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The (Dreaded?) School Run

21 Nov

So my morning started with this post on Facebook:

A cultural misunderstanding of hand signals and general road etiquette led to a policeman scaring the hell out of me and my kids this morning at the school gate. Yikes! Won’t be doing that again.

A friend asked for “more details please” so here they are.

Ha ha! So about my being scared sh!tless by the Romanian police this morning…

I usually drop my kids off at school by 7:30 – the earliest parents can (or else my husband takes them). Today, we were running a little late so I had to take them in because husband had a 7:35am meeting.

I find Romanian drivers to be notoriously selfish. This morning was no different. As I was waiting in line to turn right into the school parking lot, I noticed that nobody was letting the folks trying to turn left into the parking lot in. So I flashed my lights, as is the custom here, to indicate that I’m willing to let the next car go in front of me. I thought that the policeman directing (and I use that term lightly) traffic must not have liked that I did that because he gestured for me to “stop”. So I did, and I let one or two more cars go in ahead of me. The policeman had walked away at this point. I’m sitting there thinking that I’ve done the polite thing – I’ve let cars in ahead of me – and that now it’s my turn to go in. WRONG!

Now keep in mind, I’m only going 5km an hour  or so when all of sudden there is this loud banging noise coming from the back of my car. I jumped and I screamed because I thought I’d hit, or been hit, by something. Turns out, that noise was the sound of a burly 6ft tall officer banging his knuckles on my rear window! My son is asking, “Mommy! What’s wrong!”

“I don’t know sweetie,” I said.

The officer motions for me to pull over outside of the gate (yeah, he’s not letting me onto school property) and starts berating me in Romanin. I smile politely say I don’t understand.

He says, “I told you to STOP!”

“Yes sir, and I did, but then it was my turn.”

“NO! You stop until I tell you to go!”

“Ok. I misunderstood. My mistake. I apologize. But you just scared me very much.” Turns out that last bit was the wrong thing to say. LOL

Must double up my efforts to get to school by 7:30am when there is no traffic.

So that’s my story. I’m sure that while it will one day make an interesting little scene in the screenplay of my life, today it was just plain embarrassing.

cat-school-run-meme

Source: http://www.mememaker.net/meme/i-love-doing-the-school-run/

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Why driving in Phnom Penh is not for the faint of heart.

19 Oct

Phnom Penh is dusty. REALLY dusty. So dusty that  I walk around most days feeling like I ate a dirt sandwich. There is grit and grim on everything and there is simply no escaping it.

And then it rains. And when it rains, the street outside our school turns into a river. I know that that is a somewhat overused metaphor but in this case it happens to be true. When there is a visible current in the water running down your street, I call that a river.

I drive a Yamaha Fino. I started driving scooters 13 years ago in Taiwan. I thought that if I could drive safely there (two years and not one fender bender), then I could drive anywhere. I love riding a scooter. In Bangkok, my eldest starting riding around the neighbourhood with by the time he was about 20 months old.

The boy and I on his first day of school this year.

The boy and I on his first day of school this year.

I have not yet done the same with my youngest (nearly 2 years old). A large part of the reason is that he still won’t keep a helmet on his head but that’s not the whole reason. The fact that NO ONE PAYS ANY ATTENTION TO THE COLOUR Of A TRAFFIC LIGHT isn’t even the real reason. It’s not the fact that people do not understand/obey/give a rat’s ass about such things as respect for one’s side of the road. And it’s not even the speed of traffic because that is actually not really a factor here. In the three months we’ve been in Phnom Penh I think I’ve only ever gotten up to 50km/hour on the bike once (no kids on board).

The roads in Cambodia are more dangerous than say…just about anywhere in the western world, but not for the reasons  I mentioned above. It’s the condition of the roads that make them dangerous.

Case in point, it rained a little last night and the road in front of school (the main artery into town) was once again flooded. We’re talking about roughly 2-6 inches of water. And I use the word “water” very loosely. A better term might be “liquid”. It is vile. During the big flooding last week, I was in a tuk-tuk and got splashed by the stuff. Not much, just a little. Any exposed skin that that ‘water’ touched developed a rash before bedtime.  But I digress.

The big crazy intersection.

The big crazy intersection.

Coming back from town this morning, I decided to by-pass the big crazy intersection and cut through the school campus instead. Well, what with the water and all, I didn’t see a rut in the road that nearly knocked us over.

In French there is an expression for pothole, un nid de poule, which translates literally to a ‘hen’s nest’. I would describe what is most commonly seen on the roads here as ‘dinosaur’s nests’. I saw a small delivery truck stuck in one of these potholes last week.  It couldn’t move because it’s rear right tire wasn’t even touching the ground, the nose of the truck pointed at a 45 degree angle into a pothole.

Come to find out, many of the roads around where I live are privately owned – which went a long way to explaining the toll booths. So there is really nowhere for motorists to direct their outrage. No angry letters to write or calls to be placed to a local council. Complain all you want, no one is listening. All folks can do is roll up their pant legs and power on through. Get on with their lives. Work around it.

Now that I think of it, that’s probably a very good allegory for the state of politics in this country.

In response to ‘Dear Mom on the iPhone’

18 Mar

Today, via Facebook, I came across a retort to a posting of an article entitled “Dear mom on the iPhone: Let me tell you what you don’t see” The retort, entitled “In Defense of the iPhone Mom” really got me going. It got be going so much that I then went over and read the article that incited the retort. And all this began a realtime conversation with a fellow mom, whom I respect very much. Her beef was that people nowadays spend too much time documenting events rather than experiencing them. Think of the last concert you went to. How many people were holding up a digital device and recording the event rather than experiencing it? Probably too many.  And too many people, many of them parents, seem more engrossed with their phones than their children when you see them out in public. And, I agreed, this is a very real issue. A societal issue, in fact. So why did the original article specifically attack “mom”? There inlies my beef.

Here is what a fellow educator and mom had to say:

Hmmm, I do think that I see so many parents greet their kids at school with a phone in their face while dealing with their important messages. Not just mothers but fathers too. Everywhere I go I see people living their lives on i-products (or similar). I went to see Fat Boy Slim last year and no one was dancing, all except me and (my husband) were filming it. Sorry, I don’t actually think that’s ok. People need people. Face to face. I get her point about stop picking on parents and totally agree but really….in defense of the i-phone? Sorry, have just opened a can of worms there.

Open that can of worms my friend! For certain cans need to be opened if we are ever going to get to the bottom of this.

Here is my reply.

What I really connected with was the idea that no blogs ever go viral praising parents, especially mothers, for the countless little things they do day in and day out. And the sad fact that motherhood is a competitive contact sport with metaphorical blow after blow being levied on women for not putting their children first every minute of every living day. These attacks come from family, peers, strangers, the media and government. I recently saw a US study where 60% of respondents (all parents) said, when asked, that they put their children’s needs first and their needs second. Sixty percent also correlates roughly to the divorce rate in the US (and many other countries where this sort of mindset exists).
 
The iPhone issue is part of a wider societal issue. People are recording events rather than experiencing them -as you rightly point out. The larger issue, for me at least, in that post was that maybe, just maybe, we should stop for a moment when judging strangers. Perhaps giving people the benefit of the doubt once in a while wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
 
On the birth board that I belong to online, in the fall of last year, a woman posted about how she saw a couple with their maybe 6 month old on the bus. The baby was in a stroller wearing nothing but a diaper. The poster took a pic of the child and posted it online ranting about how these parents were unfit because they had their child out after dark wearing nothing but a diaper in 18 degree Celsius temperatures. I was livid when I read this. Livid at the poster – not this poor kids parents! How freakin’ dare she violate the right to privacy of this family that way. And by the way, all she did was snap a sneaky pic and post it online. She didn’t speak to the family at all! Who knows what was going on there? If she had honestly thought for one moment that this was a case of child neglect or endangerment then shame on her for not enquiring and offering assistance!
 
I remember a time last summer when my six month old had a massive diaper blowout in the car. We pulled into the rest area to change him only to realise that we’d forgotten to pack a spare change of clothes for him. All we had was a spare t-shirt for our eldest. So, one filthy infant onesie in a Ziplock bag later, there we were in the food court of the rest area with a 6 month old infant wearing nothing but a diaper and t-shirt that was 3 years too big for him. What must we have looked like? Thank the gods that no one whipped out their camera phone and posted that!
 
So all this to say that I just think that most people are living their lives with the best of intentions and ya know what? Sometimes you end up on a bus with a kid wearing nothing but his diaper because wearing nothing is more appropriate than being covered in your own poop. I just wish that everyone would stop judging. But also, I wish that more people would risk the embarrassment of being wrong and genuinely enquire when they see something that perhaps raises a red flag. All that that mother had to do was say something friendly to the family like, “Forgot to pack a spare change of clothes, eh? Man, I’ve been there, done that.” That would have probably been all she needed to do to ascertain whether this was an act of child cruelty or human fallibility. This woman in question also needs to learn the story about glasses houses, in my opinion, and keep her damn camera phone to herself. But that’s a whole other rant 
 

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

Next stop…Phnom Penh

24 Jan

I am very excited to announce that our little House of Commons will be starting its newest adventure in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh – starting sometime this summer.

When I told an old friend back home about our news, she replied, “… the school looks fantastic !! Is it a safe place to live ? I’ll be worried if you have a lot of unrest around you !”

In response, I sent her the following email.

You crack me up! In the 7 years that we’ve been in Bangkok we’ve experienced the following:

  • a coup d’etat (in our first two months!)
  • 6 Prime Ministers in 7 years
  • we were (unknowingly) roughly 600 meters as the crow flies away from a political assassination one night
  • after that, the riots got so bad that school was closed for a little over a week and we left town while the rioters randomly looted and then burnt down more than dozen key buildings around town. When little pieces of burnt tire started to literally drift in and fall in my backyard- that’s when I got Neil to hire a rental car and get out of town. The guy at the shop was so happy to have us take, what he told us was possibly the last rental car left in Bangkok, because he knew it would be safer to have his car out of town.
  • school was closed for nearly two weeks due to flooding in 2011 (when I was 7 months pregnant with Gabe) – again we had to leave town for ten days because we didn’t know when/if the flood waters were going to reach us and the “water” coming out of our faucets was toxic. It took weeks (in some cases months) for some common everyday products to find their way back to our grocery shelves
  • when my mom came over for Aidan’s birth, she had to stay an extra week because of protests that completely shut down the international airport. In the end, she had to fly out of an airport that was built as a US airbase during the Vietnam War
  • it’s easy for people to forget but there has effectively been a guerrilla style civil war going on the deep south of Thailand for virtually a decade that has claimed the lives of thousands of people. Monks and teachers/schools are the preferred targets. To date, over 150 teachers have been killed.

And yet, despite all that, living in Thailand is actually quite safe and peaceful. Violent crime is relatively low. We have access to world class healthcare (something that I know I will miss in Cambodia). We live in, what I think anyway, is one of the world’s truly global cities. It is teeming with a vibrant social fabric, culture and history. It’s my sons’ hometown and I will miss it.

Funny. But not ‘ha ha’ funny

21 Dec

Over two months ago, my last post was about how I reacted to seeing a play surrounding the events of 9/11.

 

Today, the events of 12/14 still haunt me.

 

They haunt me as  a teacher, as a mother and as a human being.

It’s a new day! Obama supports marriage rights for all.

11 May

By the title of my post, I figure that most people have, by now, figured out where I stand on this issue. Here is a post I recently read.

I think Obama is only supporting gay marriage because he wants to be reelected.. If he really did support gay marriage why did he announce it just now, why not do anything about it during his entire term as president.?. I guess you will say whatever it takes to pull ahead when your (sic) behind in an election

My response:

I am not an American.

Nor do I find the timing suspicious in the least. When VP Biden stated last Sunday that he personally supports marriage for all he became the highest ranking member of the US government to ever say so publicly. And by doing so, in a way, forced Obama to respond. That the President of the United States came out in support of it, and with a reasoned explanation to boot, made me proud to have supported him in the first place. For the first time in history, nationally, more Americans than ever (about 50%) believe that the rights of marriage should be conferred upon all. I can understand, though I don’t agree, with those who believe that same-sex unions are a moral sin. But that’s just it, you may think it’s a sin but how do you then decide that it’s illegal. Talkin’ to you North Carolina! You don’t need a reason to make something legal. You need a reason to make something illegal. And while the spirit of our laws are based on the spirit of judeo/christian law, our laws currently reflect a shift from those ancient values. For example, we no longer consider the breaking of the first commandment a criminal offense. In fact, it is exactly that freedom and diversity upon which America was founded. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that religious morality should be kept separate from our legal system; a system which is intrinsically designed to evolved with society. A trait that is not predominate in organized religion worldwide.

To each her own

30 Apr

Today on the mommy board that I belong to, a new stay-at-home mom (STHM) posted about feeling overwhelmed. Most first-time parents, certainly first time STHM, can easily related to her. She writes:

I’m a first time Mom…  I am feeling completely overwhelmed sometimes, with just life in general…

Here is my unedited and hurried response.

Oh sweetheart! Welcome to the club!  I haven’t read the previous posts but I imagine that they’ve been overwhelmingly supportive. This is my second child and I’ve gone back to work after only three months (I had 16 months off with my first).

When I was at home with my first I loved it. I was so fortunate to find a wonderful mom’s network in my local area. No mean feat when you live overseas! Those ladies, and their babes, were my lifeline. Don’t know what I would have done without them. There are only two of us left in town now. The rest are scattered around the globe. And that’s why I love Facebook because we can still share so many of our ‘mothering’ adventures. Although, after the first year, I really felt ready to go back to work. And, like you, I REALLY looked forward to bedtime too. Nothing wrong with that!

I look at motherhood like being a passenger on a plane. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can be of any assistance to anyone else. So whatever your ‘oxygen mask’ is, be it work, school, a good workout, or a great weekly mani-pedi…you have to take time for yourself. I can honestly say that the only times that I felt lost as a mom were those moments when I started to lose sight of who “I” was.

Now that I’m back at work with two kids I find it so tough to find that balance. Two things I do for myself are a standing bi-monthly mani-pedi appointment on Saturday morning with a good girlfriend. And second, the hours between 4 and 6 from Monday to Friday are generally mine to do with as I see fit.

See, I’m a teacher. Between the hours of 7am and 4pm, my priority is making sure that I’m giving the best of me to other people’s kids. And that’s not a snarky or flippant comment. As a citizen of the world, I have a vested interest in making sure that the kids entrusted to me can one day go out into the world and, ideally, make it a better place. That they have the drive, the desire and the knowhow to do so is something that me and tens of thousands of other hardworking and dedicated teachers are striving for on a daily basis. But I also have another equally (arguably more) important obligation to my own kids. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t give them what they need (the best of me) until I’ve had some time to decompress from my work day. Some will undoubtably call me selfish but this is what works, right now, for me and my family.

Is the “breast is best” campaign propaganda?

26 Mar

A member of the online baby board that I participate in recently made a statement wherein she effectively said that the whole ‘breast is best’ health campaign was propaganda. Propaganda on the part of whom? She failed to elaborate. But essentially she was of the opinion that formula was as good if not a superior substitute to breast milk.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a breast feeder and damn proud of it. My eldest was exclusively breastfed unti the age of 6 months. Somewhere in that sentence I should probably have included the words ‘fortunately I was able to choose to’. I honestly do believe it is a choice.

Breastfeeding is something that I always wanted to do if I ever had children. Funny how I didn’t grow up knowing that I wanted to have kids but I did grow up knowing that if I ever did that I would breastfeed. It just seemed so logical. It also makes a lot more “cents” when you look at the price of formula. (And I admit to being a little more suspicious of formula ever since the ‘baby milk’ scandal in China not so long ago.)

According to the Wikipedia entry on ‘infant formula’, FF has only began to be widely available a little over a 100 years ago. Prior to this, the entry states that women would employ wet-nurses. Could even poor women afford this?

As physicians became increasingly concerned about the quality of such foods, medical recommendations such as Thomas Morgan Rotch‘s “percentage method” (published in 1890) began to be distributed, and gained widespread popularity by 1907.[11] These complex formulas recommended that parents mix cow’s milk, water, cream, and sugar or honey in specific ratios to achieve the nutritional balance believed to approximate human milk reformulated in such a way as to accommodate the believed digestive capability of the infant.[4]

~source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_formula#Early_infant_foods

Admittedly, formula has come a long way. And I don’t deny that it’s a viable alternative to breastfeeding in the developed world. I was a formula fed baby. I am not asthmatic. I am not, not was I ever, a ‘sickly’ child/adult. I had great teeth. Never had an ear infection. I was not an overweight baby/child. I do not have any learning disabilities. I could go on, and on, and on.

But I am tired with the debate that seems to be going around in regards to BF vs FF. Can we not just accept that the majority of parents, given all the information out there, are doing the very best for their families??

And finally, as a little nod to my dear husband…a Canadian study has confirmed what we already knew (not!). The closest thing to human breastmilk is beaver milk. Who knew?

The early days

30 May

May 10th, 2011

One of the toughest things for me when I found out I was pregnant with Aidan was not being able to shout it from the rooftops.

The secrecy nearly killed me. I’m not good at keeping surprises. I think that that’s one of the reasons that I do most of my Christmas shopping at the last minute. Otherwise everyone would know what I got them before they finished off the last of their Halloween candy.

It’s these early weeks that are the hardest. Those weeks when conventional wisdom dictates that you keep the pregnancy private lest the unspeakable happen.

I find this period infuriating because you have a whole load of symptoms but no sympathy.

It’s infuriating to have to pretend to be perky when you are dog tired. I get up a minimum of 3 times a night to use the bathroom. Considering this baby is currently the size of a blueberry it makes no sense to me whatsoever that my bladder feels the need to void itself so often in the witching hours. It must be Mother Nature’s way of priming a woman’s body for the months of consistently interrupted sleep that follow delivery. Man, that woman has a twisted sense of timing. Just when you need and crave rest the most she throws this at you.

Oh, and have I mentioned the bloating? Because of the slowed down digestive tract, every time I eat  or drink my abdominal cavity expands to a rather unattractive size. Good for getting a seat on the BTS after a nice meal out. Bad for trying to hide a pregnancy. Looking at old pictures from my first pregnancy, I easily look as round as I did at 3 months. Not a heartwarming sight.

Nor is the fact that I’ve gone up a whole cup size in under 4 weeks! While my husband thinks this is great, he is not the one who has the following to look forward to:

  • sore breasts
  • sore back
  • acne the likes of which I haven’t seen since puberty
  • stretch marks
  • heartburn
  • swollen everything
  • carpal tunnel in the wrists
  • foggy brain
  • chronic fatigue
  • oh, and let’s not even go into what a woman’s body goes through after the birth!
But it’s going to all be worth it. I know that. I am reminded of that every time I come home to a smiling toddler running to meet me at the door screaming, “Momma!” It’s just  that these early weeks are the hardest.

Time: a rant

10 May

For whatever reason, time (or the lack thereof) seems to be a popular topic these days. From conversations with colleagues, to newspaper editorials, to blogs; everyone seems to be either bemoaning the loss of  time or giving advice on how to maximize it. “I just don’t have the time”, is a refrain we hear more and more often. It’s certainly something I find myself saying with increasing frequency.

Or maybe it’s not and it’s more like the kind of thing that happens when you go on a diet. All you seem to notice are the ads on TV for junk food, or that every other leaflet through your mailbox is for a pizza delivery place, or that you become acutely aware that there are exactly 3 donut shops on route between your home and work. You’ve counted. You know.

The truth is, all those things were there before. Nothing changed but your perception.

Which, if you’ll allow, brings me back to time. I know that there are exactly the same amount of hours in my day now as there have always been. Yet I could almost swear that there aren’t. I don’t feel as productive. I don’t feel that I accomplish as much, professionally or personally,with those hours as I did, say, five years ago. So what has changed?

I’m now a working mom. Balance is a buzz word at work. I do all I can to carve out time to spend with my son but I rarely seem to get the balance right. As a teacher, I spend more time with other people’s kids than I do my own. I am away from home every day for 9 to 12 hours. If I miss bedtime, that means at least 24hrs go by until I see him awake again. That’s assuming he’s awake when I leave the house at 6am the next morning. I once went 72 hours without seeing my own child. He sleeps eight feet away from where I lay my head. Didn’t see him awake for 72hrs. I’m not going to pretend that that doesn’t make me angry and even, dare I say it, a little resentful. Resentful because even my weekends are not my own. There is always something; reports, marking, planning, emails, updating online resources, ECAs, PD etc.. All I want to give my kid is more of my time yet  I seem to have less and less of it to offer.

Growing demands, expectations and technologies. We have so many more expectations put upon us. Five years ago I didn’t have a smart phone that kept me connected to my work and personal email 24/7. I didn’t need to check my Facebook, Twitter, sync my iPhone to my iPad or update my blog. Hell, none of these words were even part of my vocabulary 5 years ago!

At work I’m expected to be creative, constantly evolving, collaborating with colleagues, planning and executing high impact lessons for 9 different subjects every week. But I’m not given enough time to develop all these skills to their utmost during the traditional working day. So doing so takes away from my family time. BTW, the fact that “me” time hasn’t been mentioned here is not an oversight. I don’t have any.

And now that I’ve spent the better part of an hour ranting instead of marking last Friday’s Yr6 assessments, it’s about time I put myself to bed.

When the Yr6s ask me tomorrow if I’ve finished grading their tests, I’m afraid that I’m just going to have to tell them, “Sorry guys. I didn’t have the time.”