Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Enough is Enough

I like my kids' new school, I really do. I like the teachers, I like the administration, I like that it’s less than fifty yards from my house, I like the activities they offer, I like the parent involvement, I like that the other kids have been welcoming and kind.

What I do NOT like, however, is this school’s freaky obsession with costumes. And any extra-curricular or academic activity that brings about a need for costumes. Costumes that parents – specifically, UN-CREATIVE parents like me – have to provide. Does anyone realize this stress this causes me? And why does it keep happening?

Our first week of school here, literally, the very first week, they had their annual school-wide Vocabulary Day, where every single student in the entire school was assigned a different, grade-appropriate vocabulary word. Each student was to put together a costume that represented that word, then take part in a parade, before standing in front of their classmates -- in their costume -- to read the definition.

In theory? A terribly cute idea. But for a mom who hadn’t even unpacked half her household belongings, let alone had any idea where the craft stuff was, it was way too much pressure right off the bat.

Kellen’s word was “decillion”. Do you know what a decillion is? No? I didn’t either. I was quickly told a decillion is a one, with thirty-three zeroes after it. Never mind that we were still eating off paper plates because I hadn’t unpacked dishes, and that we’d all been wearing the same underwear for three days because I hadn't found the laundry soap, I needed to drop everything and come up with a costume for decillion. In hindsight, I should have just made him stand up straight and made a tail with thirty three paper rings, but at the time, I completely panicked. Fortunately, his teacher took pity on me and made him a sign to wear around his neck that said basically, “I am a Decillion”.

Kendrie’s word was “crazy”. I stuck a Dr. Suess-type hat on her head and sent her off to school. A better example of crazy would have been my face, on a life-size 3-d billboard, with my eyes bugging out and my hair standing on end, but I just didn’t have time.

I don’t even remember what Brayden’s word was because bless her heart, I didn’t even try with a costume. Her teacher sent home a note saying she could be exempt, as a new student, and I took it and ran.

Less than a month later, the gifted program put on a Live Museum, where the kids dress up as certain characters, then “come to life” when a student pushes a sticker on their hand. Kellen had to dress up as a famous Oklahoman, so we went with Johnny Bench and I bought a vintage baseball (read: real wool and itchy!) uniform on ebay. Kendrie was to dress up as a famous author, or one of their characters, so I purchased a Harry Potter costume, also online, and Kendrie described the works of JK Rowling. Sure, I know store-bought (or ebay bought, in this case) is kind of cheating, especially compared to the parents who obviously spent hours and hours working on their kids' costumes …. But remember, I’m the kid who went as a hobo every year for Halloween because I don’t have a creative bone in my body.

Right after the Christmas holidays, the 5th grade held their Colonial Fair, and in addition to making a poster and building a booth and selling your wares, wearing a stinking Colonial Fair outfit made up part of the grade! Thank goodness for online shopping, is all I’m saying, so that Brayden could truly look the part of a young Colonial girl, and not fail 5th grade history just because her mom couldn’t sew a muslim dress and white puffy kerchief hat if my life depended on it.

But the final insult came today, when ALL THREE kids brought home notes that next Friday is the school-wide! Book! Character! Day! With lots of exclamation points!!!!

Each kid is to pick one of their favorite books and write a report about the book … a report they have to read in front of their class, dressed as a character from that book.

Are you kidding me???

Kellen, thank goodness, was willing to recycle Kendrie’s Harry Potter costume from the Live Museum, so that’s one down. Now I just have to refresh his memory of the book for the report.

Brayden had already selected Harriet the Spy without telling me, bless her heart, because she said, “The costume will be easy, Mom, it’s just jeans and a hoodie!” I appreciate her trying, but then we took a good look at the book and realized we also have to get glasses, a tool belt of some sort, and various and sundry spy items to hang from said tool belt. Egads.

And Kendrie, well, I don’t have a clue what she’s going to do. First she wanted to be Clifford, of all things, which I totally don’t understand since she hasn’t read any Clifford books in about four years. Then she wanted to be one of the kids from the Magic Tree House series, which I said was an awesome idea, especially if they ever wore vintage wool baseball uniforms in any of the books, because we could recycle that as well. Maybe I should convince her that her favorite book is Audie Murphy’s “To Hell and Back” and I could recycle Kellen’s book report from last month and have her wear her army costume from Halloween.

Oh, fuck it. She can just go as a hobo.

**And let’s not forget the 4th grade re-enactment of the Sooner Land Rush that takes part later this spring, and the Land-Rush-y costume I have to get for Kellen. What is WITH these people???


Urban Blonde said...

OMG, I'm totally ROFLMAO! As a former teacher I can tell you our school never, ever had costumes for anything, nor did my kid's schools. (thank gawd!)

Sounds like your school needs a Mom in charge of a costume exchange program. Surely you have a spare second in your schedule to take that on!

jbaj said...

We just got done with 3 weeks of Nevada Reading "Week" and the last week was full of costumes. Whoopee! I don't have a creative bone in my body either so the youngest son wore a variation of Charger uniforms for each day. Good Gawd I don't know what I would do if one of my kids attended your school!

Anonymous said...

As a former teacher, I never did that! Never! But then, I'm the mom who made her daughter wear the same witch costume for three Halloweens by just adding to the bottom of it to make it longer.

I'm telling you, Kristie, I'd have to change schools.

Dixie in CA

Grandma J said...

What a nightmare. I feel your pain...really. Join the PTA and have the parents boycote all this costume stuff. I hate it when the students are assigned projects that require several hours of parental involvment. Times that by three or four kids and working moms...impossible.

Dto3 said...

I was trying to think of something witty to comment, but when I got to the end of your entry and saw ' Oh F*** it! I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to say.

Anonymous said...

I remember being coming home from the hospital with my third baby, to a note from CCD class letting me know that they were doing the live nativity that year, and my son was to be an ox. When the donkey's mom and I asked what they suggested for costumes, the teacher brightly suggested wearing brown (ox) and gray (donkey) sweats with a sign around each identifying the animal. That did not go over well. They did not carry any such costumes at the rental shops either. We ended up making headpieces out of heavy paper and draping the kids with brown and gray blankets, but the process of racking the brain for ideas was not fun at all.

And, yeah, I've had to do the book character and colonial deal several times too. GoodWill or Salvation Army is a great place to shop for that stuff. Here they have half price Wednesdays when you can really do well. Good luck!

Natalie said...

From one hobo to another--I feel for you.

Ashley said...

LMAO!!! That's hilarious, we never had anything that required costumes, well except Halloween and school spirit days - both which were totally optional

I'm all for recycling the costumes... it's so expensive to buy them for only one use, and even if you made them yourself, you'd put hours and hours of work into what, 6-7 hours of use?

Lisa said...

Thanks Kristie, I needed that...How about dressing up one of the kids as a dancer from a kids book, like Angelina Ballerina - that should go down well in a nazarine (sp?) school :)))

Suz in Ga. said...

LOL! I feel your pain! We just had book character day as well - luckily my little guy was sick and we could just skip the whole thing! However, if you have the book "The Soccer Mom from Outer Space", you can send Kendrie in her soccer stuff - easy as pie! OR, you can dress her in red sweats and do a circular sign that says "Thing 1" on it and spray (with that washable stuff) her hair blue (ala the Things from Cat in the Hat). OR, you could paint a white t-shirt with red strips (ditto on the hat) and she could be WALDO. I'd send you mine but I don't know if it would get there on time! OR, if she's read HEAT (it's a baseball story), she really could use Kellen's baseball uniform :-) Good luck and I can't wait to read all about it and see the pictures, too!

Kati said...

I'm a middle school teacher. I thought teaching middle school would take me out of a lot of this... but nooooo... this Friday is Fairytale/ cartoon character day. Oh, and I'm the drama teacher. One would think this would be easy for me... but I have NO IDEA what I'm going to wear. Since the beginning of the year we've had monochromatic day, crazy hair day and hat days.

Sandie in MN said...

Honestly, I feel for you.. I have trauma weeks before Halloween! If I had it year round (with the teachers COUNTING ON ME!!!) I don't know what I would do. It honestly sounds kind of screwed up- why add any more pressure to the parents (read: moms)

Anonymous said...

Thank God they didnt do all this when Derek was there! The colonial fair was about it, (which I made a ton of homemade banana nut bread and a ton of homemade chocolate chip cookies and some rude parent went and bought all of it for 50 cents! I was super pissed!)
Oh, and the Land Run day, but that is a given every year until middle school.


Trish in Leesburg,VA said...

omg! I have never heard of so many costumes being required for school! Now, being that I love the creative stuff, I would LOVE to come up with costumes every month. But seriously, it does seem a bit overboard.

Cathy in MI said...

I would go crazy, I would have to move my kids. And you said that one of Brayden's counted towards her grade, that's just not fair. Someone did have a good suggestion though - a costume exchange program - something to consider.

Renee said...

It must be a midwest southern thing. They have the same thing going on here. Kody has to dress up next week "like an interesting or exciting word" on Thursday and dress up like the poem he has to memorize!!! WTF? They absolutely can not dress up on Halloween but spend the rest of the year playing dress-up.

Leeann said...

Totally hear what you are saying about the costumes...I find it challenging just ironing on stars and patches. That having been said, your kids' new school sounds absolutely MARVELOUS!!!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am creatively challenged and when they make it part of the grade on top of it, I turn into a disaster! Not to mention the $$ that's involved in it too!! One of my kids recently got docked for wearing his tennis shoes (instead of dress shoes...his feet are growing so fast I refused to buy a pair just for the class...mean mom, I know) to present an 8th grade civics project. At least we could borrow a tie! It's just crazy!

Good luck!


The Running Girl said...

I feel for you. I don't have a creative bone in my body either when it comes to costumes and I'd be in real trouble if my kids went to that school. Best of luck to you in getting all the costumes done.

Anonymous said...

You need to run....fast...from...that...school!! Oh my God!!! I am a middle school teacher and I cannot imagine asking parents to do that in a class, let alone as a school. You are so funny. I was thinking, "surely she is making some of this up" and then when you ended I knew no one can make that up. Unbelievable! And good luck!

Lisa from Texas

Anonymous said...

I just about had an anxiety attack just thinking about having to come up with costumes that often. When my kids were young I started freaking out around Oct. 1 about Halloween.
Right before Halloween last year I noticed several websites that had homemade costume ideas that can be thrown together at the last minute.


Monica H said...

That's crazy with a capital Dr. Suess hat!

" Audie Murphy’s “To Hell and Back”", you mean Eddie Murphy :-)
I theory this is a good idea, if they did it once a year and it was not a school wide event. But every few weeks is flat out ridiculous!

lizinsumner said...

One of the nice things about Middle School - NO COSTUMES!!! Jake had to choose a biography to read in the 4th grade, and report on it in costume....he chose one on Elvis Presley (yeah, I know - go figure, he doesn't get it from ME, that's for sure....or he would've been dressed as a 70's disco king!!) and we dressed him in shorts, hawaiian shirt, lei, and ukelele (Blue Hawaii, remember??)....it worked. Thankfully it was the last costume we had to do....oh, and what the heck is a "sooner"??

mom25in5 said...

I am completely laughing my butt off! I've been trying to explain the same thing to my school for 7 years - I have 5 kids and at one time they were all together in the same school! If I have to do one more project that teaches them nothing about the subject, but plenty on how to beat the system, I'm going to scream!!!

Oh and what's up with the 4 COPIES OF EVERY STUPID NOTE...'cause I'm just saying, if I didn't recycle my family would be personally responsible for killing most of the rainforest.


Please-no-more-snow-days Mom to:

Daniel-almost 13
Dana-almost 8
Sarah - almost 8

Anonymous said...

sounds like some one at the school has too much time on their hands!! I must admit, I am one of "those people" who 2 nights, sometimes 1 night, before Halloween we are hitting every store looking for "something, anything, I don't-care-just-grab-it, its-your-size"
Oh well! Good Luck
Kristina, OHIO

Anonymous said...


They seriously still send out paper notes in your school? They forced the Electronic Wednesday Envelope on us years ago around here. (though that did eliminate one of those pesky volunteer jobs:)

Our school district has a "no paper" policy- though that means we get multiple emails and lots of reminder phone calls each week. I'm not sure which is worse actually!

Amy said...

Maybe everyone reading your blog should send you our old costumes. That way you don't totally lose your mind!! If you want I could send you some, I just need your address.

Tracy Stanley said...

What is with that school??? What a nightmare? Fortunately we don't have too much in the costume nightmare department, but we do have hat day, weird hair day and everyone in the class wear the same color day. That one went over really well the year my son's class voted for pink (more girls in the class -- so they won). Just those kinds of days are enough to stress me out. I can't imagine trying to come up with actual historical or literary costumes. I think you should print out all of these comments as back up support and go tell that school this has to stop! :)

jadine said...


While I usually complain (to myself, because no ever listens to me around here) about the amount of homework my kids are assigned (Note: I'm not opposed to homework, but a 2nd grader shouldn't have 1+ hrs per day of it!), I'm finding myself very sympathetic to your costuming plight. I'm thanking my lucky stars that our school doesn't do this!

Couldn't all three of yours claim Harry Potter to be their favorite book character? You know, recycle the costume? I'm envisioning them hustling off to take it off and pass it to a sibling during the day. Ugg.

Also? I don't really see how the costumes enhance learning. At all. And I'm the kid of two teachers, and typically stick up for teachers. What a PITA!

Jeanette, with no costumes in GA said...

Bet they have one hell of a Halloween celebration!

Anonymous said...

Well as both a teacher and one who dreads Halloween b/c I never know what to be and the kids LOVE me to dress up...but THIS would be my nightmare. LOL.

Anyway, the one thing I know we've found for church is that community theatre kinds of things have a whole bank/library of costumes that they'll loan out much of the time. Maybe you could try something like that?

Or suggest some parent that needs something to do create one for your school! ha!

Lisa in SD

M&Co. said...

Damn! Where do your kids go to school? Cause when I move, I don't want to move into THAT school! Margaret

Anonymous said...

So, how are all the other moms/dads coping with all these costume requirements? At least some of them have to be feeling the same way you do about this! Is there a secret costume exchange program that they haven't told you about?

I agree with the suggestion about bringing this up at the PTA meetings. This school is going waaay overboard on the costumes. They should be concentrating on teaching the subject to the kids not torturing the parents.

Dianne said...

I won't complain about my kid's school again! Dress up starts in 4th grade with California Miner's Day, 5th grade Colonial Day, 6th grade Walk Through Ancient Times (Greece, Egypt and Rome - Pharoah anyone?), 7th grade Medieval Day and 8th grade parents get off easy, they just have the optional trip to Washington DC over Spring Break. They *do have lots of overnight field trips/concerts, etc, which get costly. And the prices only go up in high school. But I'd rather fork over $$ than come up with a decillion costumes!

Karen a.k.a Mamacita said...

Poor thing.Better you than me. I have to agree with urban blonde. A costume exchanhe program would be good there. Good luck.

Jen said...

My son has had to dress up twice this year, this week being the second time. It doesn't sound like a lot but the costumes had to be really good. They each had to go with speeches that he had to give. I about went out of my freakin' mind trying to figure out what I was going to do for costumes. I usually pride myself on usually having my crap together...but these costumes threw me under the bus!

I suck at costumes. It's an evil way to torture a parent.