Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Don't Know How She Does It

Have you seen the movie "I Don't Know How She Does It"?

If you haven't, you should.

This goes for busy working moms, stay at home moms, dads, boyfriends, even teenage kids. At least watch the trailer.

Lexi and I watched it this weekend.

It was one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time.

It also hit a little close to home.

Yes, moms really do make lists.

All the time.

In our heads, on paper, on our smartphones, on the back of a napkin.

But the movie is about more than just making lists. In the movie, people constantly say to Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays a working mom trying her best to balance a thriving career, two young kids, and a husband, "I don't know how you do it."

I can't even tell you how many times people say that to me.

"I don't know how you take care of four kids." Um, well, I don't really have a choice, and a couple of them are old enough they kind of take care of themselves (take bath time, for example.. it's been years since I had to help Lexi and Jake with a shower, although I do often have to remind Jake to shower). Really, the big kids just need food and transportation, and maybe some occasional homework help. Oh, and money. Other than that, there's not much work involved - and they even help with their little sisters, making my job not that bad. That's how I do that - we work as a team and take care of each other.

"I don't know how you manage a job and being a mom." Honestly, even on the days I hate my job the very most, it's actually kind of a nice break from being a mom. Yes, I'd really love to not have to work. But the fact of the matter is, I do. We need the little bit of extra income I earn to pay for things like groceries (very important, especially if you're an almost 11 year old boy!) and registration fees (it costs money to do all the "extra" stuff my kids want to do).  In a perfect world, I'd work from home. I'm working on making that happen. In the meantime, I am grateful that I'm able to work part-time. I'm not sure I could do 40+ hours a week and raise a family. Cutting back on work (at least the work that I get paid for) was probably the best decision I ever made. Yet, even with just 20 hours a week, there are still somedays that I wonder how we all get out of the house on time, and fully clothed (ok, that's a lie...sometimes Morgan decides she doesn't want to wear pants, but that's her choice.. and I usually remember to grab pants, just in case).

"I don't know how to find time to scrapbook/blog." For me, those things are relaxing. I don't watch a lot of tv, but when the kids go to bed, I update my blogs and work on scrapbooks. It's therapy. And it's just part of my daily routine. I'm working on adding some other things, like exercise into my daily routine too, but honestly, writing a quick blog so I don't forget the funny thing Lizzy said that day, is a lot more fun, especially at 10:00 pm.

"I don't know how you do it - your husband works long hours." Only in the summer. And again, it's just what we do. Brad's job requires long hours during the summer. It has always been that way, and it always will be. I grew up a farm kid, so maybe I'm used to the dad being gone a lot when it's nice out. It's no big deal. Yes, I'd love it if Brad were home to go on every camping trip with us, grill burgers for us, and go to the swimming pool with us. But that's just not how it is. The kids and I won't let his busy work schedule keep us from having fun. If we did that, we'd never do anything in the summer. We make our plans, assuming he won't be there, and if the contractor breaks down, or it rains, we are pleasantly surprised.

Am I doing everything right?

Absolutely not.

I'd be kidding myself (and lying to you) if I said I was the perfect mom.

But you know what?

My kids are happy, healthy, and so much fun to be around.

So I must be doing something right.

But don't ask me how I do it.

I just do it.

That's all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No Lunch For You

I learned a few important lessons in the past week.
  1. Sometimes, you just have to take control of a situation. And sometimes, when something bad happens, sometimes the only way to fix it, is to raise a little hell.
  2. There are bad, grumpy, mean people everywhere. It's important to learn how to deal with these people.
  3. Most people, however, are genuinely good and want to help.
Deep, yet vague, huh?

Let me explain.

Lexi came home from school last week and said she wasn't allowed to eat lunch, because she was out of lunch money. I was outraged, and almost called the school right then and there. But a lesson I learned a long time ago, is when you're really fired up, it's a good idea not to do anything drastic.

So instead, I gathered information.

I got the whole story from Lexi (she went to the "crabby" lady's line, this "crabby" lady told Lexi she had a negative balance and told her she could have a glass of water).

I remembered doing a story a few years ago in my former life about a new school policy - middle school students would no longer be allowed to charge more than one lunch. After that, if they still didn't have lunch money, they would be given a cheese sandwich. The idea was to give them a kind of gross lunch so they'd remember to bring lunch money, but not starve them (because kids can't learn when they're starving). The policy was designed to teach kids responsibility. I'm totally in favor of that. And let's face it. By seventh grade, kids are definitely responsible enough to tell their parents they need lunch money.

I also remembered that I used to get weekly email updates from Powerschool, and email alerts when their lunch accounts were getting low. I realized I hadn't gotten those for awhile, thus, I had no idea Lexi was low on lunch money.

So I did what every fired up mom in 2012 does.

I updated my Facebook status.

For those of you who may have missed it, here it is:

Warning.. the following is a Facebook rant:
Today my 7th grader was allowed to have a glass of water for lunch. Apparently she is out of lunch money. Um, ok. I thought she was supposed to get a cheese sandwich (I remember doing a story on that) and another thing... how about telling her she's almost out of money? She's pretty responsible. I bet she'd tell me, and then I'd gladly send a check. I'...m pretty sure it's not healthy for a 12 year old girl to go without food all day. Kinda screams eating disorder to me.. not to mention, how can you learn when you're starving? And... on a related note.. why can I no longer get into Powerschool? I used to get notices about lunch money that way... but suddenly I can't even log in. Frustrated. Thanks for listening Facebook family.
I regretted writing that at first. That's really not my Facebook-style. When it comes to my Facebook status, I try really hard not to air my dirty laundry, complain, bad mouth anyone, or be negative.
But on this day, I was upset enough to break all my Facebook rules, and post a status like that.
The response was amazing.
I got something like 40 comments.
And, for the most part, those comments actually provided me with some much needed support, and ammunition.
After calming down a little, and emailing a couple of friends who work for the school district, I knew what I had to do. I emailed the principal at Lexi's school and requested a meeting for the following day.
By the time I got to the meeting, he already knew what was going on and had already talked to the lunch ladies, the head of food services for the district, and Lexi. What can I say.. it's a small town... word travels fast when a parent is upset.
The meeting was great. He was totally on my side, and assured me what happened was not school policy and would not happen to my daughter ever again. It never should have happened in the first place - she should not have been denied a sandwich, nor should she have ever gotten $7.80 in the hole. Turns out, there was a break down in the system - the only way kids know they're low on lunch money is when the lunch ladies tell them and when parents get an email (which I didn't get, because I hadn't updated my Powerschool account).
But what I also learned is that my daughter isn't the only one who has experienced this. Numerous parents and students have told me the same thing has happened to them, and they've been forced to throw away the food on their trays (lunch numbers are punched in after students go through the line.. it has to be that way because of some federal regulations).
While that makes me sad (sad that kids dont get to eat, and sad that food was wasted), it makes me even sadder to know that none of them ever told anyone about the problem. How can school officials fix problems if they don't know about them?
We all have a voice.
We need to use that voice.
It's the only way things will ever change.
It's a lesson I've tried to pass on to my kids a little more than normal this past week. Lexi and I have talked at length about being more assertive, and using her voice. She hates to rock the boat or make anyone upset. I'm trying to teach her that sometimes you have to rock the boat. It's so important to stick up for yourself, even if it is over something as silly as a cheese sandwich. 
And, through this all, my faith in our school system has been restored.

I have always thought Bismarck's public schools are among the best. Honestly, if they weren't, I'd probably have enrolled my kids in private school by now (there are several to choose from here). But we've always been happy with the education they've received, the lessons they've learned in relationships and responsiblity, and how much the majority of the teachers and staff truly care for the kids. Don't get me wrong - there have been a few over the years that we've been less than excited about, but our kids still managed to learn, even excel, despite those "bad apples". We refuse to let them spoil the bunch.

The same is true with this no lunch fiasco. We will not let one grumpy lunch lady ruin our respect for the teachers and staff who do their very best every day to make the school day a good experience for our children.

I challenge each of you to take a moment and think about all the good things the people at your childs school do for your kids. They really do have your child's best interests in mind and I'm betting they actually really care about your child, and want to see them succeed.  Then, tell them thanks. It is a tough job, and one many of us (myself included) could not do.