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Posts Tagged colleen markley

No Joke: How Not To Treat A Volunteer…. Lessons from the Trenches from a Class Mom on Probation

umbridgeWell, I’m not technically on probation, but I am waiting to find out if I’m fired. And no, I’m not kidding.

See, I usually kid and joke about stuff quite a lot. I find it human. I think it’s good stress relief. And most of the time the people around me like it too. Except for, apparently, this time. Half a dozen people told me they liked my funny bit that I included on the form I handed out as Katie’s class mom on back to school night. This is the form where we asked for checks for teacher gifts for holiday, checks for teacher gifts for end of year, checks for PTO dues, and checks for PTO annual fund. That’s a lot of checks. But there was one who whined. And complained. And went to the powers that be to tattle. Because I made a joke. I’m not saying it was a good joke. Sure it was probably in a bit of bad taste, but there were no curse words and I didn’t borrow anything from Louis C.K. I just added a line. “If I write one more check I might kill someone”.

Funny? I thought so. Not to some. OK. I’m sorry. I legitimately am. Not everyone likes edgy humor and I suppose to those who are ultra politically correct killing jokes aren’t funny. I get that. I hate when someone says “Rule of thumb” because its origin was back in the days when there were laws on the books that said a man could beat his wife provided that the stick he used was no wider than his thumb. I hear that line and I cringe, but I recognize that it isn’t a call for action for more domestic violence. It’s just something people say. As far as expressions go, I’ve heard some that are a wee bit worse than that.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…A Back to School Special

alex and katie sand chairThe kids are going back to school. Without me.

Just kidding – I’m sure I’ll need to be there for a PTO meeting, training about how to behave in the library, volunteering in the library, concerts, art shows, art class volunteer duty – here’s your glue, book fair, holiday fair, fair’s fair, the mini marathon what-now, drop off, pick up, rainy days, you forgot your lunch/ boots/ mittens/ hat/ don’t call DYFS I swear I told my kid to dress warmly, pizza day, taco day, what is that on your lunch tray day, and of course, special events day. Because the other events were all not special enough. Am I bitter? Not really. Just tired.

Sometimes people ask me if I like being a stay at home mom. Firstly, if I said “no”, you’d think I was a horrible mother who didn’t love her children, or that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to be with them and not “have” to work. Trust me, I appreciate not having to drag my butt to an office every day. Secondly, I’m not a stay at home mom. I’m a drive all over the place for my kids, run errands, do grocery shopping six times a day, wait I forgot we need propane for the grill head back out, and where are the dogs they need a walk mom. I don’t like it all the time. But I love my kids. Most of the time.

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The 40th Birthday Blog…

40th bday cakeSo I am 40 today. That makes me old, reflective, and writing. I am halfway to 80. I am 20 twice. I am starting to realize that I am a little bit quirky. My husband snorted because I said “a little bit”. Maybe I’m just starting to realize it more as I grow wiser and more introspective. Much wiser. And much more quirky.  At least I’m not yet “Batty” – that’s usually reserved for octogenarians. But me?

I am a Prepper. Not just like the zombies might come and we should have a supply of foods and medicine for everyone in the house and a “go bag” in case we need to bug out. I do all that and have all that. Including gluten-free emergency food packs for Katie. And we have a generator. The kind that powers the entire house in an apocalypse. But I also prep the bathrooms. To me an emergency occurs not when there is no more toilet paper in the bathroom, but before that, when the spare rolls are down to just one. If I could wallpaper the room with spare rolls I would. But in the meantime I have one of those toilet paper storage rolls in every bathroom. And they should always be stocked. If they become empty, everything comes to a grinding halt, and everyone needs to participate in the restocking phenomenon. My kids think this is weird. That’s just another name for quirky.

I hate dirty bathrooms – and germs in general. Or bathrooms that might be dirty. Or bathrooms that were used by someone outside the first generation of our family tree or my closest friends. Or too many people even within that circle. I have cootie issues. I can’t use a use a bathroom after a certain number of guests at a party have used it. Those kinds of odds means someone must have germs. Or syphilis. Same applies if it’s been too many days between a thorough cleaning and a house guest. What if they contracted a horrible disease that hasn’t manifested itself? Like a stomach bug? Or ebola? I will climb numerous flights of stairs to find a clean bathroom instead of using one that looks perfectly fine but might have invisible cooties. Of course I could always clean it. Like now. Good lord let me get my Clorox wipes. Or else hide under my covers. Maybe take a nap.Read More

Real Life House Tours

It’s house tour season. For those of you who have not been on a house tour, let me explain. There are Perfect People with Perfect Houses who are also Generous and Kind, and they open their homes to various charity groups so that they can charge a nominal fee to raise money for good causes. Then voyeurs like me take off their shoes and walk around said Perfect Houses so I can goggle and ooh and ahh and then feel generally inferior about my own house and lack of perfection. And then I shake my head and realize this is indeed a first-world problem and I am a spoiled brat. I like my house. It’s just not quite tour worthy. But I thought it would be a good idea to make a quick reference guide in case anyone ever does want to tour our house. You never know. I could be famous.

Perfect House on Tour: Has a grand front walkway and door and lots of beautiful landscaping as you approach for your ultimate curb appeal.
My House That I Actually Live In: We only open our front door to get our takeout delivery. I used to say there could be a colony of rabbits living on our front porch and I’d never know it. We come in through the garage and into the basement. And remember to be careful not to trip on barbies, legos, fourteen pairs of shoes for two children, random coats and backpacks and leftover snacks and party favors. Last night I hosted book club and my ladies informed me there is a bird living in the pretty wreath on the front door. Not only did I not know we were harboring wildlife, I had forgotten we had a wreath on the front door. I checked it out in the daylight today. It’s not just a mommy bird. There’s baby birds too. Now we are roommates. I don’t evict families.

Perfect House on Tour: Please take your shoes off when you arrive.
My House That I Actually Live In: You better keep your shoes on so you don’t get your feet dirty. We live in a hovel. The dogs are in and out all day long and their dirty feet leave a film of pawprint everywhere they go. Don’t worry though – that little brown round thing in the kitchen on the floor? Definitely not poop. Probably a chocolate covered raisin from snack time. From three days ago. Most definitely not feces. Like 98% sure…just leave your shoes on. For sure.Read More

What I Really Really Want For 2015

rosieTrust me. You want these things too. The only problem is that they haven’t been invented yet. I bet the new year can make it happen.

Christmas (and Hanukkah, and Kwanza, and Yule) has come and gone and I’m still picking up pieces of wrapping paper that have hidden themselves in odd places in the house. Not that the holidaze are all about the presents, but I mean come on. Americans spend $465 BILLION on Christmas each year, give or take a few sheckles.  So with all that money to spend, some of us might want something actually useful. Like, instead of the (insert awful/ annoying/ silly/ not what you would have picked for yourself) gift here, imagine how fabulous life would be if we had:

The Antidote to Whining and Nonsense.
I want to give my daughter a pill to take along with her fluoride vitamin and it would take away the whiny voice, foot stomping, general eye rolling and sassy attitude. Or maybe a vaccine so it’s permanent. Or my favorite idea, some kind of weaponry so I could take aim at her when she’s being annoying and it distributes sparkles and happy thoughts, like fairy dust.

Expert Robot Assistant
Sometimes I’d like a break. I need someone like Rosie from the Jetsons. Someone who can unload the dishwasher, put the groceries away, get the kids dressed and into their coats and shoes on time for school. I’d like to finish my coffee, while it’s still lukewarm.Read More

Pilgrim Stress

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I will admit it. Thanksgiving is stressing me out a little this year.  Don’t get me wrong – I love Thanksgiving – it’s actually my favorite holiday.  If Thanksgiving were the only thing I had to do I’d be fine. But there’s all this other stuff in my life that also requires attention so hosting 30 people for a feast is making me a little wonky.  Of course, I just finished “hosting” 430 people for a local fundraiser, so you’d think I’d keep it in perspective. But sometimes I have trouble with that. So in order to remind myself that my Thanksgiving feast stress is nothing, I’ve decided I’d focus on pilgrim stress instead.

The pilgrims put together a feast for dinner as the highlight of not starving to death. That was a lot of stress, to not die. On the Maslow hierarchy of needs that’s pretty basic.  They were not coordinating sports carpools, they were not keeping track of the school calendar, their children were not begging for more tech time while you tried to mash the potatoes.  The kids were not bored or annoyed by more work because they were happy they had not starved. So let’s compare my modern day issues with pilgrim issues.

 

2014: The turkey is dry/overcooked/undercooked/the gravy sucks.
1621: At least the turkey didn’t attack you and kill you. Or distract you while you were hunting it and you were eaten by a bear or a wild boar. Or attacked by the mean Native American tribe that wouldn’t give you corn unless they were roasting us with some of it.

2014: Aunt Petunia decided to come even though she has a terrible cough and cold and she’s hacking and spraying germs all over the shrimp cocktail and everyone around her.
1621: At least it’s not small pox. Or Ebola, most likely. A cold is annoying. It won’t kill you (or your husband, even if he complains like mine doesRead More

Life with Two (Bernese Mountain) Dogs

two dogsMany of you have been asking me how life is going with two dogs now instead of one. It’s going. It’s chaotic, and insane, and full of fur and just plain nuts most of the time, but it is awfully fun too.

There’s nothing better than having two giant dogs snuggle up and want to be pet at the same time. And nothing better than laughing out loud as the big dog circles around and knocks over the little one. Their personalities are very different. Gryffin, our 3 year old, is a typical first-born. He wants nothing more than to please me, make me happy, and make sure he does everything right. Nicolas, our four month old, still poops in the house on occasion. And then looks at me like it’s my fault. Second-born.

Lots of people don’t know how I do it. Some days I don’t either. I mean, life was chaotic when there was only one dog. If you haven’t read about the Birdseed Incident or Dog Dramyou need to. Now life is double chaos. Like today. Today is one of those days. Yes, I cleaned up pee and poop because Nicolas really can’t seem to get it together and I can’t seem to be maniacal enough to be on him like white on rice in order to get this house-training thing completely buttoned up. But today, on top of that, we had multiple other issues. I shall explain them below:

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WTF Dreamworks? Don’t You Dig Dads? Warning: Parents in Peril…..

dragonI can always count on Disney for mommy issues, but now apparently I can count on Dreamworks for Daddy issues. I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 this weekend and afterward was so mad at Dreamworks that I decided I need to hate on them for awhile. So here we go.

It’s a well-known fact that Disney has Mommy issues. Think of any princess movie ever (and most other Disney movies) and tell me about a mom. They’re either dead (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast) or going to die on or off-screen (Bambi, Nemo, Frozen) or might die on-screen in a really scary way (Brave). And don’t tell me Sleeping Beauty. She has to leave her parents until she turns 16 and live in Foster Care with dubious Foster Mothers. Ditto with Tangled. Mothers are absent, step-mothers are evil. Thanks, Disney. My 8-year-old Katie and I are thrilled. She has no problem listing off all the princesses and their problems.

So Dreamworks, now too? WTF? I will tell you now that spoilers abound since there’s no way to write this little diatribe without it. Guess what. The dad DIES (onscreen!) in How To Train Your Dragon 2. Worst part? The adorable more-of-a-dog-and-pet than Dragon KILLS the dad. WTF? Are you serious? So the dragon, Toothless, is taken over by an evil alpha dragon and becomes Cujo and starts to attack Hiccup, the main character, as he cowers and begs his loyal friend not to attack him. Then, just as that weird blue fire poof comes out of the dragon’s mouth, Stoic, the dad, pushes Hiccup out of the way and is murdered by their once loving and loyal pal. Way to go. My eight and ten-year-old kids are watching this and stop eating popcorn just long enough to say “wha?” and “really? Right after the family reunion?” respectively.

Wah and Really is exactly right. Why The F*$% do we need to kill parents on screen? Ever? Why do we need to watch loved ones check for heartbeats and cry over their dead? Why do we need to see their lifeless bodies atop a Viking funeral pyre as they shoot flaming arrows and light the corpse on fire? WTF? This is a KIDS movie right?

So apparently in 2009, Dreamworks entered into a long-term, 30 picture distribution deal with drumroll…DISNEY. In crazy film jargon, that means that Disney’s mommy complex is now creating daddy issues for Dreamworks. Let’s investigate.

Now, if I had endless time, or were actually PAID to write, my investigation would go something like this: Using the Dreamworks public website filmography, , watch every movie, noting themes, main and minor characters, backstory, and conflicts. Read three major reviews for each film and note recurring similarities. Note box office successes and parent reviews. Gain access to Dreamworks higher management (not just a spokesperson) and obtain comments on article and research of the theory “Dreamworks Doesn’t Dig Dads”.

However, I write for myself, without pay, and have an actual life that requires me to pay attention to my children and not just the whims of my writing. They want to be fed three meals per day plus usually 2-3 snacks, request entertainment, need clean clothing, need to be encouraged to do things semi-academic, especially since we are in that inbetween purgatory of ‘school has ended but camp has not yet begun’. So none of that other research protocol is going to happen. Instead, here’s what is happening.

I looked at the Dreamworks Filmography, wrote down the parts that help my argument. Then asked my ten-almost-eleven-year-old to look at the list and tell me which movies he has seen (not surprisingly he has seen most of the box office hits, and has not seen the box office busts that almost bankrupted Dreamworks in the process). Alex, who is smart, tells me his opinion on what will help my blog. He came up with quotes like this:

     Megamind – Is about a superhero fakes his own death. It leaves a city in total despair.

     Monster vs. Aliens – The main character is separated from her fiancé (and parents and family) at the altar where she turns into a freak and the government sends her off to fight robots.

     How To Train Your Dragon – The mom is not around in the first movie, we assume she’s been taken away by dragons, they finally find her in the second movie just in time for her to watch the dad die. Dude.

     A lot of these Dreamworks movies are all about doomed love.

I think Alex could have his own blog. He’s wicked smart.

So those tidbits aside, my main examples of how Dreamworks has started to suck include Kung Fu Panda, The Croods, and of course as already discussed, the How To Train Your Dragon 2 movie. In quick detail and order of distribution date:

Kung Fu Panda (2008, sequel 2011) – So first off, the Panda, Po, is adopted. In the sequel we discover that he lost his parents as a child, winds up in a radish container, and finds his way to the duck, stork, goose, crane or whatever bird he is, who finds him and adopts him. The goose is also a little crazy and fails to notice that his panda son has an infatuation with kung fu. Instead, the father has basically only one line the entire movie – “You like noodles?” This is also a funny line and one we use every time we talk about pool noodles or Chinese noodles. Now, the bird father eventually figures out that his portly panda child needs to follow his own destiny but only after Po is launched into the air on a chair full of fireworks screaming “I love Kung Fu”. Talk about the writing in the sky. So the stork dad is a dummy, but eventually comes around. And at the end of the second movie, we find out that Po’s parents are alive in some far-off meditative meadow, and while Po never gets to meet them, it does leave open the opportunity for a third movie. There is hope. There is also death on screen – something about the Wooshie Finger hold and a squidoosh – which kills the bad guy, Tai-lung the tiger/leopard, but there’s no body parts (just the town is a big mess) so that’s good. And when the old turtle guy dies he just turns into peach blossoms or something. So as far as general disrespect or violence to fathers and father figures goes, I give it a B+.

The Croods (2013) – First let me say I loved this movie. It was hilarious and cracked me up just in previews let alone the full-length film. The opening scene with the whole family chasing after an egg? And the “release the baby” bit? Loved. The little sloth whose name is Belt? Adorable. We still say “Dunh Dunh DUNH!” around here in homage to a caveman sloth drama drumroll. The part where the new boyfriend helps the girls make shoes that look remarkably like Uggs? I can’t even. And while it does start down the ‘death to dads’ path, it at least follows the Hollywood ending where we think something terribly sad is going to happen but it turns out to have a happily ever after ending instead. And I’m a big fan of those kinds of endings. Is it sappy and typical? Yes. It’s also what I’m paying $10 per ticket (plus $40 in popcorn) to go see. If I want to see something sad I’ll stay home and watch a documentary. If I’m bringing my kids out to a movie in public where I am battling the potential for bird flu, sticky floors, other people’s whiny children and who knows what else, I want to have a HAPPY ENDING. Period. So while this movie starts to make you think the Dad is going to DIE, there is at least a point to it. He is resigned to sacrificing himself to save others, literally throwing his family across a ravine while he stays in the falling apart side of the earth (because apparently only certain zip codes were falling apart and the “good” side of town across the ravine was FINE and the place to move. Better schools too I bet). As scary and sad as this is, this movie plays by the rules, we think the dad is going to die, but then he manages a miracle, comes up with an idea with his caveman brain, rescues himself and a pet, and lives. He Lives. But I cried a lot in the in-between part, just in case you were wondering, and my then seven-year-old said repeatedly “Mommy who is going to save the daddy?”. So I give this movie a rating on violence and potential death to dads as a C-. Other than that the movie was great.

I’ve already discussed How To Train Your Dragon 2 above, but here is the summary of why this movie sucked. As soon as there is a reunion of a happy two-parent household, they rip them apart and kill one of them. So yes, after nearly 20 years, Hiccup gets his mom back, but his dad is killed off by none other than his most loyal friend, Toothless the Dragon in less than 20 minutes. Boo. Seriously. Boo Hiss. This is a KIDS movie. Will my kids learn about death and dying in other places outside this movie? Yes. They have already and they will continue to do so. In real life. We don’t want or need the movies, which are supposed to be our happy escape, to teach us any more sad lessons. Show me Hope. Show me Patience. Show me a sense of Humor that can combat any bad day. Show me Hard Work that Pays Off. Show me Dedication, show me Love, show me Perseverance. Don’t show me the dad dying on screen and the main character holding his lifeless body in his arms. I don’t want to need to explain away bad movie writing – but I will. And then I’ll boycott the next Parents in Peril movie, because I’m tired of it. Dear Dreamworks, Dear Disney – smarten up. I’m here to stay. And I have a lot to say on the matter.

 

Bad Part-Time Jobs Are Good For You

CEC gangA new article states that only 25% of teens in the US worked in 2013.  Teens are missing out on earning their own money and building character traits from having jobs that make you question your own desire to live. More on horrible jobs in my life:

Chuck E. Cheese Pizza, Wayne, NJ  (circa 1992-93), Bit of Everything, including the Rat
Being a Disney Character is a highly-desired job.  They have a handler who escorts them everywhere they go. People love their famous personas.  Being Chuck E. Cheese is dressing up like a rat in order to be beaten by rude and obnoxious children while their ruder and obnoxious-er parents watch and laugh. Dude. There’s someone in there getting paid minimum wage. Be kind. Remember that they worked their way up out of Game Room where they had to clean the balls in the ball crawl after your kid peed on them. They worked their way out of the prize counter where they had to argue with your kids that no, they could not have the six foot dolphin worth 10,000 tickets for just the three tickets they had.  They worked their way up out of the kitchen where they used to smell like pizza and when they were done with their shift they had to leave their shoes outside their house because the dough and flour would attract ants and insects.  They are simultaneously trying to use their ballet, tap and jazz dancing skills while balancing a giant heavy head with someone else’s sweat and boogers on it.  I did all of those things and more.  This is the job where I learned parents sometimes suck.

Beth Israel Hospital, Boston MA (circa 1994-95), Pincushion
I sold my body to science. Just some blood, and platelets, and stuff.  They were testing some new drugs and I had to fill out a little questionnaire, stay in the hospital for a few days, and eat ice cream. I don’t remember what the ice cream part was all about but it was actually part of the testing. I brought my homework, skipped a couple classes, ate ice cream.  This is where I learned discovered I am allergic to latex.  And don’t like needles. But what I really learned is that I don’t like being poor more than those other things, so yes, I will take experimental drugs and let you take as much blood as you need.Read More

Why Scientific Studies of Stupid Things are Stupid

5791732429_5f2652a397_bI have decided that one of two things must happen: Either I must stop reading articles about anything resembling something smart or a scientific study (and perhaps just focus on things my brain can apparently handle like “Spice Up Your Kitchen Colors!” or “She’s left him and she’s PREGNANT” which are the only other magazine choices in the grocery store) OR, I need to understand these scientific study for what they are worth – HUMOR. Because no one can live seriously after reading any of sort of this pop science and how it affects real life nowadays.

What set me off this time was what I read in a magazine about healthy eating and grocery bags.  Apparently they had done a scientific study and tested reusable shopping bags from various homes to see if there was poop in them. Not kidding. This was right next to the recipe for how to make kale edible, which I’d like to know, because it isn’t, and I’d like it to be.  Now, before we get to the point of the study, I’d like to talk about the hierarchy of grocery bags. If you don’t do the grocery shopping then go ahead and go back to reading the Economist or whatever. This is important.

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