Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting into Kindergarten in Manhattan: a.k.a. Insanity

Loyal readers will be delighted to learn that beginning in September, Poker Chick will begin chronicling what will be a 9-month long journey that represents a unique pleasure of parents living in NYC.

That's right, peeps, she is about to venture into the hell that is figuring out where your 4-year old will go to elementary school.

It is at this point that the naive will simply assume that we are referring to Private school admissions. And the intense process of getting a kindergarten seat at one of Manhattan's elite private schools has certainly been well-documented. So no, Poker Chick is not set out to tell people more of the same. Any Manhattan parent considering private school knows without a doubt the nightmare that they are about to embark on.

No, peeps. We're talking about public school. You see, like many, Poker Chick paid a premium to own a home zoned for an excellent elementary school. She sighed a sigh of relief, knowing this would buy her a few years of free education, and a ticket out of the private school madness should she so choose.

Poor, poor, ignorant Poker Chick. Little did she know that the basic right of an education for your child in your neighborhood does not apply to Manhattan.

According to this article in the NY Times last week, approximately 30% of people who registered for some Upper East Side public schools were put on a wait list. A wait list. As in might not go. Thirty percent, peeps. Consider for a moment the sheer shock of this fact.

So, short of moving to the suburbs, what's a parent to do? See if you can follow the options:

1) Register for your public school and hope. Of course, the deadline for registration changes every year. And it's poorly communicated. And if you miss it you're screwed. But in theory, that is the easy route.

2) Take a state-administered "IQ" test. Relax knowing your child's entire academic destiny rests on how good a mood they are in one afternoon and whether or not they feel like talking to the "tester". If they deem your child "brighter" than 90% of other Manhattan preschoolers, and you are interested, the city has gifted and talented classes within certain schools. Of course, it's only a few. And these schools are nowhere near where you live. And even if you get in you won't necessarily get into your first choice, it might be another, and because there's such a wide range of schools in Manhattan this school may be a hell of a lot worse than the school that's right across the street for you. So there's that.

3) If your child is "brighter" than 96, 97, 98 or 99% of their peers*, one might be lucky enough to be invited to apply to one or more three citywide gifted & talented schools. Three separate programs. Sometimes, they all use one test for cutoffs. Sometimes they use different ones. And - you guessed it - it's different every year. And even after all this more students qualify than they have spots for. So even if you get past all this you have to be lucky enough to be selected at random among these. And who knows which you'll get into. But hey, it's not like they are really different from each other or anything (Note sarcastic tone).

Luckily, you can learn all this on tours of these schools in the fall. That is, if you are lucky enough to call at the exact moment and get one.

3) There is a separate school that is outside of the system but still technically public. This involves a several-hundred dollar psychological assessment, an entirely different screening process including interviews, and of course - entirely different due dates than any of the other options above. Oh, and did we mention several thousand applications for a handful of spots?

4) One can apply for an exception, where you try to get into a public school in your district but not zone. So, afraid of your kid being bussed off to who knows where in September if you don't get into your school, you can try for the one four blocks away that's just as good. This requires a great deal of creativity as you must come up with a reason to justify such an exception. It was a more common practice years ago, but this route is now typically reserved for adrenaline junkies who think they can beat the 1,000,000 to one odds of success and who don't mind the stress of wasting their time in this fashion.

4) There's always private school. Cough up $35,000 or more a year not including books, after school programs and camp, and you can swap all this stress for the different stress of impressing the right people to get your kid in. Then again, at least all those schools have the same dates and all go by one test.

Now, how many think that at the end of this 9 months you can relax? One nightmare of a year and you're done for years, right?

Well that depends. Some schools go through 5th grade and there are far fewer middle schools you might like, not to mention private school has very few spots at that age group. So 5th grade is often the year that sends parents running for the 'burbs. But some of these schools go through 7th grade. One goes through 8th. Another all the way through 12th. But as they say, you never know. You may get lucky! You may win the crap shoot!

And there you have it. The insanely stressful and competitive process for getting your Manhattan 4-year old into PUBLIC school.

As so, Poker Chick is sending out a request to all brilliant math minds out there. If your odds of getting shut out of your school are 30%, and your odds of getting into special school x are 10%, and your odds of getting into special school y are 2%, and your odds of getting into one other amazing school are greater than accidentally finding a frog in your breakfast cereal, what are the odds of getting a desirable kindergarten spot altogether?

This, peeps, is the million dollar question. Welcome to New York.
*Percentage cutoff points are unclear and seems to vary each year. And possibly by school. Of course it does.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Important advice

In case you peeps were wondering, Grey's Anatomy was really, really awesome this week. We know you really needed to know that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poker Chick is contemplating a trip to Vegas. It's been way too long.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Network Television Finally Brings Food Allergy Awareness into the Mainstream

"C'mon guys, we've gotta get a move on!"
"What is that?"
"Peanut butter"
"Mom, we're a peanut free school"
"I know, but...Justin ate all the turkey, so just tell your teacher that it's (puts finger on mouth in shushing motion and whispers) soy butter"

The above dialogue is presented with thanks to ABC for airing it in this past Sunday's episode of "Brothers and Sisters". Now, we know what you think Poker Chick might be about to say, but we'll surprise you here. It's actually good to see a national network taking an issue present in most schools and bringing it to the mainstream. And since mothers of young children must be pretty big in this show's demographic, they are the perfect segment to be influenced by ABC's message regarding parents' roles in keeping our schools safe.

Poker Chick is most pleased to see the show taking moral responsibility seriously in its story lines, so much so, in fact, that she has been inspired to offer a similar scenario to the network for consideration:*

Keggers for Kiddos
(teenage girl on phone)
"Mom, why are you handing me the car keys? "
"Honey, I have to go take care of something, so please do me a favor and take your little brother to karate"
"But mom, I've had three beers. You know I'm not allowed."
"I know sweetie, but it's just once, it'll be fine, I promise."
"But what if a cop stops me?"
"Just tell them that it was some (whispers) bad apple juice and its.....its fermenting in your stomach. You'll make something up."
"I don't have a license. I don't even have a permit".
"Well I'm your mother and I hereby permit you to drive. There. Now go."
"What about Billy?"
"Well he can have one, but only one beer."
"Mom, he's five years old."
"You're right (hands her cup). Better mix it with half water."

Don't care for this one? Here are a couple other ones Poker Chick could write for you:

Doctor, Schmoctor:
"But mom, the doctor said I'm not supposed to go to school with meningitis"

But we need the money:
"Mom, I thought we had to tell the baby's mother that our house was condemned for lead paint?"

We don't like the neighbors anyway:
"Shouldn't I wash my hands of this raw chicken before going over to take care of old Mrs. Smith?"

Poker Chick would like to invite her readers to come up with some of her own, all will be posted (and not just in the comments section). For those a little less comfortable with the limelight, please feel free to send mad props to the writers over at ABC directly. Comments can be sent to the audience relations department via this link, or sent to:

ABC, Inc.
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551

(818) 460-7477

Feel free to cc your local congressman (or woman), we hear they love this stuff. Poker Chick is working on a fan letter of her own, but it will take a couple of days to perfect. After all, what does one say to a national network who just brought the issue of food allergies at school to the forefront of people's consciousness? Millions of children with serious allergies and their parents must be speechless thinking about the wonders this has done for their safety at school. Thank you doesn't seem to do it justice. She'll keep you posted.

*Original story lines by Poker Chick; all fictitious and sarcastic. All rights reserved.

And Now, A Musical Interlude...

Ha-llelujah!!! Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Halle-e-lu-jah!

(Image, left, courtesy of a certain Quaker digital library. No sh*t, really.)

Handel's messiah chorus was the only song going through this Jew girl's head when the super announced that the water level in mini's room was finally zero. We could fill in all holes and paint away! Let the fixing begin! One can only imagine the sweet euphoric feeling following this news. Like a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders. This is an amazing feeling that lasted quite a while.

37 minutes, to be exact. Because that's when she noticed some pulling on the paint on the wall below the light switch on her bedroom. Suddenly the wet carpet in the hallway made sense. And.....(shocker!)....she followed the messed up paint trail up with her eyes only to find the plaster on her ceiling wet and heavy and looking about to cave in. Excellent.

Super comes back. Again.

Super (once again) claims no big deal. Vacant apartment upstairs has been showing without supervision and someone left the sink faucet on and left. Water shut off, it'll dry, building will fix it, problem solved. Thanks super. As always, most helpful.

Did any of you go to summer camp? If so, you may be familiar with the song that suddenly replaced any other lyrics in Poker Chick's head. It's unofficial title is "the most annoying song in the world".

Oh, this is the leak that never ends......

It's only funny because it's true, peeps. 100% true. 75 days and counting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Cake That Took Two Months To Post

This is a follow up to a plea for help a while ago in this post. Egg-free chocolate cake for 20+ kids and their parents. Poker Chick is proud to say she has a success story for many of you. At least, in her definition, anyway.

Step 1: The cake

Step 2: The frosting

Step 3: Add third layer, frost, decorate and it actually looks like cake!

Thus ends the domestic series of this blog. Moving forward, local friends may now trade favors for baked goods. The rest of you can help us think of something more amusing to write about.

Behold, cake! And it was good!

"Insanely Delicious" Hamentaschen

This is a quote from a close relative and (this is the important part) trained chef. They go on to say:

"The dough part melts in your mouth, and the filling, man....I would like to use profanity to describe how good it is, but since we have a baby in the room..."

(Fillings, above: traditional prune and apricot as well as raspberry and chocolate.)

And yes peeps, it's egg, nut, and seed free. But there is butter. Mmmmm.....butter.

Happy Purim!

"How To Compliment Your Friend's Ugly Baby "

Not an original post, but a link to this great post on NYC moms.