Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Rules for Healthy Debate

The presidential race seems to be heating up earlier than it has in the past.  My Facebook page is covered on a daily basis with comments and photos and articles about the election and candidates and various political views.  Just the other day, I engaged in a little debate with a friend of mine over the topic of Planned Parenthood and whether or not it should be defunded.  The discussion started after I posted an article discussing whether or not any particular candidate "won" the Republican debate and the fact that the person some were saying had won it had gotten a few of her facts wrong. (Minor detail, right?)

The debate between my friend and I was engaging and interesting and not at all upsetting.  I have known him for almost 20 years and have always known him to be an honest and "stand up" guy.  We might not agree on a few things politically, but I still respect him and appreciate his thoughts and opinions.   During the evening, other friends posted various comments, either in response to my debate with my friend, or in response to the article.  It was while reading some of those comments that I decided to post a few rules about any political debates that might take place on my social media over the next year or so.  Feel free to institute some of these rules on your own pages, or make up and institute your own.

One: If we are Facebook friends, we likely have a history together.  I don't let just anyone onto my page and I'm not friends with the whole world.  That means that we have some kind of connection, whether through school or family or work.  (Although, I do not use my Facebook page for networking, so if I know you professionally and you are a friend on Facebook, that is because I consider you a personal friend as well.  Yes, you can be happy about that.)  All that being said, please do not take our relationship for granted.  I have allowed you into my space because I like you on a personal level and respect you.  I respect that we may have different political or religious views or beliefs and I have allowed you into my space in spite of those differences.  Please respect my space and act accordingly.

Two: Stay on topic.  I am happy to engage in debate on various topics that may appear on my page from time to time.  But if I am discussing why there should not be a tax on large cola drinks, please do not chime in to tell me that you think marshmallow fluff should be outlawed.  Please stay on topic.

Three:  Please avoid sweeping generalizations.  What are "sweeping generalizations"?  Those statements in which you claim that someone "always" or "never" does something, or that you try to convince me that you are right 100% of the time.  Nothing in this world is absolute (except death and taxes.)  If you have any sense at all, you can likely make your point without those sweeping generalizations.  One exception to this rule - if you have scientific data to back it up, go for it.  But please provide citations in your footnotes.

Four:  I get the first word and the last word.  I'm borrowing this one from my friend who I debated with.  He raised it and I liked it, so I'm borrowing it.  I generally do not care if I get the last word in a discussion, but as he mentioned, this is my page.  So if I raise the topic, please allow me the courtesy of having the last word on my own page.  I'll afford you the same courtesy.

Five:  No need for personal attacks - on me or the candidates/ subject of the topic.  Yes, politics can be very emotional and some of these are hot button issues.  But that does not give you leave to attack me personally, or attack the candidates.  Yes, Donald Trump's hair is crazy and his skin color looks like it was created in a bottle.  But those kinds of observations are not really appropriate responses to arguments on policy. (Just take a page from Donald's campaign for this one.)  Caveat - from time to time, I may post an article or photo that specifically addresses someone's look or state of dress or hairstyle, etc.  In those instances, discussion of the subject of the photo/ article/etc. is appropriate and encouraged.  Unless it's a discussion of how I'm dressed.  And then you have to be nice.

Six:  Don't tell me I'm wrong.  Seriously, see number 1.  You are my friend in spite of any differing personal, religious or political views we might have.  That does not mean that we will agree on everything.  In fact, I'm telling you right now, we won't agree on everything.  We can still debate issues and topics.  But please do not expect to gain any ground by telling me I'm wrong.  Even if I am factually wrong, (which I highly doubt would actually happen), you're not allowed to tell me that.  But by all means, expect me to tell you when  you are being a raving idiot.

Seven:  FACT CHECK.  This is a big one, folks.  If you want to debate me on something, please make sure to do  your research.  I will try and do the same.  In any situation where I haven't had the time to research a point fully, I will let you know.  Please do not come to my page expecting to get into a debate with me about something and not fact check.  (See most recent Republican debate for examples on how to make claims without fact checking, and don't do it.)

Eight: Don't expect miracles.  If you plan to engage me in a debate and make me change my mind, just turn away right now.  I can tell you with almost 100% certainty (see what I did there?) that I will not change my mind, just as you will not change yours.  Please feel free to explain to me why you believe your position is correct or superior.  Cite examples, give me research and facts, tell me why you have the better position.  I may concede a point, I may agree with you in part while disagreeing with you on other parts.  But at the end of the day, you are probably not going to change my mind.  And without a doubt, you will not get me to change my political affiliation.  Similarly, I won't try to get you to come over to the Dark Side.

  During the last presidential election, I basically ignored most of my friends' political posts.  I never blocked or unfriended anyone, despite some of my friends having very outspoken views on certain topics or candidates.  This election is shaping up to be a bit more interesting and certainly has people talking with several potentially volatile issues.  I've decided that if I can't "beat" them by ignoring it, I'll join them - but on my terms.  Oh, and one final thought.  If you post something and I choose not to respond, don't automatically assume that you "won" anything, and don't assume that you were right.  It could just be that I turned away from Facebook to live my life (get dinner for kids, put them to bed, go get my nails done, get a massage, read a book.... basically, live life.)  If I feel that it is important enough to comment on at a later time, when I'm back in the social media world, I will.  Then again, I may just feel like I've exhausted my own dialog on the topic and I'm done.  Like I said, don't assume anything by it.

Happy debating!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Conversations with my 4 year old - Swim Lessons

Last summer, K took a few lessons with the same instructor that B had, a former preschool helper who was also a swimmer/ lifeguard.  B took lessons for 2 or 3 summers from her, spending most of the first few lessons screaming and negotiating, but eventually getting the hang of things.  K was no different last summer with the screaming and negotiating.

When Nana and Papa moved to town last year, one of the first orders of business was to design and install a pool.  Despite having had a few lessons, K had no interest in swimming, but would rather hang out in the shallow end, playing with toys.  Earlier this year, K's cousin A learned to swim through what can probably be called a "crash course" in water safety.  We checked into putting K into lessons, but the teacher did not have any availability at the time.

Over the last few months, we have had quite a few Sunday afternoons playing in Nana and Papa's pool, with everyone going down the slide and diving or jumping in from the top of the hot tub, except for K.  (She did go down the slide with me once or twice, but that's about it.)  And she seemed content to keep it that way.  No amount of teasing could get her into deeper water.

Until yesterday.

When we checked with A's instructor about lessons, she was booked for a few months.  That was a few months ago.  Nana signed up for lessons for K and yesterday was lesson number 1.  This instructor has an interesting style - no parents (or big sister) are allowed out by the pool, so that the child can focus and not want to cling.  The instructor allows the child to scream for "Mommy!" as much as she/he wants to, as long as the child keeps working on whatever she has them working on.  So I stayed away.  But I had a spy.

Needless to say, K screamed yesterday during her first lesson.  She screamed a lot.  One of the favorite replies (which you can hear in the video) that she gave to the instructor's question was "NO!  NEVER!"  Towards the end of the lesson, the short clips of video that my spy was sending me showed a much calmer K, working on kicking her legs and moving her arms and even floating on her back.  Some of the clips showed her playing with toys in the shallow water, with the instructor telling her that the hard work comes first and then the fun stuff.   She seemed ready for lesson #2 today.

As the afternoon and evening wore on, K's story about swim lessons would change.  At dinner last night, K told me that the instructor told her she had to learn to swim in case any kids threw her into the water.  When I said that made sense, she told me that she did not swim with "other kids," just me.  Between putting her to bed last night and dropping her off at school this morning, she tried several more times to convince me that she did not want to continue swim lessons.  She tried "Mommy, I don't like swimming," to which I replied "you don't have to like it, you just need to learn to swim."  I even followed that up with "once you learn how to be safe in the water, you won't need any more lessons."  At one point, she came back to the "but I only swim with you, Mommy" argument.

It's hard to tell in the video clips, but I'm sure she did a fair amount of negotiating with the instructor.  She certainly tried with me once she got home.  We will see how today goes.  Hopefully a little less screaming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When is it OK to Butt In?

I saw something today when I was out getting lunch that troubled me.  After picking up my lunch and driving away, I found that it was still troubling me.  While wondering if I should have said something, I was almost kicking myself for not saying anything.  And then, of course, the doubt creeps in, the "mind your own business" mentality, causing me to question whether or not my advice would have been heeding.

As I was pulling into the lot, I saw a mom putting a kid into her suburban on the driver's side.  As I parked next to her, I happened to look into the front passenger seat and saw a little boy sitting there. My quick glance told me that his head wasn't above the dash and as she walked away, calling over her shoulder for him (them?) to watch her stuff, the thought popped into my head of "that kid is not old enough to be in the front seat!"  The thought that immediately followed was "should I tell her that?"

Then the doubt comes.  What if she tells me to mind my own business?  What if she tells me that she knows she's not supposed to, but the kid was fighting with her and it was just a quick trip?  What if she thanks me and throws him in the back?  I really have no way of knowing, because I grabbed my lunch and drove away.  But the thought remains - when is it o.k. to say something?  When can I go up to a complete stranger and tell her that there is something wrong with the way she is parenting, in that moment.

I saw an article online this morning, where Ryan Reynolds is being taken to task for not "wearing" his baby properly.  As any other new parents out there can tell you, those baby carrier things are Satan's playground and nearly impossible to get in or out of comfortably, let alone getting the baby in or out.  Despite Ryan's being a new dad, and despite it being an adorable picture of a dad holding his baby, the internet world took him to task for doing it wrong, some quite viciously.  In today's day and age, it seems to be easy to correct someone, or tell them that they are doing it wrong, from the comfortable anonymity of their computer screen.  But what about when it is in your face?  Do you tell them?  Do you say anything?  Do you walk away just praying that the family gets home in one piece?

In case you are curious, California law requires that all kids under the age of 8 ride in the back seat, where they have to be secured in a car seat or booster seat.  If they are at least 4 ft. 9 inches, they don't need a booster seat, but still have to be in the back seat.  There are various other exceptions, under which a child under the age of 8 can ride in the front seat, but I won't bore you with the details.  I will tell you that the kid I saw in that SUV was NOT 8  years old.  He looked to be 5 or 6, if I had to guess.

The sometimes provocative ABC show "what would you do" puts people into situations like this, where you have to consider whether or not to say something. Would you have said anything to the mom?  Am I more sensitive to this myself, with one little one now in a booster seat and one older, little one just clamoring to sit in the front seat?  Does common sense come into play at all in this discussion?  Do we really want our little ones sitting up front, where an air bag could smother them or a seat belt fail to protect them because they are too small?

So what do you think?  I'm still wrestling with myself on this one.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dear Former Boyfriend (Lover/ Significant Other)

Right about now, you are sitting there wondering why I reached out (called/ emailed/ texted/ sent a friend request on Facebook) to you.  I can almost see you sitting there, looking at your phone (computer screen), scratching your head, wondering if you should pick up (or respond or accept the request.)

Simply put, yes.  Why?  Because I'm not crazy, I'm not stalking you and I don't want to ruin your life (or mine.)  I want to be friends.  Really?  Yes.  Friends.  (And maybe it's a little bit because I've hit 40 and am feeling nostalgic for the good old days.)

First, if it helps to put your mind at ease, I'm very stable in my life these days (not that I was ever "unstable," I don't think).  Aside from making it to the ripe old age of 40 without being a drunk or addict of any kind, I have a stable home life - husband, kids, mortgage, 3 car garage, job - and I'm happy.  I am sure that you are similarly well situated in your life, in your own town, somewhere else in the country.  I am not looking to break up your life any more than I'm considering breaking up mine.

I can see you scratching your head again, wondering why I contacted you, if not to rekindle some old, possibly imagined flame.  I can see that the "friendship" idea is very confusing to you.  I will try to explain.

When we dated, we were kids.  I'm sure plenty of 18/19/20 year olds today would argue with my characterization of that age as "kids," but there it is.  When I look back at my life then, and when I see young adults of that age now, I think "kids."  I also think that I was then, and they are now, truly clueless as to the ways of the world, and existing without any idea of how things will work in the "real world."

When we dated, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted from life.  Yes, I was sure that I wanted to go to law school, come hell or high water.  I knew that I was a basketball and volleyball player and I knew that I enjoyed a modicum of success on the playing field and in the classroom.  Beyond that, I had no idea.  I was lost.  You might have been someone who "showed me the way," so the speak, if even for a brief moment of time in my life.  Perhaps you were someone who corrected me in such a way as to guide me to a better or different path (aside from the law school thing.)  Or perhaps you were just one of those bad mistakes that helped me later make a good choice.

When we dated (hung out/ slept together/whatever), I'm pretty sure I was looking for someone to like me for me, but I was not sure who I was. I know I was searching for something, but probably did not know what it was.  Being as unsure as I was on the inside, I probably said or did things that would make me cringe today.  Maybe I called you too often, or couldn't let go when it was time to.  Maybe I said "I love you" too soon, or maybe I did not say it at all when you wanted me to.  It's hard to say now, looking back 20 years or so.

Regardless, at that time, I was a lost kid, clueless in the ways of the world, and you helped shape who I am today, even if just in a tiny way.  (I can't help but wonder at what our relationship (if we had one) would have been like 10 or 15 years in the future.)  The bottom line is this - something brought us together when we were young - shared interests, similar likes or dislikes, sports, a friend.... whatever.  But because of our age, or circumstances, or just who we were back then, it did not work out.  Either I broke up with you or you dumped me, or I moved 3000 miles away, it ended.  I would like to think that even though our relationship did not work, some of those things we had in common then still hold true today and because of it, we can be friends.

If this scares you more than comforts you, my apologies.  I will share just one more tidbit.  When I was in college, I met a guy my sophomore year.  We had instant chemistry and hit it off really well.  He was at a different school and so our paths were sometimes different.  Over the next 2 and half years, we would come together and drift apart several times, never really being at the right time or place in our lives at the same time to make it work, but we remained friends throughout.  When I moved to Los Angeles, his was one number that I kept on speed dial, and I called him more times than either of us could probably remember.  When he needed it, he leaned on me too.  Despite the distance, we continue to be friends to this day, and he was even in my wedding.  It is that friendship that I looked to as an example when I reached out to you - knowing that something had brought us together at the time, but because of "life," it did not work out.  Perhaps that underlying friendship is still there.  One can hope.  (And no, I don't consider myself someone who has "enough" friends - you never know when you might need another one.)

On a side note, there are guys in my past that I have no desire to ever speak to again.  Those were the ones that I would consider bad choices.  And no, I'm not saying that just because they were guys that broke up with me.  As far as most of them go, I walked away from those relationships, and am glad to have been rid of them.

I'm not sure this helps explain why I sent you that friend request (or text or email).  Maybe it is because somewhere inside of me, that lost kid is still wandering around, wanting to make sure that I've done something right, or wanting to make sure that even though it did not work for us, I am still a likable person and it really wasn't me, it was you, when we broke up.  But mostly, maybe it is because I remember the good times that we had, and I miss you as a friend.