Mr. Chubby Butt

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Meet Mr. Chubby Butt. He’s a pirate. And a frog. And frogs do not have butts. Or at least he doesn’t. Or if you call what he has a butt, it’s certainly not chubby.

No matter.

His. Name. Is. Mr. Chubby Butt.

Daryl read a lot of books this year and earned a lot of AR points at school for them. More points than anyone else in his elementary school including fifth graders, in fact. Nearly twice as many as the second place fourth grader.

He’s following in the footsteps of his sister, who had similar accomplishments. Their success in this arena has three major components:

  1. They love to read. I mean, a lot.
  2. Their reading level is very advanced (think graduating seniors), allowing them to read books with substantial points available.
  3. They are ridiculously competitive.

So while many of the other kids love to read or have a higher reading level or are competitive in some ways, none of them seem to have that same three-way toxic mix that mine have.

This causes the PTA some headache.  They have an “AR store” where kids can redeem their points for various little items.  Their budget and point values on items anticipate most kids getting less than 100 points, with the standouts earning around 200 to 300.

When Jane had well over 600 points halfway through her fourth grade year, they asked her to name her price.  She asked for, and received, a Kindle.  Later that year or the next, she got an Amazon gift card.

Her brother, of course, was not content to reside in her shadow.  He gave the winning fifth grader a run for her money while still in third grade.  In fourth, he tackled big-point books including Ender’s Game, Dune, and all the Harry Potter books.  And since he wanted to maximize his return, he saved all his points to spend at the end of the year.  Once again, the PTA was faced with a kid who would break the bank.

They offered him a “VIP Pass” to an upcoming event, a turn in the “money box”, or a Build-A-Bear animal.  He jumped on the latter but wanted to know how many points it would cost.  He also mentioned that he’d like an Amazon gift card.

The teacher and I went back and forth for awhile with her trying to tell me that he could have whatever he wanted, he just needed to name it.  And me trying to tell her that he didn’t fully know what he wanted.  He wanted to analyze his options once point values were assigned.

They finally set point values.  And he went shopping.  He got various little knickknacks for himself and his little brother.  He got a nice gift card to Wal-Mart.  And he got to build an animal.

He chose a frog with no backside and named him Mr. Chubby Butt.  And then asked me if I could help him figure out how to secure the belt since it was too big for such a skinny beast. A-hem.  That’s because he has no butt!  *sigh*

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Home Room Mom

My husband took our youngest child to kindergarten orientation one morning this week. He came home with a folder full of learning materials and a very excited little boy.  He also came home with a story that’s become a minor source of irritation for us.  It wasn’t even a story that upset him particularly – more a little resigned aside about people that still haven’t figured it out.

He’s been a stay-at-home dad for four years now.  While he does run a business out of our home, his primary focus is on the kids.  Before that, he worked in a nearby town and almost all matters pertaining to the kids such as drop-off and pick-up or school functions fell to me.  Now they are all his.  He doesn’t do it the same as I would and I sometimes feel left out, but he does a good job.

He gets them to school each morning.  He picks the oldest two up from school and shuttles them to any after school activities.  He’s the one who first hears how the day went.  He’s the one to run stuff back up to the school when they forget.  He attends their music lessons at school.  He’s the one that would help with class parties or presentations, etc.  If anyone was interested, that is.

And so off to kindergarten orientation he went, with his kid and about 30 or 40 adults with their kids.  At one point in the proceedings, the PTA President stood up to speak.  She was our middle child’s Pre-K teacher some five years ago.

“She kept going on about Home Room Moms and about how we need people to step up to be Head Home Room Moms and I was just thinking, ‘Really?’  I mean, about a third of the adults in that room were men,” he said.

My husband is a very helpful and involved guy.  He is.  But if you make it clear you are after moms, you’ve lost his help.  He shrugs you off and decides that you aren’t interested in his help.  And why shouldn’t he?

If the roles were reversed and some guy was actively requesting help from men when it was something you could do, would be willing to do, would love to do?  I can already hear the indignant outcry from the feminist quarters!

My husband is a feminist.  A true one, in my humble opinion.  One who recognizes that feminism is about giving everyone a level playing field, about making opportunities available to everyone.  About not treating people differently because of their gender when gender, quite frankly, is irrelevant to the situation at hand.

Some men would push their way in, just like the women of old did.  They’d defiantly sign up anyway.  They’d push the issue.  My husband’s perspective is this: I’ve got plenty to do and they are the ones asking for help.  If they can’t figure out on their own that they are missing out on a source of help… not my problem.

Some people have figured it out, at least on a semantics level.  Over the years, we’ve attended many a Meet-The-Teacher night.  There’s always a sign-up sheet for people interesting in helping with the PTA’s involvement in that room.  If the sheet says Home Room Moms, we move on – me included.  If it says Home Room Parents, he puts down his name.

Now… progress is slow, to be sure.  He’s put his name down a time or two, but I don’t know that he’s ever been contacted.  But I think that’s more a matter of small-town cliquish behavior than anything.  Or perhaps the use of “Home Room Parent” was simply an attempt at political correctness and they weren’t sure what to do once a man actually did sign up.  Baby steps, I guess.

Then again.  This is 2014.  A third of those adults at Kindergarten Orientation were men.  A third of them!  There are men stepping up to the parenting table all across this country and some people still haven’t noticed.

Ugly Tape Girl

I’m not a PTA mom. Not anywhere close to it. No one would mistake me for one either. I don’t do parties and decorations and fundraisers and gift baskets for teachers. Really, in all the stereotypes you can imagine, wherever you’d place the dads is probably where you should place me.

But I am very curious. Especially when it comes to my children and their interactions with their peers. So when Jane joined the Stardusters dance lessons, I wanted to see how she did and what it was like.

The only parents allowed in during the dance, however, are the chaperones. And the only way you are allowed to chaperone is if you agree to help decorate for the dance. Only one parent has to show up for decorations in order to qualify both parents to attend the dance.

Score! I thought. I have to work. My husband can help decorate and I can still attend that night. Perfect.

But then the refrigerator died and he had to take care of it. I had already decided to help with decorating, again, just to see what it was like, but now I absolutely had to or we wouldn’t have a representative.

The first thing I noticed was that I got there ten minutes early and there were already 10-12 people and a tremendous amount of decoration already up. The next thing I noticed was the incredible attention to detail. Lots of bows and stars and sparkly things.

Eventually, after running Christmas lights and red tulle under all the chairs, I was given the task of decorating the little table in the hallway where the parting favors would sit.

The red table cloth was thin plastic and showed through to the hideously damaged table top. I asked for and received a solid white tablecloth to put under it. But the seventh grade taskmaster mom declared that she didn’t like the white tablecloth showing.

I put my thinking cap to work and used duct tape to secure the white tablecloth to the underside of the table so it didn’t show beyond the edges of the red cloth.

Then the eighth grade taskmaster mom handed me some puffy gold-glittered star garland and told me to use it to decorate the table. “Attach it in a way that looks cute. Don’t use ugly tape.”

As she walked away, I whimpered, “But I’m an ugly tape girl!”

I stared at the table and the two short strips of garland for a few minutes before wandering off to look for something else to do. One of the dads soon managed to step on a strand of lit Christmas lights, shattering one of the bulbs.

Repair work! I’m on it! I spent the next little while trying out replacement bulbs and repairing the lights. I then helped hang up the glittery red wrapping paper on the wall for the photo booth, earning me red glitter on my forehead that was all the rage at work later. Every once in awhile, I’d wander back over to the table and the garland to see if anyone had taken over. No one had.

Eventually, I used small pieces of tape to hold the garland in place in five locations around the edge of the table, letting the garland sag between each piece of tape. The eighth grade taskmaster paused at the table and scowled.

Before she could speak, I hastily said, “I’m going to cover the tape with bows!” She responded with a curt “good” before walking on.

I sighed in relief and then wondered exactly how I was going to make bows. I approached the seventh grade taskmaster, the kinder, gentler one, and asked if she knew how to make bows. I offered up some candidate silvery meshy stuff. I gathered some red pipe cleaners. She made a bow and we worked on wrapping it with the pipe cleaner before realizing that our get-up, while promising in appearance, was not going to cover my tape.

The tape was carefully removed, slightly ripping the plastic table cloth. I used that hole to poke the ends of the pipe cleaner through and then used the tape to secure the pipe cleaner to the ugly white tablecloth beneath.

I then tried my hand at her bow technique, making four more, none of which looked as good as the first. But the table earned a small nod of approval from the eighth grade taskmaster mom.

Ugly tape girl had succeeded.

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