Detox Starts Today

5 days after Christmas.  If I have to do any of the following before next year (though next Spring would be too soon) I may disappear into the woods behind the house and build myself a crude hut out of all that firewood we can’t burn because we don’t have a fireplace, people! and stop showering and shaving.
  • Go to the grocery store.  Again. (Seriously, 6 days in a row.)
  • Put out any more money.  Because the Bank.  Is Empty.
  • Even lookat my Kitchen Aid mixer.
  • Drive.  ANYWHERE.
  • Pick up stray dog food particles, which multiplies like fleas.
  • Bake.   ANYTHING.
  • Answer the phone.  Really, it’s never for me anyway. Unless it’s the pharmacy. Or Publishers Clearing House.
  • Answer the front door.  Because last night, during family celebration #3, a very nice man from a solar energy company surprised us on our scheduled appointment Todd made last week that neither of us remembered.
  • Do one more load of laundry.  Where DOES all this clothing come from?  Has no one else ever heard of wearing the same pair of pants until they’re actually dirty?
  • Try to squeeze myself into clothing that no longer fits. (No further explanation needed.)  

Even the kids are toast.  It’s 1:52 p.m. and neither one of them has left their room for more than 5 minutes, and only then to make like mice and sneak into the kitchen to steal food.  The cat is under the Christmas tree.  Pi is in her bed – thankfully no longer sick with the doggie version of the stomach bug, but still on antibiotics for a lesion she won’t stop biting at.  Sabra – the neurotic brown poodle – is pacing around periodically, staring me down, probably confused by the lack of people and commotion in the house.  She’s adding to my anxiety, and I’m off my meds again because I can’t be expected to remember to request a refill before the holidays.  At least she’s stopped doing the deep, rapid swallowing thing that makes me want to throw her outside FAST.

There is much to do, and I don’t wanna do it.  The restaurant needs New Year’s Eve desserts that no one bothered to determine until TODAY.  Because I am really just sitting on my ass perusing Facebook and eating those Godiva truffles my parents gave me last night.  Right.  I did vacuum, because there was unidentifiable debris throughout the house that I got tired of stepping on with bare feet.  But soon enough Pi will come out for a nibble and will likely develop that cough that will spray food all over the tile.  (This is a favorite of hers – guaranteed to have me curled up in a corner sucking my thumb before the day is done.)  And if that doesn’t do it, the toilet in the kids’ bathroom will have me swinging from the ceiling fan singing Let It Go, because you really didn’t think I’d get through the holidays without a plunger, did you?

Have a drink, you say?  I’ve BEEN drinking.  There hasn’t been a single day without alcohol since Thursday the 18th, and I think I’ve finally hit the summit of my tolerance.  I just threw what was likely the 12thmagnum of Malbec into the recycling bin and I’m glad.  There’s no shame in this.  And that bottle won’t be lonely in the company of Luksusowa and a bottle of champagne stepmom and I polished off last night.

I have to work tomorrow night.  In 26 years, I’ve had off no more than 3 or 4 New Year’s Eves.  Don’t be sad.  I’d really rather be working, than be the drunk lady with the balloons tied to her ears screeching out Auld Lang Syne.  It’s far more entertaining to watch the action – especially from the safety behind the bar, where they can ask but they can’t touch – and more fodder for this amateur writer.  (Of course, given the choice of mixing close to a thousand cocktails in a 4-hour window or chilling on the couch at home alone with Todd – I’d still pick Todd and the couch.)  

So, my detox starts today.  No more wine.  No more vodka.  No more 100-year-old Grand Marnier (which could be gone inside of a week if I keep going at the present pace).  No more homemade mac and cheese, or challah French toast, or Christmas cookies, or cheese and jalapeno covered nachos, or peppermint bark.  No more heartburn (damn you, middle age!).  No pet vomit to clean up (though Sabra did an excellent job of cleaning up the cat’s 2 nights ago).  No more wrapping paper (really – I found a piece behind the couch today from Christmas morning).  And the next kid who complains about the toilet is getting handed a plunger.

No more.  I’m done.
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A Birthday Poem

Today is the day.
Your birthday is here!
No matter how old,
You’ve still got it, dear.

I remember the day
We made eyes at each other.
You in your Prince shirt,
And me, in another.

Your rich and dark eyes
Drew me in like a vacuum.
I fell fast, I fell hard
On my poor little sacrum.

Though today I am old,
Don’t remember our first date
I remember all your kisses,
And at the prom what we ate.

We rode around in your car
Racing flies and small birds,
Losing mufflers in yards
Where they called you a turd.
(Though that man was quite angry
And used a much different word.)

We had dates and t0ok walks
To the rocks and the park,
Saw Ferris Bueller and Rocky,
And made out in the dark.

We hung out with friends.
We hung out alone.
You smoked cigarettes,                                                                             
But we never got stoned. 
                                                             
Valentines we gave cards
Filled with promises and love
I wore that pink lacey thing
And your heart, like a glove.

You gave me your jacket,
A heart necklace, your ring,
Some Machiabelli cologne,
And other sweet things.

We had lots of great talks
Where we talked a whole lot.
We shared all our secrets,
And one night not forgot.

In your car we would ride
With me laughing, you singing
Bon Jovi and Dokken
Until ears were ringing.

There was Fourth of July,
Fireworks and the fair.
And the smell of the leather
That you always would wear.

It was sad, oh so sad
When we said goodbye
A whole river was made
On the tears that I cried.

But fate had big plans
Yes it did, just for us,
Though it wouldn’t be easy,
There was much to discuss.

They tried to break us again,
Though we’d planted the seed
As nothing could stop us,
No nothing, indeed.

All it took was your voice
And the sight of your eyes
To know I was yours
And there’d be no more goodbyes.

The smell of your skin,
The touch of your hand,
Memories once buried
Now cherished and grand.

Love grew again
As we moved right along.
We connected over jokes,
And lyrics to songs.

And not before long,
You forever changed my life.
You gave me a ring
And you made me your wife.

Now one together,
I love who you are
You’re always with me
Whether you’re near or far.

You are brainy and smart,
Quick-witted and funny.
You know when to be serious
And when to hold your honey.

Now today I thank God
For all that I have and for you.
Now I smile at the memories
And no longer feel blue.

For I stand beside you
Give you all of my heart
Because it was you who has
Owned it right from the start.

I Took One For The Team, I Think?

I took one for the team last night.  I’ve been as vocal as anyone on Facebook about my feelings surrounding this Common Core Math we’re doing.  I’ve been watching – and participating in – the many posts degrading it as stupid and ridiculous, accusing it of dumbing down our kids and/or turning them into sheep.  I’ve been particularly concerned by my own attitude – because every time I look at this math and don’t know where to start, my instinct is to curse and complain and in frustration tell my daughter I can’t help her because I don’t understand it.  My tantrums aren’t helping her learn.  And I realized I didn’t want to be responsible for turning her off of math, or giving her an excuse not to try harder.

But first – let me preface by saying that long before we moved here, before I ever heard the words “Common Core,” Todd would tell me how great the education system was in Maryland by comparison to PA.  I did a bit of research on the matter and found Maryland to be ranked #1 by Education Week for the last 5 years.  This year – 2014 – Maryland cannot hold that claim, since this “most comprehensive ranking of the nation’s schools” has stopped ranking states, but still ranks among the top-performing schools in the country.  Just for kicks, I also looked up PA’s rank last year – 2013 – since my kids were still being educated there at that time.  PA ranked 18th.  Here’s a link to the report: 2013 State Report Cards.

I have not been disappointed by the education my kids are getting thus far.  I am, however, somewhat concerned by my daughter’s grades – especially this year – as they seem to cover the spectrum from A to E with no predictable pattern.  I don’t know if this is a flaw in the system, or a reflection of my daughter’s ability to take tasks seriously and focus.  We’ll be watching this.

Anyway, back to the classroom.  This year the 4th grade teachers sent home a math packet for the year, called Partners for Student Success (yeah – who are they kidding?), outlining concepts they will be learning in each unit, as a guide for parents as we navigate the slippery math slope together.  I looked it over.  The concepts looked familiar.  Nothing I haven’t seen before.  So far so good.  But that’s where the familiarity ends.

Each week a homework paper comes home, where the concepts they are learning over the week are laid out.  Since the material is simultaneously being taught, she has until the end of the week to complete it.  This is where things go south really fast.  It’s not enough that the techniques for solving the problems elude me.  Ava needs someone to sit with her through each and every problem.  And then she acts like she has no clue whatsoever about what we’re doing.  For me – a self-professed math hater – this is maddening.  It’s the simple stuff, like confusing subtraction and addition… or guessing an answer that is right there in front of her.  Imagine asking someone, what is 5 x 5?  and their answer is um,  I don’t know5? No – 20! Wait, 10?  See where I’m going with this?

Along came a paper one day, announcing Parents Math Night.  I was all in.  I couldn’t wait to see what they’ve been teaching them and how.  I couldn’t wait to sit in a room with other confused parents like myself.  I expected to hear some complaints.  I was anxious to hear other parents decry the death of “old school” math.  I wanted to see this Common Core from my daughter’s position, as the student.  I wanted to give it a chance, or laugh about how ridiculous it all is.  I was bracing for the blog post of the year.

This night was divided into grades – each meeting in a different classroom – and there were 2 sessions.  Which, by the way, was a good idea seeing as how it was scheduled on the same night and time as the middle school conference night. 

So I went.  I chose the 2nd session since I had planned to attend the aforementioned conflicting event.  I arrived just as the 1stsession was finishing up.  There were maybe a dozen parents in there.  In my session there were three.  Including me.  Wait – there were 2 including me, until a dad walked in about halfway through.  THREE.  Add that to the 1stsession, and that’s about 15 – for the entire 4th grade.  Out of x-number of 4th graders, only fifteenparents who had the time to come and were as confused by Common Core math as the rest of the nation and have kids who don’t have a clue either. So, does that mean the rest of them are doing fine?

Nevertheless, the four 4th grade teachers essentially conducted a lesson on the current topics – area models for multiplication, partial products method for multiplication, and area models for division.  I had helped Ava with her homework for half of this stuff the previous week, and had viewed the links provided by the teachers, so I understood what they were demonstrating to us – the parents.  But – and feel free to cringe along with me – they also asked us what the answers were as they went along.  I found myself catapulted back to my own school days, when being called on in math class was a fate worse than death.  BUT – this time I knew the answer.  I waited for the other mom to speak up.  She didn’t.  Coward.  So then, not wanting the teachers to feel bad – I answered the questions.  And felt my face redden (I hate this).   Lord.  I was relieved when “dad” finally showed up, so he could take some of the heat.  Which was a good thing, because they lost me about halfway through the division part and apparently I lack a poker face because the teacher says aloud, “I see confusion?”  Shit.  Red face redux. 

And again, back to my school days – where the last thing I wanted to do was raise a hand and say I don’t get it, because I already knew I wasn’t going to get it, and no amount of explaining was going to get me there – and especially not in front of a room full of my peers.  So, 20-odd years later… I smiled and said, I’m just taking it in slowly.  What?! Wtf was that?  Who says that?  And then I looked down at my white puffy coat on my lap and noticed the cuffs were black.  OMG – I need to wash this coat. It’s filthy.  So embarrassing.  And my brain is off and running – far, far away from math.  Just like the old days.

I posted on Facebook before I left that I was “taking one for the team,” and now here I am ruminating over a dirty winter coat I just yanked out of the back of the closet, and trying not to chew on my cuticles after I just got done telling Ava’s teacher that Ava has a bad habit of biting her nails, and feeling that old familiar, primal need to be invisible in math class.  But the most shocking part of the evening?  I actually understood what they were saying.   It made sense to me.  ME.  The girl who couldn’t make the honor roll for 3 years because of math, whose Algebra teacher in 9th grade told her mother she would never need math anyway because she was – wait for it – a girl, and who took 3 math classes in college just to qualify for a degree (there’s a story behind this one – for another day).

It actually made sense.  The teachers explained to us how the processes these kids are using to get to the answers are actually helping them understand HOW they get the answers.  It made sense to me.  And, on the drive home, I found myself wondering whether I would have done better in math had I taken Common Core.  Yes – I really just said that.   Because I’m such a blockhead in math, perhaps a more convoluted method may have actually penetrated the atrophied left hemisphere.  However, being old school and not a great proponent of “change,” I still wonder what the hell was wrong with the old way?  At least then we’d actually be able to help our kids without getting angry (at Common Core, and the government, and – what the hell – Obama, cause everything is his fault anyway, right?), and without having to watch math videos since many of us don’t have time for that. 

When the dad asked if there would be more math nights, the teachers answered that it was something they’re hoping to do.  I don’t know – I hope they don’t base their decision on this attendance.  I don’t know how many showed up for the other grades, but judging by the look of the parking lot, I’d say not many.  Which is disheartening.  We have 698 students in the elementary school, and less than 20% of the parents attended.  How can we complain about Common Core if we aren’t willing to step up and represent?  Anybody can go on social media and bitch – myself included.  Parents need to demand districts to do their part with more parent education nights, or at the very least provide educational links we can access in our own time, dedicated to helping us to be partners in education, not alienated.  And if we want to exact change, we need to address the school board, not shoot the messengers.  Our teachers are charged with a mighty responsibility, and none of them were brought up the Common Core way either. Case in point:  I watched our four teachers drawing up the lesson and more than once one of them would ask the others if they presented it right.  Hmmm.

In summary, while I am grateful for the Parents’ Math Night and am hopeful for others, I am still not a Common Core convert.  I still subscribe to the old adage, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”  Our kids were all doing just fine.  My son, who is in the 8th grade (and, admittedly, a math wizard), has looked at Ava’s homework as perplexed as me.  His words – “it looks like they’re trying to make it more complicated.”  I agree.  And it’s way more time consuming.  But, at the same time, I get what they’re trying to do.  Is it necessary?  Will it really reach more children and promote better understanding and foundation for the more advanced concepts imminent in middle school?  Only time will tell.