If you wanna feel better about your family, just read about ours...

Starring: a dad, a mom, a son & daughter-in-law, a daughter & son-in-law, a teen, a tween, 1 grandson, 3 granddaughters, 3 dogs, and a whole lot of love.

Family Story Pic

Family Story Pic


Thursday, March 29, 2018

School Mom, The Conclusion (I'm as relieved as you are.)

Welcome to the school choir.
Where Disney songs come to die.


The kids warned me all day long..."You're gonna hate this."
So then basically nothing has changed since the 80's. Interesting.

I walked into the room 7th period and realized at least one thing is different. Theirs has a smooth ceiling. Back in my day, ours was some sort of toxic asbestos, and when the teacher's back was turned, kids would throw pencils up there and they'd stick. Then we'd excitedly anticipate how long it would take them to fall, and when they did, which surface area would Mrs. T*** pound the crap out of in a rage...the piano, the wall, or her music stand? You know what I'm talkin' about, Shawnee peeps. Stealth mode.

I'd prepared myself all day to experience whatever Pitch Perfect choir horror that might await me. I sat on pins and needles while attendance was taken. We didn't have to sing our names or drink the blood of the classes who came before us, so that was a plus. And then it happened. An ear-piercing whistle began echoing through the room. I jumped and yelled, because this dolphin speak thing was a whole new level of choir torture, even for me. The kids just looked at me and began quietly filing out of the room, and the other new girl...a real new girl. Like, an actual 13 year old new-to-the-class-that-day girl, calmly explained, "It's just a fire drill." Aca-scuse me? Helloooo...other new girl...you should be screaming and heart palpatating with me right now.

Fifteen minutes later, we were standing in front of our seats singing warm-ups. That's right. Standing.
(Sit back. If you enjoy "I hate my life" activities, this is your jam.):

do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. Repeat.Repeat.Repeat.Repeat.
Excuse me. Quick question from the country folk. What the h*ll happened to the doe, the dear, the female dear?

Next warmup:
*mono-tone* doo doo- doo doo- doo doo- doo doo...
I looked around the class. People, we're literally singing "doo doo" right now and nobody's laughing. If there was ever a place for side-eye and snickering, it's right here. I'm legitimately disappointed.

Also, this happened:
doo bee doo bee doo bee doo- *change pitch* doo bee doo bee doo bee doo...
Relevance? Unclear.

ba, bababa ba- bababa ba- bababa ba...
If somebody could pull that fire alarm again, that'd be great.

We moved onto "singing in a round."
Ohhhhhh snap. Just ask my grandson who rocks Row Row Row Your Boat better than Sassy? NO ONE.
Then we didn't sing Row Row Row Your Boat. We sang Swing Low and O When The Saints and I Wanna Sing Sing Sing, section by section, and we sang them in a round. If you're sitting there thinking those 3 songs shouldn't be sung in a round together, you're mistaken, because in choir, "It would be a catastrophic mess" is a reason for it, not against it.
Yes, Jesus. Come on for to carry me home. Now please.

FINALLY, we got to the good stuff. We were gonna learn a new song. A Disney song, no less. From the movie, Aladdin! And to make it even more appealing, some lucky person was gonna score a solo for the spring concert. I don't wanna get cocky, but if that song was Prince Ali, I was about to land myself a solo.

Little-known fact: I can belt out Prince Ali, complete with voices from the movie. It's like my thing.

The music sheets were slowly being passed down the rows and I was rocking back and forth to the beat of drumming sounds in my head and quietly chanting...'Make wayyyyy for Prince Aliiiii, Make wayyyyy for Prince Aliiii!' Before I could start belly dancing, I received my music and looked down to see...Arabian Nights.

Arabian Nights? ARABIAN NIGHTSSSSS??? The one song in the movie that should never be sung by real people because it's lows are too low and it's highs are too high and it always and forever sounds off-key?!?! The kids were right. This is psychopath behavior.

Granted, I can also belt out a strong Arabian Nights chorus, but I'd lost my enthusiasm, and I don't have time to star in the junior high spring concert anyway. To my utter shock, I looked around and no one was forming the mutiny this injustice called for. These students have either been trained into submission or they really believed Arabian Nights was a solid choice. Either way, I weep for their future. 

I'm exhausted and thanks to Arabian Nights, my Asian Chicken has taken a turn.
Social Studies has always been one of my least favorite subjects, (besides Science, Math, Art, and Choir), but this teacher was always one of our kids' favorites, and I wasn't disappointed. His teaching method was awesome! Instead of the entire class reading the whole chapter, he broke the chapter into 6 sections and split the class into 6 groups. Each group read a section and then summarized it into 3-4 main points for the class to take their notes from. As an added bonus, the groups could teach their chapter to the rest of the class anyway they wanted. He offered up the possibilities of each person reading a point and writing them on the board. It sounded like most groups were leaning in that direction. It was the last period and this day was drawing to a close, so I bravely spoke up and suggested that maybe our group would like to do something outside of the box and act ours out. That was met with the awkward sound of crickets...and then a kid in my group finally replied, "Our section is on religious persecution. I don't think we should act that out."

Okay, for one, I forgot what our section was about, so lose the tone. For two, maybe I was totally testing your judgment and you passed. *slow clap for the kid squinting at me disapprovingly right now* So we'll follow the crowd and write on the board. Let's go ahead and sing Arabian Nights while we're at it.

The bell rang. The day was over and I only made a fool of myself for like 90% of it. 7th grade is once again behind me, and for the 2nd time in my life, it's confirmed that the junior high scene ain't for me.

As for the actual 13 year olds that I spent the day with, they seem used to it...I mean, the days are immense and the heat is intense, it's barbaric, but hey, it's home. (If you don't get the reference, you're officially not invited to any party I ever have.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

School Mom, Part 3

To this point, I've prepared myself to return to middle school, I've reentered the scene as a 7th grader, and I met my first friend when I reminded her I teach Zumba classes in her barn at night. (And her parents know about it. I thought that was self-explanatory. Pull yourself together.) I also avoided being labeled a cougar in Science, I'm practically qualified to be an Engineer after a single Math class, and I shaded a killer pair of balls in Art, because ball references follow our family everywhere through no fault of our own.

I've been pleasantly surprised by many aspects of this experience so far. For instance, when the bell rings, the kids walk in an orderly fashion to their next class, as opposed to what I've seen on the movie Lean On Me, where the hallways become a festival of terrible choices while Welcome To The Jungle blares from the speakers, and Morgan Freeman screams through a megaphone. This was way better than that.

I'm a writer. Words are my thing. But I've learned that means absolutely nothing in the world of formal education, because anytime I've helped Kearstin write a college paper, my part always gets marked off. You don't appreciate hilarity, college proffs? Screw you.

The first thing the teacher did was write a topic on the board and gave the students the first 10 minutes of class to write in their journal. Whaaaaaat just happened here? Did I morph back to my 7th grade class with Miss Carlson?? Does this teacher know the foundation she's building for these kids??? Do these kids even realize that this very exercise could catapult them into a career of writing Snark???? Everybody be cool. It's just a normal day. Suddenly I felt like I should be called to "the podium of courage" and address the class, but I knew if I raised my hand right now, I'd look like Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter, and the podium of courage could forever be tainted with unnecessary anxiety by my unbridled enthusiasm for the topic of Snark...or worse, risk turning them off of Snark completely. I don't know about you, but I can't live with that.

After they journaled, the remainder of the class was spent watching a video teaching them the methods of persuasion. Free writing and street smarts. What else will they ever need? Clearly, this teacher is my spirit animal, and I feel like we're gonna be friends in real life. She just doesn't know it yet.

Me and my new friends!
(Those aren't their real faces.)
This was the period I'd been dreading most. I mean, in a classroom, the teacher is gonna pick your seat, and if she's even a halfway decent person, she's not gonna stick you off by yourself, and make a spectacle out of you. But the cafeteria...that's the stuff adolescent nightmares are made of. I stopped by the principal's office to grab my salt and pepper shakers from my backpack. Technically, that might've been "against the rules", but what's the worst that could happen? A lunch lady sees me season my food and says, "Stop right there. No. Go think about what you've done." Cuz I can live with that.
Risk and reward, kids. Live large. Take chances.

As I got in line, I realized another "mom student" was a couple people ahead of me. Rejoice. A comrade. I won't eat alone. So I put on my best social game face, struck up a friendly conversation with her, and then all super casual-like, slipped in the idea of maybe possibly we could even sort of sit together? And then I almost peed myself when she said she was planning on sitting with the girls from her class. Hold up. If I just got rejected by someone in my own age bracket, I'm basically screwed. But then, out of nowhere, one of my Math partners came running over and said, "Shari! Do you wanna sit with us?" Maybe it was my dot plot skills, or maybe it was my salt and pepper, but it didn't matter. I was asked if I wanted to be part of a "with us" lunch table.
DO.I.EVERRRRR! And I left that mother in the dust.
Glad I didn't actually pee myself back there, huh?

PLANK TIME- It's true. You don't actually plank.
It's basically another study hall. All my friends at lunch (that's right...all my friends at lunch), filled me in. There are 2 different rooms for Plank Time. One is for the kids who don't have any work they need to get done, so they get to hang out and play cards. The other room is for mandatory homework time, better known as "jail" amongst the students. I was assigned to jail, but I was totally fine with that, because jail was run by my Language Arts Teacher/future new good friend. When I arrived at plank time, she welcomed me to "the room of tranquility." I said, "You know the kids don't call it that, right?" When I saw her smile fade, I knew I'd just stepped in it. She asked, "What do they call it?"


It's not like we'd become facebook friends or exchanged phone numbers yet, so whatever. I already have like 4 or 5 real life friends and that's a lot, ya know?

Six periods down, two to go. Tune in for the School Mom Conclusion on Thursday, when we doo doo in Choir and learn that acting out persecution in Social Studies is frowned upon...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

School Mom, The Sequel

I feel like this needs to start with an explanation. The real purpose of this exercise was for the school administrators to gain insight through several outside perspectives and then we met with them Monday evening to give them our feedback. Let me be perfectly clear. I loved our school before Monday. No school is perfect, but in my opinion, our school is exceptional. We may not be "acing the state's report card" but who cares? I certainly don't. Our school is operated under a leadership in such a way that we have no school fees, no sports fees, and free preschool. We have full time Resource Officers, who not only offer our students a high level of protection, but also became their friends. We've managed to avoid the political correct crap, and our school has maintained a small town family feel, and our community is better for it. The very fact that they invited us in to participate in this exercise shows a genuine transparency and desire to serve our students to the best of their ability. But after spending an entire school day on the inside, I can now tell you firsthand how much those teachers care about their students, going above and beyond the educational side of things, and doing their best to make sure their physical, social, and emotional needs are covered as well.

So that's where I stand on that, but I'm sure you're well aware that my objective in participating was two-fold...to go beyond my surroundings, go deeper into my personal experiences in those surroundings, and then write about it. You won't see any teachers' or kids' names, partly to respect their privacy, but mainly because this part isn't really about them. These blog entries are strictly pointing out my observations of me in that environment, and then hopefully give us all something to laugh about, and just maybe, you'll come away feeling really smart in comparison.

When we left off, I was walking out the door to 7th grade, with a backpack lovingly packed by Kearstin, with loose leaf paper and several extra firm mechanical pencils, because apparently people don't use regular pencils anymore, and I tend to squeeze a pencil tight, push down harder than necessary, and break a lot of lead. For some reason, I'm not that shocked by this, are you? Then she threw in a couple of big pink erasers "in case you have Math."

I arrived at the office, received my schedule, and the principal was kind enough to keep my back pack in her office so that I wouldn't have to mess with a locker. One less risk of having to kick something is never a bad thing. Then she walked me to my 1st period class and told me it was "Play dough lab." Are you freakin' kidding me? I'll totally rock play dough lab. Then I was seated at a table facing the wall, with zero signs of play dough in sight, and I could feel the stares of kids around the room boring into my back. Cue the flop sweats. Holy crap, I'm 46 years old, and way too cool to be fighting back tears right now because I'm literally living the 7th grade nightmare. The announcements came on and everyone knew to jump up and face the flag for The Pledge Of Allegiance...except me. I was about 4 beats behind. So now they probably think I'm the old lady weirdo and an unpatriotic one at that. I've never felt so judged by 13 year olds in my entire life. Then we all went back to facing the wall. I looked down at my schedule to see that "Play Dough Lab" is spelled "Plato Lab." That cleared up nothing, but it took away all hope of anything good happening in this room. Fifteen minutes into class, I finally leaned over to the girl beside me and whispered, "What is this class?" She whispered back, "Study hall." Study hall? First periodWho does that? So then I sat there staring at the profile of the girl who answered my question while she pretended not to notice. Wait a minute. Is she...??? Could it be...??? Is that my Zumba bestie's daughter??? So I leaned over and whispered again and it was!! SCORE. I made my first 7th grade friend. *Fist bump*
Okay, they don't fist bump here. Cool. Now I know.

I was late to class. I had to pee and somebody thought it'd be a great idea to put the bathrooms all the way on the other side of the building from the 7th grade wing and 3 minutes goes fast and I'm done explaining myself to you, okay? But the teacher didn't write my name on the board or anything, so that's good, right? I shared a Science table with my new super good friend from Plato and 2 of her super good friends, which means by 8:42am, I had 3 super good friends. They were studying the food chain and we played an interactive game. We each had to draw a piece of paper from a cup to see what energy source we'd be. There were sunflowers, mice, snakes, raccoons, and one cougar. Dear God, I'm a 46 year old woman in a classroom of 13 year olds, please don't let me draw the cougar. I drew a mouse and breathed a sigh of relief. Then we had to walk around the room until it was time to "feed." (Insert images of the Twilight series running through my head here.) If I "ate" somebody, I got 2 energy points. If I got "eaten", I lost 4. Science and Math. That's....um...awesome. *dry heave* In summary, I was a mouse, so I got eaten all the damn time, I found myself armpit deep in negative numbers, had eraser crumbs all over my paper, screwed up my entire chart, and when the teacher looked at me and asked if there was a mouse who'd like to write her numbers on the board, she quickly moved on when I started violently shaking my head back and forth. Bless her.

Here we go. Don't throw up.
She sat me beside a boy who looked at me like I might've drawn the cougar in Science. The boy in front of me turned and slowly looked back and forth between me and the boy next to me, like maybe it was 'bring your mom to school day' and he missed the memo. I broke the awkward silence and said, "I'm not with him. He probably wants you to know that," and then he silently turned back around, thus making it even more awkward. I have that effect on people. Then they got to choose partners one at a time and guess who was last pick? *Flashback to 1983 kickball in gym class* And because levels of awkward can always get higher, I was paired up with the boy in front of me. But back to Math. I don't wanna toot my own horn or anything, and it should be made clear that all credit goes to the teacher, but after only 50 minutes, I can do a dot plot like a boss. No, seriously. I can differentiate the shape, find the median, and compare the spread of 2 different dot plots, and I can tell you what the outliers are, too, but only if you want. Are you impressed? If not, I feel like you might not be comprehending the magnitude of the situation. "Let's make a dot plot!" said no one in real life, ever. But I told my husband the engineer that I'm gonna find a way to use it. He replied, "I use dot plots all the time at work."
Oh. Em. Gee. I could totally do my husband's job now.

If you know how much I suck at Math, you should see me draw things. I single handedly debunk that whole right brain or left brain theory. So Monday we learned how to shade balls. (How was I the only 7th grader in that room snickering?) Technically, it was an orange because the teacher didn't have any balls. (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.) He worked hard with me. He traced my balls. (Stop. This is serious.) He labeled one and showed me some various shade techniques. Through no fault of his, mine came out looking like a scribbled boob. I blame the mechanical pencil. (So basically, Kearstin.)
  And that concludes the first half of my day. I had no idea this experience would turn into a trilogy. Stay tuned for the second half of my day when I join the choir 7th period and sneak seasonings into the cafeteria at lunch, because I got a little heads up that the school's Asian Chicken "lacked a little something." I'm trusting that "the little something" isn't anything that salt and pepper can't fix...and maybe President Trump if he gets around to undoing that fiasco.

Monday, March 19, 2018

School Mom

Let me give you a brief run down of who I am...and who I'm not. I'm not the "tiger mom" who hammers education into her kids with an iron fist.

No. I'm the mom who says things like, "You're amazing!" and "Nice try!" and "C's look good on the refrigerator too!" I've also been known to say, "Who the crappety crap assigned a freakin science fair??" and "Go find that one in the barn that dad made for Zac 12 years ago." And when it comes to missing school for family vacations, my own personal motto is this: "School is temporary. Family is forever."

Fear not. Ron has prevented all 4 of our kids from becoming morons. It's called balance.

So about a month ago, when the high school principal pulled Ron and me aside at a basketball game and told me I'd been chosen to become "A Student For A Day," I wondered what the heck they're smokin' over there. Either I'm being punked or they got the wrong person. Then she looked me in the eye and stressed the importance of me following the dress code and I knew they had the right person. Ron piped up and volunteered me to ride the bus for "the full experience." Chuckles really needs to learn how to zip it.

I hated school. Like, seriously. I showed up for cheerleading and made good enough grades to allow me to be eligible for cheerleading. Because, cheerleading.

So maybe the learning part wasn't my thing, but I immediately told her yes, because writing. How could I not jump at this opportunity to return to my youth for a day? Have I learned anything? Would it be much different? These are things I need to know. These are things I need to write.

There will be 8 parents acting as students for the day, spread throughout the various grade levels. I wasn't immediately told which grade I'd be assigned, so these past few weeks, I've been speculating various scenarios with some experts...2 of my daughters. Kearstin is a senior and Caymen is a 5th grader and they've been schooling me, you might say. Like a good student, I took notes.
Here's a little of what they had to say.

Kearstin: "Plank Time is study hall. You don't actually plank."
(Damn, the one thing I've been training for.)
Caymen: "4th grade and below, you might be able to make some friends. 7th grade and above, you'll probably be bullied."
Kearstin: "No, I don't think she'd get bullied in high school."
Caymen: "What about 7th and 8th?"
Kearstin: "Yeah, she'd probably get bullied there."
(Hello...I can hear you.)
Caymen: "Remember, you get suspended if you fight."
Kearstin: "And at your age, a restraining order and maybe some jail time."
(So I'm the one getting bullied AND a rap sheet? NOT.FAIR.)
Caymen: "You only have 3 minutes to change classes."
(Ok, it takes me at least 3 minutes to empty my bladder, not even counting pulling my jeans back up.)
Kearstin: "Pretty much everything you wear on a daily basis violates the dress code."
(Probably explains the principal's warning.)
Caymen: "Remember when you couldn't open my locker at open house so you kicked it? You can't do that."
Kearstin: "You can't cuss, either. Or take coffee to class."
Caymen: "And they might make you take band."
(And yet I can't cuss. What the crap kind of sick experiment am I walking into here?)

Ron, on the other hand, fears a possible 'Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street Part I' situation and I was given strict rules that I'm not allowed to accept invites to any parties. WhatEVER. Dad.

So today I'm one-strapping my backpack and returning to school. I'll report to the office at 7:30am, get my locker number and schedule, and then be thrown into a day in the life of a 7th grader.

I'm ready. I've got my orders. All I have to do is get through the day without cussing, fighting, kicking my locker, being late to class, peeing my pants, getting detention, suspended, accidentally stumbling into a drug ring, or sent to the office and having to choose from the selection of men's clothing in "the dress code violator's box of shame."

So this is where I'll leave you for now, assuming there will be a Part II to this little escapade. I mean, I'm a 46 year old pms-ing, coffee-drinking zumba instructor spending an entire day as a caffeine-free 7th grader. How could there not be a Part II?