May 25, 2011

Book Smart Ain't the Same as Street Smart, Kid...

As most of my dear Readers know, I have two children: Quinn, age 10 and Claire, age 8. Both children are, of course, gorgeous, delightful, polite, well-mannered, and extremely smart. No really. They are. Smart that is.

They both test very high and are good students. Quinn's been on the honor roll this whole year (they don't have honor roll for second graders, much to Claire's dismay.) The difference is, Claire's an extremely motivated smart kid, and Quinn is lazy. Typical boy-girl stuff.

When Claire was testing to get in to kindergarten, we were told that she could skip it and go directly into first grade. My thought was, she's smart -- but not that smart. She was simply a determined second child. I'd rather her be at the top of the class she's supposed to be in than struggling in the one she wasn't. I've never regretted that decision. Claire's bright, and she's a hard worker, and that's going to carry her far.

Quinn could be a straight A student if he wanted to. But there are just so many other things to DO like play Legos and read books and Wii and lay on the couch with Mama and watch TV... This is the child who, when he did poorly on his Spanish test, told the teacher, "Yeah, well, I'm not really so much a Spanish kind of guy." So it's a combination of threats, punishments, and rewards to keep him on honor roll. 'Cause it's certainly not going to be his athletic prowess that's going to get him a college scholarship.

One of Quinn's talents lies in his negotiation skills. Ever since he was very young, he had the ability to articulate his position in such a way that I'd forget I was talking to a five year old and find myself having a discussion about something like bath time or bedtime before it dawned on me, "Hey! I'm the grown-up! You do it because I say so!"

I share all that with you to preface the conversation my darling children had on the way to school this morning. I don't know what had occurred prior to them getting in the car -- but the following is the part I witnessed.

Quinn: I know what your problem is.

Claire: Oh really? What's that?

Quinn: I don't want to tell you 'cause you'll punch me.

Claire: I won't punch you.

Quinn: Yes you will.

Claire: I promise I won't punch you. Just tell me.

Quinn: Okay. You're problem is you're jealous of me.

Claire: Why am I jealous of you?

Quinn: You're jealous of me because I'm smarter than you are.

Now here's where I jumped in. I'm not going to have one kid calling the other one dumb.

Me: Actually, that's not true. You guys only scored one point apart in the academic testing you did. You're both above average with only one point difference. That's pretty much the same thing.

And I'll be damned if that little brat didn't come back at me with a point that a lot of adults I know wouldn't have been quick enough to pick up on.

Quinn: Pretty much isn't the same as is.

At this point we'd arrived at school. Claire picks up her backpack, calmly looks at her brother, and punches him -- HARD -- in the arm. Flits out the door, kisses me goodbye, and sashays into school.

Quinn, meanwhile, is slumped over in his seat holding his arm.

Me: Well, you may be smarter, but she's stronger, and next time -- I'd keep my mouth shut.

Book smart just ain't the same as street smart, kid

May 11, 2011

The Sissification of Our Youth

There are many blogs and forums dedicated to this topic.  Many of them say it better and more eloquently than I can.  But... I'm gonna say it anyway.

We're raising a society of wussies.

In this age where everyone has to play fair, be nice, speak softly and not carry big sticks... we're trying to teach our kids to be gentle, well-mannered and kind.

But what happens when one person in the group wasn't taught the same way?  What happens when all the other children are playing fair and one kid isn't?  When one kid steamrolls in and snatches the ball away?  When one child insults, demeans, laughs at or humiliates another?  I'll tell you what.  Nothing.  My kids have no idea what to do.  They can't complain, they can't react, they can't respond.  Every single reaction they would have -- I have told them is not okay.

You can fight back -- it's not nice to hit.

You can't tell -- it's not nice to tattle.

You can't say something mean -- it's not nice to call names.

Well... no more.  Bullies, all bullies, are cowards at heart.  They expect blind obedience and, when confronted, they don't know what to do.  And that's true for bullies of all ages and genders.

I was bullied as a child.  I was small, and awkward, and a non-conformist.  And, well, the world doesn't always encourage the non-conformists of the world.  But, I was smart, and scrappy, with a quick-temper and a big mouth.  And, by god, I knew how to use it.

When the girls (and boys) I went to school with would pick on me, or make fun of me, or shove me, or kick me -- I fought back.  I was quick with the insult and, let me tell you, I could insult someone from the top of their ratty hair to the bottom of their clown feet.  I have total recall of the time in junior high school when I was in the middle of the ring of jeering children with the class bully who was waiting to kick my whole ass, and I made fun of that girl so bad that, once she realized that everyone was laughing at HER, she ran away crying and my ass remained intact.

I remember the time that another girl spent weeks harassing me: kicking my feet out from under me when I was walking to class, pushing, shoving, jabbing.  She was a foot taller than me and outweighed me by a good 50 lbs. and was mad that the guy she liked had a crush on me.  After weeks of this torture, I finally snapped.  Her and her two cronies were walking behind me and she kicked me -- for the last time.  I stopped and spun around, glaring.  She sneered at me and said, "What's your problem?"  I charged, got both my hands around her neck and ran her backwards, choking her.  As I repeatedly slammed her head into the lockers I said, "I think you're a complete bitch. THAT'S my problem." With a final slam -- and a hard one at that -- I asked, "Do you have a problem with THAT?"

She left me alone after that.  Of course, she told everyone I was a complete nutjob but -- I was okay with that.  Better to be left alone as the class psycho than to endure torture at their bullying hands (and feet).

When I had my kids, my plan was, should they get bullied, hire the class bully from 2-3 grades higher than the kid who was picking on my kid and have the older bully go kick the other bully's whole ass.  And yes, I know that's not the most realistic of battle plans, but it was certainly the most satisfying.

My kids are in second and fourth grade and we've experienced no bullying -- until now. 

It wasn't my second grader, Claire who was getting bullied.  Claire is the cute, little, skinny girl in class with the fabulous wardrobe.  She's going to be (god help me) the head cheerleader someday.  But I swear on all things good and holy (and not-so-holy) that she will not be the mean girl.  So help me -- I won't allow that.  At every school conference she's had since she was in kindergarten, I've asked her teacher if she's noticed any mean girl tendencies.  Because, if I EVER find out she's been acting like those bitchy twits I went to school with -- I will shave her head and cut her fabulous wardrobe into ribbons.  And she KNOWS I will. 

Nope, the child getting bullied was Quinn.  Last week my normally smiley, happy-go-lucky son got in to my car after school in a foul-temper.  When I asked him what was wrong, he held back tears as he described a situation where he was picked on by a group of students in his class.  We've had issues with these students all year long.  I would have spoken to these children's parents by now (the grown up thing to do) except -- they don't speak English. Grrreat. So we, the teacher and I, are stuck trying to manage unmanageable children and my child's reaction to them.

To the credit of my kids' school -- the extracurricular teacher did handle the situation as best she could, but not before things got completely out of control and Quinn got his feelings really hurt.  And, later, his homeroom teacher read every student in the class the riot act for their behavior.

It's hard to explain in a simple blog post the type of kids I have.  Quinn is not a whiner, and he's not one to cry very easily.  So when he gets in the car and is literally fighting back the tears -- something is very, very wrong.  Every Mama bear instinct in me was calling out for me to charge in that school and start bashing some heads together.  I'm still fighting back that instinct.

But Quinn needs to learn how to handle these kids himself.  And who better to teach him than me?  Fortunately, Quinn is a pretty confident kid, despite his outward appearances.  His therapist (and yes, he's had one since I separated from his father -- and therapy is a wonderful thing) thinks it's hysterical how very confident my child is.  He thinks he's fabulous.  He's very matter-of-fact about his fabulousness -- he's not cocky, just self-confident.  Thankfully, this bullying -- no matter how hurtful it is -- hasn't affected that. 

Thus I am teaching my children how to fight back with the tools that they have available to them -- their brain and their voice.  And I am raising them to be quick-witted and smart, not mealy-mouthed pushovers.  I don't think it will take much with Claire... she told me later that she happened to walk by the class and saw Quinn getting picked on, saw how upset he was, and almost went in there and kicked some ass.  Okay... actually she said that she wanted to go in there and tell everyone to stop being jerks but I like my version better. My little warrior child.

The next time someone makes fun of Quinn for not understanding the class work, he's going to ask them who's on honor roll, him or them?  And the next time someone makes fun of his jacked up teeth he's going to say that he can get his teeth fixed -- can they get their stupid fixed?

And if that doesn't work -- I've got $50 for the first 6th grade bully who feels like kicking some ass.

May 9, 2011

Dear Mom,

I had meant to do this post in time for Mother's Day but, like all things in my life, things got screwed up.  So here it is, a day late and a dollar short.  Typical.

Everything that I am that is even remotely cool is pretty much due to my mom. And, more than a few things that are not so cool as well.  So in honor of Mother's Day, I'm going to share a few of my favorite Mom stories.  They are in in no particular order. Just a collection of my favorites.

I've shared the story about my bra shopping experience in an earlier post.  But I have other underwear stories with my mom. Mom is quite the seamstress and when I was young, she made a lot of my clothes.  I was a lot smaller than most kids my age and my mom was talented.  I have fond memories of going to the fabric store with Mom to pick out patterns and fabrics.  I certainly had a unique, one-of-a-kind wardrobe growing up.

When I was in junior high (they call it middle school nowadays) my mom bought a yard of fabric to make me panties.  And a yard of fabric makes a whole lot of panties.  It was white fabric with teeny little red hearts all over it. So I had probably 30 pairs of white and red heart panties. 

Skinny, flat chested me hated the communal dressing rooms just as a rule but add in how awful junior high school girls can be and it gets worse. One particularly horrible classmate decided to make fun of me for my homemade panties. This [insert insulting and descriptive term here] decided to announce to the junior high school at large that I wore the same panties every day.  Why she felt this was newsworthy is beyond me but being a 7th grade girl and having your panties discussed is beyond embarrassing.

I never told my mom about how I was getting teased.  I knew she would immediately go out and purchase me a thousand pairs of panties in every different color.  I wasn't going to let that [insert insulting and descriptive term here] know that she'd gotten to me.

Years later, as an adult, I told my mom about the panty incident.  And she hit the roof.  She hates that [insert insulting and descriptive term here] -- and her mother too.  Capital H -- Hates. 

I love her for that.


When I was 19 I was busted at our local teen hang out, the Tiki Lounge, for drinking on a fake ID.  Of course, me being me, I wasn't busted like most people get busted.  My darling ex-boyfriend turned me in and the bouncers confiscated my fake ID and escorted me out. The bouncers were kind enough to not call the police 'til the next day.  So any contraband alcohol had more than enough time to leave my system.

Suffice it to say, I got my revenge on said ex-boyfriend

When the police contacted me regarding the "incident" my parents were kind enough to escort me to the local pokey to be interviewed.  Being a small Midwestern town, I will leave it to your imagination, dear Reader, to decide what our police department looks like.  But think... Mayberry PD.

Anyhoo, I'm dragged in to an interview room with my mom and dad in tow.  This particular police officer was well known to me what with all my meetings with him to discuss my excellent driving.  I'm sitting there in this tiny little room, one way glass, scarred table, bad florescent lighting... with my mother.  And Officer Friendly starts to read me my rights.  And I start laughing.  To which Officer Friendly inquires if I found the proceedings funny.  To which I responded, "Yeah... kinda."

It's at this high-stress moment my darling mother requests to see the fake ID in question.  Officer Friendly gets this gleam in his eye like, "Oh yes, Ms. Smarty-Pants... you're going to get it now!!" and hands the ID to my mother.  She glances at it, looks at me and says in the most disgusted tone, "Oh Andrea. This doesn't look a thing like you!"  Leave it to my mother to state, in the presence of Officer Friendly, that I didn't have a high enough quality fake ID. 

I love her for that.


Ever since I was a teenager, my mother has had open, frank discussions with me about sex and sexuality. Considering her strict Catholic upbringing this makes her a bit of an enigma, but when my friends would discuss how uptight and close-mouthed their mothers were about things of a sexual nature, it always made me appreciate my mom even more.

I can't remember when, exactly, my mom had the sex talk with me.  I do know that she also had it with several of my friends whose mother's weren't telling them about the birds and the bees.  She was up front about the hazards and the pleasures a sexual relationship can have, and clearly defined what constituted a healthy sex life.  She never made me feel embarrassed or weird about my body, its functions, or sex in general.  I haven't required years of therapy to undo any weird misconceptions my mom put in my head. 

I love her for that.

I also love that I have been dinner party entertainment for years when I tell the story about the time that she explained oral sex to me, in great and lurid detail. Or the time when she gave me her copy of The Joy of Sex and told me to read up on things -- that my boyfriends would appreciate the knowledge.

FYI Mom -- my boyfriends, past and present, love you for that.


When I was growing up, my mom made wonderful home-cooked meals every night.  On the rare occasion she tried a new recipe that was an utter and complete failure, we would have to have a family celebration to destroy the recipe.  We'd have to stand in the middle of the kitchen, join hands, and then dance around in a circle.  On Mom's cue we'd have to stop, she'd jump in the middle of the circle and rip the recipe card in half.  This would continue until the recipe card was completely destroyed.

This past Easter my mom decided to try a new deviled egg recipe.  And, let me tell you, those eggs were awful. Disgusting.  Inedible.  She called me a few days after Easter to let me know that she'd had her recipe destruction celebration all by herself.

I love her for that.


About four years ago Mom was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease that typically has a life expectancy of three to five years after diagnosis.  The disease has taken its toll on Mom and we've had a lot of ups and downs since her diagnosis.  This past fall, Mom was hospitalized for over six weeks and we almost lost her.

She'd gone in with pneumonia and, after a few weeks, that was starting to get better.  But because of the massive dosages of antibiotics and steroids, she developed a bleeding ulcer that they couldn't stop.

Due to her weakened lungs, surgery was not an option and her doctors told us she was going to bleed to death in a matter of hours.  We called my brother to make the drive down from Traverse City and we gathered around her bed to comfort her, and ourselves, and wait for her to die.

Except... no one told Mom.

I mean -- she knew what the doctors, nurses, and experts had said.  But she just didn't believe them.  So she wasn't afraid, or particularly concerned.  Which is why when the parish priest came in to administer last rites, she joked, "Uh oh, I'm a goner!"

She quipped, "Well, I guess I don't need to worry about getting new curtains!"

She complained about being hungry. She laughed. She joked. She bossed. She told me I needed to find some ethnic hair-care products to try and tame my naturally curly hair.  She told Peter he should grow his hair out and start shaving less saying it brought out his eyes.  She told my father he needed to get better shoes and nicer t-shirts.  She said a whole lot of things to my brother, which are private, and his story to tell.  She did a whole lot of things.  But she didn't die.

No one, not the nurses, the techs, the doctors, or the surgeons can believe she's still here.  But, she just didn't feel like dying that day and she doesn't feel like dying now. 

I love her for that.


There are far too many stories in my 41 years of life with my mother to get in to detail here. Suffice it to say, I love you Mom.  I always have. I always will. You were, and are, the best Mom anyone could ask for.

I love you for that.

May 1, 2011

Going to the Chapel...

I... am a two time loser.  I was married the first time when I was 19.  And no, I wasn't pregnant.  I was just very very dumb.

My first husband was cute.  I mean -- REALLY cute.  Like, the lady who waited on us while we were trying on our wedding rings hit on him cute.  And when you're 19 and the really really cute guy asks you to marry him, you do it.

Yeah -- I was never the brightest bulb in the lighting department.

Actually, my first husband was in the military and, in case you didn't know it, the military doesn't pay very well.  At all.  We'd been dating for about 18 months and we knew if we got married, his Basic Allowance for Quarters (BAQ) would go up significantly.  So -- we tied the knot.

First clue that this probably wasn't the best idea was the fact that we had to pawn our TV in order to afford the marriage license.  But, we were married and we gave it our best shot.  For about a year.  And then, splitsville.

Although my first marriage ended for a lot of reasons, I harbor no ill will towards my ex.  In fact, it took us over 7 years to finally get divorced and in that time, we got back together and broke up a bunch more times.  But, eventually, we did divorce. 

Starter marriage -- FAIL.

In between marriage #1 and marriage #2 I was engaged. Several times. To several different men.  Well -- they kept asking and the rings kept getting prettier so I kept saying "Yes!"  Not. Brightest.  Bulb. 

Actually, I dated one guy for almost 3 years and my parents loved him.  LOVED him.  Especially my dad.  And even though I knew he wasn't the guy for me -- I felt like if I didn't marry him, I was going to let my parents down.  And since I'd already done that in an epic way with marriage #1, I didn't want to do it again.  But, eventually, I knew I just couldn't marry the guy and I called things off.

My other ex-fiancé asked me to marry him the week his father died.  On Father's Day.  The guy was already having a pretty craptastic week so it seemed like saying no right then would be cruel.  So I didn't.  But eventually, just a few months down the road, we realized we were a big mistake and broke things off.  Whew.

And then I met ex-husband #2.  And on paper, ex-husband #2 seemed pretty terrific.  He wrote me poetry.  He bought me flowers. And diamond earrings. He took me to Jamaica for vacation.  He seemed nice, and normal and like a good catch.  So, we got married, had two kids, and kept a pretty good face on things for quite a few years.  But, we weren't really happy together and (as written about previously) we got the Big D

So now I'm a two time loser.  Yay me.  I swore I was never EVER dating again.  

And then I started dating Peter.  So much for swearing.  Peter's track record really isn't any better than mine.  So, when we started dating, we agreed we were NEVER getting married. Like... EVER.

I don't have any true desire to be a three-time loser.  Not that I think I will be -- it took me 25 years of kissing a whole lot of frogs before I finally found my prince.  And, despite the myriad of challenges and obstacles our relationship presents, we're very happy with each other.  My kids love him, my parents love him.  Shoot -- even my ex-husband likes him.

The problem -- Peter is a marrying man.  He's old fashioned to the core and if he's in love -- he's getting married.  And, as of right now, he's in love with me.  So, about 4 months after we started dating, he asked me to marry him.  And, of course, I said yes.

Well, the ring was pretty
The Happy Couple