Two-fer Tuesday: An Offbeat Mother’s Day Gift

Gotta put in a plug today for my Uncoolmom.com bumper stickers (click here to see a picture), now that it’s only 12 days until Mother’s Day.  They make great offbeat gifts (or package toppers) for friends who are moms, or, if she’s got a good sense of humor, your own mom.  And the best part is, they’re free if you drop me a line at patricia@uncoolmom.com, and the shipping is free, too (so there you have it, the “two-fer”…).  Just send me the shipping address and I’ll get it in the mail ASAP.  Better yet, if you slap the sticker on your car and send me a photo of it, I’ll send you a free T-shirt, too.

And, if you’re skeptical about it and think you or your friend would just be a walking advertisement, the shirts and bumper stickers are more of a statement than an advertisement.  Most people who stop and comment when they see me wearing one of the shirts or driving in my car don’t think it’s a real website– they just think I’m saying, “I’m so uncool, I’m uncoolmom.com.”  And very proud of that fact!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Risky Business: Is Writing Killing Me?

Who’d have thought I work in a dangerous job?
Well, I do, according to the news that’s resurfaced lately, that people
who sit for prolonged periods of time each day are at a greater risk for
heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis—okay, basically, an
earlier death than those who don’t. Apparently I missed all the stories
about it last year, but caught one a few days ago when it flashed across my homepage (and new research about children and sitting
followed a few days later).  Yeah, we all know that being a couch
potato (or desk potato) equals fat, and we’ve also been told that
getting more exercise can make that fat go away, so what will this
“news” tell us that we don’t already know? Shouldn’t I have just skipped
that article and gone on to something more compelling, like the Royal
Wedding or who got voted off on American Idol? I’m glad I read to the
end.  And that I looked up more information.  Because
what I read says that even if you add regular exercise into your life
each week, it won’t make a difference to your overall health if you
spend the majority of your time sitting.  And not just one “ground-breaking study” says that.  Several, conducted in the U.S. as well as across the globe. 

One study of 13,000 men and women over the course of 13 years found that people who sit for most of the day are 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.  A
large-scale Australian study found that adults without known diabetes
who sat for long periods of time had higher rates of abnormal glucose
metabolism. Another, funded by the American Cancer Society, studied
123,216 people with no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke or lung
disease and found a higher total mortality rate among those who sat a
lot– for those who sat more than six hours per day, the rate was at
least 18%, spanning all those diseases.  And the rates for
women were higher—37%, and in women and men who didn’t incorporate much physical activity into their life, the rates jumped to 94% and 48% respectively.  94%?!  And
I’ll bet if they further broke it down by those who work from home vs.
those who don’t, us WAHM’s rates would be even higher, since we have no
co-workers begging us to take a break.  And, come to think of it, heart
disease runs in my family…Geez, doesn’t that put my risk of death higher
than police officers, stunt pilots and Keith Richards? 

Evidently when the body is inactive, certain important regulatory functions are impaired and start to shut down– researchers at a Stanford University conference last summer called it a “unique cascade of physiological changes”…for
example, how fat and sugars are regulated in our bloodstream.  And once
those processes get out of whack, bad stuff can happen, like the
build-up of artery plaque. Heading to the gym once, twice, or even three
times a week can’t prevent it, as these metabolic changes happen every
time you sit for about three to four hours or more. 

That definitely makes me squirm…in my chair…the one I sit in all the time…yep, I could be in big trouble.  I
mean, ever since Allison was 2 and I gave up the outside working world
for life as a work-at-home mom/writer/nonstop volunteer, I’ve spent a
huge amount of time sitting at my computer. That would be almost 15
years of prolonged daily sits to be exact, the kind of sits wher
e you get so immersed in writing something that you can’t stop and you lose track of time.  And after you finish, there’s email to answer. And phone calls to make.  I
often also eat breakfast and lunch at my desk…some days I think I’d
never get up if it weren’t for the dogs needing to be let out and fed. 
My dad always used to say I was a “good little traveler” because I could
“hold it” for hours and never beg to go to the bathroom on long car
trips, and unfortunately that skill has continued into adulthood.  So
throw “kidney problems” onto that list of potential health hazards, and
eye problems, too, from staring at a computer screen all day!  I
can easily sit for four or more hours straight when I’m trying to
finish a writing assignment, and since that was hard to do when the kids
were young, I got into the habit of getting jobs done late, late at
night (a bad habit that continues today), and losing sleep because of it
(yet another health risk!!).  Once the kids were both in
school, I began sitting at my desk even more, during daylight hours—and
today when I’m not at my desk, I’m often driving kids around—sitting in a
car.  Who’d have thought I might be slowly killing myself?
Now I feel like Adam West in the original Batman movie, running around
with that giant fake-looking bomb in his hands, trying to get rid of it…
(okay, time to click here and watch that brief clip for a welcome laugh!)

The news stories go on to say that there is hope, although the solution is not necessarily one of those new “standing” desks
(which bring their own health issues after prolonged use, like foot and
hip problems, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome and an extra load
on the circulatory system).  Researchers suggest, for
adults as well as children, creating a balance between sitting and
standing throughout the day, making sure to get up from your desk every
20 minutes and stretch or move around (hmmm…with “writing immersion”,
I’d probably have to set a loud timer…then again, with my sluggish
computer, I’d have lots of opportunities for breaks if I got up every
time an hourglass appears on my screen for more than 2 seconds…) Another
suggestion is to replace your desk chair with one of those giant
inflatable exercise balls (wow, talk about balance, not to mention a
good thigh workout…). 

Yes,
I have already been trying to stick to a pledge I made last month to
walk and bike more during the day (although it’s getting harder now that
outside temperatures have been hitting the 80s and 90s) and this news
definitely makes me want to stick to that pledge even more (not to
mention the fact that gasoline prices are now in the realm of insanity),
but this is a wake-up (er, GET UP) call to go further, and completely
change how I’ve been doing business. So excuse me while I stop this post
and go move around—I’ve been at my computer for exactly three and a
half hours, and I think I hear my enzymes starting to snore…

The Two-And-A-Half Month Bucket List

While not yet officially in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “bucket list” is something most people now know and use thanks to the 2008 movie of the same name, meaning “a list of things you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’, i.e. die”.  Entrepreneurs have happily taken that term and capitalized upon it– amazon.com currently offers 16 different “bucket list books” including everything from the Sex Bucket List to the Christian Bucket List to the Baseball Fan’s Bucket List; the website reaperlist.com gives people a place to store their lists, check them off  and “discover others who will see your list and hold you accountable to it”.   There are even Android and iPhone bucket list apps… People now also use the term to simply mean things they want to do before a certain deadline, i.e. they may have a “college bucket list” (things to do before you graduate) or a “parenting bucket list” (things you want to do for/with your kids before they’re grown and gone).  The Dallas Morning News has been running a heart-wrenching series about a local boy with cone-rod dystrophy, who’s losing his eyesight and is traveling across America with his own bucket list of things to see before he can’t see anything anymore. Recently he was in New York City, where he memorized the sight of Lady Liberty and stood on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange. 

While my family is not facing the tragedy his family is facing, his story does remind me of another bucket list that I need to “tend to”– Things We Need to Show Our Foreign Exchange Student Before She Leaves.  And that departure deadline is fast approaching, in late June. 

We’ve gotten complacent with just blending her into our everyday lives and have slacked off on travel, adventure, and doing the local “tourist stuff” we figured we’d get around to eventually. But she’s leaving in 73 days, and that gives a whole new meaning to even simple destination questions like “Where should we go for dinner?”.  What if she’s never able to return to the United States again? What should we be showing her? What can we afford to show her? What are things close by that she hasn’t seen yet? Yes, we have taken her to Florida and to see the Johnson Space Center in Houston, not to mention Glen Rose, Granbury and Dublin, Texas,  and she’s going on a big trip to Washington, D.C. in a couple weeks with other AFS students…but there’s so much more to see!  And looking on our busy calendar, among the upcoming 73 days there’s only two or three open weekends available. My sister-in-law Marti says we’ve got to take Cleo to New Orleans, others say the Grand Canyon…heck, there’s a lot just in Texas alone she still hasn’t experienced…bat caves and bluebonnets, tubing down the Guadalupe, Gulf beaches, a longhorn cattle drive, the Dallas Arboretum…we know for sure that we’re driving to Grandma’s in Iowa for a week in June and so I’ve been figuring out all the things we can show her on the way up and back, in addition to the Amish village that Cleo has requested to see while we’re there…

We can’t “do it all” in 73 days, so we’re going to have to plan carefully and just do what we can.   And with fuel prices heading toward $3.80/gallon today, that adds yet another element to the challenge.  Stay tuned, and please send any “bucket list” suggestions my way in the Comments section below (Facebook readers, remember you have to go outside of Facebook to www.uncoolmom.com in order to comment on the blog directly.  I’m getting out my pen, paper, calendar, and calculator right now!

Double Feature Creature Show

My family may live in a suburban neighborhood, with brick houses that look eerily alike, a superhighway nearby and a Starbucks at every major intersection, but it’s often more like Wild Kingdom around here, especially at night.  Medium-sized turtles and small frogs sitting motionless on the sidewalk, probably pondering how to find their way back to the nearby creek…possums ambling across the alley, trying to get out of the glare of headlights…coyotes preying on neighborhood cats and howling right outside my home office window (can you say, Makes the Hair Stand Up On the Back Of Your Neck Like Nothing Ever Did Before?)  Sometimes we even get thrills and chills during the day, like the time a gorgeous red-winged hawk walked around my neighbor’s front yard for 20 minutes, or the time Luke cornered a black garden snake in the living room (don’t I get some kind of Mom crown for taking care of that?). I’m glad my husband was home for our latest creature encounter.  Make that two, less than 6 hours apart. 

Late last Saturday afternoon, we were all sitting/standing around the living room, talking about our day—I’d just brought Allison home from drill team practice, Andy had just turned on the TV to get an update on the Masters golf tourney and Emmie had just returned from a volleyball game. (Cleo was at a friend’s house.) Luke and Ben had just bounded into the living room, tails wagging, and were getting their bellies scratched by whoever cared to indulge them. I noticed a brownish blob, a small  “dark something” about 5-6 inches long on the rug between the love seat and the kitchen, but there are lots of small “mysterious somethings” on our rugs/floors/carpet at any given time—socks, leaves, dog toys, underwear—so I didn’t pay it much attention.  But then the blob began to move, and I am not kidding you, it reminded me of something out of the movie “Alien”.   It looked like a large slug and was writhing. On my 100% wool Pottery Barn rug.  From where I was sitting, I was the only one who could see it and my reaction went something like this: (Pointing) “OH. MY. GOSH. There is some kind of creature on the carpet and it’s moving!!!” (My kids also tell me I said “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? but I can’t remember for sure. I was too creeped out.)   Two very tiny arms and legs suddenly appeared and reached up to claw at the air, then two more stuck out toward the bottom and started moving like crazy as well. The whole thing looked very “embryonic”.  Now everyone was looking and joining the conversation.  “EEW!” “Is that a mouse baby?” (Among all our wild animal friends, we have a resident garage mouse—fun, fun.) “It looks like a fetus!” “What’s a fetus?” “How did it get there?”  “That’s too big to be a mouse.” “Maybe it’s a rat!” “What if it’s a bat?” “EEEEEEW!” “Could Luke have brought something in from outside?” Andy informed us that yes, the dogs had just been outside.  I decided that Luke must have carried the newborn something in his mouth and deposited it proudly on the rug, and now we all realized, based on the rabbit population in our backyard, that it was probably a newborn baby rabbit. And from the looks of it, freshly newborn. Luke must have disturbed the mother mid-birth.  (Great…probably the wife of the FREAKING EASTER BUNNY!!!!!) So now the whole situation was heartbreaking… the choruses went up again, only differently.  “It’s going to die!” “Andy, do something!”  “Daddy, do something!”   “We’ll just have to raise it and bottle feed it!” proclaimed Allison.  In the end, Andy put it in a box and emptied the box under a backyard bush.  Allison confirmed via Google images that it was indeed a newborn rabbit, and we all hoped that somehow its startled mother would come back to find it.   (And that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t seek revenge…)

Fast forward to 10:30 p.m. Andy, Emmie and I are in the car, driving back home from a friend’s house, where we ate leftovers from the Parents’ Prom and the adults reminisced on all the fun we had (yes, very good times were had by all at the prom!!).  I felt something on my leg just below the edge of my capris and thought it was the handle of my purse, then realized it was a lizard (or gecko, or anole—you pick it).  In the dark, I didn’t know how big it was, I just shrieked, grabbed and flung.  We pulled into the drive a few seconds later and when the light came on as the doors opened, I looked to see if I could find who had hitched a ride on my leg. To my horror and disgust, there on the floorboard was a lizard tail—and it was moving, flopping and writhing around even more than the living room bunny blob earlier in the day. (CUE MUSIC: Theme song from “Psycho”.) “AAAH! IT’S ALIVE!!!” I screamed. “Look at it! It’s not stopping! It’s like it has a mind of its own!!”

Emmie came around to my side of the car and calmly peered in.  “Mom it’s supposed to do that…you know, like you used to say, ‘like a chicken with its head cut off.’” At that moment, I wished I’d never used that phrase to describe children’s behavior when they’re running wild.  And I hoped very much that the rest of the lizard wasn’t hiding in my purse, which had been sitting wide open in the car.

Friday Freebie: Win Free Groceries for a Year (or diapers, if you prefer)

“Ever notice how Mom upside down spells Wow?”
What a great line. Think I’ll use that on my kids someday.  That was the line that caught my eye in a
recent Texas Health Resources ad. 
They’re trying to drive traffic to their blog and educate people about
their hospitals and services with a fun website (www.TexasHealth.org/Moms) that’s
currently running a register-to-win until April 18. You can enter as often as
you like and the prize is free groceries or diapers for a year, or you might win some other goodies like an Apple iPad or a Flip Video camera.  Not bad! And they’ve also got a section
where people can share their favorite parenting lines.  Of course I had to offer up some Uncool
Momisms but I also read through what had already been submitted, and there are
some good ones, like: “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back”, “You
may think this is a democracy, but it is a MOMocracy!”, “I’ll talk to you when
your voice sounds like mine” and “Don’t look at me with that tone of
face!”  Some of them are definitely
worth memorizing! Anyway, just wanted to pass this on, not just for the great
one-liners, but because the prize is one of the better ones I’ve seen lately.  Good luck!

A Prom Where Everything’s Legal (well, almost everything…)

I don’t know exactly when/where I came up with the idea. Maybe it started in the shower.  I think it really took hold while driving in my minivan a few years ago, listening to an all-70s radio station, high on coffee so my brain was firing pretty good… and suddenly it hit me—wouldn’t it be a great fundraiser for a school PTA to host a dance just for parents? Not a party, not a dinner, but a dance.  I mean, think about it—I’m always hearing moms complaining that there’s nowhere to go out and go dancing anymore.  You either have to be into country music; or hanging out with 20-somethings at clubs with weird, one-word names like “Liquid”, listening to a professional DJ spin something called “House” (no thanks); or opt for a smoky bar with a local band that needs to turn down their amps (and spend more time practicing); or attend a wedding reception, something that happens less and less the older you get. A dance just for parents would be perfect.   And then my brain really got going, and hit on the idea of a prom theme. Why not? I could envision the possibilities…people digging out their old prom attire and attempting to wear it again or going to secondhand stores and finding something really tacky; music from many different decades; a slideshow on the wall showing attendees’ old high school photos; tacky souvenir portraits taken in one corner (with a balloon arch and a plastic palm tree?)…And think of all the things we could now do that were taboo at our “real” prom…drink, stay out all night, sleep with our date…


 


The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was onto something.  People would be excited about getting to go to a prom with their spouse/significant other, especially if they didn’t go with him/her in the first place, or getting to go again even if they did go together, or finally getting to go to a prom if they never did at all…When I ran the idea past Andy, he said it would be a good fundraiser maybe for a junior high or high school’s PTA, since they actually have dances for students, but as I mulled it over even more, I came to the conclusion that a parent prom was perfect for an elementary school, for the simple fact that since elementary kids are too young to have dances, the parents ought to have one instead.  Elementary parents are a younger bunch, anyway, and might be a lot more excited about doing something like this. I also found out that having a prom for parents has been done successfully in other towns (Seth Myers mentioned one a couple weeks ago on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”).  Of course, when you get an idea for anything, you usually end up being the person who gets to make it become reality—  so I’ve just spent the past school year as our elementary PTA’s Vice President of Ways and Means, and our Parents’ Prom is this weekend.


 


Reactions from area adults have run the gamut from curiosity and skepticism to enthusiasm and sheer giddiness, and luckily those last two emotions have moved over 100 people to buy tickets. People really are digging out old prom wear and finding old photos. (My own high school dance dresses, amazingly found intact at my mother’s house after over 30 years, have enough elastic in them to where a couple actually fit, but they’re so butt-ugly I can’t bring myself to wear them…I mean, whoever thought powder blue was a flattering color? And I think I’d need full-body Spanx in order to wear any of them successfully, anyway!)  People are inviting friends who don’t even have kids at our school, and they’re excited, too.  People are ordering corsages, planning where they’re going to go for dinner, sending song requests to the DJ, lining up babysitters …

I think everyone’s kids are totally embarrassed by the whole thing (“Mom, I’d better not see any photos of that on Facebook!!  Pleeeese tell me there won’t be any cameras there!!””) but any money we raise will go to their school, so they’d better get over it. Not only do I plan to take a lot of pictures, I especially look forward to having one of my kids snap a photo of us just before we walk out the door.  I can see it now.  “Say cheese, Mom!  Um, no, I mean, CHEESY!”

Whose pep rally is it, anyway?

Excuse me for wondering, but weren’t high school pep rallies originally designed for the students and staff of a school to “rally” behind their sports teams and get them fired up to win? Later they were expanded to include pep rallies for everything from final exams to “just say no to drugs”—but, back in the day, I don’t ever remember the audience expanding to include parents.  I mean, why would kids want their parents at school, anyway? Don’t parents have a lot of other things to do during the day? Around here, apparently not.  Because as soon as my teen became a sophomore and a full-fledged member of the high school drill team, I discovered that not only did parents attend pep rallies, there was a whole section of the gym reserved just for them.  And it wasn’t just a bunch of stay-at-home moms filling the stands.  Working moms, too.  And dads–  lots of them.  From 9-10 in the morning.  And because so many parents attend, your kid doesn’t understand if you don’t…


“Mom, you’re going, right?” Allison said last fall.   


“Parents attend pep rallies?” I asked, surprised. 


“Yes, everyone goes! You’ve got to see one, they’re amazing!!  You’ve never seen anything like this,” she informed me.  So I went to a few, and I enjoyed them, because the drill team often debuts new routines at pep rallies and I like to see my daughter dance.  And I’m sure that’s why a lot of parents attend—they want to see their child play in the band, sing, act, dance, pump their fists in the air and run around in a gorilla costume…  But— I just don’t get it all completely.  I could see having one special pep rally where parents and the entire community are invited to attend—like the Homecoming Pep Rally.  But do we parents really need to add one more “must do” every other week to our already busy schedules?

Yesterday was the “Senior Pass Down” pep rally, held every spring to honor the graduating seniors who are “passing the torch” to the juniors on their teams, clubs, etc.  Allison wanted me to attend, but I told her I really didn’t think it was a good idea, especially since I would see her perform the exact same routine many times at the drill team show in two weeks, and I had a ton of things to do. Plus, I don’t have a senior, and I don’t know many seniors, either.  “But we’re doing our jump splits on a gym floor for the first time,” she informed me. (Gee, stop the presses and prepare a banner headline.) “And the Pass Down is so cool and so sad,” she said. 

“Yes, I can understand it would be, for you,” I said.  “It’s your school.”

I love my child as much as the next person loves theirs, but I also don’t think I need to watch her (and her school’s) every move in order to show that love…and I don’t think kids should be brought up to expect us to.  It’s unhealthy to be a helicopter parent and unhealthy to set up the dynamic where you do whatever your kid asks you to do.  I felt sorry for the mom I overheard last week lamenting the fact that after she dropped her daughter off at team practice at 7:00 a.m. on Pass Down pep rally day, she was then going to “have to” wait for two hours for the rally to start, since she didn’t work close by.  Yet her child, like mine, wasn’t an upper classman.  Would the child’s self esteem have been damaged that badly if Mommy hadn’t been there?  I don’t think so. 

Haven’t we all heard by now, from everyone from Dr. Ruth to Dr. Phil, that when parents set up their families to where they revolve totally around their children that they lose in the long run? Their kids act like entitled royalty and have a hard time coping in real-world jobs.  Many marriages suffer when a family’s schedule is so jam-packed with kid stuff that the parents never make time for themselves, to take weekend trips alone together or even just go to a movie.  And helicopter parents have a much harder time handling empty nest syndrome once their youngest child graduates.    


I come from parents who knew how to “get a life”, who didn’t worry if their child spent all day playing outside in the neighborhood and who went out with a group of friends every Friday night.  Who never felt the need to help with homework or be in constant communication with their child’s teachers, or attend every sports practice or music event.  But who were always there when it really mattered—a shoulder to cry on for the big break-ups, a smiling face in the audience for the big shows.  And I think most parents at the time were like that– after all, they were called the Greatest Generation.  But with helicopter parents setting the standards these days, what are the rest of us supposed to do?  Look like freaks in our kids’ eyes?


I just keep on doing what I do, and hope that one day they’ll understand.   And besides, we never completely “miss” an event nowadays anyway– thanks to the hundreds of photos and video that are shared online…