Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

The Great Indoors

Monday, July 7, 2014
No Gravatar
Maybe next year she can go someplace that lets her catch things.

Maybe next year she can go someplace that lets her catch things.

When I think back to my childhood, I realize that I didn’t do a lot in the summer.  I rode my bike through the Kanawha City streets (but never across MacCorkle Avenue), bought Slush Puppies at a  7-11 convenient store, ran through a sprinkler hooked to the garden hose in the front yard, and I watched HBO after my parents went to bed. One day rolled into the next, set to the labored hum of a large window-unit air conditioner that was bought from Sears and Roebuck (yes, both of them).

Some years, we took a vacation to Wrightsville Beach, N.C. or Williamsburg, Va.  Some years we couldn’t.

But never, ever did I go to camp.

And I sort of wish I had.

Last summer, as I lounged by the pool half-watching my girls cannonball off the diving board, I became engrossed in an article in Town & Country magazine.  The writer reflected on his summers at camp — an exclusive, preppy, hard-to-get-into-and-even-harder-to-pay-for place tucked away in the forests of “old” New England.  This sleep-away camp was the place where mosquitoes bit but fish didn’t, canoes capsized but nobody drowned, and hearts ached for home.  For a little while, that is.

The writer still believes that camp is a rite of passage in childhood; a necessary “roughing it” that removes some of the shelter in kids’ lives — physically and emotionally. Back then, going off to camp (for at least three weeks) was a way to connect with the world.  Today, it’s a way of making kids unplug from it.

The article romanticized camp in a way that made me actually look into places for my daughters, ages 11 and 8.  I follow a few camps for girls on Facebook and through images posted on Instagram and Pinterest — all of which make the experience look downright enchanting.

Ava doesn’t see it that way.

“WHAT? No walls?!” she exclaimed, as she leaned over my shoulder to study a large tent with its flaps peeled back to reveal giggly girls sitting on cots.

“What if it rains?!” she exclaimed.

You pull the flaps down, I guess.

“And bugs! Bears! No, Mama. NO,” Ava declared, stepping back from the computer as if it had malaria.  Her idea of camping is a cottage overlooking The Old White golf course at The Greenbrier.

Maryn, our youngest, took her sister’s spot over my shoulder.

“Cool!” she said.  “You get to sleep outside?”

Yes. For a month.

“Hmmm…” she pondered.  “How far away is it?”

You’d go to camp? I asked, shocked.  Maryn is our explorer, but she’s also the one who will sit and hold my hand when I’m bedridden in a nursing home.

It’s about two hours from here. You’d like to do that? 

“Maybe….” she said.

Well, let’s throw this little fish back in the water, I thought to myself.

Tomorrow (which will be “this morning” once the blog is published), Maryn will attend Fun With Words: A Young Writers Camp sponsored by the Central West Virginia Writing Project, a program overseen by Marshall University.  No, she won’t sleep in a tent (or a dorm), and no, she won’t be in the next state.  But, she will be gone during the day and she won’t have her sister sitting right next to her. She’s going off by herself, and I have to admit, I’m a little nervous.

Before I get ahead of myself, Maryn asked to attend camp. I didn’t sign her up for the sake of doing so.  She loves the arts, so this seemed like a good fit for her.  But, I’d be wrong if I hid an underlying motive for paying the rather steep tuition fee.

I wanted Ava, who will be starting middle school in about a month, to watch her little sister walk into a new environment without any familiar faces for comfort. It also takes some motivation to try new things, especially when they aren’t necessary or required.

My girl isn’t going to be sitting at the edge of Walden Pond penning the next great American novel.  Or, maybe she will — just not beside a bubbling brook.  And, she won’t be writing letters home detailing songs sung in unison around a fire, or merit badges won during archery contests or at the conclusion of wilderness survival tests (thank God).  But, she might write a story about meeting new friends and having new types of fun.  It may not be Lake Ossippe backdropped by the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but it will be an adventure … for all of us.

 

Dreaming of a Double Shot Espresso (and other Pre-Pregnancy Luxuries)

Friday, July 4, 2014
No Gravatar

I probably shouldn’t be thinking about this yet, considering I still have a month and a half (or more) to go; but I’m sitting here with my swollen feet and face, in one of the few items of maternity clothing that fits me anymore, and I’m daydreaming about all the things I miss from my pre-pregnancy days.

In the beginning, it was almost fun to have to give up things. Since I didn’t have morning sickness and wasn’t showing yet, it made the pregnancy seem more real. I felt special saying, “I can’t eat deli meat” or “What ‘mocktails’ can you make?” I was happy the first time my clothes didn’t fit me, because it meant I was finally getting a bump and my baby was growing.

Those feelings have passed, and I am definitely looking forward to enjoying certain things a pregnant woman cannot. Here’s what I’m looking forward to doing and enjoying post-pregnancy:

Normal body positions and movement

It really is amazing how limited you become in movement and the ways you can position yourself when pregnant. I never knew how much I liked to lie on my stomach until I couldn’t anymore. And there’s something wonderful about being able to flop onto a couch or a bed – now it’s a careful maneuver with several groans as I try to find a comfortable position. Although I can technically still tie my shoes, it’s not a pretty sight. It will be nice to be able to lie on my stomach and tie my shoes with ease again.

Being able to run and exercise

Every doctor, baby book and website will tell you it’s important to stay fit through your pregnancy. But “fit” takes on a new definition when there is a baby pushing on your lungs. I had to stop running pretty early on in my pregnancy because it became too painful and uncomfortable. So I moved to spinning, which also quickly became painful. Then I stuck to Pilates, walking and weights. My body cannot do the Pilates positions anymore, the heat makes it almost unbearable to take a long walk, and even light lifting makes me lose my breath. I’m still trying to get in as much activity as I can, but I’m looking forward to getting back to my pre-pregnancy workout routine (happily knowing that I will now be pushing a jogging stroller on my runs).

Sushi, runny eggs, deli sandwiches

I think I might have my husband bring me sushi to the hospital. And eggs over easy. And a turkey sandwich. The food restrictions haven’t bothered me that much, but these three items are some of my favorite things to eat, and making lunch will be so much easier when I can eat deli meat again.

Alcoholic beverages

I miss them. I do. I know once the baby comes I won’t be downing margaritas every Friday night, and I don’t want to do that. But I do want to come home from a long day at work and enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, or drink a beer while watching a football game.

My old clothes

It’s a little weird, but I miss throwing on my favorite t-shirt or sundress. I guess I just feel comfortable and confident in some of my favorite outfits, while I’m still not used to the awkward shape of maternity clothes. I actually had to put my pre-pregnancy clothes in another closet because it started to make me sad every time I looked at them. Not to mention I am so sick of stripes (everything maternity is striped it seems). I’m hoping once I can wear my normal clothes again they will feel brand new because I haven’t been able to wear them in so long…

Regular coffee

The general consensus is that it’s okay for pregnant women to have limited amounts of caffeine, and one cup of coffee a day is said to be fine. I made a personal decision to not drink caffeinated coffee while pregnant, so I’ve stuck to decaf in the hopes that I can trick my mind into thinking it’s regular. It doesn’t work. I’m convinced decaf coffee tastes different (and not as good) as regular coffee. August might be sweltering hot, but once I deliver I’ll be ordering a large vanilla latte.

I am loving the journey of pregnancy, the ups and the downs, but I’m looking forward to getting back some simple pleasures like sushi nights and long runs.

Womb with a view

Monday, June 30, 2014
No Gravatar
nibbles

A step up from bunnies.

I am blessed beyond words to have two daughters who don’t ask for anything. I mean nothing. They don’t ask for clothes, shoes, toys, gadgets…anything.  I have to beg them to go shopping with me, and I have to beg them to tell me what they like when we’re in stores.  I know, this too shall pass.

A typical conversation with our tweenager goes a little something like this:

“Ava, you need some new jeans.  Yours are too short.”

“Okay.”

“What kind do you like?”

“I don’t care.”

“You have to care. Gap? Target?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

Oh, but it will.

Our eight-year-old is as easy going, if not more.

“Maryn, your shoes are filthy.  You need a new pair.”

“Hmmm….they’re fine. They still fit.”

“Yes, but they’re awful.”

“It’s okay.”

And I suppose it is okay, but I can’t have my children wearing high waters and tennies the color of red mulch.

Then, there’s the issue of their bedroom, which they still share.  We live in a traditional Cape Cod home with closets built into the eaves. This means we have storage fit for a toddler.  You have to stoop down to enter the “walk-in closets”, and there’s no place to hang anything unless dresses and pants are to dust the floor.  Items have to be folded if they’re to remain clean (but not wrinkle-free).

Before long, the tweenager will demand a better closet and better clothes to put in it.

She’ll also notice that pink and blue polka dots are too young for middle schoolers, despite the rising third grader who occupies that space with her. Pastels and shapes are still acceptable.  The pictures of Peter Rabbit are still charming.  Or, they’ve been on the walls so long they’ve become ignored.

Yes. Beatrix Potter.

I know…I know…it’s time to free the rabbits Watership Down-style. It’s time to upgrade the bedroom into a big girl’s haven (that a little sister can tolerate).  A recent conversation went a little something like this:

“Girls, your dad and I want to give your room a facelift.  Redecorate. Turn the playroom into a real closet.  What do you think?”

They looked up from YouTube (Crafty Friday) long enough to force smiles.

“Okay…” they said in unison.

“What look do you want? Purples? Pinks? Flowers?”

“Sure,” Ava said.

“All of it or none of it?” I asked.

“That’s fine,” Maryn shrugged.

I felt anger building up.  “NO! You have to take an interest. Something has to appeal to you two. This is your space. You own it.  NOW WHAT KIND OF BEDROOM DO YOU WANT?!”

Maryn sat frozen-faced.  Ava began to bob her extra-long foot against the couch, a sign that she was thinking.  Plotting.  After a minute, she spoke.

“Lilly Pulitzer.”

Whaaaaaaat?

“Lilly. I love it.”

I looked at Maryn, who was still too afraid to move or speak.

“Do you know how much that stuff costs?!”

Ava smiled.  Of course she did.

Fine. I accept the challenge. Lilly it is.

I went online and typed in the name of the famous fashion designer from Palm Springs, Florida. The Queen of Prep died in 2012, but her style lives on through Garnet Hill catalogs and in coastal community boutiques and outdoor malls in Southern cities.  The cost of one twin comforter? $238.

Nervously, I searched Ebay.  The prices were higher.  And I needed TWO of everything.

I decided there had to be a better way of creating a space with bright colors and whimsical designs (of rabbits, I bet) without losing the whole house. I turned to Etsy, my new obsession, for help.  I found it. Lord love, I found it!

It turns out that you can do just about anything with a bolt of fabric.  Pillows, curtains, lamp shades and artwork can be made out of a few yards of the loudest designs you can imagine. Instead of buying actual Lilly pictures (worth thousands), I could frame a 12×12 square of fabric for wallhangings.  Instead of a $75 neckroll pillow sold in stores, I could have one made for $25.  Rather than going broke on two comforters, I could buy two solid white bed-in-a-bag sets and add a splash of Pulitzer by covering the headboard in a clashing (I mean, contrasting) print for $30 each.

AND — for that added touch — a sassy girl from the University of South Carolina could cut out the shape of West Virginia in a Lilly print and frame it for me…for a bargain price of $6.

Gotta pay those Delta Zeta dues, I guess.

I’m still in the process of transforming the girls’ room from Peter Rabbit to Lilly Pulitzer, but the process has been a lot of fun — for me, that is.  Ava and Maryn have enjoyed watching me squeal when a package arrives, a box containing a print of jellyfish, sea turtles and gigantic peonies the color of pink elephants.  But once the room is finished, I have to be prepared never to see the girls again.  If it turns out to be as festive as Pinterest entices and Etsy delivers, they’ll come out only for food and water.

And that’ll have to be “okay.”

 

 

Ugly Betty

Monday, June 9, 2014
No Gravatar

glamour-guide-for-teensOn the day my mother gave birth to her one and only child, she weighed 118 pounds.  On the day I gave birth to my first of two daughters, I weighed 181.

My mother also held me in her arms as she rode in the front seat of a sedan from Charleston Memorial Hospital to our Kanawha City home. A seat belt would’ve wrinkled her pre-pregnancy clothes, and she needed the freedom to move her arm to and from the ashtray so she could enjoy a familiar cigarette.

Somehow, I grew up without too many illnesses and injuries as a result of roiling around in the backseat of a station wagon and inhaling second hand Viceroys.  But my mother’s 1950s influence crept back into my life when I became a teenager, from the size of my waist to the condition of my skin.  There was no excuse for letting myself go.  A “foundation” was to cover the face and a “foundation” was to flatten the midriff. Imperfections required immediate attention.

There were many of them.  I didn’t inherit my mother’s (or my aunt’s) size 4 “figure”, and I didn’t inherit their alabaster skin.  Luckily, most of the girls in my junior high were “built” like I was, so I didn’t notice the mess I was becoming due to erratic hormones.  But those chemicals didn’t exist back in the day.  No, ma’am.  If you were fat and your skin was dry (or oily), it was because you ate the wrong foods and you had poor hygiene habits.  Yes, ma’am.  It was ALL YOUR FAULT.

Why am I reverting to such a painful time? Because those days are making a comeback. You can thank a woman named Betty Cornell for this return to old-fashioned adolescence. Or, you can hate her.  But an ugly attitude won’t make you the most popular girl in your set, she says.

In Cornell’s updated Teen-Age Popularity Guide, the former model shares her secrets for knowing what to do and how to act in any situation at any time.  “When you’re on parade all day, you learn pretty fast,” she writes. “You smooth off your rough edges in a hurry.”

Cornell believed in 1953 (and still preaches in 2014) that a teenage girl’s social success is all about poise. You don’t have to be the prettiest girl in school, but to be the most popular, you do have to be the most polished.

Polished? You may ask. Like your mother’s silver.  Here are a few tips:

Weight: “If you are sensible, you won’t have any figure problems. You’ll watch yourself and catch any bulges or depressions before they have a chance to multiply.”

Skin problems:  “Acne, of course, must be treated by a doctor since it involves more knowledge than any layman has. No teen-ager should take it upon herself to fool around with acne.”

Hair: “Beautiful hair is the most important thing a girl has. It can always overcome the handicap of a not-so-pretty face. Your hair can make or break you.”

Makeup: “Work under a strong light so you can see what you’re doing. That way, you can make sure you powder well up into the hairline and down into the area of the neck and ears.  Don’t leave any high-water marks.”

Modeling tricks: “Above all, do not change your style before your photography appointment — such experiments may turn out too disastrously, and you don’t want to go down in history looking like a freak.”

Good grooming: “I am firmly of the opinion that almost every teen needs a girdle – not a whaleboned ironclad trap, but some sort of lightweight affair to the control the curves.”

Clothes: “You are wiser to buy clothes that fit the biggest part of you (probably your hips) than to fit your smallest part (probably your waist). Never buy clothes that fit like sausage skins with the intention of losing weight.”

What to wear where: “For Heaven’s sake: Have a little pity on others and a lot of pride in yourself. Put on a skirt when you’re shopping.”

Look pretty, be pretty: “Don’t think that you need to turn into a teacher’s pet. Nothing is farther from the truth. Polishing the apple never turned anybody into a better person.”

It’s a date: “Always remember that public display of affection (even to a fiancé) is never, never done.”

Personality: “If you want to be a popular human being, then you have to stop being an oyster and come out of your shell.”

So what do all of these rules and regulations have to do with becoming a popular girl? Cornell writes that it all comes down to a teen’s ability to get along with people, and that requires having her own life well in hand. And if nothing else, when the bread basket is passed, look the other way.

For most middle and high school girls, carbs are the least of their problems. In a day and age of an “I’ll try anything” insecurity,  some teens actually believe model-turned-writer Betty Cornell is their last hope.  At least, that’s how 15-year-old Maya Van Wagenen felt when she tried every one of Cornell’s tips in an attempt to reverse her status at school. Now a published author (and much better known, if not envied by the movers and shakers), Van Wagenen described herself as among “the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here.”

Citing Cornell’s book as “vintage wisdom”, the teen commented that she wrote the book Popular to change her own life and to save her little sister from a middle school world of hurt.

After all, no one said pin curls were easy.

 

 

The Understudy

Monday, June 2, 2014
No Gravatar

What’s more challenging than playing the snare drum in an honors music recital before a packed audience, having a part in a musical before the entire school, traveling without a parent on a patrol trip, earning a certificate for faithful attendance, making the Principal’s List for straight A’s, receiving an acknowledgement from the President of the United States for academic achievement, getting promoted to the sixth grade, and turning 11 following that elementary school graduation?

Being the eight-year-old sister who has to watch it.

It’s a tough time to be a second grader (correction: rising third grader). It’s a quiet time in childhood when nothing spectacular goes on. With the exception of being toothlessly cute, it’s a boring phase worsened by the fireworks that accompany every move a fifth grader (correction: rising sixth grader) makes.

It really has been All Ava All the Time.  Maryn has been a respectful spectator to the celebrations and coming-of-age occasions that shine a special light on her older sister.  Well, until last night when Maryn hauled off and smacked her.

Mike and I were downstairs engrossed in the final episode of Mad Men when we heard grumblings in the upstairs bedroom.  One voice got higher.  A second voice got louder.  Something crashed.  Someone cried.

We raced each other up the stairs and burst through the doorway of the girls’ bedroom.  The fingerpointing had begun.  Ava held her face.  Maryn held her stomach.

They had traded blows like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.

“WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU TWO?” bellowed Mike.  Not to be outdone, I chimed in with my own hysterics.

“WHO’S HURT?!”

The girls stepped on top of each other’s stories in an attempt to make their injuries sound more fatal.

“I got slapped!” Ava cried.

“I….got….hit….in the….stom….ach!”  Maryn gasped.

Mike and I took our competitors to the corners of the ring.  Maryn climbed onto my bed and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.  She sucked air and wailed some more.

After eight rounds of “And Then What Happened”, the fight was declared a draw.  It started over a pillow.  It ended with the loss of electronics.

“You cannot act like this,” I told Maryn as she sniffed away tears crawling down her cheeks.  “If you can’t solve the problem with words, then you come to your dad and me and let us decide.  But you have no right — no right — to physically hurt each other.”

She sat quietly, straining to hear the interrogation across the hall.

“You’re sick of her, aren’t you?” I began.  Maryn looked at me, surprised.  “She’s gotten all the attention for weeks, and you can’t stand it, can you?”

She shook her head no.  “You’re tired of hearing how great she is, how pretty she is, how well she’s done, how far she’ll go….am I right?”

She nodded her head yes.

“You’re mad.  You’re jealous.  Am I right about that, too?”

She nodded her head yes again.

“And your time will come.  I promise you that.  You’re going to have everything she has, and then some, because you’re the baby.  You’re our last child.  All of this will come to an end once you become a fifth grader.  Childhood wraps up with you.”

She wiped her nose again and bobbed her feet against the mattress.

“She’s good at a lot of things, but so are you,” I continued, opening the drawer of the nightside table.  “Sure, she can play the xylophone and she can do The Cup Song, but you…you’re good at art!”

I pulled out a self-portrait that Ava had drawn in the second grade.  “Look at this!” I tapped the picture colored with crayons and edged in smudged #2 pencil.  “This kid doesn’t have a neck!”

A chuckle escaped from Maryn’s throat.

“And here! Look! She drew Ringo,” I said, pulling out a sketch of our silver tabby cat.  “Have you ever seen an animal with eyes that far apart?”

She laughed harder.

So it’s unorthodox to poke fun at one kid to make the other one feel better.  But I had to lighten the moment.  Sure, our rising middler schooler is good at lots of things and she’s been decorated for it, but her life is about to change.  She’s not going to be such a big fish in a small pond.  She’s going to be a minnow in an ocean of sharks and killer whales.

“And when you’re in third grade — intermediate…no longer primary school — she’s going to wish for everything that you still have. She’ll no longer have extra playtime outside, Halloween parades, Valentine parties, COSI assemblies, or trips to the Clay Center.  Those days are over.”

Don’t be envious, I preached.  Every daughter has her day. A round of applause for one child may be a standing ovation for another.  And as hard as it is to play the role of little sister, the sidekick is often the one who steals the show.

 

 

 

 

 

Commencement

Monday, May 19, 2014
No Gravatar

baby avaDear Ava,

Six years ago, your dad and I had one of our most memorable arguments. We struggled with the decision to send you to kindergarten. You’d just turned five, and separation anxiety was the name of your game. I wanted to delay your start another year until you felt more secure; your dad stressed that you should enroll because you were ready. Guess who won?

Now I’m writing as you wrap up your time in elementary school.  In a few months (weeks, really), you’ll be in what your dad and I called “junior high”.  This is the place where you’ll learn more about others than you will in college.  That’s where you’ll go to learn about yourself. These next few years are going to be the hardest — for you, as you work through situations that make no sense — and for us, as we work through fears of letting go. See, this separation anxiety business is inherited. That’s the gene you got from me.

You got a few other traits, too.  On a hot summer morning, you kicked your way into the world with a foot so long that it smeared off your birth certificate.  The finest blonde hair and darkest blue eyes were the prettiest things I’d ever seen.  And when you grabbed my finger and gave me a reassuring grin (which I refuse to consider was anything else), I knew that you were a cure for a lot of hurt.  No matter what anyone says, I’m a firm believer that we travel through this existence in desperate need of a mother.  Whether we liked or loved the one we were given makes no difference. If we’re lucky, it’s a presence that will get us through everything else that life throws at us.  If we weren’t so lucky, then we spend our days looking for something to fill that void.  You were given to me to fill that void. I’ll thank God every day for knowing what I needed, exactly when I needed it most.

You’re going to need help, too, but you’ll fight it. Hopefully, you won’t put up the fight that I did when I was a teenager — paybacks are hell — but I do expect a showdown every now and then.  We’re too much alike. You’re going to make mistakes, but I’ll make more.  I’m going to hang on too tight, stay too long, become too involved and say entirely too much.  You’ll do the same. But, I’ll forgive you as I hope you’ll forgive me.

Those mistakes, by the way, are learning experiences.  You’ve heard us say many times, “You can do this the easy way or the hard way.” It’s still your choice.  One of the saddest parts of being a parent is allowing a child to make mistakes. It’s brutally difficult to stand back and watch what’s sure to happen. However, you can avoid some of the headaches by remembering what we’ve always preached to both you and your sister:

If you don’t want it known, don’t say it.

If you don’t want it shared, don’t write it.

If you don’t want it remembered, don’t post it.

If you don’t want it saved, don’t pose for it.

If you don’t want it told, don’t do it.

But please tell us about it.  While I’m sure you won’t want my opinion every moment of every situation, and while I’m sure one of your greatest lessons will be learning how to solve your own problems, I want you to promise that you’ll always bring those thoughts home.  The rest of society (school) might judge you, but we won’t.  We’ll criticize your first dates, and we’ll scrutinize dresses for dances, though.  That’s our job.

Oh — one more thing:  If you get your heart broken, don’t show it. Dignity is your best friend. Protect her.

From the first day of elementary school to the approaching last, your dad and I have been immeasurably proud of you. And it’s just the beginning! We can’t wait to see what you do with all the potential that you hold back, but we know exists.  Hold your head up high (but hold your values higher), flash that smile, and walk like you’ve been there all along. It’s the first of many steps toward independence. And as you showed us six years ago, and as you’ll show us again in six more years, you’re going to go far. You’re ready.

With all our love,

Mom (and Dad)

 

 

 

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Monday, May 12, 2014
No Gravatar

It’s the morning after Mother’s Day, and like many of you, I oooh’d and awww’d over school-made cards and objects that we shall call Fifth Grade Pottery.  In unusual fashion, I told my husband not to worry with meals and flowers this year since my birthday was celebrated earlier in the week.  The poor guy gets slammed in the month of May between my birthday, Mother’s Day, and the anniversary of our first date (which I insist we celebrate 23 years later).  Throw in Memorial Day (just because), and he’s ready to commit suicide by paper cut.

One of the handmade gifts came in the form of a Mother’s Day questionnaire.  It’s a good thing my daughters are cute.

All right, girls.  Here’s the essay part. Ready to begin? My mom is as pretty as:

Maryn (age 8) : A rose.

Ava (age 10): I have to think. Wait.

K: It’s that hard, Ava?

A: Right now?

K: Moving on…

A: No! I’ve got it! A diamond ring.

K: I sparkle?

A:  Sometimes.

(It’s 7:35 a.m.)

She is as sweet as:

M:  Candy.

A: (Laughing)

K:  Here we go again.

A:  You’re as sweet as…hold on.  I have to think of what it’s called.

M:  A donut?

A: I know this.  Okay…you’re as sweet as a pomegranate.

K: They’re tart, Ava.

She is as smart as:

M:  A teacher!

A: Umm….hmmmm.

K: I’m kicking you off the questionnaire, Ava.

A: Um…I don’t know what you’re smart at doing.

K: Thanks.

A: You are as smart as a teacher. Like Maryn said. But just in English.

K: Gee, I can’t wait for you to become a sarcastic teenager.

But most of all, she is as special as:

M:  Our whole family.

K:  I’m as special as the rest of you?

M: Yes.

A:  You’re as special as the Kentucky Derby.

K: Great. I bet you mean the infield.

Now the fill-in-the-blank part, otherwise known as short answer, or how you answered the essay portion of this thing. 

1. I really love it when my mom:

M:  Takes naps with me.

K: That’s been a while.  Look at the bags under my eyes. We should do that today.

A: I really love it when my mom is in a good mood.

K: You’re not helping matters.

2.  My mom likes to wear:

M:  Dresses.

A: Pajamas.

K: I don’t like you very much right now, Ava.

3.  My mom always tells me:

M: That she loves me.

A: You tell me a lot of things.

K: Pick the most frequent saying.

A: You always tell me … hmmm…. that I HAVE TO CUT MY HAIR.

(Maryn sneezes three times and needs allergy medicine.)

K: You do. It’s stringy and flat, and as long as I’m doing the arm work every morning, it has to be shorter.

4. My mom’s favorite food is:

M: Tomato mac and cheese.

K: When did I make that?

M:  After the mac and cheese cook-off.  You said you liked it.

A: I don’t know.  What is your favorite food? What do you like to eat a lot? Oh – I know. Steak!

K: At the Chop House, on my birthday, when it’s free.

5. My mom’s favorite household chore is:

M: Doing laundry!

K: Oh, yes. I love that.  I really love it when the dog eats a sock and needs emergency surgery.

A: Cooking dinner.

K:  …which you never eat.

6. The best thing she cooks is:

M: Pepperoni rolls.

K:  I haven’t made those since you were in kindergarten.

M:  But I remember them.

A:  You make good tacos.

K:  They’re from a kit! I add cheese and lettuce!

7. When my mom shops, she likes to buy:

M: Dresses.

K: And I have no place to wear them.

A:  Makeup.

K:  Which I should wear even if I have no place to wear dresses.

8. My mom’s favorite movie or TV show is:

M:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

K:  Yes. I love that movie.  I need to watch it again.

A: Your favorite TV show is Mad Men.

K:  Tomorrow night at 10:00! You need to be in bed asleep by 9.

9. If your mom could go on a trip, she would go to:

M:  The beach.

A: Churchill Downs.  I’d like to go there again since I passed out last year.

K: On the track.  I remember it well.

A: Can we go back?

K:  Maybe after the Paul McCartney concert.

A:  Where One Direction played?! Paul’s going to perform on the same stage as Harry Styles!

K:  I’m sure that’s what Sir Paul said, too.

10. I love my mom because:

M:  Because you love me.

K:  Think hard, Ava.  This one is a toughie.

A: I love my mom because she takes us on nice trips….like the One Direction concert.

K:  Do you love me more than Harry Styles?

A:  I love you both the same.

 

I guess I should’ve stopped while I was ahead.

Happy Mother’s Day After to all of our Mommyhood readers, particularly the ladies who stand in for those moms who are no longer with us.

 

Fondly,

Katy

Call Me Crazy (Part Two)

Monday, May 5, 2014
No Gravatar

I’ve calmed down since my last cell phone rant.  But not by much.

After a candid conversation with a few teenagers, I learned that middle schoolers need phones for several reasons:

1) Once the day is done, students are usually on their own. After a certain time, the school is locked and it’s difficult to make a telephone call from the office, which is also locked.

2) It’s a means of looking (and being) occupied during awkward social times, such as waiting for and riding on the bus, waiting for the first bell, waiting for the lunch period to end, and waiting for dismissal.  It’s a type of “don’t bother me, I’m busy” signal that a hardback book used to serve.

3) Group work is more common in middle school, which requires kids to spend time together out of class. It’s hard to coordinate logisitcs, and even harder to share files and pieces of the project without email and cell service.  For most kids, a phone is a homework tool.

4) The mother of a teenager chimed in to remind me that we live in a Columbine and Sandy Hook world. School lock downs can occur for any reason these days.  Wouldn’t I rather get a text from my daughter telling me that everything is OK, as opposed to calling the school for a half-hour trying to get answers?

And 5) There’s a lot of emphasis on knowing where our children are at all times.  But, we’re the ones who are picking them up.  Traffic jams, wrecks, detours, dangerous weather, meetings, etc., can keep us from getting to them on time.  Shouldn’t our kids know were WE are?

I relayed all of this information to my husband, and we determined that our rising sixth grader doesn’t need a cell phone for her birthday. Nothing good can come of it over the course of a summer vacation.  There’s too much downtime to get into friendship trouble due to potential misunderstandings. However, IF we do cave in and allow her to have a cell phone, it’ll happen the day before school starts. We’ll visit our guy at AT&T to select a phone that connects to our network so we can monitor every single move — incoming and outgoing.

But, if we discover improper use of the phone by our tween or her classmates, we’ll rethink our decision.  James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation Program also produced a companion piece called “The Complete Guide to Consequences”.  Dr. Lehman gives parents tips on motivating children to practice responsible behavior.  However, much of his advice is geared toward managing indignant teens.  I needed specific help in the cell phone area, so I searched for blogs that focused on protecting our kids before trouble starts.

Dr. Laura Markham has been known to ruffle parents’ feathers, but in this instance, she is absolutely correct in her assessment of tween-age independence.  As Markham points out in the very first paragraph of an essay, the middle school years are children’s first steps toward total separation, but a cell phone keeps them connected to mom and dad.

Some other parenting experts say that’s the problem.  Cell phones turn parents and children into conjoined twins. Kids don’t know how to cope with problems.  They only know how to text their parents.

Markham admits that she worried for hours about her daughter misusing the phone to text after midnight, chat with strangers, download expensive apps and songs, post rude or thoughtless comments on social networking sites, and share less-than-flattering pictures with kids who could then send them on to the entire student body.

Yes, Dr. Laura, I hear you loud and clear.  Dr. James Lehman says we should trust our kids until they give us a reason not to.  We need to set firm expectations of how the cell phone and its features are to be used.  Contracts may seem silly, but every service provider requires customers to enter into agreements before any type of product can be sold. Parents are providing their child with a cell phone.  This device should come with a list of demands:

1. Phones are given back to parents at the end of each day.  Phones should not be allowed in a child’s bedroom overnight.

2. Phone numbers must be kept private, and given out only with permission from mom and/or dad.

3. Keep a life: A child (tween/teen) should not stop what they’re doing to answer friends’ texts or calls when they first come in.  However, if mom or dad calls, then the child MUST pick up. No excuses. No exceptions. If a call is missed, return it ASAP and be prepared to explain.

4. NEVER broadcast a location, or post/check-in on social networking sites.

5.  Know that the phone can be checked at any time, without warning.  Be prepared for all texts or messages/voice mails, etc., to be read or listened to. Privacy is reserved for bathrooms.

It’s sort of ironic:  Parents report that they allow their tween to have a cell phone ONLY so they can stay in touch for safety purposes.  In this day and age, people are unreliable.  If you want your child to be able to get a hold of you, it’s because you know that a million things can happen, and a text might make the difference between a close call and a devastating one. However, when the child does something wrong, the cell phone is taken away.

Safety first? I wonder.

 

 

 

 

Call Me Crazy (Part One)

Monday, April 28, 2014
No Gravatar

About this cell phone thing…

In earlier posts, I told you that my husband and I had no intention of getting our daughter a cell phone until she reached high school.  I couldn’t imagine the reasons why she’d need one before the first day of sixth grade, but every parent I spoke with confirmed that they’re as basic as school supplies: backpack, lunch tote, cell phone.

But why? Yes, I know … it gives our girl a lifeline. She can get in touch with us if she needs something. However, I can only assume phones must be turned off —  if not put away entirely — during class, and I assume they’re dropped to the bottom of a bag of some sort during practices or after-school activities. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

As I look back on my first year of junior high, which is now middle school to our kids, I had no need to call anyone. I was in the hallway with my friends before school, seated next to them in seven classes, at the same table during lunch, and on the field with them for band.  My dad dropped me off at 7:45 a.m., and my mother picked me up sometime around 4:00 when band ended.  Once again, who was I supposed to call, for what reason, and when was there time?

On weekends and during summer vacations (from June to September), my friends and I got together at each other’s houses or at the neighborhood pool.  My mother told me to be home at this hour, or that she’d be there to pick me up at that time.  I didn’t call to tell her when I was ready to come home.  She told me when to expect her.

Am I as out of touch as a rotary phone?

But all the middle school kids have them, I’m told.

Fine. So all the kids have some version of a cell phone.  Many have fun phones (I hesitate to call them “smart” when they can cause so much trouble), and others have less glamorous flip styles.  For those parents who are as stubborn as we appear to be, their children have “pay as you go” phones that are truly held for emergency use.

I took to the Internet to search for “first phones” and I found a list of possible choices.  As reported by numerous parenting sites, these are a few good ones available through local stores:

1. LG Migo

2. Sanoxy GSM

3. Firefly Glow

4. Buddy Bear

….WAIT. STOP. The “BUDDY BEAR” phone?

I clicked the link and literally choked on a long sip of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Indeed, these are “first cell phones” as I typed into the Google search box, but they aren’t intended for middle schoolers.  They’re intended for “little hands.”  Yes…preschoolers.

Pardon me, Mom, but WTH?

As I read RooGirl’s article dedicated to the best cell phones for kids of all ages, I discovered that entry-level communication devices are similar to an elderly person’s First Alert button that’s worn and pressed if they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

“…Parents give their children cell phones for reassurance and added security. It also allows them to keep in touch with their kids when they’re not together.”

Are they home alone?!

“Parents can choose phones to track children’s whereabouts via GPS, monitor phone activity and block content. Finding the cell phone that’s right for your child depends on how old, tech-savvy and responsible they are. And, whether you want them to use the phone for emergencies only, communicating with friends and family or have the ability to surf the web.” — RooGirl blogger

I’m sorry, but I can barely finish this post.  I am completely shocked that at least 10 phones on the market are designed for the younger set, gadgets that include cameras, text messaging, full-sized multi-color screens, and customizable ringtones. “Let it Go” has been downloaded more times than any other song.

I sit here thinking that if your child needs an SOS device in his or her hip pocket, then you don’t need a tiny tyke cell phone that whistles.  You need your head examined.

As I scrolled down to the tween and teen line of phones, I stopped on one of the first models reviewed by RooGirl.  The LG Rumor.

That’s it. I’m done.  Maybe I am Frozen in time.  But in the words of Elsa the Queen, let the storm rage on.  The cold never bothered me anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First phones for little hands…

A Dirty Secret

Monday, April 21, 2014
No Gravatar

Did I save the trip? Yes. Then I guess I saved Spring Break.

I always laugh to myself when I hear people mention that they’re going on vacation. Only spouses and children go on vacation.  Mothers go out of town.

As a family, we have a “travel bucket list” of places we want to visit with the girls.  One of those destinations included a good ol’ retro Spring Break along the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach. This idea was helped along by a call from a reservation specialist at Hilton, who told me that my husband had accumulated enough VIP membership points to earn six days at a resort in Kingston Plantation. And, since he was such a loyal customer, we qualified for a preview of fractional ownership opportunities at one of Hilton’s newest, most talked about properties.

Could he schedule a showing of an oceanfront condo that might better suit our needs on a future trip?

Oh, all right.  What’s an hour?

But life is never that accommodating. Shortly after securing this throwback week at Myrtle Beach, school board members decided to add a day and a half of classes back into the calendar.  Now the girls would miss makeup time and have additional homework before we could drive out of the zip code.

Oh, well.  What’s a few extra worksheets?

My husband had been traveling on business for the two weeks leading up to our family trip, so I was largely on my own when it came to servicing the vehicle, shopping for the house sitter, washing and packing clothes for four people, and picking up supplies for all of our pets.  I bought 25-pound sacks of dog and cat food to make sure their meals lasted while we were away, but our greedy Beagle decided he’d rather eat a sock. Instead of passing it one way or bringing it up another, the “foreign object” got stuck in the lower stomach and top half of the intestine. He was taken into surgery immediately, and we were left knowing that the next five days would be critical in case the two incisions leaked, or he suffered reactions to anesthesia.  Copper would also need intensive care for the first night, so we’d have to transport him to the emergency clinic for constant observation and pain relief treatment.

The beach was the farthest thing from my mind. Rather, Ava’s final honors music performance was that evening, and she had a snare drum part that I didn’t want to miss.  The concert started at 7:00, which was the exact time I had to transport Copper to the emergency clinic.  I promised I would drop and run — that I wouldn’t miss more than one or two numbers — and I’d see her rat-a-tat-tat her way into The Battle Hymn of the Republic. 

I missed every song but the last one.

After getting Copper settled and signing my life away (including my dog if I didn’t come back to get him by 7:15 a.m.), I drove with my flashers on to make it to Ava’s show.  I climbed the steps of the Cultural Center in pairs, a difficult task in muck boots worn to search the woods for our missing cat, which darted out of the house when tree trimmers started cutting down an oak in our yard.  Wearing a dirty shirt stained with my dog’s blood after he bit his tongue, I burst into the packed auditorium to watch Ava and her musician friends sing Sara Bareilles’ hit song, Brave.  Ava happened to look stage left, where I was propped up against the marble wall trying to forget that my back was throbbing from a sciatic nerve flare up.  She flashed a forgiving smile and returned to the hand-clapping tune that brought an entire crowd to its feet. When the show was over, she made her way through other kids’ parents to me.  I hugged her as tightly as I could and repeated how sorry I was for being late.  Ava told me that I could buy the DVD and watch it as many times as I wanted.  After the checks I’d been writing, what’s another $10?

The next morning, I ran into the school counselor who seemed to know I needed a hug of my own.  How’s it going, she asked.  I burst into tears.

“I missed Ava’s performance,” I cried.

After explaining what had caused this lapse in parenting, the counselor put her expertise to good use.

“Did you save the dog?” she asked.

I nodded pathetically.

“Then you saved the day.”

But the day wasn’t over. I had exactly 12 hours to make a decision about the beach.  It would be incredibly insensitive to leave a sick dog behind, but it would be a guilty shame to cancel a trip that two girls (and their dad) deserved.  I’d already missed a concert and class presentation that Ava had worked hard on, and I’d ignored everything at home (including our younger daughter) worrying about the dog. Fortunately, the veterinary hospital agreed that Copper needed extra care for several days, so he could be boarded while we were out of town. My house sitter agreed to visit him every day, and to manage things in case his situation changed.  What’s so bad about that?

I felt miserable for most of the drive down, which was oddly smooth given the time of year.  My back ached and my mind raced, and I fought a sour stomach that was churned by the stress of the last few days.  When we reached the resort, the thick scent of sea water seemed to loosen me up better than any muscle relaxer could, and I settled into “Salt Life” promising to trust that everything would be all right.

That next afternoon, tension returned as we listened to a loud, eager sales associate preach the benefits of vacation timeshare.  With rock music piped into the room full of exhausted-looking couples, we reluctantly watched a flashy PowerPoint presentation advertising the luxuries of 63 Hilton properties that could be ours for approximately 20 days a year after putting $11,500 down and paying $734 a month at 11.9% interest until the $36,000 debt was paid off.  Much to the sales associate’s frustration, we declined all opportunities to “own a piece of the beach” by way of a deed to a “unit in Las Vegas” that could be transferred with the purchase of “at least 5,000 points” for a resort closer to home.

Home.

The rest of our time was spent dodging college students and seeking shelter from bone-chilling ocean winds.  We seemed to invest the same timeshare expense inland, riding the SkyWheel, racing go carts, eating overpriced, underwhelming seafood, and buying souvenir tee-shirts that marked our discounted trip to Myrtle Beach.  While it was nice to order a grande vanilla latte every morning, return from the outlet malls to a room freshened with fluffy towels and crisp bed sheets, and read Southern magazines from a striped cabana, I didn’t want to be there.  Clearly, the timing was off.  Sick dogs, missing cats, work deadlines, homework assignments, school performances, and wayward tree trimmers (that’s another story and another sizable check) were calling me back.  Simply put, I missed my mess.

Despite coral-colored shrimp and cheddar cheese grits baked in a cast iron skillet, pitchers of tea sweet enough to rot teeth, and being called ma’am more than Mom, I was actually homesick for the problems I tried to escape.  And that’s a funny thing about mothers:  We like to tell anyone who will listen that we desperately need to get away.  But the truth is, we don’t always want to make a run for it. We’re fixers. We don’t know how to leave our troubles behind. Contrary to how we act, we secretly love these dirty parts of life, because it reminds us that we play a vital role with a special purpose.  We are important to other people, projects…and yes, pets. Sun and surf can be good for the soul, but it doesn’t always provide rejuvenation.  Sometimes, it provides a reminder.