Too Cool for School

I just went to parent/teacher conferences and was reminded just how much my kid and I are alike. She has been talking for weeks about her Latin teacher and how cool he is. When I met him, I couldn’t help but notice he was a lot like her dad, both in looks and sense of humor. Within five minutes he told a story about how he described an ancient poet as “punk rock” to a group of eighth graders. When they asked what that meant he explained how punk was an attitude. He went on to say that he does a presentation where he teaches the differences in poetic styles by playing music. He gives his high school classes a taste of epic poetry through the Who with their seven minute rock operas and the Sex Pistols with their ninety second in your face anthems. I warned him not to refer to anything as “punk rock” around my kid unless he wants to hear her twenty minute monologue on the subject. The good news is he will most likely be her Humanities teacher next year combining one of her favorite subjects with one of her favorite teachers.

My child has always brought her big personality into the classroom with her. In third grade she gave a rock a nose ring and mohawk and named it “Punk” for a science project. In fourth grade she persuaded her music teacher to include a music history lesson on the roots of punk rock music and helped pick songs that were appropriate for a group of Catholic school kids. And now, in fifth grade she has a Latin teacher who talks about the philosophy of punk. I’m expecting by next year she’ll be writing a paper on why “Get In the Van” is one of the most important pieces of American literature. I’m glad she has the freedom to do this, because I certainly didn’t when I was her age. Granted, there weren’t a lot of nuns and 70 year old teachers who had great taste in music, and the punk genre hadn’t even been around that long, but I can’t remember a single young, cool teacher that I connected with. Luckily I get to live through this self-expression with her. I show up to help once a week in her art/design class where she is making a skateboard from scratch. A bunch of fifth graders are using saws and power tools to build their own skateboards from gluing the layers of board together to screwing on the trucks and wheels. They are even using a CAD device to laser cut designs into their boards if they choose a logo that’s too intricate to hand sketch. I’m hoping I get to tag along when these girls bring their boards out for their maiden voyages.

Seven years ago my husband and I researched pre-schools like our life depended on it, and we ended up right where I started school in second grade. Within a few years we realized that we created a mess of anxiety in those preceding years for nothing. By kindergarten my daughter was being taught music by the wife of the studio owner where all of my bands recorded. Her after school activities were led by a retired musician who reminisced about the best and worst venues with me and dubbed my kid “Rockin’ Riley” after she jumped behind a drum kit like she owned it. Somehow a bunch of amazing, artistic people made their way to the same school under the direction of one of the wisest, most loving headmistresses in the country. It’s a small world for sure. Sometimes I still get side eye when I show up at a lacrosse game wearing glow in the dark skull Vans and a Pennywise hoodie, but I think I can safely say that would happen anywhere my kid ended up. It’s hard not to look twice at the middle aged mom dressed like a teenage boy. At least the teachers can match the kid to parent when my daughter shows up the next non-uniform day in a Distillers t-shirt and camo joggers. If anything, they are thanking their lucky stars she hasn’t developed my mouth just yet. Never fear, there is still plenty of time.

**I wrote this blog while thinking about my formative years and listening to my favorites from my middle school years – GBH**

US Out of My Uterus

I get some weird junk mail and spam mail. A few years ago I received a handwritten letter by someone I had no recollection of that claimed to have been a classmate in high school. Since I also have a limited recollection of my high school days, I took her word for it and looked her up in the yearbook. That is when I discovered she was a no good filthy liar. She had picked the last name of a classmate of mine, but had a different first name. She also claimed to have attended grade school with me at a school I never stepped foot in. The best part about this letter is that she was writing to me about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was lying about who she was to recruit me into a cult. Clearly she did not know me at all or she would have known that not even a cult would take me in and put up with my nonsense. A few months later I received another handwritten letter from someone claiming to be a 12 year old boy telling me how he wanted to share his love of Jesus with me. I kind of miss the days when they would just knock on your door. At least that way I could have warned him that his cult would never allow him to see an action movie or listen to music and that he had a lifetime of missionary sex and doors being slammed in his face to look forward to. Maybe I could have recruited him out of Kingdom Hall if he had knocked on my door instead of trying to lure me in with his pathetic letter. Then again, the 12 year old boy was most likely a 70 year old granny, the same one who wrote me the first letter. Catfishing must be exhausting.

I have also received quite a few postcards for some far right republican politicians which I always find interesting. I am not opposed to receiving propaganda from either side of the aisle, I just wonder how I got on some of these lists. Political “information” is always pretty comical to me, but absolutely nothing has topped the latest letter I received from Ted Cruz asking me to donate money to his ridiculous foundation. Every other line of the letter reads like a billboard claiming our vice-president is pickpocketing me to pay people to murder babies. His letter was in fact begging me for money to support the defunding of Planned Parenthood. I could make a lot of statements here about how Ted Cruz probably never had to worry about something like an unwanted pregnancy since no woman in her right mind would let that little slime crawl on top of her, but I won’t. Instead, I am writing Mr. Cruz a thank you note which reads:

Dear Mr. Cruz,
Thank you for informing me about the goal of your organization to defund Planned Parenthood. This is something that I was unaware of and most definitely plan to do something about. I know that you were hoping to receive a check from me, but all I can offer to you is a photocopy of a check. Please find enclosed a photocopy of a check remitted to Planned Parenthood. I had an abundance of money at the close of the year and had been considering several worthy charities when I received your letter. I had completely forgotten about all the good work Planned Parenthood does until you so generously reminded me. Thank you. Merry Christmas and God Bless.

Now onto my letters to the Jehovah’s… I’m thinking as a gift a subscription to Hustler may be in order. I also just realized that these kind of shenanigans are exactly how I get on all of these lists.

**Something the Jehovah’s would never allow… a little Slayer!

Queercore

While my daughter was doing volunteer work at school last week, the organization they were working at passed out a survey to get some background information about their volunteers. While in theory, this is a good practice, the volunteers on this day were fifth and sixth grade girls who didn’t even understand many of the questions, especially about sexual identity and orientation.

I received an e-mail later in the day from the head of school explaining what happened and offering an apology. The surveys were collected by the school since the girls did not have parental permission to be giving their phone numbers and addresses to strangers at a homeless shelter. I’m sure the surveys were pretty useless anyway since most of the girls had no idea what the options meant. I just felt bad for the teachers who had to field questions about the meaning of terms like pansexual and transsexual.

After reading the e-mail I asked my kid about the survey since she had not even mentioned it. She said her concern was that she couldn’t remember her phone number. Luckily an older girl next to her instructed her not to write her address or phone number on the form. I asked if any of the questions were confusing and she assured me she understood them. When I prodded for more information she told me that she answered “female” for her gender and “straight and homophobic” for her sexual orientation. This second answer gave me a little pause. I will concede that a lot of straight folks like myself are pretty vanilla, but we are not all bigots. Either she misread that question or the survey takers think all straight people are homophobes. I was leaning toward her not remembering the answers so I asked if she knew what “homophobic” meant. She informed me she did not and when I said it means you are afraid of and dislike gay people, she was horrified. I told her the term that meant the same thing as straight was heterosexual and she started laughing and said “yeah that was it!” I could not even contain myself to continue the conversation by that point. I guess we are getting to that sex education part of parenting a little sooner than I expected!

**Of course I am listening to the Queers while writing. How could I not?!

Riders on the Storm

About a month ago my dad soaked the inside of his car when he left the windows open in the rain. My parents had left the house and when they returned, my dad saw his car window open and immediately thought someone had broken his window. I love that his first reaction was that someone else must have damaged his car, not that he left his own windows down. What is most comical about this is that my dad never has the windows up while driving, so him leaving the windows down while parked is not all that unusual. It can be sweater weather and he has at least the moonroof open. Once he saw the open window, he walked out to his car to find all of his windows down and the moonroof wide open. It had been pouring rain for an hour, so needless to say, his seats were a little waterlogged. I’m not going to lie, that car needed a good detailing anyway.

Since my mom told us this story, my child has double checked the Old Man’s windows every time a cloud passes over. She has asked about the status of his windows at least a dozen times and takes every available opportunity to give him a hard time about it. I understand this though, because the man does not learn. A few weeks after he drenched his car, he left me sitting in the same car while he returned to the house to get something. The windows were all open, including the moonroof and within 10 seconds of him walking away, the rain started to pour in on me. He turned around and laughed instead of throwing the keys back to me. Typical. I am now thoroughly convinced that an actual dark cloud is following him.

One would think that maybe the third time is a charm, but one would be mistaken. Yesterday he picked me up to go retrieve one of the wave runners that was being serviced. Rain was expected, but we went anyway. As we were driving to the dealership I mentioned that I did not have a life jacket and we would need to stop at the lake house to grab one. He proceeded to drive right by our turn off and when I told him he responded “you can swim, right?” I agreed that a life jacket was not really necessary and we continued along, with the clouds following. When we got to the dealership, he immediately got out of the car and took the keys, leaving me sitting with the windows down and no radio. When he returned a few minutes later it had already started to sprinkle. He sat in the car talking to me for a full minute before I could prompt him to close the moonroof. He was just carrying on about the Olympics, while we got a shower until I finally said “you might want to close this….” while sticking my hand through the open roof.

As we headed back to the boat launch, the rain started to come down a little harder, and by the time we got to the dock it was the kind of rain that required an umbrella. I would like to say we turned around and headed to a garage until the rain subsided, but we are no quitters. And we are not all that bright either. I got on the wave runner and started it up right about the time a full on monsoon started. But by that time, there was no turning back. I took off and was halfway around the bend before my dad even left the boat launch, where he probably immediately opened the moon roof. I wanted to make sure everything was in working order but I couldn’t bring myself to drive more than 33 mph since the rain felt like pins going into my face. Although I usually like being the only vehicle on the lake, it was not an ideal time since I was not wearing a life jacket, it felt like pebbles were being thrown at me from the sky and a few neighbors were actually pointing and laughing. I managed to make it back to the dock in about 10 minutes. After getting the wave runner up on the lift, covering it and returning the key to the house, I finally grabbed a towel and headed to the garage as the rain completely stopped. I found my dad holding a leaf blower, cleaning the garage floor before backing in the trailer. Although he didn’t mention I looked like a drowned rat my mom later told me she saw me on the doorbell cam and that was exactly what I looked like. We moved the trailer into the garage and when I jumped back into the car I was shocked to see that all of the windows were actually closed for once, and the only sopping wet thing in the car was me.

**I just noticed I haven’t posted anything in over a month. It’s because I have been listening to new music (new to me at least) like this little gem.

Running From the Cops

The other day we were talking about teaching my 10 year old to drive the wave runner by herself. She is tall and she always wants to drive, but having her sit in front of someone is difficult since you can’t see around her Amazonian body and Mowgli hair. In the middle of this conversation between me and my dad, my mom stopped us and said “you know it’s illegal for her to drive those alone right?” to which we both stared at her like she was speaking Greek. I quickly said “Only if she gets caught!” And this is where it is clear I am my father’s daughter, and my child is following right down those rebellious misguided footsteps. We all looked at my mom like she was crazy to say out loud that breaking the law was probably not a good idea.

My Dad gave me my first motorcycle ride before I was a year old. Apparently I caught a cold shortly thereafter and my grandma quickly put the blame on the bike so I wasn’t allowed back on until I was 3. I also got my first helmet that year. It was orange and loud and too big. I loved it, and I loved the motorcycle. So much in fact, that by the time I was seven I was demanding to ride alone. My dad made me show him that I could hold it upright unassisted and operate it alone before I was able to take my virgin solo ride. By the time I was ten I was a little terror in the trails down the street and ripping up the baseball field at the elementary school. I was also very clear on the rules which were “if you see a cop, turn off the bike and say you are out of gas and waiting for your dad to come back.” I was then to walk it home with the cops following me. I partook in this parade quite a few times before the police finally told my mom if it happened again they would see that I did not receive a license to drive at 16. I guess I shouldn’t have been all that concerned since I actually drove myself to driver’s education classes in my own car at the age of fifteen, but at the time it scared my mom enough to make my dad sell the bike. Although that was just the beginning of my tendency to push the limits, the lesson I learned was you don’t get in trouble unless you get caught.

This lesson has trickled down to my daughter. Fortunately, she isn’t doing anything she feels the need to hide from me yet, and with my experience in jackassery, she will probably have a hard time doing so. Right now she is still wondering if she is allowed to do things on her own and when she is given a yes by mom or grandpa she follows up with dad or grandma to get the real story. I just keep telling her not to worry. She won’t get caught and if she does, mom will be in trouble which is a pretty familiar place for mom to be. Apparently my kid is totally okay with me paying the price for her misdeeds as well since as soon as I explained I would be in trouble for making her drive, she grabbed the keys and tried to take off on me. Luckily, the wave runner takes a few seconds to start or we may not have seen her again until she ran out of gas. Although, she drives like a grandma, so I probably could have caught up to her with a quick doggy paddle.

I have had a lot of great experiences in my life, party because I was not afraid of much. I have had some bad experiences for the same reason, but that is a whole different story. Little things like laws and rules have rarely deterred me from trying something new and have often times made me learn a new skill, like jumping off a roof with a skateboard or moving through spaces that are too narrow for a cop car to follow. I am hoping that my kid can learn some of these life lessons from my stories rather than having to touch the ot burner herself, but only time will tell. For now, I am grateful that she will take a chance now and then but drive slow enough for her mom to still catch her.

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