Bieber Fever Has Hit My House– Should We Be Quarantined?

Not too long ago, as some of you will recall, I wrote about the phenomenon of teen idols, and how my older daughter, like me, snubbed teen idols in the preteen and junior high years.  I wrote that if she was truly like me, she was due to fall for one “at any minute”, since I had my first teen idol crush in high school.  But I really wasn’t taking my prediction too seriously.  If I were a betting mom, I would have bet that Allison would never crush on any of the faces gracing the current or future covers of “Bop” magazine.  I would have bet that this strong-willed child would want to be different, and purposely hold her ground so as not be a rabid fan of anyone that she’s told by the media that she needs to like.  And I would have already lost that bet.  Because, thanks to her and her friends going to see the movie, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”, she is now a HUGE Justin Bieber fan.

It’s funny—whenever we used to be driving somewhere and a Bieber song would come on the radio, she would promptly turn it to something else.  Now, she’s constantly scanning through several channels to find him. She scrounged up $10 in loose change in her bedroom the other day in order to buy one of his “old” CDs at Target (“Mom, pleeese give me $10 so I don’t have to dump all those quarters on the checkstand!”), and now she’s saving to buy a $10 special edition magazine full of posters and facts about the swishy-haired Canadian.  She says her dream job is to be one of his backup singers. Huh? Did that movie have subliminal messages hidden among the special effects saying stuff like YOU WILL BECOME A HUGE FAN, YOU WILL GO CRAZY OVER THIS BOY…? Did they put something in the popcorn salt? I mean, I guess I should be glad it’s not some misogynist rapper or foul-mouthed headbanger, but, really, for my teen to go from zero to full throttle overnight had me mystified.

I decided to check it out for myself, and took Allison to see the movie again (along with Emmie).  I love a good “behind the scenes” documentary and had heard the adult critics liked this, so I was ready to be impressed.  But, even with 3D glasses on, I thought it was hard to be “wowed”.  Yes, there is some compelling stuff– early home video footage of Justin, interviews with Scooter Braun, the man who discovered him on YouTube and became his manager, and comments from Justin’s mom about “getting the phone call” from Scooter and moving Justin to Atlanta to cut an album—but it lacks something that, in my opinion, is a HUGE omission—interviews with Justin himself.  Seriously, it seems like the viewer hears from everyone in his life, from one of his elementary school teachers to his grandparents to singing star Usher to even his former next door neighbor, but we rarely, if ever, hear from Justin, unless it’s singing. I would have loved to hear what he felt about living away from home for the first time, what it felt like to see the cover of his first CD, or where he was when he first heard himself on the radio.  Was it a “That Thing You Do” moment? What about his first television appearance? Or the first time he was recognized on the street, or mobbed by fans? The moviemakers do give us an appreciation for his musical talent—this kid has sung and played drums, guitar, and piano quite well from an early age—but they really leave the discerning viewer wanting more.

Maybe that’s why they’ve just announced there’s a “limited engagement”, “new extended version” coming out, with “40 Minutes of Unseen Footage!!!” Maybe that’s when he’ll get to tell his story, instead of all the adults who surround him telling it for him.  If so, I guess that’s genious marketing.  But sadly, I doubt that is what’s included.  It will probably be more concert footage, more arms magically reaching out to touch the audience, more minutes of hair being flipped.  I do know that I’m not going to pay $11.75 to find out, and neither is Emmie.  But Allison is willing to wash windows, cars, even dogs, to earn enough to go again.

A Good Alternative to Preteen Cell Phones

Just wanted to put in a plug for something we’ve used when our kids get to that age when you really don’t want them to have a cell phone, yet they need to be in communication with you: good ‘ol walkie talkies.  Not the nerdy, bulky walkie talkies of yesterday– today’s two-way radio can fit in the palm of your hand, and your child’s (and some can clip on bike handlebars, belt loops, etc.).

For as little as $20 a pair, you can give your child some of the freedom that comes with a cell phone, but you don’t have all the “baggage” that comes with one (the cost of the phone, “the plan”, possible higher phone bills, texting, games, etc.)  It’s a great after-school communications tool–  when we plan ahead, my 12-year-old and I both turn on our walkie talkies when school lets out, and I can remind her to bring certain things home, she can ask me things like “Mom, can I go to a friend’s house after school?” or tell me that she needs to stay for tutoring or a student council meeting.

We’ve also used the walkie-talkies when she wants to bike to meet a friend at a neighborhood park.  Safety-wise, I think they’re even better than cell phones.  I mean, imagine this: your child is riding his bike to a friend’s house or walking to school and needs to reach you ASAP—it could be he’s fallen and hurt himself, or sees bad weather approaching, or thinks a stranger is following him…so he gets out his cell phone.  First, he has to get it out of “locked” mode, then get to the “dialer” menu or contacts list, then click on your number, and then wait while the phone rings.  It may roll to voicemail if another call has come in.  Or, as soon as you pick up, the call might be magically “dropped” thanks to your wonderful cell phone reception, so he has to start all over again.  Meanwhile, that leg is bleeding…or that stranger is getting closer.  With walkie-talkies, you turn on yours when your child sets out on his journey, and your child turns on his, and you make sure they are both on the same channel.  Then if he needs to reach you, he just presses a button and you’re talking to each other. Instantly.  And chances are you won’t get bad reception, because there are many different kinds of walkie talkies with different ranges (i.e. how far one can be from the other and still hear the other clearly) so you can find one that best fits your needs.

For sure, even as sleek and tiny as walkie talkies can now be, they can’t begin to compete with a cell phone in the area of “coolness”– but my kids have been willing to put that aside in exchange for the freedoms we’ve granted if they use them.

(To see the latest in walkie talkies, check out this link or find them at any Radio Shack store, Target, Academy Sports, or other stores that sell electronics or sporting goods.)

10 Ways for Overcommitted Parents to Say No

Lately, I’m often reminded of something a friend of mine once said in a Christmas card note, just after she’d listed all the volunteer activities in which she was involved, like PTA and Girl Scouts: “It’s ironic that the things we do to benefit our children keep us from spending quality time with them.”  At the time, I’d barely started a family and couldn’t relate. 16 years later, with at least 13 of those years spent on various volunteer boards, I can. And now that my husband has gotten involved as an office-holder in “stuff” like PTA as well, we’re doubly aware.  This year, we’re officers or committee chairs in 10 organizations combined, and in one, we each hold both a board position and a committee chair. In addition to doing our regular jobs.  I keep a white board on the wall just to keep track of volunteer responsibilities.  What happened to my vow of cutting back? Obviously, it got lost in the shuffle.  The one thing that’s kept us positive about volunteering this year, kept us from totally drowning, is the shared decision that when several of our volunteer commitments end in May, we’re not taking on any new ones.  At least for a couple years. Maybe four.  Maybe 10.

In order to do that, we have to stop volunteering to volunteer, and we have to say no (and stick to it) when people ask us to volunteer.  That used to be hard for us to do (thus the reason for our current state of being)– but now that we’re burnt out, it’s not hard at all. 
Oh, yes—even though it’s only February, we’ve already been asked to do several things for the next year.  Will you be Treasurer for the Local Council of PTAs? No. Will you be on the board of the Junior High PTA? No.  Will you be President of our P.E.O. chapter again? No.  Well, then how about Recording Secretary again? No.  Each time we say it, it helps boost our confidence for the next time.  And I don’t feel guilty at all, because recently I had an “Ah-hah” moment involving simple math: Since I’ve held so many volunteer positions over the years, numerous ones within each organization, and there are far more members than there are officer and committee chair positions, that means there are a lot of members who have never held an office or chaired a committee.  Not once.  And there’s something wrong with that.  Yes, we overscheduled parents all know the sad refrain we hear a lot: it’s hard to get people to do those jobs.  But I now say, if not enough people can step up to the plate, then the organization shouldn’t exist, or it should merge with another so that it can. 10% of an organization’s members should not be constantly doing the work for the other 90%, and if they keep doing it, then nothing’s going to change.  And that 90% will never get the chance to hone their leadership skills.  It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to us.

That’s #1 on my list of how I am currently saying no.  But nothing is ever One Size Fits All, and sometimes there can be pushy people who won’t take no for an answer– and so I offer up to you even more ways to turn them down:

10 Ways for Overcommitted Parents to Say No:

  1. No, it’s time to share the load.  I want to give others a chance to get involved.

  2. No, I’m already doing too many other volunteer jobs and don’t have room for more (and if you don’t really have any other “official” volunteer work, remember, being a parent counts as a huge volunteer job!!).

  3. No, I need to spend my more time with my family.

  4. No, my health (or sleep, or whatever ailment) is suffering from being too over-committed, and I need a break

  5. No, if I accepted that position, I wouldn’t be able to devote the time needed to do the job well, and I care about this organization too much to do that.

  6. No, but I would be able to do that job next year (or fill in the year) if you would please ask me then.

  7. No, I’m not sure if I’m going to be a member of the organization next year.

  8. No, I promised my family I wouldn’t take on any more volunteer jobs and I can’t break my promise to them

  9. No, but I can give you five other names you might want to call.

  10. No. (or the nicer but still succinct “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.) (or you can always add, “Unless it includes free maid service, once a week for a year.”)

If you’re new at this, remember that people who are seeking volunteers ALWAYS, intentionally or unintentionally, play down the volunteer time that will be involved. It is always more time-consuming than you’re told it will be.  And, also remember this: the people asking you to get involved are not the parents of your children, you are.  They will not be the ones left standing around wondering, “Where has all the time gone? Why didn’t I spend more time with my kids? Or myself? Or my spouse? Or my house? Or my friends?”  Don’t get me wrong– volunteering in the school, church, and community is a good thing, and it’s good role modeling for your kids—but so is modeling the ability to bring balance to your life, and to say no.

Two Dog Nights, Three Kid Days

Emmie with Ben Arffleck and Luke

The kids are out of school again today, for an unprecedented five days in a little over a week.  This snow and ice mix is definitely giving North Texas some Three Dog Nights (for those of you that don’t know, that’s Australian slang meaning, it’s so cold you’ll need three dogs to keep you warm—and yes, the 70’s pop band took their name from that as well).  But in our house, we’re actually having Two Dog Nights. A few days ago, our adoption was completed for a shelter dog, a “senior” apricot poodle named Ben Arffleck.

Okay, friends and family, get back in the chair you have just fallen out of—we know you probably think it’s crazy to bring a second dog into our family, but sometimes the “crazy” thing is the right thing to do, and so far it’s turned out to be a very good decision. First, this has been in the works for awhile– we had always thought it would be nice for Luke to have a playmate, considering he spent his first six months of life surrounded by dogs on a “breeding farm” and is so much happier when he’s with dogs.  He’s lonely in the house all day with just me, and Ben has been a good companion for him. They want to be near each other all the time.

Second, we fell in love with Ben’s photo when we saw it in the newspaper three weeks ago, and with his name, and with the fact that he was a “senior”. The Richardson Humane Society has been promoting senior adoption lately, since older pets are often the ones left behind in shelters, not readily adopted and euthanized as a result.  RHS rescues and fosters as many as possible until they are adopted, and by adopting Ben, we’ve not only helped him find a permanent home, we free up a spot in a foster home so that they can rescue yet another pet.

Ben, being about half the size of Luke but sometimes more active, actually reminds us more of a puppy than a senior (I think he could have also been named Benjamin Button!). Maybe “you can’t teach on old dog new tricks”, but an old dog can teach a young dog, and Ben has already taught Luke some new things.  Luke has always been a bit skittish and “stand-offish” and took awhile to warm up to us (typical of puppy farm dogs, I have learned) but around Ben, he’s acting like a normal dog.  Jumping up and down and wagging his tail like crazy, just like Ben, when we come in the house. Jumping up on the sofa to curl up next to us, just like Ben.

An added bonus is how all the kids love Ben and want to take care of him, and their shared affection for him just may be a bridge over troubled waters.  With yet another day of everyone cooped up in the house, we need that bridge.  

But I’m not kidding myself.  After everyone’s eagerness to walk, feed and hold Ben fades, there will probably be one person left “holding the leash” and that will be me. We’ve had too many “Mom’s pets” through the years not to know that from the start.  But I love dogs, and I’m fine with that. And I’m thrilled with all the sweetness that this tiny senior baby has brought with him.  True, a senior pet (RHS thinks he’s 8 or 9) won’t be around as long as a puppy, but that makes the time with him all the more precious

The Super Bowl is in Town…Should I Be Excited? Plus: A Unique Snack for Gringo Super Bowl Parties

My metropolitan area is experiencing two Big Firsts this week. It’s the first time since anyone can remember that all area school districts have been closed for four days straight due to snow and ice, and the first time our fair metroplex has hosted a Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLV, comin’ to a domed stadium about 45 minutes from me.   The most-watched sporting event in the U.S. …Amidst rolling power outages, dwindling food in the fridge, squirrels (or is it mice?) taking refuge in our garage, kids who’d rather not be holed up together for four days straight, and a flat tire on the aravan when I finally did get out to drive on the ice—do I care?

Maybe if the Super Bowl Half Time entertainers, The Black Eyed Peas, had come along in their limo when I needed a ride home from my flat-tired car…  I guess the only thing that Super Bowl XLV has done for me is it’s brought some good humor along with it—writers like the Dallas Morning News’ Jacquielynn Floyd have been dishing out some funny
commentary about how the world is preparing for a Dallas Super Bowl (Blowing up inflatable cacti to put next to their TV screens? Really?) and local businesses are trying to cash in with some pretty corny advertising (“Get Your Game Face On” implored the ad in today’s paper from a store’s cosmetics department—“Score a touchdown with a touchup! Discover the secrets to playmaking lashes! Kick off with our spring color collection!”).  And, I am looking forward to the annual Super Bowl party we attend, where we’ll see friends we haven’t seen since Super Bowl 44. 

But other than that, the Super Bowl’s nearby presence  is really not affecting me that much.  That is, unless the legions of fans and celebrities in town seek out local blogs for information– since the words “Super Bowl” are in the title of this post, they just might find Uncool Mom, stop by for a visit, click on my ads, and help me greatly increase my revenue.  Then I would be forever grateful to Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and impresario of Cowboys Stadium.

Sooooo, with that in mind, I’d like to offer up my recommendation to any out-of-towners that may be reading this: before you leave town, buy some Takis. You know how regions of the country have certain packaged foods you can’t get anywhere else? For example, in Southeast Iowa they have Sterzing’s Potato Chips.  And my east coast friends crave Tastykakes, a Dolly Madison/Hostess type of confection found in stores “back home”.  Well, for a taste of North Texas that might not be readily accessible back home, Packers and Steelers fans should put a few bags of Takis in their suitcase before they leave.  “Taki” is a take-off on the word “taquito”, i.e. a tightly rolled-up corn tortilla stuffed with meat and then fried, a staple at area Tex-Mex restaurants. The Takis bagged snacks are basically a taquito minus the stuffing, and rolled in various yummy seasonings.  They are made in Mexico by a company called Barcel and distributed in the U.S. by Bimbo.  My youngest child first found out about them earlier this year at the school lunch table, when a Hispanic student pulled them out of her lunch bag and shared.  Emmie and the rest of us have been hooked ever since.  We’ve been able to find them at area gas station convenience stores and at the Hispanic grocery chain, Fiesta (and upon calling Bimbo, I found out they are also available at some Wal Marts, and online at  I’m not a big champion of snack foods, but I must say, Takis are REALLY GOOD and from looking at the nutrition facts, a bit better for you than the average potato chip. They come in five flavors (Guacamole is my favorite—Fuego and Nitro are so hot they make spicy food fans cry) and luckily we bought all five before the storm hit—when Emmie and her friends come inside after playing in the snow, I’ve been hearing a lot of “Can we have some Takis and hot chocolate?”  Yes, definitely a unique way to warm up… 

Unfortunately, I won’t be taking a bag to our friends’ Super Bowl party.  I’ve been assigned to bring vegetables—“either hot or cold or both” the note said.  But hey—since guacamole is made with avocados, maybe I will sneak a few guac Takis on that veggie tray…