Birth of a PTA Goddess

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

I woke up the other morning and found myself on the PTA Board. Like all of those stories that start with, “you’ll never believe where I woke up,” I used to hear from my college roommates, I’m not quite sure how it happened.

I was daydreaming my way through a nominating committee meeting and the next thing I knew I was saying “sure, great idea” to what I swear was the rather brilliant suggestion that we have an open bar at our next meeting.

I was wrong.

And then there was training involved.

Last weekend was the PTA Leadership Round Up in Buellton. I got to the cafeteria of Oak Valley Elementary School a few minutes early, salivating for coffee, only to find that the first speaker was already cheerfully jabbering away. What kind of homicidal parent group starts early? And on a Saturday morning! Not only had they started early, they put the coffee in the front of the room. I had to stumble by dozens of perky morning people to get to the java, all the while enduring the stares of the keynote speaker, and it wasn’t my fault.

Did I mention she started early? Who does that? And she was really, actually 10 minutes early, in real time, not Santa Barbara time.

Had I not carpooled with a couple of other moms, I might have turned around then and there.

I daydreamed my way through most of the first session. It’s not that a review of various PTA job descriptions isn’t compelling first thing in the morning. I mean, who knew that “ways and means” was a fancy way of saying “fundraising?” I just thought that my time could be used more effectively by doodling out a series of plots for my new mystery series, Murder at the PTA Meeting. Could you really bash someone to death with fundraising wrapping paper?

Little did I know that a whole genre of this type of novel already exists. Murder at the PTA Luncheon, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA and my personal favorite, Death of a PTA Goddess, were all conceived during PTA training, I’m told.

I started to understand why when the two head honcho PTA ladies put stuffed fish on their heads (so that’s where Nemo went) and showed us a motivational video of the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Seriously. I learned from this video that I’m supposed to smack the principal with a carp at our next PTA meeting. More and more I’m thinking that my open bar idea was a stroke of genius.

I know that the only two men in the room would agree with me, as I watch them try to pick a door prize from a slew of Mary Kay perfumes and flowered tote bags, FYI guys: join your PTA board, and go to the conventions, even if you don’t have a kid. Fish in a barrel.

The guys also remind me of next fall’s Survivor show. I’m told the producer plans to enlist 12 men, who will be dropped into the suburbs with a van, six kids (each of whom play two sports and take either a musical instrument or dance class), and no access to fast food. They must keep the house clean, correct all homework (receiving at least a “C+” on all papers), complete a science project, cook, and do laundry. Plus they have to shave their legs and wear makeup, which they must apply either while driving or while making six lunches.

The competitions will consist of such things as cleaning up after a sick child at 3:00 a.m.; making an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla and a crayon; and attending a PTA meeting and accurately reporting the results.

I would certainly fail at the latter.

But then again, reporting about how nice and normal and less thin and blonde and perky the real PTA moms are than the ones on TV wouldn’t be very entertaining, would it?

As the 37th person in a row introduced herself as someone who “never thought of herself as the PTA type,” I realized I was going to fit right in just fine. Especially once we get the bar installed.

When her mind isn’t wandering to thoughts of murder, Leslie can be found in the carpool lane, putting her makeup on peanut butter sandwiches. Share your PTA adventures by emailing

Originally published in Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 26, 2006.