Monday, June 9, 2014

What No One Tells You About Being PTA President Part II

People Are Always Thanking You

People kept thanking me for all the stuff PTA did for the school. The problem was, I felt (and still feel) like I was the worst PTA President that our school has ever had. I cancelled quite a few programs, made a few decisions without any input, and basically did the minimum that I could get away with. I felt so phony when people would thank me.

You Are the Backup

If someone doesn’t show up for something, the President has to either find someone else to do it or fill in herself. This is how I ended up running a book fair, putting together teacher wish lists, and attempting to scale back the amount of prizes we handed out to students.

You Never Know What is a Sacred Cow

The previous year our PTA had 6 t-shirt options, two of which I personally thought were hideous. The t-shirt committee of myself and one volunteer made the decision to sell off what we had left and only order one t-shirt style and one zip up jacket style. No one complained directly to me, but I heard about it from the previous board. It appeared that anytime I made a decision someone didn’t agree with it and would complain. But never to me, making me wonder how many people were upset with it, and how many people didn’t care.

My daughters school is a great school, and the principal and staff were fairly easy to work with. I have friends who had much worse experiences than I did, and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to deal with those issues. What we all have in common is we are not volunteering for any PTA positions the following year. We’re actually moving to a brand new school that has a brand new, as of yet not set-up PTA, and I have no intention of signing up to do anything other than occasionally helping in the classroom. I know that I have valuable experience that could help out the new PTA, but I also know that I cannot handle another year of being in charge of anything.

Dumpster Diving

You will do anything for Box Tops. I have actually boosted my kid into recycling bins to grab Box Tops off of cereal boxes. I have my family members and neighbors that don’t have kids in school saving Box Tops for me. At church events I will check the garbage can for Box Tops. I pulled Labels for Education out of a campfire. Being PTA President made me realize how little money our schools get to operate, and how desperately we need any source of revenue we can find.

Dealing With Parents

You discover the easiest way to get someone to shut up is to try to get them to head up a committee. Nothing shuts up a parent like asking them to head up Red Ribbon Week. We had students begging us to do a nerd dress up day during anti-bully week, so we did. The kids and teachers loved it. We had the most interesting spread of nerd concepts that I have ever seen, including a second grade boy who thought dressing like a nerd was having his snow pants hanging down like baggy pants. My kid wore a shirt with a picture of Captain Kirk on it that I made her especially for the occasion. By all accounts it was a successful day, other than the parent complaints that started pouring in. None of the complaints related to anyone having made fun of another kid, they were all about “how do you explain what a nerd is to a 7-year-old?” None of the parents who complained had ever attended a PTA meeting, no one expressed any concerns about the dress up concept until after it happened. And none of these parents took us up on our offers to come to the meetings and discuss things directly, or be involved in planning the next dress up concept.

The next year we tried to make sure no one could get upset about anything, and then the parents complained that the dress up days were too repetitive and not creative enough! And they still didn’t come to meetings, or give any helpful feedback.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What No One Tells You About Being PTA President Part I

It Doesn't Sound That Hard

Last Spring I made a fateful decision that I eventually regretted. In my defense, I was in Hawaii at the time, and in such a relaxed state that it seemed that anything was possible. What was the decision? I decided I would be take on the position as President of the PTA at my daughters school. There were two reasons that I had considered it, the first being that I really believe that the PTA enhances the student experience, and the second being that no one was willing to take the job. My husband thought I could handle it, so I sent an email off to the current president stating that if no one was willing to do the job that I would do it.

Perhaps the fact that no one was willing to do this job should have given me a clue.

The Past Becomes Precedent

I recruited some helpers for school registration day, the day where you try to hustle people to volunteer for unfilled positions, join PTA and sell Spirit Wear. I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that our PTA apparently provides lunch for the school staff working that day. Luckily our Treasurer was prepared and took care of it.

During Back To School Night I was informed that the PTA always gives each teacher a big container of hand sanitizer. This would have been nice to know about earlier in the summer so I could have ordered this and not ended up scouring every Wal-Mart across the county to get enough bottles. Also, why the crap is the PTA supplying hand sanitizer to the teachers? Shouldn’t the principal make sure his staff has the supplies they need to do their jobs? I was also handed a list of teachers who needed floor fans for their rooms. It turned out that last year the PTA had purchased a few fans for teachers who had extremely hot rooms during the last few weeks of school, and it morphed into the PTA supplying fans for everyone. A few months later I even got a request to replace someone’s fan that was broken! Half of our teacher appreciation budget was spent before school even started.

I learned that if you do something once, the expectation comes that you will do it every time.

Tranquilizers are a PTA Presidents Best Friend

After a series of unfortunate events, including an exploding casserole dish, a leaking disposal and a complete inability to focus, I found myself in my doctors office, crying as I explained that I just couldn’t handle things anymore. I rarely cry, and this was only three weeks into the school year. The doctor suggested that maybe someone else should be the president, and I sobbed as I explained that no one was willing to do it and I was stuck with it. I left his office with a prescription for two anti-depressants and a tranquilizer. Without those meds, I don’t think I would have made it through the year. I was able to stop panic attacks from coming, and just chill out. This was especially handy the day that I found out the book fair chairperson was on a trip to Disneyland and I needed to run the book fair. I managed to get through that without it being a major fiasco.

Several of our local Presidents ended up on medication. I think it takes a certain type of person to handle this job without cracking up, and it turns out that I am not that person.

You Start Sneaking into School the Back Way

I got to a point during the school year that I would bypass the office when I went into the school because I was tired of getting bombarded with requests to fund things or provide volunteers for something. I even considered getting putting on a disguise.

Advance Notice? Hah

“By the way, vision screening is tomorrow. You need to get 8 parent volunteers.” “Picture day is tomorrow, we need 3 volunteers.” These are things that had dates planned in advance, and if I had been given these dates in advance I wouldn’t have had to scramble at the last minute for volunteers.

People Avoid You

All of a sudden people don’t answer the phone when you call and turn the other way when they see you coming. It’s like they know that you’re going to ask them to chair the school carnival or run Anti-Bully Week.

You Need a Smartphone

I don’t see how anyone did this job before the iPhone. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if it wasn’t in my phone calendar with notifications set, it wasn’t going to happen. Facebook is the fastest and easiest way to get last minute volunteers and make announcements. Text messaging was invaluable as a means of communication. Seriously, how did people do this job before Smartphone?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Miss America 2014 Already?

First of all, didn’t we just do this a few months ago?

Secondly, after the extremely weird shoe parade I have decided Miss Kansas gets my vote, for rocking her uniform and combat boots when all the other girls were wearing heels (and weird ugly heels at that). Also, it’s rotten she didn’t get to do archery as her talent. That would have been the best talent ever! The best part of Miss Kansas was that she was herself through the whole pageant, tattoos and all. Probably has something to do with being in the military.

As usual, most of the introductory statements were stupid. Except Miss DC who joked about listening to phone calls and Miss South Carolina who cracked a mobile home joke. At least Miss Utah didn’t mention the Osmonds or our high birth rate, again.

So here we are back in Atlantic City, which is where the pageant always was when I was a kid. So why is it airing so late at night if it’s back on Eastern Time? My kid isn’t going to get to bed until after 10:00!

And how awesome is it that the current Miss America posts pictures on SnapChat of her without makeup and is upfront about the fact that she has gained weight while traveling and that she is no longer following the crazy pageant diet.

It is nuts that Miss Florida is still competing after tearing her ACL during practice while twirling batons. So unfair they don’t let them do fire batons. If she wins I bet she ends up needing surgery. And only 11 girls in Alaska competed for Miss Alaska, and they all got at least one year of school paid for. So that’s pretty cool.

Miss Marylands evening gown was my favorite. It was white and sparkly and had a train and covered the essentials! And the sexy Belle gown, it was a fail. Belle would never wear that. Sorry Miss New York, I hated your gown.

I don’t get wearing a midriff baring shirt with a fancy skirt for talent, it was too distracting. If the top had been two inches longer we would have paid more attention to your singing and less to your belly. In fact, it was so distracting I forgot which contestant it was!

My favorite part of the pageant is how Miss New York is never paying attention when her name gets called and is always genuinely surprised that she is moving on. She did a traditional Indian dance for her talent, and it was definitely our favorite talent of the night. So fun to watch.

Miss Kansas is a butt kicking beauty queen. She had to switch talents five weeks before the pageant because they have a rule about projectiles (she was going to do archery). So she learned an opera song from You Tube. I wanted her to win and was really bummed when she didn’t move on.

I’d rather watch Irish Dancing than clogging any day of the week.

Miss Texas sang jazz, which was a refreshing change from show tunes.

Miss Florida twirled 3 batons on a torn ACL. Loved the bedazzled knee brace, and she made it to 3rd runner up. $15,000 in scholarship money isn’t too bad.

My favorite answer to a question was Miss Minnesota, who took a stand on marriage that probably isn’t popular, and may have cost her the crown, but she owned it.

There is no way the questions were evenly matched, as a question about Miley Cyrus twerking is in no way equal to questions on Syria or income disparity among minorities. And poor Miss Florida ran out of time trying to answer her question.

The worst outfit choice of the entire pageant was Miss America 2013’s final gown. It looked like a dress that an Egyptian Pharoah would wear, and the cut out in the front made her boobs looked squished, and the bare midriff was not only distracting it called attention to her waist in an unflattering way. Maybe the fact that she’s getting gypped in her reign by only being Miss America for a few months made her not care about her outfit.

When it got down to the final two contestants I decided I wanted Miss New York to win. Even though her evening gown was the worst out of the contestants, her talent was fabulous. Plus I was hoping she wouldn’t realize her name got called and that would be funny.

It turns out that for me to be at my snarky finest I need an actual keyboard (not my ipad keyboard) and some snarky friends. Unfortunately my pageant peeps were unable to come over tonight, so it was just me and Brent, and we tried to keep the snark in check because we were watching with our 8-year-old daughter, being careful to point out the ridiculousness of a fitness portion of the pageant which was really just about how you looked in your swimsuit. And it is a fine line to walk because while I love watching pageants, I do not want my kid to ever be in one.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trash Can Redux

After hosing down the trash can multiple times, using vinegar and baking soda, and bleach twice, there is still a lingering smell of decomp on my trash can! Luckily my trash can is broken, so I am working on getting the city to get us a replacement one. The good news is that it isn't nearly as potent as it was, and I really think if I give it a peppermint oiling I could get rid of the smell for good. I just haven't gotten the peppermint oil upstairs yet. I will probably do that Thursday, so after trash pickup Friday I'll give it a whirl and see what happens. No maggots have returned.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why I Googled "There is Decomp In My Trash Can"

I am probably on some government watch list somewhere due to my Google history. And it's my own fault. I bought too much meat at the store and needed to clear some room in the deep freezer, so I went thru it and tossed anything that had a date of several years ago on it, or looked freezer burnt. This included lots of meat. Unfortunately, this was on a Friday afternoon, and trash pickup is Friday morning. By Tuesday the garbage can reeked. It practically had wavy stench lines above it, so I moved it out to the curb so we wouldn't have to smell it when opening the garage door. By Thursday you could smell it from the street. On Friday, after trash pick up, I went out to deal with it, figuring I would hose it down with some soap and water and it would be fine. Alas, there were maggots crawling all over the inside of the can, and at the bottom was some sort of gray sludgy mess that was teaming with disgusting little critters. After dry heaving, I went back inside and started Googling. Due to my years of watching crime shows, I recognized the smell of decomp, and I knew that's why there was an infestation of maggots in my trash can. I was also pretty certain bleach would take care of the problem, but I wanted to double check. So I googled "There is Decomp in my trash can" and discovered that I am not alone in my stupidity, and that there is a whole town dealing with this issue because their trash pickup went to bi-weekly rather than weekly. Gross. After doing about five minutes of research, as I had one hour before I had to get to a PTA meeting, two hours before I had to go to a parents day at my kids day camp, and three hours before leaving for camping, I went out and hosed down the can, enough to get all the maggoty critters into the bottom. I then added what bleach we had, which wasn't much, in order to kill the little grimy critters. Then I dry heaved some more, went inside and showered. Then I basically had a break down because I didn't have time to deal with this mess, and my husband volunteered to deal with the can. So off I went to shower, and he rinsed out the can, dumping the maggoty mess into the gutter on the advice of the neighbor. He said the can no longer smelled. I went out and smelled it, dry heaved some more, and went off to my meeting, had a panic attack, came home and discovered the can still stunk. I then dumped four boxes of baking soda (3 from the fridge and freezer and one new one from the pantry) into the can, hauled it out to the curb so the neighbors didn't have to smell it, and left for day camp and camping. Three days later the can still smelled, although not as much. So I dumped a gallon of vinegar into it, making the worlds largest baking soda volcano, and let it sit for awhile. Then I rinsed it out. The smell of decomp was still there, although considerably lessened. I then dumped almost a gallon of bleach all over the trash can, and let it sit for a few hours. Alas, the decomp smell remains, although considerably lessened. At the moment I have some dryer sheets that were soaked in bleach sticking to the sides of the can, and a small cup of bleach sitting in the can, in addition to the garbage. I will see how the can smells after garbage day this week, and plan to try some peppermint essential oil to get ride of the smell. It worked the time I left raw chicken in the microwave for several months. Time will tell if we need a replacement can or not.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fun with Essential Oils

Every so often I play with essential oils, the hazards of being an Aromatherapist. I have made some crazy concoctions, and some that are pretty fabulous. Today I let H make her own bath salts, and after having her smell various essential oils and fragrance oils, she came up with Cranberry Sweet Orange, a bath salt that is marginally medicinal, but boy does it smell good. Her friend ended up making Cranberry Sweet and chose yellow food coloring for the color. I also made some Lavender Vanilla as a sleep formula, mainly because I had an old jar from Bath and Body Works that had Lavender Vanilla on the label, and that way I could just reuse it. I made Lavender Sandalwood as another relaxing blend, and let me tell you the sandalwood balances out the lavender wonderfully. Then I started thinking about how bath products are mainly geared to girls, which makes sense because most men I know wouldn't admit to taking a nice soak in the tub even if they did it. But I know little boys like to take bubble baths and play with bath paints, and they often gets bumps and bruises. Especially my little nephew Taz (not his real name), who really could use a punch card at the ER where he gets a free visit after five. So I created my Boys Will Be Boys Blend, which is 3 drops of Lavender, 3 drops of Cypress, 3 drops of Lemongrass, 3 drops of Frankincense, 2 drops of geranium. I might have to increase the lemongrass, as it is a not so great smelling blend, but is great for bruising and swelling, and let's face it, boys will be boys, and they will bruise, bump, and bleed. For added measure I'm adding some Complete Tissue and Bone Powder from the Dr. Christopher product line, as that is possibly the most fabulous herbal combination ever. And the flecks of brown look cool in the bath salts. As it's geared for little boys I'm going to color it blue, then the trick will be getting some little testers to tell me how it goes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I Still Don't Homeschool

I have a couple of neighbors who are homeschooling. This post is not about the merits of homeschooling vs. public school, although I will say that there are cases where homeschooling is the best fit for the child, but in a few cases I've seen the kids are begging to go back to school. H is now in second grade, and I still think that public school is the way to go for us. And here's why:

1. H and I need a break from each other. If we don't get that 6 hour break that school provides us, we fight. It isn't pleasant for any of us.

2. If she didn't have to get up and go to school, she would sleep in half the day and never get out of her pajamas. I know this because while my body forces me to get out of bed, I am often in my pajamas unless it is a day I am volunteering at the classroom.

3. Social skills. As an only child, H needs all the help with social skills she can get. And she likes people.

4. It is fun to volunteer in the classroom. You get to see what your kid is like at school, you get to know the other kids, and the kids are excited to see you. Plus this curries favor with the teacher.

5. I still suck at math and science. I can't teach those things to H.

6. I suck at teaching H anything that isn't related to Star Wars. And much like I don't like learning things from my husband, H doesn't like learning things from me.

7. Seeing how your kid compares to the rest of the class helps eliminate "special snowflake syndrome" when you find out while your kid is advanced in one subject, she is average in another.

8. It is still fun to buy school supplies, and even more fun to be the class hero when you supply whiteboard markers for the whole class.

9. If you suffer from a lack of follow thru, like most of us, homeschooling is not for you. I know someone who said her mom had an issue with the school system, so she pulled her kid out of high school yet never actually bought a curriculum or anything. I think eventually she got her GED. We attempt to do summer homeschooling in the summer, it lasts about a week and then we just give up.

10. The best way to learn how to deal with peer pressure is to experience it.

11. Class parties are really fun, and it doesn't matter what you do, the kids love it.

12. I think it would break H's heart to see all the kids going to school while she has to stay home with me.

13. If you put your kid in public school and then volunteer, you are helping to make the school, the community, and the world a better place.