I am trying to take this blog in a new direction, seeing as most family blogs are out of the game already. Also, my kids won't let me write about them anymore, so it's time to move on. I will probably be jumping from one thing to another before I settle on something.
For this week, ChinchillaBoy and I decided to each write a short story on the same subject and see how we fare against each other. Since all writing classes and books on creative writing advise to pick a subject you're familiar with, we picked "The Evil Principal". My story is already finished and will be posted tomorrow; ChinchillaBoy's is still in the works. Naturally, the last thing our family needs is a lawsuit, therefore all characters and events in our stories are purely fictional. Any resemblance to a real person or event is accidental, so get off our back.
Last year I wrote about Operation Keepsake, a local abstinence-based sex-ed program that came to LilProgrammer's school and taught their Health class for a few weeks. This year, LilProgrammer is in 8th grade, and Operation Keepsake is back. As an upstanding, church-going parent, I should be happy as a clam that somebody's telling my kids to remain virgins until marriage. Then why am I so pissed?
Let me see. For one thing, Operation Keepsake does not only reach out to the children of upstanding, church-going parents. It addresses all kids, regardless of theirs and their families' beliefs and convictions. What if the parents don't want their child to abstain until marriage, and their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are not against having sex before marriage? Why should school tell the kids otherwise? Bottom line, if the parents really do want their kids to abstain, they can tell the kids so themselves. No need to shove the message down everyone's throats.
Another thing that bothers me is personal experience. Growing up in the USSR in the 80s, we had some sex ed in school and it sounded a lot like what Operation Keepsake is promoting. The emphasis was on side effects of the Evil Sex - babies, STDs, and (nice addition) Down Syndrome babies - complete with a scary black-and-white video. Apparently, the Down Syndrome babies were what was supposed to happen to you when you had sex while drunk. (There is not information on Down Syndrome babies on Operation Keepsake's web site as of today.) Contraception and condoms as a means of STD prevention were never once mentioned during these classes. Did this sex ed work? You bet your ass it didn't! The fugly late bloomers like myself, that couldn't have had sex in high school, anyway, didn't have it. With anybody else, all bets are off, but, every year, one or two girls, out of a fifty-person graduating class, had to drop out of school because they were pregnant. I haven't heard much, but apparently there were other girls that had abortions and stayed in school. Also worth mentioning is the fact that hooker was a very real and honorable profession in my home town back in those days. I knew a few girls who did it; and, keep in mind, I was hugely unpopular and knew very little about what was going on, so what I'm telling you was probably the tip of the iceberg. All right, the Soviet educators twenty-five years ago didn't know any better, but why would anyone want to repeat their mistakes in the US, today? This puzzles me.
There is, however, a big difference between life in the USSR when I was a kid and the life here, now. Back in my day, you were a spinster if you weren't married by 25. After your 20th birthday, well-meaning relatives would start trying to hook you up with their friends' sons, because all your friends were already married and you were past your prime. In these circumstances, waiting till marriage is at least feasible. What about here, today? Does any sane American middle-class parent really want their children married at 18? From what I can see, the average age is more like thirty. Who the heck can wait that long, and what's the point? And what about people who end up never marrying? What are they supposed to be waiting for?
Last but not least. I need to know whether Operation Keepsake provides their services to schools free of charge. And if not, then, well, I'll be really mad. Why are my property taxes paying for this ridiculous thing that is the opposite of education? Does the school have that much extra money on its hands?
The web site of this fine organization is here. You will learn about abstaining in college, the evils of grind-dancing ("Honestly, how big is the step from dancing provocatively on the dance floor, to going too far physically after the dance?"), dating rules ("Avoid French kissing—to remain in control of your hormones"), how to keep your BF/GF's mind off sex ("Suggest some fun things you can do together, like going to a movie or eating pizza"), and other equally valuable things. What you will not learn about is birth control and STD prevention - they are not mentioned on the site or in the organization's Represent magazine, except to state that "condoms only have a 50% prevention rate". If you have your speakers on, beware that, each time you go back to the "Articles" page, you will be exposed to an Incredibly Lame Rap.
Enjoy. Abstain. Mr. Goldie and I didn't. And, in retrospect, it doesn't seem like that awful big of a deal.
I've thought a lot about whether I should post this, but I cannot keep my quiet, so here goes.
I freaking hate these people. The two Columbine guys, Jeff Weise, the VT gunman. Not only because they took the lives of the innocent people. But also because, each time it happens, it draws the public's attention to every kid that falls into the same pattern.
Nerdy kids. Dorky kids. Bullied kids. Kids that don't say hi back to you. Kids that have no friends. Kids that write horror stories. Kids that are not the blonde, smiley, all-American boy who plays Little League baseball and wants to be a pro sports player when he grows up. Innocent kids who haven't hurt a fly, but who happen to fall in the same category.
How many times have you heard from the school officials: "yes, we know he hasn't done anything, but he doesn't seem right, and, after Columbine, you cannot be too careful"? How is labeling a kid potential killer too careful? In my opinion, it may be the opposite of careful, giving the kid ideas he never had before. If big, powerful adults think I can grow up and shoot up the school, then maybe I can? Because adults are always right.
I don't know if I can blame the schools, though. They are in a very tough spot. I don't know what I would do myself in that situation. But I do know who started this chain reaction of erroneous judgement.
And I hate them.
You fucked it up for millions of innocent children, you bastards. Enjoy your stay in hell.
Paula has an interesting post on bribing. I preferred the term reward. I've never seen anything wrong with rewarding my kids. After all, I do reward myself - after shoveling snow for two hours, I make myself a bubble bath. After a morning of doing household chores, I relax with a cup of coffee and a good book. We get rewards at work. In my opinion, the worst manager is the one who rewards good performance with more work. The second worst kind ignores the good performance as if it is a given. Both are mysteriously prone to losing their people to other departments and companies. Gee, I wonder why.
I did make the mistake of rewarding with food. I got away with it with LilProgrammer, but ChinchillaBoy really got into that whole ritual, to the point where he rewards himself with food now. Needless to say, ChinchillaBoy could stand losing some weight. I guess if we had hereditary weight problems on any side of our family, I would've never used food or eating out as a reward to begin with.
I pay my kids for work. I define "work" as something inconvenient or physically hard that they don't have to do; don't want to do; only do so because I asked; and are doing a good job of it. A few months ago, LilProgrammer took an SAT for the Midwest Talent Search. He did not want to do it, but I asked him because I thought it might give him access to programs he might want to use in the future. He spent several weeks studying for the test, an hour or two almost every day. As you all know, the SAT runs from 8AM till 12:30PM on a Saturday. To top it off, a week after the test, LilProgrammer came down with a major flu - I am talking a 104 degree fever - that he probably got from someone at the testing site. In other words, major pain in the ass. But he still went through with it and did an awesome job. His best score was in math and I'll tell you right here that it was a 640. Pretty impressive for an eighth-grader. So, yes, out came wads of cash. Well deserved, I say.
Likewise, I pay ChinchillaBoy for serving in the altar. The way I see it, he could be dozing off peacefully in a pew instead of being on his feet for two hours carrying heavy objects and burning candles. So, each time he does it, I add three dollars to his allowance. If it's a night service, out come $15. Again, the way I see it, he could be home watching TV like the rest of his friends.
I don't like paying for chores - my reasoning is, hey, no one pays me. So they hardly do any. Maybe it's time for me to come up with a price list after all. Both kids are freakishly strong and could do things around the house that I can't. I should probably put their strength to good use.
I also tried the fines - withholding allowance for bad behavior, loss of privileges and such. Sometimes it worked; other times it backfired, like that infamous time I tried to fine them 25 cents for every swear word. I ended this practice after LilProgrammer came to me with a "list of ChinchillaBoy's swear words", broken down neatly by category: F-word, S-word, et cetera. We've taken LilProgrammer's computer cables away a few times when he got extra crabby or when his grades dropped. It wasn't, though, as much a loss of privileges as it was an act of helping LilProgrammer pull his head out of his computer monitor and reconnect with reality.
Last but not least comes the oft-discussed paying for grades. I know people that do it and it works for them. Personally, I could never get it. Of course, I could never get good grades for good grades' sake, either. I'm not saying that it is okay with me if my kids fail all subjects, but I'm not gonna whup their asses for anything less than a hundred per cent on a quiz, either. I see grades more like an indicator of how my kids are learning in school. If it's As and Bs, they are likely learning what they're supposed to, and won't have problems with the more difficult material in the future. If it is Cs and Ds, then it's time for me to step in and offer help. I don't see a B as all that different from an A. The difference between an A and a B could be explained by bad weather, the kid's foul mood, or the teacher's PMS. These things happen. If we get into the Cs, however, to me it means they're falling seriously behind and need to catch up. This is where I differ with the paying-for-grades crowd. As far as I've heard, they see school as the kid's place of work, not the place where he comes to learn things and acquire new skills. Consequently, they view grades as the kid's performance-review results, if you will. From that standpoint, paying for grades makes perfect sense. To me, it doesn't, so I don't do it. First of all, school doesn't fall under my definition of work. It should never be "something annoying that you don't really want to do, but your mom told you to so you have to put up with it." We try to ensure that our kids enjoy the learning process at least to some extent at all times; and we lead by example. I don't believe that a person who dislikes learning will get anywhere far in life.
I do, however, praise the kids lavishly for their successes in school, take time off work to come to their awards ceremonies, and display their reports and honor rolls on the fridge.
I am sure glad I didn't try posting all this in Paula's comment section.
Most of you have seen this picture, apparently a 2003 or 2004 winner of a photo contest in the "Not My Job" category. But can you tell who's on it? What kind of animal is the unfortunate roadkill shown here covered in yellow paint? I have to confess, I always thought it was a raccoon, which is obviously incorrect - just look at his tail. Today, I was told by two different people that it is a possum or an armadillo. But which one? I decided to conduct an experiment.
Go to Google Image Search, In one of the text boxes ("exact phrase", for instance), type "Not my job", In any of the other text boxes, type the name of the animal you're checking for. Hit "Search" and see if the picture comes up.
So far, I got this picture when searching for: raccoon possum armadillo dog cat rat bat squirrel gorilla elephant goose snake whale cyclist (!!! WTF?) my boss (wha?)
I did NOT get this picture when I was searching for: chinchilla grandma
At which point I ran out of animals and people I know, and had to end my test. So, whatever that thing is, it is definitely not a chinchilla or a grandma. I still have no idea as to its identity.
UPDATE: Thanks Ajooja and Paula! I don't have any work-in-progress right now, so I pulled out of this class, will probably take the one in summer or fall. heh heh No, seriously, something came up that would've made me miss a class. I'm a stingy b#tch, and didn't want to waste my money like that, so I pulled out. I need to get some work-in-progress in place by the next class. Thanks again for the info.
Guys, I have a question. I have signed up for a creative writing seminar that starts tomorrow. It says on their website to "submit works-in-progress in advance of the class, either a section of a novel or a short story". What did they mean by that? Is it OK to submit the short stories that I already have, or am I supposed to start on something tonight??? If anyone reads this post today, please let me know in the comments. Sorry about not blogging, work is killing me.