Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice



Today is the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as the longest day of the year. It will probably be light out until like 9p, which is awesome. This is my season. Living in NJ, we get such a small window of good, outside weather, that summer isn't relaxing in the LEAST for me (or us, because that includes B), but it sure is a good time.

I thought I might reflect on the past school year too, since this is kind of like my "New Years". There's Rosh Hashana, the "real" New Year in January, and then Summer Solstice (for ME). Reminds me of an old friend who used to say, "This is MY Superbowl" about the Emmy, Tony and Oscar awards. This is MY New Years.

I didn't have anything major happen to ME, but we did make and SELL my rainbow PRIDE chandelier. I never thought I'd sell it, but I had this amazingly awesome customer who I felt would really appreciate it as much as I do. I also was able to score an external freezer for twenty dollars from someone in town. Anyone that knows me and how I freeze everything, understands exactly what excitement and happiness this freezer brings.

Instead of just being a behind-the-computer-screen-slacktivist, I went to marches, rallies, and joined groups of likeminded folk who DO stuff. I found groups and an even louder stronger voice than I had before. I helped do important things for people who need help standing up to hate.

I got my DVR down to 62%. I don't know that I've seen such a low percentage before.

It's the last day of second grade for E tomorrow. He's thrilled. Unfortunately, he doesn't like school. Not because he's having a difficult time academically or socially. His own words are just- "I don't think we're meant for this...to have to sit and do work all day. There isn't enough free time for fun stuff". He's not wrong- it's just going to suck to know he has a long time ahead of doing this. It's also no reflection on his teachers or the school- he just decided this year that he plans on being a rockstar, so he doesn't "need" school. Awesome.We told him that he needs to be really good at then and we'd like a shore house when he makes it big.

He had a good year though, all things considered. A year of new things. He started guitar lessons with a great teacher. He took hip hop class with Spex, which he loved. He was on a new (to him) swim team that was a much better experience than last year. He got dropped by one agent and picked up by a new (to him) manager. He worked background on the tv show The Blacklist: Redemption, which was exciting for us since we watch that. He became a TAD more adventurous with food. Not much- I still have a freezer filled with thirty-three peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and twenty-seven single servings of mama's meatloaf.

We gave him a little more physical freedom. He started walking to friends homes in the neighborhood. That was helpful to me because I was storing a brisket at my friend Alex's house and I was able to send him to go retrieve it for me. He felt very grown up setting out to pick up my meat.

Today he walked to school on his own for the first time. When I asked if he wanted to, he practically jumped to the door like a dog seeing his leash. He wanted to leave forty minutes before the bell rang but I put the kibosh on that. He crossed three streets, made it to school and even remembered to text me that he made it there. I didn't expect he wouldn't, but it's just good practice to remember to check in.

I know giving independence can be difficult for many. I've made light of it, but I know not every kid is the same and they're ready at different points. E is definitely an older eight than some others. Part of my insistence of doing this for him is because I strongly believe it's how they gain street smarts. How they get prepared to be set out into the world. The other part though, is having seen a friend the same age as me pass away, at forty. Our boys are the same age. I feel like we always think there is tomorrow to teach them something else- some way to take care of themselves. I know first hand there isn't always tomorrow, so I have this huge pull to make sure I cram him with every skill I can think of to make sure he is as capable as he can be, while I still am here to do it. Maybe that sounds paranoid? 

I just want to know he will be a fully functioning member of society by the time he's expected to be. We just watched this season's episode of Orange Is The New Black where Frieda's dad took her into the woods and left her there to give her a test- to see if she could make it back and in a certain amount of time. He left her the tools she'd need. She was able to do it- albeit covered in leaches at one point, but I totally got his mindset.

The other big thing that happened was that E was finally diagnosed with Tourette's. We got the diagnosis on December 27, 2016. Don't look at me with sad, sympathy face when I tell you in person either. I've never been happier to get a diagnosis for anything in my life and have it be "something". Why? What do I mean? Imagine going on like seven years of knowing something is "wrong" with your kid, but being shuffled from specialist to specialist, getting prescriptions for medications he didn't need, having scary possible diseases and syndromes casually thrown at you, and having seen twenty-three doctors. Well, that was us. Finally doctor twenty-four, recommended by a trustworthy source in the neurological field, was able to give us a definitive diagnosis. Not only that, showed me paperwork defining E and his issues, which is something no doctor prior had ever given me.

Long story short, E's symptoms are mild and present as allergies. Test after test, no allergies were showing up, but there were all these tics that looked like what someone with an allergy would be doing. Knowing it's Tourette's doesn't change what he's doing or any treatment, but it changes OUR mindset. Instead of wanting to tie his hands behind his back because he's rubbing his face raw, or worrying that he needs glasses because he's making a weird eye movement, we can just relax, know it's tics, that they'll wax an wane, and just breathe. It's never easy to watch your kid tic, but it's a lot less worrisome when you know why he's doing it- that he doesn't have a possible brain tumor or some other horrific thing. We can live with Tourette's.

There's nothing for us to do but watch it. The doctor said it could get worse before it gets better, but he gave us the possible light at the end of the tunnel that it could also go away by the later side of the teen years. It's hope. I'll take it. He doesn't fit criteria to medicate, because it doesn't bother him, or affect him negatively academically or socially. Now, we just let him tic, try to get him to notice he's doing it and try to calm it down, but if he can't, he can't. He has slight OCD to go with it, as that often is the case, but so do I. It is not easy to tell what's Tourette's, eight, Aquarius, genes, or asshole. It's all a learning curve.

I'll add that I still give him the magnesium supplement- I found chewables on Jet.com or Amazon and I, *I* feel it helps. I'm going to continue giving them to him. It can't hurt. It's not an excessive amount of magnesium anyway, and a lot of parents have said they do magnesium as well. It wasn't totally off-base or some crunchy voodoo nonsense.

That's it really. School is going to be out tomorrow. The pool opens daily on Friday. I'm back at my perch and I now have a "crew". We made really good friends this year. Basically, I made sure to make the effort to really connect with people I like and foster those relationships, instead of just becoming the extroverted introvert that I naturally am. Or is it introverted extrovert? In any event, we have people I really love to hang out with, especially this summer. The best part is that they all like each other, which I think is rare. I don't actually know- I have always had friends just here and there, that didn't interact with each other. Now, I have people who can hang together, which is a lot of fun. I never had a "crew" before, besides B and E. I like it. Two of our crew are getting married in a few weeks, to each other, so we're looking forward to that too. I was even able to score a secondhand Sky brand dress to wear to it, which is fabulous.

E starts camp this coming Monday, and while that's been a whirlwind with the end of school and going right into camp, there's nothing like not having to make or deal with lunch for eight weeks. Not having to drop off or pick up is pretty sweet too. Unlike school, he does love camp (what's not to love?!) so he's excited and I'm excited because that means there's extra me-time built in there. I do take a day off here and there to go to the town pool ALONE. That's my happy place- alone, at the pool, with my new chair.

Happy Summer Solstice, friends!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Glen Rock 4-day Fun Fair

My favorite carnival and week of the year is here! If you make it to any carnival this year, this is the one you want to check out! June 21-June 24, 2017!



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Broken Record: Drinking Problems

 
I can't believe I even have to write this one. I'm so angry I have no choice.

We had our elementary school's pool party at our town pool this past Monday evening. It's my son's favorite night of the school year. It's from 6p-9p, there's a DJ, people bring food, the kids and some of the parents swim, and it's a fun night had by all.

I don't swim. I could be sitting my behind on my couch watching the new season of Orange Is The New Black. I work. I'm f'ing tired. I have stuff to do. I go to this, for my son, because he loves it. I sometimes like to socialize with other parents from school. Some I consider good friends, and we always can make a good time. I don't need to be at this pool party to hang with them though. One of my closest friends in town, whose kids also go to the same elementary school didn't even go. I may see her today, so obviously the pool party isn't our only chance to socialize.

My point is- this isn't a party for us. It's not an adult party. It's a kids party. A party FOR THE KIDS. Yet, apparently, a decent amount of parents decided it was their backyard, not the municipal pool, and that they'd bring and consume alcohol, and do it completely just out in the open. Hello, entitlement. Extreme entitlement.

I mean, really...WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK?  I knew the drinking was going on. I chose to sit away from the majority of the parents there because I didn't even want to be associated with it. I didn't need a crystal ball to know it would be going on either- this is the norm for a lot of these parents who were involved. I've been to other school functions, on school property, where parents were drinking. Oh, no- This isn't the first time. The kick-off of school picnic night, movie night, now the pool party- drinking. Usual suspects.

It's really sad. It's two or three hours of time that we're there FOR our kids, to have a good time. If you can't manage to get through two or three hours with your kids, at SCHOOL events, where other people are liable- people who are probably people you consider friends, where you have to drive your kids home, where alcohol is always explicitly prohibited- without drinking alcohol, you're a functioning alcoholic. Seriously. Especially when it involves your kids swimming, in a large pool. Some of these kids can't even pass the deep water test. Do you think it's cool to drink when there are kids in a pool who can barely swim? Even if your kid CAN swim, you never know what can happen when they're playing or rowdy or whatever. AND IT'S THREE HOURS. Three hours of socializing with people you know enough to make polite conversation or to catch up with ones you haven't seen in awhile.

*Is that a fair assessment above? I think so. Not everyone agrees. To me- There is a difference between drinking socially/responsibly and being known as the one who always parties at inappropriate times and places. I guess it comes down to what people think is appropriate. If you went to the pool party and never drink at school events, but had a bad choice moment- no, you don't have a drinking problem, you made really poor choice. If this is your normal behavior, to drink at school events where alcohol is known to be prohibited- I stand by it. It's a problem. If you feel really defensive about your drinking- it's a problem. The first criteria I read for being a functioning alcoholic is three drinks in a day or 7+ in a week.

Someone asked if the parents were drunk. I don't know and I'm not sure why that matters. Drinking problems don't all look alike. Someone doesn't have to be passed out or look or a certain way to be considered an alcoholic. I'm also not against all drinking or all drinking in front of kids. I have certainly had drinks in front of my kid. I haven't done it at a school event, where it's prohibited, and I haven't gotten in a car to drive after having drinks around him. I didn't make the definition of functioning alcoholic up. I put WebMD's definition of a functioning alcoholic at the bottom of the blog.

I'm not a perfect parent. I yell. I don't volunteer for much in the school. I don't go to Field Day. I don't check books out for kids in the school library. I don't play games with my kid. I *do* know enough that it's certainly not modeling appropriate behavior to drink alcohol at a school event or pool party where it's also other people's neck and insurance on the line.

I just got a chastising email from the HSA about the drinking. I'm furious. Rightfully furious. I'm pissed I even have to receive this kind of email because I don't feel I should be lumped in with this kind of moronic behavior. Then I'm pissed because there's such moronic, selfish, behavior to begin with. I'm fairly certain it was known who was actually drinking because they got caught by being totally indiscreet. THAT is who should've received the email. I feel like a scolded child.

We might lose the pool party privilege. That's f'ing embarrassing! I wonder if these parents think it's funny. Haha, we got caught drinking. Haha. If we lose the party are those the parents who are going to start yelling- "We pay exorbitant taxes! We deserve the pool party!" Or, are they going to use the kids in it- "The KIDS deserve their party!" Uh, yeah, THEY do. But it seems like the parents need a time-out! Should they have to check our bags on the way in?? Are we up to that?? It sure seems that way.

As we were walking out of the pool party, E looked down. Sad. I asked what was wrong. He said- "This is my favorite night of the year. It's so much fun and now I have to wait a whole YEAR to do it again!". Well, I hope I don't have to tell him that he's not ever having it again because some parents were really immature and selfish and just couldn't wait to drink their alcohol until there were no kids around. Although, it would probably be a good teaching moment as to what drinking gets you. It's just really unfortunate that it wasn't the kids that deserved the teachable moments this time.

Again- I don't care IF you drink. I don't care if you drink every day, as some of these parents have admitted they do. However- DON'T DRINK AT SCHOOL FUNCTIONS. Don't drink at the SCHOOL pool party. Learn wtf is an appropriate place and time to drink. Don't drink at the school sponsored pool party where kids are swimming. Don't make your need or desire to drink other people's problem or liability. 

MANY parents in town are up in arms, want to know why the teenagers are drinking, or drinking so often and so much? Take a look in the mirror and what you're modeling for the kids. That rules don't matter and you need alcohol to have a good time. It's ridiculous.

*When I posted this blog entry, people started a dialogue on my Facebook page about it. It went off this topic of school sanctioned events & got semi-heated. Walking around drinking on Halloween was brought up. Some think that's messed up to do and some think it's fine. You want to walk around with alcohol on your own time with your own kids- that's a gray area for me. Your kids probably don't know you're drinking. So you're not really modeling anything. It's not *my* definition of "partying".

I did say that if you can't spend one night sober with your kids, it's a problem. The argument back was that the people drinking while trick or treating on Halloween probably spend many nights sober with their kids, so I should be specific and say, if they can't spend a school event sober..." To me, that's just semantics. I don't know what people are doing the other nights. If they ARE drinking daily/nightly- that's considered a problem clinically, not just my opinion. Specifically, if we're talking *my* personal experience, with the people in question in the original scenario- same actions, same people, different day/event. Cumulatively- it's something to look at as more than casual, just making a party of something or to ease social anxiety.

Moderation in modeling healthy drinking behavior is fine. Moderation is having some wine with dinner. Modeling healthy moderation isn't bringing alcohol into a school event. No one can argue that any of the drinking last Monday night was in any way okay or acceptable. A difference in parenting styles is breast or bottle, crib or co-sleeping. Monday night's drinking wasn't a difference in parenting styles - it was the difference in common sense and none.

Back to the pool night, which this originally was about: How about some kind of honor code too - like in Dead Poet's Society. People should've gotten kicked out as soon as anyone was seen with alcohol or someone smelled it on them. As soon as they were seen with alcohol, you get booted. Bye! People have to stop caring what other people think, making friends, or being cool. We're not teenagers. We shouldn't need to be seen as the cool kids.

I think anyone who was drinking that night should come forward, take responsibility, apologize, and sign something that they won't attend the next time- that they'll send their kids with someone else. Or they'll sign something that says they won't be bringing alcohol. Whatever it is they have to do to insure that everyone else doesn't have to suffer for their frat level antics. If you need to bring liquor to the movie night, to the pool, to any school event- you need to start assessing your actions and how they affect other people. When it affects me, and my kid, and the other parents and kids who managed to be sober on Monday, you have become *my* problem. I hope that beer, wine, or "exotic" lemonade was worth it.

Definition of Functioning Alcoholic

Thursday, June 8, 2017

FREE Acting Class!



FREE ADULT/YOUTH CLASSES!
See if ATNY's Summer Classes are Right for You.

MEET TOP TV/FILM INDUSTRY GUEST

GREAT FOR NEW FACES & FRIENDS.
SUNDAY JUNE 25TH
1:00pm - 2:00pm:  Adults Ages 17 & Up

Noon - 1:00pm:  Youth Ages 7 - 17
A GREAT EARLY SUMMER GIFT
  Adults, 17 & Up!
Do you think you may want to take our Summer
Saturday Classes?  Here's a great Sample Class for you.

Kids & Teens
Never Been to ATNY?  Want friends to try us?
We'd love for you to join our Summer Weekly Sessions.
Here's a great way to Sample ATNY.

MUST REGISTER TO ENSURE SEAT.
You may Bring a Commercial Or Monologue.  We'll Have Copy too!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

We Are Family



I wanted to write this last week, but I have pictures I wanted to add to it, and I couldn't find the photo album they were. Of course, I had every other album but this particular one. I finally found it yesterday, so I'm good to go.

Most of you know how I feel about family. That family doesn't necessarily doesn't mean who you are blood related to, but that it's who has your back while you have theirs. It's reciprocal, not obligation. It's relationships that lift you up, not bring you down. It gives you a warm feeling, not a pit in your stomach.

I have no guilt whatsoever saying goodbye to toxic people, whether related or not. I don't look at it as cutting out, I look at it as giving me more time and energy to spend on the people who we consider family. Who we want to see and who want to see us, with no expectations that we'd be set up to fail. 

My mom was my family. Even she though had these weird ideas about obligation and the right thing to do. As a kid I had to call people I didn't want to talk to every Sunday night. I had to send cards to this person or that person for whatever fake Hallmark holiday. I resented it, because I don't believe I should have to do that unless I'm feeling it. If it's not authentic, what's the point? I do plenty, in my own way, that doesn't include fake sentiment on cue. I'm not very schmaltzy. I'm just not a greeting card kind of gal. I don't wax poetic all the time about how I feel. I write a blog entry when I feel compelled to share, and call it a day.

Since Rita passed away in 2009, when E was around seven months old, for the most part, it's been B, E, and me as a "family". Not long after my mom died, E lost all his grandparents. For whatever reasons they had, the rest chose not to be in his life. I didn't feel guilt that he didn't have grandparents, I just felt sad for him that he'd romanticize the idea of grandparents. The ones he was left with wouldn't have been the romantic version, but I was sure he'd always wonder anyway.

Barbara was my mom's best friend and neighbor. She picked up all Rita's slack when I was a kid- feeding us, letting us in when my mom forgot to be around after school or whenever. But she was my mom's friend and I was off doing my own thing. I grew up, went to college, lived by my school, and was just living my life. I had my own issues with my mom at times so her friends weren't really on my radar.

She started coming every week after my mom died to see E. And me. I just felt like she knew my mom would want her to spend time with E, not in her place, but to get to enjoy him like she would have. Eventually her husband, Bob, started coming too. As E grew, he was more and more active, and more fun for them to play with, teach and hang out with.

As they'd come to see us every week, we got closer also. Lucky on both ends. I got the benefit of their love, wisdom, and getting to hear the other sides of stories I only knew Rita's half. They made so many things in my past make more sense. On their end, they were made to get iPhones and learn how to text. That, was life-changing for them. Now they know to text when they're stuck in traffic instead of people thinking they could be dead.

E looked and looks forward to every visit, not happy when plans have had to change and they couldn't come or we couldn't be there. He got very attached to them and it was totally reciprocal. Out of the blue, a few years ago, he started calling them his grandparents. They happily let him. They have their own grandchildren, but they never made him feel like he wasn't theirs. They have huge hearts and take people under their wings all the time, so why not us too?

It would've been great if my mom hadn't died or the other grandparents had stepped up. However, I wouldn't trade B & B for the world. E (and we) got exactly what we need. People who care, who we reciprocate the feeling, with no obligations and no drama. We couldn't have asked a genie for a better relationship.

Last week, E had off two days from school to make up for the snow days they didn't have. One of the days, B & B decided to take him to Van Saun Park. I had other stuff to do, sent him off with them and was doing my normal Tasmanian Devil errand session. As I was in the supermarket, I got photos from Barbara of E and them on my phone, from the park.

I just got this feeling...I don't know if it was just an overwhelming feeling of luck or what. I've been there with E a million times. Just not in awhile because he's older and we're busy. As I looked at the couple of photos, it just reminded me of how my grandparents used to take me there when I was a kid. He gets to have that experience, with his grandparents, and have the same kind of awesome memories I have. I never thought he'd have that after my mom died. Even if she'd been alive, she was more the grandma to have him watching Gossip Girl than out in the trenches of the outdoors in any way. Maybe laying naked in the pool tanning, telling him he didn't get enough color.

They've enriched his life so and I'll be eternally grateful that he got to have that experience and so many more that they've given him. They take him to museums and places I don't have the time or inclination to go. They read with him and teach him things I'd never think to teach him. They give him love, attention, affection, and every inch of their hearts. They treat him like he's one of their own. They spoil him. They give him tons of chatchkes that he thinks he's passing on to "his son". They are his grandparents.

I just wanted to get that out because there is no way to repay what they've done for us, just because of who they are. They took on a whole little family of three and made us five. I'm never buying a card to say this, that COULD say this, so I put it here, with the pics I found of me and my grandparents, along with the pics of E and his adopted ones.






Monday, June 5, 2017

Not Kool or Cool

I've had things swirling around to write about, so many things I haven't gotten to, but I went down the rabbit hole of trying to use Instagram for business, and I can't even explain how time consuming that's been. I still don't like it, don't really get it, and am annoyed that I'll never reclaim all these hours of my life, but that's another blog entry I'll probably never get to write.

This morning I was on the treadmill and B came downstairs to ask me if I knew anything about an overdose that happened over the weekend in our town. I had no idea what he was talking about. Why? Because I've only been on Instagram. No overdoses showed up there, so I'm clueless. He said it was on our town Facebook page(s) but with no details. He saw it shared by one of our councilmen on his pages.

Our first thought was that it was a kid in town. I still have no idea who it is or any further details. The councilman who wrote about it is a friend, and I read what he wrote. He put something in there about how shaming people doesn't work to stop the epidemic of drug abuse. I wholly agree. I agree with not shaming the ADDICT. 

Like I said, I don't know if this is a kid or what. I don't know if the person actually died or what. Whoever it was, it's devastating. Just for argument's sake, let's say it was a kid. I wouldn't be surprised. There is a culture in this town, and I'm sure in others, of parents trying to hard to be the "cool parents" and just accepting underage drinking and allowing it in their homes and/or just not saying anything when it's done in other homes in town. We thought about whether we could mobilize other parents we know to be part of a group who would be the "anti-cool parents". People might pronounce our last name as "Kool", but we are definitely not cool with underage drinking.

I know there has always been the school of thought of "well, they're going to do it anyway, so I'm just providing a safe space. I feel more comfortable with them experimenting at home". No. What you're doing is illegal, stupid, and just letting your kids know that you're okay with some substance use. You're giving the okay. "Every kid drinks- you're naive to think they won't". No. I didn't drink in high school. I was boy crazy. I felt drinking would impede my ability to dazzle a boy with my scintillating conversation. There are plenty of kids who don't drink. I wasn't the only one not drinking in my class. I also hear- "You wait until your kid is a teenager". Again, no. Guess what? I heard that when he was a baby about being a toddler, then about being elementary school age, and I'll keep hearing it. We still haven't changed our parenting.

Anyone that really KNOWS me would know that I don't mess around, don't care about being cool or even having friends. I certainly don't care about small town social climbing. I don't care about E's social status. I don't care if he or his friends don't think I'm the "fun, cool, no rules, mom". If me being a vigilant watchdog and strict about drinking and drugs compromises his popularity, it's my responsibility to help him navigate that. He can complain about us to the therapist I'll find for him. My job isn't to help him be cool in the eyes of his peers. It's to be his parent. To enforce rules and boundaries, and to keep him alive.

I can't and won't say that our kid won't experiment, that he won't try alcohol. But when it happens, you can bet he will be pinned up against the wall, getting reamed, then grounded, and whatever else we can think of to make sure he understands what is and isn't acceptable as part of our family. You want to judge the pinning up against the wall? Go ahead. I'd much rather be judged for being "that parent" vs the one who lets their freshman boy have drinking party because he didn't make travel soccer.

That also goes to modeling behavior. You may even think you're one of "us"- the not cool parents who won't accept, promote, or condone underage drinking, but not realize you're bringing your kids up around a culture of drinking that shows them it's just normal behavior to drink daily. I can't count how many times moms have posted anecdotes about their young children mentioning "mommy's wine", thinking it's so cute and funny. Or drinking daily around the kids, taking pics of the baby/toddler/older kid holding a beer or alcohol bottle and posting it on social media with a funny caption. It's really not that funny. You're setting your kids up to think that daily drinking, or that it's wine o'clock somewhere is totally normal. It's not.

I'm not telling you not to drink. Or even not to do drugs. Just don't make your house one that makes drinking seem like something you do all the time with no thought. That the only way to have fun is having people over drinking all the time. Where the kids are seeing all the mommies drinking their special drink that looks so enticing every time people are over. Think a little about what your kids are seeing and the attitudes toward drinking like it's something to look forward to or that you can't hang out without it and still have a good time. That you can't get through a school function without adding alcohol. Don't think that's a leap? I've BEEN at numerous school functions where I know parents are drinking alcohol. They can't get through a two hour event without it. Or just don't want to get through that event without it.

I'm not against drinking. I'm not even against marijuana. I've smoked it and if I didn't have to drive or see my kid for hours, I'd partake in it if it was offered by someone I trusted. I drink at my friend Noreen's party every year. I had sangria at dinner the other night. I certainly can live without it and I don't pull out a glass of wine nightly to pair with my Jenny Craig meal. I don't bring a flask to school functions and I really don't need it to go to a mom's night out at the movies. The whole idea of bringing alcohol to a movie theater doesn't even compute. I'm for there being a time and a place for things, for those who are OF AGE. I also know myself and know *I* can take or leave all of it. The only think I'm addicted to is sugar.

My parents weren't what other people would consider strict. The did have things that I knew, especially as the firstborn, that weren't going to be tolerated. I had my own phone in my room that was my lifeline. My parents giveth and made it clear that it could be taketh away. If I got a progress report (in my day, that was a bad thing), or anything less than a C, that phone would be ripped out of the wall. And it was, literally, ripped out of the wall once. I remember it was also taken for a month. Grades were a thing in my house and a C wasn't even a high expectation. I didn't have a lot of rules but I knew to get passing grades and not to get pregnant. I just knew what was acceptable and what wasn't.

An old friend of mine has an article posted on her page by someone else. I read it yesterday and couldn't agree more. It was all about how there has become a disturbing transfer of authority from parents to kids. It's like parents are afraid to upset their kids. I don't know if they're afraid their kids won't like them, won't want to hang out with them, or what. Maybe it has to do with higher rates of divorce and parents being afraid of not being the favored parent. Whatever the reason, it feels like many parents are afraid to parent because of repercussions from their kids.

KIDS WANT BOUNDARIES. Whether they know it at the time or not, they do. How many times have you thought, said or heard the words, "If I'd done or said that to my parents...Forget it. I would've been backhanded into next week..." or something to that effect. They didn't do it. Or they did and there were real, actual consequences. And they didn't do it again.

Here's the article: http://www.kansas.com/news/nation-world/national/article56473378.html

You might be thinking that I'm all over the place talking about parenting style, alcohol, drugs, etc and you're not sure what they have to do with each other. That's the first problem. Getting people to realize that they are all connected. You may not think the drinking is that big of a deal and that it doesn't open the door to other things. Permissive parenting does though. You permit the drinking, the door is open. You think your kid is the good kid and wouldn't do alcohol or drugs. What about the good kid who has been "good" all this time and decides that she got into her first choice college, she always does the right thing, so she's going to blow off some steam at a party and drink a little. The drinking lowers her inhibitions so she decides to try something else. She's already buzzed so what the hell, why not? You have no idea, after all the helicoptering and coddling you've done to this point has all but eliminated her ability for critical thinking and making good choices. She'd never failed, never been allowed to make a mistake and have natural consequences, so she naively makes a very wrong one, just that one time....

B and I were talking over the weekend about how we can be proactive with this rising drug epidemic. I don't want to shame the addicts. I don't want to shame the parents of addicts. I don't know how they got to where they are- the kids or the parents. People have extenuating circumstances. Bad luck. Wrong place, wrong time. Genetic or hereditary predilection to addiction.

I made a mistake a few months ago when it was written on a local news site that two teens from my town were arrested for burglarizing downtown businesses. I had and have no idea if it was drug related. My issue was with the ongoing crappy reporting that leaves readers with more questions than answers from every article, because they're more concerned with being first versus being comprehensive. I did a quick search online of the one kid's name because I wasn't even sure the reporter had that correct and came up with another offense committed by the same kids. I posted it under the article to illustrate that all it took was some Googling and there was more to the story.

I got lambasted for putting the info out there. All I did was post a link to another article from months prior to this incident. I didn't/don't know these people. I wasn't even thinking about the people. My intent wasn't to shame anyone but the reporters for lack of pertinent information. The overwhelming response was that I wasn't being "neighborly", and that it was kicking people while they were down. Nevermind that I have a business downtown and I wanted to know whether businesses in my town were being targeted, if it was a prank gone awry, or gang activity. People scoffed at gang activity in our Mayberry town. However, I'd been told by police in another local town that there IS gang activity infiltrating everywhere. That gang members somehow befriend kids in affluent towns to gain access to the homes they can hit at other times.

Then one or two fifteen year old girls in town passed out on elementary school property and I think one was arrested for having drugs on her person. It was immediately written on the town Facebook pages to be mindful of what you say because "these are your neighbors children". That mentality is very telling. It's more important to be neighborly, which really means to sweep it under the rug, than it is to shine a light on the problem. It doesn't have to be by shaming, or speculating, but the fact that it's happening, DOES need to be discussed. We NEED to be talking about how and where the drugs are coming from, where they're using, why they're using, and how we can stop it. It's not enough to look at graphs and statistics, or have drug disposal programs. Those programs are great, and help, but it's not stopping the turning a blind eye by certain parents. It's not the parents turning in their pills that are the problem. Stuff like that is preaching to the choir. It's the "not MY kid" parents and the ones thinking it's fine that their kid was drinking because it was the semi-formal or a winning football game or graduation.

People say that my kid and his friends are too young to hear about drugs, drinking and overdoses. No. They're not. This is when you want to get their attention while you still have it. They are sponges now. They're always going to be our "babies". You're never going to think they're old enough to hear or deal with the atrocities of reality. We want to start teaching and instilling our expectations, BEFORE they get to that point of no return. B and I said we'd love to make a group of the uncool parents who want to take a stand that we're not going to accept or condone this and we want the kids and other parents to know. We want to be such a present force that the ones who care more about being cool than actual parenting feel the pressure not to think that being cool means allowing illegal and dangerous behavior.

I'll tell any other parent right now, come a few grades higher, even if we're friends, if I find out you're allowing drinking and whatever in your house, by the kids, I'm calling the cops on you. If that makes us not friends, I'm good with that. If I sound like a judgemental biotch, I'm totally not caring whatsoever. If writing this gets me uninvited to any town parties, I won't be losing any sleep over it.

Who is with me?

All being the cool parent gets you is dead kids.

BTW, it's really sad that I Googled "mom memes wine" and there were just pages and pages- I just grabbed some of the first I saw...









Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Culpability


B and I watched 13 Reasons Why last week. It was disturbing, as it should be. We watched it because everyone was talking about it, and I wanted to know why it was such a hot topic. Long story short- it follows the life and suicide of a teen girl, through tapes she made, explaining what every specific person in her orbit did to contribute to her suicide. It was how everyone failed her.

Now, I don't believe that one person can make another person commit suicide. I think they were trying to show how someone who is generally dramatic can take in all these separate events different than the next person, and you don't know what the building blocks are that can push a person to the point of no return. However- they did all fail her in different ways, which contributed to her feelings of isolation, loneliness, despair, depression, etc.

For me, it all comes down to empathy. The show is a little Heathers-like. Heathers for the current generation. Things happen that seem implausible in real life. Like, why is almost everyone an only child? Besides the point, but we found that odd. Anyway, what most of the characters were lacking was a general empathy for another human. Their first instinct, after each one listened to the tapes, except Clay, was to figure out how to get themselves off the hook. Especially when Justin mentioned killing Clay somehow to make it look like suicide. They all wanted Clay stopped, maybe not wanting to take it as far as Justin suggested, but that was their main concern. And they were all sort of surprised that their part really made that much of a difference to Hannah.

Even in the other side stories, it was all about covering their own asses. The girl who knocked down the stop sign that caused the car accident, Hannah being in the room, not stopping Bryce with Jessica. Justin not stopping Bryc or telling Jessica what happened after. No one stepping in during the fight outside between Alex and Montgomery. Even the school counselor! He was the worst with covering up, trying to cover himself! Everyone was just worried about themselves.

I was musing on all of this when the death of Timothy Piazza hit the news. That's the boy who died at Penn State after a fraternity hazing night. Again, just like in 13 Reasons Why, the first instinct was for the brothers of the fraternity to try to cover their own asses. They started trying to delete texts, photos, and whatever off their phones, Tim's phone, and get their stories straight. Of course, in this day and age, nothing is ever fully erased, and that's what really makes them guilty- the cover-up. It wasn't bad enough they had no moral compass whatsoever, to make sure no one got hurt in the first place, but then that they had none to make sure this particular kid was okay. They were like wild animals. Like Lord of the Flies, they just pushed him down, stepped over him, and treated him like he wasn't even a living, breathing human. There was no thought of how to take care of this person. These were supposed to be his "brothers" after such a night. Nevermind brother, had he lived, he should've pulled a Carrie on them after.

While I'm glad the brothers involved are getting rightfully punished, it's really all of us as parents who should be looking to ourselves as to what we are doing wrong. "What, us?", you ask. I have an elementary schooler- not a college kid! I have nothing to do with Penn State! I wasn't even in a fraternity! Oh, yes, we all have culpability as parents. How? Well, what the F are we teaching our kids?

We, as parents now, we are washing our kids childhoods from any pain, adversity, critical thinking skills. We are calling teachers, doing their homework & projects, emailing college professors, calling potential employers, writing resumes, calling bosses, cashing in favors. They can't even have monkey bars anymore- as soon as a kid falls and breaks their arm, the monkey bars are removed. Long gone are my childhood days of doing the monkey bars over a black top surface.

Class gets detention because some kids were disruptive, kid who wasn't talking comes home angry and upset. Generally a good kid, never gotten in trouble. Mom actually gets angry at the teacher. Why? Is it really that upsetting for child to learn that even though someone else made the call that caused the ship to hit the iceberg, sometimes the whole ship goes down? How about learning to cope with life not being fair all the time, and that maybe the bigger picture is that being part of a class is like being part of a team. That you're all responsible for making sure it's the best environment for everyone. Mommy and daddy can't just call every teacher, every year, when something isn't fair. Is it fair? Don't know- wasn't there. Not everything should be fair. I remember my sister and I fighting, my mom didn't want to hear it, who was right or wrong- we both got in trouble. I look at this the same. The teacher is one person. It's probably a class of twenty or more. Teacher may not be able to tell exactly who is disrupting, so she just punishes everyone. Not a new or odd concept.

And the kid being upset? So? Is it that bad for the kid to be upset? I think the lesson is what the kid does with that feeling of being upset. Does the kid retain these feelings and decide to tell the teacher that it wasn't fair HERSELF? Does the kid swallow the feelings and just live with it? Does the kid decide that next time, they tell the disruptive kids to knock it off? There are so many opportunities there to learn coping skills. Mom said- "well, the kid was just upset because they never got in trouble before". Well, I think they ought to know what it feels like by that point in life. Even if it was punishment given somewhat "unfairly".  Now the kid knows what it's like to get punished just by association. Maybe unwarrented in this situation but will be likely thought about when it is warranted. If the kid is so upset, why not tell her to talk to her teacher about it. Tell the teacher that she thinks it was unfair, then let her listen to the teacher's explanation and digest that? That helps her more than emailing the teacher to tell her that you weren't happy with the punishment as a parent.

In E's class, they were doing a project on biographies. From what I understood from him, each kid was supposed to come up with three possibilities of who they wanted to do their report on. Then they'd be paired up with someone who agreed on one of those choices. If they didn't agree, they had to find some common ground to pick something. E had Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, and someone else. The kid he was paired with wanted to do it on an author. They ended up with Babe Ruth because they couldn't agree. Baseball was their common ground.

Was E thrilled? No. He was annoyed. Did I care? Well, sort of. E is not a big fan of school in general. Instinctively, I'd like him to be able to be interested in what he's having to work on. Second, he told me that the teacher said Michael Jackson is an inappropriate topic. I was annoyed because I don't think Michael Jackson is inappropriate. He knows how/why MJ died. I wasn't annoyed enough to call the teacher about it. I probably could've because even if she thought it was inappropriate, now I have a kid asking why and what if I hadn't discussed the nitty gritty of MJ's life, that put me in a weird position. The reality is- her classroom, her rules, and I realize that there is always a lesson to be learned. He can't just do what he wants, he needs to work within her parameters of the assignment, and it was up to the partners to work out who to choose as their subject, without mommy running interference. 

Kids are not learning how to fly or cope. If they don't learn how to deal with disappointment, work with their peers, have empathy, show compassion, learn that life isn't always fair or fun, early on, as elementary school kids, they're never going to learn it. They're being taught that appearance is everything (I don't mean physical- I mean keeping up "appearances"), that mommy and daddy clean up messes, and they are always "too young" to have natural consequences.

There is a program tonight in my town about the drug problem in the high school, in the town, in the county- probably addressing all of it. Why should there have to be a program? Well, because we're not even allowed to DISCUSS people's kids in town stealing or being passed out on the lawn of one of the schools. Because "watch what you say, they're someone's children!". Well, guess what? A natural consequence of stealing or passing out on public property is embarrassing your parents. Maybe if more people were talking about it, the kids would be more afraid of doing it. Instead everyone tries to bury it, the unpleasantness, in the name of being "neighborly" and/or not "kicking people when they're down". NO. It should all be discussed. Would I be embarrassed if it was E? Of course! That's why I'm talking to him about it all now. Does that guarantee it won't happen with him? No, of course not. But it's something. He is being taught that we are not his friends. We're his parents, and we're not going to put up with that behavior. If he does something embarrassing like that, then he and we, will all suffer the consequences of his actions.

Bubble-wrapping our kids from failure, independence, making choices, critical thinking, accountability, and looking out for more than just themselves is doing a disservice to us all. Any one of our kids could end up being Timothy Piazza, his parents, or one of the eighteen charged in his death if we don't start allowing our kids to figure some stuff out on their own BEFORE they get to the age where they're supposed to know the difference between right and wrong. We become a nation of a lot of people just worried about themselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

LGBTQ Activist Motivation



The other day, I wrote about the car line at school and the lunacy that apparently goes on all over the country on school car lines everywhere. After I wrote that, I got to school and had to tell a dad to turn his car off for idling at least twenty-five minutes. I was behind him eating exhaust with my Greek yogurt. Had I not been behind him, I probably wouldn't have noticed the idling, because that's not my thing. I care about it, I think people are jerks when they're doing it, but it's not my passion.

Yesterday, I also posted that I had shirts made on CafePress in their online marketplace. They're the shape of NJ (and now a few other states) in the colors of the gay pride rainbow flag. I didn't start out making a whole online store. I wanted a shirt for ME. I literally could not FIND a shirt in one of these t-shirt sites with this particular NJ flag. There were others - "distressed", with a heart, but not with JUST the simple rainbow flag. I had to have a guy in Bangladesh on Fiverr make me one to use for the shirt. I'd made one from a similar NJ pride flag I'd found on a site, but I wasn't in love with it. I showed that shirt to people and they loved the idea. So, now, I have a whole online store.

I posted about the "store" on Facebook. My friend private messaged me, applauding my commitment to LGBTQ rights but has always wondered what my motivation is for this particular cause. I thought about how twice people I grew up with assumed I was either gay or my kid was gay or transgender because of my level of support. It took me like a minute to think of what I wanted to say, and this is basically what I came up with:

It's a few things. One of the big ones is that I still can't even watch the news. It's overwhelming and gives me extreme anxiety. I used to watch the news like times a day. I haven't watched the news since the inauguration. I catch things and I read articles that I want but i can't ingest all the rest. Every time I catch something, I feel like we're being Punk'd. I had to pick one basket to put my eggs in. 

There was much more that I said to my friend, and I even typed it out and elaborated here. I just feel like it's almost redundant at this point. I saved what I wrote and I made eventually put it out there, but the bottom line is- I need to feel like I am actually making a difference. Getting a guy to stop idling is nice, but that's not the difference I'm interested in. I can't do something on a national level, but I'd like to help people who need help. This is the cause that makes the least sense to me as an issue for those "against". To me, it's just about being human. People just being allowed to be who they are, live and let live, hurts no one. That there are actively people trying to make law to make people's lives less than, less equal, less quality, just because of their own personal feelings, is angering to me on a level I find hard to articulate. It's also based on a hypocrisy I find unsettling and really dangerous.

In my small action groups, focused on a main issue, that's where I feel I can actually make a difference. I can't watch the news and just see bans on groups of people, the appointment of unqualified people taking over positions that will ruin public education, the environment, send us to war, etc. because there is nothing I can really DO about any of those things. I can make calls and send emails- which is great, and I'm doing. But I need a stronger local focus where I can really feel the difference. Like, for instance, in both Glen Rock AND Ridgewood this week, two groups I'm in were able to mobilize people, made numerous appeals to the town councils, and finally got the unanimous votes to be able to fly the gay pride rainbow flag for the month of June in both towns. That's finally a small win, but a win nonetheless, in this whole mishegoss that's been since January 20th. Even in the meeting in Glen Rock for the vote for the flag, it FELT nicer. It FELT like we did something special to bring the community together instead of continuing to let it be torn apart. It's nice to feel part of something positive.

If you want a shirt, I have NJ Pride ones up, Proud Ally, Proud Ally Glen Rock, Proud Ally Ridgewood, and some other states and different combinations. This was the easiest way to give everyone access without having to be involved with orders and money. I'm hoping a bunch of us will have them for the ceremonies in Glen Rock & Ridgewood when the flags are raised.  

*I can add states, and wording, but the process isn't quick. If you want something specific added, just let me know and I can try to get it up there. Just really check each listing to make sure it's what you want before ordering. I did my best, but I'd never done it before and it was tedious and time consuming. I know there were some tech mistakes but I think they're all fixed now. 

Shirt Shop-  http://www.cafepress.com/taraspride

Glen Rock Flag Raising: https://www.facebook.com/events/1899449010332544/

sample of what's in my online "shop"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lunacy on the School Car Line


(Photo of a random school line)

We're going to talk about #firstworldproblems today. Today's problem: Car line. I've seen blog posts go around the internet about the school car line all over the country. Sometimes I'd read, but more often not, because my kid was too young. Now, that I've been dealing with the car line for almost three school years now, I have to say, it's absolute madness. Complete lunacy. I think I can tell you everything I need to know about a person by their behavior on the car line.

Not every school has a car line. Ours does because it's a small school, in a residential area, with no parking lot. There are few rules, but to keep things moving and safe, there are a couple.

The main rule is to pull up to the end of the sidewalk. Meaning the school is on it's own block, with one or two other homes before it. In the front of the school, you're supposed to pull up to the corner where the school block ends and the cross street is to the next block. Different grades line up in the morning at different areas of the school. That's not really anyone else's problem but the kid who may have to walk an extra few feet to their area, but they can manage. Nope. Certain parents think that they should just give valet service to wherever their kid lines up. No problem that there is a LINE OF CARS WAITING BEHIND YOU.

Same with rain. It's raining? Precious can't walk a few feet because he might melt. Sure, just full stop and TALK to your kid as there is a LINE OF CARS WAITING BEHIND YOU.

Now, if we all waited to get to the actual end before letting our kids out, we'd be on that line forever. So once there is a full line, as long as you're in front of the school somewhere, and not in front of the house next to the school, I think it's acceptable to let your kid out. If you can basically punt them out the door. If you're going to take forever, then it's best you wait to be the first care, and pull up to the end WHERE THERE ARE SIGNS THAT SAY- PULL UP TO HERE!

I don't know- I tell E to unbuckle as soon as we reach the house next to the school. I either pull up all the way to the end if I'm the first or second car, or I tell him to quickly hop out and then chuck his bag at him out my driver's side window.

Then there's the one that sits at the end, where people are waiting to move, after the kid's gotten out, and just texts. I don't know what's that important to text about while you're holding up a whole line of people, unless you're an on-call trauma surgeon, but please, go ahead and get that text out.

Those are the drop off rules- pull up, drop kid, go. Nope. Never easy. Someone always needs to be the snowflake.

Then, there's the chaos that's pick up. Pick up is a whole other animal.

There are now signs that explicitly say, "NO IDLING". I make sure that if it's cold for my thirty minute wait in the car (another story), I bundle up. Hat, gloves, whatever I need. Make no mistake, while I'm bundled listening to Stern, I can hear the hum of the car in front or in back of me, just idling away. "But Precious #2 or #2 & #3 or #2, #3, & #4 are in the car with me! They'll freeze!". I sympathize. The sign says no idling. Sorry about your Precious litter possibly getting cold. There are rules. Give them blankets. They'll live. It's like when I tell E- "I'M cold! Put on a jacket". Most likely they're all bundled beyond what they really need anyway. There's a car that idles every single day for like fifteen minutes and it drives my friend crazy. It reminds me of Brody in Mallrats going, "That kid is on the escalator AGAIN!". My friend doesn't really drink but this idling person could drive her to drink. Idling isn't really my hill to die on, but it's ON THE SIGN. So my issue is lack of reading comprehension, AND thinking the rules don't apply to you.

There is NO reason to idle. If it's too cold for you to sit there- you have options! Wear more clothes! If it's too hot- same thing just opposite. Less clothes. Don't feel the need to get as close to the school, wait a little and be on the back of the line. Park and walk. There are numerous other options! 

Then there are the people who are on the pick up line and GET OUT OF THEIR CAR to retrieve their child(ren). This isn't "preferred" or "VIP" parking in front of the school. It's line that's supposed to move more like a conveyor belt or assembly line. Grab and go, grab and go. Not, "well, I have a kindergarten kid. He/she needs help". NO. Then park, and walk. PARK AND WALK! I'm literally watching someone PARK on the line, then get out, greet their kid at the front school door, and walk the kid back to their car. Just look in my car- I'm screaming and cursing them out with the windows closed.

One time, a dad decided he didn't feel like waiting at the end of the line OR parking and walking, so he decided he'd just cut me off to park in front of me, IN FRONT OF THE PERSON'S DRIVEWAY who lives next to the school. People purposely leave that area open, because I don't even think it's legal to park in front of someone's driveway, for any length of time. It just also happens to be a douchey thing to do I actually got out of my car to say, WTF??!, after screaming at him to myself IN the car.  I knocked on his window and he told me to "calm down- I'll move if she needs to get out of her driveway". I don't know him, but if I ever see this guy, I'll be staring at him with WTF-face for as long as I live here. Special snowflake doesn't begin to describe that behavior....

I'm thinking that if people just followed the shortest, easiest list of rules, ever, for dropping off and picking up, there wouldn't be a need for a line or idling committee, or worry about safety, and we could all just go on with our day.

Drop & go. Then pick & go. Do not get out of your car, Do not stop wherever you want to let your kid out. Don't text at the front of the line because you feel people can just go around you. Don't idle. Do not pass go and do not collect $200 dollars....

It's a dog eat dog world on the car line.