Monday, October 22, 2012

Birthday Week Blues

I'm in a Monday morning funk.  Still in my bathrobe.  Sulking.  Instead of being grateful that I have legs, which is my policy.

Just returned from a Jewish Women's Retreat in the woods near a town called Angelus Oaks.  Yeah, I hadn't heard of it, either.  Apparently, bears know it well, since a gal opened her cabin door and one was chilling right outside.  I didn't want to walk alone at night (hell--ever) after that.  But otherwise, the weekend was a good experience.  I met some really cool women who have had amazing lives (a bunch of them were older than me) and taught three Nia classes to smiling and appreciative students (even if two of these classes were at freakin' dawn.)  They served massive amounts of tasty food, provided lots of pretty paper and glue for a Saturday night art project, built a big campfire for s'mores, and introduced me to the wonders of Liat, the 25-year-old song leader, who could play absolutely anything on her guitar for sing-alongs.  Because I'm a big diva, I insisted on my own cabin (the other women were four to a room) and I'm glad I did, after Saturday morning reports of snoring, heating disagreements and constant bathroom trips.  I'm a light sleeper, and I was snug in my tiny cabin with the white noise feature on my iPhone and a luxurious mint-green velour blankie from home.  It also gave me a place to hide for 15-minute increments of reading when the hours of making cheerful small-talk with strangers got to me (extroverts are really just introverts who charge their batteries with huge swatches of alone time.) 

And that should conclude my near-constant gallivanting for the present.  We had returned from the Florida/Bahamas/Disney Cruise excursion only four days before I left for the weekend.  I am happy to say I am a cruise person (I think?  This was a short cruise) and that the Disney Dream is gorgeous and not just for kids.  One of the highlights was an adults-only dinner at Palo where we were treated like kings and queens, and the "Rainforest Experience" in the adults-only spa where you could stand in a beautifully tiled chamber and press a button that said "Mediterranean Storm" or "Siberian Mist" and get a personal show of water, light and scent.  In the ports of Nassau and Castaway Cay (the Disney-owned island) I loved, respectively, the Dolphin Encounter (it's impossible to be cynical about hugging a dolphin) and the Stingray Adventure, where we snorkeled in a crystal-clear white-sand cove with 56 resident sting rays swooshing and flapping around us.  Bliss.  Disney Dream employees either love their Disney jobs or are operating under threat of some horrific punishment, but they were smiling, generous and warm 24 hours a day.  Free self-serve ice cream cones and towels shaped like animals and a veranda overlooking the navy-blue sea didn't suck, either.  Oh, and Jarrah was all about the Oceaneer's Club and the Aquaduck, a water slide four flights of stairs above the top deck that actually extends over the sea. 

I also fulfilled a life-long dream of visiting Epcot park, and it did not disappointment (it didn't hurt that it was International Food and Wine month, either.)  The various lands are so beautiful, and the gray, misty weather really cooled things down that day (otherwise, both Florida and the Bahamas were ridiculously hot and sticky for October.)  There were no crowds, and it was all very relaxing, except for Mission to Space where I'm fairly certain my heart actually stopped for a couple of minutes.  We also visited Magic Kingdom, which was sort of interesting and sort of meh, considering most of the rides are the same as in the park where I practically grew up, and it was horribly hot and crowded.  We took one Disney sabbatical day and traveled a couple hours to the Gulf of Mexico and Clearwater, FL for a pilgrimage to the marine rescue center that is the home of Winter, the famous, tail-less dolphin from the movie "Dolphin Tale."  That was a great day, and sunset on the sugar-soft, white beach capped it off beautifully.

See?  I have nothing to be funked about.  This always happens, though.  I look forward to my birthday celebrations but I dread them, too, expecting too much and also expecting disappointment.  It's a vicious cycle. 

But enough about are you?  How do you feel about YOUR birthdays?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Room Moms Are Evil

I haven't written here in ages, and I've skipped a soul-shoring trip to Maui, the first day of second grade (we scored an amazing teacher) and Jarrah's budding soccer career, which is blazing (as I expected--the kid doesn't share my scared-of-balls genes.)

But what has sent me scurrying for the benevolent cover of my blog is a problem that I have no idea how to fix.  I signed up to be "Room Mom."  I wanted to help.  Let's be honest--I wanted to put my stamp on things.  But I never should have done that.  Because now I am being steamrolled by the twin Mack trucks of the campus mean moms.

Yes, yes, I'm overstating a bit.  But at our first meeting, the two of them seemed to have everything all figured out--had I missed a previous meeting?  The plan, as David described it, was to "shake down" the parents through a process of guilt and intimidation for large sums of money (this is public school, people!) which we would then use to purchase birthday, holiday, end-of-year and Teacher Appreciation Week gift baskets and gift cards in eye-brow raising denominations.  I should add that I was instructed to email all the parents to clarify that they were still expected (I changed it to "welcome") to contribute individual gifts for all these occasions.  I asked (reasonably, I thought) how much of the money would go back into the class?  Again, public school:  maybe the parents would like to see some of this money spent on class parties, or classroom supplies?

Apparently, I'm an idiot, and a stingy one at that.  I was quickly schooled that parents would be contributing potluck items for the parties and we wouldn't spend one cent of the gift fund there.  As for supplies, which I observed running low by second semester in first grade, I was told that I had been given an opportunity to donate these supplies at the beginning of the year, and I was welcome to take it.

That burned me. I followed that "suggested donations" list like it was gospel, and gave every item, some of them twice.  It's also been suggested that I don't understand that teachers are "unpaid" (I guess she meant "underpaid") and "unappreciated" and the least we can do is lavish her with $500 (!!!!) worth of gift cards.  The least we can do, people.  The least.

Well, color me schooled.  I mean, I taught for 18 years, but I had no idea that teachers are underpaid and unappreciated.  Really?  How weird.  I always felt uber-paid and uber-appreciated, every minute of every day.  And $500--bitch, please.  I got at least $1,000 in swag every time I taught, because I'm just that awesome.

I would kind of like to quit, but I don't want our teacher thinking I have some kind of personality disorder or follow-through problem.  But I can see lots of fun ahead as I tacitly cooperate with the total domination of the second grade, or I step aside and watch the room get leveled under a pile of BevMo and Macy's cards, flower arrangements from Costco and "Coffee Day Theme."  I would kind of like to tattle to the teacher--really, that's what it would amount to--but maybe she'd like a say in where this absurd amount of money goes?  She can't possibly want that much stuff.  It makes it seem like we're overcompensating for our Talking Tina/Chucky Doll-type children--I don't need to do that.  My child is a treat empty-handed.

And I do care, very much, about teachers, public education, and my daughter's classroom in particular.  After all, I volunteered to do this thankless job.  But seriously, I turned in my form on the first day so I could be eligible for art help and reading and stuffing folders and chaperoning field trips.  More significantly, I will actually be providing P.E. for a P.E.-less school when I start teaching Nia to the class in a few weeks.

A friend reminded me that I'm not doing this to make friends with Mean Room Moms--I just want to be a part of my child's classroom experience and help out her teacher.  I need to stay focused on that.  But I can't decide if I should continue to fight the good fight, which is basically:  "Let's save $100 of this money for classroom needs!  We can even ask the teacher what she prefers!" or just lay down and let the gift baskets march over my body.

Any thoughts, Readers?  If any of you are out there?