Friday, August 26, 2011

The Dreaded School Fund Raiser

Warning: This is going to be a rant (a funny one, but still a rant).  I'm going to ramble on and on about yet another pet peeve of mine.  The good news is that I am at least not going to ask you to go running home and beg your family to buy overpriced junk no one wants so that I can win a twenty-five cent prize that will break within minutes of it falling into my possession.  There! Now that the disclaimer is done, I can proceed with my ranting and raving.

I am not a huge fan of home schooling. I admire families that do it, but I recognize my limitations and jail time sounds unappealing.  Since one can't eat one's own offspring without going to jail, home school is out of the question for me. Really. I think I would eat my children if they were all home trying to learn something of value from me every day. It is because of this sad fact that my beloved offspring attend public school everyday.  While there are many wonderful attributes to public school, there are also a few downsides. Nothing too huge, but still they are there. Well, okay. In my mind, some of them are huge, but my mind is apparently not like the normal human mind.  Anyway, I digress.  Let's discuss one of the BIGGEST downfalls of public school: The Dreaded Fundraiser!

I have taken off my rose-colored glasses and I do realize that schools are not given nearly enough funding to support what they need to do.  This is a painfully obvious fact, and I fully understand that there has to be some way to help them earn the much-needed funds for the school.  Since the principal has repeatedly refused to take up pole dancing on the side, it seems that the only other option is the standard school fundraiser.  Well, according to the schools that's the only option.  I will happily provide a few other options before my rant is over.  First, let's talk about why I HATE SCHOOL FUNDRAISERS!!!

First of all, the quality of the product is worse than sub-par. Seriously.  I know there's the option of purchasing chocolate, but who wants to spend ten bucks for five bites of chocolate that is probably older than Texas?  Yes, wrapping paper is another option, but it must be lined in gold to justify it being the price that it is.  I don't want to buy your knick knacks, thingamabobs, whoziwhatsits, or dinglehoppers.  I don't want them!!!  While we're on the subject, I also don't want your overpriced cookie dough.  The only reason anyone ever buys those things is because the kids pimped out to sell them are so dang cute.  I mean, how can any nice little old lady say no to some adorable freckle-faced kid who just wants to earn a sticky hand toy?  

Then there's the "prizes".  These are not prizes, kids. They're junk.  Look, we can go down to the local Dollar Tree and fork over two bucks there and you can get pretty much any of the prizes you see in that fancy-shmancy "prize" catalog and you don't have to knock on strangers' doors or alienate your family members in the process.

Last year, Aiden's drama club put on an amazing play.  It was phenomenal, but it couldn't be presented in the school during school hours. The show was "Aladdin:, so perfectly appropriate.  Why couldn't it be shown?  Well, because it took away from class time. Instead, the show had to be presented at the high school auditorium only in the evening hours.  Interesting.  Yesterday, my kindergarten and second graders were pulled from their classes for an assembly during which they were told about all the amazing things they could get if they were willing to rob their loved ones blind...oops! I mean, sell these fine products to them.  The rep from the fundraising company is paid to get the kids excited to sell, sell, sell.  I wonder if this is how drug dealers get started.  I can see it now. Some kid is in rehab twenty years from now and says something like, "Hi. My name is CJ and I'm a drug dealer.  I first got started when I was in second grade and I got the thrill of earning a rubber frog in exchange for hours of hard labor and about $350 worth of products..."  See?  This is a dangerous plan, folks.

At this amazing school assembly, they learned something else. They learned that the kids who sell various amounts of products would get amazing rubber frogs (or is it little ducks. I can't remember.)  And, if they're wearing their frog, and the frog hunter finds them, they might get a prize from him.  This may sound fairly innocent, but I have an issue with it.  What about the kids who's parents aren't allowed to sell crap at work (like Byron) or who have siblings?  They do offer a lovely family package for families with multiple children at the school, but it's still well beyond our means.  So, while some kids are walking around with their fancy frogs,  my kids get to feel like weenies because their parents aren't able to support the fund raiser.  And, in case that isn't enough, the kids who sell whatever the quota is get to ride in a hummer limo to go bowling and play laser tag or eat Kona Ice out in front of the school while the other kids look on longingly. I'm all in favor of competition, but I prefer it to be competition in the form of something kids can actually control. Kids can't control whether or not their families can afford to participate in a school fundraiser.  They can control whether or not they make some lovely artwork to sell, whether they do their best at a jog-a-thon, or any other similar activity.  This morning at our bus stop, five out of seven kids at the bus stop were crying over the fact that they weren't going to have lucky frogs, ride in a hummer limo, or win an ipad.

Another thing about these fundraisers that completely irritates me is that the school only gets to keep a small percentage of what it earns.  On average, schools only keep 40% of their earnings. Our school is smart enough to at least offer families the option of just making a donation so that 100% of the proceeds stay in the school, but their timing couldn't possibly be worse.

That brings me to my next complaint. Can we talk about timing? Yesterday was Day #7 of school.  DAY SEVEN, PEOPLE!  I know you want to get a jump on the earnings, but can we at least have the kids in the school long enough for the teachers to know their names before we start milking them for money?  Sheesh!  Families have just forked out an entire mortgage payment just for school supplies and clothes and NOW you're asking them for more funds?  I'm thinking the timing is a little off here.  How about right around May when people are getting their tax refunds and are flying high on the twenty-five cents Mr. Obama has found in his heart to give them?  Maybe an end of the year fundraiser to fund the next year is a better choice, eh?

I try never to be one to complain without offering suggestions, so this is the part where I impart my brilliance upon you. Well, not really. All of these are ideas I've stolen from others, but I really like.  Let this also be a public announcement to the powers that be in our local elementary school: If I make the suggestion, I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is and take on the responsibility of trying to pull it all together.  That said, here goes nothin':
1. The ever popular silent auction and carnival event.  The cafeteria is big enough that vendors could rent tables to promote their stuff while tables around the perimeter could be full of donations up for auction. For really big ticket items, each classroom could take on a theme to create a basket to be auctioned. For example, one class might take on Saint Louis Cardinals. If even half the kids in the class bring an item fitting that theme, it would create a great gift basket.  Lots of families work for businesses that would be willing to donate items or gift certificates.  "Fine Art" made by the children could be sold for whatever parents want to donate. The day of the auction, there could be a little carnival held with games that cost a nickel to a quarter each. Cake walks, bean bag tosses, bounce houses, watermelon seed spitting contests, etc. are always a huge hit.  $50 at the local Oriental Trading vendor would buy enough cheap prizes for everyone who plays.  If it's a school with a good sense of community, these types of events can bring in thousands of dollars that all stay in the school.

2.  Local businesses and restaurants often have dine to donate nights. Thankfully our school is part of many of these.  The only one we don't do is the Capri Sun Packet Brigade. Every empty capri sun packet is worth something like three cents.  If you just put a bucket in the cafeteria for kids to put their empties packets in, you'd probably make something like $10-$20 a week. Easy and FREE for the school!

3. Jog-a-thons, math-a-thons, hop-a-thons, read-a-thons, etc.  The kids find sponsors, get to do something fun and intellectually or physically stimulating, and the school earns lots of money that it gets to keep.

Okay. I'll stop now. I've ranted. I've raved. I've given my argument against school fundraisers, and I feel a little better. Actually, I'd keep going, but the kids just got off the bus and they are tearfully begging me to reconsider letting them sell something.  I'm not budging. Have I ever mentioned just how much I HATE SCHOOL FUNDRAISERS???

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our Big Announcement

So, Byron and I have been back and forth on this for a while. Sometimes we were fence sitting and other times we were both on the same page with one decision or another.  We thought it was going to happen back in January, but things fell through and the doctor said it was just bad timing and to think about what we wanted to do and get back to him.

We decided to start trying to make it happen again so that we could time it around the kids' (especially Liam and CJ's) school schedules, but we just couldn't ever get it right.  The timing would be off, or someone got hit with a fly ball which put us behind or...well, you get the idea.  And, we weren't putting the effort into it that we probably needed to in order to make it happen.  Finally, shortly before our trip to CT, we decided to really work hard on it every single day.  I kept track of dates and times and recorded all conversations and everything and just really even put a lot of prayer into it asking Heavenly Father to please let it happen if it was His plan for our family.

Finally I got the most amazing phone call from the doctor today. The test results were in and all the documentation was double checked, and it seems that there is going to be a new set of ears born into our family!!!  We don't know the exact date yet, but BOTH Liam and CJ have been approved for cochlear implants!!! This will be CJ's second, making him bilaterally implanted and it will be Liam's first. It's possible that we'll do both of Liam's ears at the same time.  The dr. needs to look at the MRI and CT scans from his hospital stay back in June.

Anyway, there you go. That's my little announcement. It's kind of a big deal. My boys are going to hear!!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Moment You Realize Life is Good...No. It's Great!

Have you ever experienced a moment where you look around and realize that your children are absolutely amazing and you know somewhere in your heart that all those worries and fears about what they might do or not do or become or not become are simply fears that will likely never come to pass?  You know, like the fear that they'll grow to be pole dancers, convicts, corrupt politicians, or some guy with fifteen baby mamas?  It's that moment where you can just tell that there is actually a good likelihood that they'll grow to be good people.  You know somewhere in yourself that they will be able to contribute something to the world, and that they know what love, compassion, and kindness are.  You know this because you suddenly realize that your children actually demonstrate those things every now and then.

It's that moment where you look over at your husband doing whatever it is that he does best to relax (in Byron's case, it's playing the piano for the pure joy of it) and you can't help but be overwhelmed with relief because you know you chose the right guy.  During that moment in time, you know that this partner you've chosen is perhaps the greatest, most perfect choice you've ever made, and while he may show it in his own quiet way, you also know he loves you more than life itself.  He loves you despite the fact that you always shrink his clothes, sometimes burn his dinner, you have those few tiny little teeth on the top of your mouth that don't match the others, your hair gets frizzy, and your flatulence is sometimes overwhelming.

It's in that moment that you look around your home, even with the sticky finger prints on the wall that you're really not sure what it is that caused those prints, and you realize it's a perfect home.  It's a home filled with laughter and contentment.  Okay, there's sibling rivalry there, too. And perhaps a few dishes in the sink.  You feel moderately relaxed and like you belong in your home, and you know somewhere in your heart that this is the home you're meant to be in and the life you're meant to be living in it.  Everything right down to the wimpy  dogs and the snobby cat are just as they should be.  While it isn't picture perfect,  it's as close to Heaven as a person can ever be.

Have you had that moment?  I can't really put my finger on what is different, but I've had that moment this past week.  I've had more than one of those moments actually.  Byron and I went away last weekend without the kids.  One glimpse of life without them was enough for me to actually be wishing for my little poop-smearing Liam and his zest for experiencing life to its fullest extent.  I found myself feeling like my arms were heavy without Drezden coming up asking for a random squeeze.  I discovered that only needing to worry about dressing myself to make it out the door wasn't as peaceful as I'd thought it would be.  I longed for Rachel to come up to me with twenty hair nobbies and beg to have every single one of them carefully placed in her hair at the same time.  Walking on a floor free of lego clutter, while it was less physically painful than when I accidentally step on a lego, was a little boring.  Where was CJ and his amazing lego creations?  Where was his wild imagination and his vivid tales of all that would happen in or with the worlds he created with those silly legos?  Dinner was quiet and content with no food flying or being used as an art supply, but where was Aiden to share his random fact of the day?  I've learned more about the life cycle of various insects, the pooping habits of any living thing you can imagine, and gained trivial pieces of knowledge that would only ever do me good if I were a fifth grader looking to impress a girl.  Dinner without that is simply food on a plate.

The time spent with Byron was well worth it.  Without the distraction of the five small humans that live here, I was able to really focus on Byron and realize just how amazing he is.  I fall a little more in love with him every day, but I found myself freakishly swoony for him almost every time I looked at him.  I also noticed how grateful I am for him.  There wasn't any particular reason for all this other than I just...well, I don't know really. There aren't words for it. I'm just grateful for him.

Since that moment that I realized life is good, it's as if things have only gotten better.  We work more as a team.  The kids don't LOVE doing there chores, but for some reason, they're doing them with minimal argument.  To top it off, they're doing them correctly.  They help set the table, clear the table, clean up whatever disaster Liam has made, sing songs together, come together in the evening for family scripture and prayer, and's just good.

So, have you had that moment?  Am I the only one? Surely not.  Surely others have had that moment where you've just sat back, looked around, and had your light bulb go on, and you say to yourself " My life is good. No. It's great!".

I Wanna' Write A Book

The title says it all.  One of the items on the top of my bucket list is writing a book AND publishing it.  I don't think I'm the greatest writer of all time nor that I'll win a Pulitzer Prize, but I'd like to think that maybe, just maybe, I have it in me to write a book.  I've tossed the idea around before, but I'm going to have some time actually devote to writing once the kids go to school.  I'll have three hours to myself three days a week that are mine and mine alone to just sit and write.

So, here's the big question:  What do I write about?  What do you, as readers, want to read about?  The hilarity of life in the SuperMom home?  The serious stuff?  Poop? Goodness knows I have plenty of poop to write about.  I think I'd like to make a compilation of short stories, but then I also think I'd love to write the story of us just as we are.  What is interesting?  I'll be watching for comments. Inspire me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Alien Invasion

A few months ago, I got a call from one of my best friends back in Texas telling me that her family and she had decided that they wanted to spend their family vacation with my children so that Byron and I could go away alone for a weekend.  I thought she was crazy, but took her up on the offer.  So, this past weekend Byron and I went to see my family in Connecticut (an entirely separate blog post all of its own).

We left last Thursday morning feeling confident that we'd come back to find our children just as we'd left them.  After all, what could really happen in just one weekend, right? I know. Famous last words coming from me.  We've been home for just over 24 hours and I've come to the conclusion that things are nothing like they were before we left.  I thought I'd left the children in good hands, but let's be honest. How could a caregiver not notice that five children had been abducted by aliens and replaced with look-alikes?  I mean, Liam did paint with his poop two times while they were here, so maybe the aliens slipped in during the clean up and took the kids while the sitters weren't watching. It's entirely possible.

Let me just tell you what I mean.
1.  During dinner last night, all of the kids asked for napkins. I thought I'd stopped buying napkins because they usually  use napkins to spit the food they don't want into.  I guess there were some left over, so I let them each have one.  (The food wasn't SO BAD that they'd need to spit into more than one napkin).  Much to my surprise, the children put the napkins in their laps.  Yes, it's true.  It's like they were trying to be civilized or something.  (Well, except for Liam. He ate his  napkin). That was only the first clue something was up.

2.  After dinner, I asked them to please work as a team to help clear the table, sweep the floors, wipe down the table, and pick up any stray toys.  Warning:  What I am about to say may be disturbing for some readers. Feel free to stop here if you have a weak heart and are unable to handle too much of a shock.  Are you ready for this?  Okay, here goes.  They ALL did their cleaning chores without arguing to its completion without me needing to ask a second time. Yes, this does include Liam.  There is NO WAY this could possibly have happened without an alien abduction!

3.  Right before bed, they all gathered to read scriptures and say family prayer.  Granted they were rambunctious, but they were still all there.  Even Stinky Liam sat still for a minute or two.

4.  When I sent them to bed last night, they went!  I know.  I know.  The horror of it all, right?  Five children all in bed at nearly the time I'd sent them there.  By this time, I was breathing into a brown paper bag and calling the Area 51 people.  My poor alien-probed children!!!!

5.  This morning when I went to get them up, I told them to pick up their rooms and make their beds. They did it!!!  Further, they did it without any complaint and correctly.  Drezden even cried a little because Liam messed with his hard work and left a lump in the bed.  Making their beds?!?!?  How could this be?!?!?!?!?!

6.  I took all five of them on a three hour WalMart trip today.  This trip should have earned its own blog posts detailing horrific incidents involving weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Instead, it was pleasant. All five were well-behaved and patiently worked with me to get school supplies and groceries.  How is this even possible!??!

7.  When we came home from the grocery store, I told them that they each had to take two bags at a time in the house until everything was brought in. I also specified that they'd need to put them in the kitchen for me to more easily unload.  I only had to bring in three or four bags by myself.  Not one kid even complained about it!!!  By this point, I was practically hysterical just imagining what they must have been enduring while the aliens were trying to replace them.

8.  At lunch, they sat nicely and then cleaned up after themselves.  After lunch, they sat quietly in the living watching tv (the FIRST time it's even been on all day) and building legos as a team.

Even as I write this, I still can't imagine how it could be that aliens managed to get in here, take the children, and replace them with decoys while my friend wasn't watching.  I hope it wasn't painful for the kids and that they are all okay up there in outer space while these strange little decoys take their places.  And, I have to be honest.  I'm nervous to let my friend come back and babysit again. What if the aliens come back and give me back the children I had to start with??  These decoys are GREAT!! Why would I ever want to run the risk of them being switched back?!!?

Oh, and a HUGE THANK YOU to Anne-Marie, Jeff, Jordan, Jackson, and Samantha for being such amazing friends!!!!