Baby You Can’t Drive My Car

 If your teen drives you crazy, should you let them drive a car? Should someone that flies off the handle simply because they think you’re looking at them the “wrong” way be deemed emotionally ready to get behind the wheel?  Yet the older they get, the more involved in extracurricular and social activities they get, and if they don’t drive, the parent does. A lot.  I swear, the other day as I drove down Melrose Drive for the umpteenth millionth time, I thought my brain was going to explode from repetitious boredom (sorry, folks, it’s not the LA Melrose…it’s the Richardson, Texas Melrose, a main artery to the high school and not nearly as exciting to look at as its California cousin.)  I’ve found a great new radio station that helps somewhat (yes, I’m playing my music these days) but I’m still tired of being a chauffeur.  And speaking of tired, when Allison wants to stay out until after 10 p.m., my husband and I (who are both trying to get more sleep these days) flip a coin to see which one of us gets pick-up duty, or come up with our best reason why the other should be the DPD (Designated Parent Driver). 


 


So now that she’s 15, as she starts whining about wanting to take Driver’s Ed. classes in order to get her permit, part of me wants to “burn rubber” to get her there and get her driving as fast as possible.  But the other part, the part of me that sees her texting all the time and the part that remembers how she’s so tired every day that she almost falls asleep in class, says, “Are you kidding?”


 


That part has an ace up its sleeve — my 12-year-old minivan with the Uncool Mom bumper sticker on the back.  Allison loathes riding in it and has made it clear she wouldn’t be caught dead driving it. J And my husband’s old “grandpa-style” boat of a car doesn’t fare much better in popularity.  So if she did get her permit, what would she drive? “You’d get me my own car, right?!” she said the other day.  Hmmm…for someone who routinely refuses to save money, blows large sums of it (as soon as she has it) on frivolous stuff and then gets angry because we won’t buy her the latest rage (right now it’s $54 Tom’s canvas shoes), I’m not inclined to say yes to that car request at present.


 


Guess I should take comfort in the statistics that came out this week that said more teens are delaying driving and not getting their license when they turn 16.  When Allison says, “Everybody’s doing it, why can’t I?” I can always pull out the newspaper clipping and say, “Oh, no they’re not!” I can also just have her look around.  Even though a good friend of hers, also a freshman, is already well on her way toward getting her license, I see many local teens not driving until they’re at least Juniors.


 


But those new statistics also make me a little sad.  The researchers said the lack of 16-year-old teen drivers was due in part to many school districts not offering Driver’s Ed any more (like our district) and kids being too busy to squeeze private driving classes into their out-of-school schedule. Gee, not getting the chance to sit in driving “simulators” (that looked like reconditioned carnival bumper cars) alongside all your friends and watching “The World’s Most Perfect Driver” (who looked like the world’s most perverted serial killer) on the big screen? Not getting to leave school during the day and drive around nearby neighborhoods with a high-strung Driving Practice instructor biting his nails and yelling at the kids in the backseat to stop rustling their notebooks? We’re denying our kids some priceless memories…stuff you can’t get at “Sears Driving School” or being homeschooled in Driver’s Ed by your parents! J


 


I also think teens are delaying driving because not as many are working at part-time jobs, which would require them to be a little more mobile.  Again, they’re too busy with extracurriculars and tough homework, and too worried about making good enough grades in order to get into their favorite college, to be able to squeeze in one more thing like a job.  Which is also sad, because working at a part-time job is great preparation for adulthood, and can help steer them down a career path.  (Not to mention it helps pay for car insurance!)


 


Yes, there are pros and cons to Allison becoming a driver, and I’ve decided the perfect solution lies in four simple words: “Go ask your father.” After all, it was Andy who gave Allison her first taste of driving last summer, maneuvering through a deserted mall parking lot in Iowa… in Grandma’s car, of course!

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Craig James Inducted Into Helicopter Parent Hall of Fame

Though ESPN announcer Craig James has not made it into the College Football Hall of Fame yet and probably will never be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he can at least say he made it into another Hall—the Helicopter Parent Hall of Fame.  Uncoolmom.com hosts the only Hall of Fame of that kind—and James is the first high-profile name to join its illustrious ranks.


 


Why choose him? For those of you not into sports (like me) or more specifically, college sports (like me), here’s my “plain English” version that I hope will keep you reading to the end, a classic tale of a privileged kid who acts like a spoiled brat and the parent who keeps enabling him, to the detriment of not only the child but the world around him:


 


Texas Tech University had a football coach named Mike Leach. From 2000 ‘til late 2009, he became the winningest coach in the school’s 85-year history.  (From my research, it looks like he really gave ticket holders their money’s worth—numerous come-from-behind victories where the Red Raiders are about to lose by a lot and they go on to win by huge point spreads…the kind of team even I could enjoy watching…like the one in that old Disney movie “The Absent Minded Professor”! J) Even so, certain Texas Tech administrators and high-rolling boosters didn’t like Leach.  Go figure.


 


Leach had a receiver (um, I mean “player”) named Adam James. Born in the Dallas suburb of Plano, which is full of 5A high schools (that means big high schools with money to build powerhouse football teams and lots of kids trying out for a spot), it is rumored that his daddy, former NFL player, college football star and now ESPN broadcaster Craig James, had the family move to the tiny town of Celina, TX (pop. 1,861) so Adam could also be a star athlete, at a 2A school (that means pretty small high school, with less competition to make it on a team).  Doesn’t look like he was much of a star, since he got no football offers from NCAA Division 1 colleges—except from Leach and Texas Tech, and that was after daddy talked to the coach and showed him a tape of his son, and after Adam had played baseball at Tech a few months but quit out of frustration at not getting enough playing time. You’d think the kid would have been grateful to have been given a second chance, but instead, teammates and coaches described him as “lazy on a daily basis”, “always trying to get by with doing the least he possibly could”, and continuously disrespectful of coaches.  Teammate Graham Harrell recalled, “Adam was a kid that seemed like he had been given everything he wanted his whole life and acted like if things did not go exactly how he wanted, someone was treating him unfairly or someone needed to be blamed for his failures.  He was a selfish player on and off the field that was counter-productive for our team and would be for any other team.”  Adam’s behavior once again resulted in him getting only a little bit of playing time.  And Craig James went spaz, showing up at practices, constantly wanting to discuss his son and his playing time, leaving angry voice mails on coaches’ phones that they were “screwing his kid” and that Adam James was the best player on the team in his position—a textbook example of “blackhawk down” helicopter parenting, not allowing kids to “make it on their own” to the extent that a parent follows a kid into adulthood!!  “He required more time than all other parents combined,” said Leach in an ESPN interview.  What good character-building could have happened, if Craig James had only let his son fail and move on.


 


But Adam and his daddy doctored a story that at the least seems intended for revenge, and at the worst intended to get Leach fired.  Apparently Adam had been recovering from a concussion (Harrell says he often had questionable “injuries”) and showed up one day in sunglasses, street clothes and his hat turned backwards (“pants on the ground”? J)  saying he needed to stay out of sunlight.  Leach asked him to at least walk around the field, but apparently he didn’t want to do that, or even wear the team workout attire, so Leach asked his staff to find a dark room where Adam could spend time while the team practiced.  They found an equipment shed near the field with an ice machine, and checked on him every 15 minutes. On another occasion, he was asked to again spend practice in the dark, this time in an air conditioned press room, with access to a stationery bike.  But the James gang told Tech administrators a story almost as if Adam’s confinement was a torture chamber… a tight, dark, locked, electrical closet. It was just what the Tech lynch mob was looking for.  Though team trainers and doctors back up Leach’s actions and approved of Adam’s treatment, Leach was fired, a few days shy of receiving a scheduled $800,000 bonus. I’m sure it’s not the first time a helicopter parent has caused a teacher or coach to get fired–  but the winningest coach in a Big 12 college’s history? Definitely worthy of the HP Hall of Fame.
 


Meanwhile, Leach is suing the school, Adam is still on the team, and Craig James is making speeches about…running as a possible conservative candidate for the U.S. Senate. Guess he wants to spread his “family values” even further…


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Uncool and Untechnified

Last weekend, in preparation for Emmie’s first gymnastics meet, I read the instruction booklet for our “Canon Elura 60 Digital Camcorder”, figured out how to charge its battery pack, and plugged it in. I was glad to see the indicator light flashing, just as the instructions said it would.  Embarassingly, I hadn’t remembered how to work that camera without looking at the book, since it was one of only a few times I’d picked up the thing over the last few years.  Me, who had once counted Chief Family Videographer among my many duties.  Just how many years had it been?


 


I decided to get out the shoeboxes of tiny, labeled camcorder tapes we keep on a shelf, and do some sleuthing (Nancy Drew, eat your heart out).  As I glanced over the labels, I noticed an interesting pattern to the videotaping that seemed to repeat with each child (and our girls are almost exactly four years apart):  1. The baby arrives and a flurry of videotaping would begin–  so many “firsts” to record!  Each tape became full after only a few months of taping, sometimes after just one event, like the “1st birthday party”.  2. The frequent taping continued on into their second year, and then tapered off, until an entire year’s worth of taping fit on one tape.


 


When the youngest was finally past the toddler/preschool stages, the tapes began holding two years’ worth of events.  And then the labels showed that an entire year went by before the camera was ever picked up again, and then two years…


 


Wow.  It’s been that long since I’ve taken video of my kids? Upon looking at the labels closer, I realized my predicament was worse—since Andy had been the cameraman for most of the more “current” stuff (and that covers only a few events), I haven’t played a serious role in family videography since about 2005. Almost FIVE years? What’s wrong with me? Am I a bad parent because I don’t hog the aisles recording every moment of my kids’ every school program and recital?  Am I so busy that I can no longer take the time to capture even a few precious moments on tape for posterity? 


 


Well, “No” to answer the bad parent question, because I still take lots of photographs— at least when the lighting is good.  Scrapbooking has long been one of my favorite hobbies, so there’s definitely not a lack of photos in this house. Also, as the kids get older, they take more and more of their own photos with their own cameras, and keep their own scrapbooks, sometimes even picking up the camcorder now and then—even though their Kodak Moments have often included out-of-focus shots of the dog, “butts”, and people with their heads “cut off”.  


 


I’d answer “maybe” to the question of, “Am I too busy to take video on my own?” There’s definitely not a lack of “busy-ness” around here. 


 


But video is important, in my opinion, not just for the pictures, but for the audio.  It’s important for your kids to see and hear how they grow and change, it’s important for loved ones who aren’t able to witness your kids’ special moments in person, and it’s important to capture friends and family in ways your brain might never remember.  I know I would love to have a video record from my own childhood, but all I have are silent, 8mm family films my dad transferred to VHS tapes years ago.


 


I honestly think the main reason I haven’t gone near the family camcorder very much lately can be traced back to one simple act: the day near Christmas 2004 when my husband, Andy, came home and put a box on my desk and said, “Here’s a new digital video camera I just bought.”  I remember I was surprised—and not exactly jumping for joy.  I was comfortable with our old, non-digital, twice-as-big “Sony Handycam ”. I knew how to use it.  I didn’t have to read instructions. And I’d recently mastered special editing software and had made an AWESOME family reunion video out of footage I’d taken on that 10-year-old Handycam, complete with music tracks, graphics, and credits.  Yes, I knew that camera was having problems, but I’d planned to take it to a specialty battery store where, I’d been told by a reliable source, they could help me…  Andy said it would probably cost more to fix it than to buy another camera, so he opted for the new camera (Don’t guys always use that line in order to buy new stuff?).  And, he told me, since he knew I liked editing and adding stuff, I could really do some fine work with this one.  Which was thoughtful, except, this new camera had a lot more features than our “vintage” model.  And who is a major techno-phobe? Me. There, I said it.  And as painful as it is to admit it, I will say it again– I am a major techno-phobe.  And no one should know that better than my husband.  I mean, when we first started dating in 1989, my large collection of music was entirely on …cassettes (Hey, at least they weren’t 8-tracks!) (But definitely a true test of his love, considering he works in Audio Visual Presentation).  Once we were married and he wanted to bring home a Mac in the mid-nineties, I balked at the idea because…I was happy with my Magnavox Videowriter, basically a glorified typewriter with a screen and a dot-matrix printer attached, for which I’d saved my money to buy when I was single.  I didn’t want a bigger TV, either, and I didn’t think I needed a cell phone– until he got me one.  Yes, it always takes me awhile to get onboard with new technology, and I think our “new” 5-year-old camcorder has been no exception, especially when combined with our busy life.


 


Luckily, Emmie’s gymnastics meets are pushing me to finally “get with the program”. According to seasoned gymnastics parents, it’s important to videotape all of your daughter’s performances so she can watch and see what she needs to improve upon.  And Andy can’t make it to every meet.  So, it looks like I’ll be pulling out this camcorder fairly often in the next few months, proudly joining the ranks of the other cameras raised in the air– happily knowing how to turn on the power button and get the tape set to just the right starting point, effortlessly flipping out the LCD screen on the side…  My first time doing that is going to have to wait, however.  ‘Cause just before we left for the first meet last weekend, I unplugged the camera from the charging cord, and… it wasn’t fully charged yet.  
Guess it’s only fitting that I should start a new era of family photography with baby steps.


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The Blind Side’s Michael Oher Needs Glasses

I recently caught a snippet of a TV interview with Leanne Tuohy, the real-life mom portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the movie, “The Blind Side”.  I was impressed and moved by this movie, which tells the true story of a well-to-do family from Memphis who adopts a teen (Michael Oher) from the projects.  Among the many things they do for him, they help him feel loved and needed, and help him improve his grades so that he can play football.  He eventually goes on to be a star college football player at Ole Miss and is now in the NFL.  In the interview I watched, Leanne mentions that Michael thinks he would have made it to the NFL even if she and her family hadn’t come into his life. Ouch. I know she was elaborating on his drive and determination but… would he really have become a star athlete without them? (or more precisely, without her?) Are parents or other concerned adults not a key factor in influencing kids’ lives? Is our destination really up to our genes?


 


Several years ago, a book by Judy Rich Harris entitled “The Nurture Assumption” made headlines with its claims that parents influence their kids’ destinies very little, and that instead it’s all about friends.  Peers influence kids’ lives and their “future mental health” the most, it said.  Huh?


 


I think “blind” is a good word to use in a movie about Michael Oher because not only is it used in a football term, that guy must be blind to the world around him.  As is Harris. Because everything I see, all the time, points to the strong influence of parents, or any adult who cares about a kid enough to notice their strengths, offer advice, encouragement, look for opportunities to develop their talents– basically help steer their lives in a good direction. 


 


I think of bicycling legend Lance Armstrong, who might have never gotten on a bike had it not been for Jim Hoyt, the owner of Richardson Bike Mart, who saw potential in him, gave him a deal on his first bike and introduced him to bike racing.  I think of my sister-in-law, Melody, who recently told me she majored in math and became a math teacher because she had such a good math teacher while growing up.  I think of my own children—  I exposed Allison to Broadway soundtracks and a box of old dance costumes before she was three; soon she was putting on shows and enrolled in dance lessons because she loved to dance.  Emmie got to take piano lessons after I noticed that her “banging on the keys” actually sounded good.  I also heard her belting out beautiful songs as she’d lay in bed and enrolled her in a city-sponsored children’s performance class.  And since I noticed she was climbing and hanging on everything in sight, I also enrolled her in gymnastics classes.  Today, their major activities and interests reflect this early nurturing.  Their lives have also been affected by other choices that Andy and I have made  – where they go to school, what church we attend, other organizations we’ve encouraged them to be a part of (like Girl Scouts), even the vacations we’ve taken.  All major influences, and all steered by us.  (I need to read this when I say no to something and my kids scream, “You never do anything for me!!”)
 


And I think of my own life, and how my parents, siblings, teachers and job supervisors all steered me on the path I’m on today.  Yes, I must have had some inborn ability with words, but I don’t think I ever would have realized it or received satisfaction from it or wanted to pursue a career in it had adults not said to me, “This is good. Keep it up,” and given me opportunities to go further.


 


Yes, there are stories of people who have achieved a career, a life, success, happiness, whatever, in the face of horrible odds, and it appears they did it all on their own, but usually if you dig around you find that someone in their life believed in them, gave them the break or opportunity they needed to make things happen. 


 


Just like good parents do for their children, and just like the Tuohys did for Michael Oher.


 


 

Pop Goes the Church

Is it just me, or is anyone else bothered when the sacred tries too hard to be cool when embracing the secular?  I think I started feeling that way about 13 years ago when I watched a neighbor’s video of her church youth choir, or I should say, megachurch youth choir. There were hundreds of teens onstage, swaying back and forth to a funky beat and singing (or would it be rapping?), “You down wit G.O.D.? Yeah, you know me!”, sort of a Christian Weird Al version of the song, “O.P.P.”  For those of you unfamiliar with “O.P.P.”, it was a 1991 hit by the rap group “Naughty By Nature”, a disgusting ode to infidelity, i.e. “getting down” with “other people’s p_ _ _ _” (you’ll have to Wiki that if you’re having trouble filling in the blanks). The video that accompanied O.P.P. was equally disgusting (naturally, an MTV success), full of moaning women in lingerie and men giving the thumbs-up in front of cheap motels.  While I get the religious idea of “We’re taking a bad song and cleaning it up!”,  to me it still pays homage to the original song by using its lyric structure and other elements. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Why even give a nod to that gross song?  Why let us know that the song arranger, or the choir director, was “hip” to it? Wonder if they had to pay royalties to Tommy Boy Records (and the swaggering rappers) for using the song?  Creepy.

 

Just like the red T-shirts with the re-worked Coca-Cola logo that say, “Jesus Christ—He’s the Real Thing” or the glammed-out local church youth center housed inside a former dollar theater, with re-done movie posters on the walls that are “RATED R for REALITY!”

 

Or a local youth pastor who is tattooed all over and pierced and sometimes gels his hair up like a Kewpie doll.  I’ve seen him around town saying stuff to teens like ,”Dude, let’s meet for coffee sometime!”  While I don’t doubt his sincerity of faith and good intentions and know that type of pastor could reach out to a group that’s turned off by other religious “dudes” who wear robes and collars, there’s still something weird about it all…isn’t it a fact that a person’s chances for a decent-paying job go down considerably with each visible tattoo and nose piercing? Isn’t it unhealthy to do all that to yourself? I could definitely see someone like that in adult ministry (like at a prison), but as the head of a suburban church department that nurtures and inspires youth?

 

Maybe Hank Hill summed it up best in an episode of the TV series “King of the Hill” called “Reborn to be Wild”.  In it, he wants his son Bobby to hang out with a good crowd and be an upstanding citizen, so he sends him to a church youth group. To Hank’s surprise, the group and its leader, Pastor K, are into leather and chains, Christian metal music and skateboarding, shouting “Praise Him!” after every successful turn on the half-pipe.  Soon Bobby is onstage at “Messiahfest” pumping his fist like everyone else and diving into the mosh pit. When Bobby protests after his dad makes him leave the group, Hank gets a box down from the garage attic and shows Bobby the contents.  In it are things like a Rubik’s Cube, pet rock, etc.–  things that were all once fads, Hank explains, things that are hugely popular and then fade away.  “I don’t want God to ever be a fad for you, Bobby,” he says.

 

Ditto for my own feelings as I raise my children.

Updates

Today is the one-year anniversary of UncoolMom.com, and in honor of it I thought I’d give you updates on items from the past year where I promised to “keep you posted”.  Here are a few:  

-In May, my youngest child’s elementary school was the first school in Texas to close due to swine flu, and Emmie spent the week off teaching herself to play an acoustic guitar she bought at Target.  Did she ever get the dreaded H1N1? No, but her older sister did this fall.  Tamiflu worked wonders for Allison and amazingly the rest of us never got it.  Meanwhile, Emmie is doing a great job of teaching herself to play that guitar (with help from Uncle Steve) and now has an electric one, a Les Paul guitar that my husband found on Craig’s List.  For her birthday, we had Cousin Ted hide it inside his own guitar bag, with a birthday note and ribbons, so when she was at his house and they eagerly went to get out “his guitar” to play, there it was. Loved that look of surprise on her face!!  The down side is that she is so into rock music now, it is almost scary.  My husband introduced her to Guns ‘n Roses once on YouTube and now Slash is her hero.  Which makes it harder for her to play classical music on the piano…

Yes, Emmie is still being “forced” to take piano lessons as a trade-off for being allowed to participate in the all-encompassing sport of gymnastics. In one of my first posts, To Practice or Not To Practice, I mentioned several reasons for not allowing her to quit, one of them being that it became evident pretty quickly in her piano studies that she has a gift in playing and memorization. 
I am even more convinced of that today.  I can’t let her quit.  And, I keep hearing from adults who tell me they wish they’d kept at it. Emmie would probably like it more if her teacher gave her rock songs to play instead of classical, but that’s not an option at present. So, most of the time, she gets her piano practicing done without a fuss so she can get on to other things (like playing the guitar).  And I know she must secretly like how she sounds when her fingers get flying– I’ve heard her play even when it’s not time to practice.  We tell her, it’s a great foundation for rock, you would have never been able to teach yourself guitar without the chord foundations of piano, it’s supposed to help your brain with math, blah, blah, blah…look at Eddie Van Halen, he likes Mozart so much, he named his son after him.  “Eddie who?”

-In July I blogged about my kids’ picky eating habits and my quest to get them to eat more vegetables and try new things.  I still haven’t tried anything from Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, where you hide pureed vegetables in things like chocolate brownies.  At present, I’m still in the “I’m cooking what I want to eat” mode that I got into in December and the kids are on their own if they don’t like it.  I’m really enjoying that.  I can actually cut out healthy and exotic (i.e. more than three ingredients) recipes from the food section of the newspaper now instead of saying to myself, “I’ll be able to cook that in about ten years…” Usually there’s something in the week’s menus they like and if not, we still have plenty of chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese on hand that they make themselves.  Surely they’re going to get sick of that soon?

-In August, I wrote about the ups and downs of living in Texas in a post entitled It’s A Different World and mentioned that Emmie’s Scout troop was invited to participate in a flag ceremony at a Kay Bailey Hutchison for Governor rally. They did participate, and it was a lot of fun for them (not to mention good bar-b-que). They made it on every local news broadcast that night—here’s a link to one of them.  (Emmie is the one with her mouth hanging open as Sen. Hutchison walks on stage :0) The news is still using that footage occasionally as the governor’s race heats up…  and no, I don’t think I heard that dreaded Toby Keith song while I was at the rally, but I was having too much fun people-watching to really notice.

-In November, in a post entitled, Maybe We Should Just Buy A Rooster, the focus was on waking up a sleepy teenager.  Well, Allison just received, as a Christmas present, yet another “creative device” to help in this area—an Ipod docking station with an alarm that plays the Ipod and has a “mattress shaker” on an attached cord that’s supposed to be hidden under the mattress.  I’m not sure it’s going to help.  She’s already told me she’s not going to use the mattress shaker, since she’s placing the whole thing on a table that’s “too far from the bed”.  But hey, having this cool new device inspired her to re-arrange her room and clean it up—and if she starts doing that on a regular basis, it will be worth every penny spent on it, even if it doesn’t wake her up!

Also in November, I wrote about trying to make the holidays less stressful, and about encouraging Allison to give gifts.  While I still found myself shopping for a few things on Christmas Eve, I did get a huge amount done ahead of time, thanks to the Internet.  And, miracle of miracles, Allison bought gifts for everyone in the family.  I really didn’t think it was going to happen—that money-saving Christmas cookie tin I gave her never saw any action.  But the Sunday before Christmas, she got a 12-hour babysitting job, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and earned $90.  She had enough to buy gifts for her friends, too, something she was even more excited about than buying for her family.  “They always get something for me,” she said.  “Now I can finally get something for them!” I wish one of her friends was named Savings Account…

New adventures await for 2010.  The next big high school dance is called Black and White, a “girls-ask-guys” type of thing where everyone dresses in, you guessed it, black and white, and already Allison and her friends are cooking up, some literally, cr
eative ways to ask the guys (and I thought that over-the-top stuff was just for Homecoming!).  (I think this is all a crutch to avoid face-to-face confrontation, you know, real human interaction where you actually look at someone and ask, “Will you go to the dance with me?).  Emmie’s first gymnastics meet is in 10 days (yep, I greatly underestimated her determination at staying on the team).  Andy and I are running the technical/backstage side of the elementary school talent show in a couple months (he’d love to have a gong and act like his hero Chuck Barris, but that’s not going to happen…).  Allison recently found out she made it on the high school drill team (Argh! More cowboy, er, I mean cowgirl hats! And boots!).  My 30th High School Reunion is this summer (hey, remember the 80’s?), and now that Luke the Dog just learned how to shake hands, he is destined for far greater feats of intelligence.  (Okay, that last line so closely resembles a corny holiday letter, I’d better close fast.) I’m still totally uncool in the eyes of my kids, still driving that bad (or should I say, rad) minivan, and still trying to keep a smile on my face (amidst clenched teeth) when the roller coaster goes down, knowing that it always goes up again.  Happy New Year, and stay tuned!
 

Measuring a Blog

Okay, call me a sap…that song “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” has been going through my head a lot these days, probably because my teenager has it on her Ipod and plays it so everyone can hear it from time to time… ”Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?”  But it is a great New Year’s song, isn’t it? Ranks right up there with Ella Fitzgerald’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and U2’s “New Year’s Day”…It’s made me think about the past year, and while I’m not big on Year End Reviews (sometimes they can be SO stupid) sometimes it’s good for us to “take stock”…

Even though my earliest blog posts date to September 2008, UncoolMom.com was officially “launched” on January 5, 2009, so New Year’s Day 2010 is just about as good a time as any for me to start assessing its first year.  How should I measure the first year of this blog?

One way to measure it is in “hits”, or “visits” to the blog.  GoDaddy.com, the company who hosts UncoolMom.com, provides me with all sorts of daily, weekly, and monthly statistics so I can measure this.  For most of the year, total visits increased every month, and that was a good sign.  Some days I had hundreds of visitors.  But then in late October, things took a big dip (was it something I said?) (was it because I took a week off?).  I’ve been told by other bloggers that that’s normal as the holidays approach.  So I’m hanging in there and hoping the numbers come back up this month.  Oh, for those stat lovers out there, the most “hit upon” post this past year was “Our Easter Bunny Was A Dust Bunny”

Another anniversary question to ask about a blog is, “Has it been a financial success?” Luckily this measurement has not been important to me, at least for the first year.  For those of you who don’t know (and a lot have told me they don’t), bloggers make money every time someone clicks on one of their ads. The revenue generated depends on the ratio of how many people visit the site that day vs. how many clicks are made. And for 2009, I guess people enjoyed the writing so much they didn’t have time to check out many of the ads!   But hopefully that will change. I have definitely spent more time on this “side project” than I’d expected (I can’t help it—I’m a perfectionist and have not been able to do “15-minute blog posts”) so getting a little bit of moolah for that time would be nice…I do receive free stuff once in awhile that people or companies want me to review, and plans are underway to add a “Product Reviews” tab to the blog and have Giveaways as well.

Yet another way to measure the success of a blog is in comments.  Do people like it? Do they enjoy reading it? Yes, yes.  Check out the “Recent Comments” and “More Comments” sections on the side bar.  I definitely have touched on things to which a lot of people can relate.  And when I receive encouraging comments from not only people with children, but those without, I know I’m onto something here! Thanks very much to everyone who has sent in a comment—and if you’re finding it hard to comment when reading the blog on Facebook, simply bypass Facebook momentarily and go directly to the blog at
www.uncoolmom.com, and the comment button at the end of each post should work.  Thanks also to those who have emailed me and asked for an “UncoolMom.com” bumper sticker.  I still have a bunch more and they are still free, so let me know if you’d like one. (My email address is always at the bottom of the sidebar.)

My preferred way to measure this blog is in fun.  Do I enjoy doing this? Yes.  This has been so much fun and such a creative outlet, I think some of my best writing ever has come out of this (some of my favorite posts so far are Uncool Hands, Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well, A Schoolbus Education, The Roller Coaster of Parenting, and When Mom Dresses Like A Teen).  It was fun to win the Nickelodeon Award, fun to win a prize in the Lakewood 4th of July Parade, and fun to get encouragement, support and a few shout-outs from the editors at the Dallas Morning News’ NeighborsGo section. 

One question I’ve been asked is, “Are my kids embarrassed or bothered by the blog?”  My younger daughter sometimes looks over my shoulder when I’m writing and doesn’t quite “get” it.  I mistakenly thought my older daughter was too preoccupied to ever see it (how naïve is that?). Then one day I accidentally left the site “active” on my computer, and she sat down and read it.  Thankfully I have the option to approve or reject comments before they’re published—  she left some pretty harsh ones that night, to put it mildly.  But that was in the spring, and since then her attitude about it has changed.  I think she’s realized that it’s not always about her, and perhaps a friend has told her they thought having a Mom who blogged was… cool? In addition, she greatly enjoyed the photo shoot that resulted in the header photo above.  Whatever the reason, not long ago she told me that if I got her one of my blog T-shirts, she’d wear it to school.  (Will wonders ever cease?)

While I’m not sure I am going to do that, it’s always fun whenever I wear my own shirt.  I always get comments—  people love it, and most of the time they think “UncoolMom.com” is a funny statement rather than a real site, as if I’m saying, “I’m so uncool, I’m uncoolmom.com”.  They point and say, “That’s me, too!” and I’m happy with that.  Those kind of comments real
ly lift my spirits, especially if I’ve had a particularly trying day.  Like the other day, when I was wearing my shirt in an Ulta store two days before Christmas, waiting in a line that was about 10 people deep.  Allison went off to find more stuff she could try to talk me into buying while I patiently waited.  Upon finally being summoned to a register, I was asked by the clerk, “Uncool Mom? What’s that?” To which a guy waiting at the next register, a total stranger, loudly replied, “That’s a parent who’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing!”

“You got that right,” I smiled and said, along with a few knowing laughs and murmurs from the crowd behind me.  ###