Saturday Scrapbook

Thought I’d post a few recent photos, since I haven’t posted any in ages…


Snow in Texas– our patio tabletop looks like a snow sombrero! 
(That’s a plant pot in the middle!)


Emmie at her first gymnastics meet–
that’s a participation medal, but she did
get a blue ribbon on vault!


Luke the Dog– photo taken by Emmie–
finally a shot where his eyes don’t look like an alien’s!


Allison on the night of the freshman Black & White Dance.
Loved the dress– it was totally “her”.
(And totally on sale! )

Scenes From A School Talent Show

Just like a 4th of July Parade or apple pie, nothing is more “slice of Americana” than an elementary school talent show, eh? Kids in egg costumes singing a hard rock/rap version of Humpty Dumpty; a boy on piano plinking out “Axel F”; teachers tap dancing; three sisters in red lipstick singing The Star Spangled Banner…Last weekend, Andy and I coordinated the mechanics of our elementary school’s talent show for the first time.  Though it’s a small school with less than 250 kids, the talent show is a big annual production (some would say it’s unnecessarily “over the top”), held at a local high school auditorium, complete with tech crew, music, lights, microphones, fog machine, scared kids, bold kids, “stage parents”, pint-sized divas, and this year, lots of props.  While I completely understand the “over the top” comments, I also think it’s a unique arts opportunity offered by our school’s PTA, giving young kids the chance to perform on a big stage– some kids who may never have the chance otherwise, or who may never do so again.  This year’s show went well and was a big success, but, well, read on…


This year’s theme was “television”, and the show was titled, “Don’t Touch That Dial!”  While it’s hard to see a connection with TV from the acts I mentioned above, believe me, if it wasn’t obvious, I somehow found a way, in the emcees’ script that I wrote, to tie each act to TV (who knew “Axel F” has been played on numerous TV shows, like The Simpsons? Thank you, Wikipedia…) But we did have a lot of obvious TV-related participants—one mom dressed up like Richard Simmons and led a group of kindergarteners as they “sweated” to the Oldies; there was a giant bottle, a bunch of tiny Jeannies and mini Major Nelsons in a 3rd grade “I Dream of Jeannie” dance act; and Hee Haw even made a comeback…twice! Never mind that the kids (and some of the parents) probably hadn’t ever seen half the TV shows parodied, or even knew what the “Dial” was in the show’s title…but at least some of the parents and most of the grandparent-filled audience knew…


Andy and I had hoped that maybe this year there would be no drama involved in bringing this show to life…but, hey, it’s a talent show, and I guess drama just naturally comes with it…
        First, people complained about the fact that we’d moved the date to February, since in the past it had been in late March, early April, or even May. But in the past, people had complained about those dates as well (“There’s too much going on in the spring!”) so we thought we’d try something different.  Then, a mom who was choreographing a large group act but whose son doesn’t attend our school any more, called to see if he could be in the act.  “He wants to be with all his friends,” she said.  I said yes, and she was happy (this was someone who’d done a lot for the show over the years and I figured she’d earned that privilege.)  But our principal said no, and I had to call the mom to break the news.  She was on a ladder putting up Christmas decorations at the time and having fun with her kids.  Not the greatest time for me to play Scrooge.  Then, 7 weeks before the show, we realized we were short on acts, so we sent out a plea on the last day of school before the holiday break to see if anyone else wanted to participate.  We got six more acts, including a Michael Jackson impersonator.  Well, pseudo Jacko ended up dropping out (he was only in second grade, so maybe we’ll see him next year), leaving us with about 23 acts, but we decided that was enough, and boldly forged ahead.


By mid-January, things were starting to come together.  Most of the acts had turned in their registration forms and backing music. A parent volunteer was planning out the set design. The 6th grade class, who all take turns in pairs being the emcees and who have two big dance numbers every year, were practicing every week with a parent volunteer choreographer, who just happened to be a former drill team member. She was working wonders with those kids who seemed to have two left feet.  I’d finished the script, and Andy was working with the student emcees on learning their lines.  Were we in the clear? Was it now smooth sailing ahead?


My phone rang late one afternoon as I was fixing dinner.  It was a 6th grade dad who was very excited about an idea he’d been thinking about “ever since the show’s theme was announced!” He wanted to build a giant remote control, with buttons and lights that turned on, and it would be, as he put it, his last hurrah at the school, since his 6th grader was his youngest child and would be going to jr. high next year. He wanted to craft it out of a yoga mat, so it would be like a sandwich board that could hang on someone, but at the same time, it could be taken off and used as a giant prop, and… My head was spinning.  ‘HUH? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?’ I was thinking, but what I said instead was, “Hmmm…interesting. Go on.”  He had all these ideas for how the remote could be used by the emcees, how they could get in a fight over the remote and hit each other with it, it could “run away” and they could chase it, he himself could ride his bike across stage at the end of the show, dragging it behind him…I calmly explained to him that the script was done, that we were three weeks away from showtime, that we had an art director who was already working on set decoration, and that the emcees were already memorizing their lines.  He was stunned. “Wow,” he said, “The script is done already?” Well, yes, I explained, when the kids practice only once a week, that doesn’t give them much time to learn their lines together….


I could tell he was bummed, and he had so much enthusiasm for this project, that I tried to figure out a way to make it work.  Which was tough, because the “thing” wasn’t even built yet.  “Well, at the very least,” I reasoned, “you said it would make a good prop just to sit on stage, right? And you said you could always wear it for Halloween, right? So go ahead and make it, and we’ll see.  But, you have to bring it to a rehearsal soon so we can work with it and the kids together.  You can’t spring it on them at the last minute.”  I also thought, maybe he won’t be able to finish it because it seemed so complicated, and then I won’t have to deal with it at all.  What kind of hair-brained idea is it, anyway, to make a giant remote control out of a yoga mat?!


One week went by and no word from Mr. 6th Grade Dad. Two weeks went by.  At around this time, the choreographer’s father passed away and practices had to be re-arranged. Then three weeks passed and still no sign of the giant remote, so I figured either it just didn’t work out, or he didn’t have the time…


On the night before the show, dress rehearsal is in full swing when I catch a glimpse of Mr. Dad, carrying his contraption under one arm and attempting to get someone to listen to him.  He tries to get my attention, but I’m scurrying around trying to make sure all the acts are where they need to be, and I don’t have time to deal with him.  He looks dejected.  One of the parents tells me, “Well, it is a pretty cool remote control…”  From what I could see, it wasn’t made out of a yoga mat after all, more like black painted foam core, and it really did have a working red light, and lots of buttons…and it wasn’t a costume, just a 5-ft. long prop.  (Meanwhile, Allison calls on my cell phone to tell me that she is stranded at home and can’t get a ride to her high school, where she’s due in costume any minute for their production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, and I make frantic phone calls trying to arrange a ride for her…Me: “Allison, I got you a ride, be looking for Mrs. M’s tan SUV in ten minutes!  There’s too much fog onstage and the Addams Family act can’t see! No Allison, I’m not talking to you.  Break a leg! Bye! CUT THE FOG!!”) At the end of dress rehearsal, I find Mr. Dad sitting on a table backstage, and feel bad that I’d ignored him.  Why do I keep feeling sorry for this guy? I take pity on him and say, at the risk of hurting the integrity of the entire show (and what little I have left personally), “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you about your remote.  We have some places in the show where it’s taking awhile to get props on and off the stage.  And we also have a couple places where we don’t have emcees.  So, if you can work with your son and his friends tomorrow during the day, on some of your ideas, we can put it in the show.”  He lights up (just like his remote).  I show him, on the “Order of Acts” sheet, exactly where we can fit it in, including right at the start of the show.   
    “I’ll call the boys and see what I can do!” he promises.


The next night, ten minutes after the show was to begin, I’m standing in a backstage room with my clipboard and headset, not believing what I am experiencing—everyone is waiting to get started– the audience, Andy at the sound board, the tech crew, the props movers, the spotlight operator, the acts …all because…the back had fallen off The Remote.  Mr. Dad is in front of me, the giant remote lying prone on a desk, wires popping out, and he’s frantically trying to get the back in place with the help of a mom with a box cutter, and narrow electrical tape. The people in my earphones are getting antsy.  Finally, he walks onstage, just him and his giant remote control in the spotlight…


It was actually a pretty good opening…he pondered out loud about what might be on TV tonight, and aimed the large remote at the stage curtains, and the show began.  Even though he and his “actors” missed most of their cues and only made it back onstage a few more times, he was thrilled.  He got his last hurrah, we got a sort of-pretty-good prop and sight gag for the show, and I reminded myself, once again, just how much my life is like the sitcoms that the kids were singing about up on stage. 


 

Freebie Friday- OxiClean Contest

As I mentioned in a post from January of this year, I don’t make a whole lot of money from this blog (yet!) but I do put a lot of effort into it, so it’s nice that companies are starting to send me free stuff that I can keep and/or give away to my readers in exchange for reviewing their product. I think contests are fun– especially when you win, so today I start an occasional feature of contests and giveaways, to be held on, you guessed it, Fridays.  To start things off, picture if you will, the lovely Carol Merrill, or perhaps another famous spokesmodel, like Dian Parkinson, holding the following items:

Up for grabs today are a bag of OxiClean Max Force Power Paks and an OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick, provided by OxiClean.  (Uncool Mom note: I’m always willing to try new stain fighters since they help “extend my investment” in my kids’ clothes as well as my own– I get so tired of spending money on my kids’ clothes only to see them ruined pretty quickly by stains that won’t come out! My youngest is still a messy eater and she’s ELEVEN! She so badly wants a pair of white jeans and I can’t bring myself to buy them– I know what will happen!!  Okay, back to the giveaway…) 

These two new products are designed with four types of stain fighters that break down dried-in stains, leaving “whites white, and colors bright”. The Max Force Power Paks look very much like the gel packs for automatic dishwashers and are designed to be thrown in the washer water before you throw in your laundry. They provide what’s called “in-wash laundry detergent boosting” and are supposed to “help remove the stains your detergent misses.”  (I liked them right from the start because there’s no measuring or pouring involved– you don’t even rip them open, you just throw them in, and they dissolve.  And since my kids have been doing their own laundry since they were 8 years old, I’m always looking for kid-friendly products to help them out.)  The information from OxiClean about the Paks says that “active oxygen deeply penetrates fabric fibers to remove stains.” (hey, this might make a great Science Fair experiment for someone…”What gets out stains best?”) Also included in the prize duo is the Max Force Gel Stick Pre-Treater, a concentrated gel in a large stick-type applicator with a unique “push-top”. Turn the stick upside down, push the top on stains– and the gel is dispensed, no squeezing required. I like that the instructions say you can treat stains and wait to wash up to one week after application. (OxiClean sent me free samples of both, and as I write this, I’m trying them out on some sheets and clothes in my washer, and will post a review on the right side of the blog in the next few days.)

So, all this can be yours…just reply in the comment section below (Facebookers, you’re probably going to have to go outside Facebook and go directly to
www.uncoolmom.com in order for the blog’s comment section to work) and tell your best “stain story”– the toughest stain you’ve ever had to deal with, and whether you got it out or not. OxiClean will pick the winner and mail the prize.  I’ll announce the winner in the comment thread below and and will contact the winner on how to get your mailing address to them.  The contest will be active for one week, until midnight CST next Friday, Feb. 26th.  (If I was entering this contest, I think I’d write about what happened to Emmie at the school carnival last fall– she and another girl were throwing bits of cupcake at a boy in their class, so he went to the “Cakewalk”, won a large carrot cake, and proceeded to smash the entire cake all over Emmie and her T-shirt…it was a white (naturally!) Hanes T-shirt from Dollar General that she’d painted up with fabric paint, all by herself, to wear to the U2 concert… so there among all the scrawled mauve letters of “Bono Rocks” and “The Edge” were cream cheese frosting and orangey-brown cake… and it dripped from her face and hair.  She was crushed.  Luckily, it happened toward the end of the carnival and we were headed home anyway.  I didn’t even treat it with stain-fighters before I washed it, it was almost completely discolored, and I figured it was a goner.  But it came clean, and I was shocked. Getting it in a warm wash fast was key, I guess!)

The Parental Power in Being a Bookworm

You’ve heard that some people become a better parent by reading parenting books, but here’s another thought—have you ever considered that reading any book (or magazine or newspaper) helps with parenting? No, I’m not talking about the old adage, “Be a reader and your kids will be one, too” although I think that’s true.  I’m talking about the fact that being “into” reading can help you calmly get through some “trying” times that would make some Moms and Dads jump out of their skin.


 


I’ve already mentioned on this blog how I head to my car to read on school mornings, about 10 minutes before my teenager “blows” downstairs on her way to school.  I ease the seat back, turn on the radio, take a drag of coffee and prop my newspaper on the steering wheel while I wait.  I don’t have to hear Allison blame me for her own lateness, or deal with her frantically shoving a paper at me to sign, or any other number of last-minute headaches.  By the time she gets to the car, she’s gotten her act together and so have I.  Mornings always start off better when I’m out of the house, reading.


 


I’ve been taking notice lately of all the other ways that being a reading fan is such a great parenting asset.


 


For example: It’s time to pick up your child from gymnastics (or basketball or whatever) practice and you’re waiting at the gym and the team is running late, or you’re picking up your child from school and get a call on your cell phone that she has to stay after school for 15 minutes to work on a project. This kind of stuff happens all the time when you’re a parent.  Do you nervously pace back and forth, counting down the minutes and mad that you have to wait? If you’re a reader and you’ve got something good to read, it’s just no big deal.  My life is usually so busy, it’s great to be “forced” to enjoy myself and spend a few minutes reading.


 


Spending lots of time playing chauffeur? I know, I know, I’ve complained about how the driving nearly drives me insane—but the times I’ve had a good book-on-tape or book-on-CD going, I’ve actually looked forward to getting in the car, because I can’t wait to listen to the next chapter.  (And when a team or group needs volunteer drivers, I’m much more likely to raise my hand when I know that once the group is dropped off, it’s just me and the audio book, for 20-30 minutes while I drive back home…)


 


Taking a bunch of teens out to eat, and they want to sit at their own table (i.e. No Adults Allowed) and you have to dine solo? I’m quite happy to do so when I have something to read…“That’ll be a table for two, thank you—for just me and my newspaper.”


 


Last weekend on the day of the big freshman dance, Allison decided to use the gift certificate she received at Christmas for a manicure and pedicure.  My husband called me on my cell phone to say he felt sorry for me, having to spend an hour or so at a spa/nail salon, just waiting on her.  Not to worry, I told him, this was one trip to Northpark Mall I didn’t mind.  I was in hog heaven, catching up on my reading and glancing up occasionally to see all the bling and flash that was stopping by to get primped for the NBA All-Star Game…hmmm, was that LeBron James in the corner getting a moustache wax? Who knows—I was too into my book to spend much time wondering.


 


You’d think my family would “get it” by now, but Allison actually made the mistake not long ago of thinking she could use “making me wait” as revenge.  She wanted to go shopping with a friend but it was her plan that when I came to pick them up, I’d come in and pay for whatever was being held for her at the cash register. When I told her that wasn’t part of my plan, she fumed. “All right, well then I’ll just stay inside the store and won’t come out and you’ll have to wait and wait!” she said triumphantly.


 

I just smiled and said, “That would be great…and I can wait all day, if you need me to!” 

Life-By-T-Shirt

I think a historian or sociologist of the future will be able to tell a lot about the teens in our current society simply by reading their T-shirts.  Oh, I don’t mean the ones with Will Ferrell’s picture that say “More Cowbell” or Jonas Brothers shirts or even the revamped “Have A Nice Day” tie-dyed ones, although those would definitely add to the picture– I mean the ones that tell what the kids are doing all the time, at any minute.  Seriously, if their Facebook pages fade away and our blogs and scrapbooks perish, those cotton T-shirts will still probably live on somewhere, maybe in a homeless shelter, proclaiming everything from high school dances to sporting events to drama productions, and everything in between.  There’s a shirt for every occasion, every club, extracurricular activity, fundraiser, choir/band concert tour, and drill team show; every out-of-town field trip and summer training camp— there’s even an organization that Allison joined (SADD) just to be able to wear the shirt.  And just when it seems there couldn’t possibly be more, the kids will come up with a reason to have another, for example, groups of kids going to Homecoming together will design and buy their own “group shirts” and wear them to school.  (And I thought it was bad enough that the mums made kids feel excluded– if they don’t wear a T-shirt, they’re a loser, too!)  The volleyball team makes it to the playoffs? Long-sleeved T-shirts for everyone. What, you’re not wearing one? Don’t you have any spirit? The girls soccer team makes it to State.  A T-shirt is created.  They win State.  Another tee.  My daughter makes it into the spring musical, and I order a tee commemorating the milestone at the parents’ meeting– but my daughter wishes she had one of the show’s “hoodies” instead.  The freshman “girls ask guys” dance is this Saturday night, and what did all the freshmen who will be attending wear today? Specially designed T-shirts celebrating the occasion, even though it snowed like crazy in North Texas all day (go figure!). 

I think the school ought to sell really cool-looking, exclusive T-shirts that say “I made it on time to school every day this week” or “I passed math”– seriously, I’ll bet it would help attendance and grades.  If you offer a tee, they will buy.  Or at least their parents will.

Not long ago, I put a moratorium on buying T-shirts– I told my teen, “If you want one, you pay for it.” The mom of my daughter’s date for this Saturday’s dance, who has another child who is a senior, sympathized with me, but said even though there are a lot of T-shirt order forms thrown at us each year, she sees it as a cheap wardrobe, especially for boys.  Hmmm… I’d never thought of it that way before…if my daughter’s closet suddenly filled up with $10-$15 T-shirts, literally overflowed with T-shirts, maybe she wouldn’t beg for $50 blouses and cardigans she only wears once…  

NAHHH!!

Geek Phobia– Can We Get A Vaccine, Please?

America has a lot of long-time, embarrassingly idiotic attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices about a lot of things that make us the laughing stock of the world, and no where is this seen more acutely than in jr. high and high school.  For example, what total no-brain started the attitude, so many years ago, that athletic ability rules and that having any kind of smarts or artistic talent is considered geeky? Probably someone who ended up spending their life on welfare, in jail, or addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Someone who was no doubt operated on or supervised by, at one point in their life, by a “geek”.  But here we are, at least 60 years later, and that attitude still prevails, hurting us in so many ways.  I actually heard a friend say to me a couple years ago, “I’m not going to encourage my son to be in the band because I don’t want him to be called a band geek.” Huh? I tried to set her straight. Though my band experience ended in 9th grade and Allison’s ended by 7th, I have a lot of friends who found their life’s career in band, not to mention those who simply found great friends and memories.


 


“People who are in band, or choir, remember, are musically talented,” I told her.  “Which means they are pretty fun people.  Their parties are fun, even school field trips are fun, because there’s always lots of music and you never know—there could be an impromptu jam session, or singing… they have great music collections and they’re usually pretty good dancers, too.”  (well…at least the drummers are…)


 


I related some of my own memories to her.  I’ll never forget a “spring tour” I went on with my high school show choir (we were called “The Purple Aires”—  naturally, since our high school colors were purple and gray). Our choir director booked us to sing at a church and in the cafeteria of a community college in the greater Kansas City area, which was a day’s drive from my hometown.  Not sure if even one of those college students ever looked at us while we were singing, but we still had a lot of fun (Worlds of Fun, to be exact—that was the name of the theme park we got to visit)—and we did break into a song or two on our “tour bus”… Fast forward to 2007– I’m driving a bunch of 6th grade Girl Scouts around Washington, D.C., and the band girls who are riding in my (rented) minivan start an impromptu “mouth version” of the Star Wars theme, singing their particular instrument’s part, perfectly on pitch, using the word, “Duh” for each note. Several band “sections” were represented in my car and so, as all the parts chimed in and came together, it actually sounded good! I christened them The Duh Band.  They had so much fun, they kept doing it again and again, recording it on their phones (the second time with an emcee, of course) and eventually performing it for our whole troop.  Even girls who normally weren’t friends were having a blast and cracking each other up as they performed.  It was one of my fondest memories of the entire trip, and I felt sorry for the girls who weren’t in band.


 


By the end of our conversation, my friend said she’d never thought of band kids as “fun” before and I thought maybe I’d changed an attitude. Not sure that I did.  Her son didn’t enroll in band.  When grown adults start worrying about whether their kid is going to look “cool” or not, we’re in a sorry state.


 


Speaking of Scouts—now there’s yet another group who gets a bad rap.  The uniform probably doesn’t help, but, uniform aside, Scouts offer some pretty cool things kids can’t get in other activities, at least not at a young age.  Opportunities to learn how to lead, whether it’s leading the troop in a meeting, or leading a service project, or teaching younger Scouts how to do something. Opportunities to experience a whole lot of stuff in ways other kids can’t.  My 5th grade Girl Scout troop is sleeping overnight at NASA next month, something only offered to Scouts.  In a couple weeks, we’re learning about the winter Olympics and going “curling” (yes, Dallas has a curling club!) and visiting the only wolf sanctuary in Texas.  It’s so much more than camping and selling cookies (although those activities are good as well) and yet parents either don’t sign up their kids (one mom told me, “I was never in Scouts so I’m not signing up my daughter”) or they let it go by the wayside as kids get busy with jr. high sports and other activities. 


 


Kudos to Girl Scouts of the USA for continually trying to update the uniform and trying to keep the program fresh and “current”.  Kudos to movies like “High School Musical” and the TV show, Glee, which has helped boost enrollment in school choir and theatre programs.  And kudos to all the travel agencies out there who specialize in arranging choir and band trips to exciting locales.  Jay Johnson, the owner of Coastline Travel in Garden Grove, CA, (I work with a lot of travel professionals in the corporate freelance writing that I do) told me last week about how his agency resurrected the Hawaii Invitational International Music Festival, and that when bands and choirs are able to plan trips to Hawaii, it doubles their membership. 


 


In the next few months, Emmie is going to have to decide if she’s going to participate in 6th grade band next year and if so, what instrument she’ll play. (She’s already been kicked out of choir for doing pirouettes on the risers, among other things…) Band instruction is provided for 6th graders every day during school hours in our district (even though our 6th grade is still at the Elementary School.) I told her I thought she ought to consider percussion, since she’s had the piano experience they require, and they might even let her play her guitar. 


“But, Mom,” she said yesterday as we drove to church, “hardly any of my friends are going to be in band.”


“Why not?” I said.


“They think it’s for geeks,” she said.


 


 


 

Sleepless in Suburbia

Conversation this morning just before my teen, Allison, got out of the car to walk into school, and just after she’d complained how tired she was and how she’d stayed up until 2:30 a.m. doing homework and how she couldn’t get up this morning and how she’d forgotten her headband and now her hair would look bad and how she was going to be late to school, and…


 


Uncool Mom : You know, sometimes you’ve just got to put your homework aside and say, I need sleep.


Teen daughter: (Getting angry, voice rising) I’m not going to do that!! If I did, I’d fail everything! You’re always saying it’s important to get good grades, so DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE!!  (Door slams, she walks up the sidewalk to school)


 


I didn’t roll down the window and yell at the top of my lungs that I loved her, like I’ve done other times that she’s yelled at me on the way to school…she was sort of right, and besides, I didn’t have the energy, having been up past 1 a.m. myself, offering guidance to my 11-year-old, who had been diligently working on her Science Fair display board until past midnight, even though she started her experiment weeks before her friends.  “Can I go to school late and finish this in the morning?” Emmie asked.  That wasn’t an option, but after she’d finally laid everything out on the board, just how she wanted it, I told her she could go to bed, and that I’d glue the remaining pieces onto the board.  
 


“You never did that for me,” called down Allison from her perch at the upstairs computer.


“You know that’s not true,” I answered, ticking off a list of her memorable experiments—the “Do birds prefer table scraps over bird seed?” one, the “Does shower spray really work?” one, and the ribbon-winning “What keeps cut flowers alive longest?” one, all of which were finished late at night with mom’s assistance.


 


As some of you know from earlier postings, Allison has gotten involved in high school theatre this year and was very happy to get a lead part in a small musical not long after school started.  While the practice schedule was rough, it wasn’t anything compared to the current one for the big spring musical, the annual jewel in the school’s well-deserved theatre crown. (This year it’s “Fiddler on the Roof”.)  She is one of a few freshmen to make it in the show, and even though it’s a small part, practices recently ratcheted up to where they’re now every day from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. or later, with weekend practices as well.  Oy vey!  This heavy practice schedule will go on for about 2 ½ weeks, and then things will get better.  But during that time, it’s just assumed, I guess, by the school, that kids do their homework late at night and during any down time at rehearsals, which sometimes is scarce.


 


It’s the same attitude behind so many other kids’ activities on school nights:  Varsity games, both home and away, with the accompanying drill team, cheerleaders and marching band; dance team practices at local studios that don’t start until 8 p.m.; required concerts that aren’t over until almost 9; select softball games that begin at 9 p.m.  And don’t get me started about ice-related sports in Texas, which compete for limited indoor ice time, with many teams getting stuck practicing in the wee hours of the morning or very late at night.  Emmie’s gymnastics team practices every night for 3 hours, two days ending at 8:45 p.m., and two nights ending at 8 p.m. I don’t know how she’s going to keep her eyes open tonight…


 


Yes, as a society we give short shrift to the importance of sleep for kids (not to mention adults)—and yet we all know how important it is.  We know the obvious stuff–that it helps build immunity so kids’ bodies can fight off all the flus and other illnesses present in schools; helps brain function so they’re better prepared for tests; helps kids’ emotions so they can handle stress; helps prevent daytime drowsiness and car accidents; and that after you’ve had a bad day, it gives you a fresh start on a better one.  Most of us have also heard about the less obvious benefits of sleep—preventing heart disease and other major illnesses.  Sleep is such a God-given gift, yet we don’t do much to support it.


 


The contradictions are endless.  Texas colleges want near-perfect grades just to walk in the door, yet the student also must be well-rounded and show involvement in extracurricular activities, so it’s not good if parents say, “No more! Only homework and nothing else!!”  Schools strive for accolades and money that are given when their students attain high test scores and meets certain benchmarks, yet they don’t do anything long-term to encourage those students to get more sleep so that they can do better on those tests.  Kids are told during Red Ribbon Week, “Don’t do drugs” and yet with their crazy schedules, it’s pretty enticing when they’re also told, “Take this drug and you can stay up for three days straight!”


 


While parents can definitely put their foot down and not let their children’s schedules be controlled by coaches and teachers (last night was not the first time I’ve kept Emmie home from the gym in order to put schoolwork first), we can only go so far.  School administrators and others could take small steps that would help our children (and our families) in a big way.  Stop scheduling choir and band concerts, plays, etc. on school nights.  If that means all those groups would have to fight for precious weekend time, so be it.  One concert for each group per year is fine with me.  (Or here’s an idea: do an extra concert during class time, tape it, and put it out on the Internet.  Or sell it on CD or DVD.  Now there’s a better fundraiser than candy bars, and a lot less fattening.)  Schedule school-night games right after school.  Stop allowing anything to hold practices after 8 p.m. when there’s school the next day. Or, if you’re going to allow it, give all the kids involved extra time to finish tests and projects.  And stop trotting out juniors and seniors during freshman orientation who are “kid wonders”, involved in five extracurriculars at once and making straight-A’s, and telling the unknowing audience, “Yes, you can do it all!”, because it’s a lie.  Because if those kids truly are involved in all those things and getting great grades, there’s one very important thing they’re probably not doing, at least not enough.  Sleeping.  ###