Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Never Mind. The Plague Continues

Jack has been sick for so long that I got a pissy call from the school today. The person on the other end of the line started by saying "I don't know if you have gotten the many voice mails I have left you but as of today your child has missed ten consecutive school days and if he is not in class today he will be withdrawn. Those are the rules. I have tried to warn you but you didn't return my voice mails."

Wow. It was 9:00 am and school started at 8:00. Jack was still sick yesterday but possibly recovering and I had decided that I would let him sleep until he woke up on his own and evaluate him then. I'm never totally comfortable waking up a sleeping child against their will. It doesn't feel like very long ago that I was nursing these kids and reading every book on the planet with a theory about how to make them sleep longer. The nursery was totally Feng Shui-ed, blackout curtains installed, white noise machine running, heartbeat/womb noise teddy bear blaring, dogs kenneled, door bell disabled, note taped to front door asking visitors to not ring or knock under any circumstance and if they needed me a text message was best but not a phone call because my ringer is turned off and if you don't know my cell phone number, I really don't want to come to the door for you because my guess is that you're selling something or we're really not that great of friends. knocking on my door right now will downgrade our friendship status from "not that great" to "dead to me". FedEx deliveries: leave it here and walk away silently. If you require a signature, please carefully forge the following signature on your slip. It's cool. You have my permission. I will not sue you. Unless you wake my baby up. Visiting Teachers: I know you're here to see if I need anything. You are so thoughtful and diligent and the best thing you can do for me is not even think about knocking on this door right now and it would be even better if you could just consider me visited for like 6-12 months. We both win. You're job is done and I don't have to straighten the house or risk a knock.

These days even when he is totally healthy I have to drag Jack out of bed against his will about fifty percent of the time but every single time I have to talk myself into it psyche myself out. Needless to say, if he is sick he doesn't get disturbed and strange rambling notes that offend ward members end up on my front door.

Back to the awesome phone call. No, wait. First let me tell you how I feel about voice mail. On my list of things that technology has done to make life much worse, Voice mail is right up there with Internet pornography, emoticons, and fatal car crashes caused by drivers who text and drive. I hate it. I hate that we are all expected to be available to everyone all the time. I can't stand listening to a 60 second message where the caller informs me that they called and rattles off their return phone number. I know they called. My phone tells me if I miss a call. It logs the time and date and it even stores the phone number. I have an app that will triangulate your exact location and display it for me on a satellite image. So I am not just aware that you called, I know you were at your kitchen table when you called and I can see that your winter grass still looks pretty good in the front yard but the back yard probably needs some fertilizer. I'm not using an old rotary dial phone with a curly cord and an answering machine that uses tapes. And these callers are most likely not at a pay phone at a gas station. Text messages are the way to go. I predict that in the not too distant future, phone calls will be considered rude except in times of emergency or really big news such as "You have cancer" or "I am gay" or "I am divorcing you". Those occasions totally warrant a real conversation. Actually those occasions warrant three separate real conversations because If I ever have one conversation that includes all three of those things this whole voice mail pet peeve will become pretty insignificant. But I will still hate voice mail and never ever check it. Ever.

The thing about having your kid miss ten consecutive days of school because of illness is that calling in the absence every day becomes pretty tedious. Last year Jack's school had an attendance number that was a dedicated line that was strictly voice mail. This is one of two very special cases where I prefer voice mail. Sure I hated listening to the outgoing message where the school goes on for like half an hour with detailed instructions about what it means to leave a message and what information is expected to be included in that message and then an explanation about how often that voice mail will be checked and then thanking us for reporting the absence and asking us to kindly disregard any voice mail messages we may receive today informing us of our kid's absence because there is a chance that the system will give us an automated call before this voice mail gets checked and the information gets entered into the computer. You don't need to call us and be all "I called and left a message that my kid is sick and then like twenty minutes later I got a message from the school saying that my kid was absent and if I don't call it will be unexcused." These things happen. Leave a message after the beep.

At which point I am basically having a seizure of irritation and wondering if there is anyone left on the planet that doesn't know the beep protocol and did they really need to take that long to explain something so freaking simple? Then as I anticipate the beep it doesn't come and the whole message starts repeating itself. In Spanish. If the message was hard to sit through in my native tongue it gets downright torturous in a foreign language and prompts me to spend the time calculating the real cost of illegal immigration. Then I am thinking about why in the world we don't secure the border. Or at least distribute leaflets to all of the border jumpers with some basic Spanish to English translations that will be required. Then we stop paying for things like signs that say "VOTE AQUI" at all of the polling locations on election days (as if they are being mobbed by registered voters who can't figure out the meaning of the word "HERE" even when it is in the context of being on a sign immediately after the word "VOTE" because they speak so little English.) Am I the only one who sees those signs and wonders how in the world someone like that got through the process of choosing a political party and thoughtfully examining the candidates and the ballot measures? I think we want the people who can't figure out that "HERE" means "AQUI" to get lost while searching for their voting precinct. I mean, even if they never decode "HERE", the word "VOTE" should be enough to get their attention. If we just did away entirely with the "HERE" and the "AQUI" and only printed and posted VOTE signs, everyone with any business participating in the American democratic process will figure it out. If there is anything I love, it is identifying and analyzing social filters. Like when you open a charter school and don't participate in the federal free lunch program which may seem irrelevant if you have no intention of ever having your kid apply for free lunches but which becomes very relevant when you realize that by requiring everyone to either buy a ridiculously expensive cafeteria lunch or put the effort into making and packing a sack lunch, you just eliminated poor families, lazy families, most of the Democrats, and all of the riff raff. And I can argue both sides of the public school vs. charter school debate all day long but when it comes right down to it I enrolled my kid at the charter school and if anyone asks why, three words sum it up: Free Lunch Filter.

Which brings me back to the damn phone call and why I long for an attendance voice mail line. When I have to call ten school days in a row and have a real conversation with a real person to inform them that my kid is sick again, I am totally unable to just say "absence due to illness." and let it go. I say things like "He is still throwing up and the fever just won't break." and then the polite person on the other line says something like "Poor thing. I hope he gets well soon." and then I say "You're telling me! This has been a nightmare. Everyone caught it and there is nothing quite as bad as being sick in bed and feeling like you might vomit at any second but then your kid vomits all over the couch and you scream for them to run for the toilet which makes them start running but they puke while they are running and end up literally spraying a thirty foot long path of vomit through the entire house and you wish you would have just had them finish puking on the leather couch where they started and then spend the next hour and a half on your hands and knees soaking up vomit which would be bad in the best of health but you get to do it while you yourself are super sick."

And then I immediately wish I could take that whole episode of unnecessary self disclosure back. Or that I didn't speak a word of English. "Jack es el sicko. Adios." Then the next day I rehearse the call to be sure I don't become that crazy mom that everyone dreads. "Jack is still sick." But then she'll say something like "We'll look forward to seeing him again." and I will say "Yeah, I look forward to you seeing him again too. He is bored out of his mind here but he's too sick to go anywhere and he feels like crap which makes him cranky and then he fights with his brother all freaking day long and I end up either lovingly spoon feeding him and rubbing his back or yelling at him and threatening to beat him like a bi-polar prison nurse." Then there is a bit of awkward silence and then I say "Habla Espaniol?" and hang up. Even on a good day I am compelled to mention that now a chest cough has started. or that he's becoming frighteningly dehydrated. I have some weird deep seated need to convince them that I'm not just keeping him home because I'm too lazy to pack his lunch or because I don't care about his education, He really really can't be there. In the first few days I was always making the case that I was doing them a favor because he was most likely contagious or that his coughing and vomiting is likely to distract the other students and disrupt the learning process. In the second week I was telling them how I'd happily send him in wearing a full Haz-Mat suit if I thought he could even sit in class for more than half an hour without collapsing. Eight school days into it I was pretty sure that they got the picture. On the ninth day I didn't call and I saw their missed call and I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they would figure out why he wasn't there. He's not ditching, we're not at Disneyland, we didn't run out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Capri-Suns, We didn't just sleep in and forget we had somewhere we were supposed to be. We have not been taken into custody by Immigration. Ditto on day nine. Which brings us to this morning when this broad is scolding me for not listening to her voice mails and calling in each and every day. I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I could get him there for at least half of the day he would be forcibly withdrawn.

I apologized profusely and promised that he'd be there. "What counts as an attendance? five minutes? five hours? give me the exact requirement." I was totally committed to bringing my kid in to solve this problem no matter what. The CDC be damned and the entire science of microbiology for that matter. He may need to be in the fetal position on the floor and you'll thank me later for recommending a really big vomit bowl be kept with him at all times. We will be there. We will disregard the spirit of the law at the peril of the entire class and we will fulfill the letter of the law and he will be there and will not have been absent ten consecutive days. Then when I drag him home I will know that the rules were followed. And that I just bought us nine and a half more absent school days. Heaven forbid we take ten. Missing ten days of school is just plain wrong. Nine and a half is totally acceptable. Everyone knows that. We are not getting kicked out of the charter school. We are the exact match to their target demographic and I own way too many of their stupid uniforms to even consider letting them kick us out. I'm sure she was completely confused when I started babbling about how we can totally afford their inflated hot lunch prices. Which she totally deserved.

Then I went upstairs to wake Jack up and force him to get dressed and he was unresponsive. So I pulled the covers off and put my hand on him. Fever. His lips were chapped, his cheeks were red, he was sleeping so deeply that my ice cold hands on his hot back didn't make him flinch. And that was the moment I got out my phone and told the charter school to take their enrollment and shove it.

Then I called the doctor and they got him right in. I loaded him up and drove him down there and learned they think he has pneumonia but possibly mono, valley fever or foot and mouth disease. WHaa? Each time I had to tell someone at the doctor's office that he had been sick for ten school days which is actually a lot more than ten actual days, I would realize how retarded I am for waiting this long. And then I would point out that I was just here last week with Abe and if you've seen one sick Kramer kid, you've seen 'em all, right? I'm an idiot. I can say "vote here" in  four, maybe five languages, but beyond that I am obviously not too bright. I probably shouldn't vote. They were definitely confused when they heard my strange rambling about the price tax payers pay to print twice as many signs than is necessary and the suggestion that we take all of those signs to the border and fashion a big long continuous fence out of them. Which they totally didn't deserve.

So now Jack is loaded up with prescriptions and he is technically unenrolled in school which is a bigger relief than anything else and until this kid is totally recovered I am keeping him here on the couch with me and a bowl and I will not even think about calling in absences or ridiculous threats of forced withdrawal when we all know that that school will gladly re-enroll him the very second we stroll in. There is like a week left in the school year and they're not turning down the cash that they get from the State. They are running a business and capitalism will do its job and inject some rationale into the situation. I'm not worried. And if that fails, I can totally blackmail them into re-enrolling him because I happen to know something about them that I am pretty sure they'd rather keep quiet. It has to do with free lunches and federal requirements. I prefer we not go there because if my precious free lunch filter is lost then we will lose interest in the place anyway, but don't think I won't leave threatening messages, because that is the only other very specific case in which I really prefer voice mail. When blackmailing and/or delivering threats.


kristencgartner said...

I adore you, Staci! So freaking funny!

Ellen said...

10 days is not very long. Do they make special exceptions if your kid is really sick? Also hands down the best use of voicemail is blackmail. I get you.

Kelly said...

Love it. You're my mom hero and "buck the jacked up stupid system hero."

Unknown said...

Could that story possibly be any longer? If I was your son I would put a pillow over your face and smother you to death.

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