The Female Normal: A Million “Harmless” Messages

“Remember in grade school when the boys would snap your bra strap against your back?” Several of the other ladies looked at me with a knowing glance. Yes, they remembered.

Recently, a friend was talking about how excited her niece was to get her first training bra. My mind immediately transported me back to that awkward time of adolescence when I was half fired up to begin wearing the badge of womanhood and half totally embarrassed. The latter feeling mostly stemmed from the fact that the boys in my class were also noticing this milestone. And their way of letting us girls know they were clued in was to come up from behind, grab and pull back our bra straps, then swiftly let them go so they smacked against our backs as they ran away laughing.

Another friend smirked, “If they had done that to me, I would have turned around and punched them.” Continue reading “The Female Normal: A Million “Harmless” Messages”

Not Hiring: Outdated, Unmarketable, Unhirable 41 Year Olds

Creative Copywriter. Greater St. Louis Area. Two alumni from my university work there.

Normally when I get email notifications from LinkedIn, I hit delete without even opening them. But for whatever reason, as I sat in the school parking lot waiting for dismissal, I was curious to see what job picks were being suggested for me. My eyes immediately focused on the third listing for a creative copywriter.

I’m creative. I can write copy.

Fifteen minutes earlier, I had been at Home Depot purchasing supplies to make a New Orleans style lamp post for our school’s upcoming Mardi Gras themed auction. That’s pretty typical of where my head and my time have been for the last few years or so: firmly entrenched in things like PTO, school board, and squeezing every last bit of experiential juice out of our time in this elementary school community we love so much…time that seems to be moving more quickly each day. My writing, my book, my professional aspirations have been barely even percolating on the back burner, mostly by my own choice. And let’s be honest: I haven’t had what most would consider a REAL job in over thirteen years. But suddenly there I was, sitting in my minivan, still in my workout clothes from boot camp class that morning (because honestly, what do I need to dress up for?), feeling my heart balloon at the possibility of applying for a job. A real one.  Continue reading “Not Hiring: Outdated, Unmarketable, Unhirable 41 Year Olds”

When Social Media Doesn’t Feel So Social

Truth time: I have been avoiding you all.

I normally sit down on Monday mornings, tap-tap-tapping away at my keys, crafting a new blog post as my cup of tea and bowl of oatmeal turn into a lemon-lime sparkling water and whatever ready-to-eat food can pass for lunch. (In other words, I eat a lot of string cheese and things that come in bags that make loud crinkling noises.) Then I schedule social media posts, browse newsfeeds, interact with blogging groups, read about ways to increase reach and website hits, and try to figure out what in my life is interesting enough to be worthy of sharing.

But considering my life has felt mostly like I’m scheduling social media posts, browsing newsfeeds, interacting with blogging groups, and reading about ways to increase reach and website hits, I come up empty-handed on that last one. So when I sat down on these last two Monday mornings, I actually felt more inspired to put away a load of laundry than do anything else. And that’s just effed up.

Back when I was struggling to breastfeed my first child, I remember thinking that the act of feeding my baby shouldn’t be something I wanted to avoid. But it was. The fact that she seemed to want to eat every two hours made me feel like just when I thought I could breathe, I had already fallen behind. And I usually had very little to offer. But I continued to give, at the expense of the things she REALLY needed, like a happy mother.

Similarly, social media doesn’t feel so social anymore. Continue reading “When Social Media Doesn’t Feel So Social”

I Won’t Blog About You

laptop blog“…and then you’re going to blog about it.”

That phrase, said by a friend of mine, was preceded by a joke about my daughter thinking the entirety of an empty pitcher of beer had been consumed by only me at our church’s Oktoberfest this past weekend. For the record, I did not consume the entire pitcher of beer by myself. I only had one-third of it…and one-third of another…and another. Um, so technically, yeah. I had a whole pitcher of beer. But not THAT SPECIFIC whole pitcher. Hey, it only makes sense. I had a third each to celebrate my German roots, my Irish roots, and my Catholic roots. All my roots like to drink. Continue reading “I Won’t Blog About You”

A Lesson In Carpooling

There are many awkward situations one will face throughout the emotionally unstable, pimple-laden journey that is growing up. One of those situations is most likely carpooling. It is a forced togetherness based solely upon proximity and convenience, nothing more. In my case, I was stuck riding to school with various families throughout elementary school, none of whom were friends or even kids in my grade. But most of the Continue reading “A Lesson In Carpooling”

A Tale of Two Kindergarteners

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Michael started Kindergarten four days ago. It hasn’t been good. There has been crying. And pleading. And death grips. I know this is not out of the ordinary. I know starting Kindergarten can be overwhelming for a lot of kids. I know riding the bus can be downright scary for a little person who still needs me to wipe his rear after #2. I know. I just didn’t want it to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Kindergarteners”

Kim Kardashian: The Patron Saint of Puffy Preggos Everywhere

Disclaimer: I am NOT, under any circumstances, a fan of Kim Kardashian.

Okay, now that I have made that absolutely clear… I decided I am on Team Kim. Wait, whaaaaaaaa?

Let me explain.

I accidentally watched an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” yesterday. And by accidentally I mean I was shamelessly Continue reading “Kim Kardashian: The Patron Saint of Puffy Preggos Everywhere”

Apparently All-Inclusive Attitudes Aren’t Part of the Resort Package

I’ve got a little bone to pick. And I’m warning you…I might get a little sassy.

This morning I sat down with my Cinnamon Chex and the Sunday funnies. Before reading the 74,502nd joke Dilbert makes at his boss’ expense, I immediately opened to the middle section to read one of my favorite columns, Life Sherpa by Joe Holleman. While I don’t always agree with his opinions, I really enjoy the common sense approach he applies to life; and he is usually good for a chuckle or two. Sometimes even a snort. He is kind of like a funnier, cooler, more likeable version of Dr. Phil. And he seems like a decent guy to have a beer with, which is one of my more discerning qualifications for liking people.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little miffed with today’s column. A reader by the name of “Eliza Dooalot” wrote in to vent her annoyance with parents who bring children to Mexican resorts or places like Las Vegas, thereby ruining the vacations of all the hard-working adults who paid good money for their trips. (Needless to say, I doubt I would want to have a beer with her. She would probably get all snippy that I brought my kids to the bar.) But I had no doubt that Sherpa would at least partially come to the defense of these parents she spoke of, seeing as how he is a man who usually acknowledges both sides of an argument.

I was wrong.

Instead, I felt a little betrayed. He painted parents of young children as people who think “the whole world finds their children as precious, fascinating and accomplished as they do.” He also states that the kids “can’t help that they were born to selfish people who are incapable of grasping the notion that they might have to give up some of their fun because they had children. And why should they? It’s so much easier to spoil everyone else’s good time than to deprive themselves.”

Oh, Sherpa. I would elaborate on more of what he wrote, but it’s just too painful to read again. But you can do so here, while I try to pull this knife out of my heart.

Now, I want to go on record as saying: Sherpa, I still love you. And I am smart enough to realize you don’t feel this way about all parents of young children. After all, you yourself are a parent, and your children were once young. And I will give it to you: there are irresponsible parents out there like those you speak of. We have all seen them, experienced them, perhaps even known some. I know I do. But if there is one thing that annoys me, it is generalizations. I can honestly say that 99.9% of the parents I know are NOT the kind of people described in the column, and they can’t be the only ones. It would be pretty silly to think I simply hit the jackpot when it comes to friends and acquaintances with children. Furthermore, if there is anything that gets me fired up, it is a misguided attack on something close to my heart.

So here is my rebuttal.

Kids Deserve Vacations Too

kid on airplane
Stock Photo by Sean Locke http://www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Let’s start with the obvious: flying with young children to a Mexican resort. Please correct me if I am wrong, but Mexico has about as many vacation resorts as they do tortillas, many of which are designated as “adults only.” Problem solved. And if it is the “flying with children” part of the scenario that seems “inconsiderate,” well, let’s take a look at that. Flying with kids can admittedly be a disaster of epic magnitude waiting to happen. So, of course, “considerate parents” would simply choose vacation spots to which they can drive, therefore keeping the horrific deeds of their naughty children confined to their own family vehicles, right? First off, this notion suggests that certain people have more of a right to fly than others. But that is just ridiculous, so I won’t even address it. Believe it or not, in today’s economy, flying can often be a cheaper alternative to driving, especially when long distances are involved. Not only have gas prices been insane, but many parents who travel for work enjoy the benefit of frequent flyer miles which they save up and use to pay for family vacations. (Also astonishing is the fact that resorts, like those in say, Mexico, can also be paid for with points. And before you say “use your points at DisneyWorld,” I will mention that I can practically fly and stay at TWO Mexican resorts OR fly across the ocean to Ireland before I have enough points for a family of four to go to DisneyWorld. That’s what you call a Magic Racket.) Considering the rising costs of raising a family, maybe these parents aren’t being so selfish after all. Maybe they are just treating their children to a memory-making vacation while at the same time, saving money that can be used on more important things. Like college funds. Or mortgage payments.

What Happens in Vegas Isn’t Your Darn Business

Now, onto Vegas. I, for one, would never choose Vegas as a destination for a family vacation. I don’t think most parents would. Those card flippers on the strip are enough for me to keep my children outside a very large radius of the city…you know, the guys who hand out naked pictures of girls to promote Caesar knows what. However, it could be possible, just possible, that a family with small children might be in Vegas for another reason, like a convention or a tournament, of which they had no control over the location.

girl and showgirls
Photo from an article entitled “Family Fun: Expert advice for planning a kid-friendly Vegas trip.” Boo-ya!

Case in point: my brother played club volleyball as a kid. One year, Nationals were held in Reno. While Reno isn’t as soaked in debauchery as Vegas, there isn’t a whole lot more to do there than gamble. And guess what is in every hotel? A casino. And guess where the food court and restaurants were in the hotel? On the other side of the casino from the elevators up to the rooms. So every time a poor kid wanted a meal, he had to walk through the casino floor filled with chain-smoking old ladies at slot machines, groups of drunk guys yelling profanities at the craps table, and scantily clad bar maids wiggling what God gave them. The gamblers probably didn’t want the kids there, but neither did their parents. I guess the parents could have not let their children leave the hotel rooms, but no one wants to see or hear what happens when kids are confined for too long. Either be annoyed while gambling or have your sleep disrupted by adolescents bouncing off the walls next door. Your choice.

Basically what I’m saying is don’t assume you know the reason a family with young children might be in an unlikely place. The only thing unlikely about the situation is that the parents are “selfish people who are incapable of grasping the notion that they might have to give up some of their fun because they had children.”

Does This Look Like Fun to You?

annoying kid
Totally precious…not

Which brings me to another can of worms I want to open: kids misbehave. It is a fact as true as the laws of physics. And guess what? Even kids of good parents, well-intentioned, attentive, responsible parents, misbehave. And yes, it is annoying. But here is the most shocking part: NO ONE IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD IS MORE ANNOYED AT MISBEHAVING CHILDREN THAN THE PARENTS OF SAID CHILDREN. Is there a kid at the pool being a brat, yelling the theme song to “Go, Diego, Go” and splashing everyone within five feet of him? I suspect this might be the type of “other people’s children” that Miss Eliza Dooalot must suffer and “put up with” on her vacation. But who is really the one who has to put up with it? Sure, for people like Eliza and other bystanders, this behavior can be disruptive and agitating. But Eliza has a choice; a choice to find another area by the pool to relax, a choice to crank up the music in her earphones, a choice to leave. This child’s parents do not have that choice. They not only have to be badgered by it, but they also have to do something to remedy it. And might I add that most parents are not only frustrated in their child’s misbehavior despite trying to teach them manners and respect every chance they get, but they are also embarrassed that their failings are on display for all to see, and their reaction to it is likely being judged.

A perfect example of this unfortunately happened to a friend of mine several years ago. She was moving her family from St. Louis to London after her husband was transferred. He had gone to London ahead of the family to start work, so she was poised to make a trans-Atlantic flight alone with three small children. Things got off to a rocky start, and her kids were already whining and pushing limits as they boarded the plane. As she made her way to her seat, juggling three children and all their carry-ons, another passenger made some snide comment loud enough for her to hear. She turned to him and said something along the lines of, “If you think I’M having a good time here, you are SORELY mistaken.” If I had been on that plane, I would have given her a standing ovation.

The Moral of the Story

All of these above reasons are why I got so angry reading that column. And I am not an unreasonable person. I am actually probably a lot more “old school” than most older generations would accredit to someone of my generation. I have even proclaimed myself to be the world’s youngest cranky old woman. So for me to take offense to these attitudes means something. Parents KNOW their kids can be annoying to other people. We do get it, since other people’s kids annoy us sometimes, too. We are just able to cut them some slack because we know in our hearts that parenting bites everyone in the backside every now and again. And we don’t think everyone thinks they are cute and adorable. Heck, there are times when even WE don’t think that. So to imply that we are clueless, self-centered people who are not mortified if the actions of our children inconvenience other people is grossly irresponsible. Even worse, to imply that we are negligent enough to abandon our parental judgment to allow ourselves to have fun at the expense of our children and everyone else is downright hurtful.

Obviously, everyone has a right to feel however they want on this issue. All I am really asking is instead of rushing to judgment, perhaps adults without young children should consider the fact that they don’t have the whole story. The world revolves around no ONE person; we all have to share this planet, and occasionally a Mexican resort. That means we will step on each others’ toes sometimes, even if there is no malice intended. I can empathize with a hard-working person who is just looking forward to a relaxing vacation; hopefully that person can also empathize with the fact that parents on vacation with children really aren’t on vacation at all. But we go, for our kids. For our family. And to be frankly honest, it’s a free country and we can choose to vacation wherever we want. So do you.

So let’s mend the fences, Sherpa. I can respect your opinion. And now you know mine. All is forgiven. And if you want to hang out with some really fantastic moms who hold absolutely no delusions about the strengths AND faults of their children, usually posting the good and the bad on Facebook for you to block, come have a beer with us. It will even be my treat, since you’re still one of my favorite columnists. I’m even enough of a good sport to let you invite Eliza Dooalot. But she has to pay for her own beer. I work too hard trying to raise future productive members of society to waste my well-deserved mom’s night-out money on her unsympathetic attitude.

Like a Rolling Stone

It feels a little weird to be blogging. I mean, it has been exactly twenty-three days since I last posted something (not that I have been counting or anything). That is apparently long enough for the WordPress site to stop automatically logging me in, causing me to have to actually type in my username and password…which I almost couldn’t remember. It’s a good thing I am not entrusted with any classified information. I am pretty sure they don’t have a “remember me” box to check when logging into the nuclear launch codes. 

checking the fridge
Oh hey, Twitter. I forgot you were in here. (photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com)

I guess I can chalk up my lack of blogging to taking to heart the idea that “life grows sideways.”* I have been rolling with the punches. And the punches just haven’t seemed to be landing on blogging lately…or Facebook…or Twitter. (Actually, the punches NEVER land on Twitter. My Twitter account is pretty much like those leftovers you know you should throw out, but you put them in Tupperware anyway because you just MIGHT find a use for them. Like you just MIGHT become one of those people who researches creative ways to reinvent leftovers into a brand new meal. But you never do. But you are also one of those people who is not so good at cleaning out your fridge, so the leftovers just sit somewhere in the back next to the jar of barley malt you bought last year because you needed one tablespoon of it to make homemade bagels, which of course you have never made since. Are you sensing why I am not so good at capping my thoughts to 140 characters?)

What I HAVE been rolling with is basketball practices; indoor soccer games; tumbling classes; birthday parties; First Communion meetings; Brownie meetings; overseeing the selling of Girl Scout cookies; making Walmart my unfortunate second home; powder puff derbies (well, just one of those); sporadic workout schedules; ice skating; school volunteering; randomly deciding to reorganize the kitchen on a Monday afternoon; realizing that a freshly reorganized kitchen “needs” some pops of color by way of new utensil, flour, sugar, and tea cannisters; “sacrificing” my time to scour Pier One and T.J. Maxx for said sources of pops of color…you know, typical mom stuff. Because typical mom stuff is how I roll. Just consider my theme song “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood. That’s right. Winwood. Hey, that brassy 80’s tune worked for my grade school soccer team. Get it?…roll with it…like a ball. Uh huh. We even had a little sideline dance. Take that David Beckham.

I have also found myself, as always, rolling with the hilarity and awkwardness provided by my children. Here are just a few noteworthy moments:

– My son can be rather creative in his dress-up play. He is fearless when it comes to making bold and daring choices. Some of you may remember this ensemble from a previous post:DSCF8800

He has also proven to be unfazed by gender stereotypes, following in the footsteps of young male actors during the time of Shakespeare and stepping into a female role…or the role of a robot monster who also happens to be wearing a dress:DSCF7799

And then just today, he designed this outfit for “Wacky Wednesday” at school:774274_10152446747505532_1366605929_o

But the real beauty of his fashion choices are in his interpretations of what the dressing-up transforms him into. Last week, Michael came up to me in just his skivvies and asked me to tie a piece of crepe paper around his neck. It ended up looking like a bow tie. Let me just reinforce that picture for you…skivvies and bow tie. He said he was being a sea monster, which came as a huge relief to me. Because my first guess was Magic Mike.

chicken and rooster
“Hey, chickie. How ’bout you and me do a little egg fertilizing?” (photo source: Wikipedia)

– Just before Christmas, I mentioned that Grace’s advancing age is bringing on all kinds of questions I am not ready to answer. I also mentioned that I was more comfortable answering her questions about sex than I was about Santa. Well, I may have spoken too soon on that one. The questions I was referring to in the previous post were ones she was asking about anatomy, mostly female. No problem. Last night, however, my husband and I got the “big one.” And it all started with hard-boiled eggs. At dinner, Grace was proudly recounting how she had learned to hard boil an egg. Which led to this:

Grace: “What exactly is the yellow part of the egg? (a bit fearful) Is it the baby chicken?”

Kurt: “No, because the eggs we eat aren’t fertilized. It only becomes a chick if the egg is fertilized.”

Grace: (satisfied, but only for a millisecond) “Oh. What does fertilized mean?”

Me: “You know how human babies are made from part of a mom and part of a dad? Well, it is the same with chickens. The eggs we eat only have the mom part, not the dad part.”

Grace: “But how does the dad part get to the mom part?”

Me: (hoping desperately that she is talking about chicken parents) “Uh, I am not exactly sure how the dad part gets into the egg…” (can you feel my uneasiness?)

Grace: “No, not the chickens. Like people. How does the dad get his part into the mom?”

Me: (DAMN YOU CHICKENS AND YOUR UNFERTILIZED EGGS!!!!! DAMN ME FOR BUYING REAL EGGS INSTEAD OF EGG BEATERS THIS WEEK!!!!  DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!!!!)

Kurt: (Eating tomato bisque, just ignoring the whole conversation by this point, mostly because he loves my tomato bisque, and our chatter was ruining the moment between him and his soup spoon. And now that I think of it, I am really annoyed at his timely love affair with tomato bisque when he was the one who brought up fertilizing in the first place. Stupid enginerd.)

Me: “Well, I would love to tell you about that, but it is kind of grown-up stuff, and the dinner table isn’t really the place to discuss it.”

Grace: “Why not? We’re just sitting here, eating and talking. The food doesn’t care.”

Me: “But Michael isn’t quite old enough to know about that kind of stuff yet.”

Michael: “I hate eggs. Chickens have eyeballs. I hate this soup.”

Me: “Um…well,…you know maybe we…(trails off into undefinable mumblings)…HEY! You,  little miss, have not told me ONE thing about how school was today!

Grace: “Oh, it was really good! Our class got our 100th marble today for doing good stuff so we are going to have a movie day with popcorn.”

Me: “Wow! I want to hear ALL about these marbles…fascinating…”

Roll with it, baby. Ain’t that right, Winwood?

* quoted from The American Gene by Michael Nesmith

Dr. Spock, Freud, and Grade School Soccer

Both of my kids started soccer this past week. Naturally, that got me thinking deep philosophical thoughts about life and parenting. That’s normal, right?

The world of children’s sports is one of those arenas that tests my parenting skills. I have some really strong feelings about the ways in which we school our kids in competition, and I have also found that involving my own children in sports has led to the surfacing of some lingering insecurities over never being “a cool jock” in the days of my youth. Neither of these are things I want to project onto my kids. But I have to admit, it was hard to quell the emotion I felt at Grace’s first soccer game the other day when I watched her sit on the bench for over half of the game.

I will be the first to admit I have absolutely NO delusions about Grace’s talent as a soccer player. She is not the fastest runner, she needs a heap of lessons on how to be more aggressive, she’s much better at looking like she’s doing something on the field than actually doing something on the field, and she is likely spending most of her time admiring the other teams’ hair ribbons than paying attention to the goings-on of the game. But her team is not playing for Olympic gold, where the best players should be the only ones playing. They are simply in a second grade soccer tournament.

My friend Nicole wrote a really great post about participation trophies, and how it seems we have created a climate for kids where they get rewarded for just showing up, not for actually being good at something. I couldn’t agree more, and even commented, “Kids need to experience failure so they don’t go out into the world thinking they will win at everything…and this is the perfect time for them to experience failure because we are right there to help them through it.” (I know, feel free to award me with my child expert degree.) So after feeling a little upset that Grace seemed to have landed the role as team bench warmer, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I was being hypocritical. Everyone can’t be the star after all.

good sportsmanship sign in Metropolis, Illinois
Brilliant.

And then I remembered a photo of a sign posted at a Metropolis, Illinois little league field that made its way around Facebook earlier this summer. Maybe we shouldn’t be giving out consolation rewards to our kids when they don’t win, but we also need to teach them that winning isn’t everything. My husband and I aren’t seeking out uber-competitive select sporting teams for our kids to play on. We sign them up to play on their school-sponsored teams, where everyone can be on the team regardless of skill, where they can build camaraderie with their friends and learn about teamwork, and where they can actually have a chance to play and build some skills in the sport. Oh yeah, and where they can have fun. These words are spoken at LOT at our house: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters if you have fun.”

So there I was, agonizing over the fear that my child was getting cheated out of a fun soccer experience all because she is not the best player. As the game came to an end (we lost, by the way), I was trying to think of what to say to Grace when she asked why she did not get to play as much as the other kids. But she never asked that question. Instead, this is what she said to me:

“Well, we didn’t win. But I had fun anyway.”

(You can revoke that child expert degree now.) She didn’t even care that she probably had the least amount of playing time than anyone else on the team. Heck, I don’t think she even noticed. Parenting lesson learned: don’t make an issue out of non-issues.

Man, apparently being second-string on the freshman basketball team stung my subconscious more than I ever thought. This parenting thing is hard. Coach, I think I need a sub.

Addendum: I want to admit I had second thoughts about posting this piece in fear that it would be taken as a bash against Grace’s coach. It is not meant to be. He is a great guy who is volunteering his own time to teach a bunch of little girls how to play soccer. There may have been reasons unknown to me why she didn’t play much; or it could have been an accidental oversight altogether. And considering Grace’s statement after the game, he is obviously making it a fun experience for her so far. As I agonized over whether this would be seen as disrespectful to him (are you starting to understand that I agonize a LOT?), I realized that 1) the whole purpose of this post is to highlight how I was the one who blew the situation out of proportion and 2) I am not writing for the New York Times and have an audience size of about one millionth of theirs. The chances that Grace’s coach, or any other parent from the team, would read this are pretty small. So I need to take my own advice and stop making an issue out of a probable non-issue. Then again, one of my neighbors did happen across my neighbor post a few weeks ago, so just in case….Coach, you’re going a great job 🙂