Friday, October 31, 2014

And We're Off! Let the Holiday Madness Begin!

In a rare event, I just made myself a second cup of coffee, an indulgence that is normally saved only for when I'm at a restaurant for breakfast (you know, because the servers walk around topping off your mug every five minutes and before you know it you've ingested the equivalent of an entire pot!) Therefore, if this blog has the feel of being on speed, you know why.

So today's the big day - HALLOWEEN!  I just finished volunteering at my children's school, got gas in the car, went grocery shopping and to the vet, cleaned up the breakfast dishes and have the second load of laundry in the machine. I've cleaned four - FOUR - bloody bathrooms, swept, mopped, and vacuumed the floors, and I still have a very large pumpkin staring at me waiting to "be prepped" for carving.  Please note, it's only 11:30 a.m. 

On top of all that, my son's friend is coming over straight from school (which will counteract ANY and ALL cleaning I accomplished today)  and the two of them are going to construct a haunted house in my garage.  With what supplies, I still don't know, but it is what it is.  As long as I am NOT going to be expected to contribute any more than the candy I'm providing them, it will all be good. 

AND, just to mix things up a bit today, my outdoor cat needs a bath - don't ask! 

So there you have it.  My day in a nutshell.  We all know what happens next.  It is a downhill free-fall toward the craziness that IS the holiday season.  I am already slated to host Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.  Just in general I am one of those people that can get easily overwhelmed.  So, I'm remembering MY golden rule that states "What gets done, gets done.  What doesn't, obviously didn't need to."  How's that for stress management 101? 

What are your secrets for remaining calm during the busy holiday season?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Off the Shelf: An Uplifting Novel (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.

"The sun shines down on all mankind
Just the same whether evil or good
To some it warms and lifts the soul
To some it's never understood."

It's been a while since I've read a book that is as uplifting as this one. In her new "light fantasy," young adult novel, Ingrid, author Lynnette Kraft uses her words to paint a beautiful story.  The novel's rich and descriptive language emits a feeling of calm and peace that seems to glow from the pages. Kraft creates characters that are captivating and complex.  This is storytelling at its finest! 

What initially intrigued me about this book was the fact that three family members were involved in its creation.  The stunning illustrations were provided by Kraft's daughter, Abigail Kraft, and the accompanying, original soundtrack was composed by her son, Jared Kraft.  Hauntingly serene, the score  has become my new favorite music to listen to while I write.  Both mediums truly enhance the overall experience of reading this novel. 

Ingrid is a lovely tale of how guilt, regret, and bitterness can tear away at the core of one's soul.  It addresses how misconceptions can taint a society and how "life carries burdens that can change a man."  However, in the end, it is forgiveness and hope that radiate from the hearts of the characters as our heroine faces tough sacrifices to give others a second chance at life.
This is an ideal novel for all fans of young adult fiction.  I would highly suggest that middle and high school teachers add this one to their reading lists.  The concepts and symbolism in the book will make for great literary class discussion.   

The novel is available on Amazon or on the book's website.

 Read more of my Book Reviews.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Problem with Halloween and Sex

With Halloween only days away, a dear friend, searching for a costume for her child, contacted me to vent about the costume selection for girls on the market these days. She went on to describe 12-year-old girls wearing the "teen" version of Snow White which consists of a laced bodice and short skirt.  Is this somehow supposed to be okay??   

Even though I only have sons, I have noticed these sexed-up costumes for girls in every costume shop in town.  I remember a few years ago begin appalled at the Hermione Granger costume labeled "teens" yet looked like a "school-girl" porn outfit. Nope, don't recall Hermione looking like that! 

For the most part, the selection of costumes seem to go from cute and adorable straight to sex kitten when you hit tween and teen sizes.  Somehow the industry skipped age appropriate costumes for those 10-17. One website is even marketing this cop costume to TODDLER girls.  Does anyone else see the problem with this representation?  Hmmm, when was the last time you saw a policewoman dressed like this?

Sold as TODDLER costume
I've been told it is much harder to raise children in today's day and age than it was even just one generation ago.  As a current parent, I believe it!  But, who's to blame?  We can't continue to blame media when we're the ones buying the merchandise. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Are We Rushing Our Children to Grow Up?

Here I am thinking my husband and I are being liberal, hip parents by allowing our 12-year-old son to watch the entire series of The Office on Netflix (if you recall, he's the big Steve Carell fan.)  In fact, it was an episode of this comedy that prompted a discussion on herpes and safe sex - thank you, Michael Scott!  But when he came home and asked me about watching Orange is the New Black because classmates of his watch it, I had to say Whoa, Nelly - there are parents out there that allow their seventh graders to watch that show?  Do they really need to learn the inner goings-on of a women's penitentiary?  (Click here for more parental guidance and reviews from adult and kid viewers from Common Sense Media.)

I informed him that it was definitely a good show, but for adults.  Being a rule follower, he asked what the rating on it is (HE lives by those). I told him TV-MA.  Of course he asked for what content. When I told him, he had this look of complete agreement on his face!  I am proud that my children can recognize for themselves what is and isn't appropriate for them. 

I like to keep the lines of communication open with my sons.  They are both very much informed about sex and relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual, but discussions are kept age appropriate.  When they come home and ask (thankfully) their dad or me about something they heard from a classmate at school, we set the record straight openly and honestly.  Some of the best parenting advice my parents ever gave me was, "If you don't tell your kids the truth about life, other people will."   

Please understand that I am not judging anyone's parenting.  If you feel your 12-year-old is mature enough to watch shows such as OITNB, so be it.   I know there are many programs my sons watch or have watched in years past that other parents would not allow their children to see.  They love movies like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter - all have their share of fantasy violence - but we've always watched them together. I don't, however, think they need to SEE any two people having sex or witness realistic violence such as body dismemberment. No, we do not sit down as a family and watch Breaking Bad.

Perhaps, I am on the slow train to coolness, but I just don't feel that my children need to be exposed to EVERYTHING this very minute.  Ratings are helpful, but not all-knowing. The most important suggestion is simply that you become familiar with anything your child is watching to decide for yourself if it is appropriate for your family. I think it is our job as a parents to set boundaries on what they are and aren't exposed to.  I just don't see the rush.  

Read more from my blog here.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Now Announcing Homecoming King and ......Queen?

This morning I was out of the house early - early as in the street lights were still on, blah - to go volunteer at my sons' school.  On the drive there I was flipping through the radio stations - me, myself, and I - no, my older son was not there to dominate the dials.  I had regained control!!  I came across a morning talk show that was discussing the case of the Florida boy who has been given permission to run for Homecoming Queen. 

Okay, so what's the big deal?  I figured he is either transgender or just a high school boy who wants to make some kind of statement.  But after listening to the debate between the deejays and several callers, I have changed my stance on the situation.

For those of you who don't know, this is the gist of the story.  After being nominated by a fellow student, the school granted the boy permission to run as Homecoming Queen. According to news reports I've seen and read, there is no comment as to the boy's sexual orientation.  Most students seem to be supporting the decision to allow him to run, but parents have mixed feelings. (Click Here for News Coverage)

There are some statements that may imply he is homosexual or transgender, but without anyone coming out (no pun) and saying it.  All the images shown of the boy are him dressed as a boy. And, if he identifies with being a boy, straight or gay, he should have just run for King.  No one is saying that this is a transgender boy who typically dresses and identifies with being a female. IF that is the case, then it's a no-brainer, case closed.

So, for me, this seems more like an issue of gender equality.  If he wins (and he could very well because he seems well-liked and popular,) it leaves the girls unrepresented. There will be a boy in both the King and Queen title leaving the girls out in the cold altogether. That doesn't seem fair. From what I remember, this is quite the BIG deal for many high school students. Excluding the entire female population doesn't seem right. Other opponents of the decision feel that if he were to win, he will also steal the thunder from the other boy who wins as Homecoming King - ah, good point!

I don't know, it's a tough call.  I'm not sure if this is just an example of political-correctness gone overboard.  I do wish I knew a little more about the reason why he wanted to run for Queen and not King.  Someone should have interviewed the female candidates so we'd know if they actually do feel slighted. The winner is announced tonight, so guess we'll see soon enough how this story plays out!  

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Off the Shelf: A Must Read for Every High School Student (Book Review)

Anatomy of a Misfit, by Andrea Portes, is reminiscent of all the coming of age movies I watched back in the 80s, and it has "Indie Film" written all over it.  It deals with the socially inflicted teen struggles of popularity, peer pressure, and student cliques.  However, this novel goes beyond those timeless themes by addressing more difficult issues such as social prejudices, alcoholism, and domestic abuse.
Anatomy of a Misfit

I did not want this book to end.  I absolutely loved the heroine, Anika Dragomir, a tenth grade student from Nebraska whose father is a Romanian vampire (no, not really!) This story, told in Anika's voice, is both humorous and genuine. In the course of a few months of school, Anika faces the difficult decision of following her heart or keeping her popularity. While on this tiresome road she tries to discover herself. Parts of it are shockingly funny -  giving it the feel of a dark comedy. For instance, Anika poisons her boss with Valium - not something that would normally be considered amusing.  However, when you read Anika's reasons for such a heinous act, it is!  

The novel is a disturbing look at life during these difficult years. We are reminded that when we're older none of what was important in high school will be significant, nor even remembered.  If teens can come to this realization while still in school so much pain can be avoided. Maybe if all high school students read Anatomy of a Misfit, things will change. There will be more mutual understanding and less bullying.  Then again, maybe not, maybe that's just part of our human nature and we all have to learn this lesson the hard way, like Anika.

This novel is being met with mixed reviews but all I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a raw and uncensored look at our reality, which may be too much, even offensive, for some readers. There are some sweet and sappy young-love moments along with several gross incidences of social hypocrisy. I do not think the author encourages the prejudices voiced by the characters. In fact, Portes uses humor and sarcasm to show how ridiculous stereotypes are.   

The ending was sad, but not at all surprising - the entire novel was a downhill free fall toward a tragic, life-altering moment.  It is a must-read for every high school student and adults who enjoy YA fiction. There is some harsh language, brutal prejudices, underage drinking and sexual content, so I do not recommend it for younger readers.

Read more of my Book Reviews.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Family Movie Review: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"

My sons had a day off from school today and top of our agenda was to go see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Let me start off by saying that we have not one, but TWO copies of this children's classic by Judith Viorst in our home library.  The movie, however, is only loosely based on the story. In actuality, it is the book on steroids!  

My 12-year-old said he primarily came to see it because Steve Carell, his favorite actor, stars as Alexander's father, and was, undoubtedly, the character that received the most laughs from him. Envision Carell doing mommy/baby yoga - are you smiling yet?  Jennifer Garner as the mom was a hoot in this comedy role! But hats off to the entire cast of young actors lead by Ed Oxenbould who was a delight as Alexander.

This film is rated PG but is generally suitable for the entire family.  Although, my sons and I feel that the target audience is for families with children ranging from 7 to 13.  There were families in the theater that only had toddlers and preschool children with them.  There isn't necessarily anything inappropriate for this age group in my opinion (heard the word crap once), but they won't appreciate all the humor and the sentimental family moments.  Therefore, why bother paying the exorbitant prices?

I felt the movie started off really strong, then dragged in the middle a bit (probably because of its predictability) but finished strong, mainly thanks to Carell, a kangaroo, and some "PG-strippers." The theater was packed and filled with laughter. Overall, this is a fun, family movie that my sons and I would recommend.  Sure it was unrealistic and corny, but who cares!  My sons, along with the rest of the audience, loved it!  

The take-away from this movie?  "You just gotta have the bad days so you can love the good days even more." Thank you for that, Alexander. 

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Off the Shelf: Popular for Young Adults (Book Review)

With the release of the  movie version of The Giver, the first novel in Lois Lowry's quartet, new life has been bestowed upon the award-winning collection.  Messenger was by far my favorite of the first three which is why I'm skipping right past reviews for The Giver and Gathering Blue.  It had a valuable and insightful philosophical message on human nature, along with action and fantasy, and it did a lovely job of tying in the lives and fates of the endearing and likable heroes of the first two books, Jonas and Kira respectively. 

In this haunting tale we see how greed, selfishness and vanity can destroy all that is good with civilization when allowed to take precedence over its humanity.  Forest then becomes a metaphor for how these evils can spread and take over a society, a valuable lesson for young readers.

While Matty's persona comes to fruition, we are also reunited with Jonas (now simply referred to as Leader) and Kira.  I liked that "the gifts" possessed by these and other main figures were explained further and became critical components to the overall plot.  I know many readers were disappointed with the end of this novel (I won't ruin it for you), but it should not have come as a surprise since Matty is told by Leader throughout the story to "save his gift."

However, there are still some aspects that are left unresolved for the reader. For instance, I loved the story line of the Trade Mart, but felt a bit robbed that Lowry didn't elaborate further.  Trade Mart is where Villagers trade parts of their soul for material or superficial possessions leading to the eventual demise of the core of their community.  Considering this facet of life in Village is what ends up destroying the very foundation for which it was formed, the novel leaves too many unanswered questions pertaining to it.    Also, while the book reunites its readers with Jonas and Kira, it does not fill in the gaps as to why and how they are who they are today.  In the novel, eight years have passed since we left Jonas in The Giver, two critical years since leaving Kira in Gathering Blue, and readers miss out on crucial happenings in both their lives. 

Is this a good series for your child?  Well, my seventh grader liked The Giver, but said it got a bit boring toward the end (a statement I'll attest to.)  I read Gathering Blue, but admitted to my son I didn't think he would enjoy it on the basis that there wasn't enough action.  However, now that I've read Messenger, I've re-evaluated my suggestion to him.  I think he will really enjoy Messenger, BUT (because I'm a stickler for order) only if he goes back and reads Gathering Blue first.  They are easy enough books to read and not long, and it will be worth it.  I would recommend the entire series to grades 6 and up - most younger readers may miss out on the symbolism and inferences needed to fully grasp the overall message of the novel.

Lowry does a wonderful job of keeping the reader interested with an intriguing and mysterious plot, plus gives Messenger enough action to keep the attention of most tweens and teens. I am looking forward to reading Son, the final book in this quartet, which was, admittedly, an afterthought by the author.   Maybe some of the holes will be filled.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

On an Aging Pet


That moment when you look at the caller ID and it's the vet calling......your heart stops, you take a deep breath, and you answer as optimistically as possible.  You listen to the first few seconds of the conversation: the tone of the doctor's voice, the choice of words, the big sigh she lets out.  You try to gauge where this discussion will go......

She rambles on about Hunter's blood work results, what they mean, where they are in relationship to the "normal" ranges. You listen, holding in the tears, as she gives you options.  But in the end, the bottom line is, he is over 17 years old.  You decide on how you're going to proceed, what you can do to slow down the kidney failure and increase his weight (a special diet and an appetite stimulant) and decide another urinalysis would be beneficial.....but not in the next week.  He needs some time to breathe, and so do I.  

An hour ago this was my reality. And, now, as I sit here and write this, tears streaming down my face, the impending doom seems overwhelming. I've been down this road before, more times than I care to recount. The death of a beloved pet is so unique, isn't it?

I've been thinking about the inevitable loss of Hunter for a few days now, since first I noticed something was off.  I've watched the tender interaction between him and my not yet five-year-old kitty, Eloise.  Oh, how she is going to miss him.  After all, she doesn't know life without him.  But then again, Hunter didn't know life without his older brother, Elliot, when he passed several years ago.  They adapt....I suppose.  

I know I won't make the same mistake this time. With Elliot I scooped him up and brought him to the vet without even thinking he wouldn't be coming back home with me.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I knew he wasn't going to be returning home with me, but I didn't want to face it.  Because of this denial, I didn't give anyone the chance to say goodbye to him.  Not my husband, who was out of town, not my sons, who were just 5 and 3 at the time, and not Hunter who was 11 then.  

When the time comes for "difficult decisions," I will not make that mistake again.  I will make sure everyone gets to say their goodbyes.  

But, until then, I will continue to use positive energy on Hunter.  I will follow the vet's suggestions, and I will love him every remaining second  of his life.

pet loss
Hunter on the right with Eloise

WARNING: Reading This May Be Beneficial to Your Self-Esteem

Why is it that at 45 I am still not comfortable with myself?  And, by "myself" I mean my appearance. I guess it is difficult to ignore a lifetime of media images depicting what society considers beautiful. The one saving grace I fall back on is the fact that I am constantly told, and believe, that I do not look my age.  But, I also live in the land of Palm Beach glamour and, I'll admit, it's not easy to compete with these individuals. Not that I'm "competing" consciously, but subconsciously, I suppose.  

Recently two women commented on my appearance leaving me completely speechless.  One mentioned how a treatment she's had done could help with the brown spots on my face. I'm sorry, did I ask you? 

Another asked what I was doing with my hair these days.  Mind you, I had woken up, shoved my hair up in a clip and went off to volunteer at the school car line where I then got rained on. Granted, I didn't look my best. When I laughed it off and explained my hair-unfriendly morning, she replied, "Oh, but I'm talking about all the gray."  

GEEZ, I'll admit I haven't colored my hair in more weeks than I should, but who says that?! 

A couple of years ago, I broke my bathroom scale - go head, laugh.  But seriously, I was standing on the bathroom counter and I hopped off and landed hard on the glass part literally cracking the scale.  I took that as a sign of two things: 

1) I am not meant to have a scale in the house and 
2) I no longer need to know my weight.  

So, ever since then, I don't weigh myself and when I go to the doctor's office I tell them I'm going to close my eyes as they weigh me and they are not to tell me what the figure is - under any circumstance! It's amazing how much power is given to a number.  In some respects, I took that power away.  Now the only sign of weight loss or, more likely, weight gain, I can go by is how my clothes fit, but even then I can always resort to the fact that the darn dryer shrunk my jeans - AGAIN! 

There's a saying that goes something like "When you no longer care what others think of you, you are truly free." I'm aiming for that freedom.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all achieve that state?

Now excuse me while I go color my hair!

Read more of my blog here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TOP TEN: Car Line Gripes!

One of the highlights of my day is picking up my sons from school and hearing about their day. However, first I must suffer through the wretched car line.  Ask any parent today what "car line" is and they will tell you it is the dreaded parade of automobiles driven by those dropping off and picking up their children from school. But, look up the word "carline" in the dictionary and you will discover that this old Scottish word means a hag or a witch.  

Anyone see a connection between these two definitions? Having to be subjected to the daily "car line" will turn any person into a "carline!" Sounds too harsh?  Read my top ten gripes about this daily ritual and you be the judge!  

1. THE RUDENESS: Seventy-five percent of parents have completely and utterly forgotten one basic rule of driving!  The MERGE!  Let's review, shall we?   The word merge means to blend together, to become combined or united.  In the driving arena that means alternating one car from this lane with one car from that lane. End of discussion, please be courteous. 

2. THE COMPETITION: There are the moms who always get there first. If you're one of these moms, you know what I'm talking about.  It doesn't matter how early I might arrive. I am never more than sixth in line.  I'm beginning to wonder if these moms even leave campus after drop-off or if they just stay on school grounds all day.  I'm convinced that I see a look of smugness on their faces as I drive by to take my place at the back of the line. 

3. THE STALKERS: Something about the car line makes many people forget all common civility. Every day there are a couple of parents that arrive seconds before dismissal begins, drive right past those of us patiently waiting on the side of the road, and CUT us - arriving at the entrance just in time for the gates to open. Are you kidding me?? 

4. THE SWEAT: I live in South Florida - so if I arrive early and need to wait for any length of time, it is going to be HOT!  I occasionally give up a prime spot in the car line to park further back in the shade. Which brings me to #5.

5. THE WASTE: There are those who think nothing of waiting in line for 20-30 minutes (or more!) with their cars running and their air conditioner on!  Am I the only one who feels this is wasteful? Do you know what you are doing to the environment, not to mention your wallet?  I have a two minute rule.  If I am going to have to wait more than two minutes for the line to begin moving, I turn my car off! 

6. THE HOLDUPS: I finally make it to the front of the line, my sons get in the car, and then - I wait some more!!  Why?  Because the kid who belongs in the car in front of mine, feels it is okay to dilly-dally, talk to friends a minute longer, or get in one (or two) more throws of the football.  Hey, kid! You are holding up the entire process - move it!

7. THE NON-MOVERS: The front of the line starts to move and the car in front of you doesn't.  Pay attention, move up before THE STALKERS (see #3) sneak in!

8. THE USERS: I'm referring to devices. Get off your cell phone, please, and stop texting -  pay attention to the teachers directing traffic before you run over my kid! Thank you!

9. THE TRAFFIC: Like so many of my friends in the area, my sons go to a school that does not offer transportation.  But, many others do have the option of using the buses provided by the district, but opt not to. Is this just a FL thing?  Needless to say, with all these extra cars on the road, traffic is atrocious!  Every day I need to strategically plan my route avoiding all other school zones and their much larger car lines that spill into the streets.  I made the mistake one time (that's all it will take) of going past another school at morning drop-off which took me over 10 minutes to get passed almost making my sons late. (Note: I don't blame these parents, I probably wouldn't want my sons riding the school bus either.) 

10. THE INCONSIDERATE: I know you may have a quick question for your teacher or school administrator, but please do not attempt to have an entire Parent-Teacher Conference while in car line. Make an appointment!

I'm not quite sure why the school car line process needs to be as miserable as it is, but for those that have to suffer through it day after day, like I now do, I am sure you can relate to some, if not all, of my list.  I am learning to time my arrival perfectly.  Yesterday, I arrived AFTER the line had already started moving and I was able to eliminate many of my gripes!  Happy Day!

Read more of my blog here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Family Movie Review: Frankenweenie

The other night I suggested to my younger son we get in the Halloween mood by watching a movie. His pick was Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, a bizarre twist on the 1931 movie version of Mary Shelley's classic, Frankenstein.  With Halloween just around the corner, and because I like this movie so much, I just had to write a review for those who haven't seen it yet. However, I must caution parents that Frankenweenie, with a PG rating, can be quite scary for young children and deals with disturbing subject matter. 

The film is in black and white and, frankly, I can't imagine it any other way.  It is a spoof of old (I mean really old) horror movies and will make you laugh and probably shed a tear or two.  I know because it gets me every time.  In fact, halfway through the movie my older son called from the other room, "Is she crying yet?"  UGH! I was. 

In the movie Victor Frankenstein loses his dog, Sparky, after it is hit by a car.  The bond between Victor, who doesn't have many other friends, and Sparky is heart-warming and beautifully portrayed. Victor is unable to be consoled by his parents who try to explain that those we love never really die, they live forever in our hearts. Unable to let go, Victor decides to use electricity to bring back his deceased dog after his science teacher shows the class how a dead frog's muscles will still react to this power source. Of course, the experiment works, but chaos ensues afterwards when others try to duplicate Victor's experiment.  

Victor, played by actor Charlie Tahan,is my favorite character.  But it is science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voice by Martin Landau) who delivers us the thought-provoking message that addresses the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by scientists.  "Science is not good or bad, Victor, but it can be used both ways." In other words, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  A true scientist must always examine his motives. Mr. Rzykruski reminds Victor that people like what science gives them, but not the questions science asks.
For all Tim Burton fans and for families with older children, grab your popcorn -and a tissue or two -and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Enough Foofooness!

As a mother of two boys, I feel it is my utmost responsibility to raise my sons to be - above all else - respectful toward women!  But, it's getting more and more difficult to fight gender stereotypes and prejudices when the television is on (from MTV to, yep, even the Disney channel) or when glancing through print media.  What is valued in females is made perfectly clear. Be hot! Okay, you can sing and dance too, but don't forget to BE HOT! 

While you may be able to succeed in keeping your young children away from most damaging media, the one arena that we can't seem to escape the stereotypes is that of the toy industry.  Gender separation is still being clearly defined by toy manufacturers. Anyone who has stepped foot into a toy store knows what I'm talking about.  There are "boy aisles" and "girl aisles" and children will differentiate between them at a very young age.  

If we really want to help young girls build confidence and feelings of self-worth, we need to start from birth and give them toys that exemplify intelligent, strong, professional women.  We can tell Mattel to make Barbie more realistic until we're blue in the face, but they aren't getting the message loud enough. While they've made minor adjustments to Barbie's shape over the years and have added friends of varying ethnic backgrounds and hair color, they are still falling short of reality.  They are all tall, thin, and, shall I say it? HOT!  

Toy manufacturers are missing the mark on making "girl toys" that don't depict females living the carefree, party-life.  Look at the popular Lego line, Friends.  It is filled with cupcakes, pets, and a whole bunch of foofooness!  In response to this criticism, Lego launched their Research Institute set featuring three female scientists: a paleontologist, an astronomer, and a chemist.  The set, released this past summer, was offered as a limited edition, was only sold by one major retailer, and flew off the shelves.  Even Lego stores and the Lego website are sold out, but they say more may be available in the near future. However, these minifigures have also come under fire because, once again, they are wearing make-up and have drawn-in curves. (Reminder to young girls: you can be really intelligent, but don't ever forget to be....HOT!)

Personally, I don't see why a company like Lego has to market gender-specific building sets. If I were a little girl today, I would much rather play with The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and City collections.  This influence is no doubt responsible for the answers I typically received from kindergarten students when I asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up. About 90% of the girls would say a ballerina, a model, or a mommy. While those are all lovely ambitions, just once I wanted a girl to say a rocket scientist!   

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Soccer Mom Failure!

This season my 12-year-old son decided to participate in the local soccer league. He hasn't played competitively since he was six, although, perhaps, the word "competitively" is too strong a word in that case.  Instead, he concentrated on martial arts for the past five years and earned his black belt in just three and a half years.  But I digress.  

The one thing you have to understand, is that I live in Florida.  Fall soccer isn't as pleasant as one might believe it to be.  Why?  Because it will still be near 90 degrees during every game they play in the season. And the fans - that would include me - are stuck in the sun, or rain as the case may be, with no shade or cover to offer any relief.  I will admit openly, I miss the indoor, air-conditioned dojo with free WiFi and convenient bathrooms. 

At the beginning of the season, the coach sent out an email asking for a Team Mom. No longer working, I am finally in the position, theoretically, to have the time to do this.  Now, here's where my dilemma came in.  At my son's age, it is no longer cool for your mom to be Team Mom. In fact, I'm quite sure my son prefers it if I just sit quietly on the sidelines and blend in with the background.

Apparently, I'm not the only uncool mother because the coach never did get a mom to volunteer for this formerly prestigious job. Therefore, he sent the parents an email the other day asking for a volunteer to bring in the halftime and after game snack. I figured, I could do this!  After all, we should all take a turn and how difficult could it be?

While the coach asked for sliced oranges for halftime, I felt bananas would be less messy and a nice change of pace.  I even sprang for chocolate chip cookies for after the game.  Not the boxed kind either. Fresh from the bakery cookies!  The cookies weren't the problem. 

Before the game, my son begged me not to get bananas.  Pleaded with me to just get oranges. But he doesn't even like oranges and bananas are a wonderful source of potassium, which is good for preventing cramps, isn't it?  Anyway, he finally conceded and the bananas were purchased.  Just prior to halftime I cut them in half and delivered them, along with the cookies, to the players' bench. Coach was pleased and appreciative.  I did good, right?

Wrong! I am sorry to say that I single-handedly nearly wiped out the entire team.   

Supposedly, as my son informed me after the game, the entire team, my son included, developed cramps in the second half.  The culprit (at least the one being blamed) - the bananas.  According to my son, even the coach blamed it on them. WHAT??!! Are you kidding me? 

My only saving grace is that my son's team held on to win the game.  Otherwise, it would have been their first loss of the season and I, along with my bananas, would be at fault!!  As we were leaving, my mother turned to me and simply said, "Well, guess the coach won't ask you to provide snack anymore."  That's the best part of getting older - you can always find the bright side!

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

That Moment When You Ask Yourself, "What ELSE doesn't my child know?"

Last night, as I do once every week or two, I changed the inspirational quote on a board I have displayed in my kitchen.  I love sharing motivational thoughts on social media, so a few months back, I decided to bring my sons into the loop the old-fashioned way - via a white board! The newest quote was spoken by 9-year-old Derek Jeter and remembered by his Fourth Grade teacher, Shirley Garzelloni, as reported by Newsday. It read, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a shortstop for the New York Yankees." 
Upon waking up and reading this quote, my oldest son asked, "What position DID Jeter play?" and my younger, "What's shortstop?"  My oldest then asked, and I can't make this stuff up, "Did he ever get any hits?"  At that moment, I proceeded to get lost in a breathless (and tearful) five minute rant about Jeter's twenty year career as shortstop for the New York Yankees.  Oh, and by the way, YES, he did get some hits.  The one saving grace here is that neither asked me "WHO is Derek Jeter?" That may have landed them both in their rooms for the afternoon!

On the drive to school, I wondered what else they might not know.  My son was scanning the radio when I heard the familiar voice of Steve Perry. I told him to leave that song on. As I drove I sang every word to "Don't Stop Believin'" while my sons starred out the window.  I turned and asked, "Do you know the name of the group that sings this?"  The reply?  "Some group from the old days."  My response will have neither son ever forgetting the name Journey again. I've added the YouTube audio here for your listening enjoyment - you're welcome!

A few more miles down the road, on a roll, I asked my older son if he knows who Michael Jordan is? He said, "Yes, he was a basketball player."  Okay, I'll take it, at least he didn't say he is a sneaker designer. This has gotten me into a little bit of a frenzy.  I mean, what ELSE don't they know. My husband and I have some serious catching up to do over the next few months.   

When I got home, I ran upstairs to my son's bedroom and removed the Derek Jeter official MLB t-shirt from his closet WITH THE TAGS STILL ON.  It's only been in there since he was five.  Well, it's MINE now. 

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