How To Turn a Blog Comment Into A Very Long Blog Post

Two days before Valentine's Day. The moaning has hit full tilt.

Everyone hates Valentine's Day. I don't hate it; I just don't celebrate it, and I really never have. The Donor and I, I don't think, have ever once really 'celebrated' it. I mean, he'll run out on Sunday morning and buy me the obligatory Bunch of Asparagus, and I'll give him the obligatory Redacted.  But we'd do that because it's Sunday. We'd do that because we are wasted. These things work for us.

Besides, I think mothers day is way more fun.
Mother's Day, 2008.  Yum.
But a few weeks ago, my friend Earnest Girl wrote a post about Valentine's Day, and I left her a little comment, and this morning while I was asking Twitter to decide for me whether to bitch about getting kicked out of Canada 90 days before the reason we moved there in the first place, or bitch about explain Google Buzz, my other friend Deb Rox asked me to post about that old comment instead.


Why I Love Valentine's Day; A Tale of Love in the Time of Awkward Adolescence

Do you remember that kid in school? You know who I'm talking about...the one that always smelled bad, or the one who has some weird gastroenterological disorder that made them poop 8 times every day, or the one who's parents forced them to dress like Puritans, or the one who always wore clothes that were 4 years out of style, or the one who got free breakfast and lunch at school, and never once had a dime to their name? You remember that kid. I was that kid.

For the record, I always smelled good.

But I wore my brother's hand-me-down underwear, and the girl at church's hand me down clothes, and school breakfast and lunch were, on most days, the only food we saw, and I was being raised as a good little subservient cult member, and I was either getting the shit beat out of me mentally or physically, depending on the amount of coffee brewed on any given day, at home, or watching it happen to my brother. I had the self-esteem of your common household ant-trap. And I had, like, one friend. Maybe.

I was not a popular child.  I was the elementary school's class graduating class of 1985's whipping post. I still have nightmares about elementary school, not kidding.

Part of the thing with being raised all culty is that we didn't celebrate holidays. Any of them. Ever. So I got to spend an extra super fabulous day at home every time Christmas parties or Halloween parties or Valentine's Day parties rolled around. And I didn't really care so much. I was so thoroughly brainwashed that I pitied the fools who were damning themselves for eternity with their cotton ball Christmas trees and their Berry Berry Kix garland strings. But still, none of it helped my feeling that I was standing outside of my childhood, looking in. I could see what being a kid was, I just could never touch it. I was never a part of the world I lived in, and that is a hard way to be a kid.

My teachers were always respectful enough of my mother's my beliefs that they never made me a Jack O' Lantern for the wall, and I never had a picture on a construction paper bulb hanging on the foam core Christmas tree. They always excused me to the library with a smile and a nod when there were Evil Pagan Holiday things to be done in class. At least I had an out....Ash, the kid next to me who didn't stop farting for 4 years straight, he just had to sit there and take it over glitter glue festivities.

It could have been worse, that's all I'm saying.

Sometimes, my teachers would try. In 4th grade, my teacher bought me a Clifford the Big Red Dog book for my birthday, and held on to it for an extra week, and wrapped it in regular paper with a very birthdayish ribbon that could be easily disposed of before I got home, and told me as much. "I'm giving you this because I chose to celebrate your birthday, because I think you're neat, but your mom doesn't need to know. Tell her it's for homework," she said to me after the whole class was dismissed one day. I kept that book, hidden under a mattress, until high school.  It's the little things.

But there is a difference between some Big Sneaky Adult Authority Figure acknowledging your presence on the planet and your peer group doing it. There was one of her and 30 of them, all day, every day. Thirty of them with rocks, thirty of them with new clothes and shoes every January, thirty of them to remind me that I would never, ever belong in their tribe. They were just kids; they didn't know any better. In the days of 67.39% Tolerance, the runt of the litter took it hard, and me with my old clothes and stringy hair, and poor little Ash who always smelled like half-digested curried goat, we were the runts.

But for each of those 30 kids, there was at least one parent behind them with the legible handwriting and the purse strings. Enter Valentine's Day.

Maybe the teachers knew better, and maybe the kids knew better, but the moms and dads who bought the Valentine's sure didn't. You never really know beyond your kid in elementary school, especially in the 1980's.  So every year, I would return to school on the 15th of February and be greeted by a desk overflowing with cards. Cards that had my name scribbled on them in dried-up marker or stubby crayon, cards with a piece of gum lovingly taped to Scooby Doo's buttcrack or Jem's Truly Outrageous Star, cards with sugar coated chalk hearts attached that said U R Cool or I <3 U, cards from every single kid I ever prayed would be my friend late at night, once the world slept and I was left with own, private black isolation.

On February 15th, I belonged where I was. I was a normal kid who got normal cheap cardboard inclusion in the world. I was a kid in a class and everyone knew my name, they'd all acknowledged that I existed. I stayed late every year on the day after Valentine's; I ate every piece of candy and traced my name on every card with my fingers before I threw them all out so my mother wouldn't see, and for one lousy day in my lousy school year, I smiled.

So maybe obligatory redacted is kind of lame, and maybe blowing $2.99 on stupid cards your kids will hand out at school and promptly forget about is wasteful, but every year my kids and I sit together and we carefully write every name on every card, and the names we don't know so well get an extra heart scribbled in crayon on them, because maybe that's the kid who needs a Valentine to show up in their desk just so they can remember that they exist. And if it takes one really annoyingly Pepto-pink day on my calender to make that happen for some kid, I'll deal. And I'll smile.

My Gift Is My Song

Five years ago right now, I was filling out paperwork to get my baby lined up for school in the fall, and seeing the light at the end of the 'I had kids before I was done being one' tunnel. I was going to stop cocktail waitressing. I was finally scheduling my tubal and called the reproductive chapter in my life closed. I was going to go back to school and get my degree in handwriting analysis for the serial killer profiler department of the FBI math education. I had happily set me aside with the birth of my first son, and eagerly added to that postponement with my second, but it was time for me to start figuring out who the hell I was. My life was beginning in 2005 and the future was so bright, I had to wear shades.

I never did go to university. I never got the tubal. I never started on that version of me that I'd placed so much of my hopes and dreams into creating. What I did was start a blog and then get knocked up. Maybe not in that order; we're not sure. The blog came on January 19th, 2005 and the plus on the stick came on January 29th. Then I threw my guts up for 4 months in a way that, if I told you about, you'd be instantly struck with fear-induced infertility, and all the while I counted out the months and the days and the minutes until I'd again be in the position I, quite literally, fucked myself out of, the one where all my kids were in school and moving on with themselves, and I would be finally be afforded the time and opportunity to do the same.

When you're 29, five years seems like a light-age. It's unforgivably long. It's unfathomable that someday you'll be pushing 35 and this baby you didn't know you'd have would come into your life, shake your foundation to the very core, and then abandon you one day for the sweet smiles and soft hands of some high school students studying to be early childhood educators. When you're 34, however, that shit runs up behind you and smacks you in the head when you're not looking, and you hand them $70 a month to make it happen.

The best part is that you have five years from when you think you know everything until you realize that you just don't know jack shit and everything you thought you knew was bollocks.

I don't want to be a serial killer profiler anymore, at least not professionally. I don't want to analyze anything deeper than the existential implications of the Teletubbies. What I do want to do is write. I want to write every little thing down that no one ever told me and hand it to my daughter one day. I want this pen to be mightier than every sword that ever pierced the women in my family. And I never would have known that if I didn't start a blog five years ago, and I didn't start a daughter, too. This blog is her song, and the book it's born is her song, too, because she is my song.

And today, I set her free. Today, that day I counted down to all those years ago happened. She went to school. She loved school. And now, my job here is done. I am afforded the time I thought mattered to me all those years ago, that I know now doesn't at all, but at least this time I know exactly where I go from here.

First Day Of School

The Land Of Expectations

First things first: The American Idol recap from last night is up at Mamapop.  And I was up until 3 am writing it.  So I wouldn't cry if you go read it.  

Second things second: My son came home from school on Monday with his spelling test.  Which he scored 100% on.  Every week, they color in their spelling tests and hang them on display in the classroom.  This week, the test was a coloring sheet that had the face of a woman on it, and he'd drawn a wart on her nose, spots on her teeth and Frankenstein scars on her neck.  He used three tones of crayon and some nice shading techniques and it actually looked pretty good in the end, for a 9 year old.

Stapled to the back of it was a note that said the teacher had a discussion with my son about appropriateness and pride of work and respect and that I should continue this discussion at home, sign the sheet and return it the next day.  He handed it to me and said that I HAD to sign it or he'd be in trouble.  I read it, I looked at the sheet, I re-read it, I re-looked at the sheet.  I had no clue what either one meant, other than that he got 10/10 on his spelling test.

Which is awesome.

So I asked him what this *talk* he had with his teacher was about and he said that is was about him having to get that paper signed or he'd be in trouble.  I asked him if they talked about "appropriateness" or "pride in work" and he said no.  Then I got mad.  The sheet said they did, and he tends to lie, and I didn't feel like doing the '83 degrees of separation from the truth' talk I usually have to with him.  And then he started to cry.

Which is not awesome.

I had him tell me everything and the long & short is that he had a substitute, and she had the students color in their spelling tests after they were graded so they could be hung in the room.  There was no direction other than Color Them In.  So he did.  He drew what he saw and what he saw was a crazy old witch with rotten teeth and a scar on her neck.

What. The fuck.  Ever.

Apparently, 10 other kids or so also took the creepy old woman route and they all got pulled aside on Monday when the teacher returned and were given these notes to bring home.  Because elementary school teachers have nothing better to do than to censor the harmless scribblings of goofball 8 and 9 year old.

So my kid who has struggled all year to merely stay on one task, who has to battle with himself to complete anything in school, my kid who has come from starting the year getting looked at for ADHD and is now wrapping up the year getting 100%'s and finishing all of his work and has finally made some friends, he's crying and I'm kind of pissed because really, this is who he is and it wasn't wrong or dangerous or even disconcerting, just different and I have a very low tolerance for teachers who try to stifle my kid anyways.

So I did what any good parent would do; I told him his teacher was full of shit.

Not entirely true.  We sat on the curb outside while the neighborhood kids played and he snuggled into me and I explained Expectations to him.  I explained to him that so far, he's had *this* tier of expectations from his teacher, and that now he's nine, he's almost done third grade, he's maturing and now he apparently has a whole new, sub-tier of expectations to meet.  Now, it's not just enough that he does the coloring he's asked to do; he needs to know that his teacher expects that coloring to be shiny and happy.  Just like it's not enough now that he just washes his laundry; I now expect him to sort colors before he washes them.  Just like it's not enough that I take the trash out of the car when daddy says, "Dude, clean your car out already" but that he really means "Dude, get the old milk out, vacuum it, windex the windows already and scrape the motherfucking rotten peach out of the trunk before you grow a penicillin colony back there."  And that maybe I won't realize this the first time, but the next time he has to "gently remind me" he'll make sure I know what he means.

I explained to him that sometimes, people create those new sub-tiers of expectations on the fly, and that it's our job to try to recognize those as quickly as we can and work with them as well as we can.  Like when 3of3 is wrestling with him and he decides he's done, but she has no idea that suddenly no actually means no.  He still expects her to stop, even if it takes her a minute to figure that out.

I explained to him that sometimes it can be really confusing when people, especially people in authority like a teacher or a mom or a spouse or a boss, spring these new sub-tiers on you, but that you have two choices in life....let it get to you or realize that sometimes, people are just dumb and sometimes, the only thing you can do is to nod and smile and waaaaaay back, in the back of your brain where no one else can see it, hidden in a thought bubble, you just have to say, "Whatever, dude" and get on with your day.

And he giggled.  Which is awesome.

The next morning we were packing his bag for school and I showed him what I'd written in reply to his teacher.  I said, "I had a long talk with 2of3 about expectations and he assures me that he will meet yours in the future."  He looked up at me, smiled and said, "You just said whatever in your thought bubble, didn't you?"

I did, indeed son.  I sure did.

Stifler's Mom

I have this deal with my kids that I'll only help out in their classrooms once each year.  We do this because if I so much as walk into 2of3's classroom, he has to stop what he's doing and sit in my lap and tell everyone in earshot THIS IS MY MOM! and then nothing gets done.  If I so much as walk into 1of3's classroom, he spends the entire time calling me Ms Shannon and pretending he doesn't know me and it makes my uterus die a little.

Snce elementary school classrooms are disgusting and smell funny (you know it's true) what I do is chaperone one field trip per kid per year.  I try to pick the fun ones, the outdoor ones, the ones that will allow 2of3 to hang all over me and 1of3 to deny my existence if the need be.  I usually space these out over the school year.  I also usually do them on The Donor's day off so I'm not dragging a screaming 3 year old behind me the whole time.


Apparently I forgot all the rules of field-trip engagement, because while the computer was broken I signed up for two (2) field trips within one (1) week of each other when The Donor had zero (0) days off and we had to drive or walk multiple (x) miles.  In case abstract math isn't your strong point, that equals twitching.  Nothing that a Xanex and an SOS pad won't cure with time, but still.

First up, High School.  We walked 50 eight and nine year olds downhill a few miles, through traffic, to high school to see the beginnings of a totem pole.  And then walked them back up.

Hover for descriptions; click to enlarge

That's a LOT of kids to lose.  Escort.  I meant escort.

It's big, it's hard, it's wood.Really.  Interesting.  Yeah, right.Look!  I'm on a totem pole!High school lunch tastes more rebellious.Beginnings of a totem polePretty sure we started with way more kids.

And because that wasn't enough, I turned around and took 60 nine to eleven year olds to Science World. With the three year old. For six hours.

What?  That's the only thing I noticed anyway.

A shocking experience.Ghost in the machineBuilding bridgesIn between feeding them and getting our eyes gouged out by them.That is a car.  Made entirely from Legos.  And someone else's kid in it.Peek a boo!

And now I've fulfilled my contractual obligations to my kids for the year and 1of3 really hates me because one of the kids I drove really seemed to like the Weezer on the radio, really seemed to appreciate the cash I lent him for the gift shop toy, and really seems to have a crush on me now.

I Quit. Again.

This post has not one thing to do with cigarettes; It just seems fitting.
Cartoon by Natalie Dee.

A long time ago, I was co-president of a PTA.  I was vice president, too.  I was elected to be THE president, but I moved to another country just to dodge that bullet.  In my 4 years on the PTA, I've sat on every committee at least once.  I've worked every fundraiser, at least once.  I've presented at every open house, I've attended every meeting, I've whored myself out to the neighboring businesses, I've helped hire teachers, I've twisted and turned the school's budget with the principal and a few other numbers-savvy mothers, I've flyered every door in our school's name it, I've done it.

My PTA's budget was never less than $45K.  By K, yes, I mean thousand.  The last budget I worked on was $56K, and that didn't include the PTA stuff.  That was just the check we had to hand over to the school.  We never came in under budget, and ours was considered a low income school, with very low attendance.

I am a godsend in the world of PTA's.  I show up at your meeting, you get on your knees and that sweet little pink baby Jesus for gracing you with his divine intervention.  I was trained by the best.  I kick PTA ass.

The PTA here doesn't get that.  Sure, maybe I laughed heartily and out loud at the very first meeting I ever attended when they freaked the fuck out over an $11K budget.  Yes, maybe I shouldn't have snorted my coffee through my nose after 10 minutes of listening to them bitch about why the school district wouldn't cough up the other $5,000 they needed to buy brand new, state of the art computers for the lab.  Maybe I shouldn't have said through my chuckles that I raised as much as their entire year's budget  in one fundraiser alone the year before, and that fundraiser had a Grammy nominated recording artist perform at it and made the local newspapers for its sheer coolness factor.

Maybe I shouldn't have then tried again and accidentally flashed the married, to a girl and to God, president.  Maybe I should have said, "No thanks!" instead of, "Oh hell no" when the ladies of the PTA finally invited me to a get-together, because it was a sex toy get together and A) they all wear Pooh Bear sweatshirts and B) they all really love Celine Dion and C) none of them still have all their teeth*.  ** Maybe I shouldn't have whimpered in the corner after the treasurer totally pulled her shirt up over her head and shoved her boobs in my face over coffee at her house one day because, though she didn't bother to tell me, she'd just had a reduction and was quite proud of her new funbags.  I didn't even know her name at the time.

Maybe I shouldn't have been visibly pissed when I was the only person out of 10 who showed up last year for the late-night, day before the big fundraiser of the year cram prep session with three starving kids in tow, only to be told the next day what an amazing job What's Her Fuck did getting everything ready at the last minute, and with almost no help at all, bless her poor over-worked heart.

Whatever it is that has gone wrong with me and this PTA just has.  They just are not my group of people.  I have tried.  I just don't click there, and that is okay with me.  Not everyone clicks everywhere, you know?  I had a hell of a lot more time and energy to devote to really melding with my old PTA, and I got lucky to find some very like-minded people in that bunch, people I will remain close friends with for the rest of my days.  That doesn't happen just anywhere; I know and respect this fact.

So, why I keep quitting and unquitting this fucking organization, I will never fully understand.

Some will recall that a few weeks ago, I agreed to help police the drop-off/pick-up area at the school.  It was either that or bring a 2X4 and a sawed-off shotgun to pick up my kids every day.  Seriously, no parking means NOT EVEN YOU, ASSHOLE.  I've been wearing a really super sexy orange reflective vest every Monday and Friday, morning and afternoon, directing traffic at school.  I've done this while my 3 year old has run in and out of traffic, while my boys have shoved each other into the creek, through a huge snow storm, on a sheet of ice 3 inches deep, all by myself.  It's sucked, but I said I'd do it, so I did it.  Until Friday, that is.

Friday I was directing traffic and 3of3 ran to the school to get her brother (his classroom door is the first outside the school, she was safe.)  Except she didn't go get her brother.  She vanished.  I didn't think too much of it; there are enough people in that school who know who she is and where I was that I knew she'd resurface.  Except she didn't resurface.  Once I realized that her brothers didn't know where she was and I couldn't see her anywhere, I started running around the building looking for her.  I freaked right the fuck out.  We have bears and cougars and shit around here, you know?  NOT COOL.  I ran up towards the front doors and the PTA president hollered over to me, "Hey!  Your kid is running around the school screaming for you."  Like she was annoyed or something.  So, yeah, you know where she is?  "Um, YES, she's by the library and she's crying. *huff*"

She. Huffed. At Me.

I went tearing into the school and found my daughter, my THREE YEAR OLD daughter, bawling her little eyes out in the hallway and the only people trying to help her were my 4 year old neighbor kid and a woman with no arms.  Not kidding. To their credit, the 4 year old was trying really hard to calm my kid down and the armless woman was genuinely concerned and almost frantic.

So, the good news is that since the PTA president who totally knows me, knows my kid, and knew exactly where the fuck I was chose to leave my tiny little girl alone and screaming in the school and then had the gaul to HUFF at me about her being lost, I get to quit parking lot duty!

The bad news is that I didn't have the chance to take a picture of myself in that dead sexy reflective orange vest.  Which sucks for you.  However, based on my track record, I should be rocking that vest again in no less than 6 months.

*Disclaimer: I have nothing at all against people who wear Pooh Bear sweaters, listen to Celine Dion or are missing teeth.  The combination thereof, with these women, well, you'd just have to meet them.