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We can haz kah-myoon-ah-kay-shuns?

The academic year has just begun and I’m already mad as hell!

The furor began yesterday when I learned our kids were no longer eligible for bus service because – according to transportation software – we live too close to school.

We found out about this yesterday.

School started today.

I’d bet good money that this data analysis wasn’t just pulled together in the last 48 hours. They knew about this and were withholding the information so that we wouldn’t have any time to try to challenge it.

Angry calls to the district’s business manager were met with this response:

“I take total responsibility.”

What does that mean?

Are you going to pay for my friend’s health insurance benefits because she now has to cut her hours in order to be available to pick up her children?

Are you going to provide crossing guards at every single intersection along the .9-mile route to school? You claim that six-year-olds are mature enough to make that walk on their own.

Are you going to provide an alternative to pay for transportation if parents cannot – after a whopping one-day’s notice – rearrange their schedules to pick up their children two hours before the traditional work day ends? So far, you’ve made no mention of that option.

It’s like you just dropped an email bomb…and ran!

Add this to the fact that you’ve done very little to communicate anything about what supplies our children need for school this year, and what they’ll need to keep them nourished throughout the day.

We’re in one of the highest tax brackets in the nation and yet we have to provide all of our own materials and settle for a hot lunch only once/month. In fact, as I just learned by reading last year’s newsletter (no such letter has yet been written for this year), children are encouraged to go home for lunch. Because we are all idle at mid-day and can afford to shuttle our kids home and back within a one-hour time frame?

Do you even care what we think? Do you even know who we are?

Are you, as education advocates, supportive of a dialog with parents in the district?

Hello?

Can you hear us?

Unfortunately, the only thing that may loosen your collective ear wax is a legal document entitled,  “_______ vs. Board of Education.”

It would be sad if it has to come to that.

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More like Anti-Social Media, Amirite?!

Now, I know I’m not the first person to conclude that spending many hours on a computer does not a social person make.

Many psychiatric professionals (mine included) have explained how hiding behind a monitor or an iPad or a smartphone removes some of the components which are essential for building healthy human relationships (eye contact and vocal interplay, for example).

There are even  plenty of self-confessed “awkwards” who admit that they feel more comfortable typing out a tweet or a Facebook status than they do speaking to a fully fleshed human being.

That’s why when you see a profile like the one at left you think, “This must be a guy who doesn’t know how to interact with real people, is probably an online stalker, and likely lives in the basement of his divorced mother’s house.”

It’s a stereotype, for sure. But it’s easy to reason that a person with extensive social media involvement would not have time to do much more than go to work (or class) and then park himself in front of his computer screen.

While the overextended social media user may be a bit odd and creepy, flamers and trolls are disturbing in a malicious way. Anyone who gets off by inciting controversy on Facebook threads, Tweet streams, blog comments and private forums must have some sort of personality disorder, we reason. We typically write off these assholes as attention-seeking narcissists, and we do our best to not let them bother us.

So, we’re kind of familiar with the potentially pathological prototypes described in the above examples. But in the last couple of months, we’ve seen the emergence of a new type of anti-social media user: people who join social networks and then get angry if you try to interact with them.

Since Google Plus was launched in June to limited users, eager Internet junkies were literally begging for invitations.  But when they finally arrived at the party, they didn’t seem to know what to do there. Was G+ supposed to be a replacement for Facebook? Should they post the same type of material they shared on Twitter? And, most significantly, whom should they add to their circles?

As more and more users joined, people noticed that complete strangers were adding them and the “veterans”  were bewildered! I’m not sure why they were so perplexed, since many of these folks were already active on Twitter where it’s customary to be followed by people you don’t know. So, while some simply pondered the mystery of the unknown followers and posted innocent queries on their G+ Wall (or whatever Google calls it), others were besides themselves with rage. Take a look  at this recent post, for example:

Whoa! Relax, honey! Why so hostile? I believe if you’re that upset you can just block the offenders, no?But it kind of makes me wonder why you’ve joined this network if you didn’t want to meet new people.  I’m sure your existing friends are lovely, but don’t you see enough of them on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr? And if you’re so upset with the way social media suggests followers for you, just get off the damn internet and text or email your buddies. That way you can get the privacy you crave.

Okay. You know what? Do whatever makes you happy. Thrown open your circles for all the world to enter or seal them shut after letting only a few of your besties sneak in. But your belligerent tone really turns my stomach.

Actually, I should probably thank you. Posts like this one help identify which people I definitely do not want to add.  Much appreciated.

Oh, by the way…you spelled anonymity incorrectly.

Wanker.

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Kids: Our Darling Little Go-Betweens!

Say you walk into an establishment which typically requires an appointment if you expect service.

Peering into the windows of said establishment, you notice that the staff does not appear to be busy at the moment.

So, you take a chance, walk in to the establishment, and inquire as to whether service may be available right there on the spot.

You are told, “No. I’m sorry, but we have appointments scheduled for the next hour and a half.”

Are you outraged and disbelieving? Do you turn to your child companions and say, “We have to go! They don’t have time for us!” in a louder than necessary tone of voice, and then repeat this same phrase twice as you stomp out the door?

You do if you’re the passive-aggressive bitch who walked into KidSnips just as the stylists were sweeping up after my boys’ haircuts.

Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of others like her…parents who delight in the fact that they can unleash their anger in the presence of their innocent offspring…using them as pawns in their game of “Public Put-Down”. Since their kids are right there, the peeved can feign conversation rather than having it look like they’re just angrily (and crazily) talking to themselves.

But while the boorish customer may succeed in blowing off a little steam, she really doesn’t gain anything in the end.  The best service people know how to keep their cool while the big babies have their tantrums, and they also have excellent memories. So, good luck returning to the store where you made a huge jackass of yourself.

Then there are the witnesses to the infantile behavior. In this case, it was just me. But there I was… taking it all in and grinning at the prospect of having another topic of irritation to post on my blog.

So, thank you, Rude Mom. You made my day a little less dull, and showed me how not to behave if and when my ego begins to eclipse my sense of common decency.

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These Are Not Brownies

If these were actually brownies, the 38-count box I bought at Costco two weeks ago would not still be housing 26 packages.

And, for the record, yogurt will never taste like cake.

Buyer be wary.

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Come on, Parentz!

If you have never seen a Kidz Bop commercial, please click away from this post immediately, and save yourself from a disappointment of soul-crushing proportions.

But if you are a parent of young children, you’ll have read the title of the above video and likely muttered under your breath, “No way in hell am I gonna watch that again!”

Because today that television spot has played at least five times during commercial breaks on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, and you cannot bear to hear the Kidz’ version of “Rolling in the Deep” even ONE MORE TIME!

I mean, it’s bad enough that the Top-40 song genre is comprised of formulaic rubbish, spoon-fed to the musically-illiterate by executives trying to  promote a look or a brand. But Kidz Bop takes that formula and dumbs it down a few more notches by employing a band-of-children to record cover versions for these mediocre songs. It’s aesthetically offensive.

It’s possible I’m over-reacting. Perhaps you don’t think it matters if your young ones have fine-tuned their musical sensibilities at this early stage in their lives. You may, however, have an opinion about some of the singles included in the Kidz Bop compilations.  While the naughty words are indeed edited out of  these songs, aren’t you creeped out knowing your eleven-year-old daughter is essentially singing Pink’s “Fuckin’ Perfect” or Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” into her hairbrush microphone?

While we debate the ethics of pushing Ke$ha on the pre-teen set and groan at the thought of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” made even worse by the Kidz Bop singers, the franchise continues to increase in popularity. It’s now in its 10th successful year and is the #1 music brand for kids ages 5-12. There’s been a World Tour, a nationwide talent contest and, coming this month, a book series!

Even if it doesn’t faze you that pre-teens are growing up a bit too early, take another look at the preceding paragraph. Kidz Bop is being marketed to children as young as five! Why aren’t these kids listening to Laurie Berkner or Ralph’s World or They Might be Giants? Even Jack Johnson! And if you’re looking to introduce your children to some well-known performers,  check out this Amazon list. It’s chock full of artists who are a lot cooler than the “stars” imitated on the Kidz Bop CDs.

I’m not saying we can totally shield our children from the schlock that’s being thrown their way by eager marketers. Pre-adolescence is a time when kids begin to push boundaries, solidify their identities and emulate pop culture in an attempt to fit in. But grade school children aren’t mentally or emotionally prepared to confront the issues facing their older brothers and sisters. There’s absolutely no reason to jump-start adolescence and extend that painful phase any longer than necessary.

You should probably also turn off the TV, for that matter. But that’s a topic for another day.

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This is what I think of your Tea Party…

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Does it ever pay to be a hoarder?

You know that resolution you made back in January?

No, not that one.

The one about de-cluttering your life and throwing away the unnecessary paper in your life.

Well, you finally got around to the massive clean-up after only six months of the year had passed, and BOY DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING! You tossed all the utility bills and insurance statements because you don’t need those, right? Some official-sounding website listed what to keep and what to shred, and they’ve assured you that you need only keep bills that are outstanding,  and those policy documents which haven’t expired (except the ones needed for tax purposes because you already know the government can audit you within seven years of the tax return year).

And so a cloud has been lifted. You can breathe a little easier because the dust collecting on the piles has been cleared.

Until you get the call from the collection agency. They say you owe $544 for a cellphone you clearly did not purchase.

In 2009.

You’ve been hacked, and you are so fucked.

Because the onus is on honest, reliable, anti-hoarder you to provide proof of residency during the time period in which the crime was committed.

And you just recycled all of your evidence.

So, you scramble. You leaf through all of your files, looking for just two pieces of paper that will clear your name.

Then you remember that, in your effort to go green, you’ve elected to convert some of your statements into e-bills. When you made the decision to convert, you assumed you would have full access to your billing history.

Well, you do and you don’t. You’ll likely be able to download and print twelve months worth of statements. But what if you need something older than that? You first have to chat with a robot, that’s what!

During the conversation, you will be subjected to some customer service rep bullshit, an unsolicited advertisement for the company’s goods and services, and an unusually long wait for an answer that’s not to your liking:

“Please contact your local office, and they will be happy to prepare the documents you need.”

There’s no time for “preparation.” You need access NOW!

But then you notice it. That “to-be-shredded” pile you overlooked. And never have you been so happy to see a two-year-old home insurance policy declaration page and an Explanation of Benefits form which states you had dental x-rays taken in August, 2009.

So, you’re safe. This time. But how do you prepare for another such crisis without reverting to your old, cluttered ways?

Well, you can’t prepare. The smartest thing you can do is to periodically check your rating with the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to see if anything suspicious has popped up. The collection agency didn’t get in touch with me until 2 years after the fraudulent transaction had occurred. If I had been alerted to it via my credit reports, I may have had easier access to the documents I needed to prove my case.

So, I will do that. Because even though hoarding turned out to be a hero in this case, I will never live debt free if I allow clutter to leave a path of debris in my life. And I’m not just talking about paper.

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