Monthly Archives: March 2009

Excuse me while I get a little political here

I am not, by nature, a political person. I have a few causes I feel very strongly about, and the rest I don’t really get too involved in. There are issues I am conservative about and issues I am very liberal about. I like to play the opposite side with anyone I talk to in an attempt to better understand their position. But I don’t even do that often as people get really heated about politics and since I’m not one who does, I don’t like to get a rise out of people, just to get a rise out of them (except my husband…that’s just fun).

Tonight at dinner though, I saw a man wearing a t-shirt that said, “Impeach Obama.” Now, I had to do a double take. It’s not that I couldn’t believe there was someone who might not be an Obama fan in the joint. After all, it was an Old Country Buffet* in the wealthiest (and probably most conservative) county in the state. What shocked me so much was the fact that these shirts have already been made, and marketed. He’s been in office for less than three months. How can this t-shirt possibly exist? I know there are a lot of people who are pissed off about his economic stimulus package (I hear my students bitch about it constantly–no doubt straight out of their parents’ mouths), but he’s been in office for like 75 days….maybe we could give him at least 360 before we start even mentioning the word impeachment. Or are we just going to start trying to impeach every president who gets elected? At least Bush got a full term in (and part of a second) before people started calling for his blood.

Now, the shirt itself doesn’t exactly irk me. I think it’s more the extremism behind it. I think a shirt like that gives conservatives a bad name. Granted, a lot of conservatives out there deserve that bad name, but not all of them do. Just like not all liberals are bent on turning America into a socialist state where everyone is equal in a creepy Harrison Bergeron way. People get so entrenched in their ideology that they refuse to see that either side may have a point, or at least something intelligent to bring to the table. I can’t stand it when people write off anyone who does not share their political beliefs as “evil” or “ignorant” just because they support the other party. I understand disagreeing with the issues. I understand listening to the other side and not being persuaded. What I don’t undestand is not giving the other side a chance to get things right. I don’t like the assumption that just because ideologies might be different that they are going to destroy the country I love. I don’t understand not wanting to understand the other side. Or not giving them a chance to make the world better.

I may not agree with everything President Obama does, but I think he deserves more than three months to fix the world. Just like I’d think a republican president would deserve the same. Maybe I’m naive. I don’t know. I just believe people should get a chance to prove themselves before they get condemned. This is probably why most of my friends get so frustrated when they try to talk politics with me.

*I know, I know…OCB…haven for fatties and rednecks…but God help me, every now and then I get a hankering for some white fish with tarter sauce, herbed dumplings with what is probably canned gravy on them and a salad with fatty, but oh so tasty, thousand island dressing. I don’t know what it is, but the siren song of OCB calls to me, and although I know I shouldn’t, I go. And since I’m there, I eat soft serve and rice krispy treats. Yum!

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A trip down memory (board game) lane

After exhausting all the fun a nearly empty basement, boxes full of toys and a train table can give a two-year-old, and realizing that what I was trying to tell myself was rain was actually snow, I pulled out one of my son’s unopened birthday presents. We like to dole the toys out a little at a time in order to keep things new. We rotate the old toys out (put them in a box in his closet) and pull out new ones once a month or so. He actually still has Christmas presents he hasn’t even looked at since he unwrapped them.

My son has a couple of games, but I figured he didn’t quite have the dexterity needed to construct a Cootie Bug or to keep from Breaking the Ice, so I grabbed Candyland off the shelf. Now, I had no real illusions my son would be able to play it. The box clearly says 3+ and even though my kid is really smart for his age, I knew he wouldn’t get the rules of the game. I figured he’d have fun turning over the cards and matching them to colors. And I was basically right. He actually seemed to like playing with the little plastic gingerbread men tokens more than anything else. He called them “people” and tried to share his peas with them. It was cute. Although I think we are missing the little red man.

Board games have always been a favorite pastime of mine. Every time we went to a yard sale, I’d beg my mom for some “new” boardgame. I had a closet full: Hi-Ho Cheerio, Chutes and Ladders, Memory (my favorite until about age 8). When I got a little older, I moved on to games like Payday, Careers (a cheap version of Life), Sale of the Century (complete with very 70’s looking cards featuring ridiculously low priced kitchenette sets) and Sorry. I had a closet full of them.

So I was really excited about getting Candyland out. I know this is going to sound dorky, but I want to be one of those families that has a weekly game night. My parents were always willing to play games with me (and even more willing for me to invite friends over to play them), and I think that’s why I loved them so much. When we were playing games, nothing else was wrong. We laughed, we talked and we got to eat snacks. It was wonderful!

Even all these years later, some of my work friends and I are involved in a grown-up game night. My love for boardgames has not changed. Candyland, however, has.

Now, I’m not one of those purists who gets all out of sorts when things change. I understand the need to update and modernize. But I have to say, I don’t like the look of this new Candyland. I grew up with the old school version. There were neopolitan ice cream sandwiches floating in the sea. The peanut brittle house was a little forboding and mysterious. And the swamps were a bad place, made of molasses…their only purpose was to get you stuck and make you lose a turn. There was no freakish chocolate pal named “Gloppy” waiting to smile and speed you on your way. There was also no King Kandy. It was obviously a bit of a Hansel and Gretel sort of game and the kids lived in the candy house. And I liked that. It gave me hope that one day, I too, could live in a candy coated house.

My research tells me that this classic version was first created in 1949 and managed to stay unchanged at least until the early 80’s when I played it. Now, that’s at least 30 years of game play for this board.

When my little sister was ready to play the game, we’d gotten rid of my old board. Someone bought her a new one for her 5th birthday. So somewhere in the mid to to late 80’s, this version was born. I was pretty ok with it. The kids looked a bit more modern (although, it is a game based in a fantasy candy land…how modern does it have to be?) and they added a Lollipop Princess (who was cute and plump, the way any lollipop royalty would be). They replaced the candy hearts, which I’d always hated, with sugar plums. Since I’d never had one of those, I figured they had to be better. They also made the gum drops look appetizing, something I knew was not true, but I liked to believe that in this magical land, they might actually be. I liked the Queen surrounded by cupcakes. And although Gloppy is introduced in this incarnation, you still get stuck in his swamps. The peanut brittle house looked a bit less scary, especially with the kindly old peanut lady in front. And hey, I like peanuts, so I was ok with it.

When I opened my son’s box today, this was the game I was expecting to get. This, however, is what I got. My board has a copyright date of 2004, so it looks like the second incarnation only lasted for about 20 years. Now, I’m all for making kids’ toys cute, but this goes too far. I’ve already complained about Gloppy, so I won’t go there again, but I will point out now there are cute little licorice sticks to get stuck in. Queen Frostine, has no food association at all. She’s just some super skinny figure skater. The game is called Candyland. Where the hell is her candy? Princess Lollipop has been replaced by an anorexic fairy (with a HUGE head). The candy hearts and sugar plums are gone and have at least been replaced by gingerbread, something I know I like, but the tree is kind of creepy–in an early cartoon sort of way. King Kandy, still rather lame, has lost the only cool thing about him–his ice cream palace. Now, there’s a building in the background, but they only thing even kind of candy themed are some gum balls. A very creepy gingerbread man leans down to lick the Lollipop Woods sign. Much like Lolly, the kids getting ready to embark on the adventure have abnormally large heads. And for good measure, they are now very PC–the blond boy and girl have been joined by their ethnic friends. The playing pieces are freaky. They gone from being molded after real life gingerbread cookies, to being very cartoony–and I’m not going to lie here, a little phallic looking.

I realize it’s a kid’s game and I should let it go. As long as my kid likes it, I should let him play it and be happy. But it’s just another example of a remake ruining the original. I think I’m gonna shell out $15 and buy the classic version available in the collector’s tin. With my luck, that’ll still be the 80’s version. At the rate they are modernizing the game, I’m guessing any future children will be playing a brand new version. Maybe this time with robots. There might not even be any candy in the game!

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The governor makes one, kind of smart decision

I’m not generally a fan of most educational mandates. They usually come from governing bodies made up of people who haven’t stepped foot in an actual school since they were actually students some 20-60 years ago. Even those who had some sort of educational background, gave it up years ago to pursue politics and as a result are fairly out of touch with what teachers face these days.

It seems our new superintendent of schools is going to be a by the books kinda guy. I get the impressions that the rules will be followed exactly. I may be wrong here, but he appears to be far more letter of the law instead of spirit of the law. I get that rules are needed and need to be enforced, but any good teacher knows you look at things on a case by case basis. There are times that breaking the rules is the only sane and compassionate thing to do. I’m not sure our new superintendent of schools will share my beliefs.

One of his first decisions, which is already sparking lots of conversation, is to enforce the 180 day rule for schools. This rule has been on the books for awhile and the DOE clearly outlines the current policy on their website. However, up until recently, schools have been able to apply for a waiver if an emergency situation caused for lengthy school closings (blizzards, floods, district wide power outages, etc). According to the official policy, as long as high school students are in school for at least 6 hours, the day counts as a full day. However, in practice, schools have been able to count in their 180 days any day students attend classes for at least three hours. Now, this couldn’t be done every day, but once every month or so and the DOE looked the other way.

The governor and the new superintendent aren’t having any more of it though. They are insisting schools meet all 180 days and have at least six hours of instructional time. Any days lost to bad weather or other disasters (natural or man made) must be made up, even if schools end up spending most of the summer in session. This year alone some schools in the state lost close to 20 instructional days due to flooding, so instead of wrapping things up at the start of May, their years would continue on until the end of June.

While I am not at all fond of the prospect of going to school in June and I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you take away nearly a month in the summer all you are going to get is resentful students who don’t want to learn and even more resentful teachers who don’t want to teach, I am thrilled with one aspect of the enforcement of this policy: no more parent-teacher conferences.

Sure, I can see the need for these when the kids are little, but once they hit high school, these conferences are a pointless, waist of time. At our last round of conferences, I left for work at 6:30 in the morning and did not get home until 8:45 that night. Granted, some of that was my commute, but I was at school and working for 12 hours and 45 minutes. I only taught for three of those hours. I had an hour long conference with one AP student who actually sacrificed his time to review for the test (in May) and the other 8 hours was divided between 8 conferences (10 minutes each), a little grading (I was pretty much all caught up) and a lot of cleaning (granted, my desk really needed it). My last conference ended at 6:50, yet I had to stay at school until 8. I had a stretch between 3:30 and 6:10 where not a single conference was scheduled, yet I had to be there.

What’s worse is that some teachers only had two conferences the entire evening, and yet spent 12 hours at the school–for twenty minutes. To add insult to injury, the only time I got to see my son was when I dropped him off at the sitters. He was in bed 15 minutes before I could even leave school.

I know I’ll be cursing the governor and all his toadies when the snow starts falling next winter, but for now, I’m just glad to see conferences go

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A moment to breathe

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My grading is done. Well, at least most of it is. I still have three or four things to grade for a student who missed like two weeks of school and decided not only to wait until the last minute to make up her work (and then bitch about her grade to me), but also to submit them in a format my computer won’t recognize (despite repeating at least five dozen times that they should save everything as an RTF). I’m not sweating it though. My grades are due by 7:50 tomorrow morning, and if I don’t have time to get her work graded, I’ll give her an incomplete and fix it later. I’m sure I’m not really supposed to do that, but she should have gotten her work in earlier! Maybe she’ll learn from this.

The best part of being done is that now I get to go watch some of the shows I have DVR’d. I don’t get to watch Lost (boo) because I have to wait for my husband, but at least I can go watch Dollhouse, which I am fairly excited about. My husband feels “mah” about it.

I’m the first to admit I’m a Joss Whedon apologist. I will watch anything the man does. Mostly because it’s all been fairly golden. Dollhouse isn’t my favorite series by Whedon (that would be Buffy), but I think it has potential. I’m not a huge Eliza Dushku fan, but she’s less annoying as Echo than she was as Faith (“five by five” annoyed the crap out of me). I’m also hoping the show picks up.

Although I was hooked on Buffy within the first few episodes of the show, looking back, the writing the first season wasn’t exactly genius. It took Joss a little while to get in to his stride, and I’m hoping that is what happens with Dollhouse. I actually think last week’s episode (blind girl in a religious cult) was the best one yet. I’m hoping this is an upward trend. What I don’t want to happen is for me to start enjoying the show only to have it cruely yanked out from under me as Fox tends to do with Whedon’s shows (ok, so I only have Firefly to go on, but that was freakin’ genius) . And all the shows I like on their channel for that matter (except Bones, but it is going strong and Angel is HOT again).

I’ve actually found that even though I’m not a huge Dushku fan, the fact that she was on two Whedon shows (granted, playing the same character) lends her some credibility in my book. I actually watch several shows with actors from his other shows (Bones, Castle, Dollhouse–also has Amy Acker who I really do like). I’m glad to see the actors I loved on his shows doing other shows…and especially ones I like.  Now if I could just get Whedon to write some sort of Spike spin-off show…or any show for that matter that stars James Marsters as a bad boy Brit (with or without the leather jacket). Sigh….

Oh well, off to the TV for me!

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Yet another example of food controlling my life

Making dinner for a toddler is a frustrating experience. Some days he cleans his entire plate and then wants whatever I’m eating. And usually whatever the stranger at the next table is eating. Then, he gets mad because he doesn’t get it (at least from the stranger). Other days I watch him eat four strawberries, two bites of a potsticker and then push his food away proclaiming fullness. I beg and plead with him to eat more, but it does no good. He may drain his cup of milk, but no more food will pass his lips.

The sane part of me knows this is actually a much healthier eating philosophy than I have. He eats when he’s hungry; not when he’s bored, or mad or depressed or just because he realizes he still has a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s candy in the fridge (granted, it only has eight pieces in it, but it’s there). He rarely asks for a snack and when he does, he’s satisfied with a cup of raisins or a cheese stick instead of several handful of salt and vinegar chips.

Still, when we sit down to eat and he only manages a few bites, it makes me a bit frantic. Part of me gets a little insulted that he doesn’t eat whatever I’ve taken pains to make for dinner (even when that’s merely heating up leftovers). The other part of me is somehow worried he’s going to go hungry. Although considering he’s 30 lbs and over 3 feet tall at 2, I’m guessing he’s not starving any time soon.

Deep down I know it stems from my own neurosis about food, eating and being overweight. Not to mention all the crazy food habits I learned during my childhood from parents who had a candy bar drawer instead of a veggie drawer, who let me drink 12 cans of soda at picnics with their friends and who themselves have been known to have two filet-o-fish sandwiches, large fries and Coke for dinner. I somehow doubt they went to quite the pains I do to make sure my son gets a healthy, nutritious meal.

Aside from birthday cake and a spoonful of ice cream every now and then (maybe once a month), my son doesn’t get any sweets. We don’t do juice (only milk and water) and snacks are either chock full o’ calcium (cheese sticks), whole wheat (they even make whole-wheat goldfish now) or fruity (blueberries are his favorite, although he’s got a real thing for raisins lately). Every dinner has a vegetable (and sometimes two or three). Every breakfast and lunch have fruit. Even when we get fast food, he doesn’t get fries. I know he eats better than I do, and yet I worry.

I worry that despite all the pains I’m taking now, he’s going to get my sweet tooth.  I don’t want to see him struggle with his weight the way I have. Since he’s a boy and society places far less stress on being thin on boys, I’m hoping my bad genes don’t impact him quite so much. I just want better for him.

So, tonight with his dinner of strawberries and nibbles of potstickers, I sigh, ask if he’s done and take his plate away. I’ll fight the urge to make him eat something before bed and instead be content to secretly sneak a few bites of his uneaten potsticker off his plate (in my defense, they are REALLY good).

 

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The Wrath of KID

So it’s just me and the monkey for a few days. My husband is away at some sort of conference. I’m still not sure what he does at these “conferences.” All I know is that while he’s gone somewhere in Tennessee, it is just me and my son.

And today, of all days, he decided to be a two-year-old. Granted, he’s been two for about a week and a half, but today his reign as resident tantrum thrower seems to have begun.

Up until this point he’s been a fairly awesome kid. He doesn’t scream when we go to stores or out to eat. He is friendly to everyone and LOVES to talk to anyone who’ll listen. He snuggles with me each night on the couch. Even my friends who don’t have kids think mine is generally a delight (at least when he’s not stealing their attention at Super Bowl parties).

He was in rare form this morning though. It all started because he didn’t want to get up. Now, this part I really sympathize with. This whole time change has me all in a tizzy and not sleeping well. Usually I get about 7 hours of sleep each night. The last two nights I’ve barely gotten 6. So I can see how upsetting it is for him to only get 10 hours of sleep. But we must soldier on, so I got him up. Or I tried to. He curled into a ball and whined, “sleep…night-night…crib…” I tried to console him with rocking, but the second I stopped, he demanded more. And a story. I sighed, but read a Corduroy book.

Getting him dressed was an ordeal. I tried bribing him with Curious George socks. I thought it was going to work. He seemed excited. Until I tried to take his jammies off. Then he rolled over, making it nearly impossible to unzip said jammies. I know he’s little, but it is amazing how he can throw those 30 pounds around. He is willful and strong.

I finally got him dressed, but he was not to be tamed. He didn’t want regular shoes because they would hide his socks. So, we had to find his SpongeBob Crocs (to my knowledge he’s never seen the show, but he loves the shoes). After five minutes of searching, I found them, but he was already in his little ball pit, throwing balls everywhere. I struggled to get him in his jacket and Crocs. I carried him squirming to the car.

When we got there, I realized he still had a ball from the pit. He refused to give it up. Then he started crying for his blanky and lamby. I offered them in exchange for the ball, but no dice. He had a vice grip on that ball and no amount of cajoling was unwrapping his fingers. I was already ten minutes late (well, later than usual), so I gave in and retrieved the lamb and the blanket.

Once he had them, he was calm for about 10 minutes. Then he wanted me to sing. He got frustrated because I couldn’t understand which song he wanted me to sing, but calmed when I started singing the Lamby song. We made it to the sitter’s without further incident, but about 12 minutes off schedule.

Inside he refused to take his shoes and coat off. I finally got them off and asked for a hug and a kiss. He was happy to give them to me, however, once he had a hold of my neck, he did not want to let go. He wasn’t crying. He was perfectly good natured, but his grip tightened and I was caught. Five or ten minutes later, I managed to free myself and head for the door. At that point he turned his back, said bye and I made it out.

I got to work 20 minutes later than usual, wolfed down my cereal (I can’t eat first thing in the morning–besides, it would mean I’d have to get up even earlier) and had just enough time to clean the bowl out before my first period class showed up.

This evening I have met with cries, screams, gnashing of teeth and a myriad of other toddler expressions of anger to numerous to recount. I did get him to eat most of his dinner. I’ve also finally calmed him down, but only because I popped in a Thomas DVD. I’m not much for children watching TV, but today, I think it might save both of us.

I can only imagine the struggle that awaits me when I try to get him in the bath tonight.

KIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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I may become a TV junkie

I think I’m being pressured to watch more TV. Not in that after school special sort of way. It’s more subtle. No one is telling me what a square I’ll be if I don’t just flip one more channel. But at lunch, all my friends (and the two annoying people who sit at our table), talk about TV shows they are addicted to. When I don’t watch, I’m left to contemplate either my job or my lunch. Not good options, let me tell you.

Now, I am already addicted to a few shows. I live and breathe Lost (and hate the fact my  husband plays cards on Wed, so I have to wait until Thursdays to watch it). Bones has my constant attention (when it’s not being moved for American Idol). Big Love gets recorded, and watched every Sunday. And The Office and 30 Rock are, in fact, must see TV for me. I’m also hooked on some older shows that I’m just catching up with, like House and the original Office. I’m even Netflixing some current shows I don’t get because I have HBO, not Showtime (The Tudors and Dexter). My TV show plate is pretty darn full.

Sadly, none of these seem to be what my co-wokers watch. They like reality TV. Now, as a rule, I am not a fan. Like most college students of my time, I watched the Real World in its infancy. I started college when the first season was on MTV and stayed loyal for two seasons. I even watched the first season of Survivor, but after I figured out they were going to be fighting, eating gross things and stabbing each other in the back, I got bored. I tried to watch a second season of Survivor because an older co-worker was so excited when he found out I watched the first one. He wanted to talk to me after each episode. It pretty much became me not watching, then nodding my head as he talked about the highlights. When he caught on, I made up excuses.

But that was when I ate lunch in my office with a very select group (of two others) who also had no time for TV, so it didn’t much matter. Now I eat in the teacher’s lounge with good friends (sans two) and I can’t escape the lunch time conversation. So, it’s stare at my orange or talk reality.

The problem is that aside from American Idol, I have no idea what other reality shows are on (or when). I only know American Idol because every year it bumps at least one show I’m devoted to. They seem to mention AI, The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser and The Amazing Race. I could care less about the “love” lives of people who have to go on TV to find a mate (esp. since when they talk at lunch it seems like none of these couples end up together). I have plenty of my own diet woes. And I am in no way athletic. I have, however, always liked singing (although I finally gave up my dreams of being a rock star), so I think AI might be it.

I hate to give in, but I think it may come to it. Maybe I can just record it, fast forward through all the crap and just hear the winners. That is unless someone can make a compelling argument for any of the other shows. Anyone?

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