Thoughts on Summer Heat, Schools, and Dog Walks

I can’t wait until fall comes. I don’t mean that lingering September heat that is like a hot slap in the face with a blow torch. I mean real fall with cool air and where the temperature stays under 75°F.

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Every morning I take my dog out for a walk. One of our stops is the local school which is also a park during non-school hours, which is always right now. The highlight of the school trip is getting a drink out of the fountain. Not for me – for the dog.

If school ever starts again we’ll change our morning route. The school we walk in is an old much loved public school turned into a public Waldorf charter school. The gardens are still growing. Staff is keeping the school clean.

When school was in session I loved watching the kids, all wearing sun hats, go for walks to the trails by the lake we live near. The youngest would hold hands or hold a rope so that they’d stay together. It was precious. The school has such a sense of community like the public charter Montessori school my children went to. The Waldorf school is a community and part of our neighborhood community. The same goes for the newer and larger neighborhood public elementary school down the street.

My daughter will be taking the fall quarter, the first quarter of do fourth year of college, online. It sucks but it is what has to be online school. We can manage that. With all of the money government, both federal and local, they could have online schools and computers for every kid if they wanted to. If they really wanted to they could make it happen.

I can’t imagine teachers, school cafeteria workers, custodians, teaching assistants, administrative staff, and others who work for schools coming down with Covid-19. I can’t imagine the horrible nightmare of children getting the virus.

Too little too late can’t be the lament of our education systems. We need to adjust and to see this as a public health issue. The lives of our teachers, children, and school workers depend on it.

Cafeteria’s can still be open for take out meals for children, or social distancing while school is out. Other services can adjust to meet the needs of children and families.  It can be done.

In the meantime, to switch gears to something nice, here are some photos of one of my walks earlier this week.

  • Talk to with your kids
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t complain or whine too much in front of your children. They’re stressed out about this too.
  • Kiss a Vampire (it will be ok. Vampires don’t transmit this thing)
  • Check in on the elderly and those who might need extra help or love.
  • Stay in touch with zoom, blogs, and other social media – or just pick up the phone and CALL someone you care about.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Maxed Out #1: Musings on Gassy Planets, High School and Uncle Max

Today I’m hosting a marathon featuring my brother Max. As you’ll see today, if you don’t already know, he has all kinds of interesting adventures with women, demons, and just about everything else.

I first published this post in 2013. My children are now older, but Uncle Max still has the same effect on, well, just read the post.

Musings on Gassy Planets, High School and Uncle Max

I was taking Clara to school this morning and traffic was backup up for about a mile and there was no place to go. All the side streets were backed up with people trying to get out of the backup.

We speculated on the cause of the backup. I assumed it was an accident. Clara looked over and saw one of her teachers in the traffic with us. And much to her shock he was smoking. She said three of her teachers smoked.

I guess I could have acted shocked but let’s be real. I bet he was having one of his two cigarettes of the day. The first is on the way to school to take the edge off and calm his nerves before he faces two hundred students over a course of six periods. The second is after school to take off the edge and face whatever is at home. My husband is convinced that all high school teachers must drink a lot too.

After a conversation about smoking various tobacco products and other things we saw the blinking red lights up ahead. The traffic light was out. Ugh. Kids and teachers were going to be late. A 10 minute drive to school took about 35 minutes. I found out later that the faulty light was no excuse and a lot of kids were marked down as tardy. That is just plain stupid in my opinion but I don’t make the school rules.

I dropped Clara off and made it to my morning conference call but a few hours, mid-morning, I was back at school. They’d call to tell me that Garrett had almost passed out due to his sunlight sensitivity issues. This happens two or three times a year. I can lecture him forever on this but he still doesn’t always use precautions. The school wanted to send him to the hospital due to his cold skin and low heartbeat, not to mention a nasty looking rash, but I always take him home.

Anyway, he was fine, poor baby. But, my brother Max is still hanging out at my house until Friday, so I brought him with me to pick up Garrett’s car.

As Max and I walked into the school office I could hear the hush of female voices. Vampire men have that effect. Max smiled (minus fangs) then put on a serious look. I wanted to roll my eyes but was worried about my own young Vampire man, my seventeen year old Garrett.

Knees were going weak…not mine or Garrett’s, but those of the women in the school office. I had to get my son, and my brother out of there.

About four hours later school was out so I sent Max back up to school to get Clara.

Did my brother wait at the curb in the car like everyone else there to pick up kids? Of course not. He had to get out of the car and wait. The mothers at the school would never be the same. A tall man dressed in jeans and a tight black tee-shirt and dark glasses, cold to the touch but so smoking hot that it would take weeks for them to cool down.

Fourteen year old Clara told me all about it when they got home. She found it both amusing and annoying.

Clara said school was stupid as usual but admitted that science was good. They learned about how many planets might be able to support life. This was something all the kids seemed interested in, which is good since according to my daughter most of the kids don’t seem interested in anything during school.

For about twenty minutes she told us about the planets and theories and speculations about life. She talked of telescopes and exploration and the makeup of planets. It is good to hear the passion that is passed from teacher to student and then on to others.

Then the subject of Pluto came up again. Most kids are still upset that it is not a planet anymore (it even has moons.)

One of the reasons Pluto isn’t a planet is because it has an irregular orbit. But so does Uranus. (Click here for more on thoughts about Pluto)

Clara said that nobody even mentioned Uranus today but the boys in the class still had to snort and laugh about it. Yes, Uranus is a large gassy planet. Uranus has an irregular orbit. Uranus is huge. Pretty soon Clara and I were both laughing. Even Max had to laugh. I mean, you have to laugh.

Garrett was still asleep but the rash was gone. His friends Randy and Ione stopped by to see how he was doing and sat on the edge of his bed in the dark quietly talking with him. They’ve gone through this too, the sun sickness. We all have.

So that’s it… just musings on my day and a little bit of fun to take the edge off.

I’m still thinking about Max waiting on the curb. Oh my goodness.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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For more about Max and his friends do a search. You’ll find a lot about him, including the stories “Lighthouse” and “Perfection.”

Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

I’ll make this quick, because we all know parents (and I’m one of them) don’t have a lot of time.

If you have K-12 children you know they are going to go on field trips. If they go on field trips you know parents are going to be asked to go along as chaperones. You know that one day YOU will be asked to be a chaperone.

When you arrive to the location of the field trip you might have a guide to take the children on a tour, or to give them some sort of lesson or demonstration, or help with an activity.

Your field trip host might be a park ranger, a docent, or some sort of other adult helper. 90% of the time this guide/docent/helper will be a VOLUNTEER. By volunteer I mean someone who has freely given their time to spend their time teaching something to YOUR CHILD.

As a PARENT on these trips, be it a historic park, an art museum, a factory tour, or a science center, YOU need to do your part to make it a good experience for everyone.

Yes, being a chaperone is fun because you get to go someplace and take a day off from work. Fun fun fun. You also have responsibilities. Those responsibilities include:

  • Keeping the kids from acting like wild animals (including your child)
  • Encouraging the children to stay together
  • Encouraging the children to get along
  • Making sure the children pay attention to the guides/docents/teachers
  • Making sure the children are engaged
  • Making sure ALL of the children feel included in activities

YES that is YOUR JOB. 

  • Also… remember these trips are for the KIDS.
  • Don’t take over activities. If a guide/docent has a question for the CHILDREN let the CHILDREN answer it.
  • Be nice. Don’t be rude to guides or docents. Like I said, they are volunteers. They are doing this without pay. They are doing the best they can. If you’re an asshole it will just take away from the experience of the kids.
  • Don’t use tour time as a way to catch up with other parents. Watch for kids who are wandering off. And YOU are not allowed to wander off. Stay with the children. Stay engaged.
  • Don’t spend all of the time with YOUR CHILD. As a chaperone you have agreed to be with ALL of the kids in your group. Don’t wander off with your kid on a tour. It distracts the other children. It distracts the guide/docent. It distracts the other parents. Plus it is just rude.
  • Listen to the guide/docent and help the children follow the rules. It will make a safer tour and guarantee everyone will have a fun experience.
  • Don’t be an asshole.
  • Don’t look bored. Kids will pick up on that. Like I said, don’t be an asshole.
  • Do a little bit of research before you go on the field trip so you can discuss it with your child and the other kids in the group. There is a wonderful thing called the INTERNET. You can get all kinds of information about EVERYTHING including the location of your field trip.
  • Make sure kids get snacks before the tour or activity. Hungry kids don’t pay attention and tend the fidget. The same goes for bathrooms breaks. Make sure every has gone to the potty before the tour or activity.
  • Yes, you’re the adult. You’re a parent. That is your job when you volunteer as a chaperone.

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be known as a good parent. Everyone wants to be asked back. Nobody wants a bad reputation. Follow my guidelines and you’ll be the coolest field trip chaperone in the class. I guarantee it.

That’s it. Simple rules. Be the adult you are. Your kids will than you for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

Embracing Ignorance (and Other Parenting Thoughts)

If your child is a senior in high school you’re no doubt like us and finding dozens of mailers, catalogs, and letters in your mail box from colleges you’ve never even heard of. In our case my daughter is getting dozens of invitations from small private religious based colleges. Alright, I’ll come out and say it – she is getting a lot of invitations from private Christian colleges.

I’ve nothing against religion, and I am by no means an atheist. I do have problems with exclusive education where children and young adults learn only one view of the world.

Obviously, those who know me, know my view of the world can be a bit different. But my views on parenting, I feel, are based on raising a child to be an adult and see the “big picture” of the World they’ll go out into one day. I want my kids to go above and beyond my own experiences, and beyond what I can teach them.

I would NEVER send, or encourage my child to go to a college where everyone is the same, and encouraged to be the same.

I always like to think that my children were exposed to those with a variety of lifestyles, religions, and traditions – because from that they learned that not everyone is like them.  But more so they learned that we all have a lot more in common than we have differences.

Sure I could have sent my kids to school where everyone was like us. But why?

Another thing that worries me about a lot of faith-based education, or those who are yodeling about it on the news these days, is that the curriculum is anti-science. To me that is dangerous.

Considering the way Star Wars, and Star Trek are now so much part of American culture, and our own mythology, I don’t understand how anyone can be against science, discovery, or free thought. And the very lessons of these stories is about different people coming together and trying to understand each other. It is the fight between good and evil, and sometime the thin line between the two. But it is also about the promise of space and the existence of others out there in the universe we call home.

Science keeps people healthy. Science keeps our environment healthy. Science makes us comfortable. Science lets us know who we are. Science is knowledge about our world, and ourselves.

I will never understand the cult of ignorance which demonized science in the name of religion. If you love the Earth your God made, wouldn’t you want to protect it? Wouldn’t you want to protect God’s creatures rather than kill them and their habitats? Wouldn’t you want to use the brain that God gave you and discover the wonders of our Earth and universe? Wouldn’t you want all people to be able to spread the message of love, and to love each other? Seriously folks, I’m a Vampire and I have more compassion than (warning I’m going to get political) all of the so-called Christian bible beating bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, assholes who claim to be good people.  What bothers me the most is how willing so many are to embrace ignorance. Not only do they embrace ignorance, but they reject anyone who isn’t dumbing themselves down. Maybe being dumb might be safe, but it is morally wrong.

I’m always being asked if Vampires and Werewolves fight each other. Seriously? Who has time for that? We’re different. We might not get alone. We annoy each other. But we can also be friends, or at least friendly. And over the centuries we’ve learned a lot from each other.

One of the best things about college, or being young, is sitting up all night with others and solving the problems of the world, learning about each other, sharing personal stories, sharing hopes and dreams, building dreams for the future. Think of how much they would miss out on if they were all of the same background, same mind, and same heart. College isn’t just about classes. It is about growing up and discovering who you are – outside of your home, parents, and childhood. Part of the experience is learning from others.

I have to admit that a lot of the students at our school are just like my kids, but, well you know, a lot of them aren’t. That’s a beautiful thing.

Tell your kids that they can reach for the stars – and they won’t be alone.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Beware of Ignorance

 

Influences

Clara, my high school senior, has been telling me about disclaimers teachers make in class.

“We’re going to be studying existentialism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that you’ve become an existentialist.”

“We’re going to study communism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents telling me that you’ve become a communist.”

“We’re going to study nihilism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that your now a nihilist.”

“We’re going to study anarchy. Don’t go home and tell your parents you are now an anarchist. I don’t want to hear it.”

“We’re going to read Dracula. I don’t want to get a call from your parents telling me you want to become a Vampire.” If your child is already a Vampire this won’t apply to you, because your child won’t say anything. 

And this brings me to some thoughts on influence, school, teens, poetry, and beauty.

Many things out in the wide world influence our children. It is up to you to give your children the tools they need to evaluate these influences. And you know what I’m going to say now… If you over protect your children you’re going to screw them up for LIFE. That is why you need to talk to your kids about, well, everything. If they learn, maybe you can learn from then. No, I take that back. You WILL learn from them.

Last week Clara asked me if I’d read Dover Beach. I vaguely remembered. Then I looked it up. Yes, in a way, it too is about choices and belief.

In my wildest dreams if I could write so beautifully…

My child and I talked about the poem, the meaning, the use of words. It was a joy. I thank her English teacher for setting a fire in the souls of her students with the words and passions of so many different writers.

Please read, enjoy, ponder, and be inspired.

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


 

Have a good week everyone,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

High School Horrors (Or Math is Eating My Parenting Brain)

As a parent I find it difficult not to ignore teachers my kids have problems with.

I’ve written about this before during my daughter’s utterly disastrous Freshman year in high school when she didn’t get the classes she should have had, one of her teachers was a total witch who hated her students (I wrote a post about it) and another had a mental health and drug problem and was never there. Those two classes were a total waste of time. I was so angry about it but I tried to keep out of it and let the child learn to take care of her own problems. Now I wish I would have gone up to school and showed my fangs.

This year, the Senior year, there is a mathematics teacher who punishes the ENTIRE class and every single class because one student cheated (among other things.) There was almost a mass exodus from the class – enough kids trying to get out that it caused the school principal to send a letter to all of the parents saying how the teachers want to help and she doesn’t know what the problem is.

Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is. In fact, I’ll tell you what the fuck the problem is.

  • The teacher has a bad attitude and assumes all kids want to cheat (according to the students.)
  • The teacher will not give tests back to the kids so they don’t know why they failed.
  • The teacher yells at the class because so many kids are failing. Maybe she should yell at herself. These are advanced students. They aren’t idiots. They are studying their 16-18 year old butts and brains off. But if they don’t know what they are or aren’t doing right or wrong they’re going to be in the dark. Being in the dark is great for a Vampire but not for a high school student.
  • The teacher seems flippant about her attitude about these students. For a lot of them this class could make or break what college they get into. But she doesn’t give a shit. Maybe she does give a shit – but she has to let the students know that. It will make a big difference if they know she really cares.
  • The teacher will give the students a little bit of credit for homework but they don’t know if they did their homework correctly because the answers aren’t checked. No shit. I kid you not.

So what is a parent to do?

I’ve asked the child to talk to the teacher. She says she is available at lunch. I keep telling the child to talk to her at lunch. I keep telling my child to step it up and see her teacher. Tell her what you need. Tell her you have a nice college student tutor. Tell her you don’t want to fail. Tell her you need her help. Tell her that you really don’t want to fail and need her help.

If that goes badly tomorrow then I will have to let DAD take care of it because I tend to use too many bad words.

At one time my dear old dad was a college professor. He said if his students were a success then he knew he was a success. He never understood teachers who didn’t care if their students failed. If your students fail then as a teacher you fail.

As you know, if you read this “parenting” blog, that I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not one of those women who is always up at the school driving the administration crazy with crazy requests. I tell my kids to fight their own battles. That is why they go to public school – to learn to fight battles of the brain and learn to play the game of life. But this time I can’t stand back.

Fangs out. I’m ready.

I’ll keep you posted.

I hate this.

Yes, when you’re a parent, sometimes it feels like it is always Halloween.

And to the rest of my child’s teachers – you are wonderful. I love you. You make me want to go back to school.

To the math teacher – chill, listen to your students, have faith in them, respect them, trust them, and be there for them. They’re great kids. They’re smart. They really are. They want to learn. Let them know that YOU want them to learn too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman