Uncool Mom Featured On Mamapedia

I’m very excited to share that a past post from UncoolMom.com is the “featured post” for today, July 29,2010 at mamapedia.com. For those of you not familiar with Mamapedia, it’s a national website with all sorts of parenting and family articles as well as local advice and information.  On its homepage and in its Voices section, it showcases a different blog post every day, and also keeps the blog posts from the last four days visible. In addition, Mamapedia editors add eye-catchy photos and, about a week later, send out the featured post in a newsletter to their subscribers. So, needless to say, I am happy to be read by its 3.5+ million members.  The Uncool Mom post they’re featuring is “Geek Phobia– Can We Get a Vaccine, Please?” (from February 2010) and they’ve chosen a cute Glee-type photo to go with it, of kids in a show choir.  Please check it out at www.mamapedia.com or after 8/01/10 at this link.  I can always submit additional writing to Mamapedia for future consideration, so let me know if there’s a particular Uncool Mom post that you think deserves to be showcased!

Taking Stock: Does Our Family Measure Up?

Talk about a staycation.  We are about to embark on a huge adventure without having to leave home: we’ve applied to host a foreign exchange student through AFS for the upcoming schoolyear, a girl from France.  And I must say that even if we don’t get approved, just the process of applying has been worthwhile.  I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to really take stock of your family, your home, and your community, all at the same time?

The application was thought-provoking, asking things like “What are your family values? What’s a typical weekday/weekend like in your family? What common interests do family members share?  What’s your community like– what cultural enrichment opportunities are offered?” You’re also asked to describe each family member, your house, your mealtime routine, your communication style, and many other things…when I was finished with my honest assessment, I looked it over and felt good– we’re not so dysfunctional after all.  Our community really is nice, and so is our home.  And then I got to read what others wrote about us, because references have to be provided, and that made me feel good, too.  So at the very least, the process has given me a great set of documents that I can look at whenever I need a boost.

But I hope our AFS experience doesn’t end there.  I really want to share our home and family and culture with someone from another country.  I want us to be enriched as she shares her culture with us.  And, I’ve always dreamed of being “mom” to more than two children (since I grew up like an only child, with siblings at least 10 years older than me, and all my favorite TV shows featured large families.)  If we host an exchange student, we won’t exactly be The Waltons, but we will be half the Bradys J.
                    
I realize that exchange programs aren’t all rosy and that some families do end up with a “Donger” passed out in their front yard, a la the movie “Sixteen Candles”.  But I also know enough people who’ve been involved with AFS, as a host and as an exchange student, to know the likelihood for a positive experience is high.

Tonight, a local AFS volunteer will conduct a “home visit” to check out our surroundings and our family.  Let’s hope we look as good in person as we do on paper…

Saturday Scrapbook: Bella’s Twilight Truck

Last year, Dallas area teen Sterling Biegert received the truck used in the movie, “Twilight” from her parents when she turned 17.  Not a bad birthday present for a major Twilight collector, huh? (And not a bad ride for a teenager, either! Although it doesn’t have power steering or air conditioning…) But rather than drive her friends to the movies, mall and football games, Sterling has chosen to use the truck to raise money for her favorite local charities (PediPlace, which provides health care for low income children, and CASA of Denton County, which provides volunteer court advocates for abused children).  She and the truck appear at various events around the Dallas area and for a $5 donation, you (or your whole family, as long as it’s not as big as the Duggars of Arkansas) can sit in the truck and/or stand by it and take as many pictures as you’d like.  Recently, my 11-year-old Emmie and I met some friends for a Twilight truck appearance at Watter’s Creek, a beautiful retail/dining/living area up in Allen, TX. 

Emmie poses in Bella’s truck, now Sterling’s truck, from the movie, “Twilight”.

The girls had fun sitting in the truck (Emmie’s friend: “I’m scooting over into the passenger seat so I can sit right where Taylor Lautner sat!!!”), and I had fun talking to Sterling.   She is a mature, friendly, self-assured teen who loves talking with people and has gotten lots of practice through media interviews broadcast/published all over the world.  Not to mention she was invited to Hollywood because of her charitable efforts and got to walk the red carpet with her Twilight idols.  As she talked to us at the truck appearance, she enthralled all the girls in line by telling them about meeting the actors– which one gave the best hugs, that Ashley Greene really is beautiful in person, etc.  I think Sterling deserves lots of hugs- for being a caring teen, yes, but in talking with her I learned that her Dad passed away late last year.  Sounds like he went to great lengths to help his daughter feed her passion for all things Twilight, not only in acquiring the truck (from a seller on ebay) and carefully checking out its authenticity, but he also took her on a trip to ComicCon in San Diego, where she got to see unreleased Twilight series movie clips, and they took another trip to Forks, Washington, adding a Forks High School visitor’s pass to her collection.

For more about Sterling and the truck, check out www.eternaltomorrows.itgo.com

Forever 21 and its Maternity Clothes: Quite a “Cover Up”

Walking past my husband’s computer screen last night, which showed a page from CNN.com, I literally did a double take.  There was a photo of an in-store display at Forever 21 and an article announcing the chain’s introduction of a maternity line of “sophisticated styles for moms-to-be”.  Huh?? For those of you not familiar with Forever 21 (also known as XXI), it is a chain of stores (usually found in malls) that attracts legions of teen girls for its low-priced yet stylish clothing and accessories. The new maternity line, called “Love 21”, is debuting in five states, three of which have high teen pregnancy rates (which of course, with its abstinence-only sex ed programs, includes Texas).  So it’s easy to conclude that the folks at Forever 21 are marketing to pregnant teens (or those just thinking about it).  Some may say it’s a brilliant move in these tough economic times toward a previously untapped “niche” market, but I say it’s…well…downright creepy.  Do we really need one of the leading teen clothiers making pregnancy look hip? It’s bad enough we’ve had smiling teen celebrities in the spotlight showing off their babies, like Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin.  What’s next? Special magazines? (“Seventeen and Pregnant”? “Mama Tiger Beat”?) A school backpack that doubles as a diaper bag? An Iphone app called Teen Pregnancy Journal?

 

Forever 21 Executive VP Larry Meyer told CNN it’s just a coincidence that the line is being introduced in those states.  He says the majority of Forever 21’s customers are over 18.  Yeah, Larry, guess you can slime by with that remark, since no doubt the majority of those who fork over their credit cards to your cashiers are MOMS long past the age of 18 who are buying the clothes picked out by their teen daughters.  What kind of fools do you take us for, Larry? And that in-store display showing a poster of a pregnant female looking lovingly at her peach-colored-cotton-clad belly—are you going to tell us it’s just a coincidence that she looks like she’s still in high school?

 

I don’t know which of his stores Larry has visited recently, but the ones here in the Dallas area are literally exploding with teens (and their music).  It’s a favorite shopping destination of my own teen daughter, and I’ve spent a lot of time wandering through its racks in the last three years while waiting for her (“Mom, do not sit by the dressing rooms and please do not call out my name in front of them, looking for me!!!”).  I’m not sure I’ll be spending time there any more.

 

Maybe retailers just lose their common sense when they get into the world of maternity. I once had a job interview in the late 80’s for a special events/PR position with the then-newcomer “A Pea in the Pod”.  At the time, it was the only retailer to feature trendy, designer maternity wear for women, with a flagship store in Dallas and a couple others in upscale places like Beverly Hills.  I had previous retail PR experience, so they were interested, and so was I.  But during the interview, they informed me that if I took the job, I’d be required to purchase and wear their clothing while working, even if I wasn’t pregnant, to show customers that their clothes were so fashionable and “belt-able” they could be worn all the time, before, during, or after pregnancy.  Huh?? 

 

In addition to being 25, not married and no kids on the horizon, I was 5’2” and about 115 pounds, wearing sizes 6-8.  I looked over the clothing as I walked through the store after the interview—  I would have drowned in it. 

 

Let’s hope Forever 21’s new line doesn’t become so chic that teens will want to wear it all the time.  Or create a reason to wear it.

Parents and Movies: Hopelessly Forgetful

The re-release of the movie, “Grease” in “Sing-A-Long” version this month has reminded me of something a parent recounted to me not long ago: She’d been all excited about showing her kids the original “Grease” but when she watched it with them, she was embarrassed that she’d forgotten about all the sexual references.  Oops. You can bet with the song lyrics now plastered onto it, it’s going to be even more embarrassing for forgetful parents! J  I’m tellin’ ya, even old movies need to be Googled or looked up on rating sites like CommonSenseMedia.org for a quick refresher if you’re planning to enjoy them with kids.  Most adults I know have such bad “movie amnesia”, myself included, that it’s ridiculous when we think we “know it all”.  We have good feelings about a movie we think we saw as kids so we’re all excited about sharing it with our own children—only to be caught off guard.


I won’t forget how, in the summer of 2006, I rented “The Goonies”, sight unseen, to watch with my daughters, then aged 7 and 11.  I’d never rented it or seen it at the theatres, but so many people had told me it was their favorite movie of all time from childhood so I thought it couldn’t be that bad.  It turned out to be a definitely uncomfortable watch for me. Way too much bad language, in my opinion, and a reference to sexual torture devices (by the infamous Corey Feldman) within the first 15 minutes, as well as penis jokes.  At least I used the movie as an opportunity to talk to them about unnecessary language in movies.  Then I looked at the release date: 1985.  I was 24 years old and one year out of college when that movie came out, as were many of those people who told me they’d loved it in their childhood. Yeah, right.

 

Uh well-a, well-a, well-a, huh!
Tell me more, tell me more, did you squirm in your seat?

Tell me more, tell me more, was your face like a beet?

Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh…

 

Amnesia happened again when I wanted to rent the original movie version of “Fame” to watch with Allison, my older daughter.  She has always loved music, acting, singing and dancing, and this was about a performing arts high school, full of performing teens– and “High School Musical” hadn’t yet hit the small or big screen (and neither had the 2009 Fame remake).  So I thought it would be a perfect choice.  Luckily the rating stopped me—an R? Oh, yeah, I forgot about the “casting couch” nudity.  And the drugs.  And the abortion. And the frequent use of the “f” word.  And so I checked the release date once again: I was 19 when I saw that one.

Tell me more, tell me more, who’d of thought it was “R”?

Tell me more, tell me more, not when kids are the star!?

Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh…

Sometimes the movie doesn’t have to be that old for us to forget stuff.  Last year, one of Emmie’s teachers (a great parent to three kids of her own, now grown) announced to the class (and their parents) that she was showing “Supersize Me” as a last-week-of-school treat after they’d finished a nutrition project.  She said it was rated PG for talk about obese people.  While my memory of the documentary wasn’t real clear, bells were going off in my head.  Allison’s 9th grade Biology class had just seen it…and this was 5th grade.  I looked it up on the Internet, and my hunch was right. It was rated PG-13, not PG, due to “graphic scenes of a stomach stapling”, offensive language and the fact that the main subject and his girlfriend discuss how his diet is affecting their sex life.  Yes, most of the 5th grade class could probably handle all that, my own child included, but…I didn’t want the teacher to end up squirming, not to mention she might get in trouble with the principal, so I gave her the information I’d found (after all, kids get disciplined at school, at least at our school, if they say the word “fart”, so I had a feeling this film went well beyond those standards!). She was grateful for the heads-up and yes, had fallen victim to movie amnesia, and ordered a “cleaned up” version of the movie to show instead.

Whoa, whoa, whoa,

Tell me me more, tell me more, did the kids like the flick?

Tell me more, tell me more, did it make them get sick?

Shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop- YEH!

Movie amnesia goes on and on.  A big controversy once brewed at our elementary school several years ago when some moms of 6th graders wanted to have a quote from “The Breakfast Club” featured on the kids’ class T-shirt. They thought it would be cute.  Evidently they’d forgotten that F-bombs and pot smoking are staples of that famous film, not exactly something a school would want to promote.  (And why would “millenial” 11 and 12-year-olds even care about that movie or find it relevant?) Anyway, I’m pretty sure those moms were older than 24 when The Breakfast Club was released—the same year as The Goonies.  Which, by the way, my oldest says is one of her favorite movies of all time.

Tell me more… tell me mo, ore, ooore!

When Hand-Me-Down Hoarding Doesn’t Work

The bedroom switch my daughters are undertaking this summer has been very interesting.  The whole project has definitely turned out to be more than just “switch furniture and paint one room” (which went pretty well while I was gone July 4th by the way…my teenager, Allison, now sleeps amidst four walls painted a sophisticated gray-purple shade called, fittingly, “Enigma” J).  The switch has also involved the girls trading closets, and it has forced me to take a hard look at the hand-me-downs that have been amassing for several years.

 

See, way back in the late 90’s, when Emmie was born almost exactly four years apart from Allison (she was actually due on Allison’s birthday), I remember thinking how great that the hand-me-downs will coincide quite nicely with the seasons, and that we’d save money with all the clothes big sis could hand down to little sis. A few years later when big sis grew older, dreamed of being a fashion designer and became a “clothes connoisseur”, I started thinking little sis would not only have plenty of stuff to wear, it would be stylish, too.

 

It didn’t occur to me that my two girls would be totally different in size, not to mention taste in clothing (which only widens with a four year age difference, as trends change).  Allison was always about two sizes ahead of her age (i.e. when she was 10 she was wearing a 12) and Emmie is about four sizes behind (natural for a gymnast, huh?!).  So, at age 11 and going into 6th grade, Emmie wears a size 7.  The hand-me-downs available for her to wear right now are things Allison was wearing in preschool and kindergarten.  Mostly girly, colorful, embellished clothing– a style that, I discovered as I dug through the closet boxes, continues into the size 8s, 9s and 10s.  Completely incompatible with Emmie’s current “sporty”/“rocker” affinities and very unlikely to be “in vogue” with her any time in the near future.  So you can imagine the kinds of groans the clothes elicited from Emmie when I held them up.  Girly dresses and frilly ankle socks; a pair of sparkly red Wizard of Oz shoes; a jacket with puppies appliquéd all over; Disney Princess underwear; pastel purple slacks with a crystal belt buckle and black ones trimmed in fuzzy zebra-print cuffs.  (“Mom– are you kidding me?!”) Yes, it is definitely time to purge, and admit that my grand clothing plan is not going to work (well, except for a few pairs of socks, a few shirts and some pajamas). I’ve also realized that most anything in a size 14-16 is fair game to toss as well, because if Emmie keeps up the same growth rate, she’ll be in college before she can wear any of it…

 

It’s great that less than a mile from my house, there’s a Goodwill drop-off trailer that’s manned every day.  The friendly, toothy-grinned lady that runs it now recognizes me  in the past week, I’ve made three trips there and brought her 15 paper grocery sacks stuffed full.  And I’m not done yet.

 

It feels good to “lighten up” our household, as well as help a worthy organization at the same time.  So good, in fact, it’s addictive, and everyone else in my family should be on alert.  I’ve already purged Andy’s T-shirt drawer (did he really need 30 screen print tees?) and next I’m tackling Allison’s large collection of empty shopping bags and shoe boxes. (That’s right, empty  which will be perfect for hauling stuff to Goodwill when I run out of those paper grocery sacks… J)

Freebie Friday- Dunkin’ Turbo Coffee

As some of you know, I am a coffee nut (I’m drinking “Southern Pecan” as I write this) and am always happy to have free coffee.  Lots of online sites like Corner Bakery send out free coupons every few weeks if you sign up; Starbucks gave out free coffee to anyone who brought in their own mug on Tax Day (yes, I was there, mug in hand!).  So I was happy to hear that a giant pink Dunkin’ Donuts RV is rolling across the country this summer (click here for the schedule), passing out coupons and free hot Dunkin’ Turbo coffee. 
Dunkin' Turbo RV
Unfortunately, I’m not going to be near Fair Park this weekend when it rolls into Dallas for the Taste of Dallas event, so the nice folks at Dunkin’ Donuts are sending me some to try—and will send a free sample pack to one of my lucky readers.  Just answer the following question below in the comments section before Friday, July 16 and I will draw a winner from all who answer, and your free coffee will be on its way to your door (I’ll contact you privately to get your address if you’re the winner).

(Facebook readers, don’t forget you have to go outside Facebook and go directly to the blog in order to comment.)  Good luck, and in case you don’t win and/or can’t stop by the RV, and you still want to try it, Dunkin’ Turbo is now available in the packaged coffee section at grocery stores.

 

What is your favorite flavor/kind of coffee?

Thanksgiving in July

“It’s a free country!” How many parents have heard this line at least once from a child who is trying to justify bad behavior? How many of you have used this line on your own parents, or heard a sibling that has? And usually it’s followed by, “So I can do whatever I want!” I’ll bet the founding fathers had no idea their groundbreaking document would be someday used and misused by sassy kids and teens from sea to shining sea, to defiantly explain away everything from cursing to coming home late to not doing homework, usually as a desperate, last resort explanation when every other explanation hasn’t worked.  And we parents get the opportunity to give a quick history lesson:
“Nice try, but there are a lot of things you’re not “free” to do in this country, and disobeying your parents is one of them.”  (Gee, Schoolhouse Rock, put that to music…)
 “Huh?”
“You’re not free to go kill someone, or burn down a building, OR disobey your parents.”  (And if you really wanted to show them, some states have such strict parent-child laws on the books, they’d be sorry they even brought it up!)

So how can we teach kids about the real freedoms we celebrate on the 4th? As usual, I was thinking about “building a better holiday” this past weekend.  We usually go to a neighborhood 4th of July parade and watch fireworks at a local park in the evening.  Good American fun, but does “the point” really sink in? Does anyone, except maybe the war veterans who ride in the parade in vintage convertibles, feel grateful for what it means to be a free country?

Sometimes I think showing kids a movie like, “Not Without My Daughter”, about an American woman’s struggle to get her child (and herself) out of Iran, would be good. I sure felt grateful to be living in a free country after watching that true story.  Maybe something lighter like “The Sound of Music” might illustrate the point for younger kids…

In a recent article printed in the Dallas Morning News’ Travel section, Ellen Creager of The Detroit Free Press writes that a great way to appreciate American freedom is to travel, especially to the National Parks.  How great to drive into one of them and tell your kids, “You own this.” But she also says just traveling anywhere can do the trick.  “Grab a suitcase, get in your car and drive,” she writes.  “Stop for lunch in a small town.  See a museum.  See a lake.  See a mountain.  Just drive over to the next city.  Why? To count your blessings.  We have a vast country.  A safe country.  A free country.  A beautiful country.  A country where you don’t need permission to go someplace.”

Wow.  For once, I think I’m celebrating a holiday in just the right way.  This year, once the parade was over, my sister-in-law, Marti, and I took our two 11-year-olds and headed to the Texas lake and hill country north of Austin for two days of R and R.  (My teenager is switching bedrooms with her younger sister this summer, and this is the weekend she and my husband are painting the walls of her new digs.  That was one fireworks show I did not want to see—perfect time to head for the hills, eh? )  Last night we sat in rocking chairs on the back porch of our cabin , perched high above beautiful Lake Buchanan, and watched hawks soar over the water and the mesquite and live oak trees at sunset.  As soon as the sun went down, fireworks shows began popping near and far, joining an already busy chorus of cicadas and tree frogs. An hour and a half later, I’d counted over 30 shows and some were still going in the distance.  We all agreed it was one of the coolest things we’d ever seen.  And when we looked up, the kids got another beautiful show—stars, something we hardly ever get to experience anymore in the big city.

As my nephew Ted screamed out last night to anyone that would listen, “Happy Fourth of July!”