and applies chocolate when necessary, usually to ensure his survival.  He is most fortunate that I'm not experiencing the extreme mood swings I remember my mother going through.

I don't even want to think about that.

So... while I'm enjoying the freedom from fertility, I'm not so much enjoying the wild temperature variations.  Oh well,  c'est la vie!