things I must do tomorrow

I made the somewhat crazy mistake, at the beginning of the year, of deciding to put together the fifth grade yearbook. Well, school’s almost out—guess I better get to work on it.

I’ve been collecting pictures for several months, but there are still a couple of kids whose parents haven’t sent any in yet, despite the fact that I’ve sent home several notes requesting them. I don’t get that. Do you really not want your kid’s picture in the yearbook? or are you just not getting my messages through your fifth grader?

I’m going to have to go to school and actually take pictures of those kids, because I can’t imagine finishing the yearbook without having one single picture with them in it. I’ve also gotta search around in my house and find a couple of their class pictures, which must be here somewhere.

A long time ago (like, back when I only had one kid), I had a great theory that I would make photo albums for both my kids. That dream is long dead, it seems like the least I can do is a half-decent job on the Bee’s yearbook.


May 20, 2010. the joys of PTA. 5 comments.

sometimes, these kids do me proud

The Bee came home today after school and told me that she had to go to the PTA meeting tonight. I groaned with anguish, because I have to go on a trip tomorrow morning that involves leaving the house at 6 a.m. and then driving about 300 miles. So tonight, what I really wanted to do was pack, maybe watch a movie, drink one small glass of wine, and go to bed early.

And besides, I have been to my share of PTA meetings in my life. Being as I was the f’ing PTA president. I was even feeling really over myself, because I was one of only three first grade parents who made it in for the Valentine’s Day party today.

So I whined at my kid, “why do you have to go to this meeting? Why can’t someone else go?”

She looked at me levelly and said, “because someone has to go talk to the PTA about our bake sale for Haiti, and none of the other kids’ parents will take them.”


“Okay, I guess I’m going to the PTA meeting.”

So we went to the PTA meeting, and the Bee & her best friend, the Peony, who along with two other fifth graders are organizing this bake sale, went up to their classroom to practice what they wanted to say. Then they came in and showed us the posters they have already made for the bake sale, and talked about their plans to sell pretzels & bottled water at the annual Talent Show.

The Bee is a more confident public speaker than many adults that I know. I could not be more proud of her than I am right now.

February 16, 2010. the cutest kids ever!, the joys of PTA. 2 comments.

it must be that time of year

when people start to put together their fifth grade yearbooks. I’ve gotten a couple of searches for “fifth grade yearbook questionnaire” in the last couple of days. Here’s mine, for those of you looking:

# favorite book
# favorite movie
# future career
# favorite sport
# favorite food
# favorite TV show
# hobby
# birthday
# favorite place
# favorite website
# favorite band
# favorite subject

If you’re not yet the parent of a fifth grader, bookmark this for later!

January 28, 2010. the joys of PTA. Leave a comment.

no longer the PTA president

Did I mention that I finally ended my tenure as PTA president this year? It feels pretty good. Actually, it feels better than that.

Lamely, I haven’t been to a PTA meeting yet this year—because they’ve all coincided with nights I had to work (now that I’m not scheduling them). I’ve done some minor volunteering, most notably at the fifth grade holiday party. It seems that most of the other parents got smart, and realized that spending an extra half hour with a roomful of 11-year-olds hopped up on sugar right before their holiday break was not exactly…relaxing.

The one major project I agreed to take on this year was putting together the fifth grade yearbook. I’m very excited about this task, although I may not be by the time I have to scan fifty or sixty pictures with our not-always-functional scanner.

I got the fifth grade teacher to send home some samples of prior years’ books, and it was so sweet, seeing the kids who have graduated before the Bee when they were kindergarteners, in their earliest class pictures. I knew most of those kids as the ‘big kids’ in the school, when my kid was the littlest. And now she’s the biggest. Sigh…

January 6, 2010. the joys of PTA. 4 comments.

end of the school year

The school year (and my PTA presidency) has taken about 8.3 weeks to end this year. But now, we’re into the home stretch–it’s just here to Friday. Tomorrow, I’ll perform my last official duty as the PTA president–delivering cake to the fifth graders at their commencement ceremony, and flowers to the fifth grade parents who have been PTA activists and whose youngest child is graduating.

After that, mai tais all around!

The kids are enjoying the week of shortened school days, though when I told the Bee that I’d be working at home tomorrow, and she could come home right after school if she wanted to, she complained, “but it’s Pizza Day (at the after school program)!” So now I’ll be trotting down to get them AFTER they eat pizza (but before they get any water play done–as the Bee pointed out to her brother, “we can just turn on the sprinkler when we get home, anyway.)

The kids will be going to the same summer camp this year, for the first time. It won’t be many more years till the Bee is old enough to go to sleep-away camp, and I’m sort of cherishing this moment, as I can see it won’t last long.

June 15, 2009. the joys of PTA. Leave a comment.

economic woes, part 1

Elizabeth had a post up the other day entitled, “What does the PTA pay for?,” and I decided to just write a post responding to it, rather than an extra-long comment. You should check out her post, though–there’s a good discussion of privilege.

The biggest-ticket items that our PTA pays for are field trips (we cover both the buses and the cost of admission for the venue) and in-school assemblies. We also pay for stuff like (very minor) academic awards–basically the senior who has the highest GPA and went to our elementary school gets a $200 savings bond, and we give a smaller one to the highest-GPA’d eighth grader at the middle school promotion. We pay for flowers for a sick teacher, and for gift cards for the music teachers at the biannual concerts. We pay for snacks for back-to-school nights, and give each teacher something like $125 per year to buy extra supplies for their classroom. Our overall budget is less than $20,000–it’s not a huge school, and the socio-economic status of kids in our catchment area ranges from solidly middle class to downright poor.

We live in a state where it’s still more common than not for there to be music and art teachers in the schools, where there are still lots of extracurricular activities, and computers in every classroom. We don’t live in the greatest school district in our area, nor do we live in the worst. One of the decisions that landisdad and I made when we decided where to live was to stay in a place with more racial and economic diversity, and less cutthroat academic competition. Overall, while we’ve had our ups and downs with individual teachers, we’ve been happy with our kids’ academic experience so far.

Last week, though, our school community received a very disturbing letter from our superintendent and the president of the board of education, where they listed the kinds of items that might be on the chopping block in next year’s budget. That list included things like: athletics at both the high school & middle school; full-day kindergarten (currently provided by our district but not required by the state); the district’s pre-K program for developmentally challenged children (again, not required but provided now); the purchase of new textbooks; and a host of other things.

I confess, that got me to thinking about the things that our PTA might be asked to raise money for next year (and while I’m confessing, I might as well confess to breathing a sigh of relief that I will not be the president anymore!). Not field trips, but essential supplies for the schools. Or paying for the half-day kindergarten aide. Or funding lunches for kids that show up without their lunch money (which right now is done by the district).

I’m not sure there’s that much room to grow in our budget. Our biggest fundraiser every year is a bingo, and the majority of people who come to that are coming because they’re bingo fanatics–I’d say a good 80% of the crowd are not, and have never been, parents of children at our school. It’s a great fundraiser, but it happened because a really good PTA mom put together a really great fundraiser 9 or 10 years ago, and it’s kept growing since then. This year, though, we had a slightly lower attendance–and I have to wonder, if the recession continues, how much longer will people who don’t have a kid in our school be willing to pay $25 to play bingo?

March 5, 2009. the joys of PTA. 5 comments.

Top Ten Things About This School Year

10. Two kids. One school. No more mad dashes for landisdad on the nights I work late.

9. After-school care costs 1/4 of what daycare costs. Maybe less.

8. The Potato is veeeerrrrrryyyyy tired when he gets home from kindergarten. A little whiny, but mostly just tired.

7. Today, the Bee said, “I can’t wait to start having homework!”*

6. This year, I managed to get PTA volunteers to do all the work for the first day of school, and all I had to do was pick up the muffins.

5. Did I mention? only one drop-off? only one pick-up?

4. And the money savings, did you get that?

3. So far, the beginning of fourth grade does not seem to be as challenging as the beginning of third grade. (Amusingly, the Bee denied yesterday that she had ever told me that she was worried about not getting promoted to fourth grade if she couldn’t learn cursive. But she did.)

2. The shoes! I think that both of my children grew a size and a half over the summer, but I didn’t notice, because they were wearing sandals the whole time.

1. My kids are growing up and becoming fine children.

*”so I can get stickers by helping the Potato with his”–the sticker-based incentive system being alive and well in our house.

September 4, 2008. family life, the joys of PTA. Leave a comment.

Happy Dad’s Day

to all my favorite dads out there (including the one I’m married to, of course).

It’s a little odd, but I feel like I’m delurking on my own blog to post today. I think I’ve reached that phase, which seems to happen to so many bloggers, of wondering whether there is really any there there, in blogging.

But not today. Today there is free snark, no waiting.

As I posted a few days ago, the end of the school year is kicking my butt. Still happening, as the end of the school year seems to last from roughly May Day through September 1. Last week, in my role as PTA president, I had the great joy of attending sixth grade commencement (I’ve also had the joy of attending 8th grade commencement and the high school’s academic awards night, in my role as distributer-of-US-savings-bonds).

With all this end-of-year activity, I have a whole new understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of various members of the school community. Particularly the weaknesses. Particularly in the area of public speaking.

NOTE: I realize that many people do not enjoy the public speaking. I am not one of those people. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as particularly gifted, I get to speak in public in various settings a dozen or so times a year, and I think I’m moderately okay at it.

However, if you are the superintendent of a school district of any size, you should probably know that you are going to have to speak at a graduation or two. You might want to, in that case, consider visiting, or whatever, and cribbing something. Because lecturing the parents of incoming middle-schoolers about how they (the parents) just need to keep an eye on who their kids are friends with? is not going to endear you to those parents. Especially when you, the superintendent, look as if you may be about to enter middle school yourself.


Also? Giving the same speech to the graduating elementary school kids that you give to the graduating middle schoolers? does not bode well.

June 15, 2008. books for grown-ups, family life, the joys of PTA. 5 comments.

is it late June yet?

I’m not sure, but I think I’m going to be even happier about the end of the school year than the Bee. The PTA-related activity that is back-loaded at the end of May and beginning of June is freaking me out. Between the end-of-school parties, the yearbook, the field trips, the school projects, and the need to buy both personal and PTA gifts for the retiring third grade teacher, I’m a basket case.

In my continuing role as a cautionary tale for the other parents in my office, I painted a bobcat at work last week. (Be clear–the Bee was allowed to buy a bobcat–I wasn’t helicopter parenting–it was just the only one I could find was paint-your-own, and she needed it in a final state that night.) There was a lot of hilarity at my expense, and my officemate insisted on being allowed to help. Even my boss ridiculed me, saying it looked like a cross between a cow and a dog, and insisting on calling it a ‘dow’ all afternoon.

Why, oh makers of the paint-your-own-bobcat kit, did you only put red, blue, black, yellow, green and white paint in that kit?

Needless to say, my bobcat did not exactly achieve a color that occurs in nature.

In other PTA-related news, I finally found a vice-president–a very nice kindergarten parent, who has no idea what she’s getting into (oh, those were the days!). The corresponding secretary recently told me that she and her family are moving to another state at the end of the school year. But for a brief few months this year, we had a full slate!

May 27, 2008. the joys of PTA. 5 comments.


So it was Back-to-School Night tonight. There was a great turnout, I’m happy to say–it was standing room only. When I got up to do my presidential bit, I had the ESL teacher translate into Spanish, so all the parents could understand. I’m not that used to speaking using an interpreter, and I kept forgetting to stop so she could keep up. But I did succeed in getting one of the bilingual parents to agree to interpret at future meetings, which was great. I think that people appreciated it.

I also found a volunteer to do web design, someone to translate flyers into Spanish, and someone to take pictures at school events, which was like hitting the Trifecta as far as I was concerned.

I was feeling really good about the night. Until…

I was sitting in the Bee’s classroom with a couple of other parents. Landisdad had gone to the first session, so I went to the second (the kids were with us and weren’t allowed to come to the sessions), which was much less well attended–it’s basically for the people who have 2 kids in school–there were only four people there. The teachers were talking about the great student-to-teacher ratio (there’s a teacher, a co-teacher and a student teacher, with 20 kids), and the state testing, which the third graders are subjected to for the first time.

At the end of the session, the only dad in the room made a comment along the lines of, “well, that’s what you get when you let all those Japanese kids into our country–they make our kids have to work harder.”

I had one of those moments where time seems to stop, and I thought, “I can’t believe he said that, I can’t let it go, what the fuck do I say to that, who the hell’s dad is this?, why aren’t any of the parents of color at this session? is anyone else going to say anything” Finally, I blurted out, “well, I have to tell you that my brother is married to a Japanese woman, and I have a couple of half-Japanese nieces and nephews, and I found that remark kind of offensive.”

He snorted at me, and said, “well, it’s supposed to be a compliment.”

Oh. My. God.

Yeah, the waves of Japanese immigrants washing over our shores are sooooo threatening to your tiny ass. Your kid is struggling in third grade because of a group of foreign students who aren’t even represented in this class.

Give me a break.

It’s times like these, I wish I was a quick-witted as Pierre, who I’m sure would have skewered him, filleted him, wrapped him in butcher paper, taken him home and broiled him. Instead, I came home and watched the Chris Rock DVD I got from Netflix this weekend, and wished I could have unleashed Chris Rock on this guy.

The really bad part is, this guy’s kid has been in my daughter’s class for three years, and I never knew he was an asshole before tonight.

September 26, 2007. politically motivated, the joys of PTA. 14 comments.

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