Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Fraidy Cat

I was one of those kids who was afraid of her own shadow.

When the doorbell rang, I’d hide.  I was afraid of men with facial hair.  I was afraid of the woods, the dark, drowning, being left alone, getting lost, nuclear war, nightmares, painful death, losing my parents, being attacked by animals, being excluded, not knowing what to say, being made fun of, frogs, snakes, answering the phone, being abducted, ghosts, talking to strangers, speaking my mind, mean kids, losing a friend, making new friends, being disliked, boys liking me, boys not liking me, having sex, getting pregnant, failing school, not getting into college, being a disappointment, being the worst at everything, and so on and so forth, forever.

I was a little angsty.





It’s just my way, I guess. I was not born a daredevil, one to take unnecessary risks.  I liked what I knew, and worked very hard at finding a comfy spot where I went.  Anything outside of my very rigid boundaries scared me.

What a barrel of monkeys I was.

One by one, I’ve left most of those fears behind.  Maturity has absorbed most of them; the interpersonal ones are long gone, as are the ones that have to do with physicality or emotions.

As we grow and become more comfortable in our own skin and in our place in the world, we take more risks and rebel against our normal, expected behavior.  We use our fears to drive our behavior and in the process many of our fears dissolve.  By high school my friends and I would cruise the local university for parties and college boys.  I traveled to Europe and became an exchange student. In college, conquering my fears with rebellion and risk looked like a fake ID and cliff-diving.

My fears rumbled under the surface, but I squashed them down in the name of experience and growth, finding my own path, and following others.  Am I the sort of person who would get a tattoo? I wondered.  Yes.  Yes, I think I am.  It only hurts for a little while.  The needles are very safe.

I sort of wish that I had listened to my fears on that one.

As an adult I learned not to be afraid of most of the things that plagued me as a kid.  Part of the reason is my faith, the belief that all things happen for a reason and for good, even if they are bad things.  Part of the reason is that fear only serves to paralyze.  Risks can have amazing results and rebellion is sometimes taking the high road and coming out better than before.  Another part is that I’ve learned how to handle so many things.  My experiences in conquering fears have taught me to adapt and be more competent.

And part of the reason is that I’m just tired of being afraid.  I spent all my fears already.

Except for the one about being attacked by animals.  Bears, mostly.  And velociraptors.  You’ve seen Jurassic Park, right?  Terrifying.


photo via wikia

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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Something that scared you when you were young… are you still afraid?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

And That’s How I Know How Much It Costs To Shave A Cat

Note: We are cat-sitting.  Again.  Read about our last experience here.



I descended the stairs of our plush-carpeted basement.  At once, the odor hit me with all the weight and cruelty of a body slam delivered by an unshowered pro-wrestler.

It was the smell of a recently occupied litter box.

You know the smell, right?  The acrid stench of peed and pooped-upon cat litter?

Oh, you don’t?  How nice for you.

As I scooped the poop and clumped-up litter, I marveled at the volume of feces. 

And hated the occasion that caused me to do so.

I cleaned the box, bagged the offending material, and ran up the stairs to dispose of it outside, cat on my heels.  He’s a social guy, following every person around the house like a puppy.

He’s so cute.  Little did I know that I would soon resent even the cuteness of this behavior.



Washing my hands, I noticed that there was a piece of dirt on the floor that wasn’t there before.  I bent down to pick it up, thought twice about it, and grabbed a tissue. 

It wasn’t dirt.

Aw, man, I thought, as I gave the cat the side-eye.  Animals are SO GROSS, I screamed in my mind as I reached for the cleaning wipes.  I wiped the spot off the floor, and the cat stood from his lounging area under the kitchen table, yawned, and walked off.  As I watched him, something caught my attention.

It was the world’s largest dingleberry, hanging off the fur on the back of his legs.   He left a little smeared footprint as he sauntered off self-importantly.

Panicking, I remembered how this cat had run all over the house just minutes before, on top of every piece of furniture and scrap of carpeting inside.  I grabbed him, lifted his tail, placed another tissue on his back end, and ran up the stairs to the tub in the bathroom.  Nononononononono NO.  My voice escalated three octaves.

He looked at me plaintively.  Please don’t do this, he pleaded with his eyes.  I’m scared.

I turned on the water and firmly held his legs and tail in place as I ran the warm stream over his backside, grabbing the bar of bath soap that would be sacrificed in the ordeal.  Ten minutes later the cat was clean but wet.  I rubbed him down, wrapped him in a clean towel and shut him in the basement as I decided my plan of attack.

Every surface in the house was potentially besmirched with excrement, just waiting to sully an unsuspecting victim.  I smelled that smell everywhere.  I wondered if a black light would be effective to pinpoint the areas in most need of disinfecting, like on Dateline when they use one to smugly point out that even the elegant Ritz is spattered with bodily fluids.

Concluding that the entire house was polluted, I resigned myself to my task, amassed all the bleach-containing cleaning products we had, and grabbed the mop and rags for a day of deep cleaning.  And as I crawled on my hands and knees with my nose to the thick carpeting in our basement and living room, searching for land mines, I took solace in knowing that tomorrow, with its promise of a sparkling house and a grooming appointment, would soon be here.



It is the start of a new era.  This event is behind us.  It will not happen again.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Parenting Then and Now

I grew up in the 70s and 80s.  As if you couldn’t tell.


My daughter says that I was so cute that
all the boys probably loved me.
Yeah, that's right.

My parents were junior high school sweethearts who got married soon after high school.  They had kids, built a life and never looked back.

Total. Babes.

Still babes.

I remember my childhood well.  It was a good one.  I didn’t suffer at the hands of abusive parents or family members, save for my brothers and I beating up on each other from time to time. We had lots of family and friends who lived close by.  We had enough of everything we needed.

It was a good, simple life – a great way to grow up.

It is this childhood that largely influences the way I parent my kids today.  Except for a few modern-day differences and new information, I am mindful of my memories and draw upon them when I am faced with a parenting challenge or question.  Although they were incredibly young and likely did this parenting thing by the seat of their pants, what would my parents have done in the situations that I face?

Try as I might, I cannot realistically parent the same ways they can.  I can for a lot of things – the needs of children haven’t changed so much in forty years.  But the world has changed in ways that don’t allow for a carbon copy of parenting techniques.  Parenting styles of the 1970s and 1980s don't always make sense in the 2000s.

So although I’ve tried to use my parents’ example to guide my own parenting life, I’ve still done a lot of things differently.  Here are five:

I’m an older parent than they were.  Sort of.  My mother was twenty years old when she had my brother.  She had me at 21.  She had my little brother when she was 29.  I had our son when I was 27 and our daughter just one week shy of 30.  I was not mother material before age 27.  I know this because pictures of what I was doing between 20 and 27 and pictures of what my mother was doing during those ages are vastly different.

I don’t smoke in the house.  The perils of exposing children to secondhand smoke are now well-documented, and I remember falling asleep to the smell of smoke wafting up the stairs from my dad’s cigarettes as he made work calls from the little desk in our kitchen.  Every holiday was tinged with the familiar scent, every get-together.  We don’t have friends or relatives who smoke anymore, but when I was young someone was always flicking a cigarette.  We didn’t even think about it then; I can’t imagine how our children would react if all of the adults suddenly lit up at a dinner party.

I don’t use daycare.   My mom stayed at home, like most mothers at the time, and when I became pregnant, I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do, too.  However, my parents owned their own business, and my mom started working in the office around the time my younger brother was born.  So they hired teenagers in the summer and found a friend to care for my younger brother in her home while my older brother and I were in school in the winter.

We are more hands-on.  I’ll never forget calling up my mom, worrying about the age at which children these days need to use deodorant.  I was concerned with body hair, age of puberty onset, normal age of body changes, and on and on and on.  Our kids are so young! I gasped.  When did we start all that?  I wanted to know.  My mom hesitated before replying, “Well, I don’t know!  I wasn’t up you kids’ butts the way parents today are up their kids’ butts!  Who knows when you started using deodorant?  I never even noticed!”  Huh.  Point taken. 

We talk about uncomfortable subjects.  In my day parents just didn’t talk about certain things with their kids.  Sex and drugs weren’t mentioned, and parents didn’t share deep thoughts.  In our house, we all talk about every subject imaginable and my husband and I field questions from our kids that I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking my own parents.  In addition, we share big plans, money issues, and how we screwed up in the past.  Maybe we share too much, but I can’t imagine being less open with my kids.



How do you parent differently than your parents did?

Do you think you do a better or worse job, or is it just different?

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This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: List 5 ways you are different as a parent than your parents were.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Eleven Favorites: Old-School Blogging

It’s that time of the month again, kids!

No, not that time.  Jeez, Mavis.  Although can we all agree that that time of the month has worn out its welcome already?  Can I get an Amen?

Yeah.  I didn’t really intend for this to be a period post.

But you started it.

Anyway.

Elaine from the Miss Elaine-ous Life and Krystyn of Really, Are You Serious? teamed up this month to do another Old School Blogging link-up, and I decided to join in again for two reasons: 1) because it’s so much fun, and 2) I like taking things back to the old school because I’m an old fool who’s so cool.

I think both of those reasons are the same, but eh, I don’t care about being redundant.  Whoomp! There it is.

Let’s get started, shall we?


A few of my favorite things:

1. Sit-down Restaurant:  I like the “sit-down” qualifier of this item, as opposed to “stand-up” restaurant, which would be my kitchen, because I eat many meals standing at my kitchen counter, scarfing food into my trap because when the hungries take control who can find the time to sit down properly and eat?   

Really, though, when we moved to the eastern part of Pennsylvania a million years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most pizza places around here make the kind of pizza I remembered from the Jersey Shore vacations of my youth.  Huge slices with a thin crust, just the perfect amount of sauce and cheese and seasonings.  You fold it up and eat it like a pizza sandwich and here it is early morning and I’m drooling over it already.  We’ve tried all of the pizza joints around here, and we’ve never been disappointed.

2. Cookie:  I love a good sugar cookie.  I hate making them.  But my mom is really good at making them, and she can bang out a batch in an hour, so I just eat them when she makes them, which isn’t often since I live far away from her.  Which happens to be a blessing because I can eat twelve at a time.

OMG

3. Bath product scent:  Lavender.  I just love it.  I ten-O loooooooooove lavender.  The color, the flower, the smell, the beautiful lavender fields.  When I die please let heaven be lavender-scented.  I shall be a lavender farmer there.  Lavender lavender lavender.

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos/prozac1

 4. TV shows:  Project Runway.  Suits.  Downton Abbey.  Mad Men.  Parenthood.  CBS Sunday Morning – Charles Osgood, man.  Funniest guy on television.

5. Flower/plant:  I get a kick out of growing tropical plants outside in our temperate climate.  It gets very hot and humid in the summer, which is perfect for them, but you have to bring them inside in the winter so they don’t freeze and die.  If I adopt any more tropical plants we may need to build a greenhouse.  I’m not kidding.

 

6. Bad-for-me snack:  Candy.  All kinds.  I don’t even care if it’s the gross kind, like those weird gross gummies that my kids bring home from trick-or-treating.  But I kind of do care.  Can we stop the gross gummies on Halloween already?  Mama likes Butterfingers.

7. Magazines:  I stopped reading magazines because they took up so much of my time.  My husband is always trying to buy me magazine subscriptions from his leftover airline miles.  I’m all, No way, man!  I cannot spend another twelve hours of my life reading the fall issue of Vogue.



8. Hobby (besides blogging):  I like to party.



9. Holiday.  Easter and Halloween.  Each is my favorite for different reasons, but mostly because of the low stress/high candy factors.





10. Girls’ Night Out Activity.  Anything as long as it involves conversation.  I love a good Girls’ Night In, actually, where someone invites me to her house because I always stress about having people over and not having enough food/drinks even though I usually have enough food/drinks for a small team of oxen and their drivers.  Going out with women can be a huge pain because of the bill. Women hate to split the bill, and invariably there's someone who's all, "Oh, I ate before I came, and I only had one drink and shared a salad.  So my portion comes to six-eighty."  If you are this person, stop it right now.  Split the bill.

11. Date Night.  Dinner and a movie.  And for the love of everything holy, if it’s a date, the MAN ASKS THE WOMAN AND TAKES CARE OF EVERYTHING.  Don’t ask me if I want to go out, and then expect ME to arrange all the details and OMG, I have to PAY, TOO? 

Like I said, I’m old school.

Tag, you’re it!  Join in the fun and link up with either Elaine or Krystyn and share your own favorite things!  Be sure to use #OSBlog on Twitter and tweet with @SeriousKrystyn or @elainea if that’s your speed.  And when you’re done with that, call me up.  We’ll party.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Providing Free Material for Therapy

“Hey, come here.  Look at this picture.”

I showed my son a picture that a friend posted on Facebook, of a huge pile of Legos that her kids made in the middle of a floor.  It was so deep that you couldn’t see the carpet.  It had to be three or four feet in diameter.  Several pieces were scattered nearby.

“Boy am I glad that you guys never got into Legos.  We never really had a mess like that.  So many pieces!”  I gaped in wonder at the photo, remembering my own youth when my brothers and I would sit among the tiny plastic pieces and lose ourselves in building.  My brothers built cars and spaceships.  I built houses.  Our kids only occasionally played with the sets we bought for them.  They made messes for sure during the younger years, but thankfully they rarely contained thousands of Legos.

Look!  No Legos!

My son glanced at the picture.  “That’s because when we would get a set of Legos, we’d put them together and then you’d break them down and put them away.  What was the point?”

In an instant I felt like I had robbed our children of great futures, fulfilling careers.  They will not be architect and engineer, nor astronaut and urban planner.

I hated Legos as a mom, because they were everywhere.  It’s in my character, my habit, to insist on neatened spaces before the day ends, to start with a clean slate each day.  I spent hours when the kids were little, picking up after them.  No mess saw the dark of night.  This is an issue when it comes to Lego building.  Lego projects are ongoing, and to me ongoing projects are just a mess. 

I hated the Lego projects they constructed – they took up so much room and collected so much dust.  They’d put the things together and just sort of – leave them out.  Within days I’d lose it and break them all down and throw them into a bin with all the others.  My kids never reconstructed a particular set again after I interfered.  Eventually they stopped playing with them. 

My brother was over recently and I gave him the bin of Legos we were going to donate.  His kids are much younger than mine, and he thought that maybe one of them would inherit his love for building.  I was happy to see them go.

An advertisement came on the TV for a movie that my kids loved when they were younger.  “Oh look!  I haven’t seen that movie in forever!” my daughter exclaimed.  “But don’t we have it on DVD?  You could watch it anytime,” I said.  “We had it until you sold it at a GARAGE SALE, Mom!” she retorted.  She went on to list all the beloved movies we bought at one time and that I got rid of before they were ready to give them up.

I had no idea that I was thwarting my children’s spirit growth with every pile of toys I cleaned up and with every dust-covered DVD I sold for a quarter.   I thought I was keeping order in our home, and I am ruining their memories instead.

Is it any wonder the term Mommy Guilt is a thing?

I’ve taken away bedtime snacks, forbade messy crafts, only rarely join them outside to play, make them change their own sheets and clean their own bathroom, insist they eat salad, have made them work when they have friends over, and our history of amusement park visits is meager.  They will never forget these indignities, and they will make sure I won’t, either.

But that’s okay.  Through it all, they’re learning valuable lessons: that you can’t save everything and do everything.  Disappointment is inevitable.  Work is an integral part of life.

And by all means, save your pennies.  Therapy is expensive.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Price of Convenience

Recently I had a text conversation with a friend that lasted over an hour.

It was okay; not ideal.  Typing the words, one finger at a time on the tiny screen – switching screens to use : or ; or “ and ” – it took more time than it should have.  Sometimes our thoughts collided and the text bubbles got out of order and one of us got off topic before the other was ready to move on.  Several times one of us had to ask the other: what did you mean by that?  We’d back up and reword again.

I wanted to use the word “preposterous,” but settled for “cray.”

I missed the olden days when I could talk on the phone with a friend and punctuation was unspoken, and words flowed freely from my lips, and interruptions were effortless and one of the quirks that I tolerated in a good friend during an easy yet meaningful discussion.

People don’t want to talk on the phone anymore.  More and more people claim to hating and avoiding it, despite likely doing it for hours when they were younger.  They cite convenience and ease when they eschew talking in favor of texting.

In theory, I get it.  The conversation I had with my friend could have easily been done while I was perusing the clearance end caps at Target, sneaking my way from the toy aisle to that one area in housewares that everybody forgets about and where I find most of my treasures.

Or if I was more adept at texting and could do the talk with one hand down a toilet in my house, scrubbing away my family’s dirt while she unloaded hers onto the screen.

Instead, I sat at my kitchen table in silence and punched out my words in response to hers, enjoying the quiet but wishing we could hear each other laugh instead of sharing LOLZ and hearing the sarcasm without having to type You’re kidding, right?  Dang.  Cray.

I miss my mom.  When I was a new adult she would call and I would sit on the secondhand patio furniture that I kept in my apartment, painting my toenails and telling her that I made her lasagna for dinner and expressing my shock that it was such a large amount and I would likely be eating it for the next two weeks.  I learned how to cook over the phone, that windows needed to be washed periodically, and that a civilized person really could not do without a good tailor.

Now my mother rarely calls anymore; she’s able to run more errands and get more work done due to the convenience afforded by technology.  I can almost hear the world rush by her car window when she calls, my name on in a list of many that she checks off when she drives to the collect the dry cleaning.

When my husband and I met, he had just landed a new job, and they set him up in a hotel for a couple of months.  Ours was a long distance romance, and the hotel phone bill soared as we chatted late into the night about our hopes and dreams and those times we did those things we regret.  His company was gracious enough to know that our romance was fated from the beginning and forgave us the bill.

Now he texts from his parked car at the end of a long day: Just lvng b home @ 630.

You may chalk this loss up to the perils of familiarity in a marriage, but I maintain that convenience is to blame.

We’re out of practice.  No more do friends call to chat on a slow afternoon.  It’s all business, and more abbreviated than ever. Meet for lunch @ noon?  Sat ok for GNO?  Yah thx.

We’re not able to totally hide our poor spelling ability with texting, and we expose our rudeness when in the presence of others, every lull in conversation permission to pick up our screens to see who else is talking.  Worse, we endanger others when our attention is diverted by the convenience of instant conversation when on the road.

Most people argue that convenience is a good thing.  We’re doing more because we can; we’re not tied up by a phone cord, and conversations can’t drag on via text because it’s too cumbersome.  We are more efficient than ever, getting our point across or making an order with a tap or two.  We can easily beg off with a “gtg” because we are at checkout, or entering the movie theater, the doctor’s office, or class.  We don’t have to exercise real grace, manners, or politeness anymore; abbreviations are substituted for real emotions or reactions.  OMG!!! and xoxo, srsly.

Nobody seems to mind.

For now, I’ll be riding the waves of progress most of the time, and exhausting my efforts by swimming against the tide when I feel indignant.  When I can, I’ll call up my mom and remind her that she still needs to give me her recipe for cheesy potatoes.

And she’ll tell me she’s shopping with a friend, and that I should just Google it.




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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! A Review

I was given a review copy of Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate!  for the purpose of this review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post; all opinions and words are my own.

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The day I realized that parents need to take the responsibility to parent themselves first was the day this whole parenting thing made sense to me.

I was at home with a toilet-training child.  There were accidents, endless loads of laundry, spot-cleaning on every surface, and more than a few tears.  I was at wits’ end, and I did what any self-respecting parent would do – I called my mother.

My mom is nothing if not a hard truth-teller.  Her ability to use perfect common sense in every situation astounds me.  This time was no exception.  “To train a child to do anything, you have to train yourself first,” she said.  Dense as I am, I didn’t understand. “What do you mean?” I squeaked.

You need to take your kid to the bathroom!  Train yourself to stop what you’re doing consistently throughout the day – every half-hour if you have to – over and over and over, to help your child practice!!” She replied exasperatedly.  How did I raise such a stupid person? I imagined her thinking.

Our two-year-old was toilet-trained in a weekend.

Before my kids were born, and throughout the first year of their lives, I read parenting books.  Well, baby how-to books, really.  DIY parenting.  How to know if a fever is doctor-worthy, what sorts of reactions are normal after immunizations, how much sleep a child needs through stages of development.  I browsed baby development websites to know what to expect, and even read humor books about the ups and downs of being a mom to remind me that I wasn’t crazy, failing miserably, or both.

Then life got real, and I stopped reading books and spent more time learning from my children, other moms, my own mother, my mother-in-law, our grandmothers, aunts, and really any female that I saw toting a child around.  I parented on the fly, and cobbled together tips and tricks that I learned to get through especially tough times.

Over time, my husband and I developed our own brand of child-rearing, one that mostly works in our house with our particular family configuration and growing and changing individual personalities.  We’ve succeeded and failed many times over.  We can always use improvement.

I haven’t read a parenting book in years.  Until now.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! is a book of how-tos, a guide for what-to-dos, and a reference for tackling just about any behavior and situation a parent faces with their kids at home on a daily basis.



From the beginning, Dr. G speaks the truth that we are all parenting experts on the kids in our homes.  She reveals that, as a family doctor, her experience is that everyone struggles with parenting.  This last fact is incredibly comforting to me; although I might be an expert on my kids, there are definitely some situations where I find myself throwing my hands up in the air and screeching, “NOW WHAT?”

The book is organized into four parts.  The first three cover the importance of teaching children the three mainstays of good behavior: Respect, Responsibility, and Resilience, which happen to be three spotlight areas in our house populated with middle-schoolers.  The fourth part explains how to make changes happen, starting with parents.  Can our kids count on us to do what we say we will? Ultimately, can we be the parents we want to be? 

With this book, Dr. G reinforces the lesson my mother taught me those years ago – that when we structure ourselves, we can structure our kids’ lives.  All parents can learn what it is to be a fully formed, responsible adult from this book, along with tips on learning how to be an effective parent.

If you’re a parent, read Dr. G’s book.  Never preachy, it’s written in a warm, practical tone that is down-to-earth and funny in some places, like in a “we’re all in this together, here’s what happened to us and how we dealt with it” kind of way.  You trust her point of view because of her experience and profession.  Her ability to make even the hairiest parenting issue seem doable is confidence-building, that even your NOW WHAT?? moments can be corrected and handled by YOU, the parent.

Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate!  is available on Amazon.

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If you’re not aware of Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s presence on social media, I hope you become aware.  Her 2-minute YouTube videos are not to be missed.  Her guest segments on news programs nationwide cover interesting parenting topics and information as well.  And she speaks and gives seminars on parenting.  Find her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and her site.