Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Well first, he got his, what is it-- sixth discipline referral at school yesterday. This time, at least, it wasn't for blowing off his homework (though he's still about a month behind). It was for using an emergency exit to get to the playground faster than usual. He swears he didn't know (or notice) that it wasn't a regular door, though he'd noticed that nobody else ever went through it. I suppose he thinks he's a real adventurer or something, doing what nobody else does. Much as I appreciate that sentiment, I wish he'd march to his "different drummer" some other time or place.
The overdue homework/classwork is still piling up, and he still doesn't seem to care, though he could do it if he wanted to. This is the part that about half a dozen people are ready to smack him for. I suppose it's just his way of getting attention, but my gosh. Failing 6th grade for that? Running the risk of expulsion, for crying out loud? Can't you get attention in a better way? Doing good or, say, favorably impressive things, for instance? We'd be so happy if he'd, well, do his homework first and then, oh, get involved in music or drama or something. Something.
Instead, he tries to get out of being yelled at by his mother by telling her that I wouldn't let him do his homework on the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even she didn't believe this kind of lie. She talked to The Man (TM) for a while, then had him put the call on speaker phone so she could talk to all of us at once. #1 Son repeated his story that I had prevented him from doing his homework. That, I have to say, took a lot of gall. The fact was that I'd tried to get him to do his homework on Saturday so he wouldn't have to do it on Sunday.
Maybe he was confused. Maybe. But probably he was mad that I'd taken away the fantasy book that he'd been reading instead of doing his homework. And given past experience, he had a good chance of pulling this one off. But even his mommy dearest has given up believing his stories, after hearing them one or two too many times. She yelled at him even more because of it. And I wasn't feeling too much like helping him with his essay this evening as I'd planned to do. I couldn't stifle my anger for long enough, I hate to admit. What an unfair and unwise thing to do! was all I could think.
I'd like to say that this would open a new chapter in the relations between the parental units, but no. Instead, she angles to have #1 Son live with her "for a year" (uh huh, like we'd ever see him again) because our brand of parenting is obviously failing him. Never mind that hers has been a "drop-in" kind of parenting for the last 10 or so years. His troubles have become just another lever in her campaign to pry him away from our family. Sigh.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
We didn't even intend to go to Hana on that trip, but I got mixed up and turned east when I should have gone west. By the time I realized what I'd done, there was no place to turn the car around. We drove that whole 52 miles up the winding narrow cliff road as the sun went down and rude mainlanders whizzed back at us (in many cases, cursing loudly and shaking their fists). I'd say it was the most nerve-wracking couple of hours I'd ever had, but the trip up was nothing compared to the trip down.
I wished we'd had the time (or resources) to stay the night, but our stuff was waiting for us across the island at the Royal Lahaina. Night had fallen and boy, we city folk know nothing about how dark night can be until we experience it in someplace as remote as this. I was terrified to try to drive that same road in the dark; at least on the way up, you're on the inside lane. One wrong move on the trip down, and you won't be returning that rental car-- ever. So we decided to try the road that led out the opposite side of Hana town. The map didn't say exactly what kind of road it was or what exactly it passed through, but we could tell it wasn't on a cliff.
No, it wasn't on a cliff. It went right out through the middle of a never-ending sugar cane field. In the absolute pitch black. In a Dodge Neon. Now, lest you think that's not too bad, and maybe even a little romantic, let me describe sugar-cane roads for you. If I just mention that they're rutted dirt roads that pass right through the middle of vast fields of cane, nothing but tall stalks for miles and miles, you just won't get it. I asked The Man (TM) for his opinion on them, and he shuddered. "Don't drive on them!" was all he could muster. They don't look as evil as they really are, jolting (as it seems) your entire vehicle to pieces no matter how slow you go, and never ever ending...
That was bad enough. But then this enormous beast came roaring at us out of nowhere. After the first second of terror, I realized that it wasn't a gigantic dragon with glowing eyes. In fact, it probably had a name like "Chevrolet" printed somewhere on it, but compared to our tiny rental, this monster truck was enormous. And it was going fast. Our headlights were on, so I'm sure it could see us; nothing else was lit for miles around. The road was narrow, so I pulled the little Neon as close to the side as I could and slowed almost to a stop before the beast attacked-- it did! It lunged at our little car, scraping the paint and taking our side mirror with it as it fled into the night.
I was still shaking as I pulled our little car into a restaurant parking lot in Lahaina. I had never been so glad to see asphalt and artificial illumination. Of course, the restaurant by this time was about to close, along with all other eateries on Maui, so we crawled back to our hotel, battered and traumatized, and went to sleep hungry. Remind me sometime, and I'll write about the rest of our miserable trip. 'Cause it didn't get any better from there. No, I don't remember Maui with fondness at all, and The Man-- he hates it. Highway to heaven indeed.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
- I used to have short curly hair; now it's long and straight because I can't afford an appointment with a hairdresser. (And here I'm including Fantastic Sam. Oy.)
- I used to be able to count on getting a shower every morning. Now, not really.
- I used to be able to get down on the floor and play with my kids. I don't remember the last time I could do that.
- I used to have daycare and occasional evening babysitting so that I could feel like a human being and even go out with my husband every so often. Now: no.
- I used to be able to drive. Heck, I'd been driving since 1984. Currently, my brain is permanently in a low-functioning state as if I'd been drinking alcohol. Only worse. No driving for me.
- I used to be able to buy things I didn't absolutely need. Like lunch meat, pickles, makeup, books, and presents for the kids.
On the other hand, my family is eating better than we did when I was the breadwinner. The welfare food is plain and simple, but a lot of it is very good, and I never got to have ham or roast beef while I was paying for it myself. Also, two years ago, I had no real hope that my family would be together forever. Now I do, even if I have to fight for it every inch of the way. And two years ago, I was fed up with the schools here and was desperate to move away. Now our older kids are in the best school in the state, and Punkin Boy is primed and ready to join them.
So it ain't all bad.
A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me whether I ever think about what I used to be able to do before I got hurt (2 years ago), as compared to what I can do now. Do I ever? Do I ever! Do I ever stop, that's really the question. But those of you who weren't here for my first month of blogging don't necessarily realize how things have changed in the way I live. So without further ado, I give you
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Gad. Who left me in charge of children? I've had these very long days (as opposed to the regular long days) for at least two weeks now, and I'm worn out. We're running low on food and money. I'm just worried. The job description for "full-time mom" includes, I'm sure, the fact that full-time means you work never-ending 24-hour shifts and you never ever get breaks, but somebody always forgets to mention that when you sign on. I love these punkins, I really do; I just wish I could get away from taking care of them once in a while.
So now I'm feeling guilty, TM never even joined us for dinner, the kids are misbehaving even worse, everything's rotten, and it's all my fault. Sigh... Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.
Hahaha haahahahaha ha ha ha ha. Ha.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I don't know what the deal is with the tax code this year (and I'm searching the IRS's Web site trying to find out), but they apparently fixed that "extra credit" loophole. Which is to say, once you end up with enough credits to keep you from having to pay anything, you have to stop. And I learned another interesting about taxes: my freelance work counts as a "business," which is separate from "wages from employment" (which of course I don't have anymore). Anyway, it's not a normal source of income for personal income taxes, SO.... I ended up owing a thousand dollars on the six thousand I earned this way. Holy crud.
So the upshot of our interesting learning adventures of this weekend was that we're sucking wind. Just when we need the money, we're not getting much (although yes, we are getting some-- anybody with negative twenty-odd thousand in taxable income ought to get something). But we're still surviving. And that in itself is a miracle.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
And I'm wondering if having his schedule messed up is what's making Pirate Boy so flighty lately. After all, when his big brother has to stay after school for a couple of hours, he can't go home either, which isn't fair. He was supposed to get to spend fun "together time" with his dad as compensation, but they mostly ended up running around the college trying to get homework done, so Pirate Boy has come home exhausted and fed up every day. Today he had about half an hour of "free" time (or so I thought), so I let him play a computer game after his bath. At bedtime, I remembered that he hadn't finished (or even started) this project he's supposed to turn in tomorrow. That's going to produce another note. He's supposed to bring money for his field trip tomorrow, but I suspect that's going to fall through the cracks, too. If I don't do the remembering, it doesn't get remembered at our house. (Anybody else out there have this problem?) And lately, I don't remember much.
Oy, so I'm a bad mother again. Well, let's stop assigning blame and work out what to do. Frankly, I don't know. There's a school that specializes in the arts not too far from their current school. In the past, we've used it as a threat to keep #1 Son in line. He says he wants to focus on science and math, but what he does is music and art. And he's good at art, he really is. He learns better in a visual medium, and I hear this school is really good for that. In fact, I think it would be a great place for him. But he doesn't want to go there. He's being threatened with failing sixth grade, and all he cares about today is that if he left this school, he'd lose the karate instruction. I strongly recommended that he start doing something about his other classes, then, and he ran off crying. Oy. Again, a bad mother.
Speaking of which, I made him call his mother and tell her about this one. (I have to do this because The Man (TM) is at the Homeowners' Association board meeting tonight. He's been elected, heaven help us, and he's trying to participate. But I digress.) Let me just say that she was not happy at all with her pride and joy tonight. Guess those affirmations aren't working, eh? Taking suggestions, though, on what might work instead.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Well, I went through the pantry and the fridge, wondering whether I could find something special to fix for dinner. (The stomach, being, of course, the most direct route to their hearts.) I started to believe that I didn't really have anything at all to fix, much less something special. Oh bother. I took something out of the freezer, but that won't be ready for another day or so. Then I realized that I could in fact make cheeseburgers, and that we even had some good toppings for them. That would be a good start. There was some red jello in the pantry, and I could add fruit.
Now, what for dessert? They deserved a good apology. We had received a plate of cookies this week and still had enough left for one each, but that wasn't from me to them. I really wanted to make up for my yelling, especially when Punkin told me very seriously this afternoon that he feels sad and even angry when I yell. OK, that's enough of that.
Then it came to me: the perfect Valentine's treat for my boys. I remembered reading a long time ago a tip about making heart-shaped cupcakes by under-filling the cups and placing a marble on the outside of each paper, inside the cup. The marble pushes the paper into a sort of heart shape, and with a dextrous flick of the icing knife-- voila! Beautiful pink hearts. I had enough batter left for a circle pan, which I planned to cut and paste into a heart shape, too, but Punkin Boy liked it just the way it was when it came out of the oven. I even found a handful of peppermints left over from Christmas; I crushed them and sprinkled them on top of each cake. (Punkin called them "the Mama cake and the babycakes"--I howled with laughter.)
The food turned out great, my meeting wasn't ruined by the messy house, and my husband brought me chocolate tonight. All is well and beautiful.
I'm hosting my writers group today, and I was kind of anxious about the state of the house last night when I went to bed. I was hoping I could get it all clean before people arrived. I didn't sleep very well or very long, but I had my alarm set and I was going to be OK.
The Man (TM) got up this morning and started getting the kids ready for school, and I was trying to go back to sleep. I probably would have managed it too if it hadn't been for...
TM returned to the bedroom and crawled back in bed. Much as I'd like to snuggle with him on a cold Valentine's Day morning, I asked what the heck was going on. He started with, "Um, well..." Oh dear. It's not going to be good. He continued, "You know that little bag of shredded up money?" I know it; he brought it back from a career fair last week or something. I cover my eyes, even though they're not open. "Oh no." Oh yes, they did. All over the house, but especially in the kitchen...dining room... living room floor... the places I might have guests in a couple hours. "I'm getting ready to vacuum," he said. "Getting up now," I muttered. Oy.
I didn't scream, at least not right away. The damage had been contained, so I was starting to calculate exactly how much cleaning I could get done before the meeting, when I noticed what the kids were doing. Then I screamed. "Holy cow! Are you seriously eating toast right on the table with no plates?" It sounds so mundane when I say it now. And I wouldn't have screamed except there were these huge piles of black crumbs all over the table that I was planning to use for my meeting in... a very short time. "Oh come on! Can you please be civilized?"
I was even more irritated that it was almost time for them to leave, there were no lunches made, and Pirate Boy was still in his jammies. I saw red even through the cuteness. "Aaaaugh! You could have eaten on the way to school! You can't get dressed in the car!" I say this all the time, I know I do. Or at least it feels like I do. Man. I am such a nag. This is why I don't usually get up with the kids: I'd never get through the morning without screaming. Oh, and I can't survive on 5 hours of sleep like I could when I was a college student. Oy.
So I burst into tears, partly because of the horrendous mess when the family knew I was having guests over, but mostly because I wanted this day to be a special one when I could tell them all how much I loved them, but I was so angry I couldn't get the words out.
Then #1 Son got plates out and TM vacuumed everything. Pirate Boy got dressed, albeit VERY s...l...o...w...l...y.... I took a break to calm down, then apologized and gave hugs; everyone made it out the door on time, and the meeting will go on. They're trying sometimes, but I do indeed love my family.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Dick Morris looks at the four leading GOP presidential contenders in 2008 -- John McCain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani -- and notes, "the only one of these guys who hasn't had multiple wives is the Mormon."
I'm sitting at the desk again, but this time my shoulders are shaking with laughter. It's sad, it is, but oh... let me tell you what I'm talking about.
Well, it's the essay writing thing. #1 Son had to do his homework at the dining table, where he got distracted by every little thing, including other people's homework. He did ask me for help on an essay at one point, and I think I helped clarify things for him. His biggest complaint (i.e., explanation for his behavior) is, "I can't think of anything!" As in, I can't think... at all... do my work for me! I had him read the assignment to me, and the questions he was to answer were extremely clear and detailed. I love that about his school. Maybe he needs more room for creativity, but he denies this. He did figure out what to do next, and he kept going.
Anyway. So later he remembered that "Mommy" will be calling back this evening in response to his request that she come help with some dissection next week in his very first class of the day. He called and asked her even after we figured out that, to do it, she'd have to leave her house before 5 a.m. that day. To be safe, closer to 4. He didn't see this as a problem. She said she'd think about it. So tonight she called back and he told her about the pink slip. He started crying again and went into his room to continue the conversation, which apparently was more of a tirade on her part.
After a while, he came out and (with a smirk!) handed over the phone to The Man (TM). Oh joy. I listened while folding the laundry. I wish I could repeat it word for word; even this end of the conversation was hilarious. The upshot of it was: No, eating more snacks wouldn't help #1 Son do better in school. He does the same stuff no matter whether it's first thing in the morning, right after lunch, or anytime else. Yes, he has the same chances at success as the other kids. More, actually; he's in a special writing tutorial several times a week where he can get help on his assignments. So, no, it's no one's fault but his own. Yes, glad to help.
#1 Son took the phone back, retreated to his room to cry and get yelled at some more. He eventually told her, "Look, I really need to get back to my homework now" (which I'm jumping up and down and cheering about on the inside), hung up, and got back to work. Good boy! I started helping TM with his homework. A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It's her, of course. She had time to talk it over with her husband or a friend or someone and had more to say.
Not long after, we heard #1 Son repeating "I'm a smart kid," (pause) "I can write well," (pause) "I can think up things to put in essays"... over and over in a monotone. I looked at TM in wide-eyed horror. "She's having him do affirmations!" I hissed. "What?" he asked. "You know, 'I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and...'" He finished for me: "And gosh-darn it, people like me!" We couldn't help it; we collapsed into hysterical laughter.
A moment later, #1 Son said (probably repeated, actually) in a suspicious tone, "What are you guys laughing at?" Well, TM had to explain that there was this guy Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live, and he was pretty funny... He didn't get into specifics, but it seemed to satisfy whichever of them was asking. We couldn't stop laughing for a long time after, though, at the idea that she was trying to help him get his assignments done by distracting him from his assignments to repeat this stuff over and over. Now I'm a really bad mother, aren't I? Oy.
Last week, he came home with his third "pink slip"-- which sounds ominous because it is. These are notes to the parents, telling them that their offspring is in trouble. At this school, kids can get in trouble for disrupting class, not turning in homework, and similar irresponsible behavior. They know that this is the case, and they promise when they start each year that they will be responsible, which means doing their homework or at the very least owning up to why they didn't do it (i.e., "I didn't choose to,"), so they can't claim ignorance.
The first pink slip is just a verbal warning from the Vice Principal. The second is a call to the parents. The third gets the kid sent home for the day with the condition that he (in this case) can't come back until one of his parents comes with him and sits with him in his classes all day long. This is a major bummer for the parents, and it might even be embarrassing enough to deter the kid from further bad behavior. It's supposed to be.
Apparently, this was not the case with #1 Son. He had failed to turn in an essay even after a week's extension (which never, ever happens at this school-- usually they just get an F). He had a month or more to write this thing, and I had seen a completed first draft of it after a week, so I know he could have finished it easily. He could have, but he didn't. Even after the week extension, he still only had a first draft plus one paragraph copied onto the back of a piece of notebook paper. I don't blame the teacher for giving him the slip.
So he stayed home one day and worked on the thing. After he'd gotten his second draft done, he showed it to me. Oy. I wish I could say I didn't criticize. But for heaven's sake. You're writing an essay on William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, make sure you spell at least half of those four words correctly most of the time. There was a lot of language abuse going on, which makes me itch. I was mostly gentle about telling him where he really needed to get his spelling and word usage right. Being me, it's hard not to scream. (No, I didn't, thank you!)
About halfway through the essay, there was a random jumbling of words, mostly prepositional phrases, masquerading as a sentence. I could have edited it in a jiffy, but that's not my job as a parent. My job involved putting the younger kids to bed at that moment, but I took the time to explain what he could do to save that sentence (identify intended subject and verb, then untangle what else goes with which) and said I'd be back in a bit after I had tucked his brothers in. Well, when I came out of their bedroom, he'd gone into his and didn't come out the rest of the evening. He didn't bring the essay back to me. The Man (TM) went to school with him the next day and reported that #1 Son had just turned in the 2nd draft as he'd had it and had gotten X points taken off. But he was happy that he didn't get an F, so he considered it good enough.
So ANYWAY-- today, I get a call from the school. #1 Son has gotten his fourth pink slip (they only allow 5 before they start talking expulsion) for what? That's right-- not turning in essays. FIVE of them. Did I mention (I know I did in my holiday newsletter) that the kid won an award for being the "most improved" student in essay writing last semester? We were so proud of him. He was really working hard at it. And now, in less than 6 weeks, he's done this-- simply skipped out on FIVE essays. Maybe he figured that he'd reached the top of his game and had better quit while he's ahead.
Now I don't know what to do. TM wants to pull him out of the school. I want to help #1 Son work on his writing. I'm very good at writing and editing, so theoretically I should be able to help. But I'm not very good at helping. He's 12 years old; shouldn't we be able to trust him to do his homework on his own most of the time? If we have him sit at the dining table to do homework, he gets distracted by every little thing going on. That's why we gave him a desk for his room. And I can't just go sit in his room all evening; I have two little kids who do need supervision, at least sometimes. And TM has his own homework.
I'm ready to just throw up my hands and say, "It's his choice; he'll have to deal with the consequences." But it breaks my heart.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
So, Kory, if you're out there and you can read this, let me know you're OK, eh? And the rest of you, if you wouldn't mind, remember Kory and the Tsar and the little Tsarevich... and all their neighbors in central Florida. Thanks.