Tag Archives: bookstore

Homework or Flowers?


Look: I’m the last person in the world to be ragging ANYONE about homework, because I spent most of my childhood simply acting as if homework were merely an absurd suggestion from ridiculous grownups – grownups WITHOUT weaponry to enforce these hilarious suggestions.

That is, until I hit Catholic school. There, to my dismay, I found someone had equipped the nuns with a secret wooden arsenal of rulers – and slapping hands, besides, which they clearly were highly trained in the use of, particularly in the application of maximum pain and minimum trace marks that might reveal their cruelty beyond the crumbling walls.

Nasty stuff.

Still: that only made the game of homework avoidance more of a challenge.

I spent sixth grade math class playing a diabolical game with Mr. Elvins. I would prop up my book right on my desk, hiding my empty notebook. To me, it seemed so blatantly obvious that I wondered at times, even then, if I was trying to get caught.

The trick went like this: chubby Elvins was too lazy to collect and grade any homework. So all he would ever do was randomly choose students each day and have them give him the answers to the math problems from the previous night’s homework.

If he called on me, I’d simply look down at the problem, solve it in my head, and give him the answer.

Mr. Elvins was so rigidly blinkered at the idea of any student, much less a GIRL student, being able to pull off such a Las Vegas trick, that although every once in a while he’d cast a suspicious glance at my book wall and my wide-eyed innocent gaze, he was not about to rouse his low-belted, big-bellied body off the chair behind The Big Desk and actually CHECK to see if I’d done the work.

Even in college, I was able to scam a bit.

I was scholarshipped to college, but worked my way through the rest of it: there’s more than tuition, of course: there’s drinking and partying money you need.

So naturally, I was loathe to waste my money on $400 books. Actually, what used to end up happening to me at the beginning of each semester was this:

I’d enter yon bookstore with all good intentions of buying the books I was supposed to buy, but then I’d get so very intrigued with all the OTHER cool-looking books from all the OTHER classes that I’d buy THEM instead, leaving me, er, a little short when it came to MY books.

So I’d make deals with the other students. I was a phenomenal studier – a perfect test-taker. I knew JUST what professors wanted to hear in essays, on tests. So I’d find myself someone who was NOT, and pair up with them.

They had the books, and I had the savvy, so we’d both make out.

Now, I have two daughters, and I’M the one who’s supposed to be getting on THEIR case to do their homework.

What an ethical conundrum.

Considering that despite all my rackets and schemes, the whole problem with the homework thing throughout my whole life was that I didn’t believe in it to begin with – and I still don’t.

After all, unless you’re on salary, and have major responsibilities at your job, which you for some reason have to take home – most adults go to work at a certain hour – say, nine a.m. – and come home at five p.m., and then they’re DONE.

Kids, on the other hand, get up at around six a.m., get home around three p.m., and I’ve seen mine – and others – work on their homework for HOURS.

In New York, I queried one teacher: “How long do you expect a student to work on homework for your class?”

“I expect them to spend about 45 minutes,” she answered blithely.

At the time, my kid had seven periods. That would add up to five hours and fifteen minutes of homework a night if all her teachers expected the same.

In addition to a day’s worth of school? That’s just wrong.

So I face an ethical dilemma, as I try to align myself with my kids’ teachers.

Sure: boring homework has its place in life. It’s good practice for life, since we all will someday face a life of work with incredibly useless, boring tasks that we will have to perform.

But will we have to perform them for hours and hours, after work, and all weekend?

I dunno. I’m a grownup now, and I still think homework sucks. And I sometimes still write notes to get my kids out of it.

“Dear Teacher: Please excuse my child from her homework last night because we were attacked by a giant squid. Love, me.”

Okay, maybe NOT that outrageous. But I DO make sure to write it on my InklessTales.com stationary, to ensure my “authority.”

I just can’t stand the idea of watching them do 100 math problems when we could count flowers outside instead.

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Let’s Judge a Few Books by Their Covers.


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The Encyclopedia IdioticaDo you love the mall? Are you entranced by the pink glitteriness of LibbyLu? Are you lured by the dark emo moodiness of Hot Topic?

Or do you find yourself oddly nauseous after about a half an hour of that weirdly strong buttered pretzel smell that somehow manages to float its way from Macy’s at one end to Sears on the other?

Like me, do you find yourself gazing in the windows of Wet Seal and Express, wondering when you were thrown into that time machine and got sent to the seventies?

I was in Borders Books, one of the few stores in the Galleria Mall where I live that I can actually tolerate, a dangerous store, since I am prone to spend virtually all of whatever is in my pocket.

The reason I was there? I am raising two voracious readers, both of them girls who just LOVE the mall, and one of them, while waking me up for school – okay, yes, SHE woke ME up for school, what’s it TO you – stepped on and crushed my eyeglasses.

Having no vision insurance, I needed to go to the Get ’Em Quick & Cheap Eyeglasses R Us Store, which is not all that bad, and they know me there, besides. Don’t you LOVE places That Know You There? Don’t you LOVE Special Treatment?

Not that I am in the least bit deserving of any sort of Special Treatment, but like my dog, I galumph through the world, expecting everyone to like me. (And if they’re cute, they can pet me.) I talk to absolute strangers as if I’ve known them my whole life – sometimes as if we’re already having a conversation, for example, today:

Me, to strange (as in unknown – for all I know, she could be very nice) older woman, admiring my dog, who is with me at said Galleria: He’s great, isn’t he? And he’s quiet, too – except for the other night.

(I should add that we were headed opposite ways in the mall, as well, so my speaking up has forced the poor woman to stop.)

Her: Well, you know, someone could have been poking around your house, then.

Me: That’s EXACTLY what I thought. My kids were complaining they got woken up, but when a quiet dog barks, I say: let him bark, and lock the doors, don’t you?

Her (with a you-said-it-sister grin): I couldn’t agree more.

That was all. Nice little exchange.

Either way: we end up at Borders Books, Charybdis whirlpool of money-sucking peril – so I sent the kids to the kids section with the usual admonition: ONE BOOK EACH, which they know is total B.S., since the quieter and more invisible they are for as long as possible, the more likely it is mama will gather more and more books of her own – and mama can’t very well buy five books for herself and limit them to one, now can she?

Outsmarted them this time.

Pretty Little PincushionsI got sidetracked when I saw a book by this title: Pretty Little Pincushions. Who, I wondered, buys this book? Who, I wondered, needs more than one – maybe two – pincushions.

Now: I sew – a lot, and I sew well. My pincushions are neither little nor pretty. Purely functional, and if I were to put in the time on a sewing project, it surely would not be wasted on a pincushion.

Then I saw this one: Pretty Little Potholders. Yikes. I just bought new potholders, Pretty Little Potholdersafter the last ones I had finally went rancid, at one of the stores I actually like – the Dollar Store. Those, at least, are guaranteed – relatively – to keep my hands from burning.

What an awful lot of effort on frivolity. Plus the expense of the book.

Then I decided to grab my moleskine, tie the dog’s leash to my waist, and collect some more titles that I thought – purposely without opening the book – seemed absolutely silly to me.

You've Got MaleIn the romance section: You’ve Got Male, by Elizabeth Bevarly. This was annoying not only for the title, but also by the stupid way she spells her last name on what I hope is a pseudonym.

Texas Loving, by Leigh Greenwood. Also in romance. In fact, I personally wouldn’t read anything in romance, but then again, I get to have Peter.

The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human, by Ian Spector. Even if it is a humor book, that’s not funny.

Then there was one that sort of seemed funny – just the title – but not worth buying. The Mystery of Sausage: And Other Ridiculous Blueprints. Paul Osborne, a magician, wrote this, whose other claim to fame is that his ancestors invented the Ferris Wheel. Okay.

The Mystery of SausageOne book I wished I’d had the money for was The Encyclopedia Idiotica. That one grabbed my attention. If any reader wants to send me that one, I’ll be very grateful.

Later, at dinner, I pointed out how ridiculous the pincushion book seemed to me.

My oldest brought up what I thought was an excellent point.

“It might not be ridiculous to everybody.” she said. “Old ladies might love it. Maybe they collect them. Maybe they even trade them. You know, like old lady baseball cards.”

So – every book has some use.

In the bookstore itself, I saw a man perusing the Sausage book. “What about that book made you interested in it?” I asked.

He smiled, sheepishly. “I’m just interested in a lot of weird stuff,” he said. “I have a lot of weird books.”

I pointed out another to him. “Did you see The Physics of Superheroes?”

He reached for it excitedly.

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