Mess for Success

Do you ever think or even know that you’re pushing the envelope?  Doing stuff that is bordering on the ridiculous, irresponsible, or even obnoxious?  Do you ever get to the point where you’re not certain that you care?

I fought the best fight I could for my son and this school nonsense.  I used my gift for written gab (or whatever the hell this is) to try to change the outcome of what I knew was a losing battle.  I talked to a lot of people. I mean really.  I talked to a lot of people.   I tried logic and persuasion.  I lost.  My kid lost.  We’re regrouping.

We still have 12 more days of school.  Shit is winding down.  Thank goodness.  We’re all DONE.  My son has been plotting throwing the Evil Villain into a “fiery pit.”  Not sure where that vision came from, but alrighty then.

I guess I used that for inspiration.  Remember how last week I trashed Felix’s behavior chart?  Well, they sent a new one home Friday.  He got a yellow.  I got a lighter and my grill.  I torched that shit.  Then I put it on Instagram and Facebook.  At first I felt powerful and full of moxie.  Then I started to worry.  I was being messy.  I was airing dirty laundry.  I was being disrespectful to the school that is still my daughter’s school and will hopefully be my son’s again one day.  Maybe.

But you know what, y’all?  I don’t care.  The behavior chart is a step too damn far, especially at this point. It’s too much, particularly when real feedback all along might have actually been helpful. This is not  constructive.

I hope that some other mom out there that is feeling sad or angry or exhausted or full of despair finds this damn blog or my Facebook or Instagram post.  And I hope it gives them some courage or at least the knowledge that they are not alone and that they need to keep fighting.

I may be messy, but so is my life.  But my kid is worth it.  Flame on.

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Trashes to Trashes

Today I snapped. I picked up my kids after school, listened to them squabble and fight the whole way home, opened Felix’s folder and pulled out his behavior chart, at which point I saw that today’s square had originally been green and then been violently colored over in red. Like, the paper was dented she had colored so hard. And I said “fuck this” and I crumpled it up and threw it away.

Godspeed to the landfill

Seriously. Fuck this. Why should I give a shit what the Evil Villain thinks about my son’s performance at anything, really? Perhaps if she had spent less time keeping count of the times he “spoke out of turn” and actually helped him, I would have different feelings. But she didn’t and therefore I don’t.

So that behavior chart is nestled snugly in the trash where it belongs, and if she tries to send a new one home tomorrow, it will also be destroyed. And I hope that I can keep this feeling the next time I run into an Evil Villain in either of my kids’ lives, because one thing that has become really clear to me in the past couple of weeks is that I’m going to have to be aggressive with these people. I’m going to have to complain. I’m going to have to not only participate in confrontations, but initiate them. And that’s hard when your natural instinct is to keep peace and go with the flow, to trust that other people are truly doing what they’re supposed to do. I’m gonna have to be a bitch- a huge one. I only wish I had metamorphosed earlier.

My mom just sent me this fab mug which is currently full of wine. Even better, it came from one of my brother’s shops. Everyone here is a winner!

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Mad to the Bone

I’ve made a lot of calls.  I’ve sent a lot of emails.  I’ve talked to some lovely board members at both the state and local level.  Many of them used our phone calls as opportunities to tell me about their own troubles when their kids were in school.  I was given options that I have already exhausted, names to call that I’ve already called.  One said they’d pray for me.

That’s great.  It also doesn’t change a damn thing.  My son is still in limbo – without a school.  I live in a city where it is apparently acceptable to kick a 5 year old pre-K kid out of his school.  It’s not only acceptable, it’s supported by policy.

I’m so angry.  I’m also so worried.  I’ve called 3 different places about having Felix tested for gifted, but none have called back.  And they all have waiting lists.  At this point, I will be lucky if he gets seen before the new school year starts.

I just have no words.  I cannot understand how this is allowed to happen.  I also may unleash hell in the only way left to me.  I cannot promise that Felix won’t have sugar cubes with a side of Snickers for breakfast every morning.  Why the hell not? 

Go get ’em, son!

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Alive and Licking

This past week has been a huge lesson in how absolutely incapacitating Mom Guilt can be.  With Stella, I had Mom Guilt for her entire Kindergarten year, and that stayed with me for about 1/3rd of her first grade year.  I’ve only recently been able to let some of that go, the couldas, wouldas, and shouldas.  I should not have been afraid to cause a ruckus.  I could have medicated her earlier.  I should not have sent her to that first summer camp where she broke her arm and got bullied so badly she still talks about it today.

Now with Felix, I have a whole new host of couldas, wouldas, and shouldas, and an entire new 7 course meal of Mom Guilt to digest.  Yeah, these school people are completely unrealistic, inhumane assholes, but I should have made more noise with the guidance counselor to get a 504 plan earlier – not allowing it to get blown off because it was “only pre-K.”  I should have complained vigorously that my ADHD son was assigned a spot on the very back corner of the carpet, where his imagination was free to wander far and wide with no chance for easy redirection.  I could have asked for more direct “academic” feedback.  Sure, I didn’t know it was necessary; after the contentious first year at this school with Stella and the Harpy, this year felt very peaceful and kumbaya, Evil Villain notwithstanding.  But I let my damn guard down.  That is on me.

I’ve spent time and gone on outings with my kids and can’t remember them because I’ve been so distracted.  I’ve been on field trips since this happened and was so busy trying to come to grips with my situation that I was not truly present, and I’m pissed at myself for that.  I don’t think I even really got the full brunt of what it was like to be licked by a bison.  Maybe that’s a good thing.

Getting licked by a bison is gnarly. Don’t do it.

I’ve been able to take some action this week, although it’s sometimes hard to keep that momentum when I know it’s not going to give me the outcome I want: my son back in his school where he belongs.  I’ve gotten him on waiting lists for other programs and gifted testing.  I’ve been emailing and speaking with various board members, and they all agree this situation is not ok.  It may be too late for my kid, but maybe just maybe our story can be used to change this twisted system into something that makes sense and is truly the right thing for children.

I’m going to try to shake some of this shit off and enjoy my weekend.  Maybe I’ll  buy myself some flowers.  I’m going on my last  outing for this school year with our Brownie troop tomorrow and I want to enjoy my girls.  We have a party and crawfish boil to attend.  Maybe I can go through our budget and find money to get a pedicure or something.  I’m going to drink wine, and maybe it won’t even come out of a box.

I will say this: I pity the fool that would dare to say a negative thing about my son to me right now, up to and including his father.  I got a text this morning from Will, lamenting the irritating amount of chatter that Felix was producing.  I quickly began texting a rebuttal about how he should feel lucky to have a son full of so many ideas and interesting facts and that he is privileged to have a son that wants to even share this stuff with him and that if he didn’t like it he could move out into the shed in the backyard where it would be nice and quiet.  I deleted that because I thought maybe I was being a little sensitive.

Do y’all know about Aggretsuko? She’s a character we’ve watched a while now, but is now available for binging on Netflix. She’s a mild-mannered accountant hiding a raging death metal side. She’s my new spirit animal.

Keep sending positive thoughts our way.  And I still would love Mary Poppins’ number.

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House of Discards

I’ve been processing.  It’s a lot.  This whole past weekend is really a huge blur, and not just because I drank too much wine (that was only Friday night).  All I wanted to do was cry and sleep.  I slept a lot, or as much as my children would let me.  There wasn’t anything else I could do.  It was the weekend, so all offices were closed.  There wasn’t anyone I could talk to.

They are discarding my son – simply getting rid of him.  And for what?  A lower-than-“acceptable” “reading” score?  Isn’t that part of what kindergarten is for?  To teach kids how to read?   Aren’t most kids better at one subject than another?  Doesn’t the fact that he is part of that school’s community worth a thing?  Apparently not.

I’m so angry.  I’d rather be angry than sad, I suppose, although that sadness still hits me  out of the blue.   I know everyone at his current school isn’t mean and rotten, but it’s so hard NOT to take this personally, to believe that there wasn’t – isn’t – something that can be done.

So I’ve emailed our story to one school board member, and will likely contact others.  I’ve been searching high and low for plan B.  There aren’t many options, truth be told.  Any other non-traditional public school is full and has a waiting list.  They won’t let him stay where he is and retake pre-K (although I wasn’t fond of that idea to begin with).  My understanding is that even private options are pretty much full up at this point, and who has the money for that?  We will try gifted testing but, despite the fact that anyone that knows my kid believes that he fits that label, he may not test well enough. ADHD kids often don’t.   Even then, he’ll be at a new school.  We will have to start over.  New, unknown teachers, without the all-important “mom network” of war stories and recommendations.

My  kid – all kids – deserve better than this.

Yeah Dude, suit up. It’s going to be a battle.

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Drink or Swim

I’m writing this because I honestly don’t know what else to do.  The testing didn’t go our way.  My son will not be able to attend the school he’s now grown accustomed to next year – the same school his sister attends.  Why?  Because of some random test that some administrator somewhere believes is an absolute indicator of ability and presumably intellect for all children, no matter what, period.

I’m gutted, y’all.  I’m absolutely gutted.  How do you tell your kid that he can’t go back to “his” school next year?  That he was deemed not good enough at 5 years old (although anyone that spends 10 minutes with him would disagree) so he he’ll have to go to a different school next year?  That his parents were cheerfully encouraged to “try again next year” even though that would mean he’ll switch schools 4 times in as many years?

As a parent, how can you stomach these examples of your children being deemed less than others?  How do you keep from screaming at the world that your kids do have value? How am I supposed to juggle 2 kids at 2 different schools with the same schedules?  I really don’t know.

I’m so fucking angry.  I’m so fucking sad.  My little boy is amazing but some test doesn’t seem to think so, so he’s being turfed out like garbage.  He’s disposable.  If I could, I’d pull both my kids out and take them away somewhere else – find some little hamlet somewhere where my kids are appreciated by people other than their family, where they could go to school and get a good education in a good, safe, enriching environment.

I’ll try to calm down tomorrow – to get my head together and start to build some kind of plan B – a plan B that I honestly didn’t think I’d need and that I have no idea what it looks like.  Today, tonight, I get to cry and be pissed and hold my little boy and be broken-hearted and drink wine.

If anyone has Mary Poppins on speed-dial, I could really use a magical governess right about now.

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Weight and See

Dear Dude,

I’m writing this on the eve of a big moment in your life: your kindergarten entrance test. I’m terrified. I do believe that at any moment I might cry. Or throw up. Maybe I’ll do both.

I know, I know. This all sounds so stupid and dramatic. It’s kindergarten for crying out loud. But you see, we live in a region of the country where most schools just aren’t that good. I’ve visited some. I’ve seen the performance data from them. Hell, I briefly taught earth science in one of them. The fact that I’m not teaching, despite the fact that it was probably my true calling, is a testament to just how unfriendly some of these schools can be.

Your sister got you an “in.” Once you hit kindergarten, sibling preference kicks in and as long as your grades stay good, you’re all set. You just have to pass this stupid test. That’s a huge deal for this ultra-popular magnet school. And it’s a wonderful place. Despite a few negative individuals, I adore everything about the people and the place. They push STEM so much, and Dude…. science is your language. I think that’s why pre-K hasn’t been such a good fit for you. They don’t do much science that I can tell, or at least not on your level.

So tomorrow you’ll be pulled aside in the morning, hopefully while the meds are fresh. You’ll likely sit in front of a computer and have to identify letters and numbers. I guess. No one tells me anything, which is the most frustrating thing in the world. This random test will see if you’re “smart enough” to stay in this school.

I am crossing all my fingers and toes that this goes well for you- that for once you decide to toe the line and perform. We’ve done hours of ABC Mouse. I’m bribing you with a new pet (a fish of your very own) and a new cactus. One of your grandfathers is primed to order you a trilobite on Amazon.

I know in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. But yet it is. There will be bigger and badder things to worry about later, but for now you simply have to nail this. I need a momentary break from the worry, especially when a teacher in carpool today informed me that your sister was sobbing at recess, saying that no one would play with her and her “life is miserable.” Yes, I know she’s simply trying out her dramatic emo facade, but that kind of stings my mom heart.

Be cool, be bright, be awesome tomorrow.

I love you,

Your MyMom

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A Trip Off the Olde Block

I can explain.  No really, I can.  We went on vacation.  We went on quite a proper vacation.  No 3-4 day weekend.  We packed up, we climbed on a plane, and we left town for an entire 7 days.  Since then, it’s been a mountain of laundry and what feels like hundreds of missed emails and messages at work.  I haven’t even gotten around to sweeping and mopping my floors, so if you swing by I’ll probably slam the door in your face.

I won’t attempt to describe our entire trip,as we crammed as much of the Virginia Beach area in with my dad in tow as was humanly possible, but I will provide a few succinct bullets:

  • It’s hard to pack a family of 4 into one suitcase for a week, particularly when you’re going somewhere a bit cooler which obviously requires denim.
  • Denim weighs big.  I know this because Delta (Please present middle finger here.  I’ll wait.) wanted to charge me $100  for an extra 5 pounds in the suitcase (Not a typo.  I repeat, not a typo.).  Oh.  Hell.  No.  It’s cheaper to jettison your clothes and just buy new shit when you get there.  Instead, we were one of those families rifling through our bag at the gate, shoving jeans into backpacks.
  • Dogs suck.  I know I’m going to catch some heat for that, but I promise I will explain in a subsequent post.
  • Kids are not always amazed by the same stuff that amazes adults, but sometimes the stars align:
    • Williamsburg is not a good place to take kids.  On the surface it’s fine, but once you get there prepare to hear about it.  I asked my dad if I was just as much a pain in the ass as my kids were being, and he confirmed.  So there.Jamestown is a fun place for kids.  My kids loved the indian village and the reproductions of three old ships which brought settlers over.  Y’all, our ancestors had cajones!  Those ships are tee-niny.  I can’t imagine crossing the Atlantic in one of those things.Yorktown is also fun, as you can run through surviving trench-lines that early colonists and their French allies dug while fighting Cornwallis’ British forces.
  • Busch Gardens is universally appreciated, unless you’re my dad trying to buy beer.  He got so irritated at one point that he shot a beer seller the bird.  Sorry, dad.  Flipping off a vendor is just too damn funny not to share.
  • Not all landfills are gross and disgusting.  Mount Trashmore is a rad park constructed in the early 1970s out of an old landfill.  It’s amazing.
  • No matter how much epic fun you’re having, A) it’s always good to get home, and B) too  much Togetherness can become a problem.

So that’s it.  We will now hunker down and wait for summer, where we’ll largely hibernate from the burning sun.

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2nd Graders of the Lost Snark

Once again I’ve reached one of those parental milestones, albeit a subtle one.  I think my children – especially Stella – and I have spring fever/end of year burnout.  And yes, as much as I have and still do bitch about summers and what to do with my kids and how the lack of routine has appalling results (and it does), I’m still pretty much ready for school to be done with a big fat old letter D.

Exhibit A:  My daughter’s behavior

She’s just kind of been an asshole lately.  I mean, I hate saying that about my kid, but it’s really the best word in my vocabulary to describe it.  There’s whining, bitching, occasional minor deliberate look-me-in-the-eye-while-doing-what-I-just-damn-well-told-you-not-to-do defiance, and arguing.  Getting through homework gets me more anguished howls than Vlad the Impaler ever evoked. Last night we actually had a disagreement over whether or not homework could  kill a kid for real.

I will interject here that this one is hard for me.  I fundamentally agree with her.  The homework is insane for a 7 year old kid.  Philosophically I disagree with a whole lot of what goes down in early education.  But I can’t do a damn thing about it other than make my kid do her f’ing homework and listen to her bitch about it.

Everything is just so dramatic.  Moo-ooom, you were allowed free dress every day?  You didn’t have these stupid old uniforms?  That’s not fair!   She may as well never go out to recess again because Girl 1 wouldn’t give her a turn on the spinny thing and now Girl 2 won’t give her a turn either so she just hates recess, it’s the worst ever.  I’ve actually started looking into whether 7 year old girls get hormonal.  Thanks to some of the other moms on my Facebook page, at least I know I’m not alone.

See?

Exhibit B: My own behavior

I’ve already written about how I no longer respond to the Evil Villain’s behavior charting anymore.  That does not mean that I don’t pop off at home about it.  And I think it’s all been leading to this growing angst about this situation with my son: this pending test to get into kindergarten, how high those stakes are, and how absurd it is to put a 5 year old kid (and his stressed-out mom) through this.  I mean, I can’t even think of what will happen if he doesn’t do well.  It makes me kind of physically ill.  He’ll get eaten alive at a regular school.  No one will support and nurture his love for science and the natural world.  Dammit.

Moving on.  I had a phone call recently with someone in the school about trying to set up support for the Dude.  I don’t even know how to describe this phone call, other than a mixture of Who’s On First with Nurse Ratched from Cuckoo’s Nest (and I don’t even know which of us was the nurse).  It was just a baffling, confusing, and frustrating phone call for both of us, and it really shouldn’t have been.  I can’t even figure out why other than I’m just kind of over this stuff right now.  Normally I’m a bit more coherent and delicate than that.

There was also a text exchange between a few of us moms, wondering if there would be free dress on Thursday, since it’s the day before spring break and most of the day will be parties and such.  I replied first with something to the effect of no since the kids would enjoy it.  A few moments later I went on a diatribe about they may indeed allow free dress but only if we all have to frantically run to the store the night before and find something in the shade of sea foam or lavender with at least one bunny on it.  That then got me stewing in my own head about the lack of notice for school stuff and how it’s just impossible to plan with no notice and….

And I realized that damn, I was feeling and acting downright snarky.  I really do love my kids’ school, minor bumps with the system aside, and do everything I can to volunteer and support it.  But I am over it.  I’m done with 2nd grade.  I’m done with pre-K.  I’m ready to  move on.  More than that, I’m ready for a break.

This is my normal face now. Angry snark face.

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I’m At a Boss for Words

Some folks just have a way with people, with getting people to do what they want.  It’s a powerful gift that can be used for great good or great evil.  Look at Dr. Jonas Salk, for instance: first he develops the polio vaccine, then he advocates mandatory vaccination and bippity-boppity-boo the US has been polio-free since 1979 (according to the CDC).  And I’m sure convincing the masses to get jabbed with a needle and shot with stuff was not easy, particularly back in the day.  Dr. Salk was a pretty awesome dude who did the world a whole lot of good.

On the flip side of that coin you have monsters like Adolf Hitler.  I can remember all of us questioning our middle and high school history teachers about how one  man managed to convince an entire country (and then some) to go along with such absolute horror and insanity.  Hitler was a terrible dude who persuaded his way to WWII and the Holocaust.

My son has something in common with these men: he is almost scarily charismatic and persuasive.  Wherever he goes and whoever he meets, he  manages to get at least one person to do his bidding.  We were just at a party with some of our dearest friends; they were in town visiting for the first time in ages, so they had loads of family present.  Felix managed to get a nice lady – a great aunt, I believe – to hold his dirty, wet ball for him while he went inside for some snacks.  Later on, this same woman approached me and complimented me on how cute and charming her master was.

No, I didn’t give my kid betel nut to chew. This was after he convinced me to give him frozen blueberries again after I swore he would never get them again (he would paint the counter with them).

This is just one tiny example.  I’ve seen him walk into his school’s science lab and sweet talk his way into a free mineral sample.  He manages to get my mother to build Lego contraptions to his specifications.  He doesn’t build with her.  He is very clearly the foreman.  He and I were home sick Monday and he talked me into all kinds of obnoxious stuff, such as making a “rope ladder” out of this plastic string.  It had to be “long enough” before I was allowed to stop tying knots.  He goes to my in-laws’ to visit and talks them out of all kinds of stuff, also enlisting their help in building – and then carrying for him – whatever machine his mind has come up with.  When we went fishing, he was fishing, but I was holding the pole for him.  He needs his hands free, you see.  He can talk an old lady out of candy or ice cream faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings.

He even seemed to be able to persuade this bowling ball…

to straighten up. He ended up beating his sister 2/2 games.

I’ve seen him “persuade” an older cousin into picking up piles of sticks with him and then placing them exactly just so according to his directions.  And when this poor girl tried to take a lunch break, he paced like a tiger, frequently asking her if she was done  yet so they could get back to work.  I’ve come home with dead bugs in baggies in my purse despite my objections.  I have all manner of contraptions and machines all over my house, even stuck to the wall (after he talked his father into giving him a bunch of museum putty) and dangling from the ceiling.

Look at this creepy shit! He calls it his “microphone” so he can talk to his imaginary friend Video. It looks like something out of True Detective Season 1.

I’m simultaneously proud and terrified of my son.  I’m also crossing fingers and toes that he does NOT go into politics one day.

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