Leave my 2nd grader alone, Arne Duncan

October 30, 2014

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This quote and stunning portrait of Secretary Duncan popped up on social media last week. It’s from his speech during a 2009 visit to a Brooklyn elementary school. It is, of course, taken out of context here.  But that just means it’ll fit right in with every other quote on the internet, ever. Here’s a post about Mr. Duncan addressing the “educational crisis” in this speech.

He seems to be claiming that you can tell where kids will end up, higher education-wise, because of how they’re testing in second grade. Reading this on a friend’s wall, I actually said aloud,  “You leave my second grader ALONE, Arne!”  Yes, that’s a tad dramatic, but Arne is a fun name to say aloud.

Though well-meaning, this is some serious oversimplification, and rhetoric to sell the need to test small children.  I teach K-5 and let me tell you: By second grade, a couple of them haven’t even really mastered holding a #2 pencil yet, let alone having one help decide their future.  In second grade, they’re about 8 years old. Meaning that every bit of their little life has occurred in a shorter time than Seinfeld was on the air. Just let that sink in.

No, Arne, we should not.  I mean, I can totally pick out the future trophy wives by the time they’re leaving 5th grade, but that’s as cynical as I’ll allow myself to get as a teacher.

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Wedding Planner: Do Over Edition

October 24, 2014

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I am not into event planning. Ask my daughter; she is (happily) getting a birthday “outing” next month for her 8th, in lieu of an actual party. Lately Pinterest likes to remind me that people I know, who are my age, are getting married now.  In contrast, all my wedding decisions are set in 11 year-old stone. Now, on occasion, I actually do girly things. One of these is to fantasize about what I would do differently if I were planning a wedding this year. This is fun, try it! Your wedding is the big party you throw, so all your friends and family can come together and enjoy themselves.  So it better be a good, right? Hmmm…

Hubby and I got married at 22. We had a lot of help (thank you, wonderful people who helped!) and we had an awesome wedding. We are not exactly the same people today, in taste or priorities. Nor should we be. So now, to the shock and dismay of my relatives who were there or *gasp* (sorry) chipped in for our beautiful college wedding back in ’03, here’s what I’d do today, instead:

Date:

Same. Maybe a week later, because HELLO, who thought New Jersey schools would still be in session on June 21st? Stupid polar vortex.

Location:

I feel bad that everybody drove to our college campus, mid-way between where our families lived, without nicer hotels or nightlife nearby. We’d now be in Jersey, in someplace outside, that would be set up like a really nice back yard. In my fantasy there is no rain, no heat, and no mosquitoes in this lovely place in Jersey. I said it was fantasy.

Dress:

I don’t get to wear jeans? *shriek* “It’s my wedding!” I do not care about dresses, but I have to say that I hate it when brides don’t look like themselves on their wedding day. This was me:

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…somewhere under that giant white frosted cupcake! Actually, as wedding dresses go, this one is still pretty simplistic, and I love it for that. But if I had to wear this now, the only thing good about this dress would be that it is now way too big for me. We would be going dress-casual, people. I know that’s cliche now. Thank me later when you don’t have to go buy new formal wear. For my part, I promise not to wear jeans.  But just so you know, there are white sneakers under that giant cloud of satin up there.

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Sometimes you’re the example…

October 21, 2014

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…and sometimes you’re the cautionary tale.

Follow My Example:

Jersey suburbanites that we are, we pride ourselves on dragging bringing the kids along on outings in the city of Philadelphia.  We feel it is an important center of American history and culture for the area, and they should experience this vibrant, growing metropolis. And Mommy and Daddy like the food and bars.

On one of our visits there this past summer, we took a stroll in China Town, enjoyed eating our way through the variety of fresh and ethnic foods at the Reading Terminal Market, hung around and rode the carousel in Franklin Square park, and viewed Independence mall…from the lovely beer garden across the street. What? They’ll go see the history stuff in 5th grade anyway.  The restaurant had a bocci court that was a perfect mini-playground – they could draw pictures in the dirt! Then we got ice cream at the Franklin Fountain, because children who let you do all that for 8 hours straight without a care in the world get rewarded with tons of ice cream.  It’s the law. We did remember to order them food at the beer garden, and I’m pretty sure it was deep-fried. Hubby’s sister and her boyfriend, who live in town, met us and we took turns with the occasional bathroom trips. We were at one place just eating, drinking, talking, and watching the kids play in the dirt, for over 4 hours. We tipped very well there.

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I have used this picture before, but I was so damn proud of my kids that day, it may go in the Christmas card. 

Everywhere we went, people in their mid-to-late 30’s smiled indulgently at us and our adorable children. I could tell they thought we made it look so easy to enjoy your children and still enjoy yourself. We probably inspired a couple girlfriends to ask their men where this whole relationship was going because…babies!

Husband and I felt very smart for having the kind of easy-going (HA) children who are agreeable (HAHA) enough to take anywhere. What excellent examples of parenting life we had set for those around us.

Caution, hazards ahead:

Then one recent Friday, our favorite Mexican place in Jersey was inexplicably closed. We decided this meant we had to hop on the train and visit hubby’s sister in the Philly, at her restaurant. The kidlets had had a day off of school that day for teacher in-service, and had gone out to lunch with their Nana to Friendly’s. We forgot that this meant they had recently gorged themselves, and then eaten ice cream sundaes bigger than their heads, because that is what you do at Friendly’s.

Our bigger kid said on the train that she didn’t feel so good. Her tummy hurt.  We pretty much wrote her off, because frankly, the bigger kid is a hypochondriac.

We ordered them two kid-friendly meals off the kid-friendly menu at their Aunt’s restaurant. We proceeded to order drinks and food and kick back because of course, it was going to be another care-free night in the city like so many we have had before.

…Ha.

First, neither child would eat their food. Sometimes the little one just doesn’t eat, period.  The fact that she had the most perfect chicken fingers known to man in front of her had no effect on that situation. “Not eating” for the big one (who is usually a vacuum) meant eating only half of her local-cow’s-milk-cheese quesadilla. This should have been our sign to turn back…NOW. Sadly, I had started the meal with a double ‘Fiddich, and I wasn’t going to win any awards for keen Mommy observations at the time.

We then went walking in Rittenhouse Square park. It was after dark, but it was a crisp autumn evening, and friendly people and doggies were everywhere. We met a family by the fountain with two chatty little boys. We decided to go to the book store across the street next, and find one new book for each of us. Then maybe some dessert? Where would you like to g  – WHAT? The big one says she has to WHAT?

We found a trash can. It was kind of tall for her – an iron, city park trash can. She aimed as best she could and got it on her clothes anyway. Joy. I pictured how lovely that smell would be on the ride home, and we made a B-line for the book store. For a bathroom, not for books. Really.

After stopping to puke a couple more times we made it into the store (a narrow, 3-story Barnes & Noble which was at once soothingly familiar and confusing as Hell because the bathrooms are usually in the same place in all the suburban stores).  We had to drag a screaming, clawing 4 year-old onto the escalator, because said 4 year-old has a long list of things she’s deathly afraid of and these apparent death traps are near the top of that list. We also had the fun of wondering what happens when you puke on the steps of an escalator, but thankfully never had to find out. The older kid reached the top floor and made a run for it into the restroom stall –  past people who were waiting in line. There she got on her hands and knees on the floor (that last sentence alone made my germophobe mom friends wanna puke, themselves), and wretched for a good 10 minutes. Good times. Other people came and went from the rest room. I couldn’t close the stall door, because the kiddo’s body was right there, so I just had to rub her back and apologetically wave people past. And hold back her hair. Gee, I hope we can bond like this when she’s much older, too…

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Now, get this: We actually believed that, after that puking spell, she was done. I know, right? So naive.  Well she said she was, so we could continue on our carefree evening, beginning with the quest to buy everyone a new book, as a treat. I think the big one bucked up because she really, really wanted the newest My Little Pony novel. By the time everyone else had picked their book but me, the big kid was heading for yet another too-tall trash can, this one by the front door of the Barnes & Noble.  Right next to the poor security guard, right where everybody was coming and going, our kid was puking. At that point I just got in line to pay for their books. What? Where were we gonna go? She was still puking! Might as well leave with some reading material.  Notice that it was Mommy, not the kid who probably just ate too much soft serve at the previous meal, who didn’t get something new to read?  Boo, mom life.

I requested the largest bag they had for our three small books, for vomit-security, and we started walking back to the train station. We figured this was a safer option than hailing a taxi for the kid who sometimes gets carsick for no reason anyway. No puking in taxis; is just not good karma. So, polite child that she is, she just puked right there on the sidewalk. Oh, and in the bag. And on her clothes. And in front of onlookers, who gave us giant-eyed, accusing stares, us as if we’d dragged a child carrying the plague out for a fun night on the town. Good times, I’m tellin’ ya.

We made it back to the station and boarded our train home to New Jersey, and the big one did not throw up on the trip once! Gold star, baby. Both kids quickly passed out, and I got to relate the story of the Barnes & Noble bathroom floor to hubby. However, walking down the narrow steps of the train station at around 10PM, the poor kid let loose again – with passengers behind her in line on the narrow stairs. We were kind of helpless – we couldn’t move her, because of the narrowness of the stairwell, they couldn’t move around us very well, and OH! Have I mentioned how my body reacts when another person vomits? I can’t help it; I have to fight hard not to be part of the “fun”, let’s put it that way. GOOD. TIMES. Great times, for the people trying to squeeze past the actively vomiting child and her parents (and one sleepy preschooler who really had no idea where she was, at that point).

And the next day? Yeah, she was fine. Maybe she’d caught a little bug, or ate too much at Friendly’s. She always was a reflux/throw-up kid.

Hubby and I are heading out this weekend sans kids because we totally get a do-over after all those “good times”.

I am sure that anybody who ran across us that night got set back a couple years in the family planning department.  I think I saw one of them run straight to the CVS to buy condoms. 

Sometimes you’re the awesome parents. And sometimes…well, you’re just that type of reminder.

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Saturday Morning Cartoons are Dead

October 4, 2014

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You just said, “What?” and realized that you’re actually quite old, right? Me too.

According to blogger Robert Sorokanich at Gizmodo, the last Saturday morning cartoon on broadcast TV aired last weekend.

No, really. The CW networked was the last hold-out, switching their block of anime-style toons over to the “educational programming” that is mandated by the FCC since the 1990’s.

Why the switch, now? It’s the prevalence of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sources.  Kids today (I just sounded older having said that…Old Man Voice: “kids today!”) can watch their choice of cartoons whatever, whenever, almost ad-free. The advertisers aren’t getting up on Saturday mornings anymore, to greet the children while they munch on their Cookie Crisp. Although we never buy sugar cereals, ever. Perish the thought. Besides, mine prefer Fruit Loops. We have an agreement with our daughters every weekend morning: They can get up and put My Little Pony on Netflix at 7:30, nobody bothers Mommy and Daddy, and in exchange we will feed and clothe them.

This news at the demise of the traditional kid-start to the weekend has me waxing nostalgic about my own Saturday morning viewing. When I was the age of my older child, my friends were several boys in the class, and occasionally Jessica S. (There were FIVE Jessicas in our elementary school class, because it was 1988.) We watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles religiously on Saturdays, and discussed the finer points of the episodes on Monday at lunch recess. We were hard core. There were rules about who could play with what imaginary Ninja weapons. My first crush may have been on an animated anthropomorphized reptile with a blue Zoro mask.   Bonus, I got to be April O’Niel, because I have awesome red hair.

This ^

Not this…

Scary.

I think this is an interesting change. Saturday morning cartoons are following the trend of TV in general;  on-demand, special ordered, almost diner menu-style viewing.

Comments, por favor: What do you think of this change, and what was your Saturday morning TV ritual?

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Baby Poser

October 2, 2014

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Because I’m awful… But so are these.

Enjoy…

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Moments later, baby Emily was tragically crushed by the ostrich returning to its nest.

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Sure, but if a grown man wears this cute outfit, everybody assumes he’s a stripper.

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Because she wanted the happy, incident-free life of Daisy Buchanan.

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The bow says “I’m Mommy’s princess!”, but the face says “No more Jager for me…”

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Red Fraggle wore it better.

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If God didn’t want us to wrap the baby in masking tape, he shouldn’t have made him so damn wiggly.

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You realize “Black Swan” is not a children’s movie, right?

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Now I’ll just take out this trash…

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Get me a Mai Tai, biotch.

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Oh yeah. This looks totally safe.  #babyslingshot

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What a fun way to mortify the kid before he’s even born!

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“Mommmmm, that damn stork dumped another one!”

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First of all, screw you, that you looked this good while pregnant.  And where are you hanging this tasteful work of art, exactly? Men’s bathroom?

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This would be a better metaphor if the husband had a baseball bat and an OB/GYN had that glove. Homerun!

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Did you guys leave your shirts at the hospital?

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Disclaimer: I have done stupid stuff like this, including matchy Halloween costumes and digitally scrapbooked greeting cards.  But I didn’t paint baseball stitches on my tummy, so…winning.

Besides, what else am I gonna do on Pinterest, find kiddie crafts? Ok, I have done that too.  Actually I love Pinterest, and not for the recipes. My board of infantile snark is called “Baby Poser: Bad Baby Photography”, username is Meggyrd.

10 points if you tell me your favorite one.

20 if you give it a new caption. GO!

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