Monday, November 27, 2006

A one horse soap and sleigh

I think I was 14 before I realized that it was actually a "one horse open sleigh."

You know, as much as I fucking HATE Christmas sometimes, I love all the singing. The last few days as Soph and I have been driving around, she's been requesting, "Sing Christmas songs Mommy." I've been having fun doing "The Christmas Song" a la Karen Carpenter, "The Little Drummer Boy" a la David Bowie, and last night, I was totally channeling Billy Holiday while sing "Jingle Bells."

Soph's favorite is, like most 4 year olds, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." She has totally mastered the "like a lightbulb!" and "like monopoly" bits. My favorite just-for-fun Christmas song has got to be "Let it Snow." There's so much room to slide around in that one. Plus it's so cozy and just ever-so-slightly naughty. As for the more "serious" carols, for my money you can't beat "O Holy Night." Even though I'm not a believer, that crescendo "Fall on your knees. O hear the angels' voices. O night divine...." and so on gives me the shivers every time. That song just swells an breaks and swells again until you're ready to just shout out "God bless us, every one!"

Of course, I've always found "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" to be down right creepy. The, "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake," is just too Santa-as-Stalker for me.

I also hate the "push-the-button-and-listen-to-the-carol" toys, ties, and whatever else. Yesterday, after Thanksgiving Part Deux at Grandma Bud's house, Soph, Grandma, and I all made the pilgrimage around the corner to the Griswalds. (Actually, I have no idea what their last name is, but their house is lit up like, well, like something very, very light-y. Katy, I think, refers to it as "The house Christmas threw up on.") This year along with the plastic baby Jesus surrounded by light up candy-canes and polar bears and every other tacky Christmas decoration in creation, they added a very electronic sounding carol bonger-outer. Yikes.

Today's best thing about being a mom:
Crayon masterpieces on the fridge

Today's worst thing about being a mom:
We just can't seem to get the haircut right these days.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Random acts of capitalism

Sophie's school sent home a For Small Hands catalogue. Check out the link because let me tell you, their stuff is awesome! I particularly loved the "classic toys" section. Your kid (or niece/nephew, grandkid) doesn't have to be in Montessori to love it. We're talking classic well made stuff for kids. Stuff they'll like, and use, and possibly--gasp--learn from. The stuff ranges from very well-made child-sized kitchen ware, cleaning products and gardening tools to yoga sets, classic toys like a cobblers benches and lacing kits, to wonderful musical instruments like spin drums and egg shakers. I'm totally getting her this. That girl will shred paper until the cows come home.

Also, if anyone reading this has Soph on his/her shopping list, please consider getting her something from these guys. She does not need more plastic Disney Princess crap. Not that you would give her crap. Because you are awesome. And she really loved the Princess crap you gave her last year. Ok. Shutting up now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What can you really say?

A letter I just finished writing:

Dear ****,

I received your letter on Wednesday, right as my family was heading out the door to drive up to Logan for Thanksgiving with my mom’s (huge) family. When I saw your name followed by an inmate number, I felt really—well, really something. Sad mostly. Sad and surprised. I read your letter then spent a large part of the (6 freakin’ hour!) drive up North thinking of what I could write to you.

Brad was a student of mine—but only for a short time, and his attendance was slightly worse than yours. I remember him as a charming, fun kid who seemed in desperate need of a hug—or beating—or maybe both. What I’m trying to say is that he seemed particularly lost to me, even then. Beyond that, anything I could say about his choice, your choice, your proximity to his choice, would be presumptuous. There’s no way I can imagine the feelings either of you experienced, or offer anything by way of insight or advice on such a heartbreaking event.

That said, I was surprised that you chose to write to me. Somehow I always imagined that I was a bit of a pain in your ass. And while I’m flattered that you classify me as a “civilized being,” I don’t necessarily always classify myself as one. It sucks that you took a fall, and/but meth is nasty, nasty, insidious stuff, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you. I speak from a small amount of personal experience, and the experience of watching many friends and students loose themselves in it. As a teacher it’s so hard to know when to step in with a suspicion—even a very well supported one. You find the insides of pens laying around—notice a kid breaking out—chewing his/her fingernails—sniffing and sniffing--tapping, tapping, tapping on the desk-- and just shake your head and say a prayer. I watched you go up and down—orbit toward and away from your education, and finally just quit coming. I’m sorry you felt like you were kicked out of school. I want you to know that every teacher at SEA tried to hold on to you for as long as possible. Ultimately, you just simply weren’t there, ever, and we had a bunch of kids to place and needed your spot. It sounds shitty—but unfortunately, numbers do end up making decisions like that at times.

I really don’t have much to offer by way of advice. Here’s what comes to me though. First—there are a TON of opportunities for education in the corrections system. Take full advantage of as many of those as possible. I’ve known guys who went in without a high school diploma and came out with almost the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. If you need help or information on anything school related in there, I’m your man, um, woman. Second—you know, I’m not a religious person. In fact, after I left the LDS church, I pretty much swore off all spiritual stuff as complete bullshit. But, in the last few months I’ve been having a bit of a change of heart. I think there is a spark of some kind in everyone. Whatever you want to call it—higher self, the divine, shit, call it “Barry” if you want to. But I think that internal spark has the answers. I don’t think you’ll find them outside yourself. For me that spark kicks in in nature, listening to Gillian Welsch CDs, singing with my daughter, or when I (rarely) just let myself sit in silence. I’m thinking you may have more of a chance to sit in silence in the next little while than you have before. It sounds cheesy, but try and tune into that spark and see if it has anything to say. Finally—write. Write it all down. Start from as early as you can remember and just write it. Don’t worry about who is going to read it—although I will if you want me to—but write it. It’s weird how words on the page are such good house-keeping for the mind and, if you will, soul, but they are.

I believed in you when you were my student and I believe in you now.

Your friend,

Mrs. J

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dur Dummy

"What are you doing?"
"What are you doing?"
"What are you doing?"

I got out of the shower this morning--10 minutes behind schedule as usual--and heard E asking this question--each time with different emphasis--each time the volume of his voice rising significantly.

So, wrapped in a too small towel--pretty much just boobs and cooter coverage (Janz is staying with us and I didn't want to scar him for his ENTIRE life.)--I scurried into the kitchen. Here's what I found. Sophie, pantsless (of course) her bare ass just at my eye level, standing tippy toe on the counter, reaching into the back of the top shelf of the cupboard and pulling out a canister of Italian seasoned bread crumbs with a triumphant and slightly sheepish look on her face.

I repeated her dad's earlier statement: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

Soph gave me her best, "well dur dummy" look and answered, "Getting some breadcrumbs."

Luckily, I needed both of my hands to hold the glorified hand-towel over my naughty bits, so I couldn't strangle the life out of her as I asked, "Why in the hell do you need breadcrumbs?"

Again with the "dur dummy" look and, "To feed the birds."

What followed was me not allowing her to traipse through the neighborhood, pantsless, at 7:00 pm, in the 40 degree blackness, scattering breadcrumbs for the "poor, starving birdies" and her having a breakdown and subsequent time out. This breakdown was followed by another involving her eating an entire bowl of butterscotch chips for breakfast--well, not being allowed to eat an entire bowl of butterscotch chips for breakfast, thus the breakdown.

(Insert transition)

While having a fairly major relational and spiritual breakdown of my own this weekend, I went and saw a lady--Melanie I think--who does angel readings. In addition to teaching me how to connect with my higher self and filling me in on my past life as a slave to a very cruel master (I won't tell you who the master was.), she told me--unsolicited--that Soph is an exceptionally old, wise, and intuitive soul who is here to be one of my main spiritual teachers. I broke into our higher-plane revelry to say, "But she's such a naughty brat!" Melanie looked a little startled that I hadn't said something like, "Yes, yes, I've intuited our many incarnations together." Then she paused for a while, and cocked her head to the side like she was listening to someone and said, "Well, it's hard for her to remember that she can't do everything she wants." I tried very hard, but wasn't very successful, to not give her my best "well dur dummy" look.

Today's best thing about being a mom:
Being missed by someone after being at work all day.

Today's worst thing about being a mom:
Sometimes it's just too spiritually enlightening.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Battle of the Bratz

Much like her mother, Sophie does not respond well to the word, “no,” particularly when the no is in response to a request for a new toy.

Soph has been BEGGING me for a Brat. Any kind of Brat. I realize that in the past I have been the most permissive parent in the land, but I’ve put my foot down when it comes to Bratz dolls. I know I don’t have to tell you that they look like little whores, and that the Baby Bratz are particularly offensive—you know that already—but let me just say that THEY LOOK LIKE WHORES AND THE BABY BRATZ ARE DOWN RIGHT PERVY!!

I tried to explain to Soph why I will not buy her a Brat (unlike her grandma, who bought her the sluttiest Baby Brat in the store.) I told her that I thought Bratz dressed way too sexy for little girls, and that little girls should dress like little girls and not play with toys that are sexy. This, of course, led to Soph asking me, “What’s sexy mom?” That one is almost as tricky as, “Who’s God mom?”

I tried to explain to her that dressing in clothes that show a lot of your skin or are very tight is sexy. Things went down-hill from there as she asked questions and I back-tracked, trying not to say that bodies are bad, or baths are bad or that even her nakey time is bad. I couldn’t very well say, “Dressing sexy means that you wear clothes that are designed to show your body in a way that turns people on physically,” could I? I mean, a four year old isn’t ready for even a way toned down “talk” of that nature, is she?

So now we’re having the discussion of what is and isn’t sexy, like, ALL THE TIME! No—mommy changing into her jammies isn’t too sexy. No, the baby in the diaper on TV isn’t too sexy. Yes, the girl jogging down the street in a sports bra and mini-shorts is kind of sexy, but exercise clothes are in kind of a different category.

I spent about one second trying to explain that sexy clothes aren’t bad, if you’re old enough and are wearing them in the right place and time, but that was going less than nowhere.

She’s also taking every opportunity to point out to me that “Bratz are nice mommy!” Any commercial, any time we accidentally walk past anything Brat related (There are Bratz fruit snacks for Christ’s sake!) at the store, she’s right there, pointing out to me that the Bratz are, in fact, wearing clothes, and “Look, that one isn’t too sexy mom.”

(Let’s not even start on the “z” instead of “s” that pluralizes “Brat.” Are these people trying to wreck both the moral and grammatical fiber of our young girls?)

Then, this morning, Erik called me at work to ask where the camera was/is/whatever. Well, it was/is in my purse. I guess Soph insisted this morning that if she was going to dress herself (a skill we’re working on—she can do it, but would rather sit limply and watch cartoons while Mom or Dad does it. My fault—I know) she should be able to pick out her own clothes. E said OK, and Soph announced, “OK then. Today I’m dressing like a BRAT!” Apparently the result was decidedly un-sexy (thank goodness) but also quite hilarious. From E’s description, I think she was trying to go for the current “leggings under a shirt/dress with a big belt and ankle-boots” look, and ended up with more of a “multi-colored sweat pants and socks and a big stained mermaid t-shirt with a brown crocheted scarf wrapped around it for effect plus some Strawberry Shortcake snow-boots” look. I told him to go ahead and let her wear the outfit she chose to school. All the Montessori stuff shoves “let the child do for him/himself” down my neck all the time (not that I don’t love it—I do) so I guess they can deal with the result of Soph “doing for herself” today.


Today’s best thing about being a mom:

Ample opportunities for righteous indignation?

Today’s worst thing about being a mom:

Trying, in the face of, well, everything, to raise a confident, informed little girl, and still letting her be a little girl for as long as possible.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A quick ramble on my film class--

1st quarter was kind of, well, crappy. (Crappy, if you don't know, is a professional term we educators use.) I found some great curriculum guides, and ordered them, but, because they are put out by a Canadian company, and thus didn't have a US zip code, our school district's purchase order computer had an aneurysm. It took, literally, months for the powers that be to address the problem, and I didn't end up with the stuff until last week. Plus, attendance was really hit and miss, and--although I know better-- it's hard for me to get revved up and super prepared for a class when only 2 kids are showing up. This was a huge problem when screening the films, as 1/2 of the class would show up one day, then totally different kids would show up the next.

We did, however, make some progress. The movies we've seen so far are Modern Times (which they loved), Singin' in the Rain (which they hated), Moulin Rouge (loved), Some Like it Hot (Loved), and North by Northwest (HATED), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (lukewarm). I've been a little surprised by the kids' responses to some of the movies, but frankly, I expected even more bitching than I've gotten.

As far as our study of the art/science of film making, we had a pretty good time with art direction and music/sound, but have been foundering a bit with editing/cinematography--probably because I'm just learning about editing myself.

Now that 2nd quarter has started, I have about 5 new kids in class. I mentioned before that the class was all girls--with the exception of one guy whose attendance was pretty spotty. Now I have a pretty even mix.

The next genre on our agenda is the western. Frankly, the only westerns I've ever seen are fairly modern--Tombstone, Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven. I've never once sat through a John Wayne western, or an old Clint Eastwood one. I even thought of just throwing the western out of the mix, but it does have its place historically and otherwise in the study of film, and just because I'm not a huge fan is no reason to skip it, I guess.

Originally, I had planned to show Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but after watching it, I changed my mind. I don't think my kids are ready to embrace anything that was scored by Burt Baccarat (sp). Instead, I'm probably going to show The Searchers (A 1956 John Wayne/John Ford about a fanatically racist man searching for his niece who was kidnapped by a Comanche)--even though I haven't seen it yet. (That's my plan for tonight.)

Another reason I have been a bit hesitant about addressing the western with my kids is that the class has both cowboys and Indians in it. But--I decided to just jump in and use the western and The Searchers as a vehicle for addressing racism and racial stereotyping in film, and to extend our discussion of how the change, over time, of individual genres, reflects change in our society. This quarter I'm going to try to have a movie night once or twice a month, and I'd like to show Dances with Wolves and then compare it to The Searchers and have the kids write a paper about the evolution of the western--with particular emphasis on the portrayal of Native Americans. We'll see.

I also came across a bunch of stuff that argued that the connection between the release date of the last "great" western, The Wild Bunch (which I also haven't seen), which came out in 1969, and the the lunar landing--also 1969--is absolutely not accidental or incidental--that the western, with it's major symbol of the western frontier, simply morphed into modern science fiction as the "final frontier" shifted to space. An interesting thought--and one that does seem to hold water in many ways. Plus--now I have a really good reason to show either Serenity or the pilot for Firefly (which I'm leaning toward) in class.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Treats and Sweets

Can you imagine opening your door on Halloween night and finding this cuteness waiting for you?

Sophie and Bianca were a big hit with all the folks in our predominantly elderly neighborhood. Of course, all the old ladies were very concerned about Bianca's lack of a sweater, but she wouldn't wear one, and I'm not her freakin' mother, so I didn't force the issue.

I waited on the sidewalk while these two trotted up to front doors, and so I didn't hear the comments from the door openers, but I can guess pretty well what they had to say.

You see, Soph's favorite part of Halloween wasn't trick-or-treating, although she thought getting candy from strangers was pretty bitchin'. No, what she truly loved was answering the door (at our house and both grandmas') and handing out the candy. And as she thoughfully chose a candy from the bowl and deposited it in each waiting bag, bucket, or pillowcase, regardless of if the candy recipient was 4 or forty, she said things like, "Well aren't you a sweet little princess?" or "Oh, what a precious ninja," or my personal favorite, "My goodness! What a darling, umm, scary gross guy."

Today's best thing about being a mom:

Just listening

Today's worst thing about being a mom:

Soph peed her pants at school today. There's a big plastic ziplock bag of pee-soaked jeans and socks (even her tennis shoes smell like pee. ew) waiting for me to wash them.