Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Sure as Hell Better Get Extra Credit

It's way past my bedtime, and there are about 15,000 things I'd rather be doing right now than waiting for the eggplant in my ratatouille to get tender. But I can't. I'm a Fox Valley mother.

I haven't written about Fox Valley nearly as much as I expected to back when I began this blog under an assumed name so that I could talk freely about life here in this place that isn't really called Fox Valley. But now and then a situation arises that I really must tell you about.

Many of the mothers here in Fox Valley don't work outside the home. Some of those don't work all that much inside the home, either, seeing as how the average income in Fox Valley is way above the national (or Bird) average and lots of families use that money to hire a whoooooole lot of help.

Plenty of mothers around here are employed, however, most recently me. Word still hasn't gotten around, however, and lots of teachers behave as if they aren't aware that Beaver Cleaver finished grammar school along time ago and June has developed other interests.

Fox Valley teachers love to ask parent "volunteers" to provide food. These volunteers are recruited in much the same manner that prisons get their "guests" to "help" with various projects.

In the case of me and my ratatouille, I volunteered when Ben agreed to make ratatouille for tomorrow's French class picnic. He also said he'd be glad to bring a quiche Lorraine, seeing as how he could buy one at the grocery where he works.

The problem with this admittedly helpful attitude of his is that he doesn't know how to make ratatouille. (Actually, there are many other problems with the ratatouille idea, chief among them that neither Ben nor any eighth grader I've ever known will eat ratatouille. The French teacher has been at it more than 30 years, and I find it hard to believe she hasn't pulled it from the menu and tried to convince her students that baby carrots and ranch dressing are tres Francais.) Nor will he cut up vegetables. He did take the eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions out of the grocery bag, but after that I was on my own.

As for the quiche, the ready-made ones were 8 bucks for a quiche-made-for-two. I may not be hoarding rice yet, but there wasn't anyway I was shelling out that much for one I could make myself. My boys have taken French for a combined 13 years, and by now I can make quiche Lorraine in my sleep.

Had I nothing else to do with my life, I wouldn't have been up late trying to stew the eggplant into submission. But I had a lot going on today, so I'm still up volunteering.

But this was nothing compared to what my new friend JoAnne has been through the past few days for the high school art show.

I didn't even know JoAnne until Monday. Nor had I been aware -- until I received an e-mail from the PTA president last Friday -- that I had "expressed an interest in acting as an art liaison" at Billy's school. But according to this e-mail, I had, and that meant I needed to help stage a reception following last night's art show.

This e-mail raised several troubling questions:

1) What art show?

2) What is an art liaison?

3) Why me?

In my new, "ain't-gonna-volunteer-no-mo" mood, I promptly wrote back that I was sorry, but I didn't realize I was an art liaison, I don't even know who the art teacher is, and I couldn't be there Tuesday night (because I was going to be watching primary returns, but I left that part out). And oh yeah -- Billy can't draw a stick figure.

But the PTA president wasn't dissuaded. And to make a long story short, on Monday I was on the phone with JoAnne.

It seems the JoAnne, a PTA officer who is two weeks from parole having her youngest child graduate from high school, saw the art teacher somewhere and casually offered to help with the art show. "Help" as in hanging pictures. The art teacher said, "Perfect! It would just be great if y'all (meaning the PTA) could host a reception. For 150."

There's no connection between the art classes and the PTA, and nothing in the PTA budget to provide the cheese and fruit trays, cookies, and punch "in a silver bowl" the teacher had in mind for this event. And so JoAnne, of course, should have told the art teacher she was out of her gourd. But this is the South, and that's not the way it usually happens around here. Instead, we nod and smile and then get really pissed.

JoAnne had tried to enlist some PTA types and parents of her daughter's friends to help, but as of Monday, the offers of help had consisted of two bags of M&Ms and some ice. I felt sorry for her, and so I agreed to contribute 96 bottles of water (aka $18 worth) for an art show my child wouldn't be participating in and I wouldn't be attending, sponsored by a teacher I wouldn't recognize if she were standing in front of me.

At least water doesn't have to be cooked.

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