Candyland Is Kind of Icky

August 23, 2012

Lately, Simone has been moderately obsessed with two games: Candyland and Cootie. Ostensibly, there’s nothing wrong with this. I mean, those games are mind-numbing like all games targeted at three-year-olds, but Simone finds them delightful, so whatever.

Recently, we sat down for a good-old-fashioned game of Cootie. Simone pulled out to an early lead, and though I recovered, I was unable to come back, finishing one leg short of a full-cootie. I was crushed, let me tell you. But there was something even more disturbing that I noticed.

Cootie, you may know, is a game in which you roll a die and build a bug (aka a cootie) from plastic parts. There are a variety of choices regarding body color, eyes, mouth, hat/antennae, and legs. Simone chose the pink body. Fine. She’s been on a pink run for a long time now. She chose the hair-bow in the hat category. She chose the eyes with big, long eyelashes. She chose the big, pouty lips. She built the perfect girl cootie.

She didn’t chose the cowboy hat, though she spends a lot of her time wearing whatever hat she can get a hold of. She didn’t choose the goofy looking tongue, though she thinks sticking out your tongue is hilarious. She didn’t choose the funny eyes.

She is three and she built the perfect, demure, girl cootie. Dammit.

It’s not that I find anything wrong with things that are stereotypically girly. I don’t. It’s just that I want Simone to know those aren’t the only options. I know we’ve done a mostly good job because her interests are all over the map, as they should be. But I can’t stop being bothered that, when asked to build something, she didn’t build the thing most in-keeping with her personality, she built the thing most in-keeping with what girls are supposed to look like.

And speaking of that, let’s talk about Candyland, shall we?

The current edition of Candyland has three male characters and three female characters on the board. A nice bit of gender equality. However, the male characters are a dashing-prince-type, and wily-villian-type, and, of course, the king.

So what do the girls get? A sexy princess with serious curves. Some sort of nymphish faerie with her own set of barely-legal curves (and a lollipop, no less), and a grandmother.

So, if your a boy, you can be adventurous or clever or in-charge of everything. If you’re a girl, you can be sexy or a grandmother.

This is a game targeted at three-year-old children.

Now I’ve gone and depressed myself.

Taking It Up a Notch

August 16, 2012

There are a lot of reasons I got into teaching, but if you go down to the very root of it, what you will find is a very smart kid, who was very bored until he got to college.

That kid was me, and I can count on one hand the number of high school teachers I had who genuinely tried to push me. This happens all the time. If you’re a well behaved kid, in advanced classes, many administrations are going to stick you with the most mediocre teachers available because, “those kids will be fine.” I hate that.

I hate it because it’s not fair. Because I know the kind of work I did in classes where I had great teachers and I know the kind of work I did in most of my other classes, where I didn’t. They don’t compare. Some kids need to be pushed and some don’t. I know how to push myself now. I didn’t then.

High school kids are almost all idiots. I was no exception. I had no idea which direction to go. I had no idea how to really go about figuring out half of the stuff I wanted to know. I was distracted by all the stuff that distracts all high schoolers everywhere, and I really could have used more teachers pushing me and letting me know that just because something was good didn’t mean it was acceptable. They would only take my best.

That’s the teacher I want to be. It’s the teacher I’ve always wanted to be. And this year, it’s the teacher I’ll get a chance to be. Almost my entire schedule is made of creative writing classes and AP literature. I am looking forward to it, and it’s not because I dread teaching the more difficult classes. It’s because I know I can challenge these kids. I was one of them. I know, largely, what they need, and I know how to tell when they’ve been lazy.

Along with all this, I’m going to be tackling my National Board Teaching Certification. This is, to put it lightly, a huge undertaking. It is going to mean lots of evenings and weekends in coffee shops. I’m enthusiastic, though. I’ve talked to other teachers I respect about the process and they all speak highly of it. It is, they tell me, what teaching should be about. Sure, there’s some necessary tedium documenting what you do, but everything makes sense (something that can’t be said of most teaching programs and education policy). I expect to be a better, more thoughtful teacher when I’m finished. Also (assuming I pass), it’s a giant pay raise that will, theoretically, allow us to move to a better neighborhood.

This is going to be an interesting year.


August 15, 2012

As you may have noted, I did not post last week. There’s a reason for that, a pretty good one.

I have posted, more or less yearly about the tumor I’ve been dealing with for fourteen years (Jesus, that’s a long time). It’s not life-threatening. It is a pain in my ass. tI has been stable for, I don’t know, something like eight years. Long enough for me to forget exactly how long it’s been.

And I had adapted pretty well. My right shoulder is bum from complications a million years ago, but that’s it. I have to catch and throw lefty. I can’t use a shovel very well. I have to write left-handed on the board when I teach. Those things took a bit to get used to, but I got there.

For a few years now, I’ve been right on the brink of no longer seeing my oncologist. This isn’t because he stinks. In fact, he’s fantastic, and I’m lucky he’s my doctor. The thinking was simply, this has been stable for a long time. Let’s check it via MRI in a year and then in another year and if it’s still stable, “You call me if you notice something.”

Last year was supposed to be the last one. But there was something the radiologist called an “enhancement.” No growth, per se, it was just brighter and thus, maybe a little denser. We checked again a few months later. And it was fine. Exactly the same as it had been for years. So, we thought the machine must have been working a little funny or the person reading the report wasn’t quite on the money or something. Okay, one more year and then we’re done. That was supposed to be last week. We were supposed to be done.

Then it grew. In two spots.

Just a little (one centimeter), but still, it grew. Fuck. That is what I have to say to that. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I hope you’ll forgive the profanity there.

So now, I’m back on Celebrex, which is the medication that halted things last time. It doesn’t bother me except that it messes with my stomach a bit. There’s thought about another possible treatment when we re-check in four months. For reasons too complicated to really explain, surgery isn’t really a good option.

It’s not going to kill me. It’s chronic. My risk, as my oncologist put it, “is zero. You have no risk.”

It still sucks, though.

In any case, there’s plenty good going on. Some I can tell you about right now and some I can’t. I’ll have posts about some of that stuff in the next few days. I feel like blogging right now, so I’m going to go with it.

Leaps and Bounds

August 2, 2012

Two nights ago, I was putting Simone to bed. Every night, she gets to pick out five books to read in bed (they’re short books). One of the books she picked up was Peter Rabbit. I started reading, and then she stopped me. For the first time, she realized that Peter didn’t have a daddy.

“What does Peter have instead of a daddy?”

“Peter doesn’t have anything instead of a daddy. He just has a mommy.”

“Where is Peter’s daddy?”

“He, um, Mr. McGregor caught him and, um, had him in a pie.”

Silence and a confused look.

The next book we were reading is called Kiss Goodnight. It’s a simple story about a mother (bear) putting her son (also a bear) to bed. In the middle she stopped me.

“Daddy, I can’t read this book.” (She has started to memorize some of he shorter books.) “It is too big. But I think when I am bigger I will be able to read this book to you.”

“Yes, you will.”


“Will I have a daddy when I’m bigger?”


Cue sobbing, hugging, and assurances that yes, of course she would.

I was not prepared for that conversation. I doubt any parent is ever really prepared for it. And though it clearly affected me much more than Simone, it made something clear. Simone is growing in leaps and bounds right now. She is no longer constrained to the internal world of the very small child. She is not only aware of those outside her, she is aware that they have different lives and different circumstances than she does. She might not have the context for that situation to make sense, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to understand. “Why” questions are really big in our house right now.

I know I should have seen something like this coming. I’m sure, when we were getting ready for her, I read something about it in a book, but the thing you can’t be prepared for until you experience it is how fast small children grow and change. I am teaching a couple of new classes this year and it has practically turned me upside down. Simone just realized that not everyone has a daddy and that she might not always have a daddy. That kind of put things in perspective.

But in the end, I’m thrilled by all of it, even the parts the make me cry or annoy the hell out of me. It’s fascinating to watch and it’s gratifying to see my daughter turning into the smart, caring person I hope she’ll be.