Back-to-School Blues

1765666c072076304c7597a927cec496Back-to-school excitement really starts waning when you have teenagers.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all hip hip hooray that school is in full swing, but what blows is that all the fun rituals you had when they were little are vanquished like the memories of a school day with recess.

The first one to go is the low-stress crayons, colored pencils and scented glue stick school supply shopping list. No more skipping through the aisles at Target looking for a Thomas the Tank Engine pencil-case and buying your teacher a carton of Kleenex along with a half-gallon of hand sanitizer.

Now, the supply list has the Texas Instruments TI84 graphing calculator on it with a price tag of $90.00. Why in the name of my wallet can’t kids just use their cell phones? There’s a free graphing calculator app that they can download. Again, just in case you missed it, I said free.

Let’s do a math word problem here without the aid of any calculator.

Sherry has already spent $50 on school supplies and paid her child’s high school $235 in “learning resource, activity programming, and technology fees.” Would she rather spend $0 for a calculator or $90? If you answered zero, congratulations! You’re a brainiac.

Then there’s the first day of school picture ritual that starts circling the drain as soon as your kid gets too cool to stand still for a photo or in my case your children claim “image privacy rights.” I really messed up this whole social media thing with my kids. I was a late adopter to digital-over-sharing and because I believed I was being a thoughtful parent I started out asking my kids permission before I ever posted a picture of them on social media.

Well, that blew up in my face.

My son, claiming he wants a clean digital footprint, because he’s sure he’ll have a job that requires the “highest security clearance someday,” allows me to post close to zero photos of him. And my daughter asserts that I take “the worst pictures ever” and declines to have me ever share her image. (In her defense I do take horrible photos.)

This means that last week, after seeing hundreds of adorable back-to-school photos on my newsfeed, I had no choice but to resort to posting a hand drawn picture of my daughter. I thought it would be a wake-up call to her. A “look what I have to do because you are such a photo control freak.”

Sadly, my plan of shaming backfired. My daughter took one look at my stick figure artist rendering and chirped, “It’s a huge improvement over the ones you take with your iPhone.”

Sigh.

What I really miss most about the first day of school is no longer reveling in the joy (and sometimes gaming windfall) that is the “Muffins and Mom” coffee (later changed to Parents and Pastries as a “reflection of our current parenting demographic” or at least that’s what the PTA flyer said.) This is where moms gather in the cafeteria after handing their kids off to their new teacher and catch up with each other about what they did over the summer.

The best thing about my back in the day Muffins and Mom experience was the over-under on what mom would be fake crying the most about school starting. Much like some people do fantasy football teams, about 20 moms would meet a couple of days before school started and get their bets on who would be the biggest boo hooer, who would have the newest boobs, and who would announce they were “taking a break” on the marital front.

After a couple of years we had to change the boo hooer bet to “second biggest boo hooer” since it was too easy to pick who would be the boo hoo queen. The same mom always won and it even seemed scripted. She would enter the cafeteria late, always clutching a handful of Kleenex, and then she would work the room going from mom to mom apologizing for sobbing and then blubber about how she’s going to “miss her baaaabies.”

Fast forward to when I had a child in third grade and the betting pool hit a trifecta. That big boo hooer had the newest breast augmentation and was on a marriage “time out.” Jackpot!

Maybe that’s what I need to do to get over my melancholy of missing those elementary school years — start some kind of new betting pool or game. I’ve got it. Bingo! I can play it this evening at the high school back-to-school night. The center square can be a parent who asks a teacher a question that is really a not so humble brag about their stellar child.

I think I’m feeling better already. 🙂

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – Help Me Say No to the Back-to-School $ Shakedown

Dear Snarky,dear_snarky_logo-1

I’m going through a divorce and money is really, really tight. This has me dreading school starting because as soon as I walk through the door with my kids everyone has their hand out from the PTO to room moms asking for money for school improvements, teacher gift and classroom parties. I need your advice on how to nicely, but firmly say no without sounding pathetic or feeling embarrassed.

Signed, On A Strict Budget

Dear Budget,

You came to the right person for advice. Back in the day I bounced a $10 check to my daughter’s elementary school PTO. Totally not my fault mind you. It was an accounting error.  😉 Now back to you.

My advice is to not be afraid of no. No is not a four letter word. You can use it often and without regret. As in “No, I can’t contribute this year, but I’d be happy to volunteer in the classroom.”

Or “No thank you, I’ve already scheduled my donation to the school.” And you’re not fibbing because your donation could be chaperoning a field trip.

Don’t even feel like you have to follow your no with a “I’m sorry”.

OWN THE NO.

Your basic family needs come before extras like school parties and you have nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. Now go out there and make it a great first day of school.

*If you have a question for – Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude – write me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or send me a private message on my Snarky FB page.

 

 

First Day of School Rules For Parents

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 12.44.44 PMPrayers have been answered! The first day of school is here. Praise the glory that is the number 2 pencil and all hail the college ruled notebook and three-ring binder.

I will admit that starting school in August seems really, really early and I have some guilt issues that I’m this excited to see my daughter go bye-bye for seven, long, beautiful hours a day. But then I remind myself that school ended for us before Memorial Day and presto I’m no longer feeling bad about doing the back-to-school happy dance.

For those of you curious about what my happy dance looks like it’s a combination of a jig with a little Polka influence, then I throw in some Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever disco with a hip hop influence that says, “This girl still got it” and if I’m really feeling it, like my back doesn’t hurt and my knees are making that weird clicking sound (what’s up with that?), I bust out a cartwheel.

I think I look cool doing it. My husband disagrees and says my “dance” is not only incredibly painful for him to watch, but also scares the dogs and rattles the house’s foundation. Whatever. I think he’s just jealous because really who wouldn’t be? When I do my hip hop inspired Running Man move it’s, it’s . . . well, it’s something else that’s for sure.

The only thing that has the power to kill my happy dance is parents who on day one break some very basic back-to-school rules. This is why I, (whose hip now hurts from landing my cartwheel on my butt) in the spirit on continuing education, will now share with you my top four back-to-school rules.

Rule #1 Do not bring the teacher a gift on the first day. I see this happening every year and it’s in a word – awkward. I don’t care if it’s a Starbucks skim mocha latte with extra foam or a cookie cake. (In the yes this really happened department. One year a mom brought a cookie cake to a teacher and the icing was a picture of the teacher’s face. Yikes!)

The whole gifting the teacher on the first day of school says way too many things about the parent doing it. Who’s ready for a pop quiz?

Does gifting the teacher mean:

A) That you’re the worst kind of suck up. 

B) You’re letting the teachers know you’re willing to reward them for favors.

C) You’re a show off and are using the first day as a way to signal to all the other parents that you’re a Super Mom.

D) All of the above

If you picked D go to the head of the class because you just got an A+.

Rule #2 Do not turn the first day of school into a photo shoot featuring your child. I get it some parents want to publish a coffee table book on their kid’s first day of second grade. But don’t be the parent that asks the teacher to participate in your pictorial to such an extent that it’s creating chaos.

When my son was in the fourth grade there was a dad with two cameras (each with a telephoto lens) around his neck directing the teacher as he clicked away. It was all, “Mrs. Williams can you lean in closer to Katie so I can get another angle? “Okay, now I need you to move your head to the right, pick up a textbook and pretend you’re showing it to Katie.” On and on it went until I stood in front of his cameras. (Someone had to do it.)

 Rule #3 Do not have your mom sorority, clique, gossip girl group, whatever you want to call it, block the forward motion of other families walking into the school because your collection of awesome friends have decided to have a “I haven’t seen you since Bar Method class yesterday” reunion in the foyer of the building.

Ladies, please take all that love to the parking lot or cafeteria and let other parents and their children proceed into the school without having to leap over you or accidentally on purpose hitting your Lululemon Hotty Hot shorts (actual name of a Lulu short BTW) with a Marvel Superhero’s backpack.

Rule #4 If you have a position in PTO/PTA or are a room parent that requires the help of volunteers please (and I’m begging you to take medication if you have to) resist the urge to begin your campaign of volunteer shaming on the very first day. Go ahead and put a flyer in kids backpacks heralding “exciting volunteer opportunities for the school year” but for the love of all that is holy DO NOT start guilt tripping or doing any subtle brow beating as in: “Wow, it seems like I never saw you last year? Did you do any volunteering at all?”  OR “Do you think you can make time for (insert your child’s name here) this year.”  But wait there’s more with this goodie – “It would be nice to know if we can finally count on you.” And last, but not least the classic – “Don’t you care about education?”

Now parents let’s follow these rules and make it a great first day!

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a new book out and for a limited time only it’s just 99 cents for a heaping helping of Snark! You are now gazing at the second book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Back-to-School Night: The Teen Years

 

a1e412a1ac370de5ec9c05c9c068bd20There are three primary reasons I go to the high school back-to-school night. The main one is for visual evidence of what the school personnel looks like. So, when a child starts describing their teacher as the devil I can interject that I saw neither horns, cloven hoofs nor a tail when I sat in their classroom for ten minutes.

Another reason is to get an overview of what their day is like. I want to be able to look at my watch and know at 11 o’clock my daughter is in Spanish in the classroom with a view of a courtyard that needs a mega weed and feed application. I’m sure somewhere, in all those abundant and varied school fees I paid for my child to have the privilege of attending a public school, there was a line item for landscape beautification. At the very least the Booster Club should make a trip to Lowe’s.

The other, I’ll call it, lesser reason, I go is to people watch. My first order of business is to enjoy the beauty that is the administrative staff. I know, I have mentioned before, that the principal at the high school my children attend is gorgeous and the assistant principal is just as easy on the eyes. Were they GQ models before pursing a career in education? I’m thinking probably.

You should have seen the line of moms circling these two as they held court in the underclassman locker area. I, not wanting to be that obvious, (because you know talking about it in a blog is totally covert) stood back and took it all in from across the hall.

After that I proceeded to my daughter’s first class and was given a reality check that the more things change the more they stay the same. I went to sit down and was told by two women that the seat I was lowering myself into was being “saved for a friend.” Seriously, grown women are still “saving seats”? Say hello to me time traveling back 30 years and getting told to move from the cool kids lunch table. I, having taken a pledge, administered by my daughter, to “not embarrass her at back to school night” kept my mouth shut and found another seat but I did give them an audible sigh and what I thought was an impressive eye roll.

As the evening progressed I was amused by the parents that still haven’t learned back to school night is all about sitting down, shutting up, gazing at the wonder that is the teacher’s PowerPoint and then continuing on to the next class. This is not the forum to approach the teacher and sing the praises of your “gifted” cherub or, and this maybe my favorite moment of the evening, talk to the Spanish teacher in Spanish about your muy talented “niño.” Can you say show off?

No, I take that back, that wasn’t my favorite moment. My most favorite thing about back to school night is the mixed message you receive from almost every teacher. While they’re churning through their presentation they will tell you that your child must learn to “self advocate” and be “independent.” They said self advocate so much I began to believe they were get paid by some sort of for-profit self advocate alliance to shill for them.

Now, here’s where the mixed message comes in. As you are being told to let kids fend for themselves, to grow, to embrace emerging adulthood you are also given cutting edge tools to stalk their every move. There’s Parent Vue on the school website where you can find out everything from what your kid had for lunch down to the sodium consumption (okay, that’s a very slight exaggeration) to the grade they got on a PE homework assignment. Then there’s Edmodo, which I’m almost certain was set up by a joint task force of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA. Here, you can creep on almost anything your kid does in class so much so it’s almost like your right there with them in Honors English minus the smell wafting in from the cafeteria.

I have no doubt by next semester they’ll have kids wearing heart rate monitors throughout the school day so from home, work, even the grocery store, we can go online and check and see if our darlings seem stressed or if their vital signs are in the normal range.

So, if I may raise my hand and ask a question to the schools out there – which is it? Do you want us to let our kids make mistakes, figure it out on their own and grow in the process or do you want us virtually in the classroom?

This mom needs an answer.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parent Super Powers

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 9.02.43 PMThere’s nothing like kids starting a new school year for me to get back in touch with my inner superpowers that tend to lay dormant in the summer. My superpowers are not unique. In fact, I believe all parents possess these mighty skills. To prove this here’s my list of the top 5 Parental Superpowers that we, as mom and dads, only seem to discover once we send our kids off to school.

 Backpack Psychic: This is the gift of being able to predict exactly how your kid’s day went just by how they’re carrying their backpack. This superpower is enormously helpful for determining your opening afterschool question. Based on backpack placement you either keep it light and chatty or go for it or ask, “Hey what happened?”

Human Clock: It’s not as cool as say, teleportation, but it sure saves you time. Your inner parent clock gives you the ability to forecast exactly when your child will be walking out of the school. School may get out of 2:50 for my daughter but due to my forecasting powers I know to not even leave the house to get her until 2:55. She’ll chat. She’ll stare into her locker for at least 3 minutes and go into a mini trance (much like she eerily gazes into the refrigerator at home and announces after I’ve just spent $130 at the grocery that there is nothing to eat). She’ll chat some more. Finally, she’ll begin to walk out of the school, realize she has forgotten something and then turn around to go back to her locker. All this will take a good 15 minutes.

Due to my timing superpower I arrive at the school precisely when she’s walking out the door. No idling at the curb for me. No waiting in the school pick up line. Just a quick stop and go.

Sleepover Clairvoyance: You know when your child asks you if they can spend the night at a friend’s house and you just instinctively know it’s not to going end well. This is the gift of slumber party second sight. It tells you your kid is too tired or won’t be able to go to sleep or this is the night they’ll get some new phobia. The problem with this superpower is too many of us don’t listen to our gift and give in and you know what that means? Yeah, you’re getting a call at 2 a.m. to come pick up your kid.

Ninja: Not to be sexist but I believe dads may have a little more Ninja in them than moms. This superpower is the ability to show up for any school performance or athletic activity almost to the second when your kid will either be performing or doing some amazing athletic feat.

For example, I will have to sit on the gym bleachers through 20 middle school band numbers until it’s my child’s turn to play her instrument. But my husband breezes stealthy into the gym and as he’s perching his fanny on the bleachers, presto, she’s starts playing.

Same thing for sports. You, as the mom, sit through an uneventful basketball doubleheader and as soon as your husband shows up your kid goes on a scoring spree.

If that’s not a superpower I don’t know what is.

Homework “Spidey-Sense”: Your kids tell you their homework is all done or they’ve studied enough for that test tomorrow and yet you know they need to go back and hit the books without even looking at their math worksheet. The Spidey-Sense is also useful when your child tells you they have no homework and yet you have a feeling, a precognition, there’s a book report due tomorrow.

Batmobile: Okay, so none of us drive the Batmoblie and really that’s a good thing because it was built in 1965 so you know it’s one gigantic gas guzzler and yes, I know it’s a car not a superpower BUT I believe that every mother’s vehicle is equipped with attributes worthy of superpower status.

Take any car driven by woman with a child and you can probably find enough food remnants, juice boxes, half empty water bottles, assorted sports shoes, mate-less socks, first aid supplies, pony tail holders and a rogue beach towel or two to survive, at least, a two-week long zombie apocalypse and in pinch perform a tracheotomy with all those leftover McDonald’s straws.

All I have to say is watch out Marvel Comics. Your list of super heroes is, dare I say, hum drum, when compared to the mighty powers of a parent.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

 

 

Dear Snarky – What If I Hate My Kid’s Teacher?

b13b7a5ce82559faea26a164a45fa70dDear Snarky,

I am freaking out because I’m afraid my daughter will get a bad teacher. Last year, for 4th grade she got the teacher no one ever wants. It was a long year. I thought about asking the principal, multiple times, to get her out of the class but I didn’t want to be THAT mom. Now, I don’t know if my daughter or me can take another year of having the teacher that is horrible.

 Signed, Upset Mom

Dear Upset,

The good news is the odds are in your favor that your daughter will probably get a teacher she loves. Yes, every so often, you will get a teacher that isn’t a good fit for your child but that doesn’t happen every year and if it does you may need to look in the mirror and not at the school.

 That said, if you do get a teacher that you fear, using fact not emotion, (some emotion is fine – your mom gut should never be discounted) is going to be a train wreck then by all means swiftly swoop in and get your child into another class.

In my long-term parenting career only one time did I request to have one of my children change teachers. I also didn’t want to be THAT mom so I waited to see if things would get better – they didn’t. Finally, after the winter holiday break my son changed classes and it was a wondrous and beautiful thing. I kicked myself for not doing it sooner.

So, bottom line, if you are 100% (okay, make that 95%) sure your child’s teacher is quite possibly the worst educational match in the history of the ABC’s (gentle snarky reminder – you do not swap teachers so your kid can be with his or her best friend) then request a change early in the school year and know that there’s only so many of the these changes you can make (you are not Goldilocks trying to find the teacher that is “just right”). This means do your homework to assure yourself and your child that the change is needed. 

If you have a question for Dear Snarky email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com

 

 

Liars – All of Them!

1176265_10151814829998130_806107146_nLeave it to the first day of school to bring out the filthy liars in the motherhood community. I guess the scent of newly sharpened number two pencils, the aroma of brand new nylon Jansport backpacks and the essence of Johnson & Johnson Strawberry Sensation Detangling spray somehow manifests itself into a chemical cloud that permeates the nasal passages of all moms with school age children. The potent chemical combo must then travel to the brain cortex and trigger a nervous system response that manifests itself in grown, should know better females, telling great big whooping fibs for a 12 hour period.

We all know what the biggest back-to-school is fib is don’t we? It’s the mother of all fibs. It’s when we share to anyone who will listen, but most especially other moms that our guts are being ripped out, our souls are being shattered, we’re grieving, we are in the deepest, darkest pit of despair because school is starting and we’re bereft imagining a world in which we can not spend every waking hour with the magnificent beings that shoved their way of out of our loins.

Yeah, I get it. The first day of school is emotional. Every year is a milestone. Your kids are getting older. You’re getting older. You’re anxious and maybe a little worried because you want your children to have the most wonderful first day. I’m right there with you. What irritates me is the mompocrisy of women who use this day to over-share that they are “just dying inside” because they’ll miss their kids so much. It’s like a contest and the winner to Best Mom goes to whoever is wailing the most about school starting.

I admit I’m on the other side of that statement. Way on the other side. When my alarm goes off on the first day of school I spring out of bed and do, at the very least, a 60 second happy dance that is so exuberant it scares the dogs and causes the dining room chandelier to swing violently to and fro. I then skip to each child’s room and wake them up with this little song (loosely sung to the tune of Camp Town Races)

“Get up, Get up, Right Away cause Mommy’s happy school starts today.  

 Hurry, hurry and get dressed Lord knows I crave an empty nest.

 Don’t worry about me, be sure to sign up for loads of free extra curricular activities.”

After I see them off to their respective schools. I get back in my mercifully empty car, bow my head in silence and thank the gods of parenting that I made it through another summer with my sanity, somewhat, in tact. I then do a deep cleansing breath, roll down all my windows, crank up the NPR, scream “yahoo” while doing multiple air high fives, and toast the new school year by sacrificing a virgin Diet Coke.

Sadly, I have found over the years that I have to hide my joy or at the very least downplay it. It seems it is bad form to celebrate your liberation from your children. To do so makes one seem (gasp!) less than mother-of -the-year material. I started out this first day of school by being very well-behaved. Inside the privacy of my own home I didn’t conceal my back-to-school bliss. I figured my kids were used to it but I was respectful of their need for some summer closure.

I gave my son a moment alone with two besties – iPad and X-Box. He had a tearful farewell. I told him not to worry about leaving his “friends” unattended for 7 plus hours each day. I promised to go in and dust them every morning and to throw his video game controllers on the floor at least twice around lunchtime so they would still feel right at home. My daughter got choked up when she blew a kiss to the TV remote and thanked it for an amazing summer. I promised her I would light a candle in honor of the Disney Channel. With that done I loaded up and did the drop off and bye-bye.

So far, so good, until I attended a “Mom Coffee” comprised of moms from a wide swath of the neighborhood. Some I knew, others I had never seen before. Unfortunately the mom meet and greet sat me off from the get go. I tried, I swear I did. I smiled, I nodded, I made my “you are so right” parent face, but after 20 minutes I snapped.

I couldn’t take another mother blabbing and using a kleenex as her must have back-to-school accessory to emphasis how sad she was summer was over and her “little munchkins” wouldn’t be with her. Because here’s the deal – the mom doing the most award-winning interruption of “I love my kids more than you because I miss them already” was a total fake.  Her two kids when not enjoying back-to-back sessions of two-week sleep away summer camp or at their grandparents for an extended stay were at my house driving me crazy and I don’t even have children their age. Trust me, I think I saw her kids more than she did.

This is when I trumped the weepy moms fibs with a bigger, better one of my own. I told this group that it was really too bad they were so upset that school had begun because I had seen a recent study, somewhere, that had shown that moms who are the most sad about school starting are the ones that didn’t spend enough quality time in meaningful engagement with their children over the summer and thus their guilt manifests itself into a debilitating, chronic back-to-school remorse.

Oops!

Cue the crap storm. Moms got enraged! Kleenex were flung to the floor and women began to defend their summer schedules and suggest “how dare I question their parenting.”

“Goodness,” I said, (in my best Barney Fife married Miss Goodie Two Shoes voice), “calm down I didn’t write the study, I just saw it and to be perfectly honest I loved it. It validated my parenting philosophy because every year I’m thrilled when school starts.” (And now to toss some hand grenades into the crap storm I add this zinger.) “I’m glad to know it’s because according to scientific research I’m doing an incredible job as a parent.”

Oh-My-God I committed the cardinal Mom Sin I proclaimed that I was better than all these ticked off moms. Even worse, I credited science for the shout out. (So it was made up science, big deal and who’s to say someone out there isn’t really doing a study like that?) Every mom knows that you can’t just announce that you’re kicking butt in the Olympic sport of momdom.

You and a group of friends can boast amongst yourselves how superior you are to other moms but under no circumstances can you proclaim to the world-at-large that you’re a better mom than the mom or moms standing right in front in you. These weepy women, in no way, wanted someone like me to “out mom” them. In their world I wasn’t even a contender.  But, thanks to the Gift of Fib” I had yanked their chain, hard. Score! (Not that I thought I was a better mom. Maybe a mom whose head wasn’t up her ass, but better – well, who really knows?)

As I was enjoying their somewhat suppressed fury the “discussion” took a turn for the worse when one mom wanted to know where I saw the study. “I don’t remember,” I said thoughtfully. “It was some on-line science journal my husband reads.”

Good save, I’m thinking. People will believe my husband reads heavy-duty science stuff, but no one could see me devoting hours to bettering my brain with esoteric journals. To make it sound even more credible I added, “I’ll text him and try to find the link for you.”

One Rhodes scholar piped up, “Are you sure it wasn’t junk science?”

“No,” I quickly replied. “ It was an International Pediatric Educational thing.”

I knew it was time to make my get away before someone took me up on texting my husband for additional information. I thanked my hostess, grabbed another muffin (well really one-third of a muffin since they were of the mini variety) and then went back to the cluster of moms still debating the “study” and said goodbye. I told them I had to run.  I was so busy putting the finishing touches on my family’s “Our summer was so awesome were excited about school party.” 

“Yeah, it’s going to be an amazing evening,” I said.

“Where did you get the idea?” one mom asked like I was incapable of thinking up one of my own.

“Oh,” I get “The Gifted and Talented Mom magazine, don’t you? It’s part of the national G.T. curriculum. You should really check it out.”

(Note: I don’t have a child in G.T.) And with that I sashayed right out the door, really working it, like I thought I was something. In truth my family would be celebrating the first day of school with pizza and cupcakes and complaining, lots of complaining about the teachers that dared to give homework their first day back but really was that any of their business? I think not.

*****For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new Spring/Summer  Snarky line of clothing and accessories. Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.) Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

The Mom Bomb

There are friends and then there are Friends.  I can count my Friends on one hand. These are the people who just don’t have your back. They have your back and are covering it with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.  This is a story of how with the help of one Friend and some Friends-In-Training I (we) took down a teacher and saved a school.  Okay, not the whole school,  a class actually, but that counts for something – doesn’t it?

I must begin by issuing this statement: I love teachers.  My children have been blessed with incredible teachers.  Teachers that have changed their lives.  I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for educators.  Yet, as in any profession there are those who do not bring honor to their vocation.  The bad seed, if you will.

In the field of education, a bad seed is especially virulent.  A teacher has power and the ability to uplift a child or break them.  A broken child may take years to recover from a bad teacher and have wounds they carry for the rest of their lives.  On one very brisk fall day.  A day full of promise. I was started on my path to rid one school from one very, very bad teacher.

The alarm about this teacher began going off even before school began. It didn’t help that this teacher was the only male teacher at the school. So, some in the administration thought the complaining was done by over protective mamas that didn’t want their kids to have a male teacher. Which was totally wrong.

This is the teacher no one wanted, regardless of the gender. This teacher was a train wreck. This is the teacher who you began lobbying to the principal not to get the year before your child even entered that grade.

So, imagine my surprise and horror on the day before school started when I found out that my son had received the school’s “worst” teacher for his teacher.  Had I not volunteered for every fundraiser, was I not on the P.T.A. board, had I not been the room mom the year before so I could suck up to his then teacher to make sure he didn’t get this teacher?  Did I not fill out the “teacher request” form where you couldn’t name the teacher you wanted, but you could describe the “educational environment” that you felt your child learned best in?  And didn’t my description point extremely enthusiastically away from this teacher?

Yes to all of the above.

I was beyond angry.  I was Grizzly bear enraged. So, I did what any of you would have done I marched right into the principal’s office, unannounced, of course, and said as I waved my son’s teacher placement paper in the air, “Are you serious?”

The principal, bike wearing shorts dude that he is, told me to take a “deep cleansing breath.” I gave him the look that has been known to cryogenically freeze a man’s genitalia (at least that’s what two former boyfriends and a former boss has told me) and said, “We’ve got a problem.”

The principal tried to explain to me that some kids had to get “that” teacher and my son’s former teachers thought he could “handle it just fine.”  Ugh, I got the point that some kids did have to get “that” teacher.  But why, did the school even have a teacher that no one wanted to “get?”  That to me was the unacceptable part.  I left his office, but not until he agreed that if after the first six weeks of the school year I felt that my son’s educational growth was not being served adequately by “that’ teacher he would be moved into another class.

That evening, my husband got to hear me moan and groan about what happened.  His take is always a little different from mine. He thought I was “over thinking” (male speak for hormonally charged thought process) the whole teacher thing.  His point was, “When we went to school our parents never changed our teachers.  I don’t think my parents even knew my teacher’s name.  Just let it go.  It could work out just fine.”

Now, I know he does this in an attempt to talk me off the ledge, and yes, it does make me want to get off the ledge so I can strangle him.  But, I had to take his advice.  School started the next day and as far as my son was concerned it was all happy, happy, joy, joy.

Things did not begin well that first day.  I walked into the 3rd grade classroom with my son, were both loaded up with school supplies, and there is Mr. “that” teacher.  He’s a middle-aged, pasty-faced goober with a receding hairline, a gut and a toothpick in his mouth (not kidding) reclining all the way back is his chair, feet on his desk, wearing some athletic shorts and giving all who walk in an eyeball of dingy underwear.

This loser didn’t posses the basic home training skills to be standing upright to meet his new students and parents (or to use bleach when he washed his unmentionables).  Parents were walking over to him, offering him their hand to shake and introducing themselves as he stayed reclined in his chair. Unbelievable.

But, then it dawned on me that he knew exactly what he was doing.  It was a power play.  An obvious and early “F” you to the parents. I got my son settled at his desk, grabbed some pencils to sharpen, and it took an enormous amount of self-discipline not to accidentally on purpose kick his chair en route to the pencil sharpener so he would fall out of his “recliner.”

I, also, noticed that the classroom was not even decorated.  It wasn’t all back-to-school cute with bulletin boards with fall themes and the Presidents’ heads on the wall it was plain and just a little stinky.  Like it needed a couple of Frebreze plug-ins.  I took some pictures of my son at his desk and then it was time to leave.

Oh, how I didn’t want to leave my son in that room.  I wanted to grab his still almost little hand and run out the door and begin home schooling.  Okay, I can do this I told myself and I did have home-schooling as my escape pod, so I patted my son on the back and walked out of the classroom.

Stories about Mr. “that” teacher began to come home everyday and me and the other moms with kids in the class began to share notes.  It was the phone tree of doom.  One month into the school year I had enough of all the phone calls and school pick up and drop off bitching and decided to host a meeting of concerned parents at my home one morning after school drop off.   Mimosas would be served.

First on the agenda was listing out our “classroom issues.”  The list was lengthy.  Topping it was the fact that Mr. “that” teacher didn’t teach.  He put the kids in pods with worksheets for the day where they were encouraged to teach each other.  He described it as team building.  Meanwhile, Mr. “that” teacher sat at his desk playing video games on his laptop brought from home.

His pod teaching method meant that our kids would come home everyday with a stack of worksheets they didn’t understand and couldn’t finish in class.  So, in essence all of us parent were home-schooling as we spent several hours each day after school teaching our children what was in the worksheets.  It was like they had a 10 hour school day. That’s pretty long for an eight year old.

Even worse in my book was his method of dealing with the students.  Mr. “that” teacher had a demeanor that was abusive. He was a bully.  He would pick on the kids and give them nicknames.  My son was “Geekatroid.”  He also called a chunky kid “Hungry,” a super skinny kid “Mr. Invisible.”  You get my point.  Plus, it led to all the kids calling each other these awful nicknames.  It was all very Lord of the Flies.

Add in his classroom control which was threatening and you had a 3rd grade under siege.  Based on data, sweet talked from the school secretary,  “that” teacher’s class had the highest absentee rate of students and his class had the highest percentage of kids that went to the nurses office with stomach and headaches.  It was so bad that if my son called me from the nurses office with the code phrase “extreme stomach cramps.”  I knew it meant he was having an awful day at school and needed to come and rescue him – stat.

We made our list and then decided step two would be to have a conference with the school principal, present the list of grievances and demand some action be taken.  This is where we had some drop off in participation.  It’s one thing to show up at someone’s house and do the snack and bitch.  It’s another to sign your name to a document and show up to a meeting.

Out of the 14 mom’s in attendance only six would sign the grievance list and only three of us volunteered go have a meeting with the principal.  And I knew that at least one of the 14 mom’s currently enjoying my hospitality would go tattle on us to “that” teacher by the end of the day.  I adjourned my meeting, called the principal and requested a meeting with him the next day and then prepared to stake out my son’s classroom to see which mom would pull a Judas and betray us.

Thirty minutes before the bell rang I positioned myself in the library where I had a clear view of the door into my son’s classroom.  Bingo – at exactly 2:57, three minutes before the bell rang I spied a mom walking into the classroom.  I tip toed out of the library and there she was a mom I call “Fakey Face” for her way of sucking up to everyone and then cataloging everything you say for use in her flagrant lying rumor mill.

You know the type.  It’s all “Oh hi, I’ve missed seeing you.  Did you have a good summer? Did you guys take a big vacation this year?  No, you didn’t?  You just stayed here and had fun.  Good for you?”

From the innocent tidbit that your family choose not to take a summer vacation she’ll start her faux concerned routine and start spreading gossip by asking other moms questions like, “Is Snarky okay, because I talked with her today and I think her family is having financial problems?”

That’s all it takes, one pick up and drop off cycle for all the moms at school to think your family is the economic dumpster. How does no summer vacation equal house foreclosure?  So, that’s a long way of saying I wasn’t surprised in the least to see Fakey Face giving us up.  I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I didn’t’ have too.  I then saw Mr. “that” teacher strutting to the principal’s office to do what I’m sure was a preemptive strike on our meeting tomorrow.

Our meeting with the principal went just like I thought it would.  He politely listened to our concerns by nodding his head a couple of times and saying hmm, a lot. He took our list and said he would look into it immediately and then asked each of us to fill out a district complaint form on the teacher.  I said I would gladly fill out the form, but would it do any good, because I’m guessing his file probably has dozens of complaint forms in it already.  I then cut to the chase and said, “What does it take to get rid of a teacher?  A lot apparently.

Basically, my take away was as long as the teacher isn’t touching the child inappropriately you’re looking at a long drawn out process. What good is No Child Left Behind, I ask you,  if you can’t leave a few teachers behind? I know some of you are thinking, “Girlfriend I would have gone into that meeting with a lawyer and threatened to sue the district.”

Good point. But, the whole attorney thing had been tried and nothing came of it.  Yes, parents got their kids moved, but “that” teacher was still there.  Me and the two other moms leave the meeting feeling like we let our kids down and we were all on the fence about filling about the district complaint form.

All three of us had younger kids working their way through the school.  What if the teachers got ticked off that we filed a complaint against one of their coworkers? That’s a big deal. Would they hold it against our kids?  We didn’t want our younger ones to suffer down the road.  We all said goodbye and went home to lick our wounds.

Whenever I can’t think, I vacuum.  As I was going back and forth over my wool family room rug, (that sheds worse than any dog I’ve ever owned – what’s up with wool?) it came to me – a plan.  Really, it was a flash of brilliance.

We would get rid of this teacher and we would do it by dropping a Mom Bomb on his toothpick sucking self.  I celebrated my genius by finishing off an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy.  I had earned it. (Yes, I can eat that many cookies.  It’s one of my superpowers.)

After finishing the Chips Ahoy I got busy.  I called the two moms that had gone to the principal’s office with me, my Best Friend who did not even have a child in 3rd grade, but had two restraining orders against her (filed unjustly) so you know she’s bringing some serious heat and angry management issues and two other moms who last year had kids in that class and were still eating bitter for breakfast. Excellent.  As we all know bitter is powerful fuel and I intended to throw a kerosene soaked match on it.

In total, six moms were in and payback was just days away.

The Plan

Have you noticed, my friends, that since we’ve become moms society at large, even other moms, underestimate us. When we’re in our work environment we get taken seriously, but take off your heels, put on your mom uniform of choice (my go to is track pants and tennis shoes)  grab a kid and you’re nobody.  We’re all just clumped into the “soccer mom” category.

This is a huge mistake and insulting. Just because we have school aged children doesn’t mean our life is all mini-vans and cutting orange slices for soccer snacks.  We’re educated, accomplishment women.  Everyone needs to back off on the soccer mom label because we all know it’s just 21st century code for housewife. To lump a significant portion of  the population into that category is to grossly underestimate us and one does so at their own peril.  We are the multi-tasking, sleep deprived, masters of the universe.

I was planning on using that underestimation, to begin my reign of terror on “that” teacher.  I laid out my plan the next morning.  After school drop off my operatives reported to my house.  Upon entering I had to call for a vow of silence. Nothing could be leaked.  I also ratted out Fakey Face so the other moms could send laser beams of disgust her way. I do so believe in sharing.

The plan, as I saw it, was perfect. The brilliance was in the simplicity.  We were not going to do anything considered illegal in either civil or criminal court and it was very lady like, very mommish.  We were going to stalk “that” teacher every hour of every school day.

Moms are experts at stalking.  We’ve been stalked by our children since birth. How many of us have never gone to the bathroom by ourselves since having a child?  Our school has an open door policy with parents.  We are welcome to observe in any classroom everyday and “observe” we would do. I had taken a notebook and wrote on it in very large print “Documentation.”  All of us would start out by taking a couple of hours during the week to sit in the back of his class and write down anything we wanted in the notebook.

I didn’t care if it was a grocery list.  We just needed to look very busy and troubled as we wrote in the notebook.  When another “volunteer” would come into to class we would make a big deal of handing off the notebook and doing some serious whisper action.  Also in my stalkerazzi arsenal were the tools that said “good mommy, great school volunteer.”

I’m on the yearbook committee so my camera would be used to take pictures of him.  Another mom did the school year-end video.  We would set up her video camera just to tick him off and record his class. We also would use the P.E. volunteer stop watch to obnoxiously time his student interaction and then write it down dramatically in the documentation notebook.

“That” teacher would not even receive peace from us at lunch.  The teacher’s lounge and the workroom were combined so we would stalk him to the lounge and make copies of something during his lunch.  The only way he could escape us is the restroom.  But I had that covered too.

The teacher restroom is the only adult size potty in the place so whenever we saw him going in we would stand outside the door and knock and politely ask him “if he would be done soon.”  Imagine the horror of having moms, who you know hate you, following you around every second of your work day. Surprisingly no one balked at the time commitment and we were ready to drop the Mom Bomb the next day.

I was the first one to begin the stalk-a-thon.  I arrived with my son to class, plopped myself down in the one adult chair in the back of the room and made a big deal about getting out my notebook.

“That” teacher immediately came over to me and asked “What I was doing?”  I looked at him all sunshine and smiles and said in my best “Go Team” cheerleader voice, “Just observing.”

“Oh, okay,” he said.  “For how long?”

“Golly, I don’t know. I don’t have much going on today I thought I just might spend the day here. I’ll see how I feel after lunch.”

He snorted at me.  It was once of those man snorts that say, “We’ll see about this.”  At lunch time he went into the principal’s office and tried to get me ousted.  The principal came up to me and asked to “have a word.”  “By all means,” I replied grinning.

“Goodness gracious” was my response after the principal wanted to know what I was up to and then I did my version of the mom bully.

“Does it or does it not state in the school handbook, that you, yourself, wrote, that parents are allowed to observe in the classrooms at all times, expect during state testing.  That, in fact, all we need to do is sign in at the front desk and get our visitor badge. Well, I’ve got my badge and I’m not leaving.”

I then excused myself and started making copies in the lounge/workroom as “that” teacher ate his lunch.  After five minutes he ducked into the bathroom where I, 20 seconds later, knocked on the door and asked if he would be out soon.

“That” teacher spent all week trying to shake the six of us. He complained some more to the principal, had a temper tantrum about the video camera, the still camera and the stop watch.  We went all “mom” on the principal.

“Wow, we’re just taking pictures for the yearbook and so sorry about the video camera, but we have to have footage for the year-end video.”

As for the stop watch. “We just have it to help time those multiplication tests.”

He had a fit about the three moms that were “observing” that didn’t even have kids in the class.

Once again, I told the principal, who tried to oust them, that he needed to check that handbook he wrote.  It never says you can only observe in the class you have kids in.

“That” teacher also tried to give us volunteer tasks to get us of out the room.  Our response, “Um, no thank you.  I’m fine sitting here.”

I’m sure it was killing him that he had to put up his lap top and attempt to interact with his students.  I even got him busted for bringing a non-district approved computer to the school. I was all, “Oh my, what if the students got a hold of it.  That would be real shame and what good are rules if the teacher, the role model, doesn’t follow them.”

“That” teacher turned out to be a big baby. One of those men that can dish it out to 8 and 9 year olds, but can’t take it when it’s handed right back to him. By week two he started sweating profusely and got the shakes. By week three he started taking sick days.  By week five he had depleted all his sick and personal days.  By week six he was on extended personal leave.  By week 8 we had a full-time substitute, “Mrs. Delightful,” who was a wonderful teacher and excited about finishing the school year with “such an awesome group of third graders.”

By the next school year “That” teacher had transferred to a desk job in the administration building. Hopefully, he will never darken the door of a classroom again.  We have intell on him, just in case.  Do I look back and have any guilt about causing a middle-aged man to have a nervous breakdown?  No.  The Mom Bomb is a regret free explosive device.