Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hugging a Porcupine

DH brought a book home from the library about being the parents of an adolescent the other day. It had a perfect title: How to Hug a Porcupine. And since, more often than not, I'm getting a faceful of quills when trying to deal with Frick these days, it's proven to be sound advice, more often than not.

I always thought I'd be a better parent of a teenager than a young child since I have so many years of experience with teenagers at school. I love younger kids, but some of their habits (especially the whining) drive. me. up. the. wall. I was suuuuuure I'd be so much more effective once they started to creep up in the double digits, age-wise.

What's that old proverb about wanting to make God laugh? Yeah.

Anyhoo, Mr. Frick is becoming, more and more, Mr. Prickly. Everything's cool until I suddenly cross some unseen border, then WHAM! Quillface. Case in point, last night's homework. I'm trying to deal calmly with him, and he gets nearly apoplectic. And doesn't finish. So now I need to wake him up early so he can finish. Never mind that he asked me to wake him early; I'm sure to get zapped for trying it. Open House was last night, and I can see clearly what needs to be done, but he's not hearing it. He knows better (even though he's trying to make algebra do things that are mathematically impossible). He's offloading all his issues on a different issue that even he admits isn't the issue. It's maddening.

And then he turns around and is the most generous, hilarious, wonderful tween in the universe. It's enough to drive you crazy.

Someone who's survived these years, please let me know my face isn't going to be permanently perforated. I'm all for patience and forbearance, but let's face it, they don't sell those qualities at Targét. At some point, the tank'll be dry, and I'll still be in a faceoff with a bristling little rodent. Help!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bringin' the Heat

'Scuse the baseball analogy, but I'm fixin' to make it do double duty in a sec. Today was opening day of fall ball for both Frick and Frack, since Frack's softball opener was rained out Thursday night. So it's been a loooooooooooong day at the ballpark. BallparkS, that is. Up early to take Frack to her away game, then 1-1/2 hours in the growing heat. By 10:30 we'd already reached the high 80s. Thankfully, the girls won, 9-2, so those hours of sweating it out in her polyester triple-knit uniform--with pants, no less--were worth it. Took her sweaty self home for some lunch, then off to our home field for Frick's baseball opener at 1. By then it was 92 degrees in the shade, with humidity of 63% or more, so the heat index was 101. Since Frick's now in junior baseball, we're talking seven innings of slow poaching. Thankfully, we had hitters and they had weak pitching, so we got called after the third batter in the sixth because of the ten-run rule. Yay!

Back home to find--instead of blessed air conditioning--a HOT house. The fan's blowing, but nothing's cooling. This happened the other day, too. Yegods. Flipped the breaker back and forth, praying that it'll start blowing cool, and hightailed it out of there for a Panera Bread. Free Wi-Fi and unlimited iced tea refills. And they've brought back blondies! Thanks to the Lord for tiny mercies. I may survive until bedtime after all...assuming the air kicks on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Band Geek WIN

Tonight was middle school band night at the high school where the denizens of Chez mimi are zoned to attend. Since I'm a proud graduate of that same school, I was especially interested in having young Frick, my aspiring tubist, attend. You see, he plays in a wonderful middle school band. The problem is, most of the kids at his middle school go to a nearly lily-white suburban marquee high school--let's call it FooFoo High School, just for funzies--with a small slice going to Frick's future alma mater, which has a much more diverse population. As a result, his band director is all over whatever happens at FooFoo High and totally neglects OUR high school. Or so it seems (mimi does admit to a bit of touchiness and snobbery when it comes to OUR school vs. FooFoo High, which is populated with teens who drive far nicer cars than the teachers and have the attitude to match*). So Frick has been hearing all about how WONDERFUL and FABULOUS FooFoo High is and bubkes about his own school.

Until last night. I bring him to the band room--which was the library when I attended--sign him in, and he disappears into the tuba section. They bond immediately over his cool mouthpiece and he turns on the Parental Ignoring Beam and I leave. I know when I'm superfluous. Still, I worry. He's only in seventh grade. He's very very small compared to those big high school kids and their humongous Sousaphones. So an hour later I text him: Having fun? Glad you went? Do you want one of us to be there while you're at the game? He texts back:

Yes, yes, and no.

Ooooookay then. We leave him to his fun. DH goes to pick him up at the end of a very long night, and he arrives home brandishing a sheaf of tuba arrangements for things they played in the stands, a grin wider than a bass drum, and total excitement about AlmaMater Band. Yay!!

The moral of the story? NEVER underestimate the power of music.

*DISCLAIMER: One of mimi's partners in crime, the Bed Bandit herself, has a daughter attending FooFoo High. Mr. and Mrs. Comic Book's son goes there as well. I personally adore these two children and their younger siblings who will be attending FooFoo High because they live on the other side of our lovely hometown. But that's all the love FooFoo's getting from me. So there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Is It With These People??

I don't know what they're drinking in Tallahassee, but apparently now there's yet ANOTHER test we have to administer our kids to find out what's up with their godforsaken reading scores. This one's computer-based, though, and will take up two day's worth of class time that I now can't spend instructing them. Yeah, that makes sense.

You see, apparently the right TEST is going to be the key to unlock why teen readers don't score well on standardized reading exams. Get the right test and the right spreadsheet numbers and presto!! Scores miraculously soar. Right? I mean, it's not like my professional judgment can do anything to pinpoint what they have issues with. You know, by assigning reading and asking them to write things that reveal what they comprehend. It's the almighty SPREADSHEET that will cure all. I'm sorry; I didn't know that you needed a minor in statistics to be a competent English teacher, but whatever. I can play along. But it won't stop me from wondering whether the people drinking that funky Tallahassee Kool-Aid have ever been in a classroom with actual children. Because, after all, children respond so well to more tests when they're having issues with a test. You try convincing a teenager who's figured out that the only scores that matter are the ones that tell you you get a diploma when you graduate (FCAT) or get you into the college of your choice (SAT/ACT) or college credit (AP) that he or she needs to buckle down and work on additional test number 5,297
because THIS IS IMPORTANT and YOU SHOULD TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. Those benchmark tests and Edusoft assessments and yes, our new silver bullet, FAIR (Is there a job in the Florida DOE just for making up acronyms?) are the keys to data-driven instruction. Which soon will be all data and no instruction unless they knock some of that testing crap back down to a manageable, sane size.

Plus, to add insult to injury, the mandatory training sessions were held on the day before and the day progress reports were due to be submitted. Into a new online-based system, no less, so it's the first time we'd ever used it to post grades. The same day the increased server activity crashed the server. The same day some brain trust at the county office wiped out the student/parent database, so none of the kids could check grades online and were freaking out because why worry about your grade until the day it's going in?? Sheesh!

If I were in charge (and that would never happen, because although I have lovely party manners, I do not suck up well), I would put a cadre of really smart teachers in charge of all these new state mandates. Anything the legislature suddenly believes is a good idea would be required of them before they can require it of Florida's students. Plus, legislators would be required by law to work for a minimum of one week per year as a substitute teacher before they would be permitted to introduce legislation which governs how I do my job. You know, the one I've trained for (two degrees!) and have twenty years' experience doing. With an army of successful college graduates to back me up, thankyouverymuch. Otherwise, shut your piehole. And take your freakin' test with you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

10 Things You Think Are Cool

  1. Facebook. Amazingly, it erases years and awkward social boundaries.
  2. iPhones. Totally want one, but will wait patiently for T-Mobile to get its act together.
  3. My kids. They are wonderfully talented and funny, and sometimes I wonder how it's possible that I'm their mom.
  4. Convertibles. Once I owned my first (a 1991 Mercury Capri), I was hooked for life.
  5. British humor. The world is a better because of Monty Python, Blackadder, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
  6. Jugglers. 'Cause I can't do it.
  7. The Big Bang Theory. The TV show, that is, for making geekdom cool. And hilarious.
  8. Baseball. It's a thinking fan's sport. If you think it's boring, you probably just don't get it.
  9. Thomas Jefferson. Because every country needs a founding genius, and we got him. Go visit his personal library at the Library of Congress or his home, Monticello, and you'll see what I mean.
  10. Marriage. Despite all the day-to-day frustration and responsibility and all, it's absolutely awesome to come home to your best friend every day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Carb Coma

Today we had the second annual "Lasagna Throwdown" to benefit the music department at the church, and we're all comatose from the great food! Mexican lasagnas, traditional lasagnas, seafood lasagnas, sauces, more pasta, desserts...the South Beach people would be appalled. But we were happy!

Even more fun, some of us performed the Silent Monks' version of the Hallelujah Chorus. I was the "of" in "King of Kings," DH was "lu," and Frick was the short monk. Check out this version, performed by one of our local high schools, and you'll see what I mean. Fun stuff! Yummy stuff! Time for a nap!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

10 Bad Habits You Can't Break

  1. Procrastinating
  2. Chewing my cuticles
  3. Relying on deadline adrenaline
  4. Avoiding financial issues
  5. Not carrying cash
  6. Facebooking too much
  7. Ditto with infosnacking
  8. Letting the laundry pile up
  9. Avoidance behaviors
  10. Not exercising

Much Ado About Nothing: Presidential Speech Edition

Just in case you've been camping on the moon for the past couple of weeks, today President Obama delivered his socialist agenda brainwashing speech to innocent children, better known to those of us who actually use our brains to think as a Presidential Back-to-School address. Seems President Obama, who knows from both his and the First Lady's backgrounds that a solid education is the key to success, wanted to remind the kids that their futures were in their own hands, and their job is to work hard in school, persevere, and watch all that work bear fruit.

How very pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps of him. Just the kind of hard work, self-reliant, achieve your American Dream kind of thing the conservatives have been harping on for years. Unfortunately, there are some truly loose screws shouting from the right side of the aisle these days. Even more unfortunately, a sizable chunk of the populace is listening to them without thinking much about what they're actually saying.

These are the same folks who got all bent out of shape when people criticized President G.W. Bush. As in, "How dare you criticize the President? How un-Patriotic! How un-American!" Now that their guy's not in the Oval Office, it's open season on Obama--and that's being patriotic and American.

Look, folks. Dissent is an American value. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution don't guarantee that we're all going to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." You don't have to agree with President Obama. You don't have to like him. But, to be fair, if you demand that the office of the President deserves respect (as I heard so many preaching during the W years), then put your money where your flappin' gums are and respect the man. It's possible to disagree without being disagreeable--and I'm not just talking about the conservatives. There are some lefties who've abandoned their good manners and foam at the mouth as rabidly and unattractively as the freaked-out tea party crowd. Extremism of any stripe is annoying and dangerous. And, most of the time, downright wrong.

Thinking Americans of all stripes can find much to praise in today's message. They can also find much to discuss. DISCUSS being the key word. Thou canst not discuss when thou art shouting.

I think President Obama's words were on the mark. He, at least, seems to understand that the work of education is spread among a large group of people. Today, he addressed the group that's often left out of the "let's improve our schools" debates--the ones actually doing the work in the desks. He tells the kids,
"By the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world — and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities."
Preach on, Mr. President. If you're lucky, maybe some of their parents were paying attention.

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