Tag Archives: Children

Elf On A What?

10 Dec

People may not have the same opinion as what I have stated below. That’s fine! After talking with others after posting this article on a different website, I’m not sure I completely agree with myself! So yes, I welcome criticism, I welcome agreement – but really, just realize that I’m not being completely serious. Sarcasm is my second language. THANX!

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I’m all for Christmas tradition. When I was little, we always had an Advent calendar. Each morning, one of us kids would takes turns opening each little slot that indicated the day of the month. Some years, there was chocolate inside for the taking. One year, there was mouse poop instead (oh, old Iowa houses).

We hung stockings from our wooden staircase. We baked an enormous amount of cookies and candy. We would pile into the car with our grandparents and go look at Christmas lights. We listened to holiday tunes every morning before school. We would make our way through an enormous amount of holiday classics – from Rudolph to Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Christmas Eve meant a huge vat of oyster stew and a gathering at my family’s home for games and conversation. And every year, we would leave out food for Santa and his reindeer.

But there is one “new” tradition that this girl can’t get behind – Elf On A Shelf. Call me a scrooge or whatever, but I just can’t. First off, they are just beyond ugly. I get nightmares pretty easily, and the best way to trigger them is by surrounding myself with little dolls. That is why I wasn’t into Precious Moments, trolls or china dolls dressed up in their finest when I was younger. The creep factor. Even as an adult, it would probably skeeve me out to see an elf staring straight at me while I was vacuuming, placing gifts under the tree – you name it. Gross.

But it has a book, you say, and a movie. Yes, but the interactive Polar Express has a train whistle, and those don’t freak me out in the least.

And there are five gazillion fun ways to place our little elf in the house. Hey, don’t get me wrong, there are some really smart cookies out there. My Facebook feed is inundated with the daily schedules of these elves. And man, the positions they put their creepy toys in are hilarious and brilliant. Those blogs telling you how to place your doll in the most inappropriate positions – I have read them all. The thing is, I don’t know about you, but I’m TIRED at the end of the day. I mean, Christmas is nuts. You have all the gifts to buy, cards to get out, traveling – besides all your normal work and everyday stuff. I don’t have kids yet and some days I am ready to crawl into bed as soon as I get home. So having to come up with another new, funny way to place that ugly thing in my home, cook dinner, and take the kids to all of their after-school practices? No thank you. I feel like it’s part of that whole parent mantra of “I have to do it all!!!” For me, as a kid, the whole month of December was exciting enough, I couldn’t imagine yet another activity to include in this jam-packed extravaganza.

The main reason I just am not all up on this new fad is the whole “big brother” aspect of it. Honestly, when I was a child, I was confused enough on whether Jesus or Santa was watching me. Did they tag team? Who reported to whom? Where was this ladder to heaven from the North Pole for their secret meetings? With our Catholic confessions, I knew Jesus was always out there and I had to be good on a DAILY basis, for I had to recite ten Hail Mary’s and ten Our Father’s if I wasn’t. And then when Santa came, woof dah, I tried not to put one toe out of line.

My parents made it pretty clear what the Christmas season was about, but I still had the Santa beliefs down ‘til fourth grade. And to add another little minion to the mix to do the fat man’s bidding? You are putting Catholic guilt times ten on a little kid. Besides that, my parents never empty threatened us with taking away our presents. “You better be good or you won’t get any presents from Santa for Christmas! He’s watching!” Yeah right, I doubt that really happens in most households. I can’t see my dad in the customer service line at Target during the holiday season returning all my Barbie toys. Not. Gonna. Happen. So instead of the “no presents” gag to get us to behave during the season, it was more of the usual, traditional time outs that were expected year round if we were not handling things right. I mean, why should good manners and well-behaved children be only expected at Christmas time? If that’s so, leave that stinkin’ elf out all year round.

And lastly, spending $30 on this thing? Dude … no. I can find ugly toys for as a little as $2. If I really need to EOAS it someday, I will grab my Ken doll in his mesh gold shirt and green board shorts and get crackin’! I love Christmas. I love tradition. I just don’t love the Elf. Sorry, little creepy, gross, ugly tchotchke. Sorry, since you you were introduced in 2005, I’m going to hope you leave in as big of a flurry as you came in.

What’s In A Name?

24 Oct

sign check(1)Through this whole wedding process, there really has been only one looming question. It’s not, “Should I get married?” or “Is this the right guy for me?” or something in that realm. No, it’s whether I should change my last name or not.

I’ve never been a huge fan of my first name, but it has definitely grown on me and I can’t see myself changing it in my lifetime. In high school, there was a period of time when I toyed with the idea of changing it, but that was just me testing my parents’ boundaries, really.

Last name, though, was another story. I, like many girls, would write my first name with a boy crush’s last name in my journal, saying it out loud until it sounded real. Sometimes I would laugh at the way it came out, and other times I would think, “That sounds perfect.”

As the years have flown by, I’ve definitely been okay with my first, middle, and last names. It’s me, that’s who I am. To the point, that I am not totally willing to change it. I’ve thought about hyphenating – but the combination of my name with my fiancés’ sounds a little weird.

Perhaps my hesitation is due to my feminist beliefs or perhaps it’s because I’m not one for “big change.” I definitely do not begrudge anyone who decides to take their spouse’s name – female or male – I just don’t know if it is for me.

My future husband has said that he would love for us to share the same last name, but would understand if I would like to keep the name I was born with. He’s pretty awesome.

On the other hand, I do see a single last name as a symbol of unity, and something that I was happy to have in my childhood. I’m not sure I want to have a different last name than the one my future kids have. I don’t think that is for me.

So while I try to decide this week what my answer will be: 1) Change it; 2); Hyphenate it; 3) Leave it be; or, 4) Leave it be and change it in the future – I’m taking all thoughts into consideration. I don’t think changing your last name is for everybody, nor do I think that leaving your name as is after getting married is either. I just need to weigh what I’m comfortable and go from there.

And hey, if that’s my biggest problem – I’m doing okay!

(Sidenote: If I decide to not change it, I will totally be okay with people calling me by my husband’s last name. So, so fine with it!)

Spoiled Adult Children

30 Sep
No, no you don't.

No, no you don’t.

Since this whole wedding thing is inching ever nearer, I have been looking into the future. Maybe it’s the upcoming date, maybe it’s seeing my own niece grow up – but, I’ve been really thinking about this whole “mom” thing right now. And observing very, very closely.

This weekend, we celebrated my birthday (because one day for a birthday, really? C’mon!) so we went to Panera, as we like to do. We haven’t been to the restaurant since living in the Midwest, so we were super excited to learn that there was one in Downtown Hoboken. We excitedly chittered and chattered after getting off the train. I was going to get broccoli and cheddar soup with a chicken panini. Nate: Samesies! Sometimes going to a chain restaurant can be pretty amazing because it tastes basically the same anywhere. Usually, we try to go to new places around here, but for Panera, we made an exception. I knew what I was getting, so that was pretty awesome.

There was an art festival going on downtown, so we expected the restaurant to be busy. We are pretty easy going, and there was lots of little kids running around, but we thought, “eh, we are in it for the food.” We plopped down at a booth and started talking about our upcoming marriage counseling session that night. Suddenly, a balloon slammed in my face. Heh. We were sitting in a small booth and across the room, a few couples had taken refuge at a few tables – eating with their many small children. They had lined up strollers and toys all around their space, making it impossible for other patrons to squeeze in at other empty tables, even though space was extremely limited. The couples were busy gabbing, not paying attention to any of the children who were running every which way, knocking into people carrying food and drinks. It was annoying, but we ignored the situation.

We continued to talk until an older woman approached the party table(s). She asked if they could move a stroller so she and her friends could sit at a table that was surrounded by all their stuff. The young couples looked around, startled that anyone would approach and interrupt their conversation. One blonde pony-tailed woman half-looked around and then said, “Um, no” and went back to her super important conversation. I was stunned. So was the older woman. They were taking up so much room, and couldn’t be bothered to be courteous.

While we were finishing our food, people were trying to walk down this aisle while these kids were twirling and dancing away in their path. “Excuse me,” adults said, squeezing by. The kids thought they were really cute when people tried to scoot by and they couldn’t because they had formed a road-block line. Super cute. Finally, one of the mothers decided it was time to discipline one of her children after ignoring them for so long. She took a little girl by the hand forcefully and screamed in her ear in a private space. Actually the private space was a half a foot from my face. I must have been invisible. I finally looked at her and said, “Excuse me, please.” She continued to ignore me.

Usually when we go to Panera, we like to sit and enjoy our coffee, read a bit or just catch up. Not today. When we were finished, we hurried with our coffee to go somewhere a little quieter. Like the crowded art festival.

In the land of Hoboken, there is a stereotype that is also pretty common in wealthier areas of NYC. Young, hip couples who are able to afford nannies. Whether both parents are working or not, it’s a common situation. These were definitely wealthy people who had the means for such an employee (by looking at their many purses, bags and fancy strollers). And although they were well off, I’m pretty sure these people lacked one major thing: Parenting skills.

I have done a lot of babysitting in my days, here and in the Midwest, and I’ve been around many families with small children. Kids can be unpredictable, can be fussy and scream and cry in a store, it happens. I don’t fault the couples who bring their small children to church, even though sometimes it might be best to leave them in the nursery. But there are some cases where children are spoiled with things, lots of things, but don’t receive what they actually need: Time and attention. They are allowed to behave how they want, and adults think this ill behavior is “cute” or “just acting their age.” I call it bratty. I call how the adults were behaving extremely bratty. What “cute” families!

Maybe it’s how I grew up, but I know we would never have been allowed to act that way. I know my niece and younger extended family members would not be able to act that way. And any adults that I know and actually like would never behave as the spoiled older adult children had behaved at Panera.

So I had a moment outside of the restaurant when we were walking to retrieve my birthday present from a store: Am I “mom material”? Was I being too harsh on these people that caused me to get a bit tense and stressed in their presence? I shook it off. No, I might be haughty in saying this, I just have standards when it comes to parenting. These people just didn’t stack up to the many parents I consider role models.

Since it was a marriage counseling day, I took this situation as another counseling session: These are the people I don’t ever want to emulate. I want to be a parent, I just don’t want to be a self-serving jerk who cares more for themselves than others. I’ll try 🙂

Won’t you be mine?

14 Feb

In fourth grade, my desk was wedged between two Adonis’s. One with velvet brown eyes and matching hair, a farm boy. Another blond, tan and oh, so perfect. Let’s just say that going to school was a treat. I had my books, my favorite teacher and the opportunity to crush from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the two boys to the left and right. Heaven.

I often imagined that one of the two would figure out that I was THAT girl, too. With my large glasses and retainers — it was my dazzling personality that I hoped shined through.

But it never happened. Fall came and went, and we remained friends on the playground. The snow fell, and by Christmas break, no declarations were declared. But when school resumed, I knew my greatest chance just loomed around the corner: Valentine’s Day.

What adults don’t understand is the holiday isn’t really about them — their fancy dinners, romantic moments and dazzling jewelry. It’s about the kids (as is every holiday).

Whatever love we got at home on this day was nothing compared to the event that came at school. For we had been preparing for such an occasion.

That week, we spent a great deal of time (or maybe 15 minutes) decorating our “mail bags” — brown-paper sacks that we had glued glitter, paper hearts and had scrawled our names on (ever so carefully). We taped those love sacks to the front of our desks, maybe a couple of times, to get it just right. It was a proud achievement. But after completing the task, the worry set in. You see, it wasn’t just creating the “best” holiday sack; it was the filling that made the 10-year-olds anxious.

Parents took the kids down the red- and pink-colored Valentine’s Day aisle at a local store — letting them pick out the perfect hard-papered cards that would be handed out to their fellow classmates. It was a hard choice. You wanted to choose what made you happy (for me, it was Lisa Frank cards), but, but, but … (there is a but), you had to choose valentines that would be girl and boy friendly. Oh, the humanity. So it was hard decision. Choose what fit you. Or what others would find fun. And then you would settle in the middle. My middle was Barbie valentines. (Isn’t that a little more girly?) But the final choice came because there was an equal amount of Ken valentines mixed in for the guys (a little more manly). Then it was the candy. Sweet Tarts or sticks of pink gum? A choice that would last with you forever.

So that panic subsides. It’s sitting at the kitchen table with your class list deciding who gets what that brings your blood pressure up. You didn’t want to give a guy the wrong idea with a valentine that says, “I heart you” or “Won’t you be mine?” And if you had no feelings and even a bit of hatred in your heart for a fellow peer — the lamest, stupidest, dumbest card was for them.

I didn’t leave that anything to chance. The lovey-dovey cards were meant for the two hunks near my desk. They would get their valentines and at least one of them would get the hint. I was sure of it. And I would finally have my first boyfriend (if they had to fight each other for the honor, so be it.)

That morning, I took my valentines and casually threw the valentines into the right sacks. I gingerly touched the two valentines and placed them ever so carefully into their designated mail sacks. I prayed and thought and dreamed and ….

“Hey, thanks Carrie.” Brown-haired guy said. “Thanks for the gum.”

“Yeah, did you like my Garfield card?” Blond guy added.

My envelopes that contained my inked valentines torn to shreds on the ground.

My heart gave a slight jump, and then settled back into its normal place as the guys thanked the other boys and girls in the class as well. Sigh.

Oh well. Maybe next year a guy will figure it out and I will have my first real valentine.

(Side note: I thought that same idea for quite a few years before having my first real boyfriend during my junior year of high school. The wishing, hoping and thinking (and just please get the hint) plan just doesn’t work too well for me.)

 

Oh, Fabio. You’re my hero.

14 Oct

Giggle.
“What are you guys doing?”
“Nothing.”
Giggle.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep, we aren’t doing anything bad, promise!”
During the summers of my youth, I spent much of my time with the neighborhood gang. A rag-tag combination of friends and cousins that patrolled the blocks of Bank and Water Streets on our bikes. We’d play capture the flag until darkness took over, and held Super Mario championships like it was our job. But every once in awhile, the group split off and the girls would have time for the “pink stuff” — you know, dolls, diaries and books.
Sure, we spent loads of time reading “Sweet Valley Twins” and “The Baby-Sitters Club” series, but when we read books together, we looked for more advanced material. We found that easily in the form of womens romance novels. Preferably of the Harlequin variety.
My cousin Elizabeth and I would sneak off to her bedroom with a few of our hidden finds and start reading. We weren’t looking for characterization, heavy plot lines or themes — just for the quite obvious.
We wanted a juicy cover. Especially if it was the artistically-drawn Fabio on the front of the paperback novel — with his blond flowing mane, tan skin and protruding pectorals. Fabio’s eyes were always diverted and stormy — while he clung to a ship, horse or laid back on a green meadow. His clothing was always a bit too tight, and that was fine with us.
We’d laugh, pretend we were him, lowering our voices to give him life:
“Come on, baby, give me a kiss!”
“I’m a manly beast,” we’d say in our best Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions.
The woman was always secondary — but comic fodder nonetheless. Her flowing hair was usually ridiculous — hairsprayed and teased within an inch of its life. And her poor dress was always falling off.     The female lead never seemed to get a grasp on correct sewing, and managed to always look dippy, helpless and pathetic.
“Help me, Fabio, my dress accidently ripped again,” we’d say in high-pitched Minnie Mouse-inspired voices. “I’m going to faint, I’m so delicate.”
Elizabeth and I would take turns holding the book as we became voice actors for the dime novel, while the other would hold their stomach, painful from laughter.
After dishing it out for the dramatic cover, we’d start on the inside of the book. We never actually read all of it, just the stuff that counted. It was amazing to us that every book was constructed in almost the same way. There were usually three or four juicy parts and if you opened each Harlequin novel in about the same place — you’d eventually find the wanted section.
We’d find the two or three pages of romance, and hyena-laugh ensued all the way through. Each of us would start to read it out loud, but find that we’d fail, whispering the forbidden words in an effort not to die of embarrassment.
The writing was really an exercise in adjectives and adverbs. “He hoarsely declared his love.” “Ralph’s bulging biceps dripped with beads of sweat.” Good grief.
Becoming bored with the novels, we’d soon stumble off to find out what the boys were doing. Most likely playing outdoors, and we’d quickly forget about our amusing readings.
But when I see the books at supermarkets or stores nowadays — I always laugh, and usually take a peek inside. Nothing much has changed, with the book’s content or my instant ability to crack up.
Immaturity is a glorious thing.

For the love of school and discipline

14 Oct

Autumn could not come soon enough for me. While summer vacation was usually a good time for all, there was always this yearning to get back to hitting the books.
Actually the desire to be familiar again with my desk — very neat and orderly — started the day after school ended. I had my two hours of fun and it was back to learning and discipline.
One of my fondest memories of the summer happened to be studiously filling out the large packet of paper my teachers had given me during the elementary years. Papers that were to keep my mind molded and filled with the material that I had learned the previous year. There was a sense of urgency and panic when the packet was completed just a few days after school would let out. What to do now? I read and reread books at the library and daily would go on my bike to refill my stack at home. (Yes, I was the kid that kept falling of their bicycle while trying to manage five or six books on the handlebars while an overfilled backpack clung over the shoulders.)
Looking back, I could say that I was nerdy, a little lost and not like the rest of the kids — all looking forward to long days at the pool, watching television or frolicking outdoors. I was always in my room sitting on my bed with a Little Debbie oatmeal cookie and the friends I usually mingled with were not exactly real but were characters from various books.
I always imagined being back in that familiar place with classrooms, spending my afternoons banging erasers after the bell had rung so I could hang out with the favorite custodian and teachers. And I dreamed of those beautiful gold star stickers. So glorious and necessary for maintaining good students in a classroom.
So after a couple weeks into the summer after fourth grade, I found ways to occupy my time and stay in a classroom setting, so as to not get rusty.
My little sister, Emily, and my cousin, Elizabeth, organized a club that summer. They met in a neighbor’s yard and talked about babysitting some day and things that interested them. Seeing these 6- and 9-year-old girls wasting their time with such matters made me realize that I could put my need for order and school to good use. I came to one of their idle meetings and put them to work.
First, I appointed myself the president of the club. After congratulating them for me allowing them to stay on as members, I gave them jobs. Fluffy ones, like vice president and treasurer (for I would be at every meeting so I wouldn’t need a second-in-command and we really didn’t have any money to speak of.) I would also act as secretary so that the notes would be to my liking.
I realized that they were a little peeved for my hostile takeover and  I knew the best way to appease my new minions. I pulled out a briefcase (which was an old bright blue sewing kit of my mom’s) which contained a few sheets of Lisa Frank stickers. I then told the girls that if they went with my meeting agenda and followed along with the planned discussions, there was a good chance of receiving a beloved sticker.
It seemed to interest them to some extent. I went on with the meeting. We (I) went on to organize certain events for the neighborhood kids. We held “capture the flag” every night, but we set a specific time for the event and outlined guidelines and rules. When that was to my satisfaction, we set a Water Street and Bank Street Olympics.
Featured events for the spectacle included an astounding run around the block event, a back bend competition and a baseball game. Prizes included Lisa Frank and scratch ’n’ sniff stickers. We would divide up stickers for boys and girls according to gender colors.
After leaving the meeting to go back to my room for more planning, I felt good. A little light and airy. The 10-year-old in me was not so lost anymore without the structure of school. I could do it all without teachers guiding my every move. It would be a great summer.
Unfortunately after the next meeting, I was fired by the other two and ousted from the club. I was confused due to the fact that I still had an abundant amount of stickers to hand out. They let me manage the neighborhood Olympics, which I begrudgingly consented to.
But I again yearned for the sound of crunching leaves under my feet, the smell of sharpened No. 2 pencils and the satisfaction of another gold sticker added to my resume.

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