Musings on Middle School, Empty Nests, Change, and Cryptozoologists

I used to write horror… I mean posts about Middle School. That seems like a long time ago. The mornings with angry mom’s before their coffee kicked in trying to get their kids out of the mini van door without death or dismemberment. There were those with hormonal rages and anger issues – and that was just the parents. The kids were going through puberty too.

After that we all blew through high school with little or no angst. Yes, parents of wee ones, don’t listen to the people who say in their best witches voices, “Just you wait until that child is in high school. You’ll hate them. They’ll hate you. They’ll be sexed up druggies and there is nothing you can do about it.” Seriously, I kid you not, people say things like that to pregnant women and women with babies. Ignore that shit storm of negativity. Ignore it. Don’t eat that poison apple. Don’t be around people like that.

Last week we were in Orange County taking yet another college tour I believe the child have found a home at UCI  (Zot! Zot! Zot!) aka University of California Irvine.

So in a year I will be living in a home without children. They will always been near. We will text. We will talk. We will send funny things over social media. They will call me and come home for holidays and just because. And I will visit them. You’ve read the blog. You know we’re close.

Aside from a childless house, I’m sure you already know, I’m going through other transitions. Major career changes have turned things in a different direction for me and it is perfect timing. So I’m kind of like an octopus with all of my arms going in different directions.

Oh, I have a joke. I made this one up. What do you call a cat who lives underwater? A quadrapuss. 

Now that I’m doing a do over I’ve made a list of ten things I need to do.

Empty Nest Transition List

  1. Change my job title on LinkedIn to Cryptozoologist.
  2. Paint with wild abandon. Note: I didn’t say whether this is my walls or art. This is a burning question and the answer is BOTH.
  3. Start a Vampire blog. Continue blogging about parenting and Vampires and everything else. I really should start a Werewolf blog or maybe help Nigel start his own blog. Yes, Nigel the Ghost. Or maybe not. 
  4. Learn advanced plumbing.
  5. Landscape my back yard.
  6. Make Vlad’s Vampire Diary into a Major Motion Picture.
  7. Win an Oscar.
  8. Write.
  9. Seek out strange new worlds.
  10. Finish. Anything. Just finish. FINISH.

What is on your list? Oh come on, we can be cryptozoologists together. It will be fun, especially if you become a Vampire too (or if you’re already one.)

My brain is empty. I’ll see you next time for Burning Question #23.

xoxox

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Vlad and Gillian Make a Movie

And while we’re here… Can you believe the guys in Journey really dressed like this. Cryptozoology.

journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bullies are just a waste of human flesh

I talk about parenting and issues that kids go through. Bullies and being different are top topics here and on other blogs. My friend and neighbor Kelly shared a few experiences with me. 
 

Kelly

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, in the early 70’s there was a class at the other end of the school we called the MR class. There was no such thing as sensitivity or political correctness back then. Today it would be some sort of special education class. The kids seemed weird and out of control. They didn’t socialize with us, even if they had siblings in the school. They were outcasts. The boys in my class would yell at them “MR”. Mentally retarded. I don’t know why the kids were in the class, but they were fair game to anyone who wanted to yell at them and pick on them. It was like a personal freak show for the bullies in the school.

Bullying was a way at life at the school. They ruled without any adult intervention. The small, the shy, the different were all targets. The bullies ruled by force and fear.

Nobody ever talked about anything. Kids who were bullied either sucked it up and ignored it or they became weirder and gave into what the bullies wanted. They always wanted more bait and for the bait to do their bidding.

When we all left for Middle School the bullies and mean kids continued to bully but it was easier for their targets to get away in a larger school. But kids grew up. They started to talk and form stronger social bonds. They grew up.

Kids who were bullied reinvented themselves into confident kids with friends. Some of them became popular with wide circles of friends.

When we got into high school the bullies had all but vanished. While all of the other kids grew up the bullies remained what they were – immature school yard bullies. Their behavior made them the social outcasts in our large high school. And while they might have been at school, they vanished.

Sure there were spats and kids who didn’t like each other at our high school but I don’t remember the kind of bullying I hear about today.

Then again we didn’t talk about a lot of things like depression and suicide. Sometimes kids would just go away and we wouldn’t see them anymore and nobody would know what happened to them. Maybe their close friends, but nobody talked about it.

But I wonder about those kids who were bullies. Sometimes there were entire families of them. They seemed to get joy in their actions. It was strange and uncomfortable. It was sad and pathetic.

It also makes me sad that kids who are bullied now don’t feel like it will ever get better. It will. And I want to say to the kids who get picked on “It isn’t you. It is them. They are the weird ones. They are the ones with the problem. They are the ones who will fail in life. They are the ones who everyone will forget. You’ll show them. You’ll thrive. You’ll be fine. They are just a joke and a waste of human flesh. That is what I want to tell them.”

We sat on Kelly’s deck while our kids walked the dogs by the lake. It is sad that we even have these sort of stories.

I always wonder…people think Vampires and Werewolves and Ghosts are scary. Humans are scary. But fortunately not all of them. 

Standardized testing and the value of the GREAT TEACHER

How was school?

I’m a mom so I have to ask.

Clara started the infamous STAR Testing this week for the 8th grade. STAR Testing is the State of California’s Standardized Testing and Results which measures how schools are doing. There is some value in these tests but generally it confuses the hell out of most parents, kids and maybe even the teachers. My kids’ schools rank high (very high) but I sometimes wonder about the real value here.

There are some school that spend all year studying for these tests. That is ALL they do. They even cherry pick the kids who will be in the school in order to get high scores (and surprise, the schools with what they call average kids of all different levels, like my children’s schools,  get scores that are just as high or higher (yes, higher). Go eat THAT for lunch with your snob sandwich.)

Fortunately my children go to schools where the administration is wise enough to not spend all of their time studying for tests. They don’t put that unwelcome and uncomfortable pressure on kids. All kids at these schools have the opportunity for a great education. They study for life, learning, thinking and discovery.

YES – LIFE, LEARNING, THINKING and DISCOVERY. And more amazing – at public schools!

So back to our discussion in the car…

Real HistoryClara: We did history and math today. The math was easy. The history was confusing. They asked us about a lot of Roman Empire stuff we didn’t even learn in class. I’d never even heard of half the people they asked questions about.

Me: I’m sure you did ok. You can usually figure out the answers by just thinking about the clues. That’s why I always win trivia games. I don’t know the answers but I can put together the clues and usually come up with a right answer.

Clara: I know.

Me: Multiple choice tests can’t measure what you know or how smart you are. I believe you learn more from history the way your teacher teaches it. It isn’t all about memorizing dates and names and locations of battles. History is about learning how people lived, what motivated them, what inspired them, why they did what they did. It is about learning about our past so we can understand our future. You’re so lucky to have Mr. R for a teacher.

Clara: I won’t miss most of the kids when I go on to high school, but I’ll miss the teachers. Mind if I play my music?

I know she’ll miss the kids, but we’ll all miss the teachers who have inspired the Middle School kids. Each one of these young teens will enter High School knowing they hold the keys to knowledge and discovery in their own hearts and minds. They are our future, and they know the lessons of the past. They’ll never forget their amazing Middle School teachers.

So students (young and old, for we are all lifetime learners), your assignment for today is to appreciate the great teachers in our lives. Teachers shape the future through inspiring our kids.

And get plenty of sleep because STAR testing is ALL WEEK.

Parents: Your job here is to get involved. Schools with a high rate of parent involvement have a higher rate of high scores and a higher rate of graduation. And don’t use the excuse that you are busy. Most of the parents I know (moms and dads) work full time AND are involved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Todd, who was a great teacher and inspired so many at American River College. You truly loved your students and inspired so many and changed so many lives for the better. And nobody had a sense of humor like yours! We love you and miss you!

This guy…

I have to deal with another project for a day or two…so in the meantime I’ll leave you with “this guy.”

 

this guy

Teen Suicides – I wish I had a real answer

It is sad that my 13 year old daughter talked about suicides for about a half hour last night. She wouldn’t shut up about it but then again, she needed to talk about it. But what was scary was how she was so matter of fact about it. But she was also passionate and angry about it.

This isn’t the first time she talked about it. All of the kids talk about it a lot. It is common conversation with kids. But usually not with kids and adults. They don’t share this information or their concerns about suicides with their parents or teachers, especially not with their parents because they don’t talk to their parents about anything.

There were attempts or actual deaths at several local middle and high schools. Some schools have more because of their culture of bullying.

We’re on the border between high school boundaries, and thank goodness we’re in the boundary for the “nice” school. Sure there is bullying there on some scale, but it isn’t a huge part of the student culture (like the other school). With 2,500 students they all aren’t going to get along or be nice.

 My son says there is a strong anti-bullying theme in his school’s culture. I hope he is right and it isn’t just wishful thinking.

The other school is smaller and (according to kids and parents I’ve spoken to or overheard) there is a huge girl bully culture. The school is ruled by a gang of girls who pick on other girls with no mercy. I personally know of at least two girls who ended up homeschooling because it.

Anyway, that isn’t exactly the point of this post (ragging on a school I’m glad my teens won’t attend.)

I’m not worried about my kids. They’re strong. They’re alphas. They don’t bring negative attention to themselves. They aren’t bully bait. I’ll pass on the Vampire stuff here because they go to school with all sorts of kids and that is not the point of this post either.

The point is…

Too many children, and I mean CHILDREN are resorting to suicide to solve temporary problems. It is tragic. It should not be happening. It needs to be addressed. And for every high profile case you hear in the news there are dozens, I expect hundreds of cases you don’t hear about.

I don’t have an answer. But first and foremost school administrators need to stop with the “shake hands” bullshit and kick bullies and bully culture out of their schools. They need to ask, “Why are so many kids dropping out to be homeschooled?” Gee do you ever consider it is because your school has an unsafe hateful environment?

Parents…raise your kids not be bully bait. Don’t let them be timid. Don’t over protect them. Let them know that if they act weird other kids will make fun of them. They can act weird at home. And TEACH YOUR KIDS NOT TO BE A BULLY.  Teach them to not be friends with bullies. Teach all kids to put the bullies on the bottom of the social scale not the top. Teach all kids to protect the weak and timid and shy and small and fat and different.

But then again my daughter said some of the girls at the “other” school are bullied “just because”. Just because they dated someone that the head cheerleader liked or went to a different Middle School or plays the tuba or usually for no reason except that they were breathing and taking up some of the bully’s sunshine.

But death isn’t an option. High School lasts 4 years then it will be all over. They can start a new life. They can do better and say “I’ll show them all”. I know it is hard.

And often times parents don’t even know what is going on with their kids. They don’t know their daughter had sex with a couple of guys because she wanted to fit in and feel loved. They don’t know that because of that she is now being slut shamed and terrorized. Open your eyes. TALK WITH YOUR KIDS ABOUT UNCOMFORTABLE THINGS.

Like I said. I have no answers. I guess it all goes back to deliberate parenting. Raise your child so they won’t be bully bait. But also raise them not to accept bullies. Raise them to be aware and raise them to protect others. Raise them to listen to their peers who might need help or need a friend.

And tell them that it is ok to tell an adult about things that are going on at school. It might save a life.

I don’t have an answer for this. A close friend of mine was bullied without mercy as a child but took the attitude “one day I’ll show them all with my success”. And she did. Unfortunately not all kids have that inner fire and toughness.

Anyway, it was sad, too sad. I wish I had a real answer. I really wish I did.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

More on this subject on this blog:

Listen to Teens – an important message from a teen

My kids don’t care if you hate their music for no reason – they care if you hate for no reason.

Bullies and Jerks

If you have any other links please feel free to share.

Story Problem – No problems here

Homework

A Play in One Act

 

Clara yells DAAAAAAAD. Dad runs up the stairs. Then they call for Mommmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Mom: What’s the problem? A giant spider?

Dad: No. If Nichole read 20 pages in 80 minutes how long does it take her to read each page.

Four minutes a page. That makes Nichole stupid.

Clara: Dad!

Mom: It depends on what Nichole is reading.

Clara: Never mind.

Mom: What type are they using? What size is the font?

Dad: Nichole is a slow reader.

Mom: It depends on what she is reading. Russian literature or a historic romance?

Dad: War and Peace would take a lot longer. That would be about an hour a page.

Mom: It depends. On the other hand Jane Austin is a little tricky.

Clara: I have it figured out just shut the door.

Mom: If she’s reading The Cat in The Hat she’ll race right through it but a good mystery…

Clara: Just shut my door will you.

 

The End – Curtain