Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

The Weeds Behind Me

fire2

Today, I realized that it’s been lost
Sold and on fire, destroyed like Faust.
I recall seeing signs, blazing, “We will never forget”
But we did.

About everything.

A whole generation knows nothing of ones before.
They choose purposeful ignorance, opt to be whores
For attention.
It is about ME, they imply, not my Great Grandma Finch
Whose first husband died the night he was lynched
In Arkansas. Not Ar-Kan-Sas.

You might wonder why the schools don’t teach
About Booker T. and W.E.B.,
Wounded Knee, Kennedy, Gandhi and philosophies
Of togetherness.

Well, they do.

They teach it, over and over, to deaf ears and blind eyes,
To Orwellian automatons, in self-selected coveralls of
Skinny jeans, 60-dollar tees, an air of sleaze and a set of Beats.
And they cry about harassment, racism, and having to WORK,
Of sexist comments and how GW was a jerk
Without the slightest hint of irony at all for the absolute lack of knowledge and experience they possess.

All they know is Martin Luther King
Once upon a time had a dream.
And they can tell you that the dream was to end racism.

But, they can’t tell you a thing about Coretta, Malcolm, Louis, Rosa, Cesar, Bobby, or others who shared that vision
Except that one of those people sat down one time when she was tired.

They can’t pronounce “Tiananmen” because they’ve never heard of it.
Or “Gorbachev,” “Emmett Till” or even know of South Central before they burned it.

The only “Wall” they’ve lived knowing preceeds “-Mart.”
And it all makes me sad.

Worse yet, we try to teach a generation of kids who not only don’t know that their ancestors swung from trees in Birmingham, burned for the color of their skin,
But, they really don’t care.

This is a generation that wasn’t even old enough to remember the Trade Center collapse,
Let alone Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, or the Day the Music Died.
And, I first chuckled that teens had never heard of Nirvana, John Hughes, the Spice Girls or the Beatles.
Then I realized that this was an intellectual tragedy like I couldn’t dream of.
There was, kids, a world before Dubstep.

Believe it.

I used to write research papers by investigating information found in…BOOKS.
Now, the very suggestion of doing that would bring terribly confused looks
From students who appear to need to be surgically removed from their “smart” phones.
And I wonder when we will finally redefine the word “smart,” then.

They don’t know where they’ve come from and don’t care where they’ve been.
And yet they all think they will earn “big G’s,” drive a Lex and be freed
From the tyranny of their parents and the “system” upon turning 18.
And, they don’t know that when you’re 18, you’re still pretty stupid.

And, so Pat O’Leary hides the wire to his earbuds through his Hollister shirt
Adamantly refusing to read Swift or learn about how his ancestors survived tenement living in NYC
Only to be spat upon, labeled non-white, forever a slave to the New Country’s “dole.”
Because he couldn’t care less about how they paid the toll
For him to even sit in that seat and receive a book today.

Lily Locklear doesn’t even know she’s 3-quarters Crow
But, she’d rather chant in her head, “You don’t know –oh –oh”
“You don’t know you’re beautiful.”
Indeed, she doesn’t, but that is a whole different topic altogether.

And, Marcus knows how to design his own Nikes online and pay a few hundred for them,
But he’s never heard of Stokely Carmichael and he doesn’t own a pencil OR a pen.

Zooey is half Jewish. She thinks. Maybe.
But, she couldn’t tell you what that even means.
Is it a culture? A religion? An identity?
“What’s the difference, anyway,” she wonders as she draws on her hundred dollar jeans
With the same Sharpie she used to draw all over her best friend’s arm while they were supposed to be learning about Quadratic Equations.

And, it is a tragedy.

Not like the Challenger, which I actually remember.
But like that of the American Cheetah,
Which had existed but now is extinct
And our children’s minds, their heritage, their culture, their identities,
Too, are depleting, once having been beautiful, hopeful and strong.

I was not alive to witness Woodstock or Pol Pot; too young to really remember when AIDS first made the world stop.

But, I learned about them.  And, I grew.

And, now I say, “I, too, sing America,”
But the trail I leave behind me is growing thick with weeds and ugly from neglect
And, I can’t convince many 14-year olds to sing with me anymore.

 

Turn Up Your Radio (if you dare)

Remember when singers could sing?

My grandma used to tell me that it would never get better than “Moon River.”  I’d roll my eyes at her and wonder why she would refuse to get with the program and jump into the “current times.”

Now, I proudly say, GRANDMA KNEW HER SHIT.

I could write feverishly about how Auto-Tune has ruined contemporary performance.  And, I could go on for a really friggin’ long time about how the only real talent in America anymore just might be on stages, not in recording studios.

And I think about all of the bullshit in education.  The standardized testing.  The Common Core.  The state guidelines.  The benchmarks.

And nobody makes multi-million dollar artists sing for their suppers.  They could sound like…well..ME…and get a contract.  So long as they know the right people, end up in the right place, or own the right wigs.

We test the bejesus out of kids these days so that we can allegedly assess their understandings of literature, geometry, history, grammar, biology, algebra and chemistry.  In the end, the only people who actually end up answering for these assessments, though, aren’t the kids who either did or did not take them seriously, but are the educators whose livelihoods depend now on encouraging a 13-year old to sit for two hours and fill in bubbles accurately in silence.

Yet, we don’t require a goddamn thing — not even talent — from the demigods to whom we pay our sheckles for their willingness to make noises come out of their diaphragms.

Spectacular.

I propose an A Capella singing assessment be issued to all singing “artists.”  In fairness, I should have, perhaps, also put “singing” in quotation marks as well.

The airwaves would be very different.

Although, then, perhaps the only thing that might come of that would be that vocal coaches all over the country would get their salaries tied to how many of their pupils passed those tests.  And then the system would be all fucked up.

 

Yowza! Fingers crossed!!

We’re happy to be included in Babble’s contest and thrilled to be recognized here at Off Duty Mom-central!

CHECK THIS OUT!

It is an honor just to be nominated, but damn, we’d sure love to win!

Think about supporting one of your favorite blogs (how could ODM not be a favorite, right?).

Good karma promised to all voters!

 

 

Be different!

It was brought to my attention by someone who is sexy and honest and noble and amazing (love you, sweetie!) that my last post about gifted kids seemed braggy.

So, I thought that perhaps I ought to follow up.

In a recent post, I pondered (not in the recesses of my private mind like a normal person would, but on the frickin’ World Wide Web) about how to nurture and encourage a capable and fabulous child.

For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate that my kids are absolutely phenomenal.  Best.  Kids.  Ever.  Got nothin’ but love for ya.

But, they are not perfect.  None of us is.  I’m certainly not.  You’re sure as hell not.

And, while I would brag about and embarrass the hell out of my kids if given the chance, that was actually not my point at all.

Each mother, father, guardian and caregiver has a gifted child in his or her life.  But, kids are all very differently gifted.  My question was just how to handle these differences.

I have worked with Special Needs kids, for example.  Just today, a young man who struggles socially and has been identified by a psychologist as having Asperger’s Syndrome, completely rebuilt my class website from the ground-up.  He restructured the code and redesigned my HTML settings to make it more user-friendly for me (a clear idiot who is lucky she can use the WordPress Dashboard).  I have a family member with Down’s Syndrome who can tell you (100% correctly) ever statistic and fact you could ever think to ask about his favorite NFL team.  A few years back I worked with a young lady whose learning differences were sadly never identified, but who clearly struggled academically due to some barriers.  She was the kindest young woman I had worked with, really, and she had a sense of justice and a clear understanding of right and wrong that is not often seen in 15-year olds.

We each have a gifted child.  Most are multi-gifted, even.  But those gifts vary from art to sports to languages to math to computers to mechanics to imagination to manners to leadership and beyond.

My pondering is related to how we as parents both harness the talents each of our kids have, and allow them to grow up to be well-rounded and well-adjusted.  The answer doesn’t seem to be simple.

I know, however, that we’re all certain that we don’t want to fuck this up.

And, we’re probably just as certain that somehow, despite anything we do, we kinda will anyway.

Some therapist will blame us for something someday.

Nevertheless, I’d like to remember (at least just for myself) that differences are good.  Great.  Fantastic, even.  They are to be celebrated.  I just haven’t figured out how, exactly.

Until I do, I would like to celebrate here a few people who have dared to be different and have brazenly flaunted their pride in their differences.

Have a great day…

And, feel free to add your own additions to the list in the comments section!

–Praised now for his innovation and groundbreaking theories, Albert Einstein was misunderstood and disliked in his time for some of his socialist political views and sorta-atheist religious thoughts.  He never attempted to run with the crowd, however.  As a result, he became one of the most revered scientific minds on the planet.

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–Everybody is “green” nowadays, but decades ago, a brave soul named Rachel Carson unearthed new ideas about preservation, conservation and environmental science.  It wouldn’t become chic to wear hemp clothes, go off the grid, reduce a carbon footprint and install solar panels on your house until years and years afterward, but her work and writing about the environment changed everything for the indistry.\

different 5

–She’s not all boobs and lips, people.  While she gained most of her fame because of her looks, Pamela Anderson made it a lifelong goal to end abuse and unethical treatment of animals.  Long before it was cool to “eat local,”  be vegan, quit wearing fur and look down your nose at celebrity dog-fighters, she became a very public spokesperson for PETA and helped bring knowledge about the organization’s mission to the masses.

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–Best known perhaps for his role in helping to abolish slavery in the US, Abraham Lincoln chose to go against the grain in one of the most public and dangerous ways possible.  But, he did, indeed, stand up against the “normal” American life of his time and ended up  changing the course of human history as a result.

different 6

–It might sound like a cliche now.  And, putting her on a list with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln may seem to be a bit…much.  But, Lada Gaga has, indeed, inspired a generation of followers and wannabes to get okay with themselves and embrace their uniqueness.

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–Centuries ago, Galileo risked his reputation and his life to ignore “norms” and reject popular view to pave the way for the changes in math and science that made the world what it is today.

different 9 galileo

–The great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. created a new America.  He helped to pave the way for change, boldly standing up against the status quo.

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–Aasma Mahfouz helped launch a new view the world would have of Egypt. And, she helped fuel a revolution.

Aasma Mahfouz helped launch a new view the world would have of Egypt.  And, she help fuel a revolution.

— Come, on…You know the movement for a better understanding of Autism in America benefited from Jenny McCarthy’s publicity.

different 2

I lost my Parent Manual

Blue.

Fire Engine.

Hiccups.

Golf tees.

Balloons.

Giant giraffes eating grass in the windy fields.

Bananas.

Yellow lillies.

Craptacular.

This is what happens when my mind wanders.

Did you ever do this exercise?  You just completely refuse to censor yourself and allow whatever gobbledegook that wants to come out, come out.  I ain’t no Hemingway, that’s for sure.  When my mind wanders I don’t get “Hills Like White Elephants.”  I get golf tees and bananas.

All of our babies can be gifted, it appears...

All of our babies can be gifted, it appears…

So, I wonder what are the signs of an extraordinary mind?  How do you tell if you’re truly gifted?  Better yet, how do you tell if your kid is?

As a teacher, I have a very clear and thorough answer to that question.  I have worked with “Gifted and Talented” students for a large percentage of my educational career.  I can spot a truly academically gifted child from a mile away.

But, that’s not really what I am talking about here.

I have known perfectly average kids who have gone on to achieve true greatness in their chosen fields:  biomedicine, law, communications, science (actually, I say “science” because I don’t even understand what this one kid does.  He works for the government doing something with aerospace engineering.  It is way too smart for me to get).  I have also known students who were labeled as “Gifted,” but went on to live in their parents’ basements or work in jobs that don’t even require high school diplomas.

So, when you are raising a little one, how do you know how to recognize talents, how do you determine what is the best way to harness those talents and how do you go about encouraging growth without pushing your kid to become a toddler with a tiara or a mini-Tonya-Harding crazed on winning at all costs?

Well, I don’t actually know.

This is not your mamma’s advice column.

I am just like you:  someone a little lost, fumbling through life in the most graceful way possible (which often is very clumsy, indeed).

One day, though, I suspect we both would like to look back and believe that we did a really great job of raising some really great kids.

But, when your 4-year old seems to gravitate toward, have a genuine interest in and be weirdly good at golf, video games, reading, baseball, painting, writing, and building things (and he appears to be adept at picking up on foreign languages, exhibits kindness and compassion that is not typical for a child so young, is naturally organized, has a freakishly good long- and short-term memory, and has a spoken vocabulary that puts kids twice his age to shame), what are you supposed to do?  Do I try to help him focus and perfect one or a few of those talents?  Do I let him decide first where his joy is most commonly found?  Do I sit back and let this all play out the way he would like it to?  Do I offer enrichment in any of those activities?  Which ones?  And, do I try to have him work on areas where he doesn’t excel so naturally just to help him become more well-rounded?

Yup.

Yup.

Ugh.  There is a whole lot to this parenting stuff.

I, again, was not properly prepared.  I really do want to know where the Parent Manual is.

I am very interested to hear all of your thoughts.  It would be especially nice to hear from more veteran parents regarding how  you assess and foster your children’s talents and skills.

Please comment.  We could all use the advice, I suspect!

Every parent out there wants to make sure that the job gets done right.

Or, well, you know, right enough.

I think we can all agree that we just don’t want to end up with this:

lohan

Or this:

children

Or this:

rush

Agreed?

 

YOU WIN!

We have chosen another winner for our handmade jewelry giveaway.

Theena Theen

Contact us via Facebook message to give us an address to which we will send your prize!

YAY!

Coulda Done Without…

Tell me, friends:  who among us cannot appreciate the beauty in the little things in life?

Ah, the beauty of the world around us.  Some days I just can't fucking find it.

Ah, the beauty of the world around us. Some days I just can’t fucking find it

I can’t.

Sometimes even the voices in my own head are of people I’d like to punch in the trachea.

The past two days have been days like that.  I have felt a permanent snarl on my face.  It isn’t iconic like Billy Idol’s or quirky like Elvis’ or cute like a puppy’s.  It is the physical manifestation of disappointment in the human race.  It is the muscular byproduct of my involvement in a culture of stupidity.

Let’s explore some things that are wacky, ridiculous, senseless or just generically aggravating for thinking people.

Strange Days, indeed

Strange Days, indeed

1.  Television.  I have before chronicled my irritation with some modern-day children’s programming.  What has happened?  Where are the Snorks?  Can I get some Great Space Coaster up in here?  I miss my Electric Company.  I feel sorry for kids today who will never learn who is “bouncing here and there and everywhere,” with “high adventure that’s beyond compare.”

2.  Modern technology and inventions.  Now, I am not going to bitch about kids who try sexting, or about the problems with Windows 8.  I am going to complain about the inventions of items such as antenna balls, the Snuggie, the ShamWow, The Shake Weight, the Flowbee, the KFC “Double Down,” and the laser disc.  Where are we going, world?  I don’t want to know what is next up for a world that has invented the wearable DVD player, “Two Broke Girls,” and those little decorative pieces of junk that you cram in the holes of your equally stupid Crocs.

3.  Baby Names from Mars.  What are some of you thinking?  Now, I am really sorry if you are the proud mother of an Orangejello, Nevaeh, Q’Daunteus, Le-A, Yummalewis, Princess, Rambo, Angelbaby, Cha Cha, Kredonshea, Sugar, Zither or Falopiana.  Actually, I am sorrier for your kids.

4.  Prissy Drinkers.  When I was in college, I was repeatedly annoyed by girls who would go to frat parties and not be willing to drink beer.  “I don’t liiiiiike beer,” they’d twirl their hair and whine.  Really, assclown?  You came to a FRAT PARTY.  Oh, yes, Sweet Cheeks, let me get you a Pomegranate Cosmo.  You’re 19.  Drink Schlitz with the rest of the crew.  And, get your hands on that barrel and your feet in the air and be fun, dammit.

5.  The Discriminatory Childless.  Everyone’s an expert, right?  There is no shortage of people out there who have no children of their own, but who will roll eyes, scoff, or even offer unwelcome advice about you and your kids.  Now, I used to be one of the Discriminatory Childless.  And, then I had two kids.  And, now I am sorry to that mother I yelled at at Wal-Mart that one time.

Tell that to the perky-perks.

Tell that to the perky-perks.

6.  The Habitually Optimistic.  I am a grump by nature.  It is just who I am.  My husband asks me all the time “what’s wrong” or mentions, sweetly of course, that I “look miserable.”  Most of the time I am not what I would say is “miserable.”  But, I am adorably misanthropic.  Well, at least that is how I like to think of myself.  But nothing makes me grumpier than when I am faced with a perky, doe-eyed happy-cat.  You know the type.  Ever see “Office Space?”  I think about “Accounts Payable, Nina Speaking…JUST a moment!” repeated enough times to make me want to vomit all over her rainbow-colored world.

Feel free to share with me the things you could do without in this world.  Grump with me.  Try it.  First one’s free.

 

Round 2

Good day, all!

This is just a notice to let followers know that we did select a winner for our hand-crafted jewelry giveaway.  However, she has not yet come forward to claim her prize.

If she does not by Friday, a new winner will be announced.

If we reach another 25 followers by then, I will increase it to a necklace, earrings and a matching bracelet!

Best wishes, everyone!

Congrats!

We are happy to announce the winner of our jewelry giveaway.

Congrats to talin401 who blogs at
http://talinorfali.wordpress.com. You are our lucky winner!

Everyone tell her to send ODM a message at Facebook so we can get her address to ship the necklace and earrings.

Yay! And, now we will have to think about what we’ll give away when we reach 500 followers!

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