Category Archives: Raising Girls

Pinterest & Teens: A “Good Thing”?





I heard a sweet sound in the house over the past weekend I haven’t heard in a long time: the whirr of the sewing machine. A sewing machine, I might add, that I bought on a Black Friday years ago, getting up at four in the morning for a “Door Buster Special”.  Allison was 10 at the time, determined to become a fashion designer and learn how to sew, and I was determined to help foster that creativity…


Ah, my daughters and I were once such a crafty bunch.  I’m reminded of that a lot—in the garden, where stepping stones the kids and I made (out of cement mix and pizza boxes) still mark a path behind a rosemary bush; in the kitchen, where a few “cut-out” photo magnets we made (out of extra photos, glue, and flat, promotional magnets from area businesses) still remain on the fridge; in my closet, where once in awhile I’ll run into the formerly white Keds I had the girls paint all over after the shoes got too dingy to remain white; and in my office, which is still decorated with items from the many “art camps” both girls used to attend (a paper mache’ pig, a framed painting of Saturn)…  looking in the family scrapbooks the other day, I was reminded that Emmie’s 4th birthday party was held at a craft store and Allison’s 9th was at a mosaic shop…there are also a few home décor projects still left around the house that I made on my own…


But sadly, we all got too busy with other interests to make time for our crafty sides.  I did hold out hope that we might get inspired, by keeping small bins of art supplies within easy reach–  beads, fun foam, shells, stickers, fabric scraps, popsicle sticks, construction paper, modeling clay (whew-are we done yet?), a glue gun, markers, chalk, crayons, colored pencils, stencils, paint…but, those supplies have mostly sat untouched, with the exception of being used to make football spirit banners and the occasional science fair display board.


Leave it to Pinterest to awaken the “sleeping craft giant”. The now “third most popular social network in the U.S.” which allows people to share ideas and photos of all sorts of things has become a Mecca for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, and Allison has become, (do I dare say it?) a “Pinhead”.  Just when I thought I was going to face a battle over spring clothes, she has inexpensively transformed and repurposed several items in her closet and created new items with a little fabric, rhinestones, and “mambo yarn”.  And this is one mom who is a lot happier saying “yes” to purchasing a new jar of Mod Podge than a new pair of shoes from Urban Outfitters.  I think I’ve made more trips to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, the Wal Mart fabric aisle and Jo-Ann these past few weeks than I did the last few years…


Is this Arts and Crafts Revival going on in our house just another fleeting teen girl obsession? I hope not.  Because not only has it been good for the budget, it’s a much better way for kids to spend free time than watching reality TV.  Also, I love how Pinterest (and another favorite site of hers called P.S.– I Made This) encourages recycling.  Pinterest can be social, too, and not just in an online way— when Allison recently made a maxi dress (using only a tank top, thread, and two yards of fabric) she invited a friend to come over to the house and make one with her.  And, her completed projects have inspired me toward completing a few of my own “shelved” projects, and caused Emmie to say, “I want to take sewing lessons this summer.”


True, Pinterest can be addictive. It was described on comScore as “exceptionally sticky and keeps its users engaged for long periods of time” and by Washington Post writer Petula Dvorak as “digital crack for women”,  “a black hole time suck” and a place where you “advertise only your hopes and dreams, the Stilton Gold style you aspire to, rather than the Velveeta life you live.” And maybe all that is sad and alarming when it’s adult women who are sucking away their time in that way, wishfully staring at their phone screens.  But for teens that are already hooked into their phones/computers almost 24/7, I’d rather have them looking at Pinterest than Facebook, especially when they get off their butts and actually make something as a result.


There has been some “collateral damage” in our house—there is now a long, noticeable scratch on the dining room’s wood floor (from cutting fabric?) and another on the dining room table, straight pins rattling around in the vacuum cleaner (and still hiding in the carpet) and traces of multicolored micro-glitter showing up all over the house, but, I’d rather be a crafty household than a perfect one. 

Maybe it’s time for me to take on the project of transforming an unused room (that once housed our foreign exchange student) into a sewing/craft room.  I’ll bet I know where I can get some ideas…

The Last Official Day of Being a Kid

Announced the other day by Emmie, the day before her 13th birthday: “Today is my last official day of being a kid…that’s kind of sad.” I could have said something sage about how “13 is just a number” or “everyone should honor their ‘inner child’ no matter how old they get”, but I didn’t…I didn’t want to minimize the wiseness of her observation, because it’s true in a way.  Plus, the whole concept of a “last official day of being a kid” intrigued me… I thought back to what I might have been doing on mine…was I dreading another awkward day of 7th grade? (Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I pulled up a ’74 calendar.  The day before my 13th birthday was a weekday, a Friday.)  Was I lugging my snare drum case down the long flight of stairs to the jr. high band hall, trying not to hit anyone along the way? Was I looking forward to being the first among my friends to serve that new food called a “taco” at my upcoming slumber party? Did I fall asleep that night listening to Tony Orlando and Dawn on the radio? 

The “last official day of being a kid” ought to be marked with more fanfare than that, maybe by doing lots of “kid things”.  Like eating a popsicle, coloring with crayons and playing with Play Doh. Or singing Sesame Street songs or Eddie Coker tunes as loud as possible. Or watching old videos of “Bananas in Pajamas”, “Arthur”, or “Teletubbies”…Too bad it was raining on Emmie’s “last official day”, or else I would have encouraged her to at least go jump on our backyard trampoline…

It’s definitely a transition time for the mom of that about-to-be-13-year-old as well, especially when it’s the youngest child. Shouldn’t Mom mark it or commemorate it in some way, too? Maybe grab your child’s hand as you walk from the car into the grocery store– unless they’ve long ago told you to stop. Maybe play a certain board game one last time with your child, a game you’re about to give to Goodwill, like Scrabble Jr. or Chutes ‘n Ladders. Or maybe, go on a bike ride together…

Just when I thought Emmie’s “last day of being a kid” would come and go pretty uneventful for both her and me, something unexpected happened just before she was to head to bed.  A wail was heard from the bathroom, where she’d been taking a shower.  And it wasn’t “Dad!” or “Mom!” or the more hip “Hey, Pat!” she’s been taking a liking to lately, but a full blown “MOMMY!!” She ran out of the bathroom, bypassed her hero, Dad, and ran straight upstairs to find me. She was soaking wet, wrapped in a towel, shaking and squealing.  “I cut myself!!!” she cried, “and it won’t stop bleeding!” While I was thrilled she’d come to uncool me for help, I was also thankful, when I saw the blood, that I didn’t live in a country where I might have been forced to choose EMT as my profession. She’d sliced off a one-inch by one-half-inch piece of skin near her ankle while shaving, and the bleeding, raw layer of skin that was now looking back at me had me near-fainting. I felt a shiver run from my head to my feet.  But I remained totally calm, acting like some true first aid pro, having her elevate her leg and foot, grabbing a wad of Kleenex and pressing it hard against the wound, having her keep up the pressure while I rifled through a cabinet looking for First Aid cream and bandages. We used up a lot of Kleenex before I found the right stuff.

She was grateful when I finally made the bleeding stop and she could go to bed feeling better.  I was proud of myself for remembering what to do, and for doing a good job in spite of my aversion to blood.  And yes, I also realized that having “Mommy” bandage up a shaving wound may have been a pretty fitting way to commemorate the transition from 12 to 13.

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…

Raising Girls Vs. Raising Boys: The Debate Continues

Who’s easier to raise—a girl or a boy? The topic comes up often among parents. I remember a boy mom reacting with envy when I told her how my baby girl would often wake up in the morning, sit quietly in her crib and play with books if I needed to take a shower before breakfast.  “My boys would never let me do that,” she said wistfully.  I remember when my daughters were preschoolers and I used to sit at the playground relaxing on a bench while they’d be engrossed in playing in the sand with dolls or sliding down the slides.  I’d feel sorry for the “boy moms”, who never seemed to have a moment’s rest—they couldn’t look away or sit down for two seconds or their boy might be running away from the playground and down the street.  “Aren’t you glad you don’t have boys!” we all-girl moms would say ‘knowingly’ to each other.  When the teen years hit a decade later, my words switched to  “Isn’t it interesting how things even out over time.”  But…does parental stress really even out between boy parents and girl parents?


 


Hmmm…one parent has about four breathless years of chasing after crazy-active toddlers/preschoolers.  The other has 6-8 years (or more, I’m told) of being called worthless and a loser and having their pocketbook drained on a regular basis…  A mother of three girls (two of them teenagers) told me last week that she doesn’t think it comes close to being even at all.  “Now that I know what raising girls is like, if I could have done something to influence the x and y chromosomes back when I was thinking of getting pregnant, I would have,” she told me at a recent high school parent meeting.

Hmmm…and in addition to sass and spending, there’s also the emotional drama.  I just got back from two days helping lead a Girl Scout campout that included 8 preteen girls and 13 9th grade girls and, amidst a lot of fun, we definitely had our share of drama—some tears, some name-calling, some bossiness, one older girl threatening to throw a used tampon at a younger girl…do Boy Scout campouts ever even come remotely close???  Geesh, I’m glad I’m not a drinker or I think I’d go on a major bender right about now…

But then I think of what another mom said one summer while we waited for our kids to finish swim lessons. “It’s good to have girls,” she said, “because they’re the ones who take care of you when you’re old.”  She went on to say that she had brothers, but that if she hadn’t been born, her mother would probably be “sick, homeless or dead by now”, since they don’t visit her or care as much about how she’s doing.


Hmmm…

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.

The Talk, The Film, and Teaching Kids About the Birds and the Bees

As I got out my brand new 2011 calendar the other day and was going through the stacks of papers and emails in the “add to calendar” files, I found one about “The Film”. You know, that film, the one on human growth and development that they show to kids in upper elementary grades (well, there’s one for girls, and a different one for boys). Around here, there’s a film every year beginning in 4th grade and continuing thru 6th. The subjects get more “advanced” depending on the grade.  And each time it’s shown, a letter is sent home to parents letting them know the date and also the date of the “parent preview” so parents can view it first.  I guess some parents view it to see if they want their child to “opt out”, but I take time to go see it to stay on top of things, to try to discuss the subjects with my child first—I don’t want them to first learn about human sexuality from a film or from the students who will be buzzing about it that day. Since I already have a child in high school, you’d think I’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to those films and I wouldn’t need to go any more.  But they change, and I forget what’s covered in each year’s anyway…so I go every year to see them, and then the pressure’s on to find time to discuss anything I haven’t already taught at home.
 



But when is the right time to discuss stuff like that, anyway? I always told my husband that I didn’t want to make sex and health topics uncomfortable for my kids by making them a “big deal”, by limiting them to The Talk, the okay-now-we-have-to-sit-down-and-discuss-something-important kind of talk like what our parents did with us.  Squirm! Yuk! Aw, Mom!  I heard an “expert” at a M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting long ago say to work in these topics naturally and gradually, starting at a young age as kids are curious and start asking questions. I remember she talked about “teachable moments” like gardening.



But…what if these moments never come? She never told us what to do if our kids don’t ask a lot of questions about sex.  Or if they ask them in the grocery store line when they’re old enough to read the nearby covers of Glamour and Cosmo. “Daddy, what does that mean—Twenty Ways to Make Him Scream for More?”  Or if they ask them within earshot of a much younger sibling, and what you’d like to say to one might not be what you’d say to the other. It turned out I did have to have “The Talk” with each of my daughters, after all.  With Allison, I at least tried to make it fun.  We went on a mother-daughter overnight when she was 10, to a small town about 45 minutes away. I called it “Secrets and Surprises” weekend—there were surprises to be had (she got to get a pedicure with me and get her ears pierced) and secrets to be learned (the birds, the bees, the tooth fairy, and Santa Claus).  (A friend of mine joked that the male version of that weekend would be called “Farts and Fantasies” )
 



With Emmie, as usual for the second child, she got the short end of the deal. I was too busy to squeeze in a weekend trip, and the first “film” was fast approaching.  She literally learned about the birds and the bees in the backseat of a car—my “aravan”, to be exact.  I’d checked out a few books from the library to help (there’s a great one by “Arthur” creator Marc Brown and his wife) and we’d gone to a local park, only it was too cold to sit outside so we sat in the car, side by side.
 



After I’d had The Talk with Emmie, teachable moments could finally happen more openly around here. It’s amazing what can serve as springboards to further discussion—teen moms, pop song lyrics, movies, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the news… even the growth and development films can be a great reason to talk, even if I don’t have to discuss anything beforehand.  Soon after it’s shown to the kids, I’ll usually ask questions like “How did it go? What did you think of it? Wasn’t that cartoon part weird? What kinds of questions were asked at the end? How did the nurse answer them?”



So when I attend my 6th and final parent “film” preview next week, I don’t know if I should bring popcorn (to celebrate) or soda (to cry in)…   Once public school kids around here hit 7th grade, they’re only required to complete one semester of Health before high school graduation, with only a couple days spent on human development and STDs.  Just as they become teenagers, and society bombards them with all sorts of sexual messages, and just when their own body is going through lots of changes.  Just when they probably have a lot more questions.  And just when they don’t want to talk as much with Mom or Dad.  And in Texas, which has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, the schools are severely limited in what they can teach in Health class.



If I could, I guess I’d bring both popcorn and soda.  ‘Cause I think the school and I have done a pretty good job with sex education so far, but going forward, it sure would be nice to have a little more help.


Homecoming 101

 

                  Double-bear mum top.  Is there really a mum in there?

North Texas parents of young kids, start saving your money now if you want your child to “fit in” in high school. And if your child happens to be a girl, take out a second mortgage on your house.  Because if high school is “over the top” now, and this is a down economy, what’s it going to be like in ten or fifteen years?

 

 


Now that I have two girls in high school, a sophomore (Allison) and a junior (Cleo), and it’s Homecoming Week, I’m getting quite the education.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, pull up a chair. Er, I mean a desk. 

Class is in session. Take out your textbook and turn to the first page.

 

Introduction- High School Homecoming

This was a tradition that started in Missouri in 1891 that happens in the fall, when high schools invite their alumni to attend a Friday night football game, and a special dance for the students is held, usually the Saturday night after the game.  A queen, and sometimes a king, are crowned at either the game or the dance. The dance is often held in the school gym.  Some schools crown royalty for each grade.  During the “Spirit Week” leading up to the game and dance, lots of extra posters and decorations usually adorn the school, and at some schools, like ours, the students and teachers wear costumes to school based on a theme that changes daily. Some schools hold parades.

 

Chapter 1- Groups
(Huh? There’s more? Didn’t the intro pretty much cover it?)

 

Somewhere along the way, someone got the idea to encourage kids to go to the dance in groups.  That way, people can have fun and still go without having to be asked, without having a “date”.  And even the date pairs can group up. Not a bad idea.  Then someone got it in their head to have everyone in their group wear the same color T-shirt on the day of the game. Then others started doing the same.  Then a group decided to add puff paint and decorations to their shirts.  Then another designed a logo for their group’s shirt to go with the theme of Homecoming, and have their shirts custom printed, and everyone else who had a group started doing the same.  Then someone got the idea of listing all the group members’ names on the backs of their custom printed group T-shirts. And everyone started doing the same.  And suddenly, an idea that was supposed to help kids feel more a part of homecoming started making kids feel very left out.  Can you imagine how a teenager must feel on game day at school, when they’re not wearing a group shirt, when their name doesn’t join the coveted roster printed on the backs of every cool girl and boy?  
 

Chapter 2- Mums

 

Guys taking a date to the football game at a southern American high school traditionally bought their date a mum (short for Chrysanthemum, a perennial flower that comes in many colors) to wear on the front of their outfit, usually pinned on the upper right.   Florists would often add a few streamers hanging down and other decorations around the mum. Then enterprising moms and craft stores got the idea that they could create the mums themselves—why give florists all the glory, not to mention the bucks? And besides, they could make them cuter.  They could personalize them more.  Then school PTAs realized, why not use mums as a fundraiser? So they started making them, too. And since they had to make so many in advance, real flowers just wouldn’t do anymore, so the mums, now all white, began to be artificial. And got artificially bigger. And the streamers got longer. And the craft retailers kept coming up with more “stuff” to add to the mums, plastic trinkets representing every class and just about every activity going on at the schools (wait, did I see an underwater basket-weaving charm the other day?). And for an extra fee, you can buy that basket-weaving trinket with glitter added. Fake pearls? They’ve got’em.  Feather boas? Ditto.  A stuffed bear right in the middle of the flower? Sure.  And that will be $7 extra if you don’t want your bear to be naked.  How about a football player outfit for your bear? Drill team hat? Cheer skirt? Every Bratz doll and Barbie in town only wish they looked this fine…And how about a cow bell? Yeah, that’s right…a FREAKING COW BELL! A 3” x 4” metal cowbell, painted in your school colors, of course.  Yes, it makes the mums heavier, but it clangs when you walk, so that everyone will know your date spent an extra $6 on that bell.  And if he really loves you, you’ll have more than one bell attached.  And because of the amount of “stuff” attached, the mums can no longer be pinned near the right shoulder.  You must wear them around your neck, so it’s really a mum necklace, strapped on with a thin, white cotton rope.  The mum hangs down almost to your belly, the streamers touch your ankles.  But I’m not sure why they even call it a mum anymore, because you can hardly see the flower.  And they’re so large, they cover up the front of those group t-shirts that someone painstakingly designed.  Guys now wear mums, too.  (Huh?) Girls buy their dates a slightly smaller version, worn on the arm, via a “garter”.  And yes, the guys all have stuffed teddy bears in the center of theirs, too. (Andy is amazed why these high school guys allow themselves to be “sissified” in that way. “NO WAY would I have worn something like that,” he says.)

 

Earlier in the week, usually the group gets together for a party or dinner where they “unveil” and exchange their mums.

 

Though expensive (prices range from $35 to around $100), the school makes a killing off of them. Many area PTAs rent out vacant retail space each year and start setting up the school Mum Shop beginning in the summer.  Lots and lots of volunteer parents work in the shop, fashioning the mums and taking orders.  Many of those parents got little sleep this week because they were trying feverishly to finish up the orders in time for the big day.

 

Chapter 3  After-the-game

Since most teen-friendly restaurants in North Texas suburbia shut down before the game is even over (no kidding—pizza places that could be full of cash carrying teens close by 10 p.m.!!), and the groups don’t want the fun to end too soon, each group tries to outdo the other one in arranging a group activity.  This year, Allison’s group is going to Zero Gravity extreme thrill park (aka bungee jumping); Cleo’s is playing broomball at a Dr. Pepper StarCenter ice rink. Every teen will be sure to have a camera along, because the more photos you can post on Facebook of your group having fun, the better.

 

Chapter 4- The day of the dance

If you have a girl, and one that doesn’t drive, block out your entire Saturday because you’ll be pulling chauffeur duty all day. They all want to get their hair done at a salon, and ditto for their nails.  On hands and feet.  I drew the line at a spray-on tan. And said no to professionally done makeup as well.  But I know many other girls who will be “having it all” and probably even a massage, too.    (Gee, shouldn’t that be for the chauffeur?) You can bet I will be catching up on my reading while I wait.

 

But it all has to be done in time for the photo session.  That’s where you’ll meet up with your group to start the evening.  (Thankfully, in the groups I’ve been involved with, the parents are the photographers, not a professional.) And of course, each group tries to come up with a “cool” place at which to take the photos, ‘cause they’ll all be tagging them and comparing them on Facebook soon. Parks, fountains, sculptures, hotel lobbies…  Allison, God bless her, wanted to do something different from the usual last year and have a more urban background, like a nearby train track and a platform that’s decorated with art.  She thought it would be a neat contrast between their fancy dresses and suits.  No one else liked her idea… but, what’s wrong with Mom and Dad’s living room as a backdrop? Looking at my own high school dance photos and my brother’s and sister’s, the house and the “retro” living room furniture in the background are almost as fun to see as the people!

 

After the photo session, the groups head to a restaurant for dinner, and many groups choose to have a “party bus” or Hummer limo haul them to dinner and then to the dance…Andy and I remember that “in our day”, mass transportation would get rented IN COLLEGE when people were planning to drink, so they wouldn’t have to drive…so why do high school students need this? I was told it was so the group could stay together, arrive “en masse” and make a grand entrance to the dance, so no one has to get there ahead of time and feel like a total dork while they wait (haven’t they ever heard of the words “carpool” and “caravan”?)…Cleo’s group has 23 people in it and the bus is costing over $1,000 to rent…you do the math…

 

Chapter 5- After the dance

 

The dance ends at midnight, and again, teens don’t think their fun should end then.  And parents want to avoid kids getting in trouble and going somewhere to drink, so another fun group activity is planned for after the dance.  Last year, one of Allison’s group parents had an all-night party and rented a bounce house.  This year, I know of several groups who are having an all night lock-in at a gymnastics center.  

 

Chapter 6- Game Day Pep Rally

 

Well, the big game is tonight, and I must say, the homecoming pep rally this morning was quite an experience.  The halls were transformed so wonderfully with themed decorations, they didn’t look like halls.  One looked like a dark forest.  I can see why Allison looks forward to this day so much.  The band played.  The drill team performed.  The cheerleaders flipped.  The coaches got on the microphones and fired up the crowd.  The excitement was infectious.

 

But the deafening sound of over 1,000 mums clanging as students walked in and out of the gym and through the halls, and the myriad of different colored group T-shirts in the bleachers, made me want to scream, and I don’t mean “Go Mustangs!” I just kept thinking of the beginning of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr and kept my mouth shut: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Shaun Cassidy

 
Shaun Cassidy, 2005

 

I heard on the radio this morning that Shaun Cassidy turns 52 today. They played part of one of his tunes and it took me back. It also made me think about the whole phenomenon of teen idols. I guess ever since the invention of movies, records, and fan magazines, there have been teen idols. If it wasn’t Elvis or the Beatles, it was Bobby Sherman and Davy Jones, David Cassidy and Donny Osmond, Leif and Shaun…a few years later, it was the New Kids on the Block and Mario Lopez.  My sister, 10 years older than me, covered her cork bulletin board with photos of Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits.  My oldest niece, 17 years my junior, once had a giant poster of Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, MD above her bed.  Geez, those magazines will pounce on just about anything with a pulse! And I think because of that, there is also the phenomenon of “teen idol backlash”.  When stars are pushed in your face so much, some of us rebel. 

 


It’s sad—Justin Bieber does have talent, but because he’s promoted so heavily, my daughters can’t stand him, and based on what I’ve read on the Internet, many other teens echo their feelings.  It was the same for me, David, and Donny.  Today, I’d pay to see them perform.  But when I was ten, I spent time defacing their “centerfolds”.  I laughed hard a few years ago after finding something similar on Emmie’s bedroom floor—she and Allison had friends sleep over the night before, and they’d taken a Sharpie and spent lots of time (and giggles) drawing (among other things) devil horns, a moustache, a beard, high heels and numerous speech and thought bubbles on a “lifesize” poster of Zac Efron.  Ah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

But if that’s the case, then Allison may be having a real teen idol crush coming along at any minute. Because 10th grade is when I finally lusted after a teen idol… Yes, after everyone had long ago put away their pop star magazines, I started buying them again. I couldn’t help it—one look at Shaun Cassidy singing “Surfin’ USA” on a “Hardy Boys Mysteries” TV episode and I was hooked (and I remember the exact moment, where I was and what I was wearing when it happened…). I hadn’t even been a fan of that show, but it happened to be on the screen when I walked into the house one evening—and the rest is history.

My feelings faded slightly faster than his star, but it was fun while it lasted. It was fun listening to his albums, fun waiting to see him on TV each week and fun snapping up the latest issue of Tiger Beat and 16 as soon as they appeared on newsstands. Amazingly, among the few things that I’ve saved from my Wonder Years are four issues of Tiger Beat and “16” Magazine, ranging from 1970-1977.  So in honor of Shaun’s birthday, I decided to dig them out of a cabinet and share some of the contents from the one with his photo on the cover.

From a “Tiger Beat Super Special”, circa 1977 (price- $1.00):

 

-The cover headlines: SHAUN: Singer, Actor…Heartthrob!; FARRAH- The Most Popular Angel?; Goofing off with THE ROLLERS!; and The Jealous Side of LEIF!

 

-It also stated on the cover that this was a Giant Photo Issue! (Aren’t they all?) “More Than 400 Pictures Inside!”  Wow!! What were they? Well the four-color, slick ones were Leif Garrett on the ski slopes (featuring his autograph, printed by a machine!), The Bay City Rollers (I actually liked them, too but that’s a whole other story); Donny and Marie (check out those teeth!); The Jacksons (without Michael); Shaun (of course) and Parker Stevenson (but the Shaun part was cut out); Charlie’s Angels; and Robby Benson.  The rest of the “400” were all on black and white newsprint, which, after 33 years, I was worried were going to disintegrate in my hands…

 

-The inside articles: six on The Rollers, four about Charlie’s Angels; three articles on Leif (yes, Leif sang “Surfin’ USA, too); three on Shaun; “The Many Faces of Valerie” (Bertinelli); “John Travolta: Meet His Mom and Dad”; the favorite soups of about 15 different stars (who knew Tony DeFranco liked Minestrone?) with special serving tips for when you’re fixing “your special guy” dinner (“for something different, try the coffee table in the living room instead of the dining room table”) and complete menus for “what if” you were fixing dinner for your favorite star (darn, if only I’d fixed a Polynesian dinner for Shaun); and an article entitled, “Marie the Mother: Can You Picture Marie as a Mother? She Can!”.  Among the 90 pages was also “Donny’s FREE Day” (How he spends his time); “Starsky and Hutch: Tired of Each Other?; “621 Super Facts about The Captain and Tennille”, and all about Kaptain Kool and the Kongs (a Sid and Marty Krofft-made Saturday morning band—anyone remember them?)

 

-Some tidbits from a two-page spread entitled “The Newest Scoops from Hollywood!”:
    Diana Ross to star in “The Wiz”!

    Barbra Streisand sticks out her tongue at a busload of tourists!

    Kate Jackson is steady-dating Warren Beatty!
    
Lindsay Wagner voted “The Most Watchable Actress in America” by the International Society of Girl Watchers!
    Mackenzie Phillips is being groomed for a recording career by her famous father!
    Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is making a comeback after staying in his bathrobe and bedroom for almost three years!
    Neil Diamond not nominated for a Grammy even though his latest album, Beautiful Noise, sells over 2 million copies!
    Alice Cooper is working on a movie with Mae West!
    Jodie Foster wishes people would quit calling her a child actress!
    John Denver will write the theme song for his new movie, “Oh, God!”
    David Hasselhoff, star of the drama “The Young and the Restless”, makes his singing debut on The Merv Griffin Show!

 

Okay, okay, enough page turning for now.  Better go put the magazines back in their Ziploc plastic bags before they self-destruct.  Many Happy Returns, Shaun!

The Passing Period: More Like A Passing Dash

When parents have a bone to pick with a teacher or a school, it’s definitely a whole different ballgame than everyday consumer complaints. Many things race through your head when trying to decide if you should speak out or not.  Will the teacher take it out on my child in the classroom if I complain? Will my complaint really make a difference? Will they laugh at me after I leave? You know there are those parents who are in the principal’s office every week spouting off about this or that.  Will I be labeled as “a complainer”, too? Oh, I may hold up the grocery store line once in awhile to have them do a price check, but not enough to where they’d remember me.  But at a school? Usually you plan on being there for several years, every day for 9 ½ months out of each year.  They’ll remember you. It’s enough to make a parent keep their mouth shut. And many do.  I have complained over the years, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve complained in 10 years.  I try to pick and choose my battles carefully. Like the time Allison’s kindergarten class left the school to walk to a nearby park for an outing, and left Allison behind, in the school bathroom. She came home that night and told me she was a little scared and sad when she realized everyone had gone, and she walked out of the school all by herself and down the street to join the kids at the park playground.  That was definitely complaint-worthy! Then there was the teacher who spent more time screaming at the kids and making them put their heads on their desks than actually teaching them anything.  And the teacher who would routinely leave the classroom, during class, to chat with other teachers in the hall for long periods of time, and also leave group tutoring sessions in the same way, sessions that kids had gotten up at the crack of dawn to attend.  “Talk amongst yourselves,” she’d say, and leave.  It took me a long time to come forward on that one. She was an award-winning teacher.  But the kids were getting disillusioned, and their grades were tanking.  Though other parents knew about the problem, I was one of only two who came forward and said anything. “Why did you wait so long?” the principal said.

Now another problem that has been festering for awhile has finally come to the surface, and I think I need to put it on the list of “worth complaining about”.  Only to who, and how, I’m not quite sure.  Here’s the issue: remember how “back in the day” in jr. high and high school, we used to have 10 minutes between classes? We could used the restroom, or stand at our lockers and brush our hair using the mirror in our cool “locker caddy”, or walk our significant other to their class and still have time to make it to our own. Well, I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but kids in many jr. high and high schools today only have 5 minutes between classes.  Our school district is no exception.  Allison’s high school is huge, with row upon row of beautiful, blue painted lockers, and NO ONE USES THEM.  Bond money was used to build even more lockers a few years ago when 9th grade was added to the high school, and still, NO ONE USES THEM.  Seriously.  There’s no time to use them, and as a result, many kids get a huge school bag and carry everything with them, all day, so they won’t be late to class.  Allison’s bag last year was so big, she could have easily taken our dog to school, along with her notebooks, textbooks, and lunch, and no one would have noticed.  That bag was so heavy, I couldn’t carry it more than a couple steps. It’s no wonder she’s been told by a dance teacher that her shoulders are out of alignment!  But that’s not the main reason I want to complain about the short passing periods.  The worst casualty of cramming as many classes as possible into one day is that kids, especially girls, don’t have time to use the restroom between classes.  And during class, many teachers have a policy of zero bathroom breaks, or they give kids 6 bathroom passes to use for the entire semester.  Huh? I hadn’t heard about this much in the past because Allison had “potty-friendly teachers”, but this year she doesn’t, and said she was almost in tears one day last week by around 4:00 pm.  I did the math.  She hadn’t been able to use the restroom since 9 that morning.  Ouch. And in the “mean girls” pecking order of the cafeteria lunch table, if she gets up at lunch to use the restroom, she says her seat will be taken when she gets back… so she doesn’t get up. 

Two days after Allison told me this, a friend of mine remarked that her daughter, a new 7th grader, could hardly concentrate on learning anything because of the “potty policy” of her teachers, and said the daughter told her that now she and her friends won’t hardly drink any water at lunch so they won’t feel uncomfortable later.  I realized the same thing happens at the high school.  Allison, and Cleo, rarely pack drinks in their lunches. Don’t kids need to stay hydrated, especially when the weather is still 100 degrees outside? Can’t you get kidney infections from “holding it in” all day? And, if we can get really frank here for a moment—where there are teenage girls, there are menstruating girls.  Just when do they have time to take care of that issue? Can we say “at greater risk of toxic shock”?  

Naturally, I feel compelled to do something about this. I have a gut feeling that not many parents, if any, have felt the same way. (And even if they did, who has the time??? And who wants to talk about kidneys??? Or tampons??????) But, to whom do you complain? The school nurse?  The principal? The underlying problem is the scheduling, and it would probably take an act of God to add more time to the passing periods, which would lengthen the school day.  But I do have one ace up my sleeve.  I sit on a district-wide School Health Advisory Committee, composed of principals, parents, physical education teachers, school nurses and school dieticians.  I’ve been on it for years, and we just happen to be having our first meeting of the semester tomorrow morning.  Maybe it could be brought up there. (Then again, maybe I will just put my head down on the desk…) 

Little Miss Sunshine is Still Alive and Well: Seven-Year-Olds “Work It” to Single Ladies

Remember my post from March of last year entitled, Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well, about the little girls with suggestive dance moves I’ve seen for many years at dance conventions? Well if you’ve seen the video going viral these days (and featured on Good Morning America), of 7-year-olds bumping and grinding to “Single Ladies”, the topic is now a national debate.  Some people think it’s awful that the video is now so widespread (no pun intended) but I think it’s great because maybe, just maybe, dance studios will think twice from now on before choreographing and costuming this type of pedophile bait (click here to see it).  Of course, the parents interviewed on television see nothing wrong with it (and they probably think child beauty pageants are fine, too).  Some online commenters say, “Hey, leave them alone, they’re good dancers.” I liked this response: “Yeah? Strippers are good dancers, too!”