Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ain't No Fun in School Fundraisers

I was working on a list of common things that irritate me that I don't normally take time out to talk about (it is shockingly short thus far) and trying to decide what to rant about. Then Candy was nice enough to spend the afternoon whining like a little girl inspiring me.

Got kid(s)? Then I ~know~ you feel me. If they've left the nest, I'm betting the memories still linger. If they're too young for school, remember, you were warned. If they're in school now, well, you probably walk around in a mild state of "annoyed" pretty much the entire school year.

I ~know~ education is horribly underfunded in this country. All public schools have funding issues. From where I sit, small, high performing public schools seem to get the worst end of it; doing too well for most grants, but not well enough to attract big money donors (especially in elementary school where there's no football...)

Since neither I, nor anyone I am personally acquainted with, has a child in private school I can't speak to how it works there, but my fading, painful memories of Catholic school make me think it's pretty much the same.

So, since she started this, let's talk about Candy's woes: not quite nine (9) weeks into school and her kids brought home their THIRD fundraiser this year. This is stupid, seems to me, since parents tapped too frequently are parents who get burned out and start throwing away the paper as it comes home. Space the fundraisers people! Really, it's not rocket science. I'll leave this alone--I'm sure Candy has a lot more to say on the topic!


Then there's my friend C's school. Their PTA does what Candy wishes hers would, a no-frills fundraiser where the kid basically comes home with a bill and they offer a payment plan. Nice in theory, but the school sets the amount. Plus, the last 2 years the due date for first payment has been a week or less after the form went out.

My kid's school does something similar, their "Cash Cow" program; sponsor a cow for a certain amount per family, add more if you have multiple kids at the school, and we'll leave you alone the rest of the year. Nice theory, but since fundraisers are pimped (yes, pimped/hyped/sold) to the entire student body, your kid still gets the brainwashing.

Leaving aside arbitrary requests for money and the fact that it doesn't always work that way... A bill? I was shocked the first year she told me about this. She is in the midst of a divorce, working full time, single parenting 3 kids 7 or under and they want her to donate a 3-figure amount to the school? Granted she lives, courtesy of a great landlord, in a higher-end 'hood, so the school has probably come to expect it, but still... The whole class is excluded from some stupid reward or other if one kid doesn't bring the form back. She sent it back last year with a note explaining that while she was happy to help where/when she could, that figure was completely unrealistic.

The school mailed her "balance due" notices all year! WTF?!?!


My kid's school. Knew we'd get there sooner or later... She's in a charter school that is Pre-K to 12, so, to start, we have issues about inequity in fundraising i.e. the little kids' families do most of it yet the cash gets spread all over the school.

Then there's spacing. In the last 2 years a number of the founding/active families have left the school and with them, apparently, went the organizational skills. We used to do one big fundraiser a quarter. We did NONE first quarter. Now we have Fall Fest--where you are asked to shell out for game tickets, raffle tickets, food, etc. Four days later we have the Bowl-a-Thon.

The person who used to organize the Bowl a thon quit this year, so it didn't happen 1st quarter at all. Couldn't get it any further in this quarter because the bowling alley didn't want to lose holiday bookings. We just got the form a scant 2 weeks before the event.

Then there's the thing that has driven me nuts about this particular annual fundraiser from the beginning: It is NOT a true -thon. The kids have to raise a minimum amount of money in order to bowl, that's it. Not a penny per pin, or any other logical "sponsorship" style. They just panhandle and people pretend like that's NOT what it is and write their name and donation amount on the form.

First year I made my parents and brother donate. Last year, and, probably, this year, I'm just gonna pay the minimum. No way in hell is my kid wandering around the 'hood asking for money & I'll get fired if I do like our parents did and take it to work. To my mind it's not a fundraiser, it's blunt force extortion. Cuz, I'm like, gonna tell my kid she can't bowl with the rest of her class.

The event IS co-sponsored by a local organization who picks up the tab for some of the kids who don't make the minimum, but only in the lower grades. And they did lower the minimum a lot this year (from $25 to $10) to be more inclusive, but extortion is extortion, no matter what cute name you put on it and how cute a kid you use to sell it.


Whew. And I thought I didn't have anything to rant about. How's YOUR week been? And remember, if something is on your mind and you just can't wait for the weekly tirade, email it to me and I'll include your rant in my post with a little link love.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What's Your Writing Totem?

John Saye recently had a spiffy post on writing totems, particularly in relation to NaNo. I've never been a big believer in such things, but when I stopped and thought about it I've had them the last couple of years.

In 2005, for my first NaNo there was nothing. And I only made it a little over 5k that year.

In 2006 I set myself the modest goal of achieving 10k. I made a bit over 51k and won that year. What inspired my project that year was a mysterious photo (a series of them, actually).

When my grandmother died in 2000 I helped my mom clean her mother's things out of the nursing home. By the time she died she was in the full-time nursing care wing and her personal possessions were cut down to what she could fit into a tall dresser and a desk beside her bed. In the desk I found a series of photos of my grandmother in her 20s obviously affectionate with a man decidedly NOT my grandfather or her brother. In light of her limited space, who was this man that was so important she kept his photos with her 60 years later and after over 50 years married to someone else? I looked at those pictures a lot in November 2006.

In 2007 I wanted to win, but never managed to bring my plot into focus enough to get past the set-up (all 35k of it!). I gave up when I went back to work, part-time, the week of Thanksgiving. Last year's book was, loosely, about a hydrophobic woman who tried to commit suicide by drowning herself and discovered she was a mermaid. (oops?!) I didn't have a totem, just a mermaid sticker pilfered from my 6yo that I put on the wrist rest of my laptop.

So, maybe there is something to totem/project touchstone thing after all... As soon as I figure out what I'm using this this year, I'll spill... Or not, since I don't like to talk about my NaNo project too much til I'm done or it is.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mommy Pride

I am doing NaNoWriMo, as usual, this year. What IS new and exciting is the fact that my daughter is old enough that she, too, has decided to participate.

I asked her if she wanted to do it and she said yes. We originally sat down talked about it, then, using the handy guidelines from the Young Writers Program website, set her a goal of 3000 words for November (100 words/day). This week she started getting antsy and told her dad she didn't want to do it (but kept plowing through the workbook anyway).

We got together Wednesday night and I told her she didn't have to do it at all if she didn't want to. She decided to stick, but lowered the word count goal to 2k. For her first time I have no problem with this--I offered to drop it to 1 and let her off the hook on word count altogether.

Only registered users (or their mothers *egrin*) can access the Young Writer's Program website and author blurbs. I think this is fantastic for kid safety, but it makes it hard to share my pride with the rest of the world. It means I have to copy & paste, dadnabbit.

Without further ado, J (ok, J's MOM) presents:

When I asked her later why Clark didn't just eat Clara when he bit her (standard barraduca behavior) she rolled her eyes, looked at me like I was a little slow, and said, "Because then I wouldn't have a main character Mom!" I just about died...

Happy Noveling, y'all! If you know (read: parent) a Young Writer and want to get in touch privately I'll ask Jay if she wants an age-appropriate writing bud for the month.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doesn't Play Well With Others

The title line up there has always been a pretty good description of me. I'm not (too) mean/aggressive/pouty/snarky, really, I'm not. I'm just...self-sufficient. I am happy to spend large blocks of time alone with my book/computer/yarn. I take a looong time to come out of my shell (semi-anonymous blog bravery doesn't really count here), but once I do I'm a PITA, ask my friends :-D

My point is, this tendency toward being a loner must be very deeply ingrained. It has even affected my eyesight. Really! I got new glasses last month and realized the instant I put them on that something just wasn't right. I tried them out for another day or two, then tucked them away and started wearing a pair from 2 years ago.

I finally got around to taking them back to the doc last week and they told me the specs matched the Rx the doc wrote, so I needed to schedule an appointment for a re-check. The appointment was today at lunch.

Apparently the doc and RaidMan were BOTH right and wrong. The doc said my Rx was lower (i.e. my vision had improved). When I told RM I couldn't see out of the new specs he told me, "Yea, I didn't really think your eyesight had gotten better, but I didn't want to say anything..." um, ya just did babe!

When we re-tested today the prescription was perfect---for each eye individually. When I tried to see the little chart with both eyes open I lost focus. Translation: Each eye is strong and needs a weaker Rx, BUT they can't work together at the lower Rx. In order for me to see the way I should, he had to overcorrect.

Yep, even my eyes can't work together, and, as usual, if I'm gonna do it I have to overdo it, lol.


On a separate note, I discharged my civic duty today and voted. They moved my precinct this year. Rather than try to find the new location I just hit early voting. No matter what your opinion, even if I disagree with it, exercise your right and your obligation and VOTE. If you don't vote now, you don't get to whine later...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

School Zones for Dummies

Everyone else has a weekly blog event, mine, I think, shall be the random rant. So, welcome to Tuesday Tirades with Dy. I'll go first and you can chime in.

The above sign is not a suggestion. I ~hated~ school zones when I was a teen learning to drive. Once I had kids I was a bit more tolerant. Now that I have a kid IN school, I get it.


Is anyone really in such a hurry that the extra 60 seconds they save going too fast in the school zone is going to make a difference? More important, though, my peeve is that people need to do it right.

There is a major road (Parmer, for you Austinites) that I take to cross the North side anytime I'm not taking J to school. It has a school zone that takes the speed limit from 50 to 35. People hit their brakes at the beginning of the zone because it is right after a light. Then hit the gas literally the instant they have passed the school. School zone goes on for another 1/2 block because a residential neighborhood that feeds to the school, sidewalks and all, has its entrance there and kids do walk in the mornings. Don't speed up til you're past the WHOLE school zone folks!

In all fairness, not many kids walk and it is a 6-lane road, but still...

I pass another school frequently. This one is a ridiculously expensive private school, also on a major thoroughfare. This school is so far back from the road you can't even see the building from the street. It has a school zone almost half a mile long. And, because it is a private school with no bus service, NONE of the students walk to school. NONE. Zip, zilch, nada. You never see a kid anywhere near the street there. But I have to slow down (45 to 35) for a half a mile.

Personally, I think the sole purpose of this school zone is to make it easier for the parents to get in and out of the parking lot.

Another school just up the same road, that is RIGHT on the road and has kids that come via public transportation (and the bus stop is across the street) can't get a school zone at all! They are on the line between jurisdictions and no one wants to take responsibility for who would establish and maintain said school zone.

So, no matter how much the school zone irks you in the morning, slow down all the way through, or find another route.

To the people in charge of establishing school zones, a little more common sense would be nice.

Some schools don't need them (or at least don't need them to extend damn near a 1/4 mile to either side of the campus entrance!) and some do, use your brains people!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Therapy by the Skein

I am also currently going through... something. Honestly, not sure what, but a trip to the doc is in the works to see if she can help me figure it out before I climb the UT tower with my knitting needles (I don't knit, I bought them because they are longer than the stabilizers that came with my hairpin lace loom).

Crochet is, at its heart, a mind-numbing (and carpal tunnel inducing) repetitive motion with a concrete result in short order. I have complete and total control over it (nice for a control freak like me). I get to pick pretty colors and soft yarn. It's very calming. even when it doesn't go well.

It's also taught me in the last couple of years that this old girl can learn new tricks. I couldn't crochet properly 2 years ago and now I am slowly navigating my way through increasingly complex patterns. And, as my mother says, it's cheaper than heroin. She should know, she sews and has more fabric than Crystal & I combined have yarn; it has its own room in her house!

All of which is good when Mama has one of her special days, or like the tail end of last week, several of them in a row, aggravated by a failing motherboard, a crabby, overbooked child, a printer that will print for everyone BUT mom, overdue deadlines (see motherboard note), and the joy of my life that is WoW with new features (taste the sarcasm, like Skittles but bitter). Times like this Mama hides in her room with a hook, a basket of yarn, and a cup of coffee and waits it out. It settles me and, well, keeps me from saying or doing something that I'll regret when the funk fades.

And I like to make scarves. They offer instant gratification, don't take too long, and, well, I just like making them. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with them as the stack gets larger and larger. I'm split, 70-30 between finding a homeless shelter to give them to and trying my hand on Etsy. After all, just because someone is homeless doesn't mean they wouldn't appreciate a little handmade beauty. And, well, if I'm going to be doing this instead of therapy or pharmaceuticals, I need to find an outlet and if Etsy lets me make a little money to buy more yarn...

I dunno why, prolly cuz I spent the weekend working on a new scarf (pics when I finish) I wanted to talk yarn. Feel free to skip this post and come back when I feel witty.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Isn't It Ironic...?

Both RaidMan and my bud, Cheryl, have pointed out the irony of what I do for a living dabble in from time to time. Why?


While I am notoriously well organized at work, at home, where I write, not so much. (insert pictures of scary office here)

and I ghost for a professional organizer

If you read Crystal's blog, and you've seen the pics she's had up lately, you know I am not a small woman.

and I ghost for a weight loss counselor

I keep my books in a spreadsheet I created 4 years ago.

and I blog for a bookkeeper

I am the Queen, nay, the Cosmic Universal Superpower of Procrastination

and I write for an efficiency coach

I am pretty sure that I am living proof that you don't have to "write what you know" to get paid.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Left Alone Too Long

with nothing to do but fill an empty new blog... muahaha!

I only stayed home with my oldest for 14 months before the quiet and not-quiet of at-home motherhood drove me back to the workforce where I was lucky enough to find a job I liked working with truly awesome people. Well, except one or two, but one of them quit and the other was arrested (at work, no less -- made my day!) so it was all good. I put our daughter in daycare and spent weekends taking her to the zoo and the fair and to see my parents, and being busy. So when RaidMan took her away for a weekend, I was excited. I read books, went to the movies, caught up on laundry, and enjoyed the alone time.

With J, who is 7 1/2 now, I was home the first 8 months of her life, went back to work, hated it, and came home again just after she turned two. And stayed home til this past August. I went back to work, part-time, in November of 07, but I was still the one who took her to school, picked her up, chaperoned field trips, handled play-dates, was the class library lady, et al.

Just to get it out of the way, we had two children, both girls. Now we have one, the youngest (J), and no, I don't want to talk about it tonight. You get just enough info to keep the odd stranger from asking why I only talk about child in the singular most of the time.

RaidMan had to go out of town and the kiddo is on a school break right now, which means he had to take her with, since Mama has to go to work.

And I am utterly and completely lost.

This happens anytime my girl is gone for more than 24 hours, but with BOTH of them gone, well, it hit me when I walked in the door tonight. I wandered around my house, looked in her room (why?), checked my email, took myself out to dinner to get OUT of my empty home, and now, here I am, blogging instead of working on freelance projects or doing dishes and laundry or working on the never-ending TBR stack...

Being home for a long time changes you. I know the loss of one changed me, but I don't think that's why I'm at such loose ends when GirlChild isn't home. I am *me*, my own person, but I am so much more MOM than I ever thought I would be. Mostly I think this is a good thing, since I was always afraid I would be a crummy mom, but now I feel lost without someone to Mother--even if it's just to tell her to go to bed.

Heaven help me when she goes to college; I may drink more than she does her freshman year!

Me Me Me Me Me Me!

See, it really is all about me!

You know why I ~really~ started blogging agan? So I could play stupid blog games like this meme from ATF.


STEP ONE: I'm supposed to blog a list of six things people don't know about me.

I'm actually
with Crystal on this one -- among the people likely to read this blog I have very few secrets, and those I may have, well, I probably have them for a very good reason... But I'll give it a shot anyway:
  1. I preface waaaay too many sentences with the word "So." I have to consciously edit it out or you would see it 100s of times a day from me .

  2. I ~like~ wearing heels. Walking around in stilted footwear makes me feel like a girl. I like, and yet am embarassed by, that hard, sharp, staccato sound they make as I stomp my way through life.

  3. Writing fiction scares the crap outta me. I'm only slightly less afeared of trying to write humor, which is one of the many reasons I admire the heck outta Crystal over there.

  4. My clumsy self actually took years of both ballet and tap dancing as a child. Gymnastics, too. Yea, I don't believe it either and I have the pics to prove it.

  5. I took theatre classes, went to camps, etc. from 1985 - 1993 and I am still shy. I did my best acting off stage and am still frustrated that I never managed to turn that off-stage talent into a decent on-stage performance.

  6. I am a firm believer in breastpower. If a man is stupid enough to give me/do what I want just because I have cleavage, it is his problem, NOT mine.

Because I am newly re-entering the blogosphere on a personal level, I refuse to obey rule #2 and tag six other people. If you wanna play, go for it, but don't blame me :-)

Starting Over, Again...

No, this is not my first blog. Probably NOT my last one, either. I am a blog dilettante. I scrubbed the Web clean of my old blogs after some personal drama and trauma earlier this year and now I find I miss it. So, I'm back.

I tried desperately to think of something clever to call this blog. The old one was "PsychoSAHM", but, while I am still more than a little psycho I am no longer, sadly-and you'll hear me bitch about this a lot so just get used to it-a Stay At Home Mom.

I tried to think of something, a phrase I use frequently, and, all I could think of was the word "Actually". Yes, I was one of those annoying people. After my kiddo started saying it all the time and my adoring spouse RaidMan was kind enough to point out where she got it, I went to great lengths to remove this annoying word from my vocab. It still crops up, and seemed to fit a spot to blather about me myself and I. So, yea, it IS all about "Me, Actually" ;-)