Battle of the Books

cb9c2b1bc0fb978749f9fa347c1c04c2There are many, many reasons I’m glad my tour of duty as an elementary school mother is over. Sure, I enjoyed aspects of having younger children like being able to actually understand their homework. I also loved the field trips and school parties until the sugar police took over and turned school celebrations into a treatise of why food is the enemy. I’m still steamed about the time my Halloween cupcakes, with probably two inches of the yummiest buttercream frosting you’ve ever tasted accessorized with a Nutter Butter cookie dipped in white chocolate to look like a ghost, were turned away at the third grade classroom door for “exceeding the sugar guidelines.” Haters.

Besides the sugar wars perhaps the number one thing I don’t miss about elementary school parenting is Battle of the Books. Because it’s a battle alright . . . between the parents. For those of you not initiated in the ways of turning reading into a competitive bloodsport let me explain. Kids voluntarily sign up to participate in Battle of the Books. Teams are formed and parents offer up their services to be “book coaches.” Each grade level is assigned the same 10 (or so) books to read. Kids on the team pick at least two books they plan to be the “experts” on and study groups are formed so each team is prepared for the book battle which usually takes place a couple of months after the teams are in place.

If you’re thinking this sounds like super, fun, edu-tainment with the added benefit of helping kids hone their reading comprehension and retention skills than you couldn’t be a bigger idiot. Did you miss the “parents as coaches” part? Hello, red flag of doom right there. Like many things that end badly this whole parents as book coaches seems like a decent enough volunteer gig. How hard can it be? You meet with the kids a couple of times a month, feed them a snack, discuss the books and bring on the battle.

Except that’s not how it goes down because being a book coach is a demanding job primarily because you have to read all the books. When I found this out I was stunned. I didn’t want to read some of these books 40 years ago and now not only was I required to read them, but I had to dissect them with a Machiavellian mindset. You see the battle questions are not so much about the story as they are about the most nitpicking details of the book like what color socks a character wore on page 83.

So, when you read the book you have to think about what questions will the Battle Chairperson/Judge ask (who usually is the most OCD member on the PTA board) and then make sure your team knows the answers. This is done by making question and answer sheets for each book. I naively suggested to other book coaches that we share our Q & A sheets that way we (the mothers) don’t have to read all the books. Holy paper cut, you would have thought I suggested that we start a swingers club. The outrage was that intense.

Maybe if I had known that some of these parents had been working on building their battle teams for years I would have kept my mouth shut. Little did I know that battle scouting starts in early elementary school. You’re not looking for the strongest readers, but the children with great memories. So, that kid on the field trip who won’t shut up about baseball stats from 1973 – that’s who want on your team. And if you hear a rumor of a child who might have the tiniest bit of an eidetic memory start your Battle of the Books wooing.

When it comes time for the battle the kids are just psyched to missing class, but for the book coaches it’s game on. These parents are locked and loaded. They know these books better than their child’s soccer schedule. It becomes not a combat between the kids and their novel knowledge, but a battle of wits between the parent coaches and the parent/book quizzer.  Armed with all the books highlighted and flush with Post It Notes the parent coaches are ready to challenge not only questions and answers, but the subtle nuances in the ways the queries are asked and the responses judged.

At this point it’s mom against mom and to the victor goes bragging rights because that’s what’s it’s about, right? A parent’s reading prowess. As I watched all this play out I thought to myself why don’t we just save ourselves a whole lot of time and trouble and just have one quickie meeting where we all share our SAT scores. It sure would be a whole lot simpler and the end result would be about the same.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second 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! 🙂

School Volunteer Emails Scare Me

40d28e075e335d13bb2595f1f6358e68Help. I’m afraid to open my email. No, it’s not that I fear creditors or pleas for rescue in the form of U.S. dollars being sent to a Nigerian prince. It’s school related emails that are scaring me. Worse, than that they’re hurting my feelings. These emails are from parents that are trying to either recruit volunteers or fundraise. The problem is the people sending the emails are masters of the manipulative missive and have turned Sign Up Genius into an act of domestic terrorism.

You would think after all these years of having kids in school I would be, if not immune, than at least have thicker skin concerning email castigations masquerading as a request for volunteers (not that I don’t volunteer. So please no emails telling me if I did volunteer I wouldn’t be receiving said emails). Sadly, that’s not the case and I’m blame the following list of emailers as the reason why.

The worst kind of digital communicator is what I call the Resume Reamer or Serial One Upper. This is when the parent doing the “all call” for volunteers let’s you know, in no uncertain terms, that you’re dealing with a professional. You get a list of their volunteer credentials, including but not limited to chairmanships and board positions, as a shot across the bow that this isn’t their first rodeo.

And in the “I’m not kidding here department.” One time a PTA board member requested parents to submit a resume to “apply for the position of Home Room Mom.” I emailed back asking if they also required a psych evaluation because I thought the PTA board might need one. I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I share I didn’t get selected to be the Second Grade Home Room Mom.

Coming in a very close second is the Guilt Tripper. This person in the first two sentences of the email shares they work full-time, do triathlons, is a lay pastor at their church, HOA president for four consecutive years, fosters squirrels whose habitat has been compromised by urban sprawl and maintains a strict fruitarian lifestyle all while chairing the book fair. Bonus – they’ve typed their email in all caps. I’ve concluded over the years, that this is the passive aggressive way of saying, “Don’t give me any lame excuses about how you don’t have time. Just look at the things I do.”

Here’s some advice. If you want to recruit volunteers don’t start off your email berating the parents at the school. The Scolder doesn’t waste time or mince words about letting you know that the fact they even have to send out an email requesting volunteers is a sign that your Mom card should be pulled. Sure, they don’t write it quite like that, but you can read between the lines and figure out what they’re really saying is that you’re shirking your parental duty by not living up at the school.

The sender of this email is usually a mother who volunteers so much she has her own cubby in the teacher workroom and covers the front office when the school secretary goes on break. When I get one of these it takes everything I have not to reply – get a life.

And while reading an email from the Scolder may seem unpleasant it’s nothing compared to being swallowed up by a message from Ms. Pity Party.

The Pity Party person doesn’t email you a paragraph or two it’s more of a novel about her daily existence, which, spoiler alert is not going well. There’s usually a non-life threatening health ailment like a newly diagnosed dual allergy to the leather seats in her Range Rover and Pottery Barn down comforter, which has resulted in raging insomnia thus explaining the rambling emails that are sent to you at 3 in the morning.

Ms. Pity uses her life issues to exert sympathy into you not just volunteering, but taking over her carpool duties and coaching her son’s eight and under soccer team.

The Shamer is the queen of attempting to make you feel bad about yourself. There’s the opening line in the email that states some shocking statistic about how your kid’s education is going to hell in a handbasket and YOU are to blame. That’s followed by another line about how only a small percentage of parents care and volunteer and then the Shamer goes in for the kill. The classic, “It’s always the same parents we see up at the school day in and day out these are the ones making a difference.”

It takes everything I have not to type back, “that’s because you and your mom posse run off anyone that’s not in your crew.”

I know it’s not easy chairing an event or recruiting volunteers. Believe me I want and do help. All I ask is that your emails don’t make me consider homeschooling as my only method of escape from my not so friendly inbox.

cover_1.3-2 *Attention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second 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! 🙂

 

Undercover Snarky

 It is not humanly possible for me to mind my own business.

Some may call that an immense character flaw. I call it the makings of a great humanitarian. I proudly choose to not live a life of suburban isolation. Instead I choose suburban pot stirring.  So that’s why when a friend of mine asked for help breaking up a PTA coven, instead of saying, “What the hell?”  I said, “Hell yes!”

I meet Eleanor last year. We both had children who were doing a club sport. Which in my neck of the burbs means your child has aged out of playing on neighborhood teams and now seeks to empty your wallet by being on a team that requires “try outs.”

Beware newbie parents of any sport that has a “try out” criteria. It’s code for “this is going to cost you a whole bunch of money.” I’m not kidding about this. One of my (many) money-making schemes is starting some kind of competitive league for something or other like the Blue Ribbon Elite Breathing Society.

All parents (suckers that we are) need to hear is the word elite, select or competitive and we’ll pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of our child being one of the chosen ones. It’s an awesome business venture.  Parents fork out money for the lessons, the league events, the extra training/coaching sessions, the uniforms, travel, registration fees etc. Talk about a cozy little nest egg.

There are upsides to club sports. One of them is that your child gets to meet and compete with a lot of kids outside their school district environs. Which, of course, means you, the parent, also get to meet a lot of new people. That’s how Eleanor and I became friends and bonded on the bleachers.

This fall Eleanor began sharing tales of what life was like at her youngest child’s elementary school. Most of the stories focused on the PTA. Which sounded like a domestic terrorist organization that vajazzles. Hello, Homeland Security.

I, with my giving spirit, would offer advice as in: “By God, if my kid went to that school I would do blah, blah and blah.”

We’ve all done it – talking big and braggy about how if we were in someone else’s shoes what we would do  and how it would be infinitely superior to whatever they were doing.

I find woman are most vocal about any kind of husband misbehavior. Brace yourself for the onslaught of righteous indignation flimsily disguised as advice if any friend, colleague, acquaintance or airplane seat mate confides or confesses that their spouse is a huge jack hole.

We will get all worked up, offer a slew of “you should do this” guidance and then snuggle up and get cozy in our blanket of “I feel so blessed” (and by that we mean superior) because our husband “would never to do that.”  Really, a good tale of someone’s jerk of a husband can make your whole day.

Well, just after the new year Eleanor decided to take me up on some my esteemed advice. She requested my assistance with her daughter’s elementary school PTA.  I was all, “Of course, what can I do to help?”

I was assuming she desired more of my sage wisdom and Lord knows hearing myself talk while offering advice are two of most favorite things in the whole wide world right behind Diet Coke and Target. But no, Eleanor wanted a little more from me than my vocal cord calisthenics.  She wanted me to get involved, mix it up, if you will, with the PTA board. She wanted me to go to their next meeting. Oh my, this was quite a gift.

It’s one thing to go to your own kids schools and do a little PTA throw down. Yet, you can really only go so far.  For the most part you have to behave yourself because you’re forced to interact with these women everyday and there’s the principal and usually a few teachers at the meetings. So you can’t go full-out crazy mom. You have to be tactical and a little more stealth.

It’s a long-term mission that requires a mixture of covert ops and perhaps some incendiary devices.  But, just think of the crap you could rain down on a PTA meeting where you would possibly never see or have contact with any of the people again.  For me, it was the stuff dreams are made of.

Before I bellowed yes and jumped in the air while doing fist pumps I told Eleanor she would have to go more in-depth about what the problem is they wanted resolved.  What was their goal? In addition I would need a little face time with the “other moms” she kept talking about that also desired my help.

A meet and greet was scheduled for the next day at 4:30. The “other moms” would meet us outside the building where Eleanor’s and my kid practiced. I came prepared with my trusty reporters notebook (Staples 2 for $3. You should pick up a few. Also great for grocery lists.)  As I’m talking with Eleanor and freezing my butt off, a white, a little bit worse for wear, Conversion van pulls up that looks like something John and Kate Plus 8 drove pre marital meltdown.

The van stops, Eleanor waves, a passenger window rolls down and a woman who needs to up her moisturizer game (maybe a night-time serum with some retinol A and a vitamin C chaser) says, “Get in.”

For a second I thought, “Get in? Was I being kidnapped? I was doing these ladies a favor. Not that I expected anyone to say, “Welcome, Oh Great One.” (It would have been nice) but, seriously, “Get in?”

I looked at Eleanor and she whispered, “They’re kind of skittish about this whole thing, but it will be okay.”

I replied in a very definite non-whisper, “Yeah, well if any of this is going to work these moms need to nut up.”

(By the way, what is the female equivalent of nut up?  Would it be ovary up? Get your fallopian tube out of a bunch or unclench your uterus, is that even possible? None of those sound nearly as good to me as the classic “Nut Up.”)

I reluctantly climbed in the van and I’m greeted by first the reek of boy feet, with an underlay of fermented french fry and finished off with  the funk of unidentified lunch box refuse. It was a turbo sinus cleanse.

There are four women already seated in the van. The driver, a friendly woman with curly hair and a big smile. Like Little Orphan Annie all grown up. She must suffer from some sort of terminal nasal passage blockage (I’m thinking a tumor – hopefully benign) because I don’t know how she drives this van everyday without a) passing out or b) taking it to the nearest full service car-wash for a complete detail job.

There was the window greeter – Moisturize More.  She seemed pretty no-nonsense.  I was poised not to like her, but then I noticed we had on identical track pants and I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

In the back row of seats was a very pretty young mom with short blonde hair that accented her wrinkle free face. (I’m thinking – show off.) Next to her was Ms. All Business. This mom had the body language of a woman who could run a Fortune 500 company and the militant bob haircut that would like great in an Ann Taylor suit.

Eleanor and I sat down in the middle row of seats and Moisturize More asked if I wanted a drink and lifted the lid off a cooler filled with Diet Pepsi.

My friends, this is when I began to feel more than a little disrespected.  Diet Pepsi, in a can, not even a bottle, in a cooler, in a I’m guessing, 1994 Conversion van with odor issues.  Was this anyway to woo someone to do your bidding?  Hell no.

My first order of business was to class up this group. I suggested, okay demanded in a chit chatty way, to, at the very least, be taken to a McCafe, which is McDonalds attempt to be swanky and yet still serve the same addictive swill. They do, though, have Diet Coke on tap and even the aromatic stylings of McRib would smell way better than this van.

Orphan Annie, looks at Eleanor and says, “Do you think it would safe?”

I look around at all of them say, “There’s a McCafe right down the street. Why wouldn’t it be safe?”

Eleanor says, “No, no, it’s not that. We’re worried about being seen or overheard talking by the PTA board.”

I said, “I’m willing to take that chance. Now are we going or not?”

Orphan Annie said, “Sure, if everyone thinks it’s okay,” and starts driving towards the McCafe.

I’m sitting there thinking while trying not to breathe through my nose, “Holy crap, these women act like a bunch of battered wives.  Who the hell is scared of their PTA board? Ovary up, indeed!”

Part 2

I get this motley crew hustled into the McCafe, grab a Diet Coke, and herd everyone into a booth in the back. After taking a few calming, curative sips of America’s favorite sugar-free beverage I flat-out ask, with cursing, which I usually don’t do unless I know someone fairly well, but I felt the situation warranted it.  Plus, I’m still peeved about the Diet Pepsi.

So, I say, “What the hell could a PTA board do that has you all so spooked.  I’m a little embarrassed that a bunch of freaking grown women could be such damn cowards.  Are these women packing heat? Have they threatened you or your children with physical violence?”

More Moisturizer gets frowny faced. Ms. Business sits up all straight and starts working her bob like a pendulum by shaking her head at me. (It was a little hypnotic.) Orphan Annie gasps. Cute Blonde just sits there looking about 12 years old (still hating her) and Eleanor simultaneously apologizes to me about her friends and then apologizes to her friends about me.

I hold up my hand and say, “Let’s not waste our time with good manners. I’ve got about 30 minutes before I have to start the kid retrieval process. So someone please tell me what’s the damn deal.”

It got quiet.  I took another sip of my Diet Coke and surprisingly Cute Blonde is the one who speaks up. She says, “These woman run the school and if we say or do anything they don’t like we’re afraid they’ll take it out on our kids.”

I immediately go for the follow-up question. “Can you give me some examples of how they run the school?”

Ms. Business perks up and I hear her speak for the first time, “Well, they’re so bad the principal is afraid to mess with them.  Which I don’t understand because it’s not like they can fire him, but by the way he acts you would sure think they could.”

Cute Blonde interjects, “They’ve gotten two teachers fired!”

Orphan Annie adds, “They’ve taken over things that used to be the job of the principal and teachers. Like they now decide on Student of the Month and do the school awards at the end of the year. You cross them and your kid gets nothing.”

Finally Moisturize More says with wet eyes, “I tried, nicely tried, to talk with the President about maybe changing a fundraising policy and my three kids were left out of the Award Ceremony.  They were never called up once and her one child got Student of the Month three times last year, three damn times!”

My eyes are now popping out of my head.  This went straight from WTH to WTF.  I say, “Okay, okay, this is all outrageous and horrible, but why do you want me to go the meeting next week and what do you want me to do? I don’t think me showing up and announcing to the whole pack of them that they are on the Terrorist Watch Short List is going to do you any good besides the obvious and short-term pleasure of seeing them get ticked off.”

Ms. Business says, “Some sneaky stuff happened over the winter break. This group of officers were supposed to be moving off the board because their terms were up. But over Christmas they re-wrote the bylaws in executive session and extended the number of years you can serve as a PTF (Parent Teacher Family) board member to 3 years.”

Huh?  Bylaws and PTF.  I thought we were talking about PTA and I don’t do bylaw throw downs.  God, I’m thinking, this is a mess.

Moisturize More adds, “At the general meeting next week is when the “new” officers will be voted in.  This is the only chance to get these bitches off the board.”

I was encouraged to hear swearing. It meant the women were warming up to me and shows they have a fighting spirit after all. “Do you ladies have any ideas of how you would like to go about this?’ I ask.

Orphan Annie says very quickly, “We were hoping you would show up and from the floor introduce another slate of officers to be voted on.”

Oh crap, here I was hoping for a smack down in the cafeteria and these chicks wanted to do revenge by Roberts Rules of Order. So, not my style.

I set there sipping my Diet Coke saying nothing and thinking. It’s obvious these poor women needed my help and at least two of them could use a make-over day at Macy’s  I already hated the PTF (whatever) board of pure evil so my instinct was to jump in and attempt to kick some ass.

Those power perverted women needed to be walking around that school, still licking their post PTF meeting wounds on Field Day.  I just wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this one. It wasn’t something that could be done by brute force. It needed finesse and a certain level of knowledge about boring crap like parliamentary procedure. I had nothing. No idea how to pull this off.

I looked up at everyone and said, “I’m in, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I’ll need deep background on every board member. Most importantly are any of them currently a lawyer, a paralegal, married to a lawyer or the daughter of a lawyer.

Secondly, I need cover. When I show up at the meeting everyone has to believe for 30 minutes that my kid goes to that school. Get me the most common first name of the boys at your school.  Is it Michael? It is Jack? Find out. Third, I need to know where the meeting is taking place and a tour of the school. Lastly, I need to observe these mega witches in their natural habitat or lair.  I want to see what I’m up against.

I was glad to see Orphan Annie taking notes. Plans were made. Assignments were given.  It looked like the next day I would be going to Starbucks to spy on my newest nemesis (God, that nemesis list of mine is long.) – the board president. She did not disappoint. What do you say about a woman who goes to Starbucks and orders a Venti hot water with lemon?

I say she’s one crazy, super skinny, hungry bitch.  How fitting that a size 14 mom was going to attempt to bring her down.

Check out Undercover Snarky – The Game Is Afoot for the next installment.

 

Dear Mr. New Principal – 5 Suggestions For You

Dear Mr. New Principal,

I know it’s hard starting a new job and that like any new boss you’re going to want to change things up a bit.  But, only one month into the school year you’ve made some real blunders and that’s just with the parents.  So, as an experienced elementary school mother, I’d be remiss to not help you out by sharing my hard-earned wisdom.

Changing Pick Up & Drop Off – This has been your biggest mistake to date (And who’s counting? Oh yeah – me.) Trust me on this – you’re going to get someone killed. Either a child is going to get run over or and more likely a mom is going to use her SUV as a battering ram and repeatedly bash in the back of another mom’s car resulting in death by blunt force trauma. You can’t just announce in the school newsletter that pick up and drop has been radically changed.

First, now that the district is trying to save money on paper and ink and go green all the newsletters are e-mailed. Great idea, but how many moms do you think are really opening up the attachment (and that’s if they can get the thing to open) and reading the newsletter? I’ll tell you – less than ever before. Why? Because the Friday Folder, which used to contain the newsletter, is opened and gone through in the kitchen, by the trash can. As we moms go through the graded papers we toss them in the trash can and save one or two to post on the fridge. We also read the newsletter because it’s in with our kids crap. It’s inescapable.

Secondly, if you’re going to change pick up and drop off some extra effort on your part is called for. How about some signs or better yet how about you dragging your administrative fanny out there in the morning and afternoon. Because this is what is happening. 1/3 of the moms are attempting to following your instructions for the new pick up/drop off as outlined in the newsletter, 1/3 of the moms are dazed and confused or in desperate need of caffeine and still following the former pick up/drop off rules (hey, were all creatures of habit) and 1/3 of the moms just don’t care about the rules and will continue to freelance and do whatever suits their needs best. Double parking, butting in line, honking or my personal favorite leaving their car unattended in line while they go do God knows what inside the school thus creating a traffic snarl that could be covered by Channel 5’s Chopper 1. I’m betting you can see the havoc and danger this is creating from your office window.

My course of action for you to follow would be: To send an actual piece of paper home (I’m sure the PTO would cover the expense) with each child outlining the new pick/up drop off procedure. Each parent would then have to sign in blood that they have read and understand the new procedure.  That paper would then be returned to school and kept on file.  I also suggest that you strap on an orange safety vest, grab some traffic cones from the gym and physically put yourself in the middle of the melee that is school drop off and pick up every morning and afternoon.  Sure, some moms may flip you the bird or even scream at you. But, buck up big guy you can handle it. Remember you are the school’s authority figure so use it.

Class Parties – With all the problems public education is facing I’m a beyond bewildered that you have chosen to focus your time and energy on changing the way class parties are held. No longer is the class party a sacred covenant between the teacher and the home room mom. You’ve put yourself in the middle of the party planning with a “party checklist from the principal.”

Your checklist demanding that educational games must be played like spelling bees and that all crafts must require math made me sigh deeply. But, when you went all Nutrition Nazi on the food that’s when my chocolate high wore off and I became PMS pissed.  Your mandate that only sugar-free, fat-free, carb free snacks can be served is incredibly disingenuous. Let me begin by saying yummy with your suggested menu of sparkling water punch and a cheese stick and celery platter. Let me finish by saying instead of being a huge party pooper why don’t you concentrate your effort on changing the high fructose corn syrup, high fat, high carbohydrate, high sodium swill that is served everyday in the cafeteria and leave the three, count them three, parties that are held during a school year alone.

Fundraising – Guess what Mr. Principal ? We, the parents, don’t really live to fundraise.  We do it because we want to help you and the faculty make our kid’s precious elementary school better. So, when you start sticking your nose into our fundraising practices and suggest better ways for us to do things like the gift-wrap sale and book fair two words for your buddy – back off.  We are volunteers not school employees. We are doing this as a labor of love and just as quick as we can turn our children into little Amway salespeople we can turn it off. Imagine your budget without all the goodies our PTO provides for the school. Can you say no Smart Boards? I’m always looking for a reason to not eternally fundraise and I think you’ve just given me one.

Quiet Cafeteria – You know what gets me, when adults who work with kids forget what it’s like to be kid. No talking in the cafeteria – WTH? If I were a teacher I want kids to chat it up big time, get it all out of their system, so when they came back to class they were all talked out. Yes, I know kids can get loud but volume control is one thing and complete silence is another. And yes, I also heard the reasoning that if the kids talk they don’t eat their lunch.  Really?  Because talking has never come between me and my meal. I’m living proof and have the thighs to back up my claim that it is possible to do both.

Parent Volunteers – Excuse me, we now have to go to a two-hour parent volunteer training conducted by you before we’re allowed to donate our time to work in the school. What parent doesn’t know how to cut out pumpkins or staple together worksheet packets. At middle age we still have most of our fine motor skills in tact. I can understand a quickie tutorial on how to use the new copier that the PTO bought for the school. But two hours of training – how are you going to fill it? I hope it’s not with a Powerpoint of your short and long-term goals for the school because that could get ugly and require some degree of protection for you. You know what’s going to happen don’t you? Hardly any parents will attend the training and that’s means less parents in the school.

P.S.   Be nice to our teachers!  We’ve got their backs.

Thanks for reading Snarky in the Suburbs!  To stay up-to-date on new posts you can go to Facebook, type in Snarky in the Suburbs and click on like.  Take care.

I Went Postal During Parent Patrol

I’ve  been face-to-face with danger a couple of times in my life.I’ve done a 180 in my car while driving down I-35. (It was my husband’s fault.) I’ve shared personal space with a big brown bear. (Once again, husband’s fault.) I’ve chased down thieves at a McDonalds. Okay, so they were in junior high and stealing Happy Meals, but that is still thievery. I’ve accidently gotten off the wrong chair lift and had to ski a black diamond slope. Considering I have the coordination and grace of an Asian One Horned Rhino that was danger with a big D for me. And I’ve almost been trampled to death by horde of love sick ten-year-olds at a Jonas Brothers Concert. That time my life truly did flash before my eyes.

The fact that I managed to save not one, but two Lemon Chills in commemorative Jonas Brothers cups during the stampede denotes some degree of bravery and financial planning. Those lemon chills were seven bucks each and I wasn’t going let $14 worth of chill fly out of my hands.   But, the one thing that has scared me more than all of the above and childbirth combined was working ”Parent Patrol” at an elementary school.

For the uninitiated let me explain the inner workings of Parent Patrol. Simply put, it is a group of parents who volunteer to help out at the school drop off area in the morning.  Helping out includes keeping the traffic running smoothly and escorting kids across the street.  Now, I know that sounds harmless. But, this is one volunteer position where I suggest your life insurance and living will are up-to-date because my first foray into parent patrol was a killer.

I naively signed up for the position because it met my stringent volunteer criteria. I did not have to groom. You’re working outside. That means – pony tail and a baseball hat, sunglasses – which means no makeup except perhaps some lipstick if you want to go all out and I could get away with my “everyday” Target track pants (i.e. day pajamas) and tennis shoes.

Plus, you get to wear a one size fits all neon yellow jacket that’s emblazoned with the Parent Patrol logo that covers half your body. (Neon yellow is not my color, although I noticed it did bring out my highlights.) Another positive was that you only had to volunteer for a mere 25 minutes before school started. I had no idea why no on signed up for Parent Patrol.  It seemed so easy.

My first day I grab a yellow jacket from the school secretary, walk to the circular drop off /pick up area and got ready for the Parent Patrol experience. Another mom, wearing a yellow jacket and an orange safety vest (I was kind of jealous. That vest look cool.  Why didn’t I get one?) and what I think are construction steel toed work boots comes up to me and growls, “Are you ready for this?”

I tried not to laugh she sounded like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and those boots, that’s pretty hardcore for a mom.  I replied, while putting on my 3 in 1 Bath and Body Works chapstick/ lip gloss/breath freshener, “Yeah, like all we have to do is open car doors and walk kids across the drop off zone right?”

She said, “You’re a first timer aren’t you?”

Now, I’m really trying not to burst out laughing. This is one Mom who takes her volunteer duties seriously. “Uh, do you mean the first time to open a car door – no. The first time to do Parent Patrol – yes.”

“Be prepared,” she says, “It can get a little scary out here.”

“Well”, I said, “I’ll just follow your lead and I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

I’m thinking the mystery of why no one has signed up for Parent Patrol has been solved. It’s because this Crazy Lady standing next to me has freaked everybody out.   It’s now 20 minutes before school starts and cars start rolling in. Crazy lady yells to me, “Assume your position!”

What position would that be? Do I need to suck in my stomach and throw my shoulders back? I holler, “What do you mean?”

She screams back again, “Stay alert and try not to get run over!”

Yeah, right. Like someone’s going to run me over.

Holy crap, someone is trying to run me over!  A mom in a huge black Cadillac Escalade with a massive custom bumper that looks like it’s used to herd longhorn cattle on the weekends is accelerating towards me. She begins weaving through the other cars that are lined up to drop off their kids.

Sweet mother of Slim Fast, she’s not even looking in her windshield. All her focus is on her rearview mirror where she’s putting on mascara and talking on her cell phone. How is she even steering?

“Slow down!” I scream, while waving my hands and jumping up and down looking like a kangaroo on speed. If the SUV gets any closer I’ll have its logo branded on my stomach. Oh no, oh no, she’s jumping the curb and she s-t-o-p-s.

Praise the lord. I walk over to the car to give her a severe scolding and she rolls down her window and hands me her kid’s backpack. All while talking on her cell phone and never making eye contact with me. She then begins to roll her window up while my hand is still inside her car.

What? Who does she think she is – Marie Antoinette? I’m not some 18th century French footman here to do her bidding. First, you almost run me over and now you want me to be a pack mule for your kid. I think not. I lean all the way into her window and say, “Excuse me, but you almost caused a serious accident.”

She gives me a “how dare you speak to me look,” puts down her cell phone and says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well,” I say, “I can see how you would be clueless because you were talking on your cell phone the whole time and applying make-up. Please try to be more careful.”

I thought, for me, I was being nice. Especially, the please try to be careful sign off. Mrs. Black Escalade apparently didn’t agree. She flips her hair and asks me my name because she’s going to text the school authorities about me harassing parents at the school drop off zone. Uh oh, now she has done it. Two words for you – “THROW DOWN.”

I leaned into her car more and said, “My name is you better carefully back up and get out of here because you’re holding up the line. Go ahead and text all you want because I intend to have the P.D. (That’s police department. I like to use initials when I’m trying to sound tough. I think it makes me sound more official.) and the sheriff’s department review the tape of your driving which, trust me, would qualify as endangering life and property.  (Does the school have cameras at the school drop off area? I’m thinking probably not but, she doesn’t know that.)

I slowly remove my upper torso out of her car window and then she backs up off the curb, drives away – and – flips me the bird.  Really, the middle finger before 8:15 in the morning.

My co-parent patroller – Crazy Lady walks over and says, “I told ya.”

That she did.  But, I have no time to talk more cars keep coming. I run over to check on a car that hasn’t moved in a couple of minutes  For the drop off to be successful the cars have to keep on moving. It’s called the “kiss and go zone.”  Parents are instructed to have their kids ready to hop out.  If not the school traffic backs up into a very busy street. So, a car that isn’t moving is a bad thing.

As I get closer to the car that has parked itself in the drop off lane I hear a mom gone cuckoo. Yes, it happens, mothers lose it sometimes. But, you’ve got to pick and choose where your going to go non compos mentis and the school drop zone would not even make it to my top 100 list of places to have a breakdown.

She’s in full scream mode at her three kids. I knock on the window and ask if she can move her car. The kids have their hands on the car handle ready to jump out. I sense they are waiting for their mom to catch her breath and then they’ll make their escape. I tell the mom, “Hi, the kids need to go or they’ll be tardy and we need to keep the line moving.”

She puts her head on her steering wheel and tells the kids good-bye. They haul out of that car like they’re on fire. The poor mom begins weeping. I whisper to her that based on my vast experience, if she goes up the street and drives to the Exxon carwash she can sob her heart out. “Inside the carwash no on can hear you scream,” I explain.  She nods and slowly pulls out of the line.

The closer it gets to the bell more and more cars pull up and more and more are in hurry. Okay, folks it’s elementary school. It’s not like a tardy is going to keep them out of the Ivy League. Slow down.

Cars begin jostling for position and then it happens. A grandma is behind the wheel.  You can tell she’s a school drop off virgin. The poor thing is probably helping out her daughter and she’s entering into the drop off line the wrong way. This means she has blocked the way out to the street and for parents the street means sweet, sweet freedom.

There’s honking and some head-case actually tries to drive up on the sidewalk to escape to the street. I jog over and tell her (nicely, I swear) to not drive on the sidewalk because she’s posing a danger to the kids. She informs me that she has a hair and nail appointment across town in 10 minutes and has to get out of here. I feel her pain. A hair appointment almost trumps any other kind of emergency. But, it’s not enough for me to allow her to pull a James Bond on the school sidewalk.

“Just give us a second,” I say, “Another parent volunteer is trying to help the grandma in that car to back up so everyone can get out.”

No can do. She keeps driving on the sidewalk. I follow her and knock on her window again and say,  “Hey, you really need to get off the sidewalk.”

By now, my comrade in arms – Crazy Lady has come over to help me.  She says, “I’ve got your back.  Let’s get her.”

I feel like I’m in a buddy cop movie. I like it. No one has ever said out loud before that they have “my back.”  Sure, I assume my spouse and my very good friends have “my back.” But, to say it out loud is an adrenaline rush. I’m like – yeah, let’s do this!

We form a human chain and stand in front of her car forcing her to back off the sidewalk.   Mission accomplished. Until the sidewalk mom flips us the bird.  Two middle fingers now before 8:15. That maybe a personal best for me.

Next we go to the confused grandma’s car and tell her to “Just get out!” Then I get behind the wheel of her car, turn a hard left and gun it into the street, put on her hazards, get her back in and tell her to take off.

Who’s next – Anybody feeling lucky? I’m on fire. I’m standing in the middle of the drop off zone with my new “besty” friend Crazy Lady directing traffic like I was born to it if only I had a whistle it would be perfect.

Finally, the school bell rings and my Parent Patrol volunteer shift is over. I did it!  I survived Parent Patrol. I am awesome! (In my mind I’m playing a montage of the last 20 minutes of Parent Patrol over Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive.” And in my montage I’ve been photoshopped to look wrinkle free and about 20 pounds thinner.)

I’m almost ready to take off my yellow jacket when Mrs. Black Escalade pulls up and gets out of her monster SUV. You can tell she’s itching for round two of the throw down. Crazy Lady comes over to offer me protection, but I tell her to,” Stand down.  I’ve got this one.”

I say in a voice I imagine I would use if I were leading a special ops troop in Iraq. “Is there something I can do for you?” I ask Mrs. Black Escalade. She’s wearing, in my opinion, a way too tight, hot pink Juicy Couture sweats outfit with flip-flops that spell out her first name in rhinestones and what I swear are false eyelashes.

False eyelashes before 9 a.m. – my grandma Stella would call that vulgar. She then utters my number two least favorite phrase in the English language. “Do you know who I am?” she asks.

Please, that’s the best she’s got? That’s her A game? This is going to be easy.  I answer back, “I know you can’t drive.”

My five word sentence launches her into temper tantrum. She recites her family tree in an effort, I guess, to illustrate her social superiority over me.  Since I’m not that worried about launching my grade school daughter into society any time soon I’m not overly interested in Mrs. Black Escalade’s historic local lineage. What did she want me to do – curtsey? Like that’s going to happen.

I let her finish her tirade and then go in for the last word. I take off my Parent Patrol jacket hand it to her (more of a shove into her face to be totally honest) and say, “Guess what – tomorrow it’s your turn. Have fun.”

She stares at me, her collagen plump, overly glossed lips gaping open and says not a word. Crazy Lady and I turn our backs to her, walk off the school property, with our heads held high and a spring in our tennis shoe and steel toed boot step. The few, the proud, the Parent Patrol.

*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! 🙂