Category Archives: school

The Show Must Go On

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The Show Must Go On

A couple of years ago I thought – Wouldn’t it be fun to host a variety show to raise some money for the school district. I’m not sure what part of my brain thought I could pull this off but other people encouraged me and the idea moved forward.

Suddenly I’m working as a PR person, casting director and stage manager. Let’s be clear, I am not remotely qualified for any of those jobs and yet, there we were. I had two things going for me – the President of the Ed Fund (Prez) and the School District Superintendent (SI). Without their help it would have been a complete disaster. Even with their help, we barely averted a catastrophe.

Prez and I spent a lot of time hosting auditions and just figuring the whole thing out. Neither one of us did anything like this before and it required a significant amount of sweat equity. About two months before the show we decided to get a professional jazz quartet to be our headliner. The cost would be divided among four volunteers.

Things were starting to fall into place, press releases were sent out, a coherent schedule was coming together and ticket sales were brisk. About a week before the show we were informed we couldn’t have full use of the stage and the jazz quartet got another gig that night. Dafug?!

We got the stage cleared and shifted the schedule around to have the quartet open instead of close the show. Ok, we got this. We held rehearsal two days before the show and it was a complete disaster. The acts showed up at random times, the sound guys were having technical difficulties, total chaos ensued. I really thought this would end poorly with some expert level public humiliation.

We trudged forward. The next night Prez and I worked with the sound guys to get the order of the show finalized with lights and sound. We stayed until midnight to make sure everything was set for the next day. By the way, the sound guys were two high school students who were also donating their time. I can’t even tell you how much respect I have for their work ethic. We bribed them with food, rides and gift cards. The show would not go on without them.

The day of the show was finally here. I went to my daughter’s basketball game in the morning and was talking with a good friend of mine, another mom in the district. She asked if I was nervous. I told her that I was a little, but at that point we had done everything we could to make it a success so I just hoped for the best.

Our Superintendent was going to emcee the show with a member of the faculty. Two hours before the show he got a text saying that the other gentleman could not attend because he fell down the stairs that morning. I requested proof of the injuries. I saw a photo, sure enough the guy was busted up. I tucked that one away in case I need to get get out of some future event. I’ve got three sets of stairs in my house, it could happen.

We decided to have the show again the following year. It was easier than the first year because we had some idea of what we were doing. We were better organized, a little more confident and things were going smoother than the first show.

The show is held in the high school auditorium. We are guests of the school and need to respect the rules of use. There is an elevated stage and two pianos on each side of the area in front (not on) the stage. Last year I had a parent insist that one of the pianos be moved for his son’s act.

Stage Dad: Excuse me, who is in charge of this show?

SC: I guess that would be me and Prez.

Stage Dad: We need to move that piano to the stage.

SC: I’m sorry, we can’t do that. It’s stationary, trying to move it would be risky and would likely put it out of tune.

Stage Dad: No this is unacceptable it has to be moved! No offense but I’m going to need to speak with someone higher up.

SC: Oh you mean the person who signs my checks? Sure, oh wait a minute…I forgot I don’t get paid. You can discuss it with the Superintendent.

This year will be our third event and I won’t even be there. In true cringe fashion, I realized I had a date conflict while sitting in a recent event planning meeting. I was looking at a flyer for the show and my brain was trying to sort out why the date seemed familiar, oh that’s right I will be out of town. Keep in mind I helped pick the date of the show, yay me! We tried to change the date but the auditorium isn’t available so I guess I’ll miss it (no stairs required).

 

 

*Featured Image Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

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Volunteering

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Volunteering

Geezus it’s getting hard to give your time away for free these days. I’ve been a frequent volunteer in my kids school: class mom, chaperone, field trips, book drives, food drives, Secret Santa, Daisies, Brownies, Cub Scouts, soccer coach (psst, totally not qualified) and various fundraising efforts. Some of the activities were for a day or during a brief trial of a new activity.

A few years ago the State of Pennsylvania made it a total pain in the ass to volunteer. Here’s a checklist for people that volunteer in PA schools:

  • Criminal History Request
  • Child Abuse Clearance
  • FBI Fingerprints
  • School Personnel Health Record – TB test & physical for those volunteering 10 or more hours a week
  • Arrest/Conviction Report & Certification
  • Blood of a Unicorn

Only one of those is false. Not only do you have to pay some fees to fulfill these requirements, it’s also a time suck. Our closest FBI fingerprint office is a 30 minute drive away. Between scheduling, transportation and processing – I’m looking at 2 ½ hours just to get my fingerprints. Good luck finding people to do that.

One of my more substantial efforts has been volunteering for an education fund. It’s an organization that pays for teacher-led grants in our school district. It is one of those rare efforts which is all positive, no controversy – money for teachers, YAY!!! Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for everyone!

I hate to break it to you but the idea of an all positive, no BS, everyone stands in a circle singing “Kumbaya” organization that deals with the public is a myth (OK, LIE, it’s a freakin’ lie). There are a handful of us that volunteer for this non-profit. A few of us came onboard several years ago to try and revive the ed fund which had been neglected for some time.

We determined that we would revive “Ed” by hosting community wide fundraising events that would promote awareness and earn some cash. In the past three years we put on variety shows, held food truck events, a paint nite, a 5K and couple of barn bashes which featured a silent auction. We try to keep the “fun” in FUNdraising (I just smacked myself so you don’t have to). For the most part our efforts have been well received by the community and some fun has been had by all. There have been some exceptions.

It’s like planning a wedding. You have to be considerate of the majority of the attendees, smile politely when people want ridiculous accommodations and contribute more time and money then you ever anticipated. And in the end someone will always complain that the chicken was dry or the music was too loud.

 

 

 

 

 

Gridlocked

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Gridlocked

Once your kid hits Kindergarten you are officially on the grid. No more spontaneous trips to the children’s museum or the beach, the freedom of doing your own thing is officially off the rails. Your vacation schedule is at the mercy of the school calendar and you become a cog in the wheel.

Those first few years it’s so hard just getting the littles out the door. Shoes and socks tend to disappear and someone usually has to poop the minute the coats go on. I’d like to tell you that this improves, it doesn’t. The dynamics change, they dress themselves and you have no idea if they poop but challenges remain. The days of racing out of the house like your hair is on fire will likely last longer than you think.

Once when my kids were in middle school we were doing our usual mad dash out the door. Actually, only two of us were racing. My son is always calm and ready with his backpack on, checking the time, reminding us we’re late. I grab my keys, shout a “hurry up” and run to the car. We are halfway to middle school when my daughter mentions that she needs to go back.

DD: Um mom I don’t have any shoes.

SC: Really? How does that even happen?

DD: We need to go back.

SC: No time, you’ll wear my sneakers.

Note: My shoes are about 4 sizes too big for my daughter. I had visions of my daughter tripping over her newly minted clown feet all day. At least I had a valid excuse for skipping my cardio class that day.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind.

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (gasp). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did).

We are fortunate that we live in a great school district. Somehow they managed to figure out how to keep things moving without adhering to every suggestion uttered from my lips, miraculous. After a couple of years I began to trust the process a little bit and got out of my own way.

One thing that has remained a constant source of entertainment is car line. Car line is where parents drop their kids off for school in the morning and fetch them in the afternoon. Sometimes my kids take the bus but I’m a sucker for letting them get some extra shut eye so I usually drive them in the morning.

I’ll just state for the record that I can be a bit “assertive” when I drive. My license plate has PA on it but I’m all Jersey behind the wheel. I’ve been known to take the turn into car line on two wheels, tires screeching with Slim Shady blasting on the radio. Most days though, I just have one-sided conversations with the drivers around me. I try to send out telepathic messages in the hopes the other drivers will heed my advice. Here’s a sample of my brain on car line:

SC: (To the slow moving vehicle with a Namaste bumper sticker) “Hey Namaste – why don’t you Nama-stay outta my way.”

SC: (To the minivan which has a Star Wars stick figure family decal on the back window with 6 car lengths in front of them…)”Is Darth Vader preventing you from pulling all the way up?”

SC: (To the Volvo in elementary school car line, outside of their car, having  coffee talk with another driver) “Could you perhaps move to a different locale? There are now 37 cars behind you and all of the kids are about to be late.”

SC: (To the Tesla Model X) “Move it along McFly, we know you love Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, let’s go. You’ve opened and closed those doors so many times I expect you to fly off.”

My kids like to point out how ineffective this technique has been. Then I chastise myself when I realize the person in front of me is a good friend. The worst drivers are the people with COEXIST bumper stickers. It’s great when the COEXIST mom cuts you off than gives you the finger for getting her chakras misaligned that day. Namaste mofo, namaste.

If the Olympics ever add stupid driving as a sport, we’ve got some contenders for gold. Once you get through the drop off/pick up, you need to exit the parking lot. I lose my mind a little with the submissive people who have to make a left into a busy intersection. I’ve been an involuntary participant in the parade of cars waiting to turn because docile dad is having an existential crisis and can’t inch his way forward. Just make the turn dude.

Each building of our district has some variation of car line, they all share a common theme of inefficiency and mayhem:

Lower Elementary – Things move at a remarkably slow pace here. I used to wonder if people did craft projects in the back of their cars. Are you making slime back there? Put the Borax down and move forward. It takes a lifetime to get to the front of the line. Lots of hugs and kisses outside of the car as the littles are sent on their way for the day. I was home with these kids for 5 years straight with 4 hour breaks for preschool I don’t need an extra 15 minutes hugging it out at drop off. Lead, follow or get out of the way mom, your kid is fine.

Upper Elementary – Things move a little faster but it is still crowded and slow. Some of the kids have taken up instruments or have large class projects they need to maneuver. The jaws of life have been used more expediently for extractions then the volcano projects that take an eon to get removed from the trunk. Don’t you have to be somewhere today, move it along. Less hugs and kisses seen outside the car but there’s still some affection within the confines of the family vehicle.

Middle School – Most of the time the kids pretend they no longer know their parents. Like some random stranger or Uber got their asses to school. The time for drop off goes down but the stupid driving escalates. For some reason a high percentage of drivers can not grasp the first rule of car line – move forward (all the way). Our drop off/pick up area is in the shape of a semicircle. Drivers tend to only go to the halfway point…why? To get the kid closer to the door? Is there some invisible electronic force field keeping you from pulling all the way up? Are there voices in your head (perhaps Darth Vader) warning you against pulling forward all the way? I got so annoyed with this that I created a meme (featured image).

This chaotic pattern is repeated at pick up. Some people are simply incapable of pulling all the way forward to maximize the amount of cars that can be in the semicircle. I used to wait patiently, observing the tremendous car gap, wondering WTF to myself. Now when I see that I just drive past everyone else and pull into the front of car line. Total suburban anarchist. I haven’t gotten flipped off for it yet probably because most people have their heads down staring at their phones. I don’t know what happens at High School car line but our family is sticking with the slow down to disembark with instructions to tuck and roll as they exit.

Namaste bitches.

 

Alice…

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Alice…

Gigi (5 years old): Mrs. Smith, which book should I get?

Mrs. Smith (Kindergarten teacher): The biggest one you can find.

Gigi: The Cat in the Hat is big.

Mrs. Smith: It is, perhaps get a bigger one. Or you can get that and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, just keep them both together.

Evan (smiling): Mrs. Smith, how about Where the Wild Things Are?

Mrs. Smith: Good choice, just make sure you get the hardcover not the paperback.

Josh: I have to use the bathroom Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith: I’m sorry Josh, now is not a good time.

Josh (bouncing and holding his crotch area): I really have to go, I can’t hold it.

Mrs. Smith: Just do the best you can and if you have a slip, I’ll get you something to wear later.

Sofia (whining): I wanted Library Lion but Jonah took it from me.

Mrs. Smith (speaks loudly with authority): OK Class – everyone and I mean everyone must go into the bathroom right now. Miss Stacy and I will join you as soon as we are finished moving the desk.

Miss Stacy (with labored breathing as they move the desk): Maybe we should rearrange the classroom so the desk is closer to the door. This thing weighs a ton.

Mrs. Smith: Good idea, if we get through this without any casualties, I’ll mention it to the Principal. Watch your back Stacy, I know you have a herniated disc.

Miss Stacy: I just wish we were on the first floor so we could use the windows. They’ll never move us though, those classrooms don’t have bathrooms.

They get the desk moved and make their way into the 6′ X 8′ classroom bathroom. All of the Kindergarten classrooms in this state have their own bathroom, it’s required. It is a single low toilet with a sink and instructions on the wall of how to wash your hands to the tune of Row Your Boat. 18 Kindergartners and 2 adults are crammed into the small bathroom.

Mrs. Smith: Great job getting in here class! (she closes the bathroom door and tells the smallest kids to sit against wall and has everyone sitting, she whispers) Now we need to be very quiet, place your books in front of your shirt like we talked about yesterday.

Gigi: But why Mrs. Smith, can’t we read them?

Mrs. Smith: Sorry Gigi, this is an active shooter drill, we need to use the books to protect ourselves.

Josh: Are we going to get shot? My brother plays Call of Duty and he’s really good at shooting things, my mom won’t let me.

Evan: My dad told me that active shooter drills are to protect us against bad guys but it probably won’t happen here.

Mrs. Smith: Shhh…we have to be quiet now.

Miss Stacy (whispers to Mrs. Smith): I wish this was only a drill.

 

ALICE is a training program that many public K – 12 schools in America use to prepare for an active shooter. Because the prevalence of active shooters is a real concern to those of us that send our kids to school with the absolute hope that they will come home alive and unharmed.We sometimes wonder which teachers would take a bullet for our kids and then feel guilty because they have families too.

Here is a link so you can learn more about ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate):

https://www.alicetraining.com/our-program/alice-training/k12-education/

Side note: The class described above is fictional based on the reality we now live in. There are thousands of Mrs. Smiths and Miss Stacys in America who show up to work each day knowing that they could in fact face this situation. These are teachers and assistants who likely got into their profession with a passion to help children learn, now they may become a human shield. Oh and Miss Stacy makes $9.40/hour and has no benefits. Last week she spent $14.75 at Staples purchasing some classroom supplies. Mrs. Smith has listened to people bitch about her getting summers off for the past 27 years that she has been teaching. She wonders why the union hasn’t argued for hazard pay. This is public education in America, welcome to the flaming fox hole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damn it, Dog

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Damn it, Dog

Last night I had an “aw sh*t” moment on the way to my daughter’s choir concert. I realized that I left a closed pizza box on the counter and wondered out loud if the dog would eat it before we got home. There wasn’t a bet to be had, as myself and both my kids all agreed that it would be gone before we got home. There wasn’t time to turn around.

My husband wasn’t with us because I helped him secure his “get out of jail free card” to avoid this show. I’m pretty sure that makes me Wife of the Year (wild applause, trips on the steps going up to accept the award). Last week the hubs mentioned that some of his work guys were in town for a new project. I suggested that Tuesday would be a spectacular night to take them out to dinner.

“Why” he inquired?

“Because Thing 2 (kidding, I used her name. I just won’t do it here, privacy y’all) has a choir concert from hell that night and that’s a damn good excuse to get out of it” I replied.

Plans were made for a Tuesday Business Dinner lickety-split. I’ve already cashed my gratitude points by booking a Sticks & Stones Massage on an upcoming snow-boarding trip. I’ve prepared a list of acceptable names for the Masseuse to call me (sticks and stones may break your bones but names …never mind either you got it or you didn’t). I do not partake in snow-boarding activities.

I grew up poor, only rich people could ski when I was a kid. I tried skiing for the first time at age 29 with hopes of impressing a guy. I was petrified of skiing and the guy turned out to be a felon but, that’s a story for another day. At any rate, at the precious age of damn near 50, I do not wish to start hurling myself down icy mountains. I will read books and drool while some woman puts me in a trance with hot stones and Mu-Xing therapy (yes, I had to Google that).

Back to the concert, it was pure hell. That critique was unanimous. My daughter is in choir to avoid another semester of robotics so her heart isn’t into it. My son went because he thought there would be some food prize at the end (there was). I went because I can be a sh*t mom sometimes, but I’m not at the level of dropping her off and having her text me when the show is over mom (perhaps next year).

My son and I at least got to watch the show (and scour menus from nearby restaurants), my daughter was stuck in the cafeteria for an hour and a half between performances. The Middle School Choir opened the show with three songs and then they were herded to the cafeteria to await the final number where all participants would sing. This scam is used by schools and all kinds of kid activities – plays, dance recitals, karate, gymnastics. Basically, they have everyone’s kid in the last number so you don’t run from the building like your hair is on fire after your precious child performs. It’s effective, those bastards know what they are doing.

The show lasted over two hours. We got our take out and went home. Upon entering the house, the dog (we’ll call her Bonnie) greeted us with the usual fanfare. My son raced to check on the pizza slice, for which he had dibs. The pizza box was closed. Upon further inspection and much to the disappointment of my son, the box was empty.  “Bonnie” has impressive clean up skills. Not a crumb remained and how she managed to  close the box after the theft astounds me. At least she had the decency to look guilty when we asked about the pizza.

Fast forward to this morning and I am going about my routine. I prepare lunches for the kids so they can sleep an extra 5 minutes. Now, I typically make a sandwich for my son and then place it in the microwave so Miss-Steals-A-Lot can’t get it and I did that. However, when I reheated my coffee I placed the sandwich on the counter and forgot to put it back in for safe keeping. Bonnie struck again when I was distracted and helped herself to a turkey and cheese sandwich.

I blame myself of course, I’m a mom it’s always our fault. Bonnie agreed to wear a Santa hat as penance for her sins. And this is the closest we are getting to a Christmas Card this year. Happy everything to everyone!

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