Monthly Archives: January 2010

Ethan-ism, Part I.

Laurel has hers, and Ethan’s getting old enough for his own.

Today he was cleaning a bench for me when he said:

“This is gonna be as shiny as a toad in dry sand.”

I’m not sure what that means, but it seems to carry a lot of weight with him.

Learning About Dad’s Career.

This morning’s conversation:

Ethan: “Mom, where is Dad going?”

Me: “To a client’s.”

Ethan: “But what is a client’s?”

Me: “Dad goes all over the place to different client’s offices to fix their computers.”

Ethan: “So if a piece breaks off the client’s computer, Daddy finds it and puts it back on with Scotch tape?”

Me: “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what he does.”

One More Reason I Love My Husband.

This morning’s conversation:

Me: “Greg, do you think we’re difficult parents?”

Greg: “To whom?”

Me: “Well, let’s start with our kids and work into their teachers.”

Greg: “Perhaps…and NO. We are exactly right, there is no reason why when we ask for justification of a mark they shouldn’t be able to say, ‘we feel Laurel needs improvement in caring for others because so-and-so fell down and Laurel said, “haha-Walk much?”’”

I cannot imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have his support in everything. EVERYTHING.

So thanks, Greg.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Stupid.

Last semester, Laurel missed 5 days of school. Three of those – one, two, three – 3/5 of those…were for a funeral.

Last Friday I journeyed to our mailbox and found…


Attendance Letter

After stomping through the house, stomping downstairs with the letter to flail my arms about at Greg, and stomping back upstairs, I drafted one hell of a nasty e-mail.

Then I let it rest for a couple of days to see if I would still be pissed about this today.

I am.

See, here’s the thing – Laurel’s teachers knew she was absent for a funeral on 3 of those days. We specifically requested far ahead of time that she be given any assignments she might miss because we anticipated the funeral absence and wanted to be certain she would not fall behind.

Not that she would…the very idea that she would (which is alleged in the first paragraph) is flat-out laughable.

We expressed great regret at the idea that she would be missing this time…even though ‘this time’ consisted of 3 days the week before Thanksgiving and 2 days right before winter break – you know, those times when academic achievement is just ALL GUNG HO.

And I’m guessing (this is just a guess) that the administration never bothered to ask Laurel’s teachers about this or even run this by them before sending it out. It’s pretty tasteless to send out a letter criticizing parents for allowing their children to attend a funeral.

“Oh, it’s just a form letter,” you may be thinking. “They probably just send that out automatically.”

Yes, true…as to the form letter part. But the other part about it being automatic? Not so much – at least not according to our school handbook, which says – and I quote:

“Principals, counselors, and teachers send letters and make personal contact with families of students who exhibit patterns of attendance which impact academic achievement(emphasis added).

Well, I hate to break it to them, but Laurel’s attendance (or lack thereof) has most certainly NOT affected her academic achievement – at least not negatively.

In any event, it is clear the author of the above letter had poor attendance in elementary school; else he/she would know that ‘school’ in the first sentence should not be capitalized.

I believe it was the venerable Margaret Mead herself who said, “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.”

I’m beginning to see her point.

And that, my friends, brings us to another topic I’ve railed on before – the grading of character education. My god, are we still at this? Seriously? It is fabulous to know that in our society we have now resorted to using arbitrary and capricious – not to mention subjective and shadowy – guidelines to judge a child’s character.

Laurel came home today with her report card, which reflected that she needed to improve in her ‘caring for others.’

I know, right?

This is the child who in the past couple of months has done the following (and this is all I can think of off the top of my anger-addled mind):

1. Given all (ALL!) of her souvenir money to a bum in San Francisco, followed by a heartfelt lamentation that in the richest country in the world we have people who are homeless and unfed;

2.  Been moved to tears at the prospect that families her classes had adopted might not have a decent Christmas because people weren’t donating enough;

3. Consoled a fellow classmate whose (get this) teacher was loudly deriding a fellow classmate IN FRONT OF THE CLASS; and

4.  Wrote and read aloud a touching poem in memory of her great aunt at the aforementioned funeral service.


I support our public schools. I think the collective and proper education of our country depends on the support public schools receive from us. I will do whatever I can to support teachers when they’re right.

But I will also do whatever I can to support my children when they are right. And Laurel, upon seeing the glaring black X (improvement needed) in the spot next to “is caring to others,” was hurt. She was wronged. THEY are wrong. Laurel is certainly one of the most caring children I know – so caring, in fact, that other parents have said so. We have done what we can by telling her we don’t give a shit what they put on that report card – if she is making good grades she is doing her job, we KNOW what an unbelievably, wonderfully empathetic creature she is, and if WE think there is something wrong with her character, she will by-god-you-better-believe-it know it. Otherwise, she shouldn’t worry.

But it’s hard, at 10, not to take such things to heart.

And sometimes, such as in the past week, it is difficult for me to support our public schools – even though I try. I try very hard.

One Party, Just Because, Coming Right Up.

Yesterday the kids had a snow day (2 in a row!) so you’ll recall that in order to preserve my sanity and blow the stink off, I took them to a movie.

As we were driving to the theater, Laurel looked at me and said, “We should give Daddy a party.”

“Um, okay, um, what’s the occasion?” I asked.

“Just because we appreciate that he works so hard so we can go to movies.”

And so that is what we did. We baked carrot cookies with cream cheese icing and Laurel made a card.

And yes, I took photos of the card rather than scanning it. I know it’s low-rent, but it was easier, okay? Get off my back!

Dell card



I’d like to point out, by the way, that Laurel copied the QWERTY keyboard precisely from her own keyboard on her machine.


The Snow Days Cometh.

Now this post falls under the category of “Don’t-Tell-Grandma-Smith.” In fact, I really SHOULD make that a category for this blog.

Anyway, here we are, day 2 of the snow days allotted to us thus far in this academic year. Yesterday, when it was colder than it’s been in 10 years, I bundled the kids up like Randy from “A Christmas Story”…


… and sent them outside.

Snow Day

They went out twice, and I only let them stay about 20 minutes at a time. Even so, they came in with rosy red cheeks a la Raggedy Ann & Andy and we all had hot chocolate. With marshmallows, natch.

And yes, the windchill was sub-zero, but how could anyone deny kids their first snow of the year?

Then today, Ethan assembled a Lightning McQueen puzzle while Laurel worked on her science fair project. This is good because it meant a) Ethan wasn’t banging on Laurel’s door pleading with her to let him in, b) Ethan wasn’t tormenting the animals, and c) Laurel was doing something productive.

After his puzzle, Ethan resumed work on his LEGO Fire Boat from PawPaw. Ethan is a whiz kid when it comes to building. I mean it. He asks us for help but doesn’t really need it, so we don’t really give it. He reads the instruction booklet himself, finds the pieces himself, and puts it on the boat himself. The only time he might really need our help is when the pieces are so tiny his chubby little fingers have trouble snapping them into place.

Then I help him.

I mean, I’m not THAT heartless.

Here he is, referring to his user manual to ensure his pieces are placed correctly:

LEGO Fire Boat

This afternoon, in desperation, I took them to see “The Princess & the Frog.” Cute, and more importantly, it kept the kids happy for a couple of hours.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the past two days. I love that the kids are home, that we saw a movie, that we got to do some things together. But oh, oh, lawd, LAWD, the bickering.

And now, I just heard Ethan say, “Here’s Vinnie’s penis.” That’s my cue to conclude this post.

Here’s to many more days just like these.

Academic Awards & Not-so-Subtle Spousal Manipulation.

Laurel received an Academic All-Star Award last night. It’s for kids who do well on their MAP tests, yada yada yada, and the ceremony was last night. Laurel was excited because they get all kinds of freebies from local businesses, including a movie pass (and we all know those are valuable, with movie prices what they are).

And before going, Greg turned to me and said, ‘Can I wear jeans?’

Now I am a huge fan of jeans, and wear jeans whenever I can, so it’s not as though I have anything against jeans.

But I said, ‘You wear whatever you like, but I am going to wear dress clothes because I believe that when we want to emphasize the importance of an event and what it means to us, we should dress accordingly. But you should wear whatever you like. I’m sure you wouldn’t be the only one in jeans.’

So yeah, if you haven’t figured it out, that’s the manipulation part of the post.

So Greg got all dressed up, and I got all dressed up, and Laurel got all dressed up, and I even curled her hair.

Then off we drove to the ceremony, where many – if not most – of the parents and children were not dressed up at all. Jeans – even holey ones – abounded.

Oh, well. Guess I’m just old-fashioned, but…

I still think it’s ‘that’ important.

Photos from the event:

On the way One of the few who stepped on the risers correctly Trying to get a good photo 1 And trying again

Laurel was laughing so hard she couldn’t stop for a photo. Oh, well!

New Year’s Eve & Beyond.

Here is one of those combo posts. I went through photos this morning and found several that needed to go up on the blog, but they didn’t have a particular theme. They’re just those whimsical snapshots taken due to camera convenience.

Here I am on New Year’s Eve, demonstrating Ethan’s Grinch Face. I’ve put a photo of the Master himself with mine for comparison. He makes this face every time he talks about or sings about the Grinch:

Demonstrating my Grinch Face Ethan's Grinch Face

I think I do a pretty good job at imitating him. Of course, I’ve had lots of practice, and Ethan has seen it quite a bit considering it is also my You-Kids-Better-Stop-That-Shit-Right-Now face and my If-I-Have-to-Tell-You-One-More-Time-to-Stop-Throwing-the-Cat-You-Will-be-Sorry face. So I’m not really certain who is imitating whom.

Have I mentioned I live with a lot of machines? Every USB port on my desk that could be taken IS taken, I believe, and we have several cords lying about, multiplying exponentially. So this is what I look like when I’m trying to find the right goddamned USB cable – and in this house, because of this tangle of cables, they are always referred to as ‘goddamned USB cables’:

Can't ever find the right USB cord

I am a known procrastinator – with some things. I have photos printed and then never get around to framing them until it becomes a Serious Friggin’ Emergency (in my mind at least) and I want it all done RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW TODAY, at which time I hassle Greg until he goes and finds what he needs to hang the pictures. This is no small task, mind you, because nobody in this house puts tools back where they belong. Of course, Ethan has to get in on the action anytime there is a hammer involved. He’s really quite good at this – never hit the wall once. The mashed fingernail on his left hand is from a slammed door:

Hammer in the morning

After locating the hammer, Greg had gone to the garage for something and I was in another room when Ethan said, ‘I am going to help and use this hammer!’ With fear in my heart I dropped what I was doing and ran toward the living room while envisioning the rest of my day – sorely afraid that ‘rest of my day’ was on the verge of translating to ‘patching of multiple holes in drywall.’ I have no words to describe my relief when I learned his hammer was the one in the photo – not the real one.


And now, just because it doesn’t fit anywhere else, this is Ethan determining how tall a giant is – or how tall he is, I’m not sure which at this particular moment, standing next to the tape measure to illustrate:

Trying to figure out how tall a giant is

And yes, for those who do not know our son, he really does have this quirk wear a hood indoors whenever he has a chance.