Friday Freebie: Free Shipping at the Uncool Shop!

It only happens once or twice a year: free shipping on anything in my Spreadshirt shop!   Just click on the words “The Uncool Shop” on the right sidebar of this blog to see all the cool Uncool Mom T-shirts (the basic is only $8.90), tanks, laptop cases, book bags…even an umbrella and an Uncool Dad shirt. Then if you decide to order anything, the shipping is free on any purchase this Saturday, Oct. 29 and Sunday, Oct. 30, by typing in the code WITCHINGHOUR at checkout.  I’m going to try to add sweatshirts to the mix and some new tees, so if you don’t see anything you like, keep checking back to see if it’s been updated.  And, I’m always open to suggestions on wording and style for the shirts, so let me know if there’s something you’d like to see and I’ll try to make it happen for you! Also, let me know if I can answer any questions about the merchandise. I own several of the items and can tell you a little bit about fabric, colors, etc.  Happy shopping and don’t forget they make unique gifts!
(Free shipping =Free standard U.S. shipping and up to $9.50 toward International.)

Another Dream Retreat for Parents?

Just the other day, when Emmie was balking at cleaning her bedroom, I reminded her how lucky she is that she has her own room, a space she can call her own.  We talked about how not all kids have their own rooms, and how parents definitely don’t (unless maybe if they have a home office with LOCKING doors…I wish, I wish…). The average parent usually has to share everything, with either their spouse or the rest of the family– their bed, their bedroom, living spaces…even a “master bathroom” can have kids marching in and out at all hours of the night.  And when they get to work, well, the average parent who works outside the home still doesn’t have their own room/office.  And of those that do, only a small number have one with a door.  That shuts and locks.  And has no window on it.

She thought that was cool that she had something an adult didn’t.

But we all know it’s psychologically good for everyone to have their own, private space at least once in awhile.  So how do parents get that?  I’ve blogged before about this, about how former Carol Burnett Show star Lyle Waggoner should get his Star Waggons company to make a portable luxury parent retreat…well, it looks like Rainier Yurts of Seattle has beat them to it.  While not exactly portable, it is luxurious.  Check out their backyard escape in the latest Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, one of NM’s “Fantasy Gifts” for 2011, at  Designed by Louisiana-based Rebecca Vizard to resemble the inside of a genie’s bottle, the “Dream Folly” features plush down pillows, antique tapestries and a crystal chandelier.   Sigh.  For $75,000, it can be yours. 

But I still don’t think this is the perfect parent escape. I mean, if you’re going to spend that kind of cash, I think I’d trade some of the pillows for a hot tub. And get soundproofed walls in case your kids or spouse are whining outside the door.  Better yet, that kind of cash could buy you a luxury hotel room, once a month for about twelve years. With room service.  And a limo to get you there and back each time.  And child care if needed.  Now that’s a fantasy gift!

Friday Freebie: Footloose Fun

In today’s Friday
Freebie, I’m offering up the CD soundtrack to the hit movie remake of
“Footloose” plus two Footloose mini buttons (one says “This Is Our Time”
and the other says “Cut Loose”).  I won the items at a Nia (dance
exercise) class a couple weeks ago, at which we danced to the music of
Footloose and the teacher gave away all sorts of fun promotional items
courtesy of Paramount. She’d asked us to “dress like the 80s” and gave a
nice prize bag to the two who most did– and, thanks to Emmie
encouraging me to add a neon pink fanny pack to my already “totally
tubular” authentic ensemble, I won!  But, alas, I nor the rest of my family are
huge fans of country music, and so I thought I’d offer up the soundtrack
to someone who might appreciate it more.  The title track has a new
country flavor thanks to Blake Shelton, and the disc also includes songs
by Zac Brown, Lissie, Ella Mae Bowen, Jana Kramer, Whitney Duncan, Big
and Rich (featuring Gretchen Wilson), Victoria Justice, Hunter Hayes,
Jason Freeman, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ceelo Green, A Thousand Horses, and
David Banner (featuring Denim). The new rendition of “Holding Out for a
Hero” by Ella Mae Bowen is very cool (I predict we will see it in a
lyrical number on Dance Moms someday!).

So, please “cut loose” and write to me at by this Monday, Oct.
24th/11:59 p.m. to let me know if you’d like to be in the drawing for
the Footloose CD and buttons (and as in the past, I will post the
winner’s name in the comments section below this article after the

Nurturing Addiction: Parents Who Allow Teens to Drink

In my “Uncool Mom Manifesto” on the right hand sidebar of this blog, I talk about how some parents worry so much about being “cool” that they hurt their kids in the long run. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with parents who proudly say, “I’m letting my teen drink, but they’re going to drink at home, where it’s safe, and we can monitor them.”  As if they’re quoting
some parenting guru or some other wise sage that has told them this
somehow teaches kids “smart drinking skills”.  And what a bonus that
they’re seen as “cool” by the kids, and they feel good (and probably “young”) that they can toss back a brew side by side with their teen and their teen’s friends.  Ah, gotta fit in that quality bonding time however you can get it, huh?

I was reminded of this while texting Allison after the Homecoming Dance had ended on Saturday night.  “How’d it go?” I wrote.  One of the first things she told me was that a party bus full of kids got busted for alcohol soon after it pulled up. Allison and the rest of the students waiting in line to get in saw police and principals talking to the driver, and personal belongings being taken off the bus. Later she told me it was sad that those kids had to be drunk before they ever arrived.  I agree.  While I don’t know if they drank first at an adult-supervised home party, I can’t help but wonder about that, and remember those we have heard about that make the news, and those that don’t make the news.  Adult-supervised drinking goes on everywhere, from the rich doctor’s family who was indignant after police found private schooled teens passed out by their swimming pool, to the public school teens whose tragic car accident was fueled by drinking, drinking that is rumored to have begun hours earlier at a parents’ happy hour. 

Who ever started the misguided parenting advice that somehow it’s beneficial for kids to try drinking in the “safe” confines of their home? Why would anyone believe this? I still hear people to this day who say they’re planning to do this when their kids become teens!!! Those of us who know better know that this is wrong, because, not to mention the tragedies that have happened, we have seen the “adults” who come from those kinds of parents– often they are “drinkers”, who drank a lot in college, and who care way too much about drinking as an adult.  Now there are statistics to back us up: a recent Columbia University report makes it clear that teens who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs have a MUCH greater chance of becoming addicted than those who try them first as adults.  Science has shown that because teen brains are still forming, addictive substances do far more damage to those developing brains than at later times.  As Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow explained it in a summer 2011 column, “Tobacco, alcohol and drugs all set their hooks quicker and deeper in the adolescent mind.”  The age factor is dramatic: kids who use addictive substances before age 18 have a 1-in-4 chance of becoming addicted; by 21, it drops to a 1-in-25 chance.  Amazing, but sadly true, and many of the “party animals” from my high school years really did become alcoholics.

Don’t accept experimentation as “just part of growing up”, wrote Blow. 

Delaying the use of addictive substances for as long as possible should be a high priority of parents and pediatricians, says the study.

And just because you may have survived teen drinking unscathed doesn’t mean your child will. 

Homecoming 101: Short Dresses and Stripper Poles

Some words of advice for parents of high school girls who are going to Homecoming (and this probably comes too late for most of you since we’re right in the middle of homecoming season): be prepared to spend a lot of time shopping for “just the right dress” if she’s going to the Homecoming dance, since most of the dressy dresses that have been offered in retail stores for teenage girls over the past several years don’t pass dress code.  In a school, that is.  Or probably by your own standards as well.  But they’d fit right in at a “gentleman’s club”!

I remember being amazed two years ago during Allison’s freshman year how so many dresses she tried on were so short, they didn’t pass when she stood up straight, arms hanging down at her sides to do the fingertip test– school dress code dictates that, standing that way, dresses or shorts can’t be shorter than the tips of the fingers.  Heck, these dresses were barely covering her underwear– and she’s not a tall person! And many more dresses that she tried on barely passed.  Ummm, could you maybe wear shorts with that? Pair a dress like that with the ultra high heels the girls favor these days and the look has “hooker chic” written all over it….When our exchange student shopped for a Homecoming dress with her friends last year, I forgot to remind her about “the fingertip test”, but looking back on our early language barriers, I’m not sure she would have understood anyway…  “Shocked” is only one of many words to describe how I felt when she got out of my car to walk to the “group photo shoot” at the civic center fountain on the night of the dance.  It was the first chance I’d had to really see the dress on her.  I was sure we’d be getting a phone call a few hours later when school officials would refuse her entry to the dance (we didn’t).  Another local high school had just been in the news for refusing admittance to 50 girls– here it comes again, I thought.  I was embarrassed to join the group of parents gathering to take photos (including dads, some of whom I’m sure were drooling), many whom I didn’t know since Cleo was a grade ahead of Allison.  Gee, some “host parent” I turned out to be, huh? I thought.  I wanted to raise my hand and scream, “Yep, I’m the doofus that allowed that!!!” And I also wanted to scream, “Hey, she’s European, what did you expect??”

But no, sadly, Europe is not the only place with “relaxed norms” about kids and early sexualization.  Elsewhere in American Homecoming Fun Facts, I offer you exhibit B: stripper poles.  And yes, I get the doofus parent award once again… 

Years ago, I heard about the growing popularity of renting party buses for Homecoming and the “poles” on board.  Kids go to dinner and then the dance (and often, an “after-dance event”) in groups, and some rent expensive party buses to get them from place to place and split the cost 15, 20 or even 30 ways, depending on the size of the group.  And I’d heard that sometimes girls got “carried away” with the poles on board.  But as I’m hearing this I’m picturing a painted up school bus, like the Partridge Family bus or the On the Border restaurant bus that used to tool around downtown Dallas at lunch, providing free transportation to hungry office workers. And I’m thinking the poles are just jokingly called “stripper poles” by the kids, and that they’re actually the narrow metal poles usually located at a couple places on the sides of bus aisles, for people to hold onto if they can’t find a seat, and I’m thinking that girls can’t put on much of a show with those.  And besides, I’m thinking that surely there’s an adult on the bus besides the driver…What a doofus I am!  Recently when planning an event, I looked at party bus websites for the first time.  And you know what? They’re not painted up school buses.  They’re large luxury “limo vans” or motor coaches…and you know what else?  Almost every bus rental company proudly lists “stripper pole” as a feature on each of its buses…and from the photos I saw, the poles are not meant to steady yourself if you can’t find a seat, they’re not located along the sides.  They’re often right in the middle of a semi-circle of bench seats, so the “audience” is surrounding it, ready for a short-dress show. (Check out an example of a typical party bus by clicking here.) And, parent chaperones are either not present for the evening at all or ride in cars near the bus, so they have no idea what’s going on inside.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do all these supposedly conservative parents here in North Texas not know that the inside of these buses/Hummer limos not only have stripper poles, but that they look like something off Girls Gone Wild, with “Flat Screen Plasma TVs, Surround Sound Audio System, Wrap
Around Leather Seating, Wet Bars, Colored Lights, DVD/CD/MP3 Players, Ice Cold A/C, Wood Floors, and Ample Cup Holders”?   No, I’m not saying that all the kids are giving each other lap dances while on board– I’m saying why give your money to a company that doesn’t mind if they do? I’ve heard enough stories to know that those kids are not all sitting on there singing camp songs… why give kids the opportunity to “perform” in that way?

I went through page after page of party bus websites.  Is there no bus rental company that offers anything a little more toned down? Well, one did offer a bus with a “removable pole”, but based on my past record of naivete’, it probably is removable so it can convert to a limbo contest…

Putting the Fun Back Into Kids’ Fundraisers

A lot has been written and debated about kids and fundraisers (I once wrote a section cover story for the Dallas Morning News about the topic eight or nine years ago), but things don’t seem to change much over the years– basically, as kids add more activities to their schedules and a family’s life gets busier, not only do they/we have to think about practices, team photos, physicals, release forms, concerts/games/tournaments, private lessons, parent meetings, parent volunteering (Who wants to be the Snack Mom? Um, how about The Prop Pop?), “buttons”/car decals/yard signs, and possibly traveling to out of town events, a lot of activities come with fundraisers.  Either the school hardly funds the activity and the organization must raise funds in order to do what they want/need, or they’re independent and don’t get any school funding, or the group’s wants/needs are so lavish and/or numerous that a school couldn’t possibly help meet those needs– and the kids (and parents) must hit up friends, relatives, neighbors and anyone else under the sun to “pony up” and help them out. Don’t get me wrong– fundraisers can be great lessons for kids in salesmanship and economics, not to mention marketing. We’ve had some positive experiences with them in our household.  But often these opportunities can get lost due to the fact that a lot of the time, several fundraisers are happening at once. How can our kids possibly do well at any of them when that’s the case?

If they’re already burdened down with homework overload, lack of sleep, and too many extracurriculars, do we dare expect them to keep up with numerous order forms and sales goals? How can an organization itself do the best it can to meet its goals when it’s scheduling a fundraiser at the same time as every other club/group/team? Do these organizations not ever think that, with the power of the Internet, there might be a way to set up a local calendar where they could all check in and space their fundraisers? Schools constantly send the message to kids during orientations that “yes, you can be in more than one activity”– so why don’t they make it easier to do that? Is it right to ask grandmother to buy raffle tickets, popcorn, overpriced giftwrap, and candy bars all at the same time, following it up with a letter that asks her to “just write a check” for yet another organization?

No, of course not, and so in our house, some fundraisers we flat out refuse to encourage our kids to do, while others we support.  But sometimes, they feel like losers when they return a blank order form–  the teacher or coach (or overhyped fundraiser salesperson) goes spaz over awarding Joe Blow and Suzy Doe their trip to Six Flags, while your child doesn’t even qualify for the light-up yo-yo… and sometimes, if no sales are made, parents are required to write a check for a minimum amount or your child cannot participate on the team or is given some other type of “punishment” (no joke!).

I like the fundraisers that are “events”– car washes, carnivals, auctions, bazaars…a genious one I’d never heard of before is coming up soon for us: a shred-a-thon, where the area school band booster clubs are teaming with a document shredding company. Neighbors and friends are encouraged to bring their old files, etc. to a parking lot on a Saturday, and for around $5 a box (or something like that), they can have their documents shredded in front of them. What a win-win situation– everyone has old files they need to clean out and don’t want to just put in the trash, the kids need to raise money…and if people are allowed to then use their shreds as cushioning when shipping holiday packages (or dump them into the school’s recycling bin, where they earn money per pound recycled) , it will be even better… 

Another good idea is to have a bazaar or farmer’s market type event to bring together all the groups that are selling things by order form– how great would it be for a mall or shopping center to offer space, free of charge, for kids to do this sometime, maybe near the holidays? People would already be in a shopping mood, and they can stop by your table to see what you’ve got and help out kids at the same time. That chocolate would look so much better on display than in a box! And, they’d be bringing all those fundraising kids and their families to that place of business, families who would most likely do some shopping there themselves

Yes, fundraisers can be good experiences if the adults in charge look at the bigger picture, that our kids’ world is not the same world as the one in which we grew up, and come up with new, less-stressful ways of raising money.  But of course, you have to be prepared to volunteer, possibly even be the one in charge, if you decide you want to help your kids’ group make that change!