Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Monday, March 13, 2017

In 2017, I give myself permission to...

For some, the New Year is all about resolutions.  I've quietly set a few for myself in the past, and usually, they have just as quietly slipped away.  No big fanfare to them, nothing too crazy that I was looking to do for (or to) myself.  I'm sure the ones I've thought of in the past were of the typical style - lose weight, eat better, swear less.  This year, I decided that instead of setting resolutions for myself (which were bound for failure anyway), I would give myself permission to do (or not do) some things.  Of course, since it is now halfway through March, I am going to start off by giving myself permission to miss deadlines - whether they are arbitrarily set by me or by society.  (I can't miss filing deadlines, my clients and the courts would not be happy.)  But elsewhere, we'll see what happens.

In that vein, here are a few more.

In 2017, I give myself permission to...

Ignore the mess in the girls' rooms.  I've tried everything.  I've yelled, I've begged, I've cajoled.  Nothing seems to crack the shell of their indifference to (or ignorance of) the mess that is their bedrooms.  It does not matter how I ask or bribe, they cannot seem to keep their rooms clean.  I have even helped clean things up once or twice (or twenty times), but inevitably, those piles creep back onto the floor and in a day or two, we are back to tripping over things.  Not this year.  I have decided that life is short and before I know it, they will be packing boxes and moving away to college.  So the time I have with them before that is too precious to spend worrying about what is on the floor of their bedrooms.  The rooms have doors, so I will shut them if it gets too bad.  And I won't think about what happens when they want to have friends stay over.  (But maybe, in the meantime, if you could just pick up that...)

Do less.  Over the years, I have set impossible standards for myself.  I am the mom that volunteered for Parent Council at the Preschool and PTA at the elementary school, I was room parent and baked cookies, I took pictures and made scrapbooks, all while working full time.  This year, I'm doing less.  Perhaps not less with the girls, but less.  I'm slowly realizing that my expectations for myself are way more than what anyone else expects from me.  And while it is nice to hear the praise and the "I don't know how you get it done" comments, it is also nice to spend an evening just sitting on the couch reading, as opposed to frosting cookies or cutting photos to fit pages.  I doubt I will completely step away from volunteering (says the room parent of both girls' classes who is gearing up for Book Fair in a few months), but in the back of my head, I'm working on my ability to just say no.

To accept.  Compared to the order of my world, my older daughter's space is a mess.  Her back-pack full of crumpled papers makes me cringe, and when she talks about being able to find something in her desk, I want to cry.  (Right after I dump it out and reorganize it, of course.)  In my own world, my Type A personality is often at war with my creative side (which makes for interesting organizing), but I generally prefer organization.  In her world, chaos reigns supreme and her creative and active mind is often ten or fifteen steps ahead of where her feet are taking her.  When she does register the minutiae of everyday stuff around her, she often gets distracted before things get put away.  So this year, I'm giving myself permission to accept her as she is and to try to accept her disorganization.  I know that she is not (and never will be) exactly like me and while the need to organize may come to her later in life, she doesn't have it now.  So I will wait.  And gently remind her from time to time that things could be neater, and try to accept when they are not.

To fail miserably at something.  I must admit, I'm intensely competitive.  I don't like trying things that I know I do not do well.  I tried tennis once or twice and was not very good at it.  So I don't like to play it now.  I have a violin sitting in a case in my guest room.  It belonged to my grandfather and I had it restored a few years ago, with the idea that I would learn to play it.  But I have put off taking lessons, possibly because I worry subconsciously that I will not be able to do it and do it well.  So this year, I'm going to take the plunge and do something, knowing I might fail.

To succeed.  Just as I don't take things on if I know I might be bad at it, I tend to also stay in the mediocre range for other things.  Maybe it is because I don't know how to handle the praise and compliments, or maybe it is because I feel like I already have enough, but I sometimes catch myself pulling a Dash Paar (from the Incredibles), easing back just enough to come in 2nd and make it interesting.  This year, success is mine.  At what, I'm not sure yet.  I'll keep you posted.

To write.  I have so many plot lines jotted down in notebooks, character outlines, scene set ups, but no book.  I have a series of children's books partially written, but no publishing deal.  I struggle to allow myself time to sit down and write. (Seriously, it is March and I'm finally sitting down to finish this blog that is essentially about New Year's resolutions.)  I'm pretty sure this one is because some twisted part of my mind is stuck on the "you chose to be an attorney, so that is what you have to be.  For the rest of your life" thought and the idea that I can only have 1 career or 1 dream.  I've decided that I don't like that idea and it is o.k. to have more than 1 dream.  So I choose to write, as well as be an attorney. We'll see how that goes.

To let things (and people) go.  This last election cycle took a lot out of me.  I have struggled to reconcile the people that I thought I knew with the people I was seeing on social media.  I have struggled to imagine how things will look moving forward and have decided that my sphere of influence has to be smaller.  I'm letting go of the bigger things that I have no hope of changing (like people's minds) and focusing on the smaller things that I can control.  I'm also letting people go.  They might be classmates from grad school that I thought were friends, or even people from my hometown that were friends in high school or siblings of friends.  I probably became friends with them on social media out of some sense of duty, or a belief that I "had" to be friends with them.  For college and grad school classmates, we probably suffered through things that made us believe we had a closeness.  Unfortunately, the current political climate has shown me that I never really knew some of these people and we have absolutely nothing in common.  Even their ability to debate current issues (which I like to do) is so lacking in common courtesy and social graces that I can't handle it.  Consider them, gone.

Finally, I give myself permission to be late.  I started this blog in that vein, admitting to finishing this January-intended message in March.  But I also tend to be early for things and plan ahead to avoid traffic and will oftentimes end up sitting in my car.  Not that I mind the extra time to read, but in doing so, I sometimes push the girls out the door too fast, or miss what is going on at home.  So where I can, I'm going to relax a bit and let things wait.  If the girls want an extra story, or a few more hugs and kisses before I go, and it makes me 10 minutes late, so be it.  If I'm a few minutes late for a party or dinner because the girls had a dance they wanted to show me, great.  I'm choosing to focus  more on the moments that mean more, and less on the other stuff.  (With the legal disclaimer, of course, that court mandated filing and response deadlines must be met.)

Now I must go decide whether or not to read more of the book I'm engrossed in, or try my hand at writing a few chapters.  Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yesterday I marched. Now what?

Yesterday, January 21, 2017, I was part of a massive, historic event.  Part of an estimated 750,000 people filling the streets of downtown Los Angeles, I marched in the Women's March, LA.  (Although, to be completely honest, we didn't march so much as we shuffled along, pressed together with men and women of all shapes and sizes, sometimes so smashed together we could barely move.)

Crowds at the Santa Clarita station waiting for the train.

In the aftermath on my social media, I saw a few things - posts of solidarity and pride, photos of women, men and families who marched, and detractors - some asking questions and some challenging the effort or those making the effort.

I came home from the March filled with pride, and also wondering.  What now?

First, I want to address the detractors, those who are questioning or even challenging the effort.  I have seen several variations of questions - some asking what we hoped to gain, some asking "why bother".  I've seen those saying things like "he's only been in office 1 day, give him a chance," and some saying "I don't get it, what is the cause?"

Here's my answer:  Do you close the gate before the cows get out, or after?

President Trump filled his campaign speeches with promises to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare, to build a wall between the US and Mexico and to put Muslim immigrants in camps.  How do we, as Americans, sit idly by and allow any of those things to come to pass?  Worse, in the days after the election, Trump surrounded himself with transition team members who eagerly spoke out as supporting his various positions and in some cases, took those positions further.  He also included members on his team that have gone on the record denying climate change, have argued for shock therapy to "cure" homosexuality (VP Pence), and one that is a Neo-Nazi.  I ask again - should we close the gate before the cows get out, or after?

And just this week, reports are coming out that Trump is looking to cut funding to the arts, cuts to Medicare and medicaid, and massive cuts to domestic violence programs. While I have not vetted those stories on my own, the threat of those cuts should scare everyone.  (And for those that might argue "but Trump can't do those things on his own", should we sit back and wait for Congress to tow his line?)

People want us to sit back and wait to see what happens.  If that is not giving tacit permission, I don't know what is.  We are standing up to tell Washington that we will not sit idly by and watch them whittle away our quality of life.  And if you feel that those things don't apply to you, how long do you think it will take before they get to something you do care about?

Second, I have seen several articles decrying the March (mostly in connection with the D.C. March), as having excluded pro-life proponents.  I have also seen posts and articles claiming that those stories are either false, or put out there in an attempt to cast the March in a bad light.  I have not done any research, and do not know what truth there is to those stories.  I do know that I did not see anything in LA yesterday that would lead me to believe that anyone was excluded.  I even saw pro-Trump signs. For that point, I can only tell people what I saw, and that was a peaceful, inclusive crowd, open to all shapes, sizes and stripes of humanity.  I will also say that for me, personally, I think we need to include people of both camps in any discussion.  There is nothing written anywhere in stone that says just because someone is pro-life, they cannot be in favor of protecting women's rights.  There is also nothing saying that pro-life and pro-choice proponents can't champion the same other causes.  So we all need to keep an open mind.

Third, to those who have been asking what our "cause" is in marching, I say this.  All you have to do is read a few of the signs to see what the cause is - or in fact, causes are.   Some were marching to protest the proposed repeal of the ACA.  Some were marching to protect women's rights (the threat against Roe v. Wade is very real, with legislatures in several states working on bills to limit a woman's rights and the make-up of the Supreme Court an open issue).  Some were marching to support the LGBT community and protest the dangers they face.  Some are marching to protest Trump's appointees to various cabinet positions, appointments that appear to be without reason.

There are several very real threats to various groups of people, threats that have been foretold in campaign speeches of the very man elected President.  And while some might argue that the marches were merely "anti-Trump" rallies, I don't think anything is that simple.  Instead of dismissing the marches so easily, perhaps you need to take a closer look at the signs and ask yourselves - why so many people (not just women), and what are they saying?  Stop, look, and listen.

Finally, what now.  We came, we saw, we marched.  At the end of a long day, we stood in massive lines for bathrooms and snacks, and then we packed ourselves onto crowded trains and subways to make our ways home.  We watched the news, we watched the administration (Trump) call us out and we waited.  So what now?

As my supportive husband asked - what do "we" (the collective we) do with this energy?  How do we keep things moving forward?  Someone else asked - was there anyone there signing people up to vote?  Was there anyone there taking down names or email addresses so that people could volunteer or donate?  From where I was, unfortunately no.  There was such a huge crush of people, I'm not sure that was possible.  I would like to think that there is someone, somewhere trying to organize things and keep this movement going.

For those of you reading this wondering what you can do, I have a few thoughts.  Donate to Planned Parenthood, donate to the Jewish Defense League, donate to your local arts programs, donate to a battered woman's shelter or domestic violence program.  Change the word "donate" in the last sentence to "VOLUNTEER" and read it again.  Get out there and help in your community.

Let your voices be heard.  Call your representatives and tell them not to repeal the ACA.  Tell them to protect your rights.  Organize at the local level.  If you feel so moved, run for office.  We have become complacent, believing that those in government have our best interests at heart.  Many don't.  Many are motivated by the lobbyists' dollars and have forgotten that they work for us.

While some see this as a largely "democratic" issue, it is not.  This is an American issue.  As I mentioned above, just because there aren't currently any threats to the things you hold dear doesn't mean those threats aren't coming. (Recall that famous poem about not speaking up when they came for other groups, until finally they come for you and there is no no one left to speak up for you.)  I have had many friends say that they didn't vote for Trump - either because they supported another Republican candidate, or because they didn't like Hillary.  If that's the case and there are things that Trump is doing or saying that you don't agree with, speak out.  Let Washington know that we - all voices - want to be heard.

Regardless of what "side" of the issues you are on, don't expect this to stop.  Don't expect these issues to go away or be swept under the rug.  There are those who will continue to organize, who will continue to fight.  Educate yourselves.  Don't take things are face value, and don't accept as truth everything you read on social media.  See past the headlines and find the truth for yourself.  Don't accept something as truth just because someone told you to believe them.  Also, to those who disagree with you - be civil, be human.  You never know when you might need something from them.  Let's do away with the labels - we are not "snowflakes" or "libtards" - and lumping people into large groups does not get anyone anywhere.  (To my Republican friends reading this, do you like being lumped in with Trump supporters if you did not vote for him?  Just as you may not like over-generalization, neither do we.)   Side note - I will continue to call neo-Nazis just that.

Also, don't assume that just because someone disagrees with you on one issue, that they are against you on all issues.  There are so many shades of grey.  And remember to keep an open mind.  I disagree with friends on many issues, but I am willing to sit down and listen, always willing to engage in thoughtful discussion.  The odds of my convincing them that I am right, or vice versa, is small.  But in the course of discussion, we may gain a bit of insight or understanding.  You never know.

Last thought - if there was another March tomorrow, would I go?  Putting logistics of child care and school schedules and work aside, yes.  But I might take the earlier train.  :)

Crowds at City Hall - LA


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"They'll grow out of it eventually,"

With one simple sentence, (and likely without realizing it), my hubby managed to put just a bit of my stress to rest.

I have 2 daughters.  As a result, we have a lot of toys.  More specifically, we have a lot of stuffed animals.  Both girls have cubbies under their beds, which are used to house many of those stuffed "friends."  But things are getting crazy.  Not only are things crowded under the beds, but sometimes there is barely room for the girls to sleep in their beds.

Over the past few years, I have tried several times to cull out some of the less-favorable friends and "hide" them or send them on to better homes.  What makes this effort so difficult, is that I can rarely get through the pile without noting where each specific animal came from and much of time, having a story to go along with it.  The dog that K never plays with that suddenly showed up on her floor last week?  It came from Grandma Trudy's house.  No getting rid of that.  The zebra that suddenly materialized?  Nana gave it to her.  The bunny rabbit that I literally have not seen in 2 years that is suddenly back in the rotation?  Gift with purchase, but came at a time K was throwing a fit in the store and perfectly distracted her.  The same goes in B's room.

Each stuffed animal has a story, and a name, and a reason that they can't move on.  It stresses me out.  Some days, way more than others.  As I'm trying to clean the house and put away the holiday stuff, the sight of the messy pile on K's bedroom floor (a result of cleaning off her bed to change the sheets) and the knowledge that B also has a pile, drives me crazy.  It makes my stomach clench at the thought of all of the clutter and the feeling that I cannot get ahead of it.

Then last night, with one simple comment from my husband, things changed.  My stomach unclenched just a bit and I relaxed.  "They'll grow out of it eventually."  Yes, they will.  At some point, many of those beloved friends will cease being quite so important.  One by one, they might be willingly donated by my girls to new families with little ones in need of some companionship.  (Think "Toy Story" here.)  Bit by bit, the room decor will change and stuffed friends will give over to more nail polish and make-up (or books.  I'm good with books.)  And I'll miss this.  I'll miss this crazy, unorganized and unruly pile of fluff and stuff.

Sadly, there will be a day when my girls won't lay in bed in the mornings giggling because Mommy made Olaf sing and dance and Mr. Bear woke them with tickles; a day when they won't cling to a stuffy friend when they are upset.  I don't want that day to come too soon.  So in the meantime, I'll step over the pile and hope that I don't accidentally "hurt" anyone buried underneath.  (Stuffed boo-boos being so hard to care for.)  I'll continue to put them away in their "house" under the bed and I'll smile when an old friend comes back into the rotation.  I'll wait, and I'll let them have this moment.  Because someday, it will be gone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why Everyone Should Have At Least One Jewish Friend... and a paper calendar

Have you ever wondered what those odd holidays are on your calendar, the ones that pop up randomly every year, in September or October, but never seem to be on the same dates two years in a row?  Have you ever wondered what they mean, who celebrates them or why they are on your calendar?  I used to wonder too.  Sometimes, one would even fall on my birthday.  That strange and wonderful day of "Rosh Hashana" or "Yom Kippur" that I knew nothing about.  I liked that my birthday coincided with a holiday, before I knew what that holiday was or who celebrated it, or what it even meant.

Now I know.  I think I was in high school when I learned that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur were Jewish holidays.  I did not look for or get much more information other than that until college or even grad school.  Schools were not closed on those days, banks remained open and mail was delivered.  The holidays did not have any impact on me, so they passed largely unnoticed in my world at that time.  Sound familiar?

Fast forward to grad school.  I suddenly had friends who would disappear for several days in September and October.  Wondering where they were, I was told "in Temple" or "at services."  I learned that schools in Los Angeles actually close on those days (as do many local universities and colleges) so that Jewish students and families can celebrate without worrying about missing school or making up homework.  Then I studied Judaism, and subsequently converted and am now well-versed in the holidays and traditions.  (And now that I know, it is not necessarily as fun that my birthday sometimes falls on the holidays, but we'll get to that.)

Fast forward from grad school to now and I have come to the conclusion that everyone, in all walks of life, needs at least one Jewish friend.  Why?  So that when that ol' calendar rolls around to September and October, we can remind everyone else not to schedule things on those days.  Why?  Because it is important to us.  And you wouldn't want us to schedule something on Christmas or Easter, right?

So what is Rosh Hashana?  Well, it is the Jewish New Year.  You might know that the Jewish calendar is based upon the lunar cycles, so each month has 29 or 30 days, and every so often, an extra month is added so that the calendar can catch up.  (Kind of like leap year.)  This is also why the days of Jewish holidays do not fall on the same corresponding Gregorian calendar date each year.  (The Gregorian calendar is the basis for traditional 12-month calendars you are used to.)

But the holiday is more than the beginning of a new month and a new year.  In Jewish tradition, the New Year is a time to rejoice, but it is also a time for self-reflection and study.  It is believed that on Rosh Hashana, the Book of Life is opened by G*d and everyone has a chance to right past wrongs, in order to be written in the Book of Life.  8 days later comes Yom Kippur, which is considered by many to be the holiest day of the year for Jews.  On Yom Kippur, the Book of Life is sealed (for another year.)   Many Jews spend the day in Temple, in prayer.  Many Jews also fast (don't eat) from sundown to sundown.  (Because the Jewish calendar is based upon the Lunar cycle, holidays run from sundown to sundown, meaning that Yom Kippur will start tonight at sundown and end tomorrow at sundown.  This is also why the 8 nights of Hanukkah are celebrated, as opposed to days.)  *Brief side note - this is why I also learned that it is not necessarily a good thing to have Yom Kippur fall on your birthday.  Imagine having to go all day without eating.  That's right, no cake or ice cream or a drink. Nothing until well after sundown and after having sat in Temple.  All.  Day.  Long.  Yom Kippur fell on my 30th.  But I digress.

While I could certainly go on in much more detail about why Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are important to the Jewish faith and tradition, take it simply as this: New Year, and holiest day of the year.

Why is this important?  Because just about every year, without fail, something in my sphere gets scheduled on one of those days, which I then have to miss.  One year it was a teacher's meeting and workshop that I had to miss.  Several times there have been meetings or events for groups or associations that I belong to and have had to miss.  We have to work around missing a meeting for B that was scheduled during the holidays.  I've heard various excuses or reasons why things are scheduled on those days, but the most common is actually that people have no idea what the day is or even when it is.

I think I've addressed the "what it is" above.  But let's talk briefly about "when it is."  This is why, folks, I've decided that not only does everyone need a Jewish friend to remind them, but everyone needs to invest in a paper calendar.  I know that we've all gone tech-savvy, but many of those electronic calendars don't include Jewish holidays unless you specifically tell it to.   If you have a paper calendar, those dates are pre-marked for your convenience.  (And while many of us who celebrate have gotten calendars that have the wrong dates for those holidays, they are at least close enough, so that you can ask your token Jewish friend to confirm.)

Here's the thing.  If you see something at work that is unfamiliar, you research or ask for clarification, right?  If your child brings something home from school that requires your attention and you don't understand it, you research it, right?  So if you are planning an event or meeting or anything that might include people of other faiths, why not take a minute to check that calendar (the paper one) and see if there is anything listed.  You might save your Jewish friend (or friends) some agony in having to miss an event or otherwise plan around.

And of course,with a few of those Jewish friends around - odds are they know how to make a kick a** matzah ball/ chicken soup, and/or probably have a Mom or Bubbe (grandma) somewhere in their family that is a great cook.  Bonus!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Why I never got an Easy Bake Oven.

Or, "why I understand my parents better now that I have kids, part 205."

As a kid, I was sure that my parents had it all wrong.  An Easy Bake oven (and a Barbie Dream House) were by far the best toys for me and my sisters, hands down.  I knew how to bake, so it made perfect sense, right?  Unfortunately for me, many years of letters to Santa and many holidays and birthdays passed without that coveted Oven showing up on my doorstep, under my tree, or in my grabby little hands.  I never understood why.  Did my parents know something that I did not?

If you ask any kid between the ages of about 8 and 25, they will tell you that their parents are clueless.  Of course, if you ask someone who has kids, they will probably tell you that they are starting to understand why their parents did what they did.  It is the beauty of life, and either way, I'm pretty sure our grandparents and great-grandparents who have passed away are up there somewhere laughing their butts off at us.

For me personally, there were many things about my parents' decisions that I did not understand.  I was sure that they were deliberately trying to make my life miserable and had no idea how to actually raise human beings.  (And I really, really wanted that Easy Bake Oven.)

Then I had kids.  A few of you might have seen my Facebook post a week or two ago, wondering when children come to the realization that their parents are usually right about everything.  Some of my older friends, with older kids, laughed outright (I could hear their laughter through their comments) at my question.  Aunts and Uncles with children (my cousins) in their 20s and early 30s were laughing as well.  A few admitting that their own children have finally (at that late age) started to acknowledge their parents' acumen.  Apparently, at 5 and 10, mine have a ways to go.

But back to the Easy Bake.  For some reason, B (the 10 year old) decided that she wanted one.  (This was news to me.)  She likes to "bake" with me - hang out in the kitchen and ask lots of questions while I bake - but gets bored easily and does not have a good attention to detail.  I think this was her way of wanting to "connect" with me on a different level.  Her Nana likes to take her shopping at Toys R Us for her birthday.  This past birthday, B called me to ask if it was o.k. for Nana to get her the Oven.  I hesitated and said that she really didn't need it (although newly redesigned), even if Nana was buying, and that we had an oven that worked quite well.  (Do you hear my parents coming through yet?)

On her birthday, she gleefully opened up the large box from Nana and Papa, already knowing what was in it, and looked to me for approval.  I sighed and shook my head.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I finally caved and let her open it.  (Another thing I finally understand - my Dad's seemingly odd desire to have us not open gifts and play with them, but rather keep them pristine and in the box - but that's another blog post.)  She happily starting pulling things out of the box and checking out the process. The 5 year old had her nose firmly planted in B's business, almost as excited as she was to "bake."

I asked to look at the instructions and saw fairly quickly that it was a relatively easy process of mixing powder with water, placing little balls of dough on a tiny pan and running it through a box-like machine that generated heat.  I asked B to read the instructions carefully, like I always do, and sent her on her way.  About 10 minutes later, I heard the first "oh no!" and wondered what was happening.  (I was trying to let her test her wings and was across the room on the couch.)   She had mis-read the instructions and poured too much water into the mix.  There was no way to salvage it.  And after telling her to pour it down the drain and start over with a new mix, Daddy stepped in and asked her if she understood now why I was so specific with things when I bake.  I'm not sure if she got it or not.  Recovering from her failure, she pulled out another mix and with K's help, made some cookies.

On the one hand, I now understand why my parents had always said "no" to the Easy Bake Oven.  When I make a batch of cookies, depending on what I'm making, there is a yield of 2 to 4 dozen cookies.  I use ingredients that I normally have in my house like butter, sugar, flour, etc., unless I'm making a cake with a mix.  Depending on the cookie, I can fit 12 to 24 on a baking sheet at a time and they cook in my regular oven.  Size-wise, they are usually at least bigger than silver dollars.  Not to toot my own horn, but my cookies have taste and are considered delicious by many.  The Easy Bake cookies were tiny (about the size of a penny) and one batch yielded about  10 cookies.  There was not much taste beyond the sugar in the frosting (also a mix with water added) and the sprinkles.

But on the other hand, B was incredibly proud of herself, and for about a 1/2 hour, happy and entertaining both herself and her little sister.

At the end of the day, do we really need the Oven in the house?  No.  Will B someday figure out how to pay attention to the details in the directions and be able to bake with me in the big kitchen?  Probably. (I hope so.)  Do I now understand some of the reasons why my parents probably opted not to grant my wish to Santa for the Oven?  Yes.  Does it matter?  Probably not.  Aside from the fact that she does, in fact, already have the oven, she's happy.  And at the end of the day, as long as she's not creating havoc in my kitchen, I think I'm o.k. with that.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Today's Parenting Fail

It started out as a conversation with B about how to treat people nicely.  It started out as my wanting to impress on her that I did not think she acted appropriately this morning in responding to a schoolmate who said hello.  It was a conversation being held in the car, on the way to Hebrew School.  Perhaps that was fail #1, as I couldn't sit and face her while talking.  But I did not want the conversation to wait, feeling that it was important to address it before too many days passed and she would forget the particular circumstances.  I wanted to remind her of what Daddy and I always say: "when all else fails, just be nice!"

That was how it all started.  Then she started to cry.  I'll never really know if I was being manipulated or not, if she started to cry to change the subject, or because she wanted to make the situation about how she has been harmed or hurt, and less about the other person.  I'll never know, but I'm curious.  Then again, I have to hope that she is not that devious.

At her core, B has an incredibly kind heart and is generous to a fault.  Perhaps because of that loving heart, she is not quite sure how to handle people who are not nice.  (I truly think that when she says things to people or adopts a particular tone of voice or demeanor, she is mimicking what she has heard elsewhere and I also believe that her mind moves too quickly to process how she is acting in any given situation.  I think she just wants to get the words out and does not always consider the method of delivery.)  In any event, she started crying.

I first thought she was crying because she was upset that I was upset.  (She has done this before, when the idea of my being angry with her was too much to bear.)  Then she started mumbling words in between the sobs.  Apparently, a few boys have started calling her "nerd" because of her glasses.  My initial reaction?  Tell them to shove off.  (Parenting Fail #2?)  That morphed into her telling me that some girls on the playground don't treat her very well and it upsets her.

How did we go from my telling her that she needed to be nice to other people, to her telling me (through tears) that she was being called names?

I hate that I cannot walk through her day with her and give her advice on how to handle situations.  I hate (sometimes) that she is young for her grade, despite being very bright, and that it creates an odd situation in which other kids may look at her strangely or treat her differently.  I hate that she doesn't always tell me about these situations.  And I hate that I can't go up to these kids and tell them to straighten out, or else!

There are the usual replies, of course.  "Sticks and stones" and all of that.  The ever-helpful "when someone is making fun of you, it's because they feel bad about themselves", and even B's suggestion of "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission."  I'm not sure any of them helped.  I also offered my usual advice of "ignore" them as to the boys who were calling her a nerd, and "walk away!", as to the girl on the handball court who she is having trouble with.

We are in an odd place in the world, when people seem to be hypersensitive to "bullying," so much so that kids aren't able to just be kids, without being labeled.  But at the same time, I want B to be able to defend herself and stand up to those that are being mean to her or bullying her, without fear that she herself will be labeled. (The girl on the handball court that picks on her and causes trouble is apparently older but smaller - an interesting combination.)

As to the boys calling her a "nerd," I tried to make her feel better by explaining that in the end, its usually the nerds that come out on top.  (Marc Zuckerburg, anyone?)  I'm not sure she believed me.

In the end, I'm left sitting here, scratching my head and wondering if my initial point was made, and also wondering when I can sneak into school and beat a few kids up for picking on my kid.  As much as it makes me cringe inside, I really do hope she learns how to navigate these treacherous waters.  I know from personal experience that it's only going to get worse in Junior High.  Until then, I guess I'll just continue to muddle through this "parenting" thing as well.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why the Holidays Need to Back the F*** Up!

I blinked and suddenly my younger daughter's October birthday was upon us.  While I was still suck in summer mode of bathing suits and wet towels hanging all over the house, tripping over flip flops and trying to decide how low to set the air conditioner, September was giving way to October and I had a party to plan.  Hot on the heels of the mid-month party came Halloween.  Wasn't it just Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day or the 4th of July?!?!  Where did the year go?

Yes, I realize that somewhere along the way, we started a new school year.  But even that has thrown me for a loop.  I still drop off and pick up at the same time, in the same places, but what do you mean she's in 5th grade now?!

Suddenly, I'm turning the pages of my calendar and there are not many more pages to turn.  Suddenly, I'm filling the squares for November with birthday parties for friends and class performances and... wait a minute!  What is that?  Thanksgiving!  Already!?!?!

I've had this reaction from several family members and have even done it myself a few times.  November?  Thanksgiving?  Yes, it seems to be that time of year already.  And if our friends in the retail world have any say or sway, they would like us to skip right over Thanksgiving and go screaming into the holidays.  oy.

A few years ago, the "creep" started to move beyond the bounds of Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday with "pre-Black Friday" sales the week before.  We started to see stores gloss over Halloween, barely give a passing thought to Thanksgiving and start to decorate early.  And with each passing year, those decorations it seems, come out earlier and earlier and earlier.  I think it's time to stop.

Last year, several big retail stores shocked our delicate sensibilities by opening on Thanksgiving.  The general public seemed outraged enough that one could wonder if the idea would be a short-lived and oft recounted marketing failure.  Apparently not.  Arriving at some stores early on the morning of Black Friday to find empty aisles and quiet check-outs was evidence of the fact that for some, the stores being open on Thanksgiving was a good thing.

This year, as I feel like time is really running away from me at warp speed, I've noticed the holidays earlier than ever.  Before Halloween had even come and gone (and while it was still 85 degrees outside at my house), the fall decor was relegated to the clearance racks and the holidays had begun.   With more than 2 months to go, stores were already pushing the holidays on us.  Sales, decorations, music, lights, oh my!  I was shocked to see that my local mall's Santa Clause has already been seeing kids for 2 weeks and the mall's ice rink is open for business too.  What?!  And as November marches on, it has only gotten worse.  Well, I for one wish they would back off.

(Of course, stores barely pay lip service to Hanukkah which begins on December 6 this year, a full 19 days before Christmas arrives.  I'm sure if I visit my local Target store, any Hanukkah items will be on clearance by Black Friday to make room for more holiday decor.  )

Why do I wish the holidays would back off, you ask.  Well, many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the holidays.  The three "big" ones, to be exact - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  A few summer holiday pic-nics and gatherings find their way in as well, but mostly it is those big 3 that I remember.  More specifically, it's the sites and sounds of those holidays.  Lots of food, noise and people crammed into Grandma's house.  Thanksgiving was perhaps my favorite, because it kicked off the holiday season.  Stores did not decorate early back then, and Thanksgiving was seen as the start.  I loved waking up and spending the morning watching the Macy's parade (complete with Santa's arrival at the end) and smelling the pumpkin pie baking in the oven.  The Thanksgiving parade on t.v. also meant the start of holiday commercials filled with toys and kids playing in the snow.  (Who doesn't love the Hershey Kiss bells commercial?  Seriously.)  I looked forward to that time of year with much excitement and anticipation.  I couldn't wait to see the big toy catalogs and make my lists for Santa and of course, dream of snow days and cold winter nights spent snuggled up by the fire (or the t.v.)

The retail world is slowly robbing us of these traditions.  Gone is the anticipation that Thanksgiving brings, because by the time it gets here, we are tired of being bombarded with the holiday message.  We are tired of the music and the commercials (and the catalogs in the mailbox) before December even arrives.  Why are retailers so worried about our spending habits, that they feel the need to cram the holidays down our throats starting in September?  Does it make the calendar move any faster?  No.  Christmas will still come a month after Thanksgiving.  But it does make us long for the days without all of the craziness.

People often say that we need to "remember the reason for the season" and to "put Christ back into Christmas."  As a Jew, that's not my message.  But I do understand the sentiment behind it and these days, I can certainly understand the desire to get away from being buried under the weight of the retail message of "spend money" and "shop here."  Is that really what we've become?

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, or Festivus, do you really need to go shopping on Thanksgiving day?  Yes, it is a personal choice.  For me, personally, I choose not to.  And while I might start listening to holiday music a bit earlier than others, I find myself wishing that the holidays would hold off just a bit longer.

Let me get to Thanksgiving and enjoy the turkey and the stuffing and the fall leaves floating in the air.  Let me enjoy the crisp air with just a hint of smoke from someone's wood burning stove floating along.  Let me enjoy the sound of crunchy leaves under my boots,  Let me enjoy my family.  Let me enjoy being surrounded by the people I love without any material possessions being attached to that time.  There are no gifts to unwrap, no trees to decorate.  Just time to spend with family and friends, gathered around a table.  No stress over finding the"perfect" gift or paying off credit cards or having enough money.  Just spending time together.

Let me enjoy the anticipation that comes with Thanksgiving weekend.  Let me enjoy seeing my kids eyes light up when they walk into a store the day or weekend after Thanksgiving to see a transformed world.  I much prefer it over having to walk into that store for weeks (or even a month) before Thanksgiving only to be asked countless times why the holiday decorations are up already.

Maybe we've missed our window of opportunity this year, as the calendar flips down to the last few weeks of November. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, maybe it is already too late to "slow the roll" that the holidays bring.  But can we at least say that we'll consider it for next year?  Can we try just a little harder next year to enjoy Halloween and the Fall season and Thanksgiving before we run headlong into the holidays and shopping and wrapping and carols and such?  Please?

As I write this, I can honestly say that I'm guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle.  I've already started shopping (as I normally do throughout the year), but I also find myself wanting to slow things down and make it last.  I don't want the year to be over.  Another year over means my girls are older and my time with them is slipping away.  Another year over means parents and grandparents are a year older and our time with them is slipping away too.  I want to slow time just a bit, to enjoy the season a bit more.  To savor it and capture those memories to tuck away with the ones from my childhood.

So this year, we'll try to slow things down a bit and next year, let's slow it down a bit more.  Let's get back to the traditional start of the holidays  at Thanksgiving.  And in the meantime, I need to go bake a pie.