Category Archives: Public Schools

Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t Give Me Cooties!

no romantic dinner Restaurants, florists and jewelry shops would like to convince you that Valentine’s Day is for lovers. And that passion will grow if you just fork out a fortune at a crowded restaurant, buy a dozen long stemmed roses on the most expensive day of the year, or purchase an overpriced diamond that has a used street value that’s less than a non-Smart cell phone.

Valentine’s Day does serve that minute population of those who are newly in love – those optimistic souls who met on Match.com within the past two or three months and whose relationship is still at the stage where they lock the bathroom door when they use the toilet. For the other 99.9% who are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is kind of a hassle – especially when it falls on a weeknight as it does this year. The rest of us are too exhausted to go out and celebrate, and if we do, we’re too sleepy and bloated to consummate the evening after a big fancy meal.

This year my husband Tom and I will do what we do every year: buy each other a funny card. He’ll make his famous jambalaya, which is tastier than any restaurant, and for a fraction of the cost. We’ll celebrate the most romantic night of the year by dining with our three children. Jake will complain that he doesn’t like it, so he’ll get a bowl of white rice. Emily the vegetarian will have a separate meatless bowl, and Mary will try to nab the last piece of garlic bread. Our meal will be served in the kitchen. There will be no candles. No romantic music. And I will do the dishes.

We have a special event this year on Valentine’s Day evening. Jake is having a Cub Scout Pack meeting. Tom and I will celebrate by giving each other a little smooch during the event, then wait for the cubs to mutter “Eeewwww! Gross!”

The demographic that really caters to Valentine’s Day are children 12 and under. They celebrate by buying Valentine’s Day cards for every member of their classroom. They’re not allowed to just bring something for the boy or girl they have a crush on. They must also deliver a card to the boy that creeps them out or the girl who’s a big tattletale. Even the kids who give other kids cooties receive cards asking “Will You Be My Valentine?” Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when you can tell that girl who doesn’t bathe often that she’s as sweet as Snow White, and she won’t think you’re hot for her. And although boys bring cards for boys and girls bring cards for girls, that doesn’t make them gay. Although it’s ok with me if they are.

kids cards

Kids’ Valentine’s Day cards come in a huge assortment, advertising hit Pixar or Dreamworks movies and Disney or Nickelodeon tv shows, and they usually have some accompanying prize attached. This year they include Brave cards with pencils, Phineas & Ferb cards with tattoos, Star Wars cards with glow sticks, and Transformers cards with erasers. I didn’t see Family Guy valentines, which is a good thing since Jake would have chosen them and all the elementary school parents would know that I’m a bad mom for letting him watch a show that would be rated R if it was live action.

Somehow I just don’t see the romance in Transformers. What kind of wish do they give the recipient? “Have a Apocalyptic Valentine’s Day?” “Be My Disastrous Demolition Valentine?”

tween cards

For the tween set, there’s Justin Bieber with tattoos that say “I heart JB,” Twilight Breaking Dawn with stickers, and Mustache cards with tattoos (where did this big craze about mustaches come from? Charlie Chaplin? Burt Reynolds? Hitler? Fodder for another blog).

mustaches

Jake picked out the cards from the movie Madagascar 3. It features Valentine’s Day wishes combined with circus advertisements for the cast. “May Your Valentine’s Day be Just Darling” also hawks “Gloria – the World’s Most Graceful Hippo.” I doubt Jake gave any thought as to whom he should give this card. However, if I was an overweight girl, I would be terribly offended.Madagascar 3

Crafty moms make hand-cut cards and fancy treat baggies, downloading ideas from Pinterest, Etsy, and Martha Stewart. I’m not one of those moms. Even if I had time on my hands I wouldn’t be one of those moms. I’m not creative or crafty, so whenever my kids have to build a class project like a Leprechaun Trap or a Spanish mission, I pimp out my oldest daughter Emily who lives her life outside of the box.

Most of the kids tape some sort of treat to the bag, usually SweeTarts or chocolate kisses – the official candies of Valentine’s Day. I might steal the kisses from my kids, but the SweeTarts get tossed into the candy bin that holds all the Easter, Halloween, birthday piñata candy, and a lone half-sucked on Christmas candy cane.

Jake’s teacher this year is forbidding treats of any kind, which will most likely cause a riot on the playground at recess with those kids nabbing candy from the students with more lenient teachers. Jake’s Valentine’s Day card package included temporary tattoos of all the Madagascar 3 characters. I’m hoping that Jake’s teacher doesn’t classify non-edible items as treats and allows them as gifts. On the other hand, even though tattoos and stickers may be classified as non-edible items, there is a good chance that some of the kids will still try to eat them – especially if it is something of the scratch & sniff variety.

By coincidence, on Valentine’s Day this year, Dr. To (pronounced “toe”), our local pediatric dentist, is coming to all the kindergarten classes to show kids the proper way to brush (follow the link in her name. She’s Jake’s dentist and we love her!). Then on Friday she’s doing the same for the 1st grade classes. This is perfect timing, since other than the day after Halloween, the day after Valentine’s Day will be the day most likely for rampant sugar to rot baby teeth.

Although Jake’s friends possibly spend hours addressing Valentine’s Day cards (or their parents whole minutes), I’m never sure what to with all those grams after the holiday. Jake and I read them together, and before the weekend they’ll magically disappear into our recycling bin.

Isn’t that romantic?

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Kids, Public Schools, Teenagers

For “Giving Tuesday,” Can I Give Back All My Free Address Labels?

Black Friday – the biggest shopping day of the year for the brick & mortar establishments – is followed three days later by Cyber Monday – the most popular online shopping day. And since you already have your credit cards out and are floating on that high that only comes from the combination of spending a lot of money and getting a really great deal, some brilliant philanthropists (and of course some savvy marketers) came up with today’s Giving Tuesday. They figure that we have one day for giving thanks and two for getting deals, so why not balance it out and create another day for giving back? And by “giving back,” they don’t mean the return line at Wal-Mart after you’ve developed buyer’s remorse.

I think Giving Tuesday is a great idea and I hope it catches on like wildfire. Especially for those people who don’t really think about charities until the end of the year tax write-off, I think it’s a wonderful way to initiate the recognition of worthy charities and hopefully start instilling a desire to help those in need, without expecting a fancy meal and a door prize in return.

Even though I completely encourage Giving Tuesday, today won’t necessarily be a special day for me. I try to be a giver year-round, not just on some new cyber-Hallmark holiday akin to Secretary’s Day. My kids will probably joke that I like to give them crap (although they wouldn’t actually the word “crap” or I’d really give them crap), but I wouldn’t hesitate a second to donate a kidney, a lung, or even half a brain if I could spare it. I enjoy volunteering my time in the community, and I even get a kick out of donating blood. And I don’t do it for the free carbs and a sticker.

I’ve never had a garage sale. I prefer to donate my gently-used items to charities, although one organization that I’ll just call Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came to pick up my bags of goods one day and instead left a note that said “Landfills are expensive.” Apparently the jacket good enough for me to wear the day before was unfit for a homeless person living in a box on a freeway offramp.

Ever since I started making enough money to eat something more extravagant than air-popped popcorn and off-brand macaroni and cheese, I’ve been giving to charities. Whether it was a Girl Scout selling over-priced cookies outside the market, a friend participating in a walk, jog, run or jump-a-thon, or some tear-jerker infomercial, my checkbook was always out. In the early 1990’s I was doing quite well financially and probably donated to 40 different charities annually. I’d send $25 to anything that came in the mail and more if the request was solicited by a friend.

But for the past few years we have been in financial dire straits, and I now have to be more choosey about charities.

The problem is, like pesky gum on your shoe that you just can’t scrape off, I seem to be in these charity databases for life. To them I’m still a potential donor left over from previous flush years, and I still might have sympathy and disposable income left to burn.

They don’t just send a form letter. What really irks me are the gilt-ridden gifts I don’t need or ask for that are smuggled along with the letter. I receive glossy photos of a malnourished child in Africa, a sad-eyed pup that’s about to be euthanized, or baby seals stuck in muck. They send calendars filled with 12 months of those plighted children, puppies, and baby seals. I get incredibly cheap-looking Christmas or greeting cards that I just pass on to some other charity. And if I had a dime for every time I got a dime from the March of Dimes… wait! I do have a lot of dimes!

Even though they may be attempting to stretch that donated dollar as tightly as possible by paying bargain basement prices on these presents, I’m concerned that they might be manufacturing these gifts in 3rd World Countries with the same horrible conditions they’re hoping to wipe out from the lives of plighted children, puppies, and baby seals.

But the most prevalent gifts are the ubiquitous address labels. I have probably received a billion of them in a variety of “Miss,” “Ms.” and “Mrs.,” “Cathy” or “Catherine,” and even some with the married names I never took.

Even though I didn’t ask for them, I’ll keep the labels and these days I probably won’t end up donating to their charity. I used to feel guilty about it, but it’s not like anyone else has any use for them. I can’t fill up a donation box of “Cathy Flynn – Valley Village, CA” labels for Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and hope that Mr. Homeless Man in a Box can find them constructive, with the exception of using them to tape up leaky holes in his habitat.

I like to use the labels for as my contact information on charity raffle tickets rather than handwrite the same lines 100 times. The money may not be going to the optimistic organization that printed and mailed those address labels, but at least it’s still going to a good cause.

Two weeks ago I donated about 20 bags of clothing to the Superstorm Sandy victims, and then gave literally a truckload of household items to our local public middle school during their Goodwill drive. We have a monthly credit card payment to our public elementary school as well as my local public radio station since I’d be a complete thief to listen to NPR as often as I do without paying something for it. And since I don’t really know today how I’m going to pay for those credit card charges next month, I’m praying that even if I’m a contributor this year, it won’t tip me over the financial cliff so far that I’ll be one of those charity recipients next year.

I guess the bright side is – if we lose the house I won’t need to worry about what to do with all those return address labels. I doubt those charities will be able to find me at my new home next door to the Homeless Guy in a Box.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Fundraising, Humor, Public Schools, Volunteering

Missing the Kodak Moment on the First Day of School

I am a terrible mother.

Today was the first day of the 2012-2013 school year. I dropped off Mary at the middle school gate, walked Jake to our local elementary school and into his new class, and since Emily is in high school I just gave her a firm kick out the front door. After my kids were tightly locked down into their three respective LA Unified schools, I came home, poured myself another cup of coffee and posted the following to my Facebook page:

“It feels so weird to have the house to myself.”

I hit “post” and then proceeded to read my friends’ News Feed for the morning.

That’s when I realized I deserved the Worst Mother of the Year Award.

Every single post of every single parent of a school-aged child had already uploaded a photo of their little angel’s first day of school. The kiddos were carrying Angry Bird lunch boxes and had Dora the Explorer backpacks over their shoulder blades and their spotless shoes were glittering and their shiny outfits were so new the tags were probably pulled off on the way to class. They were posing with old friends and new teachers, clutching siblings, and wiping the tears away from their sobbing parents.

I, on the other hand, had completely forgotten about that precious Kodak moment. And now it was too late.

It’s not like I could barge into my 16-year old’s French III class with my iPhone blazing. “Excusez-moi, Madam,” I could have said, and that would be the end of it since I don’t speak French. Then I’d take a quick snapshot of my daughter hiding under her desk. For the rest of her high school career, she would be known as That girl with the crazy paparazzi mom.

I wouldn’t have been allowed to sneak into my 11-year old’s drama production class and loudly proclaim to her teacher that being the thespian that he is, he should understand why I must stop the class in their tracks from learning a Shakespeare sonnet or a David Mamet play or some improv demonstration where they all pretend to be caterpillars just so my daughter can be seen on the big screen (big depending on how large your computer monitor is). Normally I humiliate her just by breathing. This stunt would have pushed her so far over the edge that she probably have come home and tried to OD on gummy vitamins.

And now that my baby boy is a big 1st grader, he’d be completely mortified if I popped into his new class and interrupted a lively reading of Junie B. Jones.

“Stand over here next to Hendrix and say ‘cheese!’”

Then I’d reposition him and shove another of his soon-to-be-former friends into the group.

“Let’s do another one with Charlotte since you weren’t smiling.”

Then he’d excuse himself to go to the little boys’ room and never come back.

I could have had my first day of school Facebook photos. But alas, I missed my moment.

So here’s my re-creation:

I took it after my kids got home. Notice that Emily and Mary are already wearing their pajama bottoms.

It’s too late to capture that first day of school moment. But at least I still have time to embarrass my kids.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Teenagers

Volunteerism – It’s Not Just a Job; It’s a Job Without a Paycheck.

At about 3:45 pm on Tuesday, I dropped by the dubbing stage on the Disney lot, where Erik the recordist downloaded my conformed dialogue tracks. By 4:00 pm I was waving goodbye to my supervisor, my boss, the mixers and the producer of “Once Upon a Time.” I probably won’t see any of them again until season 2 begins next September.

I love my job as the dialogue editor on the show, but with only 22 episodes a year, it leaves a very long hiatus.

So on Wednesday morning I woke up and started my new job. I love this job too – probably even more than I love working on a hit show. And my new job pays nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean that it’s something close to nothing like minimum wage at McDonald’s. My new job pays nothing because for the next month I’ll be working as a volunteer.

Since 2001 I have been a parent at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village. Back then, most families in the neighborhood sent their kids to private schools. They didn’t really know much about our little public school. So in 1998 when my daughter turned 2, I started volunteering at Colfax in an effort to infiltrate the school and see first hand what it was like.

They placed me in a 1st grade class with a teacher named Paige Gage, and I fell in love. Besides having a name that rhymed (something every 1st grade teacher should have) she was engaging, fun, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy being there everyday with the kids. It turns out she was a parent there years ago and became a teacher later. Her children are now grown and she’s still at Colfax and teaching 2nd grade now. And I’m still in love with her.

There are countless parents and members of the community who consistently devote a truckload of time to help this little gem of a school. Throughout the work season I participate in little ways as a room parent and in PTA, but when I’m on hiatus, I have the opportunity to really dive in. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to work with other volunteers to make our wonderful school even better and be able to interact with the kids. Here are some of the really fun things I can look forward to doing for the next 6 weeks of the school year:

Kindergarten violins

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 I get to help my son Jake and his classmates place their feet correctly on the Arthur Murray-like foot positions on the floor and keep the boys from having sword fights with the bows. The kindergarten recital is May 24. For that day I’ll probably work as a kid wrangler and try to keep them from messing up their white button-down shirts. Good thing the recital is first thing in the morning or after recess I’d be racing home and washing a large load of white button-down shirts.

Helping in the classroom

Today I helped the kids paint sunflowers. I let a girl named Emma make a second one after I totally screwed hers up by suggesting she fix a part of it. She was doing way better without my help.

Beautification

This Saturday, May 12th we’re all bringing our gardening gloves, rakes and creaking backs to the campus to sweep, clean and plant. It’s scheduled right between Jake’s baseball game and my niece’s baby shower in Yucaipa, so I can just spare an hour. That’s how long it should take to clean up 10 square yards of an area covered in juice box straw wrappers. Damn Juicy Juice.

PTA/PACE Elections

May 17th I get to see who’s going to be Co-VP of Communications with me. The term will be up for my current partner Joanne, which is really scary since she’s the one who takes the great photos and sends out the Constant Contact email messages to the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that the new Co-VP is artistic and tech-savvy. Otherwise I’ll need to learn how to take photos where people actually have their eyes open.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Lisa and Abbe are a couple of energetic go-getters, and I work with them on Restaurant Fundraisers where Colfax gets 20% back. I have the task of counting out the exact number of flyers for each classroom and placing them in the teachers’ boxes so they’ll go home in the students’ backpacks. We have fundraisers at Menchie’s on May 18th and a combo Cold Stone Creamery / Green Apple China Bistro on June 5th. The teachers scoop the ice cream at Cold Stone, and there’s always a line out the door of students who ask, “Mrs. Tepper…  can I have another sample?”

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I’ve signed up to bring lasagna. I used to make an amazing lasagna before I had kids.  Now every year I sign up to bring a lasagna to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch with the intention of making a homemade one, and every year I realize that an amazing lasagna takes about half a day to prepare. I’m thinking of just cooking a Stouffer’s in one of my Corningware trays so it looks like I actually spent more time on it than merely turning an oven dial.

Vaudeville

Every year, that same teacher I volunteered for back in 1998 puts on a Vaudeville Show. Starting in January, Paige Gage has rehearsals every Wednesday afternoon not only for her 2nd grade class, but she also offers it to every 2nd grader in the school and any older student who wants to help with the show. I’m the gal who gets to press “play” on the iPod. The kids sing songs like Jimmy Durante’s Inka Dinka Doo, perform magic tricks, and tell really corny jokes. I’ll hear the words “knock knock… who’s there?” more than any sane person should hear in a lifetime.

School Site Council

There’s a governance meeting once a month where we get to discuss the school charter, curriculum, budgets, and other topics that would make a kindergartner’s eyes glaze over. This is the time I get to act like a grownup and try to act like I really understand all that “I second it” and “I’d like to make a motion” stuff. Because it’s elementary school, I’d love to call it “Me too” and “Whatcha think if…?”

Career Day

I have the opportunity to make three 20-30 minute presentations on what a sound editor does for a living. After I explain that I work from home and wear headphones all day, the kids who will decide to pursue this career when they grow up will either be sound aficionados or anti-social shut-ins.

Tribute Songs

During the very last PTA/PACE meeting of the year we have a presentation to say goodbye to all the 5th grade parents who have gone above and beyond in volunteering for the school. I have the dream-of-a-lifetime job of writing a bunch of parodies and having some of the 5th graders perform it that night. My goal is to make the parents simultaneously roar with laughter and weep like babies. (Have some fun and check out last year’s karaoke version at Colfax 5th Grade Tribute 2011 on Youtube).

Colfax World Fair Marketing

This is the Big Kahuna of my volunteer activities, which is fitting since one of the things I get to hype is the Big Kahuna – a huge water slide at the Colfax World Fair on June 2nd. Last year about 7,000 guests attended this event which made $140,000 in a single day. My job is to get the news out about the fair by any means possible and to make enough money to keep all of Colfax’s extracurricular (and curricular) programs alive. I have a great team of volunteers working with me this year who will be spreading the word with Facebook, Twitter, Patch, emails, banners, posters, car magnets, flyers, postcards, lawn signs, newspapers, magazines, radio, online or just good old fashioned word of mouth. By June 2nd, if you haven’t heard of the Colfax World Fair, it means you’ve been in a coma under a rock on a desert island.

Finally…

Tuesday, June 19th is the last day of the 2011-2012 year for this little LAUSD school. So at 1:30 pm I’ll be clocking out.

By then I’ll need a nap.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Multitasking, Music, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Volunteering

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

Like half of all the other desperate souls in America, I was dreaming of what I would do if I won $656 million in the Mega Millions Jackpot. I bought not one, but two lotto tickets, which is a very big deal since it meant that due to the astronomical gas prices I’d have to drive four fewer miles this week. Good timing since it’s spring break and I get a break from middle school car pool.

In my fantasy, I would pay off the house just enough to have 20% equity, then do a na-na-na-na-na-na dance to the half dozen loan officers who have turned us down for a refi this past year.

I would pay off the student loans my husband and I have accumulated to the tune of $185,000, and then have plenty left over to put our three kids through the college of their choice. What the heck… we could probably buy our own college.

We could fly first class to Florida and spend a week at Disneyworld while Emily is still young enough to enjoy it and Jake is old enough to avoid the dreaded naptime.

I could dream forever and keep going on about my fantasies, but the fact is, I didn’t win. Obviously, or my blog hit numbers would be through the roof. So since I try to be a glass half full kind of gal, I have come up with the…

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

1. Taxes. Right now I earn and pay a pittance – just enough to contribute a little something to our under-funded public schools. If I was paying millions in taxes it would all go to big ticket items like politicians’ pet projects such as funding studies on whether cockroaches prefer Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles.

2. All the kindergartners would be knocking out their own teeth during sleepovers at our home since it would be rumored that we have a very generous Tooth Fairy.

3. My credit union building is just not big enough to deposit all those dollars

4. I really don’t want to be featured in supermarket tabloids under the headings “She’s just like us! She buys her own deodorant!” and “Lotto Winner Caught Picking Her Butt!”

5. I’d have to scrape off my “Other 99%” bumper sticker.

6. I’m afraid someone will kidnap my dogs and hold them for ransom. Then I’d have the dilemma of whether or not to pay the criminals or let the mutts just annoy them as much as they annoy me.

7. I’d probably have to start paying my kids an allowance.

8. Every third cousin in my family tree would be hightailing it to LA for a piece of the pie, and then race back again every month when their stash ran out.

9. I would have to spend all my free time rejecting new Facebook friend requests.

10. I would be invited to fancy shmancy parties that Mitt Romney is also invited to and then I’d have to keep repeating the awkward conversation that I am a Democrat and would plan to outspend his Super PAC.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Top 10 List

($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety

Here's the gas prices at the station closest to my home. Aaaahhhh!!!

With the astronomical price of gas these days, I start to have an anxiety attack each moment my odometer clicks another tenth of a digit. I quickly do the math in my head: if my 15-year old minivan gets 16 miles per gallon of gas and I pay $4.50 for each gallon, I am coughing up over 28 cents for every tenth of a mile. It now costs twice as much in gas to deliver my daughter’s forgotten brown bag lunch than to just make her buy lunch at the school cafeteria. What a dilemma!

When I got my driver’s license in 1978, I remember paying just 64 cents for a gallon of gas. I say this and I feel like the old geezers who complain how when they were kids they used to walk to school uphill both ways. Suddenly I’m older than dirt.

Today, as I near a hundred bucks a pop, each time I fill up my tank I feel like I just lost the kids’ college fund – that is if I was wealthy enough to actually have a decent kids’ college fund. My head pounds, I feel emotionally sick, and I am suddenly terrified of the future of both my family and America as a whole.

With such an adverse reaction, you would think that my work commute must be an enormous trek and I am suddenly spending a fortune in gas.

Wrong.

Actually, my commute distance is exactly 13-1/2 inches and takes about a nanosecond, so it costs exactly no dollars and zero cents in gas to drive to work.

Jealous? I don’t blame you.

My editing system sits on a desk near the foot of my bed and I am able to upload and download my session via the Internet. I work a 48.6 hour week (blame my union for this obscure number) and I can do it all in my pajamas.

I can’t image how I’d afford gas if I still commuted from the home in Chino I sold in 1992. It’s a 90 mile round trip to Burbank, so at 16 miles per gallon I’d be spending over $550 in gas each month. Plus I’d be wasting about 15-20 hours each week staring at lame bumper stickers and the rear ends of all those SUVs that have stick figure drawings with family member names underneath, all the while sucking up thousands of Verizon minutes yacking with people who’d certainly be tired of talking to me after the first ten minutes.

Thank you God for telecommuting.

I do have to drive a mile and a half each way every week (84¢) to drop off and pick up my external hard drive from my assistant/right hand man Eddie. I also travel four miles ($2.25 round trip) to the Disney lot and swing by the dub stage, mostly to keep my chops primed in having three-minute conversations with actual adults who work in post-production sound. In real life, the majority of my conversations consist of telling my 5-year old to stop squirming and keep his finger out of his nose, so the last thing I want to do is instinctively bark these orders at the dedicated mixers of Once Upon a Time.

So if I’m not paying up the wazoo in my work commute, where does all the gas money go?

Jake’s school is three blocks away, and since he’s a pokey walker, we drive. I figure the trip there and back costs a little less than 20 cents a day. In a week I spend less than the price the ice cream man charges for a SpongeBob on a stick. Such a bargain!

I’m the afternoon carpool mom for Mary’s school which is three miles away, and I drive about six miles on the way home dropping off the other middle school kids. That gas bill adds up to about $2.53 each day. In a week, I spend more in gas than I would in buying a half dozen Red Bulls – which I recently cut out of my budget because they’re now a luxury I can’t afford. Please don’t tell my insurance agent this if I happen to fall asleep at the wheel.

Emily attends Cleveland Humanities Magnet which is a 28-mile round trip and would cost nearly $40 a week in gas. I have all you Los Angeles property owners to thank for generously donating your tax dollars. So far LAUSD has not completely cut funding for Magnet School buses, so for me, Emily is a freebie.

I don’t have the luxury of time on my hands, yet I will still drive six miles and wait for 20 minutes in line to fill up at the Costco gas station to save a few cents.  Actually, it’s more than a few cents. Yesterday Costco gas was $4.21 a gallon, but the closest gas station to my home was $4.75. They have the audacity to charge $4.99 for premium, and at that price “premium” should mean “with complimentary foot rub.” Don’t even get me started on the three-millimeter sized “9/10” at the end of every gas price. Is there any other product that charges an extra nine-tenths of a cent?

Even with my Costco membership, it now costs more time and money to buy a gallon of gasoline than it does to get a Starbucks Venti Frappuccino. It’s too bad my minivan doesn’t run on iced coffee. Especially since I make my own cup a Joe. After all the money we spend on gas these days, who can afford to buy anything from Starbucks?

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Teenagers

Why My Husband Scares the Crap Out of Our Kids: Football

"I have been rather naughty"

My husband Tom is a pretty mellow fellow. Nothing fazes him much. He has the kind of job where everyone calls him when something goes wrong and he’s the guy who has to find the right person to fix it. If that right person flakes out (which happens often) Tom is the murdered messenger. Yet he still rarely loses his cool.

Tom didn’t get mad at me when I broke a hole in the bathroom sink, or yell at Jake when he drew all over our coffee table in Sharpie, or chew out Mary when she cut her own hair, or lose his patience when Emily comes up with yet another ridiculous teen angst comment. But there’s one thing that really gets his blood boiling enough to scream bloody murder:

Football.

Tom spent all day yesterday watching football. Apparently there were two playoff games – the Ravens vs. the Patriots and the Giants vs. the 49ers. As a sports novice, I imagine that it would be a no-brainer. With everyone abuzz about the Republican primaries, Patriots would certainly squash any bird (definitely Ravens, but probably not Bald Eagles) and I picture someone akin to Jack in the Beanstalk’s 100 foot Giant stomping out a bunch of old men with bad backs panning for gold.

Tom was rooting for the Ravens, and although he usually goes for the Niners (apparently this is the lingo for Forty-niners), he likes the coach for the Giants. (If you’re reading this blog, Tom… see? I do listen to you sometimes. Or did I get it backwards?).

He has been warning the family for weeks that during the playoffs we’d better stay out of the living room and not bother him. This was going to be his day to park himself in front of the tv and enjoy the games.

I need a new definition of the word “enjoy.”

Throughout the afternoon, Tom was screaming. “Go! Go! Go, dammit!” He was also dropping the F-Bomb a lot. Correction. Not dropping the F-Bomb. He was literally hurling it through the air like a cannonball exploding from Big Bertha. Not just once. Several times throughout the day. This from a guy who seldom curses.

When we were first dating, the girls and I were invited to a Superbowl party at his house. Emily was 8 and Mary was 4 and they didn’t know Tom well yet. He had offered to help Emily with a class project during halftime.

Everyone in her 3rd grade class had to build a musical instrument and Emily decided on a harp. God help me. I didn’t know the first thing about how to construct a harp. Tom was handy with tools and had his own power saw. He told us what kind of wood and screws to purchase at Home Depot, so while other guests walked in with chips and seven layer dips, we entered with extra long 2x4s and a baggie filled with bolts.

Superbowl began, and I immediately realized that the sweet man I had been dating was magically transformed into a madman just by adding football to the mix. Tom spent the game pacing and squirming uncontrollably like a dog about to give birth to a boatload of puppies. Then with no warning whatsoever, he jumped up screaming and cursing at the television set.

“Go! Go! Go, dammit! Move, you f@%$ing tool!”

I had heard about such men, but I’d never seen one in action.

My girls were terrified, and frankly so was I. How could a bunch of steroid-laden goons in helmets and padding bumping into each other at great speeds have such an effect on my beau? Would his maniacal anger continue through halftime? Could I trust him in the garage with power tools and my little angel when he was threatening to murder an entire team?

I shouldn’t have been concerned. As soon as the whistle blew for halftime, Tom was back to his normal sweet, mild-mannered self. Which was comforting because Emily and I were literally shaking in our boots.

Flash forward to 7 years later. We’ve been married for 6 years and have added our 5-year old son Jake into the family. Tom still shrieks at those football players for not doing what they’re told – as if he has a direct line from our little house in LA straight to a megaphone on the San Francisco football field.

The kids are used to the screaming by now, and know that it only happens on Sunday afternoons (and Monday nights, and occasionally Thursday nights. Apparently football is on way more often than I would like). The decibel level of Tom’s caterwaul seems to be directly proportional to the number of athletes on the field who are on his fantasy football team. If the kids’ friends come over, we have to warn them in advance that Tom will not be killing anyone, and he’s probably not yelling at them. That is, unless they wander in front of the tv set.

I know there are other men and women out there who spend Sundays screaming at their big screens, just as there are non-sports-loving spouses and partners who invest in either earplugs or an afternoon excursion far, far away from the game. For us, what is our football equivalent?

I am the dialogue editor for the television show Once Upon a Time on ABC, Sunday nights at 8:00. I’m also a big fan. What would be the reaction of our sports-obsessed mates if we all started screaming, “Just kiss her, David! Mary Margaret is your true love!” or “Don’t make that deal with Rumplestiltskin, Emma! The price is too steep!” or “C’mon, Storybrooke! Can’t you all see that the mayor is really the Evil Queen?”

From my experience, the spouses won’t have any reaction. They’ll be too busy screaming at the game that just went into overtime.

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