Sunday, November 27, 2005

Husband for Sale - going cheap!

So the day after Thanksgiving, at the butt-crack of dawn, the WCM goes on a field trip searching for fossils in North Carolina. That's about 400 miles from our house - approximately 7 hours away by car. He planned to be gone all weekend and half of Monday. My first thought was "Sweet! A girlie weekend with Miss Peanut!" So for Friday, Miss Peanut and I bonded by bustling about the ancestral Manse, doing various chores and Christmas decorating.

Friday night, though, Miss Peanut went to my mother's house, leaving me with nothing to do. Harry Potter was playing, though, so I went. My brother came, too, surprising me. I mean, I'm grown, he's grown (well, physically. He's still as immature as they come), and we're hanging out? It was fun. He's a bad influence, though, as he was smoking cigarettes in the parking lot of the movie theater, thereby enticing me to have one. One cigarette, and I was completely fucked-up. Damn! That nicotine is fun.

The movie was great, once I staggered into the theater. Sure, there was a lot cut out and a bunch of stuff added, but it was good. I can't wait to see what they do with the rest.

Returning home, I had the surreal experience of sleeping alone (ok, the dog was with me, but it was completely platonic! Honest! I'm not April!) in the marital bed. Creepy. Quiet. Since I've been married, I've slept alone when I've been away on conferences and such, but never in my own bed. It was strange.

Saturday was cleaning day. I scrubbed the main floor of the house from stem to stern, pausing in the evening to attend a performance of The Nutcracker. Miss Peanut really liked it. I've always enjoyed The Nutcracker, but that is pretty much the extent of my ballet appreciation. Kind of sucks, because my father is the President of the First State Ballet Theater.

Got Miss Peanut to bed, took myself off to bed where I lay awake for a good half-hour contemplating why I couldn't fall asleep. It was the snoring. I missed it. The WCM can complain for the USA about my snoring. But I get the full whinge the morning after every time I snore - bitch, bitch, bitch. Yet, it seems I need his snoring to lull me to sleep. Weird.

Sunday, the WCM calls and says he'll be home early. But I'm not done cleaning yet! And, I have a surprise for him! I moved all of his fossils & fossil excavating tools down to the basement, where I've made him a study. It wasn't quite done and now he's moved my timeline up! Dammit! I cleaned frenetically, pausing only to piddle now and again. At last, I declared the house clean, wiped the sweat from my brow, and awaited my lord's return.

When he came home, it was to a clean, sweet-smelling house that was festively decorated for Christmas. His new study was polished to a gleam and was thoughtfully prepared from a space that used to be my scrapbooking nook. I hoped that he'd appreciate the hard work I'd put into the manor.

His only comment: "Smells nice in here."


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

Today I give thanks for:
  • My family - all of them. I'm thankful for my little family of the WCM, Miss Peanut, Slider & Zippy (my corgis). I'm thankful for my parents, step-parents, brother, and step-siblings. Well, ok, just the one stepsibling. The other one's kind of a bitch and I could do without her. I'm thankful for the WCM's huge and hilarious family, with whom we shall be dining tonight.
  • My friends. I'm thankful for Hube, whom I miss seeing daily and joking with. I'm thankful for Melanie & Jeff and their soon-to-be-son-or-daughter who will be appearing in about 2 weeks (see you soon, guys!). I'm thankful for Sara, without whom I would be absolutely crazy at work. She saves my sanity on a daily basis. And, strangely, I'm thankful for this little online community of friends that has developed over the last few months - Tina, April, Garfer, Herge, CCEarth, et al. Visiting your blogs always makes me chuckle, even if I don't comment much.
  • My job - not only does it allow me to pay the bills, but it does so in the most enjoyable of ways. I still forget about payday. The money, to me, always seems to be a bonus of working and not the object. I hope it's always that way.
  • My doctor - seriously. She listens, understands, and properly treats all that ails me. She gives me my health, such as it is, and for that, I am thankful.

I shall be breaking bread at my brother-in-law's house later this afternoon, after which the tryptophan coma shall gently settle over me. I'll be off now to bake a batch of my famous brownies to take to the festivities. Have a nice day, all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hormones, baby!

I am woman, hear me bitch.

Everything is pissing me off these days. Since misery loves company, just come on over, pull up a chair, grab some sour grapes, aand learn just exactly what got under my skin today.

Dear Cashier at the Convenience Store, kindly hand me the change before you hand me the bills. If you hand me the coins on top of the bills, they like to slide all over the place, spill out of my hand, and fall onto the floor. When I'm trying to juggle a changepurse, newspaper, and breakfast sandwich, all while keeping track of the 4-year-old that loves to wander, the last fucking thing I need is fucking change flying all the fuck over the fucking store, FUCKER!

Dear Dunkin Donuts Manager, kindly do not allow your trainees to work the morning shift until they know how to prepare a fucking cup of coffee! Granted, my order is complicated, as I ask for the sugar to be put in the cup at the end and not stirred, but I think that it's do-able. If the dipshit family members you hire can't figure out NOT to stir the goddamn coffee, you need to look beyond your family tree for potential spouses.

Dear Asshole in the Car in Front of ME: it's called a TURN SIGNAL. USE IT! Also, when I beep at you because you're inexplicably stopped at A GREEN LIGHT, do NOT gesticulate wildly in the direction of the police station. The only gesture you're going to receive back is the largest digit on my right hand extended in your direction, cocksucker.

Dear Lazy-ass, Entitled, Honor Student: Do your fucking homework and turn it in when it's due. Don't expect me to give you an extension because you "had a soccer game and got in really late." Fuck that! Set your priorities - academics first, entertainment next. And do not ever bitch to me that you couldn't do your homework because you had so much work in your other classes. Do what I did, peckerwood, STAY UP LATE UNTIL YOUR HOMEWORK'S DONE!

Dear Whiny, Enabling, Honor-Student's Parent: Do NOT expect me to give myself extra work by assigning your lazy-ass kid an extra credit project. If the little shit couldn't be arsed to do the work in the first place, why should I accept any extra work that he's just deigned to do? Fuck right off!

Dear Bitchy, Passive-Aggressive Coworker: when I extend the hand of peace, the appropriate response is to accept it gracefully. If you get all bitchy at me again, you can expect the hand of peace to bitch-slap you upside your self-important, inflated head, you cunt.

Dear Old Biddy at the Market: Kindly adhere to the rules of the road and push your shopping cart down the same side of the aisle that you'd drive your car on, were you on the road. Oh, yeah, that's right - you drive SMACK DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING ROAD, TOO!

There. That should do it for today. I've expunged my ire for one day. I'm sure that I'll have more to complain about tomorrow, as the fucking hormones will be with me for the next TWO FUCKING WEEKS!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Owen's Christmas Present

Last year, I got my metrosexual brother a can of Heinz' Spotted Dick - Microwaveable! - and a copy of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's book. He loved it.

This year, he's getting this:

I must've laughed for 5 minutes straight when I saw this at the local drugstore. He has to have it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I must not suck as a teacher...

My conferences were good. The only parents I saw were the honors student parents who were stressing because their kids got Bs or Cs instead of As. None of them were out for blame, either, which just made my night (did I mention that we have evening conferences? I was here until 8 pm).

I spent my off time completing an essay on my personal experiences with the language I teach and why I chose to teach a language. Why an essay? Because one of my students nominated me for an Excellence in Teaching award over the summer. So, I must not suck. Here it is, such as it is.

Language Lessons

“Ah, bé, cé, dé” dutifully recited all my fellow students in seventh-grade French class. This was the year we began learning French. We spelled our names, counted beans in a jar, and learned what we had in our pencil cases. In eighth-grade, we learned how to describe ourselves, who was in our family, and what we were eating for dinner. Ninth grade brought the intricacies of the passé composé and futur proche. I made the acquaintance of Dr. and Mrs. Van Der Tramp, who have since become good friends. I loved French class. It was fun and exciting – every day brought something new. In tenth grade, though, it all fell apart.

I had been a good student in French class, earning high grades and feeling very confident about my ability. In tenth grade, I met Monsieur Doublevé, with whom I did not see eye-to-eye. Monsieur Doublevé was dry. Not dry like a good champagne, but dry like a parched riverbed after a 10-year drought. He displayed little sense of humor and precious little personality. His teaching was clinical, almost mathematical, in nature: if this condition exists, then that is what you must say. Everything was memorized by rote and regurgitated on paper. Every day was a different worksheet or exercise written out of the book. There was no interaction and no speaking in class beyond the one or two word answers to Monsieur Doublevé’s very specific questions. My grades began to fall as I grew more and more bored and frustrated. I knew that I loved French and wanted to speak it more than anything. I just wasn’t getting that chance in class.

My father saw my grades drop and took me to task over it. Why wasn’t I participating in class? Wasn’t I doing my homework? What was so confusing? I complained about Monsieur Doublevé – yes, I really did complain about my teacher. My father, unconvinced, told me to stick it out and try harder.

I redoubled my efforts, trying harder and harder to keep up with the memorization. I made flashcards, wrote lists, did every homework assignment possible, and still didn’t make the grades I wanted because I could not concentrate in class. The class was dull. More than that, it was depressing. My complaints had reached such a volume that my father couldn’t stand it anymore and threatened me with calling the Head of the Department to complain. Well, guess what? Monsieur Doublevé was the Head of the Department. He didn’t make that phone call after all, and I was left to my own devices.

Miraculously, it seemed, Monsieur Doublevé had to accompany the senior class trip to France – it always occurred during the school year, and took about 15 seniors away for three weeks. During those three weeks, we had a substitute teacher, Madame Em. Madame Em was everything that Monsieur Doublevé was not. She was witty, engaging, creative, and hands-on. When she taught, she expected us to do more than just listen and repeat. We had to volunteer our opinion! In French! And not necessarily in complete sentences, either, because what unnatural person goes around speaking in complete sentences all the time?! Instead of doing worksheets and book lessons, we created skits and posters, using the same knowledge. Madame Em was not afraid of creativity – it seemed like she reveled in it. I learned more in those three weeks with Madame Em than I did in the whole three trimesters I spent with Monsieur Doublevé.

The return of Monsieur Doublevé made me think about that difference. I began to see that what a huge impact a teacher’s style had on my learning. I began to apply that knowledge in class and ask myself “How would Madame Em have done this differently?” Soon, instead of asking how Madame Em would have done it, I began asking “How would I have done this differently?” That experience opened my eyes to the possibility that I, someday, might want to be a teacher.

In my Freshman year of college, I took a break from French and studied Italian for a year instead. My teacher, Signora Sé, was just like Madame Em – fun, enthusiastic, and personable. We had conversations, wrote paragraphs, and gave presentations. I remember preparing for my presentation with great anticipation. I was explaining a recipe and fretting over explaining the unfamiliar vocabulary. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be fun to approach this like I was the teacher, so I assembled some art supplies and created pictures of the ingredients with the Italian names on them – i calamari, il sugo, il pomodoro, il aglio, le cipolle. I made a handout for note-taking, brought props that I thoughtfully labeled in Italian, and rehearsed my presentation to get the timing down. When my turn came to present, I was confident and ready to share my knowledge. I modeled the vocabulary with the pictures I’d made, used the props as I explained the recipe, and asked my classmates for their recipe preferences: Lei piace il aglio? Do you like garlic? It went wonderfully well and I received many compliments on it, from both Signora Sé and my classmates. It became clear to me that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to teach a language. I could make it fun and interesting. I could show my class that languages were exciting and fresh. It didn’t have to be Italian that I taught, which was truly the language of my heart, but it could be French, which was mysterious and alluring and ever-so-much-more marketable. All that mattered is that I taught a language that I enjoyed speaking.

When I had finally crossed that last bridge in college and declared myself a French Education major, I made the vow that I would always remember the impact that teachers like Madame Em and Signora Sé had had on my learning, and I would strive to make learning personal and pertinent to my students as they did. I would ask myself each day if I had been challenging and engaging in my classroom. I would make learning fun yet still impart that work ethic necessary to succeed.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Conference Days

It's that time of the school year - Parent/Teacher conferences!

I hate and dread conference time, as it always makes me feel inadequate, like there was something more I could have done for someone's Earth Angel to help them learn. It doesn't matter to the parents of that particular underachiever that I put in at least an hour after school every day working on grades and planning for the next day. Nor do they care that I actually have a life outside of the school building with an Earth Angel of my own. What matters is that I didn't coerce their child into staying after school for extra help that they were completely unreceptive to - that I didn't carve that hour out of my own time and give, give, give until it hurt. I guess I'm not that altruistic. Whatever.

What really burns my toast is that I have a classroom full of underachievers for one period of the day. Twelve of sixteen students failed the first marking period. Ten of that twelve failed with a final average of below 50 percent. WTF?! They couldn't comprehend why I was so upset with them, either. In another class, I had a student fail with a 14%. Fourteen! Percent! Why bother coming to class if you're not going to do anything? How do I explain to those parents that their students just don't care, and nothing I've done could make them care? How can I do that and not sound totally incompetent?

I don't want to sound like a whiny, excuse-making cop-out artist, but jeez! What more could I have done? Parented their children myself? Just given out 'A's indiscriminately? Called every parent every time a homework assignement was missing? Not bloody likely, I'll tell you.

Wish me luck for tomorrow. I'm sure I'll offend someone.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sleeping with Strangers

I had a wonderful weekend, resplendent in female bonding rituals.

We scrapbooked, reminisced over photos, cooed over each others' children, ate far too many sweets, sang loudly and off-key, stayed up late, and slept together. Before you say "yeaaahhh, bay-beeee!" I feel compelled to point out that it was in a completely G-rated fashion. G for "Good God, did I accidentally touch you with my left foot?! I'm so sorry!! Please accept my most abject apologies!! I didn't mean it! I'm not gay, honest!"

I have never spent the night with a more neurotic woman. Ok, with a more neurotic woman that is not a blood relation, 'cause my family is pretty fucked up emotionally. Depressed bitches, one and all.

I drew the short straw and got to sleep with the perfect stranger. Jules & Mitzi, the other two women sharing the room, have been at other events, and I'm pretty chummy with them. Theresa, however, was my bedmate for the evening, and a very nervous sort she was. She seemed almost overly concerned with not touching. If there'd been a bolster available, I'm sure she'd have erected it dead center of the bed.

Theresa got to the bed first both nights, as I was maximizing my scrapbooking time and staying up late. When I arrived for slumber the first night, I had to stop and blink. Not only was the woman ensconced under the covers, but she had managed to spread another blanket on top of her and tuck it in about her burrito-style. I was impressed.

So whilst performing my ablutions prior to sleep, I mulled over her seeming paranoia. Did I give off a seductively threatening vibe? Did I look like I'd jump her bones in the middle of the night? Was a I wearing too much flannel and flashing my Home Depot credit card? No, no, and no. So what was her deal?

I put it down to nerves for that day and slept like the dead.

The next night, Theresa was still awake when I came to bed. This night, we were sharing the pull-out sofa in the living room of the suite. She warned me that she might accidentally brush me with her foot because the sofabed sagged in the middle. I assured her that I didn't care and probably wouldn't notice anyway.

I didn't notice it until she nearly jumped out of the bed apologizing.

I am so arsed off about it, I can't even explain. Homophobia just enrages me, and I couldn't cope with it that night. I rolled over, offering her my back and (extremely cold) shoulder.

Next time, I'm sleeping with Weezie.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Away! For the weekend!

By myself! To Scrapbook! With other women!

I'm spending the weekend at a Lodge in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, where I will be scrapbooking my little fingers to the bone. I can't wait!

No WCM! No Miss Peanut (well, can't rightfully put an exclamation point after that, because, after all, I do love the little shit to death). No one's needs or wants to cater to but my own!


Plus, there's a masseur on premises.

The only downside is sleeping in the same room as 3 other women, all relative strangers. Oh, well. It couldn't all work out so perfectly.

So if you don't hear from me, rest assured that all is well.

Monday, November 07, 2005

In Which Britain Confuses Me

There are things that I don't understand, and I'm asking for explanations.

First, WTF exactly is a curly-wurly? I know that it's candy of some sort, but what exactly is the confectionary composition of a curly-wurly? Anyone willing to do a cultural exchange could expect some American candy back. I can get Malteasers, Smarties, Yorkie bars, and Aero here, but no damn Curly-wurlies.

Second, WTF is with the weird food names? Spotted Dick? Bubble & Squeek? Baps? Cock-a-leekie, for fucks sake??!! I got my brother Heinz' Canned Spotted Dick - Microwaveable! - for Christmas last year and thought he'd burst a blood vessel giggling. Ever seen a 28-year-old straight man giggle? It's not pretty.

Third, WTF is with the 2-finger salute? We only need one finger to accomplish the same sentiment here. One finger not good enough for you?

Fourth, Um, tea? WTF? When did tea change from a beverage to a meal? Hel-loooo?

And lastly, WhyTF is your accent, no matter what the geographical origin, so alluring? I mean, I'd shag any of you if you'd only read the newspaper headlines aloud first. It wouldn't have to be the headlines - it could just be the telephone book. WTF? Or maybe I'm just an accent whore. I think I answered that one for myself.

Answers appreciated, though hardly necessary.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Teacher, teach thyself!

walks into classroom, nodding to child’s teacher, heading for the computer where child is engrossed.


wiggles finger in ear, trying to regain some of the hearing that was just blasted out by the jet-engine decibel shrieking of child’s teacher.

I’m a teacher, so naturally, I’m a bit fussy about who is teaching my daughter. Since I am a teacher who is married to the World’s Cheapest Man, I had to return to work when my Peanut was 5 months old. She’s been in daycare for most of her young life.

I took great care in choosing her first daycare. I researched, went on site visits, asked well-informed and pertinent questions. I questioned the teacher/student ratios, the solution used to sterilize toys, and the overall teaching philosophy of the organization, all when I was 5 months pregnant. It took 10 more months until there was an opening at this institution, so I felt confident that it was a quality place.

I loved Miss Peanut’s infant teachers. They were warm, caring, and cuddly. They followed a developmentally appropriate syllabus, had brain-stimulating toys, and were prepared for separation anxiety. Mine, not hers. I was so comfortable leaving my Peanut with these women. I’ll call them Mrs. Snuggle and Mrs. Nurture.

When Peanut transitioned to the Toddler room, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, she had just learned to walk a week before and was still prone to flopping down on her butt and tripping over her own feet. How would she cope in a room full of big 2-year-olds? She coped beautifully, with the help of two brilliant teachers – Mrs. Happy and Miss Cheerful. Peanut loved going to “school” as we called it, because it was so much fun. There was no television, but lots of developmental, hands-on learning and exploration.

Preschool, though, is where it all fell apart. Initially, Peanut’s two teachers were fine. One was very knowledgeable, if a bit condescending, and the other was an aloof ice-princess. My educational experience had been good here to this point, so I really didn’t worry. I thought I was overreacting. Miss Condescension left to pursue other opportunities, and in her place, they hired Mrs. Trailer Trash.

Mrs Trash came with her own brood of snot-nosed Trashettes, who infected my baby’s class with smacking and taunting. The Trashettes were moved out of their mother’s classroom, but still, the coarseness remained. Mrs Trash spoke to her charges the same way she spoke to her own spawn – barking commands, issuing proclamations, and laying down the law at top volume. This was because you could usually find her parked on her tush while the kids ran wild all over the classroom. Where she and I really conflicted, though, was when she started physically moving my daughter around in my presence.

I’ve always felt that once I was in the classroom and had taken charge of my child, readying her for the trip home, etc., that the teacher should ease off. Mrs Trash, though, felt that it was fine for her to pick my child up bodily and haul her around the classroom, and not in a “I’m going to cuddle you for a bit because you’re just so darn cute” kind of way. Bear in mind, that my baby was 3.5 years old, and didn’t need hauling anywhere. On a couple of occasions, because Miss Peanut doesn’t particularly like being brutishly manhandled, she dodged the grasping paw that was coming for her arm and wound up falling on her bottom. I witnessed one of these occasions and objected. Loudly. Turns out, I was neither the first nor the last parent to complain about this woman.

So, I uprooted the Peanut and moved her to another school. I figured she only had one more year until Kindergarten, so it wasn’t really a big deal for her to move. Plus, one of her best friends was going to the new school, too. I loved that the teacher was enthusiastic and energetic, and that they followed a real curriculum which would teach the kiddies to read and do some basic math. I knew going in that Miss Peanut’s teacher was, er, well-endowed decibel-wise. The volume didn’t really bug me at first.

Now, I’m deafened every time I enter the room. I wince when I hear her voice. She’s still enthusiastic, and Peanut really loves her. So, until Miss Peanut leaves for Kindergarten, I suppose Mrs. Screech Owl and I will just have to get along.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Boo, revisited!

Here was our Halloween artistry. On the right, the WCM's Darth Vader. The middle is my traditionalist Jack-o-lantern. On the left is Miss Peanut's pumpkin that I carved for her.

We had a great Halloween. Miss Peanut has 2 pounds of candy to eat! Not all at once, and she'll brush her teeth after every piece. Sure. Uh huh.