Category Archives: Sharing and Venting

It’s Cold Here Out On This Limb…

I have a friend who raised her daughter with the philosophy of never saying no, of never having her be upset for too long, of always giving her what she wanted, no matter how crazy the request or how far the parents would have to bend over backwards to grant it.  It didn’t matter if they hurt themselves while bending over—whatever she wanted, she got.  “I don’t like hearing the crying and carrying on,” my friend told me.  “It’s so much easier this way.”  Hah, I thought to myself, easier now, but just wait ‘til later. I imagined the girl as an incorrigible, unpleasant diva as an adult. 

Well, “later” is here– she’s an adult now, and as far as I can see, she’s  a nice, intelligent college graduate who lives on her own;  a law-abiding, church-going, tax-paying citizen with a good job and lots of friends.  Maybe it’s extra tough on her when disappointments happen, small or large… I don’t know…but by all accounts, she seems well-adjusted and “raised well.”

Lately I’ve wondered if I should become “cool” like my friend, giving in to whatever my kids want—letting them text and watch TV even when homework needs to be done, buying endless amounts of junk food and running to the nearest Wendy’s or Arby’s whenever they ask, giving them an endless  clothing budget, providing transportation at their every beck and call, and when they throw aggressive tantrums if something’s not to their liking, never punishing them for their behavior—soothe the savage beast instead, dry the tears.  I might end up in the poorhouse while embracing this style of parenting, but oh, wouldn’t it be easier on my well-being while getting there…

-I wouldn’t have to go through gut-wrenching second-guessing for days after I’ve taken a privilege away or imposed a sanction

-I wouldn’t have to see my children sob and beg for a replacement punishment (“You can take my phone away for a year, make me take care of the dogs from now on…anything but this!!”)

-I wouldn’t have to be at odds with my husband (he believes after a parent has taken a privilege away that kids ought to be able to “buy back” the privilege with good behavior… I don’t.)

-I wouldn’t have to miss out on planned “date nights” with said husband (when you ground a kid who has threatened to leave the house anyway, I think it’s important to stick around!).

-I wouldn’t have to hear the words “I hate you, Mom!” (I’ll bet my friend never heard that from her daughter…)

-I wouldn’t have to be badgered with a zillion excuses and manipulative statements to try to get me to change my mind, such as:

                I don’t do this often.  Why are you being so harsh?

                Mom, you’ve lost your cool before—why can’t I?

                This privilege means so much to me—why didn’t you

                pick something else?

                Can I just be grounded for ½ the evening?

 Can I have a freebie this one time?

It’s tough standing your ground with kids, especially when you love them with all your heart and hate to see them upset.  It feels unnatural—you want to make everything all right.  The mothering instinct is to protect.  And even though that’s what I’m ultimately trying to do…why does it have to hurt so much?

Uncool parenting ought to come with a warning label—DO NOT TRY THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPO– USE OR PARTNER, ONE WHO IS UNCOOL  AS WELL.  AND IF YOU DON’T, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LIVE-IN MASSE– USE.  Or at least one that works close by… AND REALLY, REALLY THICK SKIN, AND AN IRON HEART…     


Kids and Forgetfulness: When Will They Stop Losing Stuff?

If you have children, do they lose things as much as mine do? Seriously, my elderly mother shouldn’t be as worried about her forgetfulness as her grandchildren should be about theirs. Sure, Mom will sometimes tell us things more than once, forgetting that she’s already told us.  But that’s really no big deal compared to the frequency and price tag of my kids’ forgetfulness (both the actual value of items lost as well as the time lost searching for the items!!!).  I read in the newspaper today that in a recent analysis of the Houston Public Library’s delinquency records, The Houston Chronicle found that 119,558 patrons have failed to return 325,000 items since 1999.  The article’s author gives you the impression that those patrons don’t return items because they want to keep them, but I had to smile and wonder if he’d never had kids before.  I’ll bet a bunch of those losses were related to kids’ irresponsibility and forgetfulness.   Been there, done that.

I decided to do a little “analysis” of our own kids’ losses (at least the major ones I can remember), both library and non-library-related, over the past 16½  years that Andy and I have been parents:

Item Lost                                                                                      Value

One pair of eyeglasses                                                                $80

Left on the school playground by Emmie within two weeks of her excitedly getting them.  They were dark brown with aqua accents, from the “oh-so-cool” High School Musical line of specs at JC Penney Optical.  She took them off to do an upside-down stunt and gave them to a friend to hold. The friend put them in the seat of a swing, and Emmie forgot about them until she got home an hour later.  The only consolation for her was that when she checked the Lost and Found drawer in the school office to see if anyone had turned them in, she found her first pair of eyeglasses, lost several months before…

A custom-molded, upper and lower retainer
(for teeth)                                                                    $600 ($300 each)

Lost by Allison within two months of getting her braces off.  She took them out and put them inside her paper lunch sack while she ate lunch in the high school cafeteria. She asked a friend to remind her not to throw the bag away. The friend forgot, and so did Allison.

Two library items                                                 $34 (about $17 each)

One a children’s book, the other a Jeff Dunham DVD. The book was discovered under Emmie’s bed, tucked under an old scrapbook, several years after losing it, while emptying her room when we moved out of our first house; the DVD was discovered under the living room sofa about a year after losing it. Not sure who kicked it under there but I doubt it was an adult.  We had long ago paid the “replacement fee” for both items so we now own them. (And we still haven’t watched the DVD!)

One American Girl “Bitty Baby” doll

Emmie left “Paulina” under the covers in a hotel room in Cameron, MO one summer while on our way to Iowa. Luckily it happened on the outbound part of the road trip, and luckily someone saved it, so we were able to drive there and retrieve the doll on the way home, even though we would have preferred driving back a different way.

One cranberry red Snuggie                                                            ????

A favorite of Allison’s which she left among the covers at a hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana (and which I mistook to be part of the hotel bed linens).   Again, it was while on a road trip, so we made a special stop to get it while on the way back.

One wallet                                      $40 (amount of cash that was inside)

Set down by Allison “just for a minute” while taking photographs at Mt. Rushmore while she was on a church mission trip in South Dakota. When she remembered to retrieve it, it was gone.

One freshman-year high school yearbook                                      $60

On the day the yearbooks were issued, Allison left it on a bench behind her in the locker room as she changed clothes later in the day, after drill team practice. When she turned to get it, it was gone (and had no identification inside or out, so it would have been an easy sell for the thief, no doubt, or could have easily been passed off as their own…)

This list could also include numerous sunglasses and makeup compacts; shoes, clothes and socks left at friends’ houses, and lost earrings, charms and necklaces never to be seen again—not to mention many more overdue library books that were found in the nick of time.  But I’ll end the list here so I don’t get too depressed. 

Do Andy and I always pay to replace lost items? No.  Emmie now wears those “original” glasses even though they may not be as stylish as the newer ones she lost; Allison didn’t get a replacement yearbook, and had to almost empty a savings account she’s had going since she was little in order to pay for the new retainers.  We think it will make them take better care of their stuff if they’re financially responsible for it. But will it really? 

Emmie took her lunch to school today in a brown paper sack because, while she had a pretty good “first day of Junior High” yesterday, she left her brand new lunch tote on the floor next to her locker after school, the same paisley lunch tote for which I’d helped her find a cute ID tag to tie on, and I’d written her name and address on it as well.  When I picked her up from school, she ran back inside the building after I asked her “Where’s your lunch bag?”, and it wasn’t there.  Let’s hope she can remember to stop by the school office today to see if some nice person found it and turned it in.  But I’m not holding my breath. 

“Good for the child” is not always good for the group

Emmie spent every afternoon last week at a girls’ science and engineering camp at Southern Methodist University (probably the best bargain on that campus—only $50 for the whole week, and two days included lunch!).  She really enjoyed rubbing elbows with professional female engineers, learning more about the different types of engineering, working on projects, and making friends with girls from all over the Dallas area and even from as far away as Houston, ranging in age from 12-18.  The only thing she didn’t like about it, which she complained to me about every day, were the girls who talked all the time to each other and didn’t pay attention, making it hard for the few that wanted to pay attention. And unfortunately, there were only a few who really wanted to pay attention. Emmie says that on the first day, when the facilitator asked each girl to tell the group why she was there, many answered with some version of “Because my mom made me.”  And of course, those were the ones who made it hard on the rest of the group every day thereafter.  Emmie was shocked that there were so many who didn’t care, because to be at this camp, she had received a recommendation from her math teacher, and she was honored and excited to be there. (“Mom, one of those girls wore a T-shirt that said, ‘I May Be Bad, But I’m Perfectly Good At It’!” she related in disgust.)

I know that parents have good intentions when they force their children to do certain group activities (“I don’t want my child to be a couch potato”,”This will be good for her”, “He needs to make new friends”,  etc., etc.) but do they ever think how their child might act once there?  Do they ever realize how much life is sucked out of a group when a child doesn’t want to be a part?

I told Emmie I could totally relate to what she was saying. I’ve been a Girl Scout volunteer and troop leader for over 10 years, and the girls who don’t pay attention most often, have the most behavior problems and cause others to misbehave are usually the ones who are being forced to be there.  When I was a kid, I remember the kids at summer camp who “rained on everyone’s parade” were the ones not there of their own free will; in college, the most messed-up students I knew had their college choice (and their major) forced upon them by their parents.

I know I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I think it’s okay to require kids to do certain extracurriculars like music lessons in exchange for letting them do something else they like, but music lessons, sports skill-building, and other private lessons are often one-on-one, child and adult, not affecting other learners—and if it was a group lesson instead, I’d definitely think twice about forcing a child to participate, especially if the child wasn’t practicing his instrument (or tennis serve, or script lines) in between lessons.  Yes, sometimes a kid can come around, and suddenly “get into it” and be glad he’s part of the group, but I think if that magic doesn’t happen quickly, it’s time to change plans, especially with older children. Unfortunately, however, with brief activities like week-long summer camps, there’s not enough time to find out if your child will “come around”, and there’s not usually an “I made the wrong parenting decision” clause in the refund policy.

Maybe summer camps and other group activity applications should include an extra line that asks, “Are you enrolling your child because he/she really wants to be a part of this, or because you want them to be?” Not necessarily with the expectation that parents would answer honestly, but simply because it would make them think.  And if they did answer honestly, it sure would help teachers/counselors plan ahead…

Confessions of a Burnt-Out Scrapbooker

Hope everyone had a nice MLK holiday weekend.  I spent part of mine trying to catch up in “preserving memories”- a.k.a. keeping up with family photos, and what a daunting task it has been!  It used to be so simple when my kids were little.  I’d snap pictures on my camera, get them developed at the drug store, and put them in a “magnetic” album—you know, one of those with sticky pages and clear plastic to go on top. Sometimes I’d even write captions on paper to label the photos, or if I felt really creative, I’d stick on a used airplane ticket or baggage tag.  It was a no-brainer.  When the photo album filled up, I’d get another. I never got too behind, because the album stayed close at hand, and it was easy to put the photos in the album as soon as they came back from the drug store.  But of course, in our over-the-top world, someone had to take things a step further. 

I don’t remember exactly when I first got wind of “scrapbooking” but I know it was sometime in the late 90’s. I was in charge of programming for a local women’s organization and I lined up a speaker from a craft store to tell us more about it. Soon my sticky pages had more than just photos and captions on them.  The craft store had a whole aisle filled with “embellishments” to add to the pages: stickers, stencils, “journaling boxes”… Not too long after, I got an invitation to my first “crop”– a scrapbooking party where each guest “crops” or cuts photos and arranges them on scrapbook pages. No, (horrors!) not sticky photo album pages. In the world of scrapbooking, lesson #1 is learning all about “lignin” and “acid-free” and “photo-safe”. I’d been doing everything wrong—someday, those sticky photo albums pages will turn yellow and so will your photos if you don’t protect them properly, I was told. So us “newbies” got a basic how-to class while everyone else at the party was sitting all over my friend’s house with stacks of photos and colored paper and cutting tools, working feverishly.  Though some of these gals seemed a little too fanatical for me (“I save every piece of artwork my child has ever done!” exclaimed one proudly) and some dolled up their pages so much I had a hard time seeing the original photos, my interest was piqued.  When a mom of one of Allison’s friends brought her scrapbooks by the house to show me one day, I got even more interested.  Soon I had my own album and was making my own pages, going to neighborhood crops and weekend scrapbooking “retreats”. It was a lot of fun, and I likened the gatherings to the quilting bees of yesteryear: a bunch of women working on a craft project to pass down to future generations, and gossiping a whole bunch in the process (although I doubt that the quilters drank margaritas while working, like we did! ) Not only that, but scrapbooking was a way to get in touch with my inner child—who wouldn’t with all that coloring, cutting and pasting?! Except, for me, it came with one big drawback: keeping up-to-date with my photos became harder. 

No longer could I say I was “caught up”—photos that would have taken 15 minutes to plop in the sticky photo album were now elaborately cut, matted and laid out on two-page, acid-free “spreads” that I’d be lucky to finish, even one, at a four-hour crop (well, you see, there were the drinks, and lots of food, and um, well, yeah, I did create a two-dimensional tiki hut out of brown paper to surround two pages of vacation photos as a border, and, um, yes, I did hand-cut a whole bunch of tiny one-inch strips of tan paper and painstakingly glue each one along the top of both pages to make a thatched roof for the hut…but hey—that “spread” looked great and still does 12 years later, while my sticky photo albums really did turn yellow and are falling apart!). So in the early days of my scrapbooking hobby, I was proud of myself if I was only a year or two behind on my photos. 

Today I’m five years behind, so that’s why I decided this past weekend that it was time to delve into the world of digital scrapbooking. I’d heard good things about it (“You can knock out a whole album in a couple hours!”) but hadn’t spent much time with it even though Andy had given me the software as a gift over a year ago. You lay out pages on your computer, dragging and dropping photos wherever you need them, cropping photos with the touch of a button, adding digital “stickers”, writing captions using a zillion different fonts and colors at your fingertips. You print the pages on your own printer or have various companies print them out. And I must say that, while a lot of things about it were convenient, it wasn’t the miracle time saver I thought it would be.  I mean, I worked for about 13 hours on the “Year 2006” album this weekend and it’s still not finished. Granted, as my husband says, there is a learning curve to factor in with something new, but I think I had the hang of the process after about an hour.  Also, I sit at my computer for work almost all day, M-F.  Do I really want to spend my leisure time there also? With traditional scrapbooking, I usually stand, at a table.  Surely that means more calories burnt (bonus!).  And of course the tactile hands-on, kindergarten crafts aspect is gone when all you’re touching is a keyboard and a mouse.

So, what to do now?  I can’t go back to tiki huts, hand-drawn “Route 66” signs, and Easter photos cut into egg shapes and glued into a flat “basket”.  But I can’t bring myself to just put all my family’s photos into a generic photo album, either. Besides– if the goal is to help my kids recall fun times, value extended family and boost their self esteem by commemorating important events in their lives, shouldn’t the photos be out where they can be seen? Maybe I should just load all my photos into a digital photo frame, for a constant, rotating slide show. Only this would require the time-consuming job of deleting all the “teen cell-phone generated” photos now crowding my computer (gee, will they ever get tired of taking “mid-air jump” photos or close-up “nostril” shots?). Or, I could look through all my photos and print out just a few, only the very best, and put them in individual frames.  Or maybe I should just better utilize what is probably the best display surface around, the most looked-at place in the whole house: our refrigerator.

I wonder if magnets are acid-free…


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

A Ph.D. in Playground: Should kids have “graduation” ceremonies?

In this month of graduations, I’ve been thinking about how, sadly, wearing a cap and gown doesn’t mean as much as it used to.  If I recall, it used to be reserved exclusively for high school and college graduations—something you looked forward to for many years, because those are graduations that deserve Pomp and Circumstance, cap and gown, and celebrations of the highest order.  It meant you’d come a long way over many years and studied hard (hopefully) to get where you are—to quote from A Chorus Line song, “and now life really begins.” But these days, preschoolers graduate in full regalia. Some kindergarteners and Jr. High kids wear the cap and gown, too.  (Heck, PetSmart even had my dog wear a mortar board when he passed their obedience training…)  It seems to be everywhere– I witnessed a Pre-K graduation a few years ago in the Dallas area and last week, a friend of mine who lives in a small Texas town (pop. 6,600) proudly recalled details from ceremonies at her daughter’s K-8 school. 


No doubt most of these pint-sized graduations got started by enterprising business owners coupled with moms and dads afflicted with Over Eager Parent Syndrome…wanting to jump into everything with their kids ASAP—probably also the cause of spa visits for 5-year-olds, third grade football teams with third grade cheerleaders, exotic senior trips to “honeymoon worthy” destinations, etc.—you know what I mean.  Whatever happened to the Bible verse (and Byrds song) about “To everything, there is a season”…?   If we rush everything, what do we have to look forward to?


Thank goodness our elementary school’s “6th Grade Farewell” hasn’t ventured into that territory. The 6th graders’ parents usually decide how it’s going to be done, and so far (whew!), no caps or gowns.  I helped serve cake and Coke (that’s the generic Texan word for “pop”, my Midwestern friends) and observed our latest Farewell a couple days ago, and it pretty much went like the couple of other ones at the school that I’ve seen: each kid walks to the microphone and shares a favorite memory, all their former teachers are honored (even ones that have retired or left the school come back), a DVD slideshow plays, with the requisite baby photos of each child and snapshots from their years at the school, and a rose is given to each mom whose last child is (finally!) leaving the school. Oh, and of course, the cake and Coke afterwards.  (Lately the cakes have been decorated with an “icing photo” of the group, so the kids can all say stuff like, “I’m eating your arm!” or “I just bit into your head!”) Yes, a fitting end to seven years of reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and recess…and not much homework.


Meanwhile somewhere across town and across the state, a five-year-old is handed a preschool “diploma” and beams at the camera in his cap and gown.  Later, he heads home for his graduation party, where many relatives and friends await with gifts, wrapped in colorful paper emblazoned with the words, “Good Luck Graduate!”  Yeah, he’s going to need it in kindergarten, no doubt.  Learning to count to 100 is tough business.
“Get me out of this thing!” thinks Luke after PetSmart graduation (and no, he was not valedictorian.)

One Surprise After Another

Allison, our teenager, a few days ago: “Mom, why are you always complaining about something?”

Me: “It’s not that I’m always complaining, it’s that as a parent, there are problems and issues constantly thrown my way, a lot of stuff I’ve never dealt with before, and I’m constantly having to make decisions and take a side— and you and Emmie don’t always agree with my opinion.”


Amazingly, she didn’t try to argue back.  Maybe she realized I was right.  Whether it’s school issues or safety or friends or ethics or money, “it’s always something”, all the time.  Here are just some of the “surprises” I’ve had to deal with in the last 10 days:


College and grades:  Somehow, Andy and I “missed the memo” that high school freshman grades affect whether a kid gets into a “good college” like the University of Texas, so we were floored to find that out from several more experienced parents.  We had no idea that a kid brand-new to the rigors of high school has to already be seriously worrying about college.  Just one C and more than a few B’s can hurt.  Naturally, around the same time as we learned that gem of information, we discovered that Allison has been having a rough time this semester with homework organization, study skills and time planning, and her previously good grades are on shaky ground for the first time.  After checking online, it seems like any missed school, whether for theatre, orthodontic appointments, illness, or school field trips, really throws her off, as the make-up work is added to her already full homework load.  I now have serious doubts about her schedule for next year, which includes, once again, the extra-time-heavy electives of drill team, choir and theatre.  And every time I bring up the subject of changing it, she starts crying…


Sardine-ing: When Emmie, our 5th grader, came home from gymnastics practice last Monday, she was excited that the entire gym-full of girls got to go to Braum’s for ice cream to celebrate their good scores at their last meet.

“Finally, our group got to go, too,” she said, ” ‘cause the older girls do that all the time.  It was a blast, we sardined into the cars!”

“What do you mean?” I asked. 
e proudly replied, “We fit nine girls into a car that only holds five!” 

When I frowned, she said, “Aw Mom! We didn’t have to go very far!”

Not a good thing to tell someone who once saw a speeding Camaro leap over the hood of her car, “only a block from home”, and land vertically up a nearby telephone pole.  Not a good thing to tell someone whose car was smashed into, “only a block from the office”, when a wanted drug felon ran a red light.  And not a good thing to tell someone who, only a couple days before, listened to the mom of another gymnast as she recounted how her car rolled last week after being sideswiped by a teenager, at only 30 mph., on a neighborhood street.  Thanks to my concerns as well as those of other uncool parents, the gym supervisor has since asked the head coach to stop the sardine-ing.  Next time, the coach can go get boxes of ice cream treats and bring them back to the gym—a grocery store is only a block away.


Braces Times Two:  I spent hours with coffee and tax forms over the last couple of weeks.  The good news is that we get a refund.  The bad news is that most of it has already been spent—Emmie’s pre-braces orthodontia started last Wednesday when she got a “butterfly” spacer installed.  Oh, I knew her mouth was crowded, but I underestimated the scope of work that needs to be done and the expense involved.  Yep, we now have two children with metal in their mouths…


The War Over Decency Continues:  A couple weeks ago, I allowed Allison to go see a touring Broadway musical called “Spring Awakening”.  A friend invited her to attend and was willing to pay half her way. We said she could go if she came up with the other half.  She did– an Easter card with money from Grandma arrived on the same day.  I’d read a little about the show and knew it was “racy” (along the lines of “Rent”) but knew she was mature enough for Rent, so how bad could it be? I mean, this is North Texas—  where some towns won’t allow colorful shirts on public school teachers or alcohol sold within city limits.  Surely they would card people at the door if it was that bad.   Once again, I was wrong.  Recently I’ve found out stuff about Spring Awakening that makes Rent look like a Shirley Temple film festival in comparison.  And Allison thinks it’s one of the best musicals she’s ever seen, because “the music is awesome”.  Thanks to a $15 I-tunes gift card that Andy just found “laying around” and gave to her, she now has the entire soundtrack downloaded, including a song called “Totally F***ed”.  And to make matters worse, I found out about the song from Emmie.



Unsolicited Parenting Advice– From A Telemarketer?!

Emmie, my 10-year-old, posed a humorous question to me yesterday, as she was making her lunch and our caller ID voice (who we think sounds just like the lady from our neighborhood Chinese restaurant) suddenly filled the air.  Emmie had just heard me say, “Don’t answer it– I recognize that name and it’s a telemarketer.”  She paused a moment, pouring leftover chili into a bowl, and said, “Mom, do telemarketers like getting calls from telemarketers?” What a great question.  I wonder if they do? I wonder if they run to the phone with glee and always pick up, listen carefully, and then say something nice? 

I was cured of talking to telemarketers a couple years ago. After a long, tiring day, I was preparing dinner when the phone rang. I could tell it was a telemarketer’s number (why do they always have to call at mealtimes?) so I chose to let the answering system get it, and at the time we had one of those where you hear the message as it’s being left, so you can “screen” your calls.  And I got to hear an earful– a loud recorded message, about how “marriage should be between a man and a woman, and to join the fight against same sex marriage, call this number” …it also said a few more things about gays and lesbians, if I recall.  Now, put aside any political/social opinions you have about the topic and consider what I was thinking: I’m glad my youngest child wasn’t home at the time, because I hadn’t talked to her about that topic and I really wasn’t ready to broach the subject while chopping celery.  I thought about a young mom at home with an even younger child playing at her feet, and got madder.  Oh, sure, we modern parents are used to deflecting “unwanted sexual advances” when our kids are in tow, from the Viagra ads on the car radio,  to the “57 Ways to Please Your Man in Bed” magazine covers that scream at us in the grocery store checkout line, and the “Condoms to Go” billboard that’s been staring at our family along a major highway for at least 10 years.   But there was something about a total stranger using my phone lines to yap about a sexual topic in my own home that really got my blood boiling.   Every parent knows when the time is right to explain various things to their children, and I had made a conscious decision that it wasn’t right yet for Emmie, that she wasn’t at the right maturity level and neither was anyone in her class.  I felt like our privacy had just been grossly invaded, and I thought that whatever organization this was might want to re-think their marketing techniques (after all, I studied advertising in college and used to work in PR).  And so, heart beating very fast, I called the number in the message.

“I just want you to know that I don’t appreciate you calling my house and leaving a message on this subject because I have young children,” I said, “and I’m not ready for them to hear about this.”  The young guy on the other end immediately copped an attitude, much to my surprise.  “Well, then you should always pick up the phone!” he declared, matter-of-factly. Wow, nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like a smart-ass telemarketer.
“WHAT?” I said, raising my voice.  “Are you kidding me? That’s what an answering machine is for!! I’m a parent! I don’t have time to answer the phone every time it rings!”
Smart-ass telemarketer: “Well, then you should be telling your children about gay marriage.”
Nothing sends a parent’s anger off the charts like having a telemarketer give them parenting advice. I was so mad at that point, I can’t remember exactly what I said.  I know it involved the words “How dare you” and slamming down the phone.

I stood there in my kitchen, staring at my pile of celery, not believing what had just transpired.  What breed of telemarketer is this, who has the nerve to tell me how to answer the phone and how to raise my kids?? Do they not care anymore whether they make sales or win votes?? And wasn’t he representing a conservative organization who supposedly is concerned about “family values”?  I could have pursued the matter further, but I didn’t want them to waste any more of my time. 

We have an answering system now where the messages are left internally. And my child now knows a lot about the birds and the bees and gay marriage– but thanks to me and my timetable, not a telemarketer’s.

Can I Go On Strike?

I’m not sure a tooth on a necklace (see previous post) is going to help me.  After spending all day yesterday, a beautiful sunny Sunday, doing things to help everyone else in the family (leaving only about 10-15 minutes to do anything I wanted to do for myself), I listened as my 10-year-old stood by my desk at 8:30 p.m., looking like a cartoon with steam coming out of her ears, and yelled at me,  “You never do anything for me!” because I had failed to go online that day and sign her up for summer Girl Scout camp (even though I’d worked on her summer schedule for hours on Saturday). When I became angry at her for saying that, she tried to backtrack and say, “Oh, what I meant to say was, “You never do anything with me!” and went on in even greater detail to rant about my lack of attention.  Huh? Like that’s supposed to make me feel better? I’d say that’s another arrow (or 2 , or 3) through my heart.  I had just stayed up until midnight the night before watching the movie Twilight with both girls (even though I definitely had other things to do) because they’d seen it and wanted me to see it as well.  Just the three of us (and the dog, and a bowl of popcorn), Mom finally having some fun with the girls.  While the teenager made it a point to tell me (more than once) she didn’t want me to sit too close to her, the 10-year-old was thrilled that I was there… I thought!

I guess I can’t do anything right!   

I wish there was a union for Moms so I could go on strike.  Wouldn’t that be interesting? With a union representative to negotiate better working conditions.  But no amount of negotiating or legislating can force true appreciation.  That would have to come from within my kids.  And right now I’m having a hard time seeing it, and “the little things” are not mattering very much!

I just put one foot in front of the other and move on.  On Tuesday, I am spending almost my entire day chaperoning my 10-year-old’s  4th grade class on a trip to an art museum, riding a school bus on a 40-mile round trip and eating my lunch out of a sack.  I signed up for it a long time ago…

A Nightmarish Carnival of Mayhem

I wrote this last week for the Blogher network– thought I’d share it with you.  Enjoy!

Friday the 13th Came Early at My House

I guess, being an uncool mom, I should count myself lucky that within the past 48 hours, both of my daughters have expressed their heartfelt wish that I was dead. The 10-year-old ran outside, screeching it loudly to the neighborhood.  The teenager’s words were something like, “I wish you were in a grave so I could dance on it and sing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!” But lucky is not exactly how I’m feeling at present.  And all because I said no and stood my ground.

For the teenager, on Wednesday at dinnertime, it was, No, you can’t have 8 teenagers over to the house on Friday night, including 4 boys, for pizza and “backyard games”, especially since you didn’t ask me before inviting everyone, and especially since, after I initially, reluctantly, said yes, you fought with me on what time they’d arrive.  No. I told you not to badger me and you did.  No. Please go to your room and let me Shake and Bake my chicken in peace. No, your party is not going to happen.

Ding, dong, the tears and nasty comments flew.  As well as exasperated text messages across her cell phone, from all 8 teens.  And I continued to get whining, begging, bargaining, and verbal abuse from her until, I kid you not, 1 AM! (yes, the cell phone has been taken away for awhile…)

Needless to say, my patience was pretty thin when late the next night, in the middle of piano practicing, my normally sweet 10-year-old quit playing, looked me in the face and told me I’d been “so annoying” earlier in the day when I’d taken her and a friend to a park to play, to kill time between going to the post office and headiing to gymnastics class.  (I think they were hoping to stay home and sing High School Musical karaoke, but I had to get to the post office by 5 or Grandma’s Valentine would be late gettting to her, and the gym is close to the post office, so why not play in the nearby park for awhile? It’s a beautiful day! Unfortunately, they didn’t share my enthusiasm.) “She was annoyed, too!” said Emmie disgustedly, referring to her friend. A friend who normally doesn’t come over after school, but who was with us that day after I received a frantic call from her mother, needing me to watch her child for a few hours while Mom attended a last-minute training session. I’d had other plans, but I agreed. And they got to play at the house for an hour and a half before I made the “annoying” gesture of taking them to the park. So I looked Emmie in the face and told her that if I was so annoying, then her friend didn’t need to come over anymore as long as she felt that way, and for that matter, neither did any of her friends. Why would she want to ask them? I’m too annoying!!! Which prompted her to yell at me, which prompted her to get grounded, which prompted her to yell and throw things, which prompted a few Webkinz to be taken away, which prompted her screeching to the neighborhood…

As David Letterman once said, when will this nightmarish carnival of mayhem stop? I hope my husband has something relaxing planned for Valentine’s Day…

Post script: My husband bought me a fat container of bubble bath for Valentine’s Day…but didn’t notice that the inside seal had been “poked” and peeled back, and that some of the contents had spewed around the top and dried in an ooky, snot-like blob. (I couldn’t tell what the “poker” had poked into that Jasmine Flower-scented mixture, and didn’t want to find out…) So, I didn’t take a nice, hot bath, but we did go on a really fun, 1 1/2 hour bike ride on President’s Day– great weather, and so rare for him to be off work on a day when both kids are in school. Also that day, we ate breakfast out, something I don’t think we’ve done alone since before we had kids!
Friday the 13th came early, and Valentine’s Day was celebrated two days late…but it really was a happy one.