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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Can Advil Help This PMS?

Memo from Mom

To: Moms with PMS
Re: I have a headache from your PMS

Remember last week at school pick up when you chewed my ear off and told me, “My daughter reads 3 hours a day, goes to piano, karate, Mandarin Chinese and gymnastics lessons 7 days a week and has nary a moment to play on that evil brain-sucking box you call a TV.”?

And then there was you, yes, you know who you are, that told me at baseball practice, “I saw the cutest project on Pinterest yesterday while drinking my coffee before taking the kids to school and by 11 a.m., I had the perfect bird feeder/organic home garden/entertaining area for my mom friends to lunch with me. Thank goodness I don’t work because it would really get in the way of my very important projects.”

Hold up, there, mommy, because you had PMS, too! You caught me at Target and couldn’t help yourself, “I went to the gym this morning for two hours because WHO HAS THE TIME to go when the kids get home from school and we need to do our long-range family plan? Plus, I just can’t bear the thought of a second without them.”

Yep, you all had the same ailment - PMS – Perfect Mother Syndrome.

Not even the strongest dose of Advil – for me, the person enduring the sputterings of you, the PMS afflicted mom – can handle the headache and moodiness this kind of perfection boasting can bring on. I can only nod, smile politely, and roll my eyes in my imagination while you attempt to feel better about yourself.

However, your raging PMS inflicts not only your own painful perfectionism on yourself, but on others, as well. You tell whoever will listen – or whoever hasn’t blocked your statuses on Facebook – about the fabulous art projects you’ve created with your children on a rainy day (while I cleaned the house and my kid played Xbox until his thumbs were sprained). I don’t care about the 100 cake pops you made after you took your three kids to their NJ ASK prep class. It all pains me more than my monthly uterine contractions.

As a fellow mom, I do get it. A little bit. We all get a touch of PMS. We find ourselves at some point looking for our Super Mom capes in an attempt to do it all – work, take care of our kids, run the house, get in a workout, and volunteer at school - and we mention it to others in conversation. However, many of us try to do it with grace and humility in a simple effort to survive. I don't really care what you think of me, but I do care that you think you are better than me. Your Zero Tolerance Policy on sugar sweetened drinks makes you not a better mother.

I have no shame in letting you know that I loathe cooking, that I buy gift cards for teachers rather than making homemade gifts with my kid's picture on it, and I bring store-made brownies to parties. You'll find my kid's report card hung proudly on our fridge, but I won't stop you while I'm walking the dog to let you know how he did in 2nd grade spelling. Side note: Although my house is pretty much always neat and clean because of my ridiculous, obsessive compulsion to put things away, this is not to impress you and the Joneses, but to keep the voices in my head down to a whisper.

We are all moms, trying the best we can. You’re just trying a little too hard and advertising it, so please, take two Advil. You can call me in the morning, but please, I beg you, don't tell me about the five-course breakfast you just prepared for your family.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adventures of Messy Mommy

Memo from Mom

To: Housekeeping at any hotel in which I am a guest
Re: Many, many thanks

After staying at a wonderful hotel last weekend, I felt the need to write a thank you not only to that hotel, but to each one in which I have been – and will be- a guest. Hotel housekeeping, I know you will not believe this, but I am a neat freak at home, taking great pains to make sure everything is in its place. Clothing is either in a drawer, a closet, or a hamper. Contrary to my husband’s daily actions, the floor is not an appropriate resting place for socks, t-shirts, or jeans. Bath towels get placed on hooks or bars to dry and if someone forgets (I’m looking at you, sweet child o’mine) and leaves a towel on the floor, I appear like a Domestic Superhero and swoop down on that towel and give it its proper resting place.

I cannot close my eyes in bed at night if my husband’s dresser drawers are not shut all the way. If a shirt is peeking out at me, I will get up to make sure it is tucked away properly. Dishes do not stay in my sink thanks to a dishwasher (and a woman in this house, ahem, who puts them in that miraculous modern-day machine). The carpets get vacuumed at least once daily if not twice no thanks to an incredibly cute, large, shedding black-furred dog in our house. There is a canister of Clorox wipes under every sink in this house to ensure total anti-bacterialism in all bathrooms and the kitchen.

However, hotel housekeeping, you do not know the real me. You know my alter ego, Messy Mommy. I love to travel, but even more, I love to stay in a hotel and go balls out wild on the hotel room! There is nothing like opening my suitcase and putting my crap EVERYWHERE. I am not a fan of putting my clothes in the hotel drawers, so my suitcase vomits clothing. Sure, I’ll hang some things in the closet if I am staying long enough, but it’s just so much fun to see it all spilling out of the suitcase, crying for its real mom to come back and make it all neat and pretty.

But the bathroom is where the real action takes place, as you know. So many towels, so little time! And I don’t have to wash them! What, I only used that towel to dry my hair? Well it is used and now must go! I took great pleasure the other day while enjoying all of the above luxuries and then, when I was done using the washcloth in the shower, I had nowhere to put the washcloth so I threw it over the shower door onto the floor. Just a simple toss and a wet SPLAT. It was a beautiful thing. There it sat, amid the other discarded washcloths, hand towels and bath towels, used but only once, ready to be laundered. But not by me! Ha! (And yes, I am totally aware of hotels trying to help save the world with their little signs to hang towels only used once. Hilarious! If I have a housekeeper at my fingertips, you can darn well bet I will ensure that housekeeper's employment. I do my part for the earth at home. I’m on vacation. Lay off).

Housekeeping, I realize you know me only as a messy guest. And I do apologize. But you must understand that most likely I am on vacation or at least on vacation from being preoccupied with every house detail at home. I am not breaking lamps or peeing off my balcony (those days are long gone). Please don’t judge and let a mom live and feel the simple freedom of towels strewn about without having an anxiety attack.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Best Birthday Ever - Magic Kingdom, Jellyrolls and, How Old Do You Think I Am?

Monkey Man, Hubby and me in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom with a beautiful full moon on my birthday

I celebrated my 39 years on this planet at the Happiest Place on Earth.  No, it was not in Rick Springfield’s bedroom as you might have thought, but in Disney World.  It was really a surprise trip for Monkey Man to visit his grandparents who recently moved to central Florida, but lucky me, our trip just happened to fall smack dab on my birthday celebrating the last year of my 4th decade.

When Hubby and I planned the trip, I strategically organized our activities so that our day at the Magic Kingdom would fall on my real, actual birthday (said in my best 4 year-old voice).  Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, ice cream on Main Street, and fireworks over the castle sounded like the best damn birthday any 39 year-old kid could have.  I even shared it with 100,000 of my closest strangers since we were there the week before Easter which is the peak of their Peak Season. 

Hubby threw in an extra surprise.  He arranged to have his parents stay with Monkey Man on the night before my birthday (since the night of my birthday was reserved for this grown woman to watch Tinkerbell fly out of the magical Cinderella castle) so that we could visit our favorite Disney adult hot-spot – Jellyrolls.  Jellyrolls is a dueling piano sing-along bar and we go there every time we visit Disney World, which is once a year.  I would get to start my birthday with napkin requests of Jessie’s Girl and end my birthday with fireworks?  This birthday just could not get any better.

We met a friend, Rob Torres, at Jellyrolls who travels the world as an entertainer and he just happened to be in Orlando for a few days at the same time as us. We sang, we danced, we laughed and I gave Hubby an affectionate whack on the back when the piano players announced my birthday and my AGE!  “Happy Birthday to Pam who is 39!”  they screamed into their microphones and laughed before proceeding to play all my 80s music that I requested.  Age was just a number for me until it was announced to about 100 other people at a piano bar on a Monday night.

The night went on and they joked about how I was 35, 29 and by the end of the night I was 24.  I was like a real-life Benjamin Button and had no problems with that.  The piano players take turns each hour, and while I was using the ladies’ room, I bumped into one of the players in the hallway.  “Happy Birthday, Pam!” he said and then, unbeknownst to him, followed it with the Best. Damn. Gift. EVER. 

“You’re not really 39, right?” he questioned.  I beamed back, “Yes I am and THANK YOU!” as I bowed my gratitude to him.  His response, “Wow, what do you EAT?”

I don’t know about what I eat, but drinks are on me, so belly up to the bar because we are celebratin’!  Here’s to 39! 

My other date, Rob, and I at Jellyrolls

Friday, March 15, 2013

C'mon Kids, Share! Adults Need IEPs, too!

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are all the rage these days for children in America.  They assist kids with a range of needs from fine motor skill development to extended time on tests and assignments due to attention difficulties, reading comprehension, and a host of other needs that, back in my day (and my day wasn’t so long ago) would have had us kids separated into homogeneous classrooms learning at the same pace as our peers.  Before you get your knickers in a knot, I do believe in the IEP and how these legal documents can help a child be successful in school. 

However, this is the part where I stomp my feet and yell, like a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, “It’s not FAIR!” As adults, we have to muddle through our lives succumbing to our challenges and special needs without anyone helping us.  I need an IEP to deal with situations that come up last minute with no regard to planning or organization.  In order to function in my daily life, I have lists of things to do today, tomorrow, next week, what to buy, who to call, deadlines, due dates…you get the point.   

Imagine my outrage when I received an email on Monday at about 2 p.m. that announced my son’s first baseball practice is on Friday at 6:30 p.m.  Friday is my son’s sleepover birthday party which has been planned for over a month, because that is what I do for the convenience of my life and as a courtesy to others – I plan.  If the baseball program had my IEP and would have differentiated their instruction for each player and his parents, they would have known that this mama doesn’t do four days notice.  Upon reading through my IEP they would have made note: “Notify parent at least 2 weeks in advance so as to not have encourage catastrophic decapitation when mother’s head explodes off her body.”

But alas, there are no IEPs for the adults. If there were, I’d like mine to look a little something like this:
General Accommodations:
Attention/Focusing Cues = Take the following out of the room if you want Pam to accomplish something: All cleaning apparatus as she will clean and organize anything rather than the task at hand, photos of Rick Springfield and chocolate chip cookies. 
Use of Preferred Learning Style = Pam is a visual learner.  Do not read things aloud to her as she will become agitated and say, “Just give me the paper so that I can read it.”  Do not attempt any kind of verbal mathematical calculations, as she can barely figure that stuff out when it is written.  Graphs, charts, and spreadsheets all work well with Pam’s learning style.   

Length of Time for Assessments/Assignments = Pam is obsessed with deadlines so not only will she finish on or before time, she expects the same of everyone else. No modifications here.  Just do it, people.

Annual Goal:Pam will work towards being more spontaneous and just going with the flow.  Hahaha!  Kidding!  She will, however, try to understand the disorganized people of this world and show empathy for their lack of awareness for other people’s lives.
Strategies and Accommodations:Pam will be permitted to not verbalize her feelings but instead roll her eyes and use passive aggressive body language to convey how she feels.
Modeling, role play, rewards, consequences using the assertive discipline approach = chocolate chip cookies accepted as positive rewards.
Establish and use consistent routine, prepare for transitions well in advance. Keep as predictable a schedule as possible = THIS is what I’m talking about, people!
Comments:A program of expected behaviors and consequences will be established. Rewards including first row seats at a Rick Springfield concert, pedicures, and beach getaways for expected behavior will be given at the end of an agreed upon time interval. Negative behavior will not be acknowledged in this tracking format, but will be identified by Pam’s family when she loses her mind because other people aren’t doing what they need to do in order for Pam to function properly.  Should onset of mind loss be detected, husband is instructed to give Pam whatever time she needs at the gym to decompress, as this is her best anti-stress tool.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Going for His M.A. - Minecraft Anonymous

Memo from Mom

To: The American Academy of Pediatrics
Re: You and your entertainment media studies

According to you, “today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.” Seriously, how is this possible, especially on a school day? Our children are barely home and awake for seven hours. There is homework, sports, dinner and activities. I think you totally made up this statistic, AAP.

However, you did say that number is an average so I guess we need to factor in weekends, too. If I’m doing the math correctly, kids would need to spend about 4 hours per weekday (that equals 20 hours total) and 29 hours on Saturday and Sunday. This would give us 49 hours total for the week, divided by seven days in a week for an average of seven hours per day.

C’mon, though, twenty-nine hours on entertainment media on the weekend? That is about 15 hours per day. What child gets up at 7 a.m. and does not move from an electronic device until 10 p.m., which is past my kids’ bedtime anyway? Fine, we have to take into consideration the older kids, but they wake up later and go to bed later.

Many parents are guilty of letting a lazy day go by with our kids when we simply need them to stay in one place while we accomplish the myriad of things to do on our list. Please, AAP, cut parents some slack and lay off the extreme guilt trip.  You are worse than our mothers.

As parents, we are exhausted. All week long we have worked and cleaned and cooked and driven our offsprings’ butts to practices and friends’ houses. Sometimes saying yes to watching five episodes of Spongebob followed by four hours of what my son considers the greatest video game ever created – Minecraft – is just what a parent needs in order to complete a long-overdue project or just plain think like a normal, functioning human being.

However, crazy statistics which I do not necessarily think were properly researched aside, I understand the demonic effects on a child’s brain and body when the free babysitter rears its horns. On the off chance that you have any credibility, my husband and I decided we needed to enforce some rules around this entertainment media fiasco. We knew too well that if the Betty Ford Clinic opened a Minecraft wing, our son could be first on the list if we didn’t stage our own intervention.

Our rules are pretty simple: our Minecraft addict can only use the computer, iTouch, Xbox, or watch television for one hour a day. He can earn more time by doing recreational reading or by playing. What counts as playing? Since our son enjoys sports and couldn’t care less about toys like Legos or action figures, it’s just some old-fashioned running around, drawing, writing stories, playing self-created ball games (where there is a ball, he will play) – anything that does not involve a wire, battery and/or electricity counts.

Just the other day, our little electronic junkie finished up his 60 minutes of video game/TV/computer bliss. He put down his iTouch and announced, “I’m going to read! Gotta get me some more minutes!”  I beamed proudly, knowing that the detox was slowly taking effect and with any luck, we would avoid the shakes and sweats.

Do we fall off the electronics wagon on the weekends sometimes?  Of course.  We try the best we can to set limits.  Hey, at least we don't walk around bragging that our kid "really doesn't like TV" or "only plays video games on the weekend."  When parents say that, the other parents are all rolling their eyes and coughing into their hands saying, "bullpoop."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Girl Scouts Teach Delicious Life Lessons

Photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Memo From Mom

TO: Everyone who has a kid selling something for a fundraiser
RE: Cookies for sale! And wrapping paper and nuts and gift cards and…

I will be the first person to say that Girl Scout Cookie Delivery Day should be a national holiday. All work should cease so that Americans can sit peacefully and binge on Thin Mints, Samoas, Thin Mints and some more Thin Mints. No need to wear your fanciest clothes. Simply don your best elastic waistband pants and settle in for a day of pure cookie nirvana.

I do love Girl Scout Cookies, and am very willing to partake in this old-fashioned, door-to-door sales approach. When a young, eager Girl Scout knocks on my door accompanied by her mom or dad, I have to buy a box or nine of these overpriced artificially preserved delicacies. Even if I shopped with a coupon or two that morning to save a buck, when Girl Scout Cookie time rolls around, I don’t bat an eye at the obscene amount of money it costs for a box of approximately 12 cookies. How could I deny a child working hard and pounding the pavement for her beloved organization? I do it for the charity, I do it for the community and sense of pride for the girls and yes, I do it all for the cookie.

However, when order forms are taped to the lunchroom table at work soliciting my hard-earned money for little Joey’s wrapping paper sale or Janie’s chocolate sale and yes, even for Girl Scout Mary’s Tagalongs, it is quite easy to ignore the silent pleas coming from those faceless forms. This method of passive fundraising doesn’t teach our kids the value of hard work, communication, or graciousness. It simply says, “Look, my kid wants to win a cheap plastic flyer disc. We have no intention of bringing him or her around the neighborhood and teaching our child to say hello, explain the fundraiser to practice good verbal skills, engage in small talk with a neighbor and to say thank you face-to-face with our consumers. We want to get in, get out and get done.”

Let’s add Facebook begging to this, now. We are in the throes of Girl Scout Cookie selling season and I cannot log on to Facebook without being bombarded by people letting me and the world know that their child is selling Girl Scout Cookies. “Patty wants to win an Xbox! Please Buy!” I don’t care if Patty wants to save starving koalas in Australia. Tell Patty to visit or call me and tell me all about the Girl Scouts and how she makes ten cents for her $4.00 box then we’ll talk.

Let's not forget the tried and true best way of selling anything - including beachfront property in Arizona - the grandparents. If time doesn’t allow for neighborhood canvassing and you need to boost sales by a box or 20, hit Grandma up. That’s what we do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm blogging for NJ.com!

Check out my blog posts at NJ.com's parenting blog - the link is NJ.com/parenting.  I post 1-2 times a week   in the same style as this blog.  Things might be a little slower around this site since I'm blogging over there and also writing articles for parenting magazines around the country.  But check back here often as I will be around.  I will also post links to my articles in the magazines here.  The articles are more serious giving information about different parenting topics.  So lots going on in the freelance world but I will not abandon my "baby" - this blog. :)

Resolution from a Real Housewife of New Jersey

Real Housewife Tamra Barney (Orange County) cleans up - at the bank each season.

The last New Year’s resolution I made was to walk the dog every day. This was obviously a genius resolution, being made on January 1 in New Jersey, to start walking the dog is sub-zero temperatures. I lasted for about 2 weeks then told Walt, our dog, that he needed to start taking some responsibility for his own health. He had to create and implement his own indoor exercise program because momma wasn’t going outside until she saw a flower poke through the bright green grass.

That was two years ago. Last week, I came up with a lofty New Year's resolution. I will not watch any of the Real Housewives shows. I am a die-hard Real Housewives viewer enjoying Real Housewives of Orange CountyReal Housewives of Beverly Hills,Real Housewives of New York, and of course, my beloved Real Housewives of New Jersey (I do, however, draw the line at Miami and Atlanta). After a day of work, being mommy, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, making appointments and other actual REAL LIFE housewife duties, I love to become one with my couch and let my brain cells get sucked from my head for an hour.

With a great love and appreciation of such bad, but such good, television, one might wonder what spurred this decision. While watching some pseudo news show about how much some of the housewives make per season, the thought of me contributing to Teresa Giudice's $600,000 per season salary made me want to flip a table. A few other “housewives” were mentioned with season salaries all over $250,000. I decided at that moment that I can no longer contribute to the downfall of America.

I have struggled for quite a while with the reality of these shows, anyway. A housewife, as defined by dictionary.com, is “a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation.” Many of the women on the shows are divorced, and/or manage their homes with the help of nannies, personal assistants and other in-home help. They spend their days meeting friends for lunch and talking about other women. Oh, wait. That does sound like some housewives I know.

However, kudos to a few like Vicky from Orange County and Lisa from Beverly Hills as, even though they do not fit the definition, they do actually have careers. Some of the women aren’t just making money off of their so-called fame but have been businesswomen long before they were on the show. They have a brain that is simply masked by their store-bought boobs. A book deal, record deal, or talk-show gig as a result of being on these shows does not count as being talented, motivated or having any sort of intelligence.

I am sure that this resolution will be more of a hiatus than a lifestyle change as I know all too well that when Real Housewives of New Jersey comes back on in the spring, I am going to cave just like Jacqueline gives in to Teresa. My need to see the family drama between the Gorgas and the Giudices will override my current convictions about the evils of these reality shows.

But, hey, it is January 3 and I’ve already lasted longer with my resolution than 25% of Americans.

published on NJ.com January 3, 2013