Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cooking and Baking and Making...Not I!


We have a snow day here in North Jersey.  I'm a teacher, my child is a student, so that means we are home all day!  However, I just want to put it out there that on this snow day I am not:


1. Cooking. Someone is roasting a butternut squash today to make soup.  Who has a butternut squash just lying around in case of a snow day?   
2. Baking.  Again, five different kinds of cookies are being made today by people in cyberspace.  I think I have flour, sugar and baking soda in my cabinet.  But these people are whipping up cookies with ingredients like raspberry preserves and ricotta cheese and Crunch bars. (Fine, I know it's Christmas cookie season, but just let me have my rant...)

3. Making crafts with my child.  I learned he hated crafts when he was two, so this is never happening regardless of what Pinterest crap pops up on my newsfeed today.

(above facts provided by Facebook, the official source to know everyone else's sh&%)

I am getting a boatload of paperwork done! Bills to pay, calls to make, lessons to write...in other words, thank God for XBox.

However, I am taking said child sledding after lunch to ease my guilt of holing myself up in my room while I sift through everything that's been not-so-patiently waiting for me on my desk.

Whew. That was cheaper than a therapist. Thanks for listening.

Monday, December 2, 2013

You’re a Mean One, Mama Grinch




Call me a Grinch, there, it’s said
but I must admit it, this month I dread.

The month of December just adds more things to my already overflowing to-do list.  Here are the Top 10 Things I’d Rather Not Be Doing in December (or ever): 

10. Shopping with Hoards of People
Grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon in July is equivalent to slowly being poked in the eyeballs with barbeque skewers.  Any kind of shopping in December on any day of the week at any time of the day is like walking into 20 foot icicles hanging from my home and having them conveniently land in all orifices of my body while “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays on loop.

9. Cooking or Baking
I don’t enjoy either in my everyday life so why on Earth would I want to do mass quantities of it in just a few short weeks? 

8. Making Cards, Addressing Cards, and Mailing Cards
You see my family and me on Facebook, isn’t that enough?  And really, what do you do with the card when the season is over? If I told you what I did with the cards I receive after their three-week basket display, I probably wouldn’t ever receive another card again.  Let's save some trees, people, and my sanity!    

7. Receiving “Wish Lists” to Know Exactly What Someone Wants
Unless you are a child making your list for Santa, just stop it.  This takes the joy out of giving!  Okay, it’s great that I have a guide, but seriously, what fun is it to buy the purple cashmere sweater in the back right corner of Macy’s next to the mannequin with the curly hair?  Then I have to present this gift to the recipient as if it were all a big surprise.  Here’s 100 bucks.  Go fight the crowds and get it yourself.

6. Embarking on a Manhunt for the Perfect Gift
Fine, if we just stuck with #7 for people of all ages, this could easily be avoided.  However, I like to have some kind of element of surprise.  I like to give a gift that shows thought and creativity, like I actually know what a person likes and can translate that into a gift.  Oh, forget it.  We all know I’ll just get a gift card.

5. Seeing on Facebook that “Friends” Were Done Wrapping Their Gifts on November 20th
Show-offs! They get their holiday jollies from feeling superior to us worker elves grimacing through the season. Let’s add to that photos of fully completed house decorations posted with the status “Done!”  They are begging for comments like, “Wow, you’re good!” But I beg to differ! They simply have way too much time on their hands or the incessant need for praise via social media.

4. Buying a Gift for Someone at Work Whom I Barely Know
“Hey, I think I saw you in the hallway one day and now I’m your Secret Holiday Little Person.  Now I get to buy you a generic gift like a candle that you will re-gift at your next generic party. Happy Generic Holidays!”

3. Attending Holiday Parties and Pretending That I Enjoy Small Talk
I don’t mind putting on a pretty dress and sipping a cocktail or two.  However, I’ll probably have to sip three or four just to get me through the dull conversation with Joshua the financial person who does financial things while I try to stifle a yawn between gulps of my cocktail.  Joshua has no idea he is causing me to become an alcoholic as I have to keep drinking to avoid disagreeing with his political and religious beliefs that he is trying to jam down my already alcohol-filled throat.  

2. Decorating Inside and Outside, but Mostly Outside
Our inside decorations take about an hour, start to finish.  Throw up a tree, hang some stockings, and we’re calling it a holly, jolly Christmas.  However it’s the outside that pains me because 1) I will always find the time to do this task on the coldest day of the year and 2) I’m afraid of heights and fear that I will fall 18 inches to my death from my step stool.   I don’t decorate with love in my heart, singing “Deck the Halls,” but rather, for my son’s memories. One day he will look back and remember his pretty house decorated by a Grinch at Christmastime. 

And the #1 Thing I’d Rather Not Be Doing in December? Elf on the F’in Shelf
Before Elf on the Shelf became popular, I created my own imaginary elf just to give myself something else to do in December.  Our imaginary elf visits each night from December 1 through December 24 and leaves a small chocolate like a candy kiss and sometimes a miniature note for our son in our cloth Christmas calendar that hangs by the front door.  He loves it, and that’s why the tradition has continued even though 10 of those days I'll be be awoken by a cry of, "Mommmm! The elf didn't come!" while I curse under my breath at our senile elf.  The “elf” forgets a lot of things when her brain is overloaded, which is everyday, and now the elf must bolt down the stairs, create a diversion, put the candy in the tiny calendar pocket, call her son back over to the calendar and tell her son that he just must have missed it, because, “Look, it’s right there!”

But I digress.  I hate Elf on the Shelf.  We never started the corporate one, and now he asks what it is and why that creepy doll doesn’t show up at our house.  I have to explain that OUR elf is all magical and mysterious and miraculously tiny while his friends’ elves stare eerily from atop kitchen cabinets and poop holiday m&m's leaving them all over the countertop to bring for school snack.

Let us “Bah Humbug” together - anything you don’t particularly look forward to during this festive, overpacked season?   

Saturday, November 9, 2013

You Gave a Life. Now Get One.

Memo from Mom

To: Parents (probably more the moms, but I’m not going to assume that) of school-aged children
Re: You gave a life.  Now get one, too.

As our children grow older, we are faced with this conflicting moment when they simply don’t need us as much anymore.  They don’t need us sitting on the floor playing cars and trains (sniffle, sniffle).  But, OH! They don’t need us sitting on the floor playing cars and trains!  (hooray! hooray!) No more pretending like I enjoy making choo-choo noises for hours on end.

They are off to school, spending hours in a classroom with an adult who is paid to expand their minds while entertaining them and running interference with the myriad social situations they will encounter. Mama is no longer there refereeing the sandbox watching out for the little girl in pigtails who looks like an angel but is actually the devil’s spawn. 

Our children naturally want to spend less time with the people that brought them into this world, more time with the people that will teach them things about the world that their parents never wanted them to learn about, and, in a nutshell, gain their independence. This phase can leave many of us sitting on the living room floor wondering what to do with all those cars and trains. 

If I may be so bold, let me tell you what to do.  Stand up and go get yourself a life!  They don’t need you to spend three hours pureeing their sweet potatoes anymore (not that they really needed that, Gerber had it under control).  Mommy and Me classes are a thing of the past replaced by after-school and weekend sports and activities.  Leisurely walks around the neighborhood with a mommy friend at 10 a.m. pushing strollers have now become bike rides on a Sunday afternoon.  Those dependent babies are now independence-seeking school kids spending five days a week, approximately seven hours a day, in school.  They are learning about how to become productive citizens.  Now it’s your turn. 

It’s time to show your kids what you’re made of!  Let them see that you exist beyond getting whites whiter and perfecting your crock pot recipe by stalking Pinterest.  I’ve seen too many parent “living vicariously through my kid” casualties to let it go on any longer.  Your daughter’s perfect landing at the gymnastics meet was not your perfect landing.  It was hers.  Your son’s “Star of the Day” award from Kindergarten was not yours.  It was his.  And telling everyone and their brother about it still doesn’t make it yours.  Yes, you’re proud.  We are ALL proud of our kids.  Go on, be proud.  But also, be yourself. 

Have something that’s yours, something that makes you feel good other than telling the world that your kid doesn’t eat red dyes because you are mother of the year and we are all here just hooking up our children to artifical dye IVs.  Do something that belongs to you.  If you need or want to work, go back to your career or start a new career.  If you have the luxury (yep, I said it, luxury) of staying home while the kids are at school, get a hobby that keeps you engaged and makes you feel good about what YOU can do.  This does not mean cleaning out the closets and alphabetizing the spice rack.  Spend the time that your kids are in school learning about the world and themselves learning about the world and yourself.   

Please stop trying to find your self-worth from your children.  All of us parents do the best we can, have the best of intentions, and we rock in our own ways.  Your child’s successes don’t make you awesome, they make him awesome.  Now it’s your turn to go out and find your own awesomeness.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Sexy Halloween Costumes for Kids are No Treat!



The innocent holiday of Halloween is upon us when children around the neighborhoods will innocently hold out bags and pillowcases and bright orange plastic pumpkins with nary a "Trick or Treat" while begging for artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup all the while forgetting their manners.  Seriously, if nice strangers are going to give out candy without luring the kiddies into their homes, the least these children can do is say thank you.  These tiny thieves are all led by their adult chaperones who also expect me to give them some sugar, so to speak.  Yes, bah humbug.

To make matters worse, the scariest part of this season is not the goblins and ghouls.  It's the girls scantily clad in costumes. In just a few weeks, we will open our doors and play, "Guess What I Am?" We will gaze upon a 7 year-old girl standing on our front stoop and guess if she is a kitty cat or a Pussycat Doll.  Since I'm pretty sure kitty cats don't wear black lycra mini-skirts with a sequined sports bra, I'm going with the latter.

Even Big Bird and Elmo have gotten their sexy back, but at least their moms and dads at Sesame Workshop stood up for them and realized it wasn't so cute. Sesame Workshop 
was so offended by what a costume marketer did to their precious muppets that it asked them to pull the muppets off their shelves in 2012 (however, a quick search will show it's back, but at least mom and dad tried). 

When, and more importantly, why, did Halloween become a time to completely sexualize young girls?  Why are parents sitting at home, perusing the costume circulars, thinking, "Yes! It is totally appropriate for my 5th grade daughter to wear a skirt that barely covers her nether regions and pair that with fish net tights, because that is EXACTLY what a peacock looks like!" 

Some adults and parents may think it's just an unfortunate by-product of our culture.  The other 364 days of the year, our children are seeing their former idol Hannah Montana twerk while bringing a new job description to the sports fans' foam finger. First graders wear shoes with tiny heels and makeup to get themselves that much closer to being a "grown up." However, some of us adults realize, "Hey, WE are the adults.  We have a say in what our children are wearing while soliciting sugar on the streets."  Some of us are wistfully remembering the days of plastic costumes sticking to our bodies while trying to breathe through a tiny mouth hole on a mask that was held onto our heads by the thinnest, frailest elastic ever made.    

So parents, stand up and declare, "I will not let today's trick-or-treat turn into tomorrow's turning tricks!"

Monday, September 2, 2013

Are School Supplies Going to Pot?



Memo from Mom
TO: Parents of school-aged children, Boards of Education, and School Administrators
RE: Reading, Writing and Socialism 101

September always marks a new year for me. Pointy pencils, colorful crayons, neat notebooks and fun folders are way better than sitting at home and feeling like you should be at some fancy soiree donning party hats, gowns and swigging champs (yes, I watch too much Real Housewives of OC) to ring in the real new year. Let me go shopping for new clothes, backpacks and lunchboxes and I’ll have a happy, back to school day, minus an excruciating hangover.

As much as I’ve loved to buy new supplies for myself when I was in school, when I taught school, and now for my son, I’m beginning to feel a bit swindled. I totally understand that schools have tight budgets. I am the first mom to bring in extra tissue boxes, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, construction paper or whatever the teacher might need for the classroom. As a teacher, I’ve spent more of my own money than I care to remember on cleaning products, basic supplies and supplemental activities to keep the kids engaged beyond paper, crayons, and my smiling face so I know how teachers need these supplies for the whole class.

As a parent, when I receive the supply list, I dutifully set out throughout the summer picking up pencils here, notebooks there, sometimes checking sales and sometimes just grabbing supplies as I see them so that I am not in a shopping frenzy the last week of August. However, I’m learning that many schools, and classes in my son’s school, have communal supplies - as in, “Hey kids, I know you picked out your favorite characters for your folders and mom bought you Elmer’s glue sticks so your papers actually stick, but we are going to put them all in a giant box and redistribute them to anyone in the class whenever they need something. Even if you take care of your one folder for seven months and Sally rips through four in two weeks.”

I am all for sharing, but when I’ve hunted down eight highlighters, five notebooks, five pocket folders, six glue sticks, tennis balls for chairs, crayons, etc. all summer long, packed them neatly into my son’s backpack and an overflow bag because we can’t fit all that into a backpack, with instructions to make sure he gives everything to his teacher, I can’t help to feel like a toddler – it’s not fair!

Most parents participate and use this as a teachable moment for their children – be prepared and follow directions! We spend our hard-earned money on supplies for everyone, while some others don’t contribute. I understand that some families cannot afford supplies, but this is where the district needs to kick in a few bucks, or parents can visit the dollar store.

Then there is the child who does not know how to care for his or her belongings. When little Joey didn’t bring in his first box of crayons, uses someone else’s crayons, then breaks his crayons because he doesn’t like his picture, Mr. Teacher should not be grabbing more crayons from the community pot to replenish angry Joey’s victims. A note needs to go home to Joey’s parents, saying pay up and bring Joey to therapy.

I teach my child to share, and he does a fabulous job at it, but if I find out that the Yankees folder we gleefully found is being used by another child, I will stomp my feet in that school office and demand a special PTA meeting. He’s still young enough to feel like a folder with his favorite baseball team is special. He picked it out himself and he will smile when he pulls that folder out of his desk. Don’t tell me he got an 11x17 piece of construction paper folded in half while Timmy across the room is beaming from ear-to-ear with my kid’s Yankees folder.

Alas, I am not one to simply complain. I will complain AND offer up solutions! Can I suggest that a portion of my beyond ridiculous taxes actually be put towards our children’s educations and not to the salary of the Assistant to the Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent? Districts, throw a few crayons to the kids and just let my child have his Yankees folder. And parents, model what you expect from your children. Follow directions and do what the teacher tells you to do.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The mom date - a new venture for Match.com?

Mom Dating. Who would have thought that after being married for 5, 10 or 15 years that we would be stuck again in that “asking someone out” stage? Because that’s exactly what attempting a friendship with another mom is like. There is no Match.com for moms seeking moms for friendship and commiseration, so we are left like animals in the wilds of school functions, playgrounds, and baseball fields.

Had I known before I had a child that I would be tossed back into the throes of middle school as a mom, I might have opted to continue living the socialite life of a married woman with a dog. Of course, this is where I proclaim my love for my child and tell you that I wouldn’t trade him for the world blah, blah, blah…

The only thing that has changed from then until now is in middle school when girls were mean I was anxiously awaiting my period. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting menopause. Other than that, there are still girls on playgrounds gossiping and judging and waiting for their little angels to be dismissed from elementary school. We are all guilty of it, I know. I try hard to not be as guilty of it as others, but it happens.

However, there have been many times where I’ve had the opportunity to chat or volunteer with a mom and get to know her better. I’ve met a mom or two whom I realized was a cool one in the bunch, someone who seemed on par with things that are important to me in parenting and who enjoyed occasionally bellying up to the breakfast bar in her pajama pants with a juice tumbler of wine on a Saturday night after the kids are in bed ready to dissect Real Housewives of every city in America.

I jumped ahead, though. Once you get to drinking in your pj’s you have established a friendship, so let me back up. It’s that time after chatting a bunch at school functions and finding out that she, too, considers pajama pants appropriate attire for anything (I obviously highly value women who enjoy comfort). After I’ve learned that she equally values working out hard and eating dessert harder, it can be natural to want to take it one step further and ask the anxiously anticipated fear of rejection question, “Want to grab coffee?”

Instead of going straight for the solo date, maybe a good strategy would be to use the kids as an excuse like, “Hey, want to take the kids out for ice cream?” then if the group date goes well, we can exchange email addresses (is getting a phone number to text too soon? I don’t know!). Then we can ease into that shared coffee on a Saturday morning while the hubbies have the kids at baseball practice.

Little kids have no problem walking up to another child at the park and calmly and ever-so-coolly asking, “Want to be my friend?” to which the reply is usually an enthusiastic, “YES!” and off they go running to discover their love of sliding, jumping and spinning in circles. Why can’t moms be like that? After we’ve chatted it up at a few soccer games one mom should just be able to turn to the other mom and excitedly ask, “Want to go shoe shopping?” to which the other would reply “Of course!” and both moms giggle off to the department store while planning an evening of pajama-wearing wine drinking while watching almost any show on Bravo.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat + My Husband = Most Annoying Alarm Clock

Memo from Mom

To: Jim Gaffigan
Re: Thanks for waking me up

I know, you’re thinking, “How did I WAKE you up? I don’t live with you. And I certainly wasn’t in your bedroom! I’m a married man, you’re a married woman. Stop spreading these lies!”

Okay, Jim, slow yo’ roll. It’s all because of the Father’s Day gift I bought my husband. Your book, “Dad is Fat” was requested because my husband (and I) are huge fans of your comedy. So I obliged, and am paying dearly for it.

My husband has this problem where even though he can sleep past 6 a.m. on the weekends, his body won’t let him. Whereas I can will myself to sleep at any point during the day (I totally related to your napping chapter in the book), he just wakes up for no good reason, as if starting his day at the crack of dawn means getting a jump start on the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the toilets… but I digress. He doesn’t clean toilets. Or do laundry. You get the picture, Jim.

No, I will tell you, though, what he does get done at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning when I am enjoying slumber without an alarm clock and our son is contently playing baseball on the Xbox or reviewing the previous night’s baseball games on MLB Network. My husband is reading your laugh-out-loud book, next to me, in bed, with the light on. At 6 a.m. The first time I heard a chuckle it became embedded in part of a dream, I think I had a pet monkey who started laughing at me or something bizarre like that. The next time I heard him laugh, I looked at the clock and thought, “It’s impossible that the one person I share my room with is laughing at this ungodly hour of the day.” The next guffaw brought thoughts of, “Really? He has the light on and is LAUGHING while I am getting my required eight hours so as to not wake up a completely crazy, sleep-deprived person whom he has known for the last 16 years treasures her sleep almost as much as her autographed Rick Springfield jeans.

Rather than smacking my husband on the head in an effort to turn off what I lovingly referred to as the most annoying alarm clock ever, I simply kicked both you and my husband out of my bed. I hope it was good for you, Jim.