If it walks like Helena and talks like Helena, I still want a DNA test

Last week we went to Helena’s third grade Open House, not to be confused with curriculum night which was last month.

Curriculum night is when we meet the teacher for the first time and find out what’s she’s going to teach and how she plans to teach it. On that night, the teacher is usually eager and excited and full of promise and anticipation for the coming year.

Open House is when we get to see the curriculum in practice and find out what the children have learned so far. We also get to see if the teacher is still upright and verbal and then we determine whether she now meets the state’s threshold for being legally insane and if she doesn’t, we clap and give her a standing ovation.

Then we participate in fun classroom exercises, like figuring out how much hair remains on the left quadrant of her scalp if her entire head started with a total of 1,546,893 strands and she yanked an average of 689 hairs out for every hour spent on multiplication facts thus far. Bonus points for estimating how long before all the hair turns white. Or taking the number of hours spent on currency and making change, multiplying by five and dividing by two to find out how many years she’s aged in one month, thereby calculating her adjusted life expectancy or anticipated year of mental breakdown – I’m still not sure of this one and Nate wouldn’t let me cheat of his sheet.

My personal favorite on Open House night is learning the teacher’s new language which I think is called HELP ME and consists of shaky hand movements and incoherent gibberish and is best described as a fusion of sign language and garbled pig Latin.

I hope there’s a special place in Heaven reserved for elementary school teachers, a place where everyone will understand everything they say the first time they say it and where they will never again have to deal with lice checks, never again be asked for a potty pass and never again yank a dangling tooth out of the mouth of a child who does not share their bloodline.

So far, Nate and I are very impressed with Helena’s teacher, Mrs. H. She’s a tiny thing and although she looks like she’s twenty, she’s been teaching for almost twice as long as her students have been alive, a fact that inspires awe from her students (Oh my gosh, Mom! She’s old! Do you think she’s as old as you?) and envy and waves of bitter disillusionment from those moms who have recently come to the conclusion that they will never look that good for their age, no matter what they have lifted, enhanced, tucked, paralyzed, suctioned out or surgically removed.

(sniff, sniff)

I need a moment.




Thank you.

Mrs. H is passionate about her profession and her students and she’s a Buffalo Bills fan so really, she could be teaching Helena voodoo for all Nate cares, provided she’s not sticking needles into Trent Edwards’ passing arm.

I get the feeling Mrs. H genuinely likes all eight year olds, regardless of whether they swim in her gene pool, despite the fact that she is under no legal obligation to do so. Then again, eight year olds are so much easier to like when they’re not throwing hissy fits or screaming DON’T LOOK AT ME EVER AGAIN to their siblings or channeling Hansel and Gretel all over the house or hollering YOU ARE THE BIGGEST MEANIE EVER while stomping up the stairs, aren’t they?

Helena came home from school one day waving this note that she found on her desk. I had to hunt around the floor a minute to find my jaw. After I shoved it back onto my face, I stared at her in shock. Then I gave her a squeeze, told her I was proud of her and quickly plucked a strand of her hair to send to the local FBI office for DNA analysis.

This is Helena’s desk. When Helena showed it to us, I silently reamed myself out for not having super glued my jaw to my face because it fell off again and rolled underneath her desk. As I was on my hands and knees searching for it, I was half inclined to just stay under there because every instinct screamed at me that the sky was falling.

Because this desk was neat as a pin. Book were stacked up neatly, facing the same direction, the folders were neatly stacked opposite them and in between were her eraser and ChapSticks, all facing due south. There were no dirty tissues, no smelly clothes bunched up in the corners, no discarded candy wrappers, no crumbs, no underwear strewn about, nothing spilled, nothing, nothing, nothing except neatness. For crying out loud, even her pencils were lined up in the same direction.

I was able to inconspicuously swab her desk for DNA before Nate hissed at me to stop acting like a deranged lunatic.

I think he needs to get acquainted with Helena’s room. Maybe then he’ll understand why I’ve got a little crazy going on, when her desk is so meticulously neat yet her room can only be entered when wearing a fully body hazmat suit after a tetanus booster.

Mrs. H is all about consequences and I like the visual she uses. There’s no question that if the kids misbehave, they’ll know exactly how much less time they’ll have to scream and jump around and work up a sweat.

You know, I think this tool would work perfectly for all kinds of situations. Like when I’ve spent a couple of hours making a special dinner and Nate calls me five minutes before he’s due home to tell me that he’s going to be late and not to worry because he had a big, late lunch at Dinosaur Barbecue so he’s not hungry anyway.

There’s no question that Nate would know exactly how much less time he will have to scream and jump around and work up a sweat later that night.

I also like the way she uses clothespins as a form of discipline. All the kids start with three clothespins under their names and can I just tell you, the sigh of relief from the parents holding their collective breath before discovering how many clothespins remained under their child’s name? Deafening.

Three clothespins means three chances. Each time a clothespin is taken away, there are consequences:

Like the clock, I think this chart is very versatile. For instance, I’m going to make my own consequences chart for laundry. I’ll have to post it on the front of the refrigerator because if I posted it in the laundry room, no one would ever know it existed.

We have a laundry room? Since when? No way! Where?

It will specifically deal with those occasions when I find myself trying to wash 245 cubic feet of laundry before noon, which might be possible if it weren’t for the sheer amount of time I spend smacking my head against the floor screaming I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE, not to mention the ensuing migraine, which happens each and every time I unwad a dirty pair of underwear found incubating in the pant legs of jeans.

Mrs. H emphasizes reading and descriptive writing and Helena wasted no time in packing up her clothes and Littlest Pet Shops and Bear and jumped on the synonym bandwagon with gusto and we now refer to her as our youngest daughter, Roget’s Thesaurus. I’m constantly chasing her all around the house, yelling OPEN YOUR BRAIN, I NEED ANOTHER WORD FOR BRAIN ANEURYSM when I’m writing this blog.

I’ll catch her telling her friend that she had a delicious, smooth, sticky peanut concoction spread uniformly on a circular piece of crispy baked dough and washed it down with a clear, luminous liquid with a lovely fruity bouquet and it was all just thoroughly delicious. And I’ll stare blankly at the 3/4 left over peanut butter bagel and crumpled up juice box in her lunch box, right before plucking another hair out of her head.



Pretty soon, people are going to be asking me who the cute little bald girl is and why is she living in our house?

Posted outside Helena’s classroom on Open House were monster stories written by the kids. Helena’s monster was named Dave which made me a little nervous that the story was about Zoe’s father but then we saw her drawing accompanying the story and it did not resemble Dave at all because we think it had hair.

Helena is totally loving third grade and I’m totally loving the fact that she’s loving third grade and doing so well and I’m seriously considering giving Mrs. H a kidney if she ever needs it.

And after I write this, I’m going to drop to my knees and thank God that my little snuggle bunny, whom I’ve always known to be smart as a whip, is so neat and tidy and well behaved and courteous and well-mannered outside of our home.

And then I’m calling the FBI for status on her DNA results.

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31 thoughts on “If it walks like Helena and talks like Helena, I still want a DNA test”

  1. Avatar

    Great read, as usual, my friend! I can appreciate so much of what you wrote being an 8th grade teacher. Helena has the gift of writing of her Mom! Thanks for the chuckles this morning!

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    OMG! You took a photo of my daughter’s room!!!!! Except, well, her walls are more of a light lavender and I can’t even see her floor. Really.

    And isn’t it amazing how different our offspring can be when they are with other people out side of our home?

    It almost makes me think they’re bizarre emotional rollercoaster behavior and weird hygiene habits might have something to do with ME. Hmmmm.

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    Love the pic’s isn’t it funny how they are so different around total strangers than at home 🙂 I am glad she seems to have a wonderful teacher it makes all the difference!

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    I loved reading this! I am planning on teaching 3rd grade when I finish school. I chose 3rd grade because the kids still like their teachers and are eager to go to school and learn at this age. Her teacher has some really great ideas (that I may steal!!) and the kids seem to really enjoy her!

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    I had to giggle at this “Do you think she’s as old as you?”

    Helena has a huge room! You should put her in a smaller one then she wouldn’t have so much space to “spread out” her stuff. lol We have that problem too.

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    You brought back all kinds of school memories for me today. My kids are young adults now, but I’m still amazed when I hear how neat, organized, and “laid-back” they are at work and school. Are these people really talking about my children? LOL

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    Aww, I miss those desks… They were amazing. When I was in 6th grade my teacher had an obsession with paper crafts and so our desks were full of junk that we had no use for. Of course, these days I am DYING to get a hold of the book she used because there was awesome stuff in there. Pen holders, books covers, crowns! All kinds of nonsense.

    Sigh. I miss school.

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    “Posted outside Helena’s classroom on Open House were monster stories written by the kids. Helena’s monster was named Dave which made me a little nervous that the story was about Zoe’s father but then we saw her drawing accompanying the story and it did not resemble Dave at all because we think it had hair.”

    Sounds like my ex-husband. *snort* Very very very funny.

    “because we think it had hair.” I’m going to be laughing all night.

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    Oh my gosh! I LOVE this post! You’re an awesome writer. I love that you appreciate your daughter’s teacher. As a teacher of 9 years myself, this also gave me some ideas. I love the recess minutes countdown. THAT is the perfect visual that my kiddos need! Thanks for posting!

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    Hillarious! I love your writing style, as always. Sounds like your lucky little girl has a great teacher- visual aids matter. I’m with you- maybe I need to create some of those around here?

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    You post reminds me that I told my 7-year-old that we should use the same discipline system that her teacher uses. Instead of counting “that’s a 1” it’s “that’s a yellow card.” I tried that once and she told me I can’t do that at home! My famous line now is, “do you talk to your teacher like that?”

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    As usual, I’m following family members around the house, reading to them, choking with snarky laughter–your rendition of the consequences chart is hysterical–and I’m copying it–hope you don’t mind. And I’m totally making up a ‘recess’ clock, grown-up edition. I agree with you–if marriage is all about communication, this should speak in the language of testosterone. Well done.


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    The teacher looks like she just graduated from high school, seriously. I’m so glad your daughter is having such a good experience this year. It seems like a teacher can make or break a kid’s experience in any specific grade. My nephew had a crappy teacher last year and he just hated school but this year he loves his teacher and it’s making a world of difference!

    As always, your post cracked me up!!!!

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    My daughter actually told me that she uses all her good at school and therefore has none left for me. At least she had an explanation.

    Thanks for keeping me laughing!

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    I love:
    – your new header
    – Helena’s creative writing
    – your blog, as always
    With a mom like you, she’s destined to be an awesome writer! You made me choke on my coffee no less than three times.

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    This is a wonderful story. Elementary teachers are the best – they inspire so much greatness in little people. I think we’re all blessed because of them.

    And I totally love the comment above from Cassandra. What a riot!

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    Swabbing for DNA had me cracking up!!

    Thank you for stopping by on my SITS day – I appreciate the comment love 🙂

    And I love Boston Legal – I forgot about Alan’s word salad -so funny!

  18. Avatar

    My daughter is the same way…a snotty, backtalking slob at home but a polite, considerate, neatnik everywhere else. I used to get upset that she didn’t act the same way at home…then I just started thanking God she didn’t act like a homeless brat in public. I’ve made peace with it.

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    Hello! Kristin mentioned you are another local (to us) blogger the other day, and then I saw your name in SITS roll call this morning and my tired, old brain remembered what I’d promptly forgotten Kristin had said and here I am to check out your blog!

    LOVE this post – love your whole blog, actually. Think I’m gonna have to start stalking it now! 😀

    Okay, have to get going as I’m in charge of our PTA’s Fall Fun House over at my kiddo’s school (no desks yet so I have nothing to fear or be proud of in that regard on open house night – she’s just in kindy this year). I’ll be back to stalk more later! 😀


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