Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Resurrection

That's it! I'm tired of censoring myself on Facebook, e-mail, Ravelry, you name it. I'm resurrecting the blog because I need a place for some of these emotions, frustrations, and rants to go. I figure if you've found it, and you know me in person, you've worked pretty hard to get here, what with all the tumbleweeds floating around, so I would hope that you have enough of a thick skin (or don't care that much about what I have to say) that you can take responsibility for your own reactions.

How -- HOW -- is it that even when we reach almost four decades on this earth, we still have to deal with drama? Why would one go out of one's way to stir up drama? IF someone is talking about me behind my back, why would someone else confront me with it? I am not asking anyone to fight my battles for me, at least not anymore. It has become clear to me that few people have my back. It saddens me, and hurts my feelings, but I'm becoming resigned to it.

I was hit out of the blue by a FB message chastising me for being angry at a PTO meeting last week. And I will admit that I was angry. But I take back nothing I said -- and possibly not even the WAY anything was said -- because it is all stuff that I believe, and feel strongly about, and believe that I should be able to communicate.

It started with talk of testing. There is a shift going on in the types of tests done at the elementary school level here (possibly at upper levels too, but since we receive almost zero communication from the middle school, I wouldn't know about that). It is meant to align with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, something I know a little about from my work. But the testing is being implemented in what seems a suspicious way, and the more questions asked about the testing, the more it seems like the administrators and teachers are kind of unclear on why it's being done the way it is, and what kind of data they expect to collect, and, ultimately, what it means for the students. Now, I'm not the primary instigator in this topic; there is another parent who is more upset with how things are being done than I. But I do know something about it, from my background, so I get drawn into these discussions. And the feeling put across when questions are asked is that those questions are not welcome from parents, and teachers and administrators are not prepared to answer them.

The next controversial topic came up when The Polar Express was proposed for December's movie night by the PTO president. Like the good Berkeley liberal I am, I raised my objection to a Christian holiday-related movie being shown at the public school by the PTO. I was not surprised that the movie was suggested, nor did I feel "judge-y" about it. But I firmly believe that no child should be excluded, and certainly shouldn't be forced to be the ignored silent minority, in school, especially when there are other possibilities. I was floored, however, when my objection was countered with stubborn resistance, and "judginess" of me in return. I felt like I had just become the face of the conservative movement's ridiculous, fabricated "War on Christmas." I was told that "the kind of people" who have been attending movie nights so far would not object to a Christmas movie. (This still bemuses me -- how could that person know who likes Christmas movies and who doesn't? Had she been surreptitiously checking for yellow stars of David or headscarves?) I was told that since the majority of kids in the school celebrate Christmas, it shouldn't matter if we show a Christmas movie.

But you know what? It does matter. I know that it's hard for people in the majority to put themselves in the place of those in the minority; I don't expect it to be an automatic instinct. But when it's pointed out (nicely, always nicely) that someone believes an action is bigoted, wouldn't it be nice if we could step back and try to objectively see the other person's point of view?

So there was that. I was stunned by the turmoil raised by my objection. There was an insistence that the movie had to be a winter-themed movie (still not sure why that is; previous movies have been Tangled, Gnomeo & Juliet, and Despicable Me). Eventually, the compromise of showing Happy Feet was reached. (I refrained from pointing out that although Happy Feet was set in a snowy landscape, that was because it was in Antarctica, not necessarily in winter, and was proud of my restraint.) But I felt pretty personally bruised (and unjustly labeled as a troublemaker) by the time that happened.

Finally, the issue of the lack of support for the PTO from the school's teachers was brought up -- and not by me, I'd like to point out. I did, however, chime in, if only to lend weight to the claim and to bring my experience/observations to the principal and new VP (who was attending -- in December -- for the first time). The disconnect between the teachers and the PTO is like nothing I experienced as a kid or parent in other schools, or have heard about from others. The teachers support the PTO by paying their $5 annual dues. For almost all of them, that is the extent of their support. When the teacher who had served as the liaison between teachers and PTO for 10 years or so stepped down from the position because her child was moving to middle school, it was with great reluctance that her position was filled. There are at least four teachers/paraprofessionals who have children who attend the school; I have only ever seen two of them at an actual PTO meeting, or helping out with PTO events. Trying to get teachers to come fill out a Wish List for the book fair is like pulling hens' teeth. We had a Literacy Carnival last year, and hoped for volunteers from the staff (I remember how cool it was to see my teachers in the off hours); 4 teachers helped -- and one was a sub! I just don't understand how the PTO can try so hard to form a community, a relationship between school, parents, teachers, students, and administrators, and have this hole where the teachers should be. My understanding from parents in other schools is that it's not a districtwide issue. I am stumped.

When I tried to make some of the above clear, I was countered with the following arguments:
  • The teachers do pay their annual $5 dues. (And in return, they are supported by the PTO with books, supplies, and financial support for their individual projects, field trips.)
  • The teachers have lives and families and full-time jobs. (Hint: So do almost all of the PTO volunteers.)
  • Sometimes, the teachers have been at school since 7:30 a.m. (See above.)
  • Not all of the teachers live close enough to attend events. (However, clearly the ones with kids in the school do.)

I don't expect 100% teacher turnout at every event. But wouldn't it be nice if there was a smattering of teachers at each event -- something to show that the teachers care about the students outside of classroom hours? Note: I'm not saying that they don't care about the students; I understand the hard work teachers put in, and the kind of investment their work takes. But sometimes, it would be nice as a parent to see an external display of this.

Well, anyway, this is what got me "in trouble." Because, you see, "the teachers" (as a bloc? dunno, but that's the way it's been presented to me) are still not over the fact that they are upset with me because I suggested that class sizes could be made slightly larger during the budget carnage last year, and that remark was carried from the open-to-the-public budget meeting and twisted around so that I was painted as someone who didn't care about cutting teachers as long as my gifted child didn't have his program cut. This resulted in one of the most traumatic episodes in my life, and left me more than a little bit scarred. And now, apparently, the teachers don't feel like the PTO supports them. But you know what? I don't care anymore. Honestly, screw 'em. You want to get your panties in a wad because I (and I'm not even a board member anymore, just a vocal parent) suggest that you're not supporting the PTO? That's just too bad. Prove to me you're involved; come to a friggin' meeting. Take on a fundraiser; hell, just come to the cafeteria after school to distribute products. I know teachers work, but so do I. Otherwise, let's stop fooling ourselves and take the "T" out of PTO.

And as far as the "drama," screw that, too. I am what I am. I try to be nice, and civil, and respectful. That doesn't mean that I keep my opinions to myself. I am smart, and I am confident, and I am ready to stand up for what I believe. Those who can't accept that will just have to fall by the wayside.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Absent-Minded Professor, the Early Years

Background info #1: Ian got 2 pairs of Batman mix-and-match pajamas for Christmas.

Background info #2: The in-laws are visiting, so it's a bit chaotic around here, with 8 people in the house and the rambunctious puppy running all around.

The scene: We've just finished dinner (early, for a change), and Dave sends Ian, who wasn't really eating anyway, upstairs to start his bath. Ian cheerfully replies, "OK," and then we both keel over dead from the shock.

Not really. But we were surprised. "Get your other pair of Batman jammies from under the tree," Dave calls. (Note: He is still wearing the first pair, having not gotten dressed all day. I know, I know; don't judge me.) Ian trots off to the tree, then heads upstairs. Dave checks on him at least once, as there is a suspicious lack of running water and a suspicious abundance of "la, la, la" sounds floating down the stairs.

About 20 minutes pass. Katie finishes her homework, and Dave calls up a 5-minute warning to Ian. Soon, Ian bounces down the stairs and begins the chatter.

I notice something amiss. "Ian, did you put on the wrong pair of Batman jammies after your bath? That's the same pair you've been wearing all day." I could just see him picking the wrong set off the floor after the bath.

He looks down. "Oh."

I notice something else. "Ian, your hair isn't wet! Did you take a bath?"

"Oh." Pause. Sheepish grin. "I think I forgot."

"What have you been DOING for 20 minutes??"

"I don't know. Playing with my spaceship?"

I tell you, the spaceship is a perfect toy for our little space cadet!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Misleading Your Sibling for Fun and Profit

The scene: Katie is upstairs taking a bath. Ian is keeping her company, and much hilarity is ensuing. (Why is he keeping her company? I don't know. I try not to question things when they're actually getting along.) Suddenly there is the thump, thump, thump of Ian running to the top of the stairs.

Ian, urgently: Daddy? Is polar bear hair clear?

Me (I know, I'm not Daddy, but I can answer this one): Yes, it is.

Katie, offstage: SEE? I told you it was!

Ian: Oh, yeah??? But you STILL can't SEE THROUGH polar bears!!!

No fool, he.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Conversations in the Car

My 8-year-old daughter is just starting the crushes (Zac Efron is the most prominent, of course), and I haven't heard much about boys from her yet. However, I had the following conversation with my 5-year-old son on the way home from kindergarten. It really hammered home the fact that the Mars/Venus thing starts early.

Ian: Jessica likes me.
Me: Do you like her, too?
Ian: Yes. The only thing that is annoying about her is that whenever she sees me, she has to make MWAH, MWAH sounds to me.
Me: Oh, I see.
Ian: She asked me if I would be her boyfriend.
Me, trying to keep a straight face: And what did you say?
Ian (with scorn): No! Do you think I would have a girlfriend who is so teeny? [Jessica is on the small side]
Me: Well, most boys are taller than their girlfriends. It's really okay, and it doesn't matter how tall anyone is. But you probably are too young to have a girlfriend.
Ian: Duh! [He lets a few beats pass.] Anyway, I'm not really as much ... [searching for the words] *into* her as she is into me.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face and not run the van off the road!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Vogue Knitting Just Lost Another Sale

I took my laptop to Barnes and Noble today to get some editing done (somehow I’m more productive when the siren call of the Internet is blocked by lack of access). Naturally, as I met my self-determined goals (slogging through a certain number of pages at a time), I rewarded myself by wandering the store and looking at books and magazines. The new issue of Vogue Knitting (Winter 2007/08) is out, and I settled into a comfy chair to peruse it.

VK is often pretty out there, as far as knitting fashions go -- I know I’m not the chicest person in the world, but sometimes I think that the only people who could possibly pull off some of their designs are runway models in Milan (and I have a hard time imagining any of them sitting down to knit something up). But this issue had some attractive, intriguing, reasonable, and possibly wearable items. Like the Cape Collar Jacket (love the shawl collar) and a cardigan that reminded me a little of the Sunrise jacket (#16 and #17 in the issue -- sorry, can’t find pics online).

And even this (though I think I would try to make the sleeves longer somehow):

Hmm, I thought, maybe I’ll fork over the seven bucks and buy this issue, with an eye toward working on one or two of these in the future. So I flipped to the back of the magazine and looked at the patterns. Want to take a guess at the available sizing on these? If you’re familiar with VK, I bet you already know. The two jackets -- jackets -- top out at a finished bust size of 43 inches. The ribbed top, which claims it’s sized up to size 2X, goes to 44 inches, unstretched (size 1X is 40.5 inches).

I wear a size 16-18, or XL in misses clothing. While I certainly don’t fit the definition of petite, I’m not enormous, either. Rubenesque, you might say, if you’re being flattering. But I’ll tell you that my measured bust size -- which a jacket would need to fit over -- is 48 inches, on a good day. (What is a bad day with regard to bust measurement? Don’t ask.)

I’m not the only one. Ravelry has multiple forums devoted to “fluffy” knitters. Jillian Moreno and Amy Singer wrote Big Girl Knits in an attempt to address this neglected audience, and it’s been extremely successful; in fact, there’s a second version in the works. Yet VK has persisted in purposefully omitting sizes that would fit a not-insignificant portion of the knitting population. Why on earth would a knitting magazine be so consumer-unfriendly? Say what you will about Creative Knitting (I know some aren’t as fond of it as they are of other mags, though I enjoy my subscription), they always include a number of plus-size pattern adjustments in their knitting patterns. How much effort would it take to go up another size -- or even two -- when compared with the overall effort to develop and publish a pattern?

All I know is, Vogue Knitting lost my business today. I suppose I could consider buying the magazine, adjusting the pattern myself, calculating how much extra yarn it would take, and hoping I was right, and then live with the consequences, but when there are so many other flattering alternatives out there that I’m just dying to knit, why would I expend that extra time and energy? I’ll just move on to the next item in my Ravelry queue.

Are you listening, Vogue Knitting?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Year-End Meme

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before? Knit in Fair Isle (failed miserably, but it was a start), dyed yarn and started a business doing it, designed my own sock pattern.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Can't even remember making any, though I'd like to make some for this year. Another post?
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A friend from college, but she's not geographically close. My nephew was born, but ditto, so I've only seen him once.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No.
5. What countries did you visit? Just the U.S. this year.
6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007? Better discipline about working and soliciting work. More money wouldn't hurt, either.
7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None that I can think of.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Starting up Bluestocking Yarns and having people like it -- especially having the owner of my LYS like it.
9. What was your biggest failure? Fighting to get Ian into public school kindergarten and losing.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing major. Typical illnesses, run-of-the-mill aches and pains from getting older.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Desk for the living room. Maybe tied with some beautiful curtains for the living room.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Katie's -- in the last few months she's grown and matured more than I could have imagined. She's had some backslides, but for the most part, she's really come into her own as a 4th grader.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? GWB's. Need I say more?
14. Where did most of your money go? A large portion to tuition for Ian's school. A larger portion to mortgage. We're more "house-poor" than ever, which is tough to deal with.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Yarn. Dyeing yarn. Knitting with it. Immersing myself in it at Rhinebeck.
16. What song will always remind you of 2007? Don't know.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
 a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer? Probably a little sadder, same weight, and a little poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Playing with my family, keeping up with the house.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Procrastinating.
20. How did you spend Christmas? Opening gifts with the kids, hanging around the house.
21. Did you fall in love in 2007? No.
22. What was your favorite TV program? Lost, hands down. BRING BACK LOST!! Heroes comes in second.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No.
24. What was the best book you read? Boy, that list of all the books I read last year would really come in handy here. I enjoyed reading An Uncommon Reader in ARC form, and rereading The Golden Compass. I'm currently in the middle of (an ARC of) Grub, and that's pretty fun, too -- don't know if it's out yet or not.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery? OK, I will admit to sort of kind of liking Hannah Montana. Hey, if you heard her as many times a day as I do, you'd be brainwashed too.
26. What did you want and get? Both kids in full-time school.
27. What did you want and not get? Both kids in free full-time school.
28. What was your favorite film of this year? We don't get out much. I can't think of a thing.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 34, and I have no idea -- it was 49 weeks ago!
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A better handle on the finances.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? Work-at-home fashion: jeans and a jewel-tone-colored tee, and sometimes (if I'm staying in) lounge pants instead of the jeans.
32. What kept you sane? Not having any other choice.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Mohinder Suresh?
34. What political issue stirred you the most? The election warming up.
35. Whom did you miss? My family. I wanted a chance to see them at Christmas, but it didn't work out. I also miss my grandmother, who died 12 years ago, the more I get into knitting. I have the feeling she would really get it, and I wish I could talk it over with her.
36. Who was the best new person you met? Marla. Had a great time talking to her at a party this season.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007. If you want to try something new, go for it -- you can be considered artistic, even if you don't know that you are.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. If I come up with one, I'll post it some other time.

A New Year, a Fresh Start

It's been almost 8 months since I blogged over at my old blog, And Then I Stepped in Gum, and I think it's time I got started up again. I've been wanting to update my posts to include my knitting progress, and now it's time. I also want to connect this blog with my yarn dyeing business, Bluestocking Yarns. So here we go!

I'm off to an auspicious start for the new year -- my first FO, just 17 minutes into the year:

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock
Colorway: Romancing the Stone
Pattern: Merino Lace Socks from Favorite Socks

It feels good to have this done -- the first sock was one of the infamous members of my Single Sock Hall of Shame. I'll post some pics of those sometime soon. I think I'm down to only 4 or 5 now. Anyway, I'm not crazy about the colorway. I love the pink and purple, but what I didn't notice when the yarn was in the skein was the peach/baby blue tones in the colors; they just really didn't mesh for me.

Naturally, I rewarded myself by casting on for a new sock, the Salish Sea Sock from BMFA's Rockin' Sock Club. I know, I know. I couldn't resist. I'm having fun with it, and that colorway -- blues, greens, teals -- is right up my alley.

In other news, we got a bit of snow today to start the year off right.

Ian loves his new igloo, courtesy of Grandma.

The kids spent hours out messing around in the snow. They've even created their own "sledding hill" out of the plow detritus from the neighbor's driveway. Makes me miss our quarter-mile-long sledding hill we had growing up in Nebraska. We've really got to take them ice skating or snow tubing soon -- maybe next weekend.

Got to get ready for bed. We've been spoiled for the last week or so, staying up until all hours, because we haven't had anywhere to be the next day, but tomorrow the kids are back to school. I'm looking forward to having my quiet house back, though Dave will still be off school for the next few weeks. Perhaps I can finally implement some discipline with myself and get some work done.