Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Morrigan is taking an acting class, which suits her dramatic nature nicely. Tonight is the performance night where the parents will be treated to the fruits of their labor: a 15 minute play. This is Roanoke so we naturally know a number of the other parents [Don't let me forget to share Tim's theory about how the 'Noke is just like The Simpsons someday.] and one Mom decided to organize a dinner out after the show. Perfect! It just happens to be a Mom of whom I don't see nearly enough.

Ah but then the emails started about the flowers. One Mom inquired if the rest of us were bringing flowers for our little stars. I could not answer fast enough - NO NO NO! (I said it in a much more toned down way, but that was what was going on in my mind.) In the end, I was, as always with these kinds of things, in the minority, or all alone as the case may be. Everyone else is bringing at least a small bunch of flowers.

So Tim asked if I was going to change my plans, seeing as our child might be the sole performer who lacks material acknowledgement of her dramatic achievement. It might make me the worst Mom, but nope. You read it right.

NOPE.

Before I go into my, very compelling, explanation of why I don't want to buy flowers, even in the face of overwhelming peer pressure, I'm gonna give y'all a disclaimer. I'm a-ok with being the only one who shows up empty handed. And I'm not judging those who do otherwise - I don't presume to tell you how to live your life. But I have a reason, hopefully one my daughter understands or at least will someday.

What makes things wonderful is that they are special. Scarcity.

My childhood understanding of the relationship between flowers and the theater was that the leads received them, on opening night, and mostly on Broadway. By comparison, what Morrigan is in tonight is a 15 minute play that was the result of a six week acting class. Shoot, I performed monologues that long in high school drama and the idea of flowers never crossed my mind.

But what is the harm, you say. The kids love it. And they do love it but when you receive flowers every time you set foot on a stage, it ceases to be special, or rare, or a treat. It is expected. What once was a great prize becomes something you only notice when you are without it. Flowers are the baseline, the lack of, is austerity.

I was reading the blogger Suburban Matron the other day and she was writing about a martial arts belt ceremony and said, "I don't know, but I wonder if when this crop of kids actually achieves something, like graduation from medical school, if they'll be like, yawn, I walked under an arch of swords when I got my yellow belt."

Because it isn't just flowers at drama or dance recitals, it is the way we, and I mean us parents, have tried to turn everything into the-end-all-be-all, the most incredible moment of our kids' lives. The desire to turn each downright average thing they do into a chance to remind them that they are a special little flower, unique and loved.

Our Tae Kwon Do instructor the other day at the belt testing referenced the ice cream, treat or bribe we had all promised our children. My kids turned to look at me expectantly. Was this true? Because before Mr. Big Mouth put the idea into their heads, the reward for moving up a belt level was MOVING UP A BELT LEVEL. Which was exactly what I told them on the way home. I was very pleased they did so well and was overjoyed that I was the proud mother of two green belts. But we didn't need to fete each step on the path. Maybe when you are black belts we'll get a cone.

Don't get me wrong, my kids are special little flowers and I love them. I tell them I love them each and every day. Not just the good days. No matter how rough the day, how pissed off they've made me, we close it out with I love you. They will not, or should not, want for love.

At the same time, I think we've tried to build our kids, and their self esteem, up by celebrating everything as precious when sometimes the things themselves should just be their own reward. What makes being in a performance great? It is the joy of being on stage and entertaining. It is the thrill of being up there, without a net, doing it all live. I want to teach my kids to savor and enjoy the moments they live for what they are. To take pride in a job well done without spending your time looking over the horizon for a trophy, flowers or ice cream rewards.

All of which, in all likelihood, will be lost on a ten year old. So why not take the easy way out, the path of least resistance, the trip to the florist? Because I trust my kids will get it someday. It might not be theater, but someday, they will achieve in an endeavor, and the true victory will taste all that much better. And hopefully, they will have enjoyed all the other steps on the path for the joy they brought along the way.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

When Maggie's Daisy troop disbanded, which was, in all honesty, my fault, as I refused to wade through the mountains of bureaucracy alone to be the sole troop leader, she was left to watch as her sister's troop continued on. She dealt with it pretty well. Even this year, she would happily go out into the cold with her sister, knocking on doors to sell and deliver cookies, all for her sister's benefit.

But she really wanted back in.

While I knew we could be assigned to a troop, I didn't want to enter a situation of complete unknowns, especially if said unknowns were all the way across town. So told Mags to find a friend in a troop and see if they would accept new Girl Scouts. She did and a week later, she was a proud member of a Raleigh Court troop.

One of the first badges they worked on after Maggie joined them was the "House Elf" badge, which asked them to come up with different ways to recycle, save water and electricity each day of the week. She faithfully filled out her log, mostly with things we already do around the house: water plants with leftover drinking water, only run very full dishwashers, reuse the outer bags from store bought bread. I think she was the most pleased that she was the only one who listed composting and was able to introduce the concept to many of the girls. Then we got in our very green Suburban and drove home (ha ha, you know it is kind of funny.)

She received two patches for her (at this point nonexistent) Brownie vest. Since her group fell apart, she aged up from Daisies to Brownies, naturally requiring a new set of gear, and patches, and all sorts of delights for sale in the GS store. As we drove home, I asked, albeit reluctantly, if she wanted a vest considering they were supposed to wear them to their cookie sales booth this weekend. [Come see us at Lowes on 220 South from 11-1 on Saturday!] She paused, thought about it and said, "Don't I move up another level in a few months?" Yes, I said, the 4th graders are something else (which I can't remember) but I know they wear green. "Then I don't need one. I'll just recycle and wear Morrigan's old one."

I don't think I can adequately express in words the joy that type of practicality and frugality brings me.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Speed Racer

When Eion initially said that I was the only person he wanted to invite to his birthday party, we knew we needed some time with his peers. So we joined Boy Scouts, or Cub Scouts or whatever the hell he is right now. Today was his very first Pinewood Derby.

Eion, being Eion, refused any and all assistance in the prep of his car. The result, a very box-like car, complete with friction adding paint on the wheels.


Things were looking bad for us. Tim helped add some pennies, for weight, and graphite at the last minute but hopes were not high.


The entries varied as far as parental involvement but I was pleasantly surprised at how many seemed to have had actual input from the kids rather than just woodworking trophies made by their fathers. 


Eion's first race was a loss and he was devastated. He skulked about in the hallway for probably a half hour and it seemed he would never bounce back. We gave some comfort but told him he had to buck up. After all, half the people there lost right off the bat and everyone, except one person, would lose in the end.

Fortunately, he rallied. It was double elimination so he had a shot in the runner-up bracket. Surprise to all in attendance, he won!


And as no one was as heartbroken in defeat, no child was as enthusiastic in victory.


The next heat knocked him out but he dealt with the loss much better this time. We got a little bit of everything on today's emotional roller coaster. E seems to have walked away less concerned with improving his speed for next year as having a better looking car. Image, I suppose, is everything.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tubing at Wintergreen

While other families routinely ski and go tubing, we just hadn't managed it since the kids were born. Partly they weren't ready, we seem to have bred some especially risk averse kids, and part of it was that we were pansies and didn't want to be outnumbered on the slopes. I mean, who would get stuck alone with two (possibly miserable) kids and someone was bound to. But after last weekend's only snow of winter, we decided the children could handle tubing and we were prepared for any and all outcomes.

Mostly prepared anyway. We called Casa Fraught to see if they might make the journey too and Amy suggested we might want to buy tickets in advance. Huh? This had never even occurred to us. Sure enough, the 12-2pm block was sold out and we had to opt for a later time. We had, it seemed, narrowly averted disaster.

The drive was uneventful and we were full of hope, though we became worried when we were here:


and the cries of hunger started. But we did what any prudent parents wanting a successful day at the slopes would do, we threw money at it. $32 and some fried food later and we were back in business! Look at how happy those little swindlers are.


With one exception,  which we'll get back to, the day was a complete success. All the kids loved it and all were willing to go it alone, which was important as someone had to each time. 


But I find myself utterly conflicted about the whole thing. The last time I had been tubing was in the millennium prior and it was a very, very different experience. I can't decide if it was better. 

Back in the old days, let's say about 1980, we were living in Northern Indiana and tubing meant you first had to find a hill, no small feat in the flatlands. Said hill was probably less impressive than my neighbor's driveway but at the time was massive. We'd truck us the hill, hauling what I believe were actual inner tubes from tires, complete with pointy out-y inflation valves. Not a handle in sight. Then you went careening down the hill, god help anyone who was in your way. Crashing, into trees as well as the other tubers and sledders, was half the fun. The only thing limiting your trips down the slope was the speed with which you could make it back up the hill.

Then there is tubing, 2012 style. There were ten groomed runs. No matter how fast you went or were jostled from side to side, you never left your selected chute.


You waited in line for your turn. Each wave was  released with a countdown and all ten riders left simultaneously. When you all were done, the next wave was held back until everyone had cleared the area and were well out of harm's way. In our 2 hour allotment, we managed 8 runs.

So yes, it was safer, there were zero injuries reported as far as I could tell, but it was all so sterile. It was some very controlled, well organized fun. And while each run was (very) fun, they were also all kind of the same. No real danger or excitement. None of the Lord-of-the-Flies unrestrained joy I remember from back in the day.

But then again, before I get too nostalgic, back then we also didn't have the very fine moving walkway to shuttle us back to the top of the hill. And I can't say I missed getting stabbed by the inflation valve either.

We'll settle on different.

The one disappointment? Tim hoped so very much that the kids would see the skiers and get enthused about trying it themselves next year. It's been since before we had kids that we've been skiing. This is, by and large, my fault. When I found out I was pregnant with Morrigan, the first thing that went through my head was how happy I was. The next was, "Sweet! I probably won't have to ski for years!" And I mean that literally. I've been skiing in Michigan, out West, in West Virginia and I really don't care for it. 

Correction, I can't stand it. I loathe it. Just the thought of spending all that money to be on some unstable bootery (I have enough stability issues in everyday life, thanks) in cold, which I hate, is enough to make me miserable. I've been viewing the inevitability of a ski trip for years, about 11 now, with a sense dread that I don't even feel for dental appointments. At least those are warm.

So needless to say, I  have not been pushing for a trip. 

But Tim knew that if the kids wanted to go, I would too, as happily as I could manage. The wee ones, however, all independently said how they had no desire to ski. [I swear I didn't coach them. I generally try not to bring it up at all - it only leads to talk of ski trips.] This was a crushing disappointment to the love of my life. 

Certainly, I could feel for him in a very peripheral way but any sympathy quickly turned to panic as he set his sights on just us going out West to ski. Oh no! At least if the kids were there I could use them as a crutch and stay on the bunny hill all day. Without them, I would be forced to the top of green or even blue runs. All the misery of previous trips started flooding back. 

So I decided it was time for brutal honesty and a major concession. 

I told Tim, maybe for the first time, how very much I hated skiing. How I had tried, really and truly, but there is little I want to do less. Now I was willing to try taking the kids to Wintergreen to ski next year; limited financial risk, short time span. But a week in Vail, Aspen or any of those other cold places, no thanks.  BUT, and this is a big one, he could go with a friend. Big because we never vacation alone. We've found the payback just sucks too much. In this case, however, not going was payback enough for me.

Tim is happily researching his destination and I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted. [I can't help to add here that I really have some first world problems rolling today.]

Coda

I've had many inquiries as to the identity of my hate mailer. And while there are strong suspects, I'm not in the smear business and don't want to throw out any accusations without being absolutely sure. Your guesses are always welcome.

I'm also not in the business of being bullied, which is what this kind of communication really is.

When you write in a public forum, be it a blog or a local newspaper, you are Putting Yourself Out There. Part of the unwritten agreement is that once you have done that, you need to get ready for people to disagree with you and take it in stride. I did and they have. I have a dear friend who disagrees with me routinely, especially if I am ranting or making some of my more controversial statements. BUT, her comments are always polite, well thought out and she is willing to take credit for her position. Sometimes she shows me a side I didn't consider, sometimes I disagree. Those comments, however, are always published and at the end of the day, we're still great friends.

Maybe I was prepared for people to be on the other side of issues seeing as my friend base trends overwhelmingly liberal while I am rock solid conservative. If the subject turns to politics, which I swear I try to avoid, (stop laughing Tim) I find I can be outnumbered six to one, or sometimes seven if Tim thinks I have gone too far.

And that's ok. For where we know we are is the arena of ideas - none of these discussions is, or should be, taken as personal attacks.

My (fairly ramble-y) point is, it is a-ok if you disagree with me. Go ahead and write, email or call me and let me know that you think I'm full of shit. But, and it is a big but, you have to be willing to sign your name.

As opposed to constructive criticism or commentary, an anonymous letter like the one I received is a scare tactic, some adult bullying. You'd better watch what you are saying. We think you are lazy and irresponsible. You are a laughing stock. It was meant to make me unsure of myself, wondering at every turn, is this person the one? And to self-censor for fear of They writing me to let me know how much I suck.

The modern day "Guidance" approach to bullies is to "throw your anger to your feet" and "just walk away." I'm a little more old school than that, and my approach to bullies is to punch them in the nose. (Figuratively, of course.)

So readers, here or in The Circle, feel free to send me commentary, regardless of whether or not we're on the same side. You can do so without fear of attack. Try to bully me, that's different. Just know I'll hit back.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Put Your Name On It

Dude, I totally received my first piece of anonymous hate mail today. While this might not be the reaction sought by the author, I was completely psyched! The intrigue, the insults, the whisky-tango-foxtrot, it was just so surreal.

As the writers chose not to reveal who they are, I will use this very public forum to retort. But first, if you haven't read it, take a moment to go read It's Always Sunny on Lockridge in the Jan/Feb issue of the SoRo Circle here. I'll wait for you.

We all back together? Let's go. The letter, complete with bold and italics, will be in black. My commentary and response, will be bracketed in pink, cause I love that color.

Katie,

I read your article in the SoRo Circle and I think your characterization of yourself as a "Bad Mom" is incomplete. You're also an irresponsible, lazy mom. [Are you seriously opening with name calling? BTW, you forgot ugly and disrespectful.] Teaching "self-reliance" is how we prepare kids for the world. Allowing them increased freedom and responsibility is how that happens. However, you are misguided if you think your particular "free-range" style of parenting is the supreme way [I never used that word, that's your inference] to accomplish this and more mainstream approaches are "moronic." [I didn't call more mainstream approaches moronic, I said most, not all, baby proofing is moronic. I'll stand by that one.]

Your mentality is an excuse to absolve yourself of your responsibilities. For example, how many times was the pool closed because of your "free-range" potty training? [Well looky here! A Roanoke Country Club member. The answer is ZERO. We closed the pool once, five freaking years ago, because E's swim diaper had a blowout while I was sitting right next to him. Do we call that free-range or a really bad day for which no one should be punished?] How often did the staff get your kids' food, toys, etc., while you read or drank beer? [The answer is exactly the same number of times I helped other people's kids when they couldn't reach the water or ketchup. It takes a village.] You weren't teaching anything except to expect someone other than mom to help. It's hard to comprehend that you consider all three of your kids falling down the stairs a normal part of learning how to walk. [It taught them to respect the stairs. I'm standing by it.]

Do you really think that because you drive a Suburban in the "hood" you're immune to accidents? [Umm, never said that. I merely thought that kids in a giant car, complete with seat belts didn't need four point restraints at age 10.]  It wouldn't be "Sunny on Lockridge" if something happened to your kids because you didn't provide them with age appropriate boundaries, supervision and guidance. Don't forget they also learn from example. [Yeppers. And my example is to never leave the driveway without seat belts on.]

You probably think I'm one another one of those "snarky" moms who parents with "out of control paranoia". [sic] I might even dare to give you the "LOOK" [I'm sure you already have.] when you spew your parenting practices. My guess is that after reading this you'll think I still wipe my kid's [sic] butts, "peel their grapes", [sic and c'mon - peeling grapes is insanity personified] and "gasp", [sic] even hire a babysitter. [I never said others couldn't use a babysitter. Sweet baby Jesus, If Eion were the oldest, there is no way in hell I would leave him in charge of anyone, including himself. I was commenting on someone else's reaction to MY decision not to use a babysitter.] I teach my kids to be responsible and independent but not at the risk of their well-being. Think whatever you want about me, I don't care because I know I am a better parent than you and I am not the laughing-stock for being ridiculous. [Soooo, you don't like me being judgmental but you are deeming my kids as having their well-being at risk? Further, declaring yourself as a better parent then me. I'm am pretty damn sure I didn't say I was better than anyone, just different. And if people are laughing? Good. It was a humorous piece, though that seems to have been lost on you.]

If you think raising "free-range kids" is so great you could have written a persuasive piece describing the concept, your experiences and the benefits according to you. But instead you chose to write, with unbelievable arrogance [I'll give you that one. I am routinely arrogant. Everyone knows it.] and gross sarcasm, an article that was an antagonistic, smarmy [point again to the writer, I really appreciate the use of smarmy, it is a completely underutilized word] rant in which you judged, criticized and ridiculed the typical mom (and others, ex. Police) [Hey-wasn't faulting the PoPo for having the car seat checks, just said I didn't want to go.] to justify the way you parent and insult those who disagree. This leads me to believe you used the SoRo Circle to let Roanoke know that what you think is superior and say screw you to the rest of us. [If you knew me better, you'd know that if I wanted to say screw you, I would do it in a much more direct fashion. This was nothing of the sort.]

This is the most important part. Here's what you need to understand. Your parenting preference is not what is offensive. What's offensive is that the purpose of your article was to be insulting and condescending to moms who parent in a more traditional way and who you resent for questioning your beliefs. [Except you are 150% wrong. I was relaying, in what I meant to be a humorous way, how I felt I was on the outside of parenting and how the free-range style made me realize I am not alone.] Use whatever style of parenting you want but you need to realize that unorthodox methods in any arena are often questioned. You can't handle that or the "torpedoes" you damn. [READ: If you dare to be different, we can say whatever the hell we want about you. But if you open your mouth and suggest that we just might not be right, get ready for the anonymous letters about how you are LAZY and SMARMY and] You are so obnoxious. [Seriously, again with the name calling? Not to mention, I'll totally own that one. I never claimed to be anything otherwise.]

From, Kenny's Parents [The cowards who can't offer criticism with their names attached.]

{end of anonymous, no return address letter}

So y'all, here's the thing. I am sarcastic, sometimes (always) obnoxious, and I am sure I go too far, all the damn time. But what my article was all about, which I would have been happy to explain privately if given the chance, was about my own parenting experience that has been, admittedly, different from the norm. I did not attack the moms who gave me the LOOK over the years. But when I read about free-range parenting, it spoke to me and I wanted to share it, albeit in my own irreverent way.

To my hate mail writer, you need to know a couple of things. One, I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks of me. If your letter was designed to make me feel bad, it failed. Two, most people have told me I'm hilarious. So lighten the fuck up. Three, put your name on it. Be a man, or a woman, and put your name on it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat, and SNOW!

The Chili Cookoff

Despite my plans to craft a chili sure to win, I spent the year preparing not at all. So Saturday afternoon, Tim and I began our cooking adventure. We started with  eye of round, cooked in the sous vide. Then we cubed and seared the beef and added a variety of roasted peppers. We tasted and added everything from tomatoes, to carrots and finally chocolate. In the end, we had what we thought was a easy chili that we could never again replicate.


Upon arrival, we figured we had a product that would not embarrass us but had no real hopes of winning. Having searched in vain for an appropriate name, we laughed and titled it "Mmm...Kittens Are Delicious!" But as the tasting commenced, we noticed Kittens was having a very favorable reaction and our hopes were raised.


Raised only to be dashed as we came in 2nd place. We didn't make the plaque. But considering our expectations at the outset, we were pretty pleased.


Snow Day!


After a snowless winter, the kids' prayers were finally answered with a forecast predicting 4-12 inches of snow. As the flakes began to fall, Eion got completely suited up and waited at the back door, ready to get into the thick of things the minute the accumulation warranted it. They were not disappointed.



They played in the snow, warmed up and then would go back for more all day. 

Our across the street neighbors brought their girls and came over for pizza for what we thought, was the end of the day. While we were eating, the snow kept falling and getting thicker on the ground.

After they returned home, I got a message: We're doing shooters and having a luge contest down the driveway!

How do you pass that up? So it was out of pjs and back into the snow clothes. Maggie and E were in bed so Morrigan accompanied us for the last sledding session of the day.


And the best part of all is that the temps are forecasted to reach 65 this week so it will all melt quickly. Just the right kind of snow day for me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Incoming

It looks like after a snow-less winter, this is on the way:


While it is hard to believe we are going to have 4-9 inches of snow dumped on us tomorrow, especially considering we were out walking without coats today, there is no arguing with the radar. We did an equipment check and after purchasing a few pairs of boots and gloves, we are prepared for snow fun. I'm even kind of looking forward to it.

Odds and Ends


Friday, E and I were off to the Homeschool Geography Club. This month, Russia was our educational destination. Seeing as I had 1) contributed zip, zero, nada to last month and 2) actually had some personal experience, having visited the Soviet Union in 1988, it was time we, and by we, I mean I, made a presentation. It was actually really easy - I just brought in pictures, complete with 80's hair, and some souvenirs I had and spoke off the cuff.


I had plenty of stories but I was surprised at the things I had to explain. One guy we knew had traded, jeans I think, to get a full Soviet military uniform. When he was leaving the country, the authorities found it and he was questioned and later he, and his entire family, were banned for life. Here is the rub, I had to explain how back then, it was very unusual to have such tight luggage screening. Most of these kids had no or few memories of air travel pre 9/11. 

But a few unexpected explanations aside, it seemed to go well. And Eion had a ball showing the other kids all the rubles and kopecks I had saved from the trip. I told them that I had actually smuggled out a paper ruble, not allowed at all, but had lost it in the ensuing years. My lawlessness, along with my massive base of Star Wars knowledge from an earlier conversation, definitely gave me street cred with the older kids.

Next month: Ireland. I have to say I am going to lobby hard for someplace with better cuisine for April. After Iceland, Russia and Ireland, I will have had my fill of root veggies and cabbage.

In other news, I finally made it to a "punch" class. While I never had any doubt that beating up on things would suit me just fine, I had never made it to a class. The Friday class routinely conflicts with tennis and the Saturday class is at 8am. I'm generally up by then but being up and to the gym, on a Saturday, by then was a stretch. But I was complaining about how I had been slacking lately to a friend who teaches at the gym and she told me I really should come this week. As I lay in bed this morning, thinking about how I had no desire to get up, I knew she was expecting me. It was worth the effort. Though if I continue, I will have to get my own gloves, pink of course. The ones you can borrow are nasty. 

And lastly, after being quite embittered by my chili cook off loss last year, I vowed to to work hard, experiment and not stop until I had the best chili ever for the following year. Well, the following year is tonight and the number of experimental chili batches I have made? None. So we are going entirely experimental and making one up this afternoon. What we really need is a great name....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let's Get All Nit Picky

You know, I haven't gotten all indignant about something in at least a few hours so let's talk education. Our destination is an email I received from the local PTA regarding some bills in the Virginia House and Senate but first, we're going to get in my head, which can be a truly scary place.

Homeschooling Eion has been, for my educational mindset, nothing short of revolutionary. He was in a system that failed to recognize he was not learning to read. [He was, at the time we yanked him out, getting an A in reading.] When they did find out, they had no plan but to bludgeon him with more of the exact same techniques they were already using. There was no Plan B. There was no track for kids who were struggling. It was full steam ahead. After all, we can't have children learning at a different pace.

It was crushing his spirit and teaching him he was stupid.

Fast forward a few months and he is reading pretty well. He's no Morrigan, but who is? Better yet, he proudly describes himself as smart, something we never heard when he was at public school. While occasionally tough for me, the homeschooling experience has been so positive overall that I have already told Morrigan that if she hates middle school, she can stay home too, a decision that was surprising even for some of my close peeps. The way I look at it is middle school is a freaking self esteem grinder, chock full of kids at what is possibly their meanest age, ready to tear apart the weak, coinciding with one of the most emotionally tumultuous times in our children's young lives. Rite of passage? I think we'll just find our own path.

So for the remainder of the post, you'll have to keep in mind that I am coming from a mindset that is pro-homeschool and becoming exponentially more jaded towards the public school system. I'm a full disclosure kind of gal. Now about that email....

I received an email from the head of the Central Council PTA regarding three different bills. On one, we were in agreement. They wanted local school boards to control school start dates. Yours truly, always about decentralizing control and decision making in government. From there, we had no common ground.

The description and recommended action for the next bill was as follows:

HB 947 (Bell) - This bill passed the House and seeks to allow homeschool students to participate on public school athletic teams.  Opponents believe that athletic teams should be reserved for the public school athletes that are enrolled in their school. There are concerns that if public school teams are opened to non-public school students, will other clubs and academic classes be next?  The PTA has held a position against this bill since 1999.  [Highlighting mine.]


Good lord almighty! We wouldn't want homeschoolers, whose families are paying taxes that support the public school system and are causing no expense to said system to reap any benefits unless they are all in for public schools. We don't want another Tim Tebow on our hands. And if it starts with athletics, it is just a slippery slope! Next they will be in the art classes!

Ok, I am being reactionary. But realistically, why can't a kid like Eion, who oozes ADD from every pore, can't learn effectively and sit still in the traditional environment at this time, come in for art? Or music? If he becomes a problem, give him the boot. Tim and I have not seen a decrease in our taxes since the public school system no longer has to deal with our son. Why shouldn't we benefit in part, since in whole is not best for our son?

Why? Because if you are not fully invested, you are outside the machine. And if people on the inside had the chance to interact with more homeschool freaks, they might just find out that there is more than one way to reach an educational goal. [Not saying better, just different. I still have two daughters in the public schools.] But that, my friends, is dangerous and treasonous thinking.

It gets better with the next bill:

HB 321 (Massie) - This bill has reported out of committee but has not yet been taken up on the House floor. It allows a tax credit (public money) to corporations donating money to non-profits providing scholarships (private schooling) to lower income students.  The PTA has long opposed allowing public money which could be used to improve our public schools to fund private education for any student.

I am beside myself. 

First, let's look at the language here. A tax credit is being described as "public money." I beg to differ. A tax credit means an individual or corporate entity keeps more of its own money. We are starting from a point where all funds are assumed to be the property of the government - what they say you can keep is yours. The perspective should be that all you make is yours, from that, the government takes. 

But even if you disagree with me on that point, which you shouldn't, I'm right, let's look at the rest of the wording. They are opposed to corporations channeling money to non-profits that would provide scholarships to low income children. Not the wealthy, the poor. From this vantage, the only route for the disadvantaged is through the public, government run, schools. The PTA is saying here that they oppose private corporations funding scholarships for poor children.

Let that one sink in for a minute. 

And to go back to that whose-money-is-it-anyway topic, understand that the tax credits offered the corporations willing to donate money for privately funded education are not in any way linked to public school funding. It is not that there is a pie of funds designated for education and every dollar given as a tax credit will be stripped from the public school system. This bill in no way aims to reduce public school spending. The tax credits will have to be offset with spending reductions but they are not marked as education spending reductions.

What this is all about is not funding. Christ, try to let the meals tax in Roanoke expire and you will hear caterwauling the likes of which you have never heard, in spite of the fact that the school board has, right at this very minute, plans that would allow the tax to expire with no teacher cuts. People are loathe to cut education funding.

But what it does does do is something much more dangerous. It gives poor children the chance to see that there is something out there besides the public schools. Or better yet, that there are corporations who have generosity in their board rooms and want to assist those most at risk. That there is benevolence outside government. That there is another educational path. 

This is about control. 

It is about a monopoly of state run schools. And that was the, to steal from The Oprah, my Ah-Ha moment. What the PTA of Virginia, and I am sure nationally, is all about, is not necessarily the best education for children. They are about all kids being in the system. Sometimes, the best education is outside the public school system. And based on the PTA standpoints here, that is something to punish and repress.

So where does that leave me? I have made commitments to the PTA for this school year that I will, naturally, honor. After that? I'm done. I'll continue to volunteer to help at the school level, after all, Jump Rope For Heart wouldn't be the same without me taunting and challenging all the kids, but the time and money I put towards the PTA will be zero. 

And my point is? As always, let's look at what is being told to us with a critical eye. If that critical eye leads you in my direction? Welcome to the revolution. 

Perspective

This is another post about Eion. I think the sheer amount of time we spend together just means I have more to say about him these days. Though this little interaction came to me via Hans.

Eion: This is the shirt I want. It's $15.


Hans: Wow, kicking someone in the head. That could be either scary or awesome.
Eion: Yes - scary if you are being kicked in the head or awesome if you are me kicking the head!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet My Daughter, Katniss

These days, finding things that make my eldest happy can be challenging. A great many things are boring while so many others are babyish and the remaining are so embarrassing. The only things that seem to fall outside these colorful descriptions are 1) reading in bed and 2) watching tv. I, and Tim to a much greater degree, find this maddening.

So it was with great joy and much enthusiasm that we greeted Morrigan's declaration that she wanted to learn to shoot a bow and arrow. (No doubt inspired by Katniss of The Hunger Games.) Maggie was at a birthday party so we headed out to Gander Mountain for some weapons shopping. Yeehaw!

Morrigan was excited and Eion, well, he was beyond psyched about all the possibilities. Exactly how many guns and bows and arrows would we purchase? Hopes were high.

They migrated with ease to the hunting section and looked oddly at home.


While the checkout weaponry count was too low for Eion, we did get a bow and arrow set and a target. It has been way to cold for using it, but the first day we have some reasonable weather, Morrigan is out there!


In unrelated and I am sure fascinating news.....

This was updated:


Need some detail?


Woohoo! B Doubles Club Champions. Maybe it will take the sting out of losing our last two ladder matches in tie breaks. But probably not.

And all those kittens? Removing food has done nothing for our migrant cat population. Just this morning, sunning themselves on the deck:


Perhaps we will just become the Hemingway House of Roanoke.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Flush With Kittens

I'm not sure when this all started, but our deck and backyard seem to have become a haven for kitties. Granted, we have a bowl of food on the back deck for our cat, Jacques J. Kittywitty, that naturally attracts visitors, mainly of the possum and raccoon variety. They, as interlopers on my deck, have also become target practice that meets with varying degrees of success. The many dings in our deck railings from our errant BB fires stands as a testament that most escape unharmed. 

Anyhow, we have been visited daily for the last few weeks by a cute orange and white tabby, affectionately known by my children as "The Foreign Kitty." And everyday one of the kids will excitedly report a Foreign Kitty sighting. It seemed harmless enough and my own cat has up to date rabies shots so we didn't think much of it. 

Until the foreigners increased.

Eion and I were working one morning when he yelled out, "It's the Foreign Kitty!" We saw him about an hour earlier so I told E, "Yes, yes - now get back to work." But no, he told me, this was a NEW Foreign Kitty. Lo and behold, it was.


Add to that a third cat, black but not ours, and we have damn near a kitty rescue mission going down here. 

Jacques, ever the pacifist (or coward), will watch without interfering as these guests eat his food and take their leave. 

You know, there is a little Meow Mix out there but you would think the word would be out on the streets with the feline persuasion - this is the woman who (accidentally) smooshed one of her own cats. We might want to give her a wide berth. But no, we just keep getting new friends daily.

Seeing as they aren't appropriate target practice, even I have limits, looks like Jacques will have to eat in the garage. If they won't leave? Let's just hope all these cats help keep down the mice population.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So Here We Are

You know, I had high hopes of writing this week. I actually was coming up with topics and plans for a separate, and very rant-y blog. Maybe I should not aim quite so high and just endeavor to post more than once weekly. But we're all here now so let's go over the week.

I've been feeling like crap, which is most directly related to my lack of writing. Eion has been the beneficiary of more than one "homeschool from bed" session. He digs it and wants all learning to be bed focused. Sadly for him, I am on the mend.


He and Maggie both tested for their green Tae Kwon Do belts this week. Eion was a bit shaky, but Maggie, that sweet thing, worked with him at home to make sure he was ready.


They call if your kid fails and I haven't received a call so we'll assume they are moving up! This was the first time they had to spar at testing. Maggie was looking to take some boys down!


Apparently, many kids quit at this level because the pressure of hand to hand combat is too much. Not so for my wee ones. They are likes-to-fight kids.


In unrelated news, we had a couple of those wretched parenting moments this week. First off, there is Morrigan - on the cusp of middle school and all the drama and awkwardness that awaits. She was tearful tonight and feeling as if she has no friends. Does she? You know, I'm not really sure. She's always operated in her own "Morrigan World" and seemed so happy there. Only just now she's realized that maybe she wants some others to come along. You know, I did what I could. I told her about how her Mom was unable to find a senior prom date and had to import her best friend's brother from college to escort me (true story.) How, even now, I am really and truly, her highness queen of the dorks. And how my life has turned out pretty awesome in spite of it all. She didn't buy it, in spite of its factual accuracy, and I know I have so little control over the roller coaster that is waiting for us. Help me sweet baby Jesus.

Then there is E. One day this week I, smartly, recognized that we were getting exactly nowhere at homeschool and we needed a break. Off to the gym it was, where I ran into the wife of one of Tim's co-workers. We got to talking about Eion, the homeschooling, the complete ADD the child has. I told her how  I was loathe to medicate him. She responded by recommending I take a second look at meds. For her son, she said, they put it off so long. But when they did add medical intervention, HE was so much happier.

Huh.

I has always eschewed drugs because I assumed they were for my, and society as a whole's, benefit. Meds were to keep these out of control little effers tolerable, right? I had never, not once, thought that they would make Eion's life better. And you know, they might.

Would he be happier if when he was supposed to get dressed, he was able to stay on track and do so, rather than end up half-clad and playing with legos, only to get yelled at for not getting dressed in the generous amount of time offered? Would he be able to spend more time doing other things if he could read more than one line at a time without his mind wandering?

I don't know.

We have an appointment to talk with our Pediatrician. They gave me a form to fill out that, based on some very honest answers, paints a very ADD picture. It was almost comical, albeit in a heartbreaking way, how stereotypically he seemed to fit the diagnosis. 

Will we medicate, something I said, and believed, we would never do? Wish I could tell you. Whatever we do, I hope we get it right for the little guy.

And so there we are.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chinese New Year or Surprise Success at the Taubman

For a few days, I had the weirdest illness. Just a cough. It was kind of a nagging gross one with texture (I know you wanted to know that) but I otherwise felt just dandy. Then, over the course of Friday afternoon, it morphed into the Worst Throat Pain Ever. Seriously. In my 40 years of existence, I have never had this type of pain. From my throat anyway. It hurt to eat. I, never one to miss a meal, decided dinner was too painful and skipped it.

So the next morning when Eion asked, "We're still going to the Chinese New Year aren't we?" How could I say no? [I was bolstered by an improved physical condition. Now it only hurt a bit when I swallowed.]

Our chances of success were looking slim. Maggie was absolutely being forced to go against her will. Morrigan was a decidedly half-hearted participant. Not to mention, she was at a sleepover the night before and had little to no sleep. But we pressed on. We were going to have some family fun dammit.

To the amazement of all involved, we did! They had at least 10 tables set up with different crafts and activities which the kids LOVED.


For entertainment, they had a virtually non-stop show of martial arts, a Chinese dragon, dancers, singers and musicians.


These dancers were too cute!


As the three hours we were there flew by (while we were in a two hour parking zone - big thanks to the parking enforcement for not feeling punitive today), we saw tons of friends, both mine and the kids'. And while there were lots of people there, The Public was not in attendance. How do I know? Only once in the entire time we were there did I think, "good lord you smell like a pack of smokes." It was lovely.


We have two asides for the day as well. 

Number 1 - Sometimes We Might Underestimate The Boy
E was working with some wood puzzles they had at one of the play stations. I went over to check in and make sure he was doing ok and not annoying the crap out of someone. A dad there asked, "Is this your son?" Having no idea what his next line would be, I answered with a decidedly tentative, "Yes?" "Well," he told me, "he's really quite something." At which point I am thinking, don't I know it. But he went on, "He's really bright. I can't believe how quickly he put all these puzzles together." Go E. Not only was he not annoying the crap out of someone, he came off as a smart guy. Which, considering he refused to remove his shin guards for the event, was something.

Number 2 - The World Is Sometimes So Freaking Small I Could Fit It In My Pocket
I'm checking in to see if the kiddos were ok and a woman came up to me and the following ensued:

Woman: I know you but I have no idea from where.
Me: [Thinking she looks vaguely familiar but not being able to place her at all.] Ummm. Do you live in South Roanoke?
Woman: No. Are you from Michigan?

Now, I know I sound Northern, but to pin it like that was weird. I was feeling like it was Candid Camera.

Me: Yeah.
Woman: Did you work for Comerica Bank?
Me: I did. I was Katie V. then. [Recognition is starting to set in here as the fog of 20ish years was lifted.] Were you in the Branch Management Trainee Program?

Indeed she was. I had to ask her name, which is Sharisse, and we quickly caught up. I'm still more than a little surprised she recognized me. For one, the last time we saw each other was at least 18 years ago. Not to mention, while we were in a training program together, this meant we only came in contact with each other quarterly, at best. 

But what a fun chance meeting. She and her family live in Raleigh Court, not ten minutes from me and her kids will end up in middle school with my own. Such a cliche, but what a small world.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I've been thinking about writing this week. Certainly, I could regale you with stories of the city schools calendar meetings, at which I might indeed be the Most Hated Woman in the city. Or I could pimp my latest article in The Circle. (OK - might fit that in right here.) Or I could rant about the train wreck that is Sam's Club on the first of the month, complete with food stamp users loading their purchases into a S Class Mercedes.

Or we can talk about suicide.

A neighbor took his own life this week. We weren't close friends, though we fell under the well-acquainted acquaintances. He left behind three small daughters and a wife. He was Tim's age.

When you hear about something so senseless and tragic, there are a million different things that go thorough your head. But for me it comes down to how.

How is it possible to get to a place that is so very dark that you think nothing is better than something. That you think the void you leave for your kids, ages similar to my own, is preferable to being in their lives. That you would want to close your eyes and say life could never improve. That there is nothing left for which to live.

And how dark the path is that leads you to that moment.

Maybe that is what scares me the very most. That there are journeys so dark and frightening that I can't even imagine how awful they are. And what one might do to escape them.

I've written and erased a half dozen closings to this post. It's tough to come up with a pithy ending about death. What I do know is that if life seems unbearable, which it does for us all on occasion, I'm going to remember the hug his daughter gave me at the viewing, amazingly dry-eyed, thanking me for coming. Telling me how she missed seeing my daughters. Think about the strength that little girl had and hope we can all aspire to be that brave.

And know that her bravery will probably break down today, tomorrow, someday. I hope we can be there to hug her then.