What I Have to Deal With*

April 7th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

*Yes, I know, that should read “With What I Have to Deal,” but I’m taking poetic license here because it just sounds too snooty the proper way and I’m going to be writing a snooty post as it is.

First, though, I’d like to ask why, given my love of baking and my fondness for my religion, no one has bought me one of these tzizit baking pans (it’s even nonstick!):
Bake Pan
C’mon, people! Get your game on!

Now, to the heart of the matter. As amazingly hard as it is for me to believe, in about two months, my Doodlebug is done with elementary school. Not really sure how that happened, but apparently it is so and there is nothing I can do about it.

We are considering–just considering, mind you–the idea of private school for middle school. Our town’s middle school is a fine school, and if it were Pie who were finishing elementary school, I’d have no qualms sending her there. But Doodles is a quirkier kid who needs different things than what our middle school may be able to provide. He’s asked a number of times over the years to be homeschooled, and while I’m not willing to go that route, I’m open to seeing what our other options are. He’s the driving force behind this and will have a large say in whatever is decided.

The process, however, is all me. Researching the schools, making the boy study for the tests, getting him to those tests, touring the schools, arranging for his visits, getting him to those visits, filling out applications, sending in fees, giving teacher recommendation forms to fill out, having transcripts sent. It’s not a quick process, but to be honest, it’s a lot more time consuming than I had originally thought it would be. So in the morning, when the boy has trouble getting up, and his father says, “You know you’re going to have to be up and out the door about an hour earlier if you’re in a private school,” and the boy responds, “That’s not going to be my problem,” I can be excused from smacking him in the head a couple of times.

His father, though, is not much better. This morning the two of us went to look at a school that is a significant commute away. However the classes are small; the math is differentiated so the boy could be exactly where he should be; they study Latin, which is something high on the boy’s list; they have a 40 book challenge to read 40 books a year in eight different genres; they have a campus on a gorgeous setting in the woods; terrific technology; and class sizes of no more than 15.

Adam and I got into the car to drive back home. “So,” he said. “What did you think?”

“I think there’s a lot to like there, but we’d have to weigh the commute against the advantages of other schools.”

Adam nodded.

“What did you think?” I asked him.

He hesitated a moment, and then he said, “Yeah, it looks good. But…”

“But what?” I asked.

“Did you notice,” he said, “that they were all drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee? I mean all of them! I can’t help but judge that.”

Getting to what’s really important. That man should be the poster child for Starbucks. Meanwhile, I’m not letting coffee selection dictate my child’s educational future. Coffee is a value that should be taught at home, anyway, and not in the schools. And I’m pretty sure I’m not inviting Adam along for the next school tour.

Instrumental Madness

September 11th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Everyone has crazy, over-scheduled children and the mishegas that goes with that. I’m not alone in the “Who am I taking where today?” mindset. This year’s planning has required extra care: Pie has Hebrew school Tuesday and Thursday (with a friend who comes home with us); Doodles on Monday and Wednesday. Dance on Monday (with a different friend who comes home with us). Soccer for Pie on Mondays and Thursdays; viola for the boy on Mondays and Thursdays. Girls Scouts the first Friday of the month. And this doesn’t include weekend games and Hebrew school nor the upcoming hockey season.

Pie has been taking piano lessons for a couple of years. And for a couple of years I’ve begged, screamed, bribed, and screamed some more about her practicing piano. She just wouldn’t do it. No amount of anything would get her to practice. So I said, “Fine. No more piano.” I’m not going to pay for her to take the same lesson over and over because she wouldn’t practice. She agreed pretty quickly and we said we’d re-think instruments in 4th grade when wind instruments are introduced at the elementary school. Third grade is string instruments, which she has no interest in, and I’m not letting her do an instrument this year when our schedule is already crazy and she refuses to practice.


Until she came running out of school today. “I’m going to play the bass! I’m going to play the bass!”

And now the battle of the wills begins. Me, who doesn’t have the inclination for her to 1) play an instrument twice her size and 2) not practice yet another instrument and 3) schedule in more lessons because bass instruction is after school at the high school.

And her. Who wants to play the bass.

I think we’re about to find out who is in charge in this house. If you see a small girl with a huge instrument, you’ll know it’s not me.

Next Time Take It Black

March 12th, 2013 § Comments Off on Next Time Take It Black § permalink

Ten petri dishes growing bacteria are sitting on my dining room table in the name of science. Right now, I’m not a fan of science.

The same child who is growing bacteria also had to get himself to school this morning on his own. The girl and I go to a before-school P.E. program (she as a participant, myself as a volunteer) at 7:15 a.m. twice a week. This morning it happened that Adam had to leave at 7:15 for a work breakfast (at least I think it was work. It better have been work!).

Just before I was left, I woke the boy. “We’re all leaving now. I’ve set the kitchen timer for 45 minutes so you’ll know when to go to school. Please note that if you fall back asleep, no one is here to wake you nor will you hear the timer.”

In response I received a lovely, “Ungh!”

After the P.E. program was over, I went up to the 4th grade hall to make sure the boy made it to school. “You’re here!” I said when I found him at his locker. “Did you eat breakfast?”

“Yeah,” he told me. “But I put too much sugar in my coffee.”

I know we should be grateful for the little things, and today I am. Caffeine* + sugar + 9-year-old boy = a day in which I am extremely grateful that I’m not the one trying to teach him anything this morning.

*Okay, slight exaggeration. He does have to drink decaf, but still…

I Should Be Writing…

March 1st, 2013 § Comments Off on I Should Be Writing… § permalink

I’m about 1/3 of the way through edits on my manuscript, but there are so many more pressing things that I’m having a difficult time focusing on the work. For instance:

1) I’m distressed that my 4th grader has spelling words that not only do I not know how to spell without the help of my good friends Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster, but words of which I’ve never even heard! An extra Girl Scout cookie for anyone here who can properly use “argillaceous” in a sentence without first looking it up (and if I’ve told you the definition, you are disqualified). I’ve told the boy he has two options as far as I’m concerned on today’s spelling test that I’d be fine with: He can spell everything right except for “argillaceous” or he could spell everything else wrong and spell “argillaceous” correctly. Heck, I’ve typed “argillaceous” four times now, and I still have to refer back to the list of spelling words to see how it’s spelled. By the way, this is the same list where my son has to spell the word “gentle.”* “How could you have spelled ‘gentle’ wrong?” He said, “I could have sworn she said ‘gentile.'” Another reason it’s hard to be a Jew in the public schools.

*The kids are given a pre-test of 30 words. The first 10 words they get wrong are their spelling words for the week. If they get fewer wrong on the pre-test, they have fewer spelling words for the week. Nothing annoys me more than the weeks when the boy has three spelling words for the week and he still spells two wrong on the Friday test.

2) I’m three shoe boxes short for today’s Brownie meeting. These important things take up brain space, people!

3) Goats. How can anyone work when Taylor Swift is singing with goats. I’m obsessed.

4) The knowledge that at this very moment, people are frolicking with sea lions, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies and I’m sitting here not writing.

I’m working on the Galapagos slide show/recount of the trip. But then I’m also working on the novel, the boy’s spelling, Brownies, baking hallah, and all those other wonderful things so it may be a bit. But I promise one thing when I do get to it: There will be nothing argillaceous about it.

Such Delicate Little Flowers

November 28th, 2012 § Comments Off on Such Delicate Little Flowers § permalink

Yesterday was gray and snowy. I was sitting warm and cozy at my computer, getting some writing done when the phone rang.

Me: Hello?
Voice: Hi. My socks got really wet at recess. I need you to bring me new socks.
Me: First things first. Which child of mine is this?
Voice: Doodles.
Me: Okay, Doodles. Now, what?
The boy: At recess my socks got soaking wet. I need you to bring me new socks.
Me: Um, no.
The boy: My feet are really wet! I can’t wear these socks!
Me: It’s one o’clock. School gets out in an hour and fifteen minutes. You’ll be fine.
The boy: They are really wet.
Me: I’m not walking over to school an hour before it’s over to bring you socks. It’s snowing out!
The boy, clearly exasperated: I know! That’s why how my socks got wet!
Me: Take off your socks and go sockless for the next hour.
The boy: My feet will be cold!
Me: I’m a mean mommy. I’ll come by before the bell rings to bring you socks so you don’t have to go home with cold wet socks.
The boy: Fine!

I get to school shortly before the bell and I go to the boy’s 4th grade classroom.

Teacher: Ah, Doodles, here are some socks for you!
Me: Did you really let him call me to bring him socks an hour before school gets out?
Teacher, laughing: I did! You know, he never complains, so when he did, I figured I’d let him call.
Me: You’re crazy! Boy, tell your teacher what the family motto is!
The boy: Suck it up.
Teacher laughs.
Me: Next time the boy has an issue like this, remind him of the family motto!

Freakin’ fragile child. Where do these kids come from?

The Post in Which My Son Misunderstands the Meaning of “Safety School”

March 12th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Report cards came out last Friday. Both kids did beautifully, both are right where they should be, perhaps a little ahead in the reading areas. But the third grade teacher sent home a class letter reporting that he was no longer hounding the kids to turn in their reading journals–he was merely giving them one reminder–and as a result some kids aren’t turning in their reading journals. If that was the case with our student, it would be noted on the report card. Reading journals are done in school, and kids have different due dates for them. Doodles’s reading journal is due Mondays. Sure enough, on the report card, it said, “This term his reading journal wasn’t always turned in.”

Me: This is unacceptable. Why don’t you turn it in?

Doodles shrugs.

Me: You need to be responsible for your work. Your grade suffered because of your lack of effort on doing your reading journal.

Doodles: But I don’t like doing my reading journal.

Me: Doesn’t matter. You still need to get it done. There will be lots in life that you don’t like doing, but you still need to do. We need to brainstorm a way that you can remember to write it and turn it in. Maybe we tape an index card to your desk that reads, “Thursday: Do writing journal.”

Doodles: But it’s not due till Monday.

Me: That doesn’t mean you should do it at the last minute. You know, you tell me you want to go to M.I.T., but to get into M.I.T. and survive at M.I.T., you need to be organized and responsible for your work. No one is going to nag you and tell you to turn in your assignments when you’re at college.

Doodles: Well, you could call me every day–no, not everyday. You don’t have to call me on weekends. But you could call me five days a week and nag me to get my work done when I’m at college.

Me: That is so not going to happen on so many different levels. Kids who can’t turn in their reading journals don’t go to M.I.T.

Doodles: Fine. Then I’ll go to Princeton.

Spelling List… for the Apocalypse

January 23rd, 2012 § Comments Off on Spelling List… for the Apocalypse § permalink

I’ll be honest: Most of my elementary school years are a blur. I mostly remember doing super fun, incredibly dangerous things that I would never ever let my children do today (playing on construction sites? Riding a bike exploring new areas for hours on end? Roaming in the woods?) I think everyone on Facebook has seen this one by now:

But in my day, there was less to fear. Well, not less to fear. Just no Internet so we didn’t know what to fear. So we did’t fear anything. Except Bloody Mary and the guy who put razor blades in trick or treat apples and the teepees in the woods that were definitely haunted. But now, now I’m a grown-up with 24/7 Interest access. I know exactly what to fear. So, yes, I’m guilty of overparenting. Not a second of the day passes that I don’t know precisely where my kids are. The world is evil. I’m just protecting my babies.

The school, though, is taking another tact. The school is preparing the children for the future head on. Exposing them to the grim realities of life. What do I mean? My son brought home his list of spelling words today. Third grade spelling words. What words does every third grader need to know how to spell? Well, duh:

  • terrorist
  • prisoner
  • defender
  • specialist
  • attacker
  • survivor
  • civilian

Of course! These are the words they will encounter on a daily basis, the words they’ll need to know how to write when passing notes in school. Mixed in this list of spelling words is also Australian and Asian. And artists. What are we saying about the Australians and the Asians? Does the school know something I don’t? Are the Australians and the Asians the terrorists or the survivalists? And exactly how do the artists fit in?

Why do I drink so much bourbon? It’s because the third graders are apparently on to something! The terrorist are coming. Beware the Australians!

Holiday Happenings

December 9th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

–I’m getting old. I went to Adam’s office party last night. I did not get drunk. I did not saying anything that could potentially get Adam fired. I did not embarrass myself or anyone else. It was a whole different world. There’s no way around it, people: Getting old sucks. I miss the old days of post-party shame and humiliation. If nothing else, it gave me lots to blog about.

–I cannot stop listening to She & Him’s version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

–My son’s e-mailing has gotten a little out of control. He has mastered the emoticon. He sent me an e-mail with the subject line “look what I can do” and the text read, “Dear Mom, [e-mail full of emoticons] From, Doodles.” I wrote back, “Yes, but can you put your dirty clothes in the hamper? That would REALLY impress me!”

The boy? The boy wrote back,

Dear Mom,
Yes I can put my dirty clothes in the hamper I just chose not to!

He apparently also chooses to ignore punctuation.

–I’m not ready for the holidays. I’m not ready for the holidays. I’m not ready for the holidays.

–My son got his holiday ‘do. A red faux-hawk. He wanted blue, but it was too dark to really show. So red it is.

–Next week I’m going into my kids’ classrooms to make latkes. But it’s not really making latkes. According to the e-mail sent out, it’s “Hanukkah Cultural Enrichment.”

All right. Time to deck the halls in boughs of potatoes. Or something. This house is lacking in cheer, and my children are demanding I change that. Fa la freakin’ la.

Boy Oh Boy

September 22nd, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

First off, we’re home late because we have to go to instrument pick-up, which is the definition of clusterf*ck, with seven elementary schools picking up instruments at the middle school. The smallest size viola… is still a smidgen big for my peanut. But it’s okay. Because I learned tonight what “I liked the sound of the viola better” means. It means “when they demonstrated instruments at school, they played the theme to Star Wars on the viola.” Marketing works, folks!

We get home and I tell the boy to get himself into bed. He does, and then I get a phone call from the mom of a classmate. “J. doesn’t have the complete list of spelling words. He only has the first twelve. Can you give me the other twelve?”

To which I, of course, replied, “What list?”

She said, “For tomorrow’s spelling test.”

To which I, of course, replied, “What test?”

I go upstairs and tell my boy to tear himself away from his Calvin and Hobbes book. “What’s up with this spelling list?”

Boy: Huh?
Me: You have a list of spelling words?
Boy: Oh, yeah. I didn’t take it home. I have all the words memorized.
Me: Oh, really? I just happen to have half the list of words. Spell “quiet.”
Boy: Q-u-i-t.
I raise my eyebrows.
Boy: Uh… e!
Me: No.
Me: Spell “giant.”
Boy: G-i-e… No, a! No, e! No, a! n-t.
Me: Spell “cease” as in “cease and desist.”
Boy: S-e-a-c-e.
Me: No.
Boy: S-e-a-s-e.
Me: No.
Boy: S-e—
Me: No.
Boy: S—
Me: No.
Boy: S—
Me: No!
Boy: S?
Me: No!
Boy: C-e-a-c—
Me: No.
Boy: C-e-a-s-e.
Me: Yes.
Boy: Got it!

He’s his father’s child. Always certain, often wrong.

How I Hope and I Pray That I Will…

September 19th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Am I the only one who gets teary eyed at Schoolhouse Rock? Seriously! Every time that Bill becomes a Law, I just want to weep in happiness for him.

The pressure in not blogging very often is that when I finally do blog, I know you all think I’m going to have something interesting to say. But very often—okay, always—I don’t. So then you just have to hear about what’s on my mind. And, oh, there are many things on my mind! For instance:

Adam and I play this little game. The recycling bin fills up to the point where we can’t close the garbage drawer. So someone pulls it out of the drawer. And we leave it in the middle of the kitchen. And continue to fill it. It’s like Jenga, in reverse. Who can add on the most without the pile toppling over? And who’s going to be chicken, finally taking the recycling out? Last time, it was me. Next time, I won’t give in so easily.

My son, who has Hebrew school three days a week, (soon) hockey twice a week, drums once a week, Cub Scouts every other week, has now decided he’s going to take up the viola. The viola. I had to look it up. I mean, who the hell knows what a viola is? Why not the violin? “The viola makes a better sound.” Let’s try him in a blind listening test. I don’t think he’d be able to tell the viola from, oh, I don’t know, a garbage truck.

My daughter is coming up with yet more creative ways to get out of going to sleep. “My arm hurts! My eye hurts! Mommy, let’s make out!” [Making out being our snuggle time with lots of kisses] Pie is currently working on being “brave and independent.” Uh, yeah.

Speaking of my daughter, she said to me, “I’m reading level M books! I can read Junie B. Jones!” I asked her, “Were you tested on level M books?” quite surprised. Level M is the beginning of 3rd grade reading. My little first grader is a great reader, but an age-appropriate reader. Last anyone checked, Pie was solidly on the end of kindergarten/beginning of 1st grade level. So I asked again, “Someone tested you on Level M books?” She happily replied, “Yes!” Very surprised, I said, “Who tested you on Level M books?” She rolled her eyes. “Me, Mommy! I tested myself! I can read Level M books!” Sigh. And now comes the process of “managing expectations.”

My son is not immune to problems. Last Wednesday he said to me, “School is boring. I’m not going today.” I tried to ascertain if something had happened, but no, it was simply boring and he wasn’t going. “Okay,” I said logically. “Everyone needs a mental health day every now and then. And if you need one, you can take one. However, in March, when you truly need a mental health day and want to take one, I’m going to say, ‘No, because you took a mental health day ON THE FIFTH DAY OF SCHOOL, YOU TOTAL DOLT!'” Shockingly, the boy decided to go to school. Boredom and all.

John Irving signs a copy of "Hotel New Hampshire"

A friend and I went to see John Irving speak the other night. He read from his next book, which will be out next year, and it definitely intrigued me. But I enjoyed when he talked about writing, how he plots out every part of his book before he starts so he knows exactly what will happen and just needs to worry about language. An interesting way of looking at it. I want to try that on my next book, for which I have some pretty strong ideas but no formally written plot yet. But then he said things like, “I think writing in the present tense is lazy” and “I don’t like most modern writing” and it made me happy that literary curmudgeons still exist today.

After school this afternoon, my son said, “I’m so happy! We have homework and it’s due tomorrow!” I said, “Really? That’s great!” He looked at me with third-grade eyes, and said, “Duh, Mom! That was sarcasm!” Gee, how did I miss that?

I e-mailed an author I like to see if she’d blurb my novel, and she e-mailed me back to have my agent send it to her agent. How exciting is that! She basically told me, “Have your people call my people,” and, I HAVE PEOPLE! Life throws you a bone every now and then.

Even if today, I’m still just a Bill.

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  • Who I Am

    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

    I mostly update the writing blog these days, so find me over there.

    More about me and my writing.

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    jenny at jennyandadam.com


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