Saturday, October 25, 2008

Playing with the Big Boys

Don’t tell me you’ve never had the urge to do something completely taboo. I don’t mean something like burping after dinner with your in-laws. I mean something like burping in your pastor’s face and saying, “Yum—repeat spaghetti!”
For instance, when I see a butt crack, I have the almost overwhelming desire to drop something into it—a pencil, a quarter, dirt, whatever. I’ve never done it because I don’t want to be a social parasite, but I always feel like I’m on the edge of giving in.
The other day at the gym I walked by a full-bellied, gorilla-hairy man doing bench presses. I know about the hair because his shirt didn’t cover his midriff. In fact, not much would cover it because he had quite a gut. I don’t mean a six pack; I mean more like a keg. While walking by, I suddenly saw myself reaching out to tickle his stomach hair. I threw in a “goo goo goo goo goo” and the picture in my head made me burst out laughing. I probably destroyed his confidence for months; he’ll quit going to the gym and die of heart disease because some random chic at mocked him. Only I wasn’t mocking him. And obviously I didn’t actually tickle him, but I really, really wanted to.
At least once a week I have to stop myself from creating mayhem. I’m guessing other people think the same things. So, what socially unacceptable things would you like to do?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Makin' You Spend Your Dough

You’ll be glad to know our local school district has figured out a new way to raise funds. Here’s what we’ve had traditionally: bake sales, book fairs, Papa John’s Night, McTeacher Night (yes, exactly what you're thinking: teachers flipping burgers at Mickey D’s), popcorn sales, wrapping paper sales (?!), cookie dough sales and 5k’s. Now, we’ve gone straight for advertising. On the school bus. Bank One, it would seem, sponsors the route around our neighborhood. I know this because they have a lovely blue and white sign painted directly on the yellow school bus.
Now, I could say that advertising has no place in a public school system. I could make the case that children believe what they read/hear/see, and so we ought to keep that out of the realm of the place where they get most of their indoctrination: schools. I could argue that once we allow corporations into the school systems, we’ll be well on our way to imbedded advertising, which is so sneaky, so under-the-radar that kids won’t pick up on it. They’ll only know that Mrs. Clementine really loves her double lattes from Starbucks and Mr. Roadrunner only wears Nike. But I’m not going to go into any of that.
Here’s what I think: if they were smart, they’d get advertising that the parents really care about. Honestly, are you going to switch to Bank One because they painted a sign on the bus? No, you’re going to think that’s the stupidest thing the banking system has done. Well, that and the whole destruction of the economy thing.
So, we don’t care about banks on buses. But picture this: you’ve just dropped Jimmy and Janie off, you’ve got a million errands to run and somehow you’ve got to find time to get to the grocery store. If the bus reminds you that Albertson’s offers home delivery and you can shop in your ratty bathrobe, you might take them up on the offer. Or, if you’ve had a stressful morning because Christie found a new zit and Christopher just mentioned that his science fair project appeared to be taking over the fridge, and the bus reminds you that your local spa offers ½ hour get-away-from-it-all massages with Michel, you might ignore the growing thing in your GE and head for the spa. Or what about babysitters? Picture an ad for Nanny McPhee, English Governess Extraordinaire, with references, available at a moment’s notice. You might spontaneously hire her to take the baby so you can spend the day at the spa while Albertson’s delivers the groceries. Things people care about, that’s all I’m sayin’.
Besides, should banks really be spending money on advertising right now? Shouldn’t they be doing something larger, like shoring up failing financial institutions? Under my mattress has never looked so safe.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Room Mother Throw Down

I didn’t volunteer. I’m so over that. For the Kindergartners, there wasn’t a problem. All the 1st time parents get excited about each milestone, so there’s no dearth of volunteers. In one school we attended, fistfights actually broke out over the honor of being titled Room Parent (which is a stupid PC term. Have you ever had a Room Dad? I didn’t think so.) But by 4th grade, we’ve had our fill of wrapping mummy hotdogs, frosting multi-colored Christmas cookies and cutting Valentine’s hearts out of red fruit roll-ups. We’ve competed for Best Mother in the School and been found lacking. So, we quit en-masse. Which is why I got an email earlier this year. “Mrs. Mama? Um, no one else in the entire fourth grade volunteered to be room mother for any of the classes. So we were wondering if, um, you’d please do it again this year? Just for your daughter's class? Please? Or we’ll start crying?”
I was tempted to let the entire PTA burst into tears and film it as a documentary, but then I made a mistake. I showed weakness. They must have tried every alternative if my “minimalist” approach last year didn’t convince them to find someone else. And when they saw me falter, they moved in for the kill. They reminded me that I love kids when they’re at school parties.
They failed to remind me that I hate the parents. Actually, I haven’t had any problems with parents in my class. But I’ve had problems with other room mothers. Turn back the hands of time to the end-of-the year party for 3rd grade…
The 3rd grade teachers inform us 1 week before the end of school that they’d like all 3 classes to combine so that all the 3rd graders can play together. This means working with 2 other room moms. One of them is a good friend, so we had no problems, but the 3rd room mother? I’ll tell you now not to expect any Kumbaya moment. The 3rd RM turned out to be very caustic and dictatorial. She informed me that for our lunch we had to have hot dogs, boiled and kept warm in a crock pot. I started laughing and then realized she seriously thought I’d feed any living human being boiled and crock-potted hot dogs. I wouldn’t willingly feed them grilled hot dogs. I’m certainly not going to make them taste worse! I firmly suggested we each feed our kids in our own classrooms and combine for the games afterward. I had visions of a couple of optional crafts, a couple of optional games involving water, a lot of places for the kids to run around and play their random kid games. But, no, Caustic Room Mom informed me that there would be no crafts. The kids she gave birth to don’t like crafts.
“Fine,” I replied. “I have 9 girls in my classroom, all of whom love crafts. And several of the boys would spend hours gluing pom pons onto paper if we let them. I’ll do crafts for my group and if your kids want to join us, they’re welcome to do so.” She then informed me that she’d get some balls from the PE teacher and have them on the field. ‘Great,’ I thought. Kids like balls. They can come up with a lot of games with balls.
But on the day of the party, she tried to force my kids to participate in, hold your breath, Dodge Ball. Have we not progressed beyond that? And co-ed Dodge Ball? Why don’t we just paint targets on genitalia and give the kids loaded guns? She shot me an evil look when I told my kids, in front of her, that they could choose to play or not, whatever they felt like doing. I think a total of 3 boys from my class participated in her Stupid Game Plan. The girls sat on the ground and, true to form, began creating doll necklaces out of grass and weeds.
So, with joy and elation I greeted the news this year that Caustic Room Mom had agreed to parent a 4th grade class through their parties. We will, once again, be privileged to work side-by-side, if not eye-to-eye. I’m making plans for the end of the year party now. I’m going to train my group on Navy Seal tactics—by the time Dodge Ball becomes an issue, my kids will be able to sneak up on an opponent and blindside him before he even knows the 8 inch ball of death is coming. And as for food, I’m saving my entire budget to buy pizza, which I will have delivered to the field. If I can’t fight her, I’ll at least have the kids in her class so envious that they’ll be begging me to be their room mother next year.