About Me

I am an insane human being. I have been a wife for 15 plus years, and a mom for almost as long. I had 3 children early on...then struggled with life and IF and loss for 8 years. Thought our family was complete, so I compensated by adopting all the shelter pets. Then we were surprised that our luck changed. Our running total is Parents: 2, Kids: 5, Pets:4. My life is far from perfect, and much of our happiness was hard fought and won, from the death of a parent, job loss and marriage troubles, miscarriage and IF, we have been through it all, and dare I say we made it, with a lot of love and laughter, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to plan a fieldtrip

So as a Homeroom parent, or room mom, for my elementary school-aged children, there are a bunch of different things we are responsible for, and of the the biggest ones is planning the spring Fieldtrip. In our school, there are certain trips that have generally been taking every year by each class. Sometimes there have been changes such as when my oldest was in 3rd grade and the usual field trip location closed down. Other times the teacher might decide they want to go somewhere else that year. I have had every combination of things happen as Homeroom parent. When we meet with the teacher at the start of the school year, the Fieldtrip is one of the things discussed. For us we talked about the usual place and the teacher said we didn't have to go there we could pick somewhere else if we wanted. We threw out lots of suggestions and went with the top ones the teacher liked. I researched all of our choices and listed activities and pros and cons of all of them and sent a master list to the teacher to choose from, and from there she picked her choice. For a spring Fieldtrip we usually start planning after the new year, but since I was going to be having a baby I decided to work on it before the birth. I was able to contact the venue and secure a reservation from a list of the dates the teacher gave me. They did not require a deposit so I was all set. If they were to require a deposit I would have filled out a form and sent it in to the treasurer who would send me a check and I would send it to the venue. This procedure would vary depending on what your school normally does.

Sometime after the new year is when you would need to book a bus. Our school has certain companies we always work with, so I started there. I messed up and forgot to do this early. Usually the teacher starts reminding you about Fieldtrip planning and since we had it booked, I didn't get the planning email and I totally forgot. We are going in April instead of May so I had less time and things seriously got away from me. Our usual company was already booked, so I ended up making a bunch of calls and freaked out because the other company prices were too high. I finally found one for around the price we normally pay so it all worked out but I was getting all mad at myself! The bus price is important because it is the biggest expense that can make or break your trip budget. To get your per child cost you would divide the total bus price by number of children going, and then add in the cost of admission and any other fees you have. We add in the cost for snacks on the bus and bus driver tip. I will add those to on to the price of the bus, divide by number of students, then add the admission cost to that total. Since admission can be anywhere from free to $30 depending on where the trip is going, a huge bus cost can make it too expensive. We have a small group of kids that fit on one bus, usually 35 kids or less. They normally tell you 42 people can fit on the buss, so you have to include teachers in your seating. At our school, teachers don't pay for the trip. Most places give you one free adult ticket for every 10 or so kids, or say all teacher are free.

Things you need to figure out are how much additional tickets/admission would be for any parent chaperones. You also need to decide how much of a bus tip to give. If you are making multiple stops then you would usually aim for a little higher tip. If you are providing any drinks or snacks you need to set a budget to figure out cost. I looked at items at Sam's Club to see how much a big thing of juice boxes would be, and estimated the cost of a box of snacks that would be enough for our group. I gave myself a little extra money just in case, because $40 vs $50 on snacks didn't make a huge difference on total cost per child. I ran my numbers a few times to triple check myself and to make sure I wasn't leaving anything out. I also adjusted a bit so I got a normal total to charge. (So it wasn't like $23.37 per kid lol)

I had to get a check for the bus deposit so I filled out that form. I also had to get cash for the tip and money to buy snacks ahead of time, so I requested those amounts, too. The cash for the driver too and money for snacks was written as a check to me that I would have to cash. I just need to save my receipt for the snacks and turn that in with my balance sheet at the end. I sent the bus contract and deposit money in to the company. I make copies or take a picture of everything I send in, just in case.

The next thing I do is fill out the field trip form so the secretary can print up copies to be sent home to parents. I also include a parent letter that provides more detailed information about our trip and let's parents know the cost of they would like to go, and any information I have about transportation/parking at the destination. I also restate the dress code for students and what they need to bring with them as far as a lunch goes. This letter usually gets stapled to the permission slip, but this year there was some miscommunication and I did t know the forms were going out the first day back from spring break. I hurried up and wrore a letter the teacher sent out the next day.

I check in with the teachers weekly about how many forms they have gotten back. When we have the majority of students turn their money in, I will go in and count the money/prepare the checks for deposit. I will also total up how many admission tickets I need. I have to get an idea of this because I have to request one check to our venue for all admissions. Occasional my we will have to pay a couple people in cash, but we try to have everyone's money turned in ahead of time to avoid that. I request a check for the remaining total on the bus to be given to the driver on the day of the Fieldtrip. I fill out the balance sheet and attach it with all the money I collected. I also fill out the master form to the venue which I will turn in to them with a check when we arrive.

The day of the trip I bring the snacks and drinks and arrive early to meet the bus driver. We usually bring a big cooler for everyone to put their lunch in. Sometimes we just use a huge black trash bag of we don't have a big enough cooler. If we are going somewhere that I think most people need help getting to, I will print directions out for everyone. I meet with the driver, settle payment and load all snacks on the bus. I make sure my chaperones know where they are going, and as the classes come out to load onto the bus I get the grouping from the teacher and assign students to parents. This cuts down on confusion when we arrive and makes sure all parents have kids to look after. Luckily this is a small group and most everyone knows each other so it's fairly easy. When we arrive I get off the bus first and get us checked in and handle all payments to the venue. I get our guide for the day if we have one and we get our group going. At this point I can relax and enjoy the trip. I just keep an eye on time for lunch and then boarding the bus back home. When we return I take care of tipping the driver and my job for the day is done.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Micro-Blog Monday: We Let her quit

We let my teenage daughter drop out of her school's production of the spring play Less than 2 weeks before opening night. I know a lot of people wouldn't agree with that choice and instead make their kids finish out their commitment. I will admit I was really torn between forcing her to stay and letting her quit.

She is a freshman, coming from a middle school experience that didn't afford her a lot of good friends or opportunities to spread her wings. Because of this, she wants to try and do everything, which we don't let her do. But she's also a kid with a fantasy of how things are going to be versus how they really are. Try as I may to talk to her and explain situations, I'm only her mom so I don't really know what I'm talking about and everything I say is just stupid and off-base.

The drama club at her school is serious business. Contracts for students and parents alike to sign, production fees to be paid by every member of the cast and crew, mandatory practices, build days, costume days, and tech week that are 12 hours plus (which I am not even sure the legality in enforcing because minors are limited in amount of paid hours they can work, and this is not even paid work) that every member of the production must adhere to, no matter how big or small your role. It's a little sad because it discourages kids that just want to do it for fun as opposed to kids who want to actually have any of this as some sort of career, and cast are supposed to purchase their own costumes and expensive stage makeup. It's really a racket. Parents are also required to put in a required number of volunteer hours as well. Tickets cost $15 a piece. So there is an extreme amount of time and money required for all involved. You were only allowed to miss one practice for any reason (even illness) and then you were given strict warnings.

Cast also have to keep their grades way up, even during the weeks where practices run from after school until 10pm or later and are mandatory for all involved. The stress was building on my teen, even with us letting her off the hook on her chores and responsibilities at home. When she got the email last week about the next 2 weeks of mandatory 12 hours days and the request for volunteers to stay beyond that for various things, and reading that on performance days you were required to be there the ENTIRE day, meaning more 12 hours days, and between weekend shows you were required to stay at school and not leave campus for any reason she had a total breakdown. She skipped practice and came straight home in tears. Talked to me about everything, she had been thinking and feeling for weeks now. Explained how it was taking something she loved to do and making it the most hated thing ever, keeping her stomach in knots. The director, who is also the drama teacher, turning into a complete Medusa yelling at people about "how behind" they were. My daughter also told me how she needed to get a peer tutor for one of her classes but couldn't because of the play and the practices, and was so upset and stressed couldn't even concentrate in class.

My child cried as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders. I calmly explained that she needed to take a breath and realize that in the grand scheme of things, this decision was small potatos. That it was a highschool play production, and her decision wasn't going to end anyone's life or blow up a country. Sure they might have to shift people around, but she was part of a side ensemble and had no speaking part. She didn't know that it was okay to say it was all too much. She actually was pushing my buttons extra hard and acting out hoping I would pull her out myself, as part of her agreement to us allowing her to sign up was that her home behavior be on the straight and narrow.

We let her quit because as important as it is to follow through on your word and what you sign up and agree to do, it is equally important to be able to recognize and acknowledge when you are in over your head and can't handle something, and ask for help or back out when you need to. She also needed to realize that she could talk to us even if she thought we would be mad or upset with her or not support her decision or validate her feelings. She needed to have this happen.

She also needed to step outside and see how some of the other drama girls reacted to her news, making it all about them and how HER decision affected THEM instead of immediately supporting her and her needs. She was rather surprised by that.

Sometimes quitting isn't the easy way out after all.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Life Lately April 2016 Edition

So the very last post I started writing was way back on March 2nd. There has been so much I want to say but when I finally start writing it I just can't. It's hard for me to detail difficult things as they are happening to me, and I just didn't want to relive some of it all over again writing it. Then I was tired and didn't feel like writing and couldn't get my shit together enough to type anything out. So here is my latest attempt for my own sanity to do yet another updatey type post and hope I can do better from here.

•Raising a teenager is HARD. So, so, SO very hard and challenging. I fee ill equipped most days to be doing this. My kid is pretty good as far as behavior goes. It's all the other stuff that goes with it, made infinitely harder by the existence of social media and cell phones. I'm doing the best I can but some days my best is pretty much the lowest level possible; in other words pretty shitty. She struggles, I struggle. Such a work in progress and I pray All The Time.

•Toddler Boy is so thoroughly 2. He is such a loud yell-Y scream-Y boy. He is so sweet and so rough and so silly and so crabby all at the same time. He is definitely not so go with the flow and protests life on the regular. He also is wanting more of me to himself vs. being more independent so I almost never get a moment of downtime, since he also doesn't really nap. He could always definitely use a nap, but it's not with the fight and he always always wakes up worse than when he started so it's like the lesser of two evils. Either way he's a bear. But he is also so damn sweet and silly. His favorite thing to do is sit between my legs with puzzles or toys or books and we cuddle and play. He is so smart it's a little scary. I am currently typing this while he is climbing all over me. A huge part of his problem is that he is a terrible sleeper at night and always has been. So he is extra cranky but trying to set a dedicated nap time doesn't work for him. Some days he makes it all day and he's mostly fine, other days he is just miserable all day.

•Baby Boy is the easiest. Sleeps amazingly well (12+ hours every night!) and is so chill and just so happy to be here! He doesn't complain and is the smileyest baby around. He is a great little chatterbox and has been for a long time now. While he can roll and move he is more content to just lay back and suck on his fingers. Never was there a more perfect baby to be #5. It is so funny how babies can be so very different!

•I have been doing sit of work for my 4th and 5th graders as the room mom for both classes. I actually have one other mom in each class, but since the Christmas Party neither of them have done anything at all to help. One actually emailed me "busy with my kids and stuff" which I just rolled my eyes at and ignored because she has 3 kids and 2 are highschool age and one of them drives. So...telling me YOU'RE busy is just like ok whatever. I am not going to let my older kids miss out because I have other kids, even if they are an infant and toddler. So I made sure the kids had something yummy and awesome and homemade for Easter, and I went shopping for really good fun snacks for Standardized testing week, and I have done every part of the Fieldtrip planning. It means something to my kids that I am involved and they see that and know that and it makes them feel special and happy. And I do it for the other kids in their classes, too. And the teachers, because it takes some pressure off of them and also supports them. It's been a little crazy the last 2 weeks because there has been so much to do for the Fieldtrip that was time-consuming but it all came together.

•speaking of homemade...I make everything from scratch. Even when it's not the most convenient thing to do. My mom always did, and she went so far as to handmade all of our Halloween costumes, too on top of having a job! I don't sew at all, but it is definitely important to me to make things from scratch. I actually love pouring myself into a good recipe and getting the finished product. Once I've done the recipe once before it doesn't take me much longer than a box mix would. I also love that each time it comes out slightly different and it's been a great way to teach my daughter the ins and outs of baking and the slight variations that can alter the final product. It has made my kids food snobs though. They are sure to tell me when sauce comes out of a jar or someone brings in something store-bought to school for their birthday snack. But I am glad they notice that it's important to me to make time to do this. I guess that's how I feel...if it is important to me I make time to do it even if it's not the most convenient thing. Having my kids in a million after school activities isn't important to me, so I don't do it.

•I can't wait for warmer weather. It seems like I have been wishing for warm weather for so long now. We had a week of warm weather a while back, and got a couple days on Spring break that were really good. But it's pretty much been downhill from there and it's just been downright cold here.

•So my days have been on a crazy loop of waking up feeding babies and kids, feeding myself, playing toddler games, trying to do housework and personal hygiene things like shower and brushing teeth, errands, kid pick up, fixing of meals, getting everyone to sleep, more chores, letting dogs out. There are lots of joys and moments of sheer happiness and exhaustion and everything in between.

•My cat needs Prozac. The diagnosis of her peeing on my carpet all the time is that she is very angry with us from the move 10 months ago. She just hasn't adjusted, even though she has more space now. I actually wanted to get rid of her and take her to a shelter as I am not at all a cat person. But the vet and a rescue lady both suggested isolating her to the garage and see how she does. Well, the damn cat is happy. Happier than she has been since we moved. She plays with her toys now, uses her box, purrs when we come see her. Damn cat. The vet actually suggested Prozac so we can reintegrate her into the household but my feeling is if she is fine in the garage, then the garage is where she can stay.

•Our big freezer went up last weekend. We knew it was going to, as the top shelf wouldn't stay frozen but the rest of the freezer had been fine. So a new freezer was over $500. Well, I managed to find a practically new sub-zero commercial freezer on Craigslist for $80!! The people were closing a business and had 2 to sell. It's awesome and huge. So my husband went and got it Tuesday. I love when I can find good deals. I don't generally use Craigslist because people usually way overprice heavily used junk, but this was a lucky find.

•A huge financial thing that had been in the works for a while didn't end up panning out for us, which was a big bummer. As it drug on, I started realizing that it probably wasn't going to work out in our favor so I started trying to make other financial moves. I had to move a bunch of stuff around so that the impact wasn't so bad on us. A few weeks after that a different unexpected financial thing happened to work in our favor, and while it didn't make up for the first thing it certainly helped.

•I got up suuuper early on Easter to go to mass at the hospital. We usually go on Saturday nights but Easter is one occasion where the Saturday mass is a Vigil and very very long. I was working a partial day so I decided to go to the one at work that I have gone to before. I am so very glad I did. The Homily was exactly what I needed to hear, and one that has really stuck with me. One thing the priest said, "Stop concerning yourself with all the worldly things and have your eyes and mind focused upward to Heaven" has really stuck with me and helped a great deal with perspective.

I'm sure there is more but Toddler is making typing very very hard right now. Hopefully I will be back soon!!