It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about volunteering.

Partly because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, do quite a bit of it. And partly because with the upcoming school year getting ever so near, the inevitable avalanche of requests, needs, demands, and online sign-ups has me filled with a strong sense of impending doom.

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But mostly let’s talk about it because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, am just really freaking annoyed.

I volunteer. Year-round. Usually for things that are school or kid related. Occasionally for things I dislike, because it helps out a friend or because there is a need. Mostly for things that I do not mind, or actually love, doing.

Things that I actually love doing until some well (or not-so-well) meaning, yet slightly rude/inconsiderate/unthinking/kinda selfish human ruins it for me.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with the opinions about how it could be better. The ones with the demands. The ones with the repetitive questions. The ones that think that you are an employee. And my personal favorite, the ones that are just so busy with their busy children and busy lives and general busy-ness that well, they are just too busy and they need you to communicate/arrange/set-up all the things RIGHT NOW because their very valuable time is being infringed upon.

In other words, the ones not doing the volunteering. If you should happen to be one of the ones I’m talking about, you may not want to read this next part.

Or maybe you should. There’s hope for everyone.

Often, like the rest of you well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, the things that I volunteer for require quite a bit of planning, communication, effort and energy. And time. Lots and lots and lots of time. Time, that I believe, is MY time. Time, that I believe, is time that belongs to all the other millions of volunteers doing the things that need to get done.

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Volunteering means giving freely of your time and energy to accomplish whatever thing needs to be accomplished, for whatever good cause or great event or general need that there is.

Volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Sometimes, for us well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, it takes a while to get things set up. Sometimes we end up playing phone tag with the field trip coordinator at that REALLY FUN PLACE. Sometimes we have to make lists and inventories and…I don’t know, plan stuff. Sometimes people don’t return emails, or things get lost, or that REALLY FUN PLACE isn’t available or whatever. Sometimes life (with the puking kid or traveling husband,) or our actual jobs (the ones we get PAID for) get in the way. Sometimes, we are just sitting at home eating bonbons and shirking our volunteer duties.

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Except we’re not. Like, ever.

That being said, the only person being inconvenienced by this is the PERSON WHO IS VOLUNTEERING TO TAKE THE TIME AND ENERGY TO DO THE THING!

Again, volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Yes, everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER.

And you could be one of those ones who points out that everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER to all of us well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans.

Yes. You could be a total a-hole.

Or you could be nice. Be patient. Be a little understanding. You could even say thank you. Or you could offer to help. Or do it your damn self. Or I don’t know, maybe NOT SPEAK. Any of these would be really good choices.

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But seriously, thank the well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans volunteering to do the thing. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun, but they do it.

And you should be grateful.

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A for freaking effort…

For today’s fun, we’ll talk about grades. And report cards. And other such school related magic.

A few days ago, I said this:

” Yeah…we’re not really worried about grades at this point.”

And with that statement, in this day of accolades, achievements, test scores, perfectionism, and helicopter parenting, I broke every cardinal rule of modern day child rearing. I think I broke the assistant principal, too, because she looked at me a little like this:

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In her defense, my kids attend a really, truly amazing school full of educationally committed parents who line up at the office door if their kids so much as get a B on a math test or fail to make the fabulous wall of achievement in the hallway. So I can’t really blame her for the complete and utter shock at what really came across as the underachieving parental philosophy of the year. I’m fairly certain she thought I was sealing my child’s fate as a future high school drop out and alley dweller.

Her response to me was: ” Shouldn’t you be?”

My response. “Nope.”

To clarify, I had said that we were not worried about grades “at this point.” As in we weren’t worried right now, in this moment, at this particular present time.

My oldest kid entered middle school this year, and sixth grade did not hit us like a freight train. It hit us like a freight train carrying rockets carrying nuclear missiles. Schedule changes. New routines. Multiple tests, homework, and projects to study for all at once. Too many binders. Work checks. Algebra. Seven different teachers with seven different ways of doing things and the expectation that all of these sweet, wonderful, children will just magically adjust and achieve stuff with a test, project, and homework load that would make most adults cry a river of frustrated tears.

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Yep. So there’s that. And this:

My kid has the typical attention span issues that many kids face. She also has a healthy dose of learning issues, accompanied by the usual school related anxiety and lack of organizational skills that comes with this bit of fun. Throw in a great big helping of  tween hormones and all of the social nonsense of middle school, and you’ve got a recipe for a hot mess.

So no, I wasn’t worried about grades. I was worried about her assignments coming home. I was worried about her turning things in. I was worried about her studying and studying, only to have her fail a test because she got nervous. I was worried about her having to redo math assignments, because she wrote an answer wrong, or solved an equation right to left instead of left to right. I worried about mean teachers and I worried about meaner kids. I worried about her self-esteem. I worried about her giving up.

So here we are, near the end of this first year, and while most of my giant pile of worry has been cast aside, I still refuse to worry about the damn grades.

Because last night, my kid spent four and a half hours doing  homework. Homework that she remembered to bring home, on her own, without my help. Homework that she knew would take her twice as long as the children she refers to as “those responsible kids”, and probably eat up most, if not all of her free time.  For math, she told me she had to do page 975. It was actually 579. I watched as she wrote the answer 12 as a 21, erased and wrote again. I watched as she sat there diligently, writing, erasing, and rewriting, until it was all done correctly, because she had promised this teacher she would “do better.” Several weeks ago she took it upon herself to do all her math on graph paper because it was “easier to keep track of the numbers.” Then it was on to the next assignment, which took even longer, because answering questions on a test review isn’t easy when the format of the book confuses your eyes. And then typing on the computer, because it is easier to see your spelling and grammar errors and impossible to reverse a letter when you’ve got good old MS word helping you out. And then the studying. For a Social Studies quiz that may or may not go well, depending on the level of anxiety, the absence or presence of a word bank, and the random distractions going on in the classroom. Over four hours of this. So, as she said, she “could bring her grades up.”

So grades are the least of my worries.  Because in this year alone I have watched my child demonstrate more perseverance and execute more problem solving skills than most adults my age. I’ve watched her take a situation that completely overwhelmed her, and find ways to make it not so overwhelming. I’ve watched her try, and fail, and try and fail, and keep trying. I’ve watched her cry about her report card and say she “isn’t smart” because she wasn’t seeing those A’s and then work harder, even though we have told her over and over again that her best effort is more than good enough. I’ve watched her come home beaming from a nice compliment from a teacher or a successful day. I’ve watched her handle her challenges with bravery, humor, and the occasional sarcasm. I’ve watched her pick herself up from failure, and celebrate success. So while I don’t denigrate the importance of grades, I can’t place them high on the list at this moment, because what my kid (and so many other kids dealing with whatever stuff they are dealing with in this modern age)  has accomplished in a single year can’t be measured by a letter on a piece of paper.

So yeah, I’m not really worried about grades at this point. Because my kid is an effing rockstar. So is yours. So are the “responsible kids.” So are the kids on the wall, and the kids with straight A’s, and the kids working their butts off to pass a class. They get an an  A for freaking effort.

So is the wise teacher who wrote this. Perhaps I will send it to our assistant principal.

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An epic battle has been waged…over an ugly chair.

For today’s fun:

Let’s talk about the weird, old, horrible belongings that our significant others inexplicably become attached to. Like really attached to. Like so attached that you can’t just get rid of whatever it is because it would violate some ancient, unspoken relationship code that has been in place for centuries and unleash a catastrophic chain of events…

Or something.

I once tried to send a relic of a coat that was NOT EVER coming back into style to whatever charitable clothing place would take it. My husband disagreed and attempted to wear said coat in order to prove the point that it was still a functional piece of clothing.

Words were said. Compromises were made. Crisis was averted. The coat is now hanging in a downstairs closet taking up space and collecting dust but heaven help him if he ever tries to wear it out of this house again. I may or may not attempt to throw it away again. But I can’t promise it won’t cause a monsoon or plague of locusts if I do.

I don’t understand why men (and women) do this, but I’m pretty sure that it dates back to when Eve tried to start a fire with Adam’s old fig leaf, and he threw a giant mantrum, because it was his fig leaf, and still perfectly wearable despite the fact that it was dried out and crunchy.

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In modern times, the over-fondness for crispy fig leaves has given way to an over-fondness for clothing that has seen better days. You know what I mean. The kind they keep wearing, over and over. We’re talking that ratty hat from that one game from that one time in college, the pit stained favorite t-shirts featuring the names of bands that now play state fairs, and any pair of jeans having rips where there should not be rips and whose fit no longer exists in the fashion industry.

Sometimes, you get lucky and these items die a natural death. Sometimes…not so much. Those of us that are stealthy know how to get rid of these things. Those of us that aren’t…well, we have old coats hanging in closets.

My very good friend bought her husband two brand new bags of socks, yet failed to get rid of the old ones. A week later, she did laundry. Guess what came out of the dryer? Something like this:

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The brand new socks were still in their packaging, neatly tucked into the drawer. He was still wearing the ones with holes. He would not throw them away.

Clothing aside. There is also the stuff. Random, stupid, awful, completely and utterly mind boggling stuff that you aren’t allowed to toss or donate or bury in the backyard. Like that weight bench. You know, the one with 3 inches of dust and a stack of workout magazines on it? Or “vintage” gaming consoles, horrible knickknacks, golf clubs for when they “get back into golfing,” and that random whatever it is that they are “going to fix up one day.” Not to mention the other really, really odd things that they latch onto for reasons that will never be understood.

I do not care how neat, fastidious, well-dressed, organized or whatever your guy (or gal) is. They all have something. I believe these things may be the grown up man version of a blankie.

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We have one of those things in our house. An epic battle has been waged over it, and its predecessors, for well over a decade.  My husband has a fondness for  previously owned, slightly used, extremely ugly recliners that he insists on hanging on to for way too long because, ahem, they are comfortable.

We have gone through approximately three of these recliners.

I could handle the first one, because that was when we were young and poor and needed furniture for our new empty house. The second one…I tolerated, despite the brand new furniture that was purchased and placed around it. The third one…not so much.

Here is the latest gem:

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Behold, this fine piece of used-to-be-seafoam velour monstrosity in all of its glory. It was given to us by a nice family member who was moving. My hubby said it would be fine, temporarily, until we bought a new one. We were actually supposed to be buying a new one that year. Ahhh. Hope.

That was 7 years ago. He keeps insisting that it is really, really comfortable and that is why we still have it.

Now, you might be wondering: why didn’t I just take it upon myself to buy a new chair?  Remember what I said? Ancient relationship codes.  Natural disasters. Man blankies.These attachments defy rational thought. There is no argument, agreement, or amount of cajoling that will work. Even those husbands who are known to respond to reason and sound logic are not going to give up their blankies.

Many, many conversations have taken place about this chair. Sale ads for recliners have been circled. Stores have been visited. Threats…er, suggestions have been made. Yet why spend money on a new recliner when it is such a “comfortable” chair? I could probably just replace it with a shiny new model..but deep down inside, I fear that the loss of the well-loved hideous chair would result in, well, something even more horrific being brought into my house to replace it.

For now,  I have made peace with the chair…

So have my children. They enjoy sitting in the chair, while drinking giant, open-topped glasses of red juice. Or drawing pictures…with permanent marker. And then there was that one time with the facepaint…

Sometimes I wish for vomit while dreaming of leather recliners.

This chair…oddly indestructible.

Now that coat…not so much.

The Elf on the Shelf is a douche bag…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about the Elf on the Shelf.

I hate the Elf on the Shelf. There. I said it. I hate the weird little felt doll with the knowing smile and the creepy eyes. Yes…creepy eyes. Just perfect for watching you…for Santa. Or so they say. That elf is a voyeur. Or the holiday version of Chuckie. I haven’t decided yet.

We were never going to get one. EVER. Because I’m really just not good at following through on the activities of make believe creatures. The evidence of failure speaks for itself:

There was the year I hosted Dysfunctional Family Christmas Eve, and after a full evening of crazy relatives driving me crazier and a couple of shots of tequila, I forgot to eat Santa’s cookies. I told the kids he must not like the store bought kind. Which was foolish, because now I have to bake.

And then there’s the damn Tooth Fairy. My poor children believe that sometimes so many children lose teeth she just can’t make it to your house right away, and sometimes it may take a night (or several) for her to get to you. The reality is that Mom fell asleep watching late night talk shows while folding laundry, packing lunches and signing permission slips simultaneously. And Daddy didn’t have anything smaller than a $20. 

While the tooth fairy has written several apologetic letters in my handwriting, she, unfortunately, has never left fairy dust glitter, wing prints, or a miniature fairy house.

While the tooth fairy has written several apologetic letters in my handwriting, she, unfortunately, has never left fairy dust glitter, wing prints, or a miniature fairy house.

And don’t even get me started on the leprechaun. Who the hell started that? Isn’t that a drinking holiday? Why the hell do I have to make footprints and leave chocolate gold coins? 

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Because I want to clean up green paint after feeding my kids chocolate…

So our house was not going to have some ridiculous doll giving me more to do on what was already a way too busy time of year. Until my children discovered its existence. And some well meaning but stupid teacher read the overpriced book to them at story time. And all the friends started talking about their elves named Cookie or Cutie or Honey or Pie. And then they started talking about all the adorable and humorous things that Cookie and Cutie and Honey and Pie would do. And then my kids realized they DID. NOT. HAVE. AN. ELF. There was hyperventilating. With tears.

So my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble, where I vehemently protested the Elf. And he caved.

This is our Elf on the Shelf. He was $39.99 and came with a book way too long to read at bedtime.

The Elf on the Shelf is a douchebag, and so are the people that market him.

The children named him Crumbs.

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This picture was taken on December 5. Clearly we are not responsible Christmas Elf hosts…

I wanted to call him Dog Treat.

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Our Elf on the Shelf does not do things like this:
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Instead, he is more likely to do things like this:

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And then there was the time he spent four days doing this:

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My youngest child was very excited to tell her friends that Crumbs was in the candy jar for “a lot of days.” I’m screwed when they realize the little db is supposed to move EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

And then there was this unfortunate incident:

Elf Porn is what happens when you wake up at 4:12 am because you forgot to move the little db.

Elf Porn is what happens when you wake up at 4:12 am because you forgot to move the little db.

Recently, I have been contemplating having Crumbs do this. Maybe my husband will think I’m nuts and take over…

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I truly have not ruled out this one:

This is my favorite. BEST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEA EVER!

This is my favorite. BEST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEA EVER!

Apparently the Elf now has an optional birthday outfit you can purchase. Probably for $39.99. You can also purchase “elf couture” in the form of tacky Christmas sweaters and scarves for way too much money.

Crumbs does not have “elf couture,” nor does he have a birthday outfit. Because he likes Barbie dresses. Of which we have many…that do not cost $39.99.

I would like to thank the Elf on the Shelf’s marketing team. Because coming up with creative and whimsical ideas of where to put him for one month out of the year wasn’t enough. It is only a matter of time before he takes over Halloween. And Easter. And Columbus Day.

Personally, I’m looking forward to Labor Day Elf on the Shelf, as well as Summer Solstice Elf on the Shelf.

See what I mean? The Elf on the Shelf is a douchebag.

You know I’m right.