This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Awwww, NUTS!

School started this week which means that I am back to forcing myself into bed before midnight so that I can get up before dawn to get the kids to the bus by 7.  I am also back to making 20 lunches and 20 snacks a week for the minions.  This is always a bit of a challenge since this one doesn't eat this kind of chips, and that one won't eat apple sauce, while this one ONLY eats get the idea.  However, we now have a new wrinkle in the lunch prep -- food allergies.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, my kids do not have any food allergies.  I DO sympathize with those kids and their parents who deal with the dangers of food allergies, I could not imagine having a minor heart attack every time my kid put food in his or her mouth.  I know that I am lucky to not have to worry about food that could kill my kids.  I don't understand why these allergies are becoming more and more common.  When I was a kid, I did not know anyone who could not eat peanuts, or eggs, or gluten, or milk, etc.  But now, every single one of my kids has several kids in their class with food allergies and some of them are life threatening.  Three out of four kids have at least one kid in their class with a peanut/tree nut allergy.  This causes a problem for us because 2 of my kids ONLY eat sandwiches that are, you guessed it, peanut butter and jelly.

Now, usually, the restrictions on the food of the other students doesn't include lunch, but is limited to food consumed in the classroom.  This makes perfect sense because if your 6 year old was eating peanut butter crackers for snack at his or her desk and then got up to sharpen their pencil, hand in an assignment, or stuck their peanut butter covered fingers into the crayons and then the kid who is deathly allergic ALSO touched something with peanut butter on it, the result could be deadly.  And, as is the rule, the kids stop at the bathroom to wash their hands both before and after leaving the lunchroom.  While it may be a slight inconvenience to me to not be able to give my kids anything that has nuts in it for snack, it really isn't a big deal.  I could still send PB&J for lunch which was where it mattered.  However, my daughter, the younger one that may be on the spectrum, brought her sandwich home untouched 2 days in a row.

This morning, when I discovered the uneaten sandwich in her lunchbox as I was busy making today's lunches, we had the following conversation:

"Baby, why didn't you eat your sandwich?"
"I didn't want it."
"Why not?  You need to eat your lunch or you'll get hungry before you get home."
"I can't."
"What?  Why not?"
"I just can't."
"Sure you can.  Did you run out of time to eat?  You should start with your sandwich first."
"No!  I can't eat it because one of the kids in my class who is allergic to peanuts sits right next to me and I don't want to kill him!"

So, today she got a jelly sandwich for lunch -- no peanut butter -- and a pep talk about how she was very thoughtful to not want to kill her classmate.

I tried not to show her how this annoyed me.  It really shouldn't.  I am blessed in that my kids do not have any food allergies.  I know that.  But MY kids are still my priority and MY kid ONLY eats PB&J for lunch. Any other kid, I might could talk into a turkey, ham, or cheese sandwich.  The older girl would even eat a salad if I fixed it every day.  But not my younger girl.  She has quirks and one of them is that she only eats PB&J.  And now she can't.  And because she is now also fixated on how she could kill her friend, she has chosen to go hungry rather than introduce the possibility.

I don't want my 6 year old thinking about death when she opens her lunch.  I emailed her teacher about it since they have assigned seats at the lunch table, thinking that perhaps she could sit next to one of her other friends during lunch -- one that she didn't have to worry about exposing to her deadly sandwich.  I was told that "everyone has to be willing to make sacrifices for the safety of our class" and that it would be "unfair to change assigned seats to accommodate one kid over another."  I dropped it, but I wanted to point out that yes, it IS unfair.  It is completely unfair to take a kid who ONLY eats PB&J and sit them next to someone who could die from being exposed to peanut butter.  Surely there are other kids in the class who eat in the lunchroom or who bring something other than PB&J for lunch -- sit them next to the kid who is allergic.  How is that unfair?  What about what is fair for MY kid?

I will no doubt be bombarded with comments and emails about how this is inconsiderate, that it is a life and death situation for these kids and their parents, and how I and my kid should get over it.  But it isn't that easy.  If you have kids on the spectrum, you know its not that easy.  So for now, I will feed my daughter a jelly sandwich just so she will eat something for lunch and brace myself for the criticism I will receive.

The email that I received back was NOT from her teacher -- it was from someone in the main office.  I got the address wrong (it went to a different teacher with the same last name, who forwarded it to the office, where whoever go it decided to just handle it instead of passing it along).  I called the school to talk to the office, thinking that I would just go over the teacher's head and that is how I found out.  I got the CORRECT email address before hanging up and now I am waiting for the teacher's response.

SHE CAN HAVE PEANUT BUTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The teacher called, she was super awesome and determined that my daughter was being hyper vigilant because she was concerned about her friend.  She sits at the same table in the classroom, but not close enough at lunch for it to be a concern.  Whew.  (And yay for having a nice, normal, understanding teacher!!)

Friday, August 16, 2013

School Days, School Days

I have been distracted all Summer.  I've had friends in need, family vacations, and 4 kids who fluctuate between "I'm bored" when I limit their TV, phone, or video game time and "I'm too tired" when I tell them to clean something.  I have attempted to write several blogs during all that, but I thought that they sucked so I either never finished them or just never published them.  I would read what other bloggers wrote and think "This is good.  This is really good.  This is much better than the crap I am writing." And then I would delete what I had written.  Or I would write about something only to find that 2 or 3 other bloggers had already written on it and done a better job.

Not today.  Today I will tell MY story about back to school crap no matter who else tells it or tells it better because I have spent the past 3 days dealing with back to school for my 4 kids and I have just about had it.  I am broke and I am developing a nervous tick as a result.

This was me.  Standing in the School Supply section of Walmart at 10 PM last night.

I was actually pretty excited about back to school (aside from the getting up before dawn every day) because for the first time since 2001, I was going to be kid free from 7-3 every day.  The possibilities were endless.  Maybe I would go get a real job.  Or clean.  Or sleep.  Or work on writing.  Or do WHATEVER I wanted because I don't have to be home until the bus is at 3:00.  It's my youngest's first year of school, so there is all of the excitement of that too.  He couldn't wait to go to "big" school.  It is also the ONLY year that I will have all 4 in the same school since the oldest will go to middle school next year.  Lots of excitement, hope, and new things to look forward to -- Yay!

And then I got the school supply list and all of that hope turned to dread and I began to get a headache.

Now last year, with 3 kids in school, I spent over $200 on school supplies (not including backpacks and lunch boxes and clothes) by buying everything on the district supply list.  Because they apparently exaggerate, we still have some of it.  In fact, on my son's list last year was "compass and protractor" and so I bought one and sent it.  It got sent home along with a note informing me that he was not allowed to have a compass at school because it could be used as a weapon.  (THEN WHY WAS IT ON THE STINKING LIST??!!)  And they asked for 20 pronged folders, but they only used 6, 8 packs of notebook filer paper, but they only used 3, and 15 glue sticks, but they only used 4.  So this year, I decided that I wouldn't buy supplies until I spoke to the teachers at open house.  Unfortunately, their teachers this year said basically to get it all.  Sigh.  So last night, I went to Walmart to get supplies.  It was ridiculous.  And I ended up at 3 other stores before finally stumbling home at 11:30 pm, without everything I needed.

The sheer volume of supplies needed for each kid is disturbing. 8 packs of 350 sheets of notebook paper? and 96 pencils?  15 glue sticks?  3 identical boxes of crayons?  WHAT FOR???!  Or is it because us responsible parents have to buy enough supplies for the entire class?

Between my 4 kids, I needed to get 262 SHARPENED No. 2 pencils. (and the 6th grader also needs 48 blue or black pens).  There are only 176 school days.  So apparently they need a new pencil every 2 days.

Then on the kindergartner's list, he needs 3 boxes of 24 count Crayola crayons, AND 2 boxes of 8 count Crayola crayons.  Why?  The colors in the 8 count box are all in the 24 count box.  Not to mention that the 8 count boxes are nearly impossible to find (as in I have been to 4 stores so far and no one has them).

I am beginning to think that the schools are in cahoots with the school supply companies.  

The 1st grader has to have a certain kind of folder -- plastic with prongs and pockets.  The list states it like this: "10 Plastic pocket folders with brads (solid colors only): 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 blue, 2 green, 2 orange."  The only problem is that no one has yellow ones.  In fact, only one store carries these at all and they are $2.99 each.  And the 6th grader also needs 4.  So 14 folders at basically $3 each, means just the folders for these 2 kids, I had to spend over $45 (including tax).  It also doesn't make sense that the 1st grader needs 10 of them.  They don't have 10 subjects in 1st grade.

Then there are the glue sticks.  Holy cow at the glue sticks -- between my 4 kids, they need 51 glue sticks (luckily, I still had glue sticks left over from the school supply shopping spree last year, so I only had to buy 36 glue sticks).  I do not know what they plan to do with all of this glue, but I better have some arts and crafts worthy of the Guggenheim.

And I am expecting some truly inspirational writing as well.  18 composition notebooks, 12 spiral notebooks, and 6 binders along with 6,300 sheets of notebook paper between the 4 of them -- and the 5 year old can barely write his name.  Now don't get me wrong -- I am a writer, so I am all for lots of writing.  I just seriously doubt that there will be 6,300 pages of it.

School supplies are necessary.  I get that.  But why so much?  Why so specific?  Why can't it be easy?  Why not say "pencils, notebooks, crayons, glue, scissors, and a box to put it all in?"  But ooooooh nooooo, it has to be this brand, this color, this size, from this store, etc.  It is ridiculous.  I am keeping all of our extra supplies at home this year.  If they run low on paper or pencils, they can get more here.  There is no way that I am sending 18 packs of filler paper and 262 pencils to become part of the community property of the classroom so that other kids can use them all up and then in April I have to buy more for my kid.

This is what I am afraid of...

When we went to orientation I also had to pay a $20 supply fee for each kid in addition to the supplies that I purchased yesterday.  All told, I have spent approximately $200 on school supplies, and $80 on school fees.  And each kid needs a "spirit shirt" that they wear on field trips and every Friday to earn points for their class -- $48 for those.  Oh, and as a PTA volunteer, I have to have a shirt -- $12 more.  So I have spent about $340 for back to school stuff and I haven't taken anyone clothes or shoe shopping, haven't bought new backpacks or lunch boxes, and haven't bought the stuff I need to make 4 lunches a day yet either.  In case you were wondering, every week I need a minimum of 2 loaves of bread, 20 bags of chips, 40 cookies, and 20 juice boxes JUST for lunches during the school year, and they are all supposed to have a "snack" every day that can be eaten at their desk with a bottle of water.  I would let them eat in the lunchroom, but that would cost about $55 per week, and I am pretty sure making lunches at home is cheaper.

As I was lamenting these facts, a friend of mine told me that they always just bought the PTA's supply boxes to save themselves all of this hassle.  And I admit, I thought about it.  But the supply boxes ranged in price from $60 to $85 depending on the grade and the contents and everything was all exactly alike inside (so all of my kid's stuff would be indistinguishable from the next kid's stuff).  I came out cheaper buying the stuff myself, and I was able to buy something that reflected my kids' unique personalities for the few items that weren't so strictly regulated.

In any event, I am done supply shopping until next Fall.  It was hard.  It was frustrating.  But I did it -- I got everything that my kids (and apparently their classmates) will need for the rest of the school year.

Except for those elusive 8-count Crayola crayons....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Just to Catch You Up

My life has been fluctuating between extremely boring, incredibly dramatic, and very comedic.  Basically, its a Woody Allen movie.

For the entire month of July, I let a friend in need stay with me.  While at the time that she and her 2 teenagers moved in with us on July 6th, it appeared that her marriage was headed in only one direction -- divorce.  After a month of late night therapy on my front porch and some serious efforts from her estranged husband, she and her kids are back home and they are starting counseling.  I sincerely hope that they can work it out.  I hope that they can both make the necessary changes in themselves to make their marriage work because I never want to see a marriage end. It was more drama than this mama has seen in a long time, and made me thankful that my husband and I have the relationship that we do.  (I mean, he loves me so much that he let my friend and her kids move in with us for a month!  He's a keeper for sure!)

On the first of August, I went on a vacation with my parents.  It was really nice.  We stayed in a cabin in the woods.  There was only one problem with the cabin -- the water.  It was slimy.  And it smelled.  So we complained to the management office.  We weren't brave enough to drink it, or cook with it. but bathing was another story because we couldn't exactly fill a tub up with Dasani.  We were discussing all of the possibilities when my dad busts out with THIS lovely theory as I stand there towel drying my hair:  "I think its probably a dead animal in their well."  I thought I was going to throw up.  Luckily, that wasn't it.  The maintenance guy came and told us that all of the rain that they had had in recent weeks had flooded the tanks and that the filtering and chemicals that they added to the water had messed up somehow.  Basically, the balance was off.  But we still didn't drink it.  

The only other problem with the cabin was the inevitable critters in the walls and ceiling -- in my room.  Right over my bed in fact.  And that didn't really bother me until the second night when my room took on the distinct odor of urine.  Yep, rodent urine.  We never saw them, but we smelled them and heard them.  But it was a cabin in the middle of NOWHERE so I really wasn't surprised, and I burned some candles and sprayed some air freshener and dealt with it.  

And my parents and I got along too -- for the most part.  In fact, most of the problems were with the intelligence (or lack there of) of the various staff that we encountered.  For example, we were in south Georgia, in August, and we attended this circus that the University of Florida students put on every Summer. In a tent.  In the middle of the afternoon.  It was about 90 degrees outside, but in the tent, it was about 4,782 degrees Fahrenheit.  There were these HUGE box fans behind the stands, but they weren't on.  About halfway through the circus (which wasn't nearly as good as advertised, by the way), I got up and asked why the fans weren't on.  I was met with "Are you sure that they aren't on?"  Ummm, yeah.  I'm pretty sure that I would notice if they were.  Then later, I tried to purchase time for my 2 oldest on this huge bouncy thing in the middle of the lake.  It was $10 each, for one hour, and started on the hour.  After I had paid, she said that they couldn't go out there now -- it was 4:10.  They'd have to wait until 5:00.  I told her that I didn't mind, but she said that it would "confuse the guys monitoring it.  So I told her that I needed a refund because we wouldn't be there until 6:00.  I had given her a $10 and a $20 (with tax it was like $21.60).  So when I wanted to get a refund, I thought, hand back the change that she had given me along with the arm bands and she would give me back my $10 and my $20.  Simple.  No.  Not simple.  This is kinda how it went down:

Me: Yeah, we can't do that, because I am not sure that we will be here until 6:00.  Here, just take this and give me my $30 back.
Me: Do you see what I'm saying?
Her: I'll have to put it in the system.
She then stares in confusion at the computer screen for a few minutes, hands me back my change again, and then proceeds to count out $21.60.  Then asks for the $1 in change and hands me a $1 bill back. I just stared at her as I was now holding a $20, a $5, and 5 $1's.
Me: I don't understand.  Why couldn't you just give me back the $10 and $20 I gave you?
Her:  Because I had to see it for it to make sense.  You know?
At which point, my 9 year old who had witnessed the whole thing said "That doesn't make any sense."

But other than the water, the rodents, and the idiots, it was a good trip.  

My kids start school next week.  All of them.  For the first time since 2001, I will be kid free 5 days a week, from 7-3.  I'm kind of giddy.  I expect that there will be a post about it later.