Edgy Mama on Volunteering At School

Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — had a fantastic idea to volunteer at her kids’ school. She is helping the fifth graders create a school newspaper.

Here is how it (hilariously) went:

After setting out some blogging rules together (no profanity, no gory details, no TMI, no anonymous, mean or rude comments), I was surfing around, showing them local news sites and blogs, and I stopped for a minute on the Edgy Mama page on the Mountain Xpress Web site. The site was being projected on a huge white screen in front of the class.

There were gasps. “You used the ‘h’ word,“ one kid said. “And the ‘d’ word,“ said another. I glanced up at the projected image, and yes, there was the word “hell,“ in a headline, no less. And the words “damn“ and “suck“ and “piss“ were all easy to spot, in my columns, on the big screen.

I had to explain to a roomful of tittering 11-year-olds (and I by that, I mean giggling, not micro-blogging), why different writing rules apply in different situations. Words that are not appropriate for school can be appropriate for inclusion in an alt-weekly. (I’d already switched the projected screen to a “family-friendly“ newspaper’s Web site that forgoes the h-e-double-hockey stick, but details the latest suicide bombing and murder investigation).

So now we have a new acronym. In addition the ubiquitous NSFW (not safe for work), there’s NAFS (not appropriate for school). Maybe I should label this column NAAFEAK (not always appropriate for elementary-aged kids). Particularly as some kids seem to think they’re going to unearth long-hidden parenting secrets by reading me. Sorry, kids. All you learn by reading Edgy Mama is that us parents are human. And tired. And we just want you to be healthy and happy and to stop whining. And it’s OK to use the h-word if that’s the word you need, at least in an alt-weekly newspaper, but not at school.

I admitted to the class that there are less offensive words that I can use in my writing. I hope they’ll be able to expand their budding vocabularies by using expressions like “infernal deep“ or “fiery pit“ Then I changed the subject (something I am a master at), and segued into a discussion of audience.

I am glad I read this as Ari’s English teacher has asked me to talk to the class about being journalist. While they are not old enough to read my writing, I will keep this in mind the day she asks me to talk to older kids. LOL!

Do you volunteer at your children’s school? How do you contribute?

After a few years on Ari’s school’s board helping largely with publicity and fundraising, I am now volunteering in the classroom by reading to the kids and helping them learn to write. So far, I am enjoying it.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

President Obama is quietly lobbying members of the Senate to include a public option in any final healthcare proposal, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Women-owned businesses generate $3 trillion in revenue and employ 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the Washington Post.

Also in the Washington Post: The D.C. school district laid off more than 200 teachers on Friday and dealt with the abrupt loss of its 300 security guards when the company went under. Yikes.

Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — wrote a story on how regular consumption of beer actually helps with bone density. Seriously, there is a study on it. Cheers!

Edgy Mama is on a roll. She also wrote a fascinating article on the evolving term “soccer mom.”

Expecting Words blogger Laurie Puhn wrote about mean, judgmental moms like the ones who send Dooce’s Heather Armstrong hate mail.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Back-To-School Corner

Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — wrote about kids’ back-to-school nightmares. As a kid, I used to have the one that I did not do my homework and failed the class. (Yes, I was a nerd.)

In college, my nightmare was forgetting to attend class all semester and then having to take an exam. I definitely do not miss the pressures of school!

But school has been on my mind a lot lately. Today my firstborn child will attend kindergarten. In a way it does not feel any different from last year since he attended preschool. OTOH, his experience is so different from mine.

When I attended kindergarten at a Catholic School in Miami, I only attended half a day in the afternoon. The purpose of kindergarten was to learn my ABCs and play. Ari will be attending school at a Spanish immersion program where he will learn how to read and write in two languages. And he will be in school all day.

I could not help but overhear this very mature conversation between Ari and best buddy Jude the other day. Ari was crying because I refused to give him ice cream since he had not finished his dinner. Jude ate all his food and got an ice cream cone.

Jude: “Ari, you shouldn’t cry in kindergarten because the kids will make fun of you.”

Ari: “Stop saying that to me! Worry about yourself.”

Jude: “I am only saying it because I care about you. I don’t want kids to make fun of you.”

I said to Jude, “Aw, that is so sweet, Jude.” But I thought about it and wondered: Can you imagine having this conversation in kindergarten? How do you all feel about kindergarten being the new first grade?

For those of you whose kids already started school, how did it go?


Limiting Screen Time During the Summer

I admit, I have a lot on my plate so I have used the TV as a babysitter much of this summer. Eli has watched unlimited amounts of Super Why, which thankfully is at least teaching her the alphabet. (I swear she did not learn that from me and DH!)

Ari has watched a lot of movies, kids’ programming and played video games. I don’t know how much time he has spent viewing something on a screen, I just know it is a lot. But I agreed with Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — who recently wrote an article calling for a device on every screen in the house that listed the amount of time kids spend on them.

What I want someone to invent is this: a simple device that plugs into all household screens and records the number of minutes each kid spends on each screen per day. It’d be set up so they can’t access a screen without a password that starts the countdown clock. They’re kids, so they might eventually figure out a way to outsmart the device.

But in the mean time, having a good way to measure their screen time would offer me some serenity. And while serenity and summer both start with an “s,“ that’s about the only thing they have in common when you’re a parent of young kids.

I have to say the article was a little guilt-inducing as I read how little screen time some of these kids in Asheville, North Carolina, get. :)

But, again, once work slows down and school starts up in the fall, I am hoping to begin restricting screen time again. I do think kids need physical activity and I don’t like the drawn out look they get on their faces when they passively watch television.

Do you restrict screen time in the summer? What are the ground rules?


“Mami, Can You Get…?”

Anne Fitten Glenn aka “Edgy Mama” wrote a column about how her 10-year-old daughter always asks her for help even if she can do the task on her own and there are other adults in the home.

My 10-year-old girl darted up and said, “Mom, can you make me dinner?“ Even though I was holding my 19-month-old niece, who’d been fussy, the girl assumed I’d immediately drop the baby to fix her dinner.

She assumed wrongly. I blinked at her, astonished. “Your dad’s making dinner right now. See him?“ I pointed to the kitchen area.

“But Mom can you get me some…?“

I interrupted her. “I have a baby on my lap. Your dad is in the kitchen. As are your grandparents and your uncle. Can you please ask one of them for help?“

She pouted and headed to the kitchen, giving me that “you are such a neglectful mom“ look over her shoulder.

A variation of this scene occurs in my world multiple times per day.

I can relate to Fitten Glenn’s column. Ari and his friends always ask me for things even if Ari’s dad is merely watching TV. “I am busy right now, ask Papi,” I sometimes say.

However, Eli always asks her dad for food or a diaper change — heh, heh — even if I am very eager to help out. I am not sure, but she has always been closer to her father while Ari has always leaned on me. Interesting.

Do your children have preferences as to who should help them out? What do you say when they have made the millionth request for the day?


How to Throw a Low-Cost Kid Birthday Party

Anne Fitten Glenn aka “Edgy Mama” had a piece in the Mountain Xpress of Asheville, North Carolina, with recommendations on how to throw a low-cost kid birthday party. Here were her suggestions:

• Don’t buy invitations….

• Don’t spend cash on gift bags to give to party attendees….

• Don’t pay for extra entertainment….

• Make a veggie piñata. I stole this idea from my friend Matt who stuffed a birthday piñata with leftover broccoli and cauliflower. If you’re bold enough to do this, make sure you have your video camera ready to capture the kids’ expressions when the piñata pops. After the video fun, you can toss candy at the kids to relieve the disappointment. This also negates the need for gift bags. Just give all the kids a paper lunch bag and let them take home any candy (or broccoli) they pick up. I also hear you can make your own piñata with balloons, newspaper strips coated with flour and water, and tempura paint. Veggies optional.

I have never heard of a veggie piñata even in Berkeley! But I totally agree with her about using paper lunch bags for the piñata rather than giving away prepared party favors. I think both is overkill.

Here are the rest of her suggestions:

• Parties at home are less expensive than renting a space….

• Of course, it’s always cheaper to make food yourself than to buy it pre-made. That includes cake. If you aren’t feeding kids a meal, buy Goldfish and pretzels in bulk. Make Kool-Aid instead of buying soft drinks. Better yet, let them drink water. If you are baking challenged, buy bite-size cupcakes (Jodi of Short Street Cakes makes yummy ones). Trust me; you don’t want to know how much sugar a full-sized cupcake sends into your kid’s bloodstream.

• Save your guests time as well. Ask for a cash donation to a favorite cause instead of a birthday gift. My kids did this to help raise money for a new playground at their elementary school. I swear they were as excited to get home and count the cash they’d raised as they would have been to open presents. Plus fewer toys equals good save-the-earth karma.

• Once your kids are 6 or older, sleepovers are an inexpensive party option (I wrote an entire column on sleepovers once). Invite the kids over at 5ish, let them make their own pizzas (you can buy pre-made crust), let them play outside until they’re tired, then settle them in sleeping bags in front of an age-appropriate DVD. For breakfast, have your spouse make pancakes. Ask parents to pick their kids up by 9 the next morning. Take a nap.

I am throwing a birthday party for Eli at home, although I do not have the courage to cook for so many people. Also, I have never baked a cake. I am a big cooker, but not much of a baker.

But I am pretty much doing most of the things Anne suggested like have the party at home and let the candy from the piñata be the party gifts.

One area I am always unsure of how to deal with — I have done different things over the years — is have a gift policy. I have written “no gifts” before, but someone always brings something. I have written “no gifts” to acquaintances, but not closest family and friends who I assumed would want to give something. This made the acquaintances feel uncomfortable.

I just think this is an area where you can’t win. So now I accept all presents with a smile and either give away excess presents or save them in the garage for later use.

What other cost-saving party tips do you have?


Monday Open Thread

What is happening with our fellow beings in the blogosphere?

Batmom is recovering from surgery. She had two cancerous spots removed from her liver.

Chicago Teacher Man talked about how much teens talk in the hallway: Who said what to who? Who is talking about who? Or, what s/he said. I hate to break it to these kids, but this never goes away. LOL!

Edgy Mama explains why she supports the Texas appeals court decision that child protection agencies lacked the necessary evidence to remove all the kids from the Yearning from Zion Ranch.

Thanks to the Motherhood for this piece: Luxury services for pregnant women are booming, according to the Washington Post.

I couldn’t agree more with One Crazy Mother’s assessment that a loss on American Idol is actually good for 17-year-old David Archuleta. He has a creepy stage dad who was actually banned backstage, according to Entertainment Weekly. I do feel bad for Archuleta in that he now must face his psycho-dad’s disappointment. Sorry, I have never been a fan of stage parents…

Eleven-year-old Akshay Rajagopal won first place in National Geographic’s annual geography bee this year, according to ParentDish. The brilliant sixth grader got every single question right in the two-day contest and won a $25,000 check. Nice.

Nicole at Silicon Valley Moms Blog doled out advice on how to avoid missing your kids on a business trip.

One mom at UrbanBaby wonders if it is possible to raise a child in a TV-free household. Here is another great discussion at UrbanBaby: Is it uncouth to let your son pee on trees at the park?

Today is memorial day so here is a shout out to all those who have lost their lives and the many families who continue to sacrifice for our country.

What are you doing today? We are doing something that rarely happens in this household: NOTHING. Whew!