Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back to the Lists

List of Things I Secretly Wish Were True

1. I secretly wish I were from Texas. That's right. Texas.
2. I secretly wish I were named Cassidy McCullough.
3. I secretly wish I had green eyes. Sometimes.
4. I secretly wish I liked opera.
5. I secretly wish I had ever been in a band.
6. I secretly wish that the universe still seemed as mysterious to me as it used to.
7. I secretly wish I could time travel just within my own life. Both ways.

Monday, January 28, 2008

School Transfer Application Time

I'm fielding so many questions about the choice and optional transfer processes that I thought I'd go ahead and post the basics here.

I'll start with the Optional Schools transfer process, because it actually started this morning.
Picking up a "reservation ticket" this week guarantees you a specific place in line to turn in your child's transfer application. The earlier you get your ticket, the closer you are to the front of the line. You can get a ticket anytime between this morning at 6:00 a.m. until January 28th from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can find more information about this process at the link above, and even more about the optional program and individual Optional schools here.

**Remember that the optional program at most schools does not start until first grade, so if you have a child entering kindergarten, what you need is a choice transfer (see below). The exceptions to this are Idlewild and Double Tree because these schools call themselves "all optional," which includes their kindergarten programs.

Parents may begin submitting optional school transfer applications at 6:30 a.m. on Friday, February 1 in the Memphis Board of Education auditorium at 2597 Avery. Please note that reservation tickets will be honored from 6:30 a.m. until noon that morning. All applicants, with or without tickets, are welcome to apply that day from 6:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Applications will be received on a first come, first serve basis. However, all applications will be processed according to reservation ticket number order first. Those applicants without a ticket will be processed in order of receipt after ticketed applications are processed in numerical order.

Parents must bring the following items when they apply:

  • Completed application form
  • A copy of the child’s most recent comprehensive report card
  • Current nationally-normed or TCAP achievement test scores (if applicable)
  • A copy of the child’s Social Security card
  • Birth certificate for KK applicants to Double Tree & Idlewild only

Parents are strongly encouraged to stop by the Optional Schools office in Room 106 by Thursday, January 31 to confirm that their paperwork is complete. Office hours are from 7:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

First preference for available optional transfers will go to qualified Memphis City resident siblings with brothers or sisters who are in satisfactory standing in the requested school at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. City residents will also be given priority for the available spaces.

School Choice Week Coming March 4 – 6

For those of you with children who will be entering kindergarten next year, or those who want to apply to a school outside of your zoning but not for an optional program, you will need a choice transfer. The process is being done a little differently this year according to the MCS News Release this week:

The School Choice Fair, traditionally a single weekend event, has been replaced by School Choice Week, which will feature an Open House event at each school during the week of March 4 – 6, 2008. It is expected that this change will allow parents to better experience the actual learning environments of schools while it increases convenience for parents and schools. In addition, the dates of the Open Houses will tie in more closely to the district’s “choice period,” Open Enrollment.

Early sign-up for Open Enrollment will take place on March 11, with applications being accepted on March 26.

Lastly, even though this is not a matter of transferring or turning in applications, I want to remind those of you who have four-year-olds who will eventually attend a Memphis City School, you can get your child tested for CLUE now. The advantage of doing this is that the preschool CLUE test involves spatial reasoning and problem solving ability rather than reading, and the "gifted" certification is good through second grade. So even if your child does not attend a CLUE preschool program (like the one Somerset attended at Downtown, which was wonderful), they will still benefit for their first three years of school by being automatically enrolled in these fun enrichment classes as soon as possible at your particular school.

If you would like to have your preschooler tested, contact Dr. Tommy yelvington (information below). He will probably not be very nice to you on the phone and will question why you want to have your child tested this early, but he can suck it. Just let him know that you know the drill and he can just schedule you. The person who actually tests your child will be very nice, I promise. I suggest calling rather than emailing for a quicker response.

Dr. Tommie Yelvington
Lead Teacher, CLUE Program
telephone: 901-416-0155

Once that's done, they may ask you to come to the closest elementary school to you, or you can go to their main office on Airways like we did, which is here:

Division of Exceptional Children
Memphis City Schools
Bond Building, 2930 Airways Blvd
Memphis, TN 38116-3844

Because CLUE receives funding through the Division of Exceptional Children (that's right, giftedness is classified as a disability for funding purposes), you will have to bring proof of a current vision and hearing screening with you. We had ours done by our pediatrician, but they also offer this service free at Colonial Middle School by appointment.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A List of Movies

I have to confess: while I enjoy movies, I don't think about them that much. Big Daddy is the true film aficionado in our family; I'm mainly just there for the popcorn and Cherry Coke at the theater or the snuggle under the covers when we rent. Not that I don't cry on cue when George Bailey realizes he really did have a wonderful life after all or dissolve into giggles every time I see Debra Winger with that pigeon glued to the side of her head. But when people start talking about directors and even some new actors by name, you'll usually hear me say "Who's that?" This is partly because I'm terrible with names, but also because I just don't see the point in remembering anything about these people. That said, there are a few movies that stand out in my mind for various reasons.

My Favorite Movies of All Time

1. It's a Wonderful Life*
2. The Philadelphia Story (1940 version with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart)

* I used to think this was just my favorite Christmas movie, but no. It is in fact the best movie ever made.

Movie That May Also be an All-Time Favorite, but Seems Too Unlike the First Two to Go in the Same List

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Movies I Can't Not Watch Given the Chance

1. Peggy Sue Got Married (Love that dreamy Yeats-quoting beatnik!)
2. Steel Magnolias (Love a good cry!)
3. Forget Paris
4. Sixteen Candles
5. The Big Lebowski

Movie That made Me Cry for More Than an Hour Straight

1. Life is Beautiful

Movies That Were So Bad BD and I Left the Theater

1. Scenes From a Mall
2. I Love You to Death

Movies Every Other Person My Age Has Seen but I Have Not

1. Every Monty Python movie ever made*
2. Reality Bites
3. Mallrats
4. Any classic horror movie you can think of, probably

*I've seen bits and snatches of Monty Python movies, of course, but not one have I seen all the way through. All my M.P. quotes are second-hand, including the song from "Life of Brian."

Friday, January 18, 2008

A List of Books

Here we go, my first attempt at listiness. Don't expect too much.

Books I Can Read Again and Again, and Have

(This could probably also be considered a list of my all-time favorite books, except it seems crazy to me to try to make such a list since there are so many I still haven't read. It's also not necessarily in a permanently significant order. Just so you know.)

1. Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith

2. Tracks, by Louise Erdrich

3. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabakov

4. The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje (the movie sucked compared to the book)

5. The Christmas Letters, by Lee Smith

6. The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath, by Sylvia Plath (edited by her piece-of-crap husband, the poet Ted Hughes)

7. Groom Falconer, by Norman Dubie

8. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

9. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

10. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

11. God Bless You Mister Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut

12. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

13. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

14. All of the Harry Potter books (see also: list of adolescent lit I love, below)

I know I'm forgetting something. There are many other books that I've read at least twice (several others by Vonnegut, Salinger, and Bradbury, other volumes of poetry from authors I haven't mentioned...). Also, I feel the need to mention that in the case of the first four novels, which I adore so completely, the authors have written almost nothing else that I like even half as much. I find that so disappointing.

Books I Enjoyed and Would Like to Read Again, but Have Not

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

3. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffeneger

4. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

5. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

6. Nowhere Else on Earth, by Josephine Humphreys

7. The House of the Spirits, by Isabelle Allende

8. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

Again, I know there are more. What is it about sitting down to say something that makes everything I wanted to say just fly right out of my head?

Parenting Books I Have Read Cover to Cover

1. None

Guilty Pleasure: Adolescent Fantasy/Sci-Fi I Eat Up Like Candy

1. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman

2. The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix

3. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers

4. The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix (far inferior to the Abhorsens, but fun)

5. The Midnighters Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

6. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

7. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

8. And of course, the Harry Potter books, which I really do adore and will defend to the end.

I like to think I have an excuse for reading these books, since I do teach teenagers, but the truth is, I would read them anyway. These are the kinds of books I loved as a kid, but there weren't nearly as many of them then, and I really had no one to guide me in my book-a-day habit. Which is unfortunate, because it meant I read a lot of Sweet Valley High and Stephen King and V.C. Andrews, and later Sydney Sheldon and Jackie Collins (gasp!). My seventh grade English teacher helped set me on a better path by introducing me to C.S. Lewis and Madeline L'Engle, but it still took me awhile to learn what was worth reading and what wasn't. Hopefully I can at least provide my own children with good books to read, although I know I can't control their tastes. Joshua already shows a propensity for graphic novels, which is fine by me even though I can't seem to read them at all.

So here's where I fail with the entire concept of lists, because I now feel there should be a list of books I'd like to read, and one of books I liked fine but won't read again, and one of books I felt did not deserve their hype or just plain bit. It all feels so incomplete! But here it is. I'm going to force myself to stop now.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The List Makers

This may seem ironic after my last post, but I am not a maker of lists. Sure I can reel off more than a hundred things about me, me, me, but that's different. When I find myself in one of those conversations where I'm asked to come up with my top five desert-island albums (thanks, Hornby), or my ten all-time favorite books or movies or whatever, I never know what to say. I can probably come up with something, and you may have heard me do so, but the truth is that the items on those lists always feel wrong to me. Not false, exactly, but...incomplete. Not annotated. Improperly connected and aligned with their fellows.

A list is a concise and linear thing. Linear and concise are two adjectives that do not describe the way my brain functions. If I had to describe what my thought pattern tends to look like, I'd compare it more to a spider's web, maybe, or a ring of paper snowflakes all cut from the same huge piece of paper. Ooh! Or one of those children's toys that looks like a compact ball until you pull on its sides and it expands to be a much larger globe of interconnected pieces, all hinged together and flexible. Definitely circular rather than linear.

This means that if you ask me what my top five desert-island albums are, I will immediately think of albums I've loved at different times in my life, and within each era there will be a network of songs that remind me of each other, and of places, and of people, and I will start thinking of all of those things in sort of a simultaneous flash. It could take me an hour to sort out that layered impression and explain to you my real answer, which is really not an answer to your question at all. So I usually just throw out some inaccurate and incomplete answer.

All that said, I do appreciate the beauty of a good list. I have no desire to, say, make lists of things I need to do in a given day, or lists of my personal goals for a given time period, or anything like that. I just don't work that way, although I can see how that could be useful. But other lists can be a kind of poetry. I was telling a friend the other day how I don't write poetry anymore because it involves sitting with an idea and distilling and distilling it down until it's almost nothing, and I just don't have time to do that anymore. But I do miss it, and lately I'm missing it more and more. I don't think there's anything harder to write than good poetry, and if I'm ever going to do it again, I fear I'm going to have to work up to it. It seems very possible to me that learning to make lists could be a step in that direction. So as a sort of exercise, and to push myself outside my usual modes of thinking and expressing myself, I'm going to try to make some lists and post them here in the coming days. My lists may not look like other lists, and I imagine they will be bulky and full of asides at first, but we'll see. Maybe I'll surprise myself, or, at the very least, maybe my list-making style will evolve as I work. You never can tell.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hundreds of Things

Since I have so much free time in which there is nothing constructive I could be doing, I thought it would go back and re-read everyone's lists of 100 Things. Doing so made me realize three things:
1)My husband still amuses me, but that first kiss item may not be kosher,
2)Many of you (Stacey, Melissa, Chockleys) never wrote one, and
3)Some of you need to update your lists (for instance, I happen to know that a certain SAM has now been drunk more than three times). It also made me re-read my own list, update and alter it where I saw the need, and fill in a few of the "I can't think of anything to put on this list" items. I wonder if you can spot the changes.

And, just because 100 things are not enough when it comes to self-indulgent rambling, here are ten more things you may not know about me:

101. I once won a Tabasco-drinking contest (bored barmaid vs. bored waiter on a slow shift) by filling a bar jigger with the stuff, swishing it around in my mouth for thirty seconds, swallowing, and then doing all that again.
102. I'm a fairly good cook in a Mom kind of way, but I can't bake.
103. I'd put my lasagna up against anyone's, but my chili is inconsistent at best.
104. My natural yoga ability seems to impress my instructors on the rare occasion that I get to take a class.
105. As a little girl I dreamed of being a gymnast and believed for years that I was robbed of a promising career because my parents could not afford to keep me in lessons.
106. I was a Girl Scout for several years and loved it.
107. I can no longer stand the idea of joining any group, club, team, or organization.
108. Although I would join the ACLU if I weren't afraid that Jerry Falwell's disciples would one day use the fact of my membership to put me in a re-education camp. No meetings to go to.
109. I dislike nicknames and often refuse to use them because to do so makes me feel silly.
110. I'm thinking a lot about trying to write poetry again, but I'm afraid.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


So yes, I have pinkeye. For the first time in my life, at 35 years old, I have the scourge of elementary school kids. In both eyes! How is that possible?

By the end of the day Tuesday, I knew I was going to have to go to the doctor. I got dinner cooking and waited for BD to get home, then drove a few blocks down Poplar to the minor medical place. I tried to make the most of my child-free quiet time in the waiting room by reading, but there was a lot of very loud election discussion on the TV hanging right above my head, and every few minutes my eyes would start to burn and I'd have to close them. That still wasn't too bad. I have a lot of good movies that I like to play in my head, an ability that has earned me the nickname "Putty" from BD.

Eventually I was called back, my blood pressure taken, my medical history briefly confirmed, and then I had to read an eye chart. My right eye started out this whole mess, but it was able to read most of the smallest line on the chart, while the left eye was stymied about four lines higher. It was hard to tell if this was because it's actually weaker, or if the oily film of goop covering it was just making everything blurry. I'm hoping it was the latter, because even though BD is always trying to get me to wear glasses since he thinks they're hot, I don't wanna. Anyway, I found it amusing when, in response to the question "What's bothering you today?" I pointed to my eyes and the young woman said "Ooh, what is that, pinkeye?" I just looked at her and said very flatly "Yeah, I don't know."

Eventually after some more reading and waiting, a doctor came in and confirmed that it was, indeed, pinkeye. He told me to use the drops he was going to prescribe, which I have been, and to stay home until at least Friday, which I did not. I stayed home Wednesday, which proved to be a wise decision in many ways. I woke up with big puffy bags under my squinty little red devil eyes and pretty much spent the day in bed. Other than the eyes I felt good, so I was able to enjoy having a day off. I couldn't bring myself to take two in a row, though. I try to save my sick days for the kids' illnesses and, more pleasantly, the occasional sanity-saving mid-day rendezvous with my beloved. Using a sick day for being actually sick just sucks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My Eyes! My Eyes!

This has been a tough winter for the Sassy family. And by tough, I mean that someone has been coughing, puking, oozing snot, or shivering with fever at almost all times for months, or at least it seems that way. If you've ever lived with six people and one bathroom, then you know what fear the thought of all six catching a stomach virus at once can strike in my heart. I always think of that scene in "The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" where Ashley Judd has all of her kids spewing from both ends all over the place. Once it's over, she puts on a coat over her nightgown, drives to the beach, and locks herself in a motel room for a few days. That seems about right.

Right now, both of my eyes are bright red and feel like they are coated with oil. I guess I'll have to drag ass to the minor medical down the street and sit there for an unreasonably long time just to get the antibiotic eye drops I already know that I need. And yes, I've tried the breast milk thing. After many clogged infant tear ducts cleared by a good squirt in the eye, I have resorted to filling a small medicine-dosing syringe with my own milk and dripping it into my eyes. It might help eventually, but I don't have that kind of time. That's why I never get sick--because I do not have time to be sick. It's just a big fat pain in my ass, really.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


For all of you who have been holding your breath every month since Genevieve was born, just waiting for me to call and say that I am yet again knocked up like a chubby cheerleader, you can now relax. As of 2:00 yesterday afternoon, a little progesterone-laden plastic sentry has set up camp in my uterus to make sure no one else moves in. Mirena, the goddess of artificial infertility, has granted BD five more years in which to get a vasectomy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Brand New Year

I know I haven't been around. I just did Christmas for four kids! And then went out of town! What do you people want from me? Anyway, that was like, last year. Get over it already.

You may not know this about me, but I love this time of year. The time of newness. I love the idea of a fresh start and of a chance to do things differently, and better, in a new year. Last year in January I kept driving past a homeless mission with a sign that said "New year, same old you," and every single time I had to fight the urge to pull over and go inside and yell at someone for being so cynical. "Same old you"? What kind of attitude is that?

You may think it's silly to believe that anything will be different just because we get new calendars, but it really isn't about the date. January first may not be inherently different from any other day, but then, no day is inherently anything, is it? Our days mean what we make them mean. Change can be hard even for those who love it, as I do. What's wrong with taking the least opportunity to get motivated and try to do a little better than we have been? I know that resolutions often peter out, but if they last a little while, and we get a little bit done, isn't that a good thing? I didn't stay consistent with my 2007 resolution to eat less, exercise, and lose weight, but I did see the year out weighing 22 pounds less than I did when it started, and a lot of that was pure New Year's motivation.

I didn't really come here to talk about the little resolutions like losing weight and being more productive at work, though. You know me; I'm all about what lies beneath. And New Year's thinking is no exception. So here it is...

I would not say that I'm a defensive person, and in fact I strive not to be. I pride myself on a willingness to apologize when I need to and on the ability to be honest about my own faults, both with myself and with other people. But still, I protect myself a lot in other ways. Ways that are harder for me to talk about. And I don't want to do that. I want to trust people even though I know that people usually shouldn't be trusted. I want to allow myself to be vulnerable because I know that by shielding myself from emotional injury, I also put layers of numbness between myself and joy. I'm capable of feeling deeply, but I'm equally capable of not feeling much at all. And I'm choosing not to choose that now.

I will declare vehemently to whoever will listen that I don't ever want to make choices about my life based on fear, and in many areas of my life, I think I hold to that. But in less conscious ways, I think I've become afraid of not staying on an even emotional keel, and that fear does affect my life in subtle ways. Like so many things that become clear to me as I get older, I'm starting to see that what was once a positive and stabilizing instinct has become a hindrance and an unnecessary crutch, and I need to let go of it. So that's my Big Goal for this fresh, new year. To open myself to emotional experience. To live and love fearlessly, without trying to think ahead thirty-seven steps to the inevitable end and where that end will find me. I know that all these things pass away. We all know that. Let me feel them while they're here.