Monday, November 28, 2022

Motivation, Positivity and a TikToker Visit


My last entry was about middle school and how much it sucks. It's kind of interesting, as I watch a LOT of Law & Order SVU reruns, and I watched tons of it over Thanksgiving week, there was a lot of school themed episodes. They dealt with online and in person bullying and tying it to social media. 

I'm old-ish. I'm in my late forties. I know a lot of my friends have jumped on the TikTok and Snapchat bandwagon, but I never got there. Truth be told, which I'm sure I've said in here or somewhere, I don't even like Instagram. I've gotten used to it, but I'm an old school Facebook kind of girl. 

I also almost never have the sound turned on my phone, another thing I've probably mentioned before. I don't know why but the sound annoys me. I don't want to hear ads and whatnot. That's probably why I was never interested in TikTok, because I'd have to turn the sound on. Facebook has "Reels" though, I assume it was to compete with TikTok. As I'm scrolling Facebook, I will see the Reels section come up and DO get sucked in every now and again by whatever the first one I see in my eye line. 

I must have clicked on a Reel, then scrolled up a few times. I'm not one of those people who end up on Reels or TikTok and hours have gone by. I get bored pretty quickly, because whatever algorithm vortex I'm in has me looking at stuff that usually doesn't make any sense. For instance, one of those that say- "I was today years old when I discovered this..." or "You would have to be born before x date to know this..." and nothing happens. I look in the comments and no one else knows what's going on either. 

I had to be scrolling and I came across I'm Just a Kid with an IEP and Jordan Toma. Ok, I admit, he's easy on the eyes, and, I say this in only the most complimentary way, and I didn't know ANYTHING about him, but he seemed very Jersey (He *is* from Jersey as it turns out). He was talking to the camera, but to kids, saying how your mom is always there for you, pushing you, wanting the best for you, wanting you to be your best, not letting you quit.... I immediately started welling up. He was saying all the things to kids, kids who struggle in school, that they need to hear, but don't particularly want to hear, from their moms. 

I don't follow anyone on Reels or Tiktok. I followed his Facebook page, where his Reels live. This is his TikTok if you are a TikTok kind of person.

I'm not going to tell Jordan's story for him- he wrote a book that you can buy- I'm Just a Kid with an IEP - I've started it and it's worth the read. In a nutshell, he's thirty-three now and a college graduate (not that a degree matters), but he struggled, hardcore, his whole educational career. He tried to blow off school, run away from school, and did whatever he could to fail, because he didn't know how to succeed with learning disabilities. He had a mom who wasn't going to let that happen. He has a dad too, who he is also close to, which I must mention, because he gets a lot of heat for not mentioning involved dads, but he said it was his mom who was physically present more for this type of thing and she is the one who really dealt with the lion's share of his school life and academics. He says "mom", but he means it as whomever your personal cheerleader happens to be.

E does have Tourette's Syndrome, but he doesn't have ADHD or the other typical comorbidities that can come along with having Tourette's Syndrome that make it really hard to do well academically. He IS having a hard time in Algebra but hopefully that's a temporary setback. Regardless of grades or having learning differences or whatever, I felt like Jordan's messaging could be useful for any kind of struggle. MIDDLE SCHOOL IN GENERAL IS A STRUGGLE, in just about every way.

Middle School, especially for this particular class, his age group, due to Covid. They are emotionally and socially stunted. They left school, mid-fifth grade, while still really babies, in March 2020, to be locked up at home, at the start of puberty. They left school, where everyone was friends, hanging out, regardless of gender, where kids were just being kids. Then, they had to begin sixth grade, middle school, in a weird hybrid scene. The beginnings of puberty also made them weird. They couldn't just hang out with the same people as before. Their former friends of the opposite gender were now aliens that they couldn't seem to even just have normal conversations, nevermind hanging out like they did since kindergarten.

For E, it was school every other day, in person, but where four elementary schools came together, and he didn't even know who anyone was because they had masks on. I would ask him if he knows this person or that, and he'd tell me they don't go to his school. I knew they did, in fact, go to his school, because I know the parents, just from being around town. His school not only separates the kids into two different groups, from some unexplained reason, but here they were also being split by the alphabet to allow for Covid guidelines of how many people could be in school at once. 

E wasn't with his friends because he's closer to the beginning of the alphabet and his good friends are at the end. Even if they technically had classes together, he never actually SAW them, except on Zoom. It was a terrible situation for socializing. Seventh grade was a little bit better because he had in-person school daily. They still had masks on though so it made for a kind of wall up to communication. 

We had put him on medication for Tourette's for the first time that December of seventh grade. We will never know if it was the medication or puberty but he developed some kind of awful skin condition all over his face. It looked like what I imagine measles would look like. In that respect, wearing masks to school wasn't the worst thing. I don't know how much worse it would have been for him emotionally or mentally if he had to just have that skin condition fully out in the open. His face, his skin, that was generally pretty clear was a mess and it knocked his confidence in a major way. Even with the mask, you could still see some of it, and kids ALWAYS have to say something. 

I tried everything. I bought a four hundred and fifty dollar LED light, doctor developed, medical grade, facial mask that definitely wasn't in the budget. We went to dermatologists. I can't even explain the painful treatments he went through. We took him off the medication he was on for Tourette's. He said that he'd prefer to have tics than what was on his face. I was up all night for months, researching what we could do for him. It's now been almost a year and it's under control. For a thirteen year old, a week can feel like forever, let alone a year. The whole situation already had taken it's toll on how he feels about himself. 

He's also just never going to be typical. He's an actor, singer, musician in a sea of Friday Night Lights small town suburbia. He's the kid who doesn't play football or lacrosse. He doesn't wear Under Armour athletic wear to school every day. He takes care of his appearance. He's more nineties grunge, with jeans, a henley shirt and a flannel. He wears a necklace and rings he made on a lathe. He has earrings that seem to imply to some retro-minded or just small-minded kids that he's gay. Living in today's world, coming from an extremely liberal-minded home, while he isn't gay, he doesn't even know how to respond. He knows they're using that as an insult and he doesn't want to respond in a way that makes it seem like he is in agreement that it's an insult. Though, when you're not typical, you take a lot of crap about it. When you're also not inherently a dick, you also don't have a quick burn to shut them down either. 

What does any of this have to do with Jordan Toma? Well, in listening to many of his Reels, the common theme is pushing through struggle to be whoever you're going to be. To find the greatness in you. Not to worry about the haters. To SHOW UP - for YOURSELF. I just think that's a great message for anyone, whether you have an IEP, a 504, or just struggle with being a tween or tween in today's world of academics, social media pressures, keyboard warriors, middle school blues, puberty, family dysfunction, whatever. Some kids give E a really hard time about being a musician. They like to poke at him and goof on his original songs. We can tell him those kids don't matter but we can't stop their words from taking residence in his head and hampering his creativity or stopping him from putting himself out there. I thought Jordan's message of rising above what other people think would be a great motivator for E.

I didn't even know there was a subscription to his content or that he usually only visits subscribers. I saw a Reel on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving where he said that for ONE DAY ONLY, he'd be visiting homes, regardless of subscription status, bringing books and talking to kids and families. I saw it too late though- he was doing it on Monday. I wrote him and said that I missed it, but if he's ever in my area, I'd love to have him come to our home. He got back to me very quickly and wrote- "How about Wednesday?". I was floored. Of course I told him, "Sure!". 

I didn't know how he was planning on driving around on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, on the most traffic heavy travel day of the entire year. Even the fact that he was going to be spending his day and night doing this is a testament to his character. He could've been home with his wife and child just relaxing before the impending holiday. Instead, he spent it, voluntarily, in traffic, and with strangers. 

He asked what time would be good and I told him that E would have a half day so one or two o'clock would be good. I didn't want to tell E that Jordan was coming. I wanted it to be a surprise. I'd shown E some of his videos prior but I thought it would be better as a surprise. Jordan messaged me around noon and said he'd be over closer to two o'clock. I still didn't think that he'd be on time because I saw on his morning Reel that he was going to be all over Brooklyn then on to New Jersey. 

I picked E up from school instead of him walking with his friends. He was confused and kept asking me what was going on. For an hour at home he kept asking. He finally did guess with about ten minutes to go before Jordan was set to arrive. Once he guessed correctly, we watched a bunch of Jordan's Reels.

I'm glad I didn't bet against Jordan. He showed up, as promised, with his camera guy, at about ten minutes after two o'clock. B was home by then and suitably impressed by Jordan's ability to be on time in Thanksgiving traffic. Now, let me mention B for a second. The day before, he'd called me from work just to tell me something and it went something like this:

Me: Oh, by the way, you know that TikTok guy I watch... 

B :::interrups::: You don't watch TikTok

Me: Yeah, I know, but that ONE guy....he's coming over tomorrow".

B:::bewildered::: To our house? 

Me: Yeah

B: did that happen? The "Your mom" guy??? 

Me: Yes. He said he's coming. He's going to people's houses for just today. I'm just letting you know. 

B: :::sighs, then laughs::: Uh...ok. I'll never be bored with you. Just add this to...the Tara Chronicles.

Jordan showed up. He was great. I think he'd been at this since, I don't know, the crack of dawn? He'd already been to Brooklyn and I don't know how many houses he went to before ours. You'd never know. He's so high energy and talks so fast and so much, I don't know how he wasn't exhausted. He comes in, and you feel like you know him already. Not just from watching the videos, but it's just his...spirit. I guess that's the secret sauce to being a motivational speaker. I've heard other people who call themselves motivational speakers though and I didn't really find it to be as...motivating. Maybe that's why I've never been susceptible to being in a cult. Or an MLM. Or, he just knows how to hit home when it's your kid, because he's actually struggled too. We'd all do anything to make life less of a struggle for our kids, and if someone can get through to them, we sure going to take it. Plus, Jordan....he's cooler than us, just by virtue of being younger and having over a million followers on social media. He has social media street cred.

I don't know what Jordan's typical time schedule is when he does this or if he even has a typical. He mentioned to us that every home is different, every kid is different, and every situation he walks into is different. He's almost like a traveling social worker, I imagine, depending on the level of difficulties a kid has, where they are emotionally, and how they respond to a stranger walking into their home to extol his message. It's actually pretty brave of him to just go to people's homes, not knowing what he's walking into. He didn't ask me anything but my address when he said he'd come here. I did give him a little background but it's not like he needed or asked for specifics before he chose to come here. There wasn't prerequisites in any way. I asked, he came. That alone really takes some balls because having actually been a social worker, having walked into some really contentious situations, there is a lot of unknown, and frankly, probably somewhat uncomfortable. Just because a parent wants Jordan to make a visit doesn't mean a teenager is going to be receptive or amenable in any way.

He was here for probably forty-five minutes or longer, which I feel was extremely generous. He wanted to get to know E, and us too. He signed his book and gave it to E, which, I already started reading. Getting E to read, well, that's going to require some more pushing on my part.

Having Jordan here was a really amazingly uplifting, positive experience going into the long Thanksgiving weekend, for all three of us. We all know that we can talk to our kids until we're blue in the face, but sometimes, having a different person do it can be that little bit of difference it takes to get them to really listen and take it all in. Jordan is extremely relatable and I think kids really respond to him in a way they may not respond to a parent. He tells personal stories that are really impactful. When he left, I felt like if E was having any kind of hard time, he could get in touch with Jordan and he'd give him a pep talk. I haven't even felt that with any therapist or doctor I've ever encountered. They just want to know if your insurance is going to pay them or not.

I just want to give thanks for Jordan, his visit, and his book. If you're on a PTA, HSA, or in any way responsible for booking speakers for your kid's school or a school you work for, I highly recommend getting him on your schedule. 

    Jordan Toma linktree

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Middle School Mind Fcuk



Middle School Sucks. Isn't that what they say? Sure. But does it have to suck? 

I remember middle school. It wasn't great. People were mean. I think it was different though for one reason. Our MOMS weren't involved in the drama. Now, it's a whole different ballgame. Moms seem to not only be involved in the drama, but they're orchestrating it, at least to some extent. 

I know there are books out there- Queen Bees and Wannabees, by Rosalind Wiseman is one of them, that can help explain or navigate this stuff. But I have to just get this out of my system here, where I can just speak freely, hoping it reaches some of those it needs to reach. 

It seems like the thought of some parents is, my child will be happy if they're popular. Therefore, I need to help them be popular. If that means helping exclude or be mean to other kids, so be it. It's a dog eat dog world and best they learn about social hierarchy now. 

 No. NO NO NO. 

Navigating the social scene in middle school is difficult for all kids, all genders. I have a boy. Of course there are problems for boys, with popularity. My son isn't a sports kid in suburbia. He has had earrings since kindergarten because when he was three and a half years old, he saw an older male camp counselor he idolized with them. He HAD to have them and didn't stop badgering us until he got them. Kids have been asking him if he's gay for years. JUST because he has earrings. What is this- 1986?

E is not an alpha male. He also doesn't have siblings he's learned to roughhouse with. He doesn't gravitate toward being physical. Put that all together, he's different. He's not quick with the burns and he gets crap for being different. Being a musician instead of throwing or kicking a ball on a team is cause for kids to take his music off the internet and harass him with it in school hallways. It prompts kids to just randomly tell him he sucks. 

Guess what- right or wrong, I've already told him, his guitar, drums, voice- all those things will be the panty-droppers later. In my opinion, those guys who harass E are probably going to be living in their parents basement, drinking beers, literally playing Monday Morning Quarterback, talking about how "we" won or lost a game they didn't play. And yes, I said the word panty-dropper to my kid. 

I'm not to be believed though. He might believe me. He just doesn't care what I have to say, while he's in the throes of middle school hell. I'm not in it.  These are the people he sees every day. Middle School has sucked but I also think there's a level of personal perception there that makes it seem worse than it really is for him. Meaning, he takes things personally that I'm not one hundred percent sure are really personal. For example, I think certain kids just like to bother kids they know they're bothering. They would say mean things to anyone, but then when they get one they see they're actually getting to them, they focus their attention on those kids. It's not fun to harass people that don't register any sort of feelings about it. E has no poker face.

I'm actually more concerned about the girls. I feel like it's the same difference between sorority and fraternity pledging. Girls are guilty of mental and emotional cruelty that the boys don't seem to engage in the same way. Boys can be dicks. I hear they cut their own sports teammates down instead of helping build them up. They seem to get over stuff pretty quickly for the most part. I'm talking in a general sense. I'm sure it's relentless with some kids, I just haven't heard as many of those stories. Girls seem to mind-fcuk in a long game. One day you're in, the're out. Grudges are held, social media bullying seems to be invoked. Girls seem to also post more on social media, so it's easier used as a tool of social destruction. It's down and dirty.

With the boys, the MOMS aren't as involved in trying to orchestrate things. I've never had moms getting in touch to organize a group Halloween costume, a joint party, a class trip room or bus sitting situation, or anything. I'm not on a text chain with any of my kid's friend's moms about anything. We talk here and there when it's appropriate, but we're not organizing or orchestrating anything unless it's a carpool to a specific event.

Boys do the mental and emotional damage too- don't get me wrong. They go for whatever the Achilles heel is and exploit the shit out of it. When the alpha sports douchebags rip on my son's music or say he sucks as a musician, it chips away at his confidence. He can roll with it, for the most part, because the kids who say stuff to him aren't using their power to turn everyone else against him. It doesn't seem to be about a hierarchy situation where boys that were once friendly with him or even just neutral all of a sudden turn on him because they were told to do so from a King Bee. No one is making him uncomfortable sitting at certain lunch tables or whispering about his clothes. Boys can say something, ripping on each other one minute, then be friendly another minute. I think if an HIB was opened on one of these kids, they'd be surprised, because I don't know that they think they're doing anything wrong.

Back to the Queen Bees and the Wannabees...The girls. What I'm seeing and hearing is really disgusting. The mind games. The mental mindfuckery. The group-think. It seems like every day is a mine field where you're just sidestepping being the target.

I've heard endless sad stories from moms saying that one day their daughter was just turned on and iced out by her group of friends. Made fun of to her face and/or behind her back for clothing, accessories, make-up. Not allowing someone to sit at a lunch table. Gifting a dirt surprise over candy in what in younger years was a fun tradition. Making mean spirited TikTok videos against one person by a group of former friends. Making it public that they don't want to be paired with a certain person for class group projects. Trying to ruin a dating relationship of a target by telling a boy not to date the target. Simply walking up to someone at a school event, out of the blue, and saying, "I hate you". I could go on and on.

You could try to say all the things one might think- well, there are three sides to every story, the parents may not be aware, maybe the one getting picked on actually did something. Maybe. What I see is that they're mostly just jockeying for social position. They'll do anything to be the Queen or in the Queen's court.

Like Carl in The Breakfast Club, I am the eyes and ears of this institution. I am everywhere. I don't even want to know some of these things. I just happen to be out and about daily at the end of the school day and I see these kids, in the downtown, at Starbucks, in CVS. I see and hear how they act in stores, treat staff, treat each other. I hear their conversations, see their TikToks being made. I READ EVERY TEXT ON MY SON'S PHONE. I know a lot of these kids since they were little kids. I know their parents or at least know of the parents. When I hear the stories about Mean Girls, there is unsurprisingly little difference between each horrifying tale. It's also always the same cast of characters or some configuration of overlapping crowds. Not even a small surprise.

Moms? What'cha doin'? Are you having conversations with your kids? You okay with this stuff? Think it's funny? Do you not care when you hear your daughter's a witch? That your son is a bully? Is no one telling you? My money is on you already knowing about your kid's behavior. Thinking that your precious couldn't possibly, OR that your precious probably has good reason to ride her broom through town like she owns the place. Maybe there's pride that they're so cool. They're invited to parties! They're liked! It's all good!

If I heard my son was treating anyone poorly, I'd be mortified and my son would be in such a deep pile of excrement, I don't know when he'd see the light of day. So, if you hear something, say something. I'll be ON IT. If it was to the level of the stories I hear about some of the girls, he'd probably be in some kind of counseling, we'd be in counseling to see where we went wrong, and I don't know what else. These Mean Girl moms are something else though. The ultimate goal seems to be their daughters popularity. They have no concern whatsoever if their daughters are good people, good friends, or good humans. The only other conclusion I could come to is that maybe they're scared of their own offspring. If that's the case, we're all in the excrement pile. 

Parents of kids of any gender kids: How about instead of trying to make sure your kid is popular, whatever that means to you, instill the values that it's more important to just be a nice person? I know it's a novel concept. Many of the parents seem to trying to live vicariously through their kids to feel the popularity maybe they didn't during their own middle school experience. Or maybe they're just happy that their kid isn't a target and want to ensure that it never happens? But listen up and take heed. If your kid is hanging with the mean ones and helping dole out a handful of assholery, it will come back on them. Not because of karma or something, but just because that's how it works. The mean kids always turn on someone in their own group when they don't have anyone else to harass. Just wait. 

If you think this might be about your kid- it probably is about your kid. Talk. To. Your. Kids. Talk to them about being a friend. If you even had the inkling, while reading this, that it could be your kid, it's time for a reboot. A HUGE part of your JOB as a parent is to talk to your kid about how they treat other people. Discuss, daily or weekly how to be a good friend. Tell your kids not to just be bossed around by the Kings and Queens, and try actually being different. How to be the one who stands up for the underdog, instead of being part of why the underdog doesn't want to go to school. It's called PARENTING. Parents- we can do better. It does take a village. Unless you're okay with that village being burned to the ground, it's time to have some very important conversations. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Happy Camper 2022


Every year, around this time, I write my Thank You Wekeela blog post. As you know, I don't really write much anymore- who has the time? However, I do like to write this one because it's so important to me. To all of us- B and E, and most especially E. 

I think that every summer I think to myself, wow, do kids need camp more than ever. The thing is, I don't think in any other summer I was wrong, but I realized something this time, as E is on the cusp of starting eighth grade, that while it was great for him at ten, eleven and twelve, it was imperative at thirteen. You don't realize how much they need it until they're too old to hang with you, but too young to be fully on their own. When you know you don't want them roaming around town all evening in the dark, but they don't actually need to BE anywhere the next day either. They're just aimless and schedule-less and just ripe to get into shenanigans.

At ten it was new and fresh, and cooler than day camp. It gave him that taste of freedom and independence so often missing in kids that age these days because of parental helicoptering and micromanaging. While it was awesome for him, it was just as much for me. That mental recharge that you get when you don't care if there are any waffles in the house or if someone else's laundry is done, is EVERYTHING. At eleven, it was the first Covid summer after being locked up in the house for months. We ALL needed camp. I barely remember that summer. Last summer, at twelve, it was E's last summer in "kid camp" at his camp so it was very similar to his first summer. He was still coming out of a weird hybrid first year of middle school and he needed the escape.

At thirteen, this summer, it was a transition for him to Teen Camp and a sigh of relief for both him and me. Middle school is no joke. He kept saying before he left, "I can't wait to go to camp where there aren't assholes". Of course, there are always going to be assholes, but he meant it in the way that it isn't the same as school. He and his friends aren't "misfits" at camp. At camp, for whatever reason, he doesn't feel "less than" the way he does at school when he's being mocked by who he perceives as "popular" for being a musician versus a team athlete. At camp, he's appreciated for his music and people consider him talented. At camp, you can be whoever you want to be and that's okay.

He's also too old now to really supervise him all day and evening. He has always had a lot of personal freedom around our town. Due to being in middle school, he's made some new friends. Friends whom I don't know their parents or their stories. When he has free time at home, he's out with old friends and new, and even though I can track where he is physically, I don't know the nitty gritty of what he's doing. As a parent, that's a nightmare. I let him go, because that's what you have to do. You teach and talk at home, and then you have to set them free. It's still nerve-wracking though, when he's just out and about, it's getting dark and I have to figure out where he is, who he's with and what he's doing.

He left for Wekeela on June twenty-sixth this summer, two days after school ended here. No time for messing around. Well, we both left, because I chaperoned the younger kid bus. I actually really like doing the chaperone thing, coming up there for a couple of days, because I get a peek into his camp world but then I go home and leave him to his life there. I got to meet his counselors and I know a decent amount of the kids, just from this being his fourth summer and having chaperoned previously. I got to joke with his Cabin Leader about the fact that somehow the thirteen year old boys and thirteen year old girls had cabins right next to each other this summer. He told me he was going to sleep by the door. Good luck Sam, good luck.

I stayed from Saturday to Monday morning, when I flew home. In that short time, I got to see how my kid was so happy to be there, living his best life, but is fully supervised, no electronics, having face to face conversations, resolving conflicts, living with people of all different backgrounds, and it had zero to do with me. He was learning life skills, managing relationships, and figuring himself out in an environment that is safe, nurturing and most of all- fun. 

However, I don't think a parent can fully realize how important camp is at this age until they come home. E came home and the three of us did the whole download about his time at camp. We were in awe and so proud of the personal growth he came away with. It isn't just that though. When he comes home, now it's a lot of free time before school starts. He almost has a second summer. He came home August ninth and doesn't start school until September eighth. He has a month of roaming around and having to find productive things to do. 

It's a lot of just hanging out with friends, and while everyone needs downtime, it's back to pizza all day every day, if he eats at all. It's a lot of boredom and stupidity. This morning, I happen to have come upon a video of him and some friends on another friend's Instagram story of them, in a parking lot, putting Mentos in a full Coke bottle, shaking it up and throwing it to see it explode. Is it anything bad? No. It's just dumb. There are way better uses of his time. Back in the day, I guess I wouldn't have even known that's what he was doing. Now, everything goes on social media. So there he is, in all his glory, being Jackass. 

Of course, everything is a teaching moment and we had to talk to him about how someone is always filming. He may not have access to social media, but most of the kids do, and they post incessantly. He needs to be aware of what he's doing, where, and is someone filming. Good conversation, but having him here is like a hose with a thousand little leaks. You plug one, another one immediately comes up.

I would give anything to have him back on Little Bear Pond, doing Rituals, coming up with skits, white water rafting, playing cards, and doing whatever he does there that makes him count the days until he goes back. I highly suspect, so would he. 

When E comes back from Wekeela every summer, he's a better person. It's not just "sending a kid to camp" or "getting rid of him". They aren't just having them play tennis or participating in lip sync battles. The emphasis is on the whole mind, body, spirit and the connections that are part of being in this special camp community. I can't even speak to it myself because I wasn't a camper and haven't spent enough time there for specifics. I can tell by how E is when he gets home. I can tell by the videos I see, the emails I get from both E and the camp, and I can see it in the extraordinary retention of campers and staff. 

All I can say is that I feel for kids and parents who don't, won't or can't experience the magic of sleepaway camp, the way E has experienced it. E has gained so much positive from being there that I'll never be able to thank them enough for all they've given him. In this age of constant bombardment of electronics and social media, this returns him to a simpler life, a face to face life, a somewhat retro life, that unfortunately not everyone gets to experience. 

B and I watch Meatballs every summer when E leaves. The camp owners hate that we compare Wekeela in any way to Camp North Star in the movie, but for us, it's a positive. It's the relationships, the caring, the inside jokes, the heart, the way they all loved being there. The way they were all engaged because of the lack of real world distraction of likes and follows. Even if it subconscious, Wekeela has instilled in these kids the realization that they don't always need the online validation to know their worth. That, to me, is priceless. 

Thank you again Wekeela Family. It was another great summer. Hopefully, we'll have visiting day next summer and we can thank you in person. 

Camp Wekeela

Above: Nighttime Activity

Above: Singing at Campfire, see this and other songs @ethankulemusic

Above: Last Night on Little Bear Pond, Inters '22 singing

Monday, July 25, 2022

Amazon Fresh Store Review


Everyone online locally has been a buzz about the new Amazon Fresh store in Paramus. It's where the old Fairway was located. E is still at sleepaway camp, so you know, why not a Monday evening excursion for the hell of it to a supermarket. That's what all the cool kids are doing, right? 

B was like- what's with the interest in this market? I wasn't THAT interested, but I was a little curious. 

We went inside and you can't even just get in. You have to pull up your Amazon account, click through to the in-store QR code and scan it to have the gate open. Also, you have to make sure that the default payment credit card that it would charge is the one you want to use or you have to change it before you depart the store. They have a couple of regular check out stations but they don't tell you that prior to going in. I didn't know I had a choice of a regular check out. It was very confusing. 

I had brought my own bags, as I have like thirty. I definitely don't need more. But there is a display right in front of you when you go through the gate with green reusable bags that has signage saying, "Take one and fill your bag as you shop". I thought taking their bag was part of the process- that you HAD to use their bag. There was no sign that says the bags cost anything. I took one of their bags. 

There are hundreds of little hanging cameras everywhere.  Somehow, the cameras seem to know what you're picking up and they know who to charge for each item. If you take something, then don't want it, you need to put it back where you found it or you're going to get charged for it. You really don't want to touch anything for fear it's going to somehow end up on your bill. I can't even imagine coming in there with a child under, like, twelve.

I don't know if they just weren't prepared or it had been so busy in there that they didn't get a chance to restock, but I'd say they were out of 35% of the items that should've been on the shelves! There was nothing at the olive bar. Nothing at all at the hot bar. A few, like literally, FIVE items in the refrigerated bakery section- like where cake is supposed to be. B wanted frozen pizza. We saw they carry the Whole Foods 365 brand. There were maybe three different choices available. That's not because they don't carry more choices. They just didn't have the freezer stocked. Again, I don't know if they had these items on the day they opened and they're having restocking issues but it seemed more like it's a soft opening vs just being open now on the daily. 

In our mind, we were going to pick up food for dinner and dessert. Normally, we'd go to Shop Rite in Wyckoff. That Shop Rite in particular is stocked with prepared food. This Amazon Fresh store had shelving for prepared food- there just wasn't any available. Same with dessert. There were display stands that had a few store baked goods on them, but there were literally just a few clear clam shell containers with some sad looking croissants in them. B grabbed a container with some mini chocolate croissants but that's because it was either those or some processed baked goods like Ring Dings or Twinkies. 

The only "prepared" food he could readily access was the salad bar. He said there wasn't much he was interested in but he'd get some of that. We didn't understand the pricing but soon realized that the containers come in small, medium and large. He had just luckily grabbed a small container on his first try. He filled it as best he could with the things that were available to him. A small container costs $6.99, no matter how much it would weigh. I don't remember what the medium costs and the large costs $12.99. Remember, you also better not make a mistake and pick up the wrong size container, because you get charged every time you pick up a container.

We'd picked up blueberries, a party size Pringles, a 365 frozen pepperoni pizza, a twelve-pack of small gatorade, a mouth wash, the salad container, the croissants, two Lean Cuisine meals, and something else. We had a coupon for ten dollars off twenty dollars. When you get to the gate things at the end, you scan your QR from your Amazon account and your coupon(s). Then the gate opens and you can leave. But unless you have a photographic memory and the ability to add it all up mentally, you have no idea what you spent. Then it takes HOURS for you to know, and to get a receipt emailed to you. We left the store at six o'clock this evening. It's almost ten o'clock tonight and I just checked my email. The receipt came to my email at 9:41pm. About an hour ago I did check my Amazon account online and saw my purchase and the amount owed, but I'd looked a few times prior to that and it wasn't there until hours later. 

I tried to get reimbursed for the reusable bag before receiving the receipt in my email. I could pay the $0.78 or whatever, but it was on principle that I felt duped into taking it. You can't do any refunds or credits until you get the receipt. 

Was this food shopping experience any less expensive than other supermarkets? NO. I know the prices of food like The Price is Right. In fact, some of it was more expensive. Pringles are usually like $1.99 in Shop Rite. They were more in here. Blueberries were around $3.50. I feel like they're usually on sale in Shop Rite and Stop and Shop. Sometimes $1.99 a pint or buy one, get one. They didn't even have the ones I really want- the Driscoll's special giant ones. I didn't see any watermelon at all, but maybe I just missed it. The produce all looked decent, but I didn't feel like buying any besides the one pint of blueberries I got. 

None of the prices of anything seemed that great that I was compelled to buy. Shop Rite has so many sales, I almost never pay full price for Lean Cuisine. They were $4.69 each. That's high for Lean Cuisine. However, they did actually have a much larger selection of Lean Cuisine than Shop Rite and I was able to get an entree I really like, that I haven't been able to find at any other supermarket. 

I can say confidently, that I will never go back there. It isn't convenient for me to go there. They don't have the general selection of Shop Rite, and for being an Amazon store, which online, has EVERYTHING, it was a huge disappointment. I don't like feeling like I can't change my mind and put something back without fear of being charged incorrectly for it. I mean, it's great for them, because essentially they don't have to do much cleaning up to close at night, because I have to assume most people don't want to be charged for stuff they didn't actually take with them. So they're going to be careful about putting stuff back where it belongs. 

It just wasn't any better than Shop Rite, and as a brand shopper, that's way more important to me than being able to check out with my Amazon account. In fact, that's annoying because I'd have to change my default card every time I went in there and have to remember to change it back when I leave. Worse yet, whenever you change the default, you have to re-input the whole card number in to verify. I do know both card numbers, but sometimes it takes me a few minutes to remember. It's a giant pain. 

So my rating, if it was school grading, would be a D. I won't give it an F, because it was interesting? It's an interesting concept. But I also don't see how older people are going to do this. There's no way someone as technologically inept as my mother-in-law would ever be able to figure this out. It's not that it's SO difficult, but there is more thinking involved than should be in a supermarket trip. 

**I just went into my items and the only option for the reusable bag is to return it. I'm not driving to the UPS store to return it for $0.78. I'll just keep it, but I'm annoyed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

E's Journey of Tourette's Syndrome


I think the last time I wrote about E having Tourette's Syndrome was a brief mention of when he was diagnosed, finally, at the end of 2016, I wrote a blip about it in a January 2017 blog entry. Just to catch you up, after having gone through six years of twenty three doctors in approximately eight different specialties, being misdiagnosed and mis-medicated for ailments and syndromes he didn't have, I finally got to the neurologist who said, Oh, of course he has Tourette's. I knew from reading all the paperwork you sent in, but I needed to see him in person. But yes, he has Tourette's Syndrome. 

E was seven or and in second grade when I finally got that diagnosis and I could have made out with that doctor when he told me. Why? Because as a parent, you can't imagine just knowing something is wrong with your kid for SIX YEARS, but no one being able to figure it out. Then, having different doctors just throwing out what could be some of the most scary possible diagnoses there are, poking and prodding, still getting no answers, no relief, putting your kid through endless tests, medications, appointments, and getting nowhere. It was exhausting. I went big pharma, little pharma, holistic, you name it. I was ready to take him to a sweat lodge or a Salem witch.

Luckily, I knew someone who had a neurosurgeon husband at the time who recommended this particular pediatric neurologist who was the person to see. You want to know what made him different than the other three neurologists I saw before him? His office sent forty-minutes worth of paperwork I had to fill out prior to going to the appointment. Then he actually READ it before we went there. That's all. I didn't feel rushed, or like I had to quickly give him a timeline in five minutes and remember everything that had gone on in six years. He already knew. He was well versed in our history BEFORE I GOT THERE. You have NO IDEA how important that is when diagnosing a problem.

This neurologist is still like that- he takes his time. Granted, I've waited there a half hour or more to see him for our appointment. I understand though. I've been in there for our appointment for forty-five minutes. However long it takes, that's how long he spends with you. There's no just looking you over and sending you on your way. 

Back to E. When E was diagnosed in second grade, he didn't fit the criteria to medicate and we weren't looking to medicate. We just wanted to know what was going on with him. His tics weren't that bad at the time. He wasn't suffering academically, socially and the tics didn't bother him- all three of which are the criteria to medicate. He didn't really have any of the comorbidities that can go along with Tourette's, or anything we really noticed or affecting him, so medication was not on the table. Many time with Tourette's, there is ADHD, OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, and other things. He wasn't exhibiting any of these other things so we left him be. The neurologist said that Tourette's often ramps up during puberty so just to keep an eye on it and if it gets worse, to come back. 

 He still had tics, and they'd wax and wane. None of the tics really impacted him negatively and nothing was so visible that anyone bothered him about it. His standard response to us was just, these are my tics and they're just part of me. That was that. 

Until around the summer of 2020. Maybe it was the combination of puberty, Covid, the consequences of Covid, I don't know, but 2020 was rough. I don't remember if he was exhibiting more tics during quarantine but he definitely had more irritation and anger from having to quarantine and losing the second half of his fifth grade year in school. He lost all the special things that the fifth graders were supposed to get to do as the culmination of their elementary school time. However, his sleepaway camp, in Maine, was one of the few sleepaway camps that decided to open that summer. He was so happy and we were happy to let him go, even though we were nervous about Covid. They had extensive Covid protocols in place, and he'd been in quarantine so long, we were happy to let him go. 

However, due to so many camps being closed, there were a lot of kids there who were just using his camp as a place-holder and going there because their camps were not opening. There were a lot of new kids and a decent amount of those kids were not respectful of the rules and traditions of his camp. He found this to be stressful and I don't know if this exacerbated his tics or if it was just puberty or both. When he came off that bus at the end of the five weeks away, we could see tics immediately. He was blinking like crazy. He said it was bad the whole time he was there. 

We thought maybe it would just slow down in time at home. We didn't really know what to do. He never really had a visible tic like that. So we just let him be and it did slow down a bit being home. Other tics came and went but they were stronger. Middle school was starting though, which was new, and it was starting in this whole weird hybrid system with him being home every other day doing school virtually. We had a whole Covid protocol school thing to deal with and the tics weren't terrible. Being home half the time actually wasn't terrible for him. He did really well academically, not having to be sitting at a desk all day. He wasn't physically in school with his close friends because they were separated alphabetically, so he didn't even really want to be there in person. The tics took a backseat to everything going on with school and Covid. 

The end of the school year came and it was time for camp again. For the 2021 summer, they were able to go back to the normal seven week session and Ethan was back to full-time. His three close friends were also joining him there for the second three and a half week session so he was really excited. They all went and had the BEST time ever. But when he came home, he was blinking and he'd added a shoulder tic and some others. 

School started, normally. No more Covid protocols except the masking. He had the shoulder tic that with his heavy backpack was now hurting his neck and back. He wanted to go to the neurologist and talk about medication. I made an appointment. 

We went to the neurologist in October and he'd put E first on Guanfacine, which seems to be where most kids start. Of course, for E, it was a no-go. The biggest thing we were concerned about was that it would change his personality. This was horrible. It made him like a zombie. He was so tired, it was like he was sleepwalking through the day. It lessened the tics at first, but it was just exhausting him. Being tired makes his eyes blink more. So we had to take him off it. 

Then he put him on Trokendi XR starting the second week of December. That's basically time-release Topiramate. He started on 25 mg and it started to work. Less blinking. We went to 50 mg per the dosing instructions and thought it was great. We were on a roll! Shoulder tic stops. We're happy! 

Except, cue, just after the new year, his face started to break out to where he looked like he either had some kind of extreme allergic reaction or extreme acne. This is a kid who had almost perfect skin, with maybe a few blemishes in the t-zone here and there, only to look like he literally had a DISEASE on his face. It was devastating. I was besides myself. I bought him a medical grade Dr Gross LED face mask for four hundred dollars that I'll be paying off for the next six months.

E, to his credit, rolled with it. He didn't complain. He was still wearing a mask to school, via state mandate, so it was mostly covered. He just wanted to know that it would eventually go away. We didn't know what it was, whether it had to do with the medication or just unlucky pubescent acne coming on. I was up every night until the wee hours researching what could be going on. We took him to a dermatologist. The doctor didn't know exactly what it was but said it needed to be treated from the inside out, so he put him on a conservative dose of Minocycline. I told the neurologist I was taking him off the Trokendi XR because I saw a photo online of a reaction to Topiramate that looked just like what was on E's face. The neurologist didn't think the Trokendi XR caused it but he said it was fine to take him off to see if anything changed. 

As soon as I took him off the Trokendi XR, of course the tics came back full force. The Minocycline was doing nothing for his face. After two more weeks, we took him to another dermatologist for a second opinion. The new dermatologist took him off the Minocycline and put him on Bactrum. But it's a sulfa drug. B has sulfa allergy. We just had to hope E didn't also. But you wouldn't know for about two weeks on the drug to see a reaction. The doctor also shot E's face up with cortisone wherever he could. E was a trooper. He looked like a horror show and still had to go back to school. 

The mask mandate ended just as E started the Bactrum. I think having the mask off is probably good for his skin too. The Bactrum started working within a few days! We were so happy. We put him back on the Trokendi XR also because the tics were too much for him and we determined that it didn't seem to be an allergy to it. Whatever is on his face didn't go away in the three weeks he was off the Trokendi XR. With the Bactrum, he was finally starting to look like himself again after about a week and a half. We felt like with the face getting under control, we wanted to get the tics under control too, if we could. 

The Trokendi XR though, is not without it's own problems. E started the Trokendi in December and he'd had a bit of an attitude problem. Again, I chalked this up to puberty and being a thirteen year old boy. We'd spoken to him about it at one point, around when we took him off it, and he'd been better. We didn't put two and two together. When we put him back on, he'd gotten irritable again and had some surprising issues with some of his teachers. All of a sudden, I realized, I'm on the same medication, basically, for migraines. I'm kind of irritable. Maybe the Trokendi XR makes him more irritable and that's why he is more emotional and irritable and it isn't simply just puberty and hormones.

I'll take the irritability but now we're at two weeks with the Bactrum, clearing his face up, which is my main issue right now, and E said, oh, but I have this rash....

This past Sunday, the day before I'm supposed to take him for a follow up at the new dermatologist, he shows us the sulfa rash he has all over his arms and chest. It just looks like heat rash, not hives. So we say, ok, just take a Benedryl and we'll show the doctor. Of course, the Bactrum was actually working so B and I are devastated. 

I took him to the dermatologist this past Monday and he said that as long as it wasn't hives, it wasn't dangerous, and if he could push through it with antihistimines, it would be okay. But, of course, as of today, the rash was worse, and he can't. He has to stop the Bactrum. He'll stop the Bactrum, wait a week and then go back on a stronger dose of Minocycline. I'm just so afraid that if he stops the Bactrum, his face will get worse instead of better. I'm so nervous for him to be on nothing for the next week.

This whole thing- Tourette's, puberty, acne or whatever it is- it's all a dance. It's exhausting. It's like having a hose with a hundred tiny leaks and having to figure out where they are and how to fix them without making more or worse leaks. I don't know what's really interacting with what. I clear up tics, I maybe make acne. I clear up acne, I make a rash. He's on pills and he's irritable. I can't just let him tic because the tics can be painful. Or kids bother him about the tics, or the acne. I can't just have him be irritable and be an asshole to his teachers.  

It's a lot. But I wanted to share where we're at right now. People are always surprised when I tell them that E has Tourette's. Most haven't noticed. It's funny, when it's your kid, you notice every tic. Just like when it's your baby, you feel like your baby has the loudest cry of all. He has it, it's just part of his story, and most of the time, he doesn't even care. It probably makes him more empathetic to other people who have stuff out of the norm going on with them that makes them different or unique. I just wish it didn't have to impact him negatively in middle school- because we all know how middle school can suck without having differences like Tourette's and acne. 

Dr Gross LED mask

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Ethan's Sock Drive for the Homeless

Ethan is doing a sock drive for his Bar Mitzvah service project. I said I'd post it here since there is a link to an amazon wish list if anyone wants to donate socks by purchasing that way. Here is the flyer he is giving out door to door and the link to the wish list- 

Ethan's Sock Drive on Amazon

So, if you'd like to donate and you're local, you can donate in the bin at our house, or you can have them sent directly from Amazon to us and he will bring them to CUMAC the week before his Bar Mitzvah.  THANK YOU!

CUMAC (if you want to read more about it, click the link- it's an amazing organization)

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Bad News and Empathy


Our plates are pretty full these days with bad news. It's everywhere we turn. 

Ukraine civilians are being bombed out of their country by a madman. It's the largest refugee crisis since World War II. You can't turn on the news without seeing the atrocities going on there.Which also means, it's here. It's not just there. We have Ukranian people here. Friends, family, people who have friends and family. And what happens there doesn't just stay there. It affects us here. You can try to stay in your bubble and ignore it if you so choose, because that's what people are good at these days, but everyone will be touched in some way or another by what goes on globally.

We also have plenty of our own bad news going on here in the United States besides for what is global adjacent. Covid is still here. People are still getting sick. While Omicron might be a lighter form of it, I'm literally watching on the news right now how there are long term effects of getting any form of Covid that are coming out now. 

Then, we have Texas and Florida who are fighting each other for the worst states for the LGBTQia population and those who love them. My husband and son can joke all they want but when I say that these are two of the worst places on the planet, where everything bad happens, I'm not kidding in the least. You couldn't give me a free house in either state. I certainly wouldn't raise a kid in either one.

I'm horrified and disgusted to say that yesterday, the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which prohibits any discussion about sexual orientation or gender identification in the state's primary schools, passed in the Florida legislature, which means it gets to Governor Death-santis's desk, and he's expected to sign it. (He may have already- I don't know) Probably with glee. 

And in Texas, there is just an unrelenting assault on trans rights. I personally know parents with gofundme accounts and social media pages dedicated to getting their families out of the state before possibly facing persecution just for living. 

This doesn't sound much different to me than having to flee countries for simply being Jewish. 

Make no mistake, if you still vote GOP in any election, you're saying you don't give any F's about anyone but yourself. There is no such thing as fiscally conservative when people are fighting for their lives. When kids die from this law being passed, just know, and you've voted GOP anywhere, for any reason, you have their blood on your hands. So if you like to fancy yourself pro-life, just be aware, that won't be the case. Those who are truly pro-life actually care about the lives already in existence. Not just those of the unborn.

I also have to laugh, or cry, about all these people who have been going on and on about how disgusting it was to make kids wear masks all this time. How abusive it was, how unfair it is that they couldn't be a spectator at their kids sporting events, and maskless on top of it, when people are literally fighting for their lives. In Ukraine, in Florida, in Texas. People mocked kids and adults over a thin piece of cloth, they bitched and complained, when others are sleeping on concrete, with only what they could carry, wondering if they'll ever see their spouse or kids again. As their homes, school, livelihoods, friends, and families, have been bombed into oblivion. People bitched about freeing the smiles when others won't or don't have the freedom now to even discuss who they are, or live as whom they are. 

Please, with your masks. Seems pretty stupid, the absolute outrage, over masks, when there seems to be much bigger problems in the world. If you think masks were abusive, disgusting, & taking away freedoms, I certainly hope you're never in the position to have to flee a country on a moments notice. Or fear legal retribution and the detonation of your family, just because you support your kid's gender rights.

I read an article this morning about the correlation between teens feeling the pressure for perfection and dying by suicide. One of the things mentioned was teenagers being required to do hundreds of hours of community service, where the author noted, quite sarcastically, that obviously forcing kids to do all that service must produce empathetic adults. 

So I wonder, seriously, how DO we produce actual empaths. It seems that's what we're lacking. How did we get here? We have entitled adults care more about kids being freed from masks than we do about kindergartens being bombed. There are parents who care more about a kid possibly reading about rape in a book than someone actually BEING raped. Some people care more about what pronouns people use than how kids are feeling, whether they're suicidal, or whether they're comfortable in their own skin. I don't see how the parenting from humans like this is going to create any wealth of caring or empathy. All I see is people looking for a fight over control- how to control others. I don't see people caring how to best look out for all the greater good, I see people only looking out for themselves and only caring about what affects them.

How do we get adults to take their puritanical blinders off and stop trying to drive us straight into the Handmaid's Tale? What are these people afraid of? Why are we going backwards? I'll tell you one big reason. Because when there is too much progress, white supremacy and bigotry have too much to lose. They're going to hold on with everything they've got. 

Donate: Nova Ukraine

Monday, February 14, 2022

Pretty Woman


We all know that scene in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts goes into the store on Rodeo Drive, in her whole hooker get-up, to spend the money for a dress, and the snooty ladies don't think she had the money to purchase in their boutique so they shun her. 

I had a moment like that this past week, while shopping for a dress for a milestone event coming up. The whole experience of dress shopping is humbling to begin with. The whole harsh light of the dressing room, wiggling into things, not being able to get out of things. That moment when you get that dress on just a hair past the place where you get the feeling you may not be able to get it off. Then you have Carrie Bradshaw-trapped-in-the-wedding-dress-hives-moment where she just rips it off, except you don't rip it off, you just see your life flash before your eyes as you somehow manage to get that godforsaken dress of your now sweating body. 

One might think that bathing suit shopping is more humbling. The difference is, with bathing suits, you can buy a bathing suit, and wear it to a pool or beach, but never actually HAVE to be seen in it. You could wear a cover up the whole time. The bathing suit doesn't need to be a focal point. It's there in case you need to get wet. 

A dress though, a dress is the main event. Everyone is looking for the dress. B keeps asking me goofy questions like, if he's supposed to match my dress. What color suit is he supposed to wear? My answer is going to be the same every time. NO ONE CARES. Not because it's B, but because no one cares what guys are wearing! Suits are suits are suits! Yeah, there are some differences and whatnot, but for the most part, it's a suit and no one really gives a hoot. 

I didn't know I was going to go into Neiman Marcus when I did. I stopped into the mall because I was driving home from somewhere else, passing it, and figured I'd pop in to see what dress stores were in there these days. I haven't been in Garden State Plaza in forever. Since Covid, I'm just rarely in the mall. If we're not going to Grand Lux then I really have no reason to be in there. 

I don't get dressed to go to the mall. Or anywhere. I have many reasons. I like to be incognito on the daily. I think I've said before, I have this odd ability to be so dressed down that no one recognizes me. Or maybe there is just such a huge contrast between how I look during the day to how I could look to go out in the evening. Or, my neurologist has changed my face so much with my Botox for migraine I'm pretty much anonymous. At any rate, I was wearing a hoodie, leggings, sneakers, and a beanie with all my hair in it. I don't like hair fly-aways so I just tucked all my hair in there. Being it was Garden State Plaza on a Monday, if I wasn't wearing pants I could've been Orthodox. I choose to go out like this also because I don't WANT to be approached by sales staff. I don't want help, I don't want questions. I just want to move along as if I was invisible.

There's this brand of high end dresses, I don't even remember the name off-hand, but I saw some online, secondhand, because I'd never pay retail for these, but I needed to know how the brand fits first. It has Italian sizing so in my mind, that could mean it runs small. Sometimes the brand is on Rue La La, so I wanted to know what size I'd be. I knew the brand is sold at Neiman's so I walked in. 

I found the brand and a dress in that brand in the right size. A saleswoman came toward me. I got looked up and down with disdain like I'd never seen. She asked me if I wanted a fitting room. I said sure but I'm going to come in right then. She looked pained. When we got to the dressing room she proceeded to tell me that I needed to step into the dress because there were no zippers. I looked at her curiously like she was a zoo animal. Did this woman think that just because I may have forgone one shower in over twenty-four hours that I also forgot how to put clothes on? That I couldn't recognize the absence of any zipper apparatus? 

The dress fit, so now I knew my size in this brand if I ever see it secondhand somewhere. But I didn't love the fabric these dresses are often made of, so I was glad I saw, felt and tried it on in person. 

I went to like eight stores that day. I went to Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Bou Bou, Bloomingdales Outlet, Nordstrom Rack, Marshall's, Burlington, and Saks Off Fifth. The next day I went to Bloomingdales and some other store in another mall. Every night for weeks I'd been scouring the internet. I knew the style and color I want. It just didn't to exist in real life. Finally, I ordered like eight hundred dollars worth of dresses from Nordstrom because I knew I could at least return whatever didn't fit. AND I ordered something for under seventy dollars from the UK. That one, I'll just have to keep. But if it fits, I can wear it to something else. 

But damn. Trying on dresses sucks. The clothes on and off. Nothing looks good in those dressing rooms.  Carrying around shoes. Spanx. Strapless bras. It's a scene, alright. In Saks Off Fifth, I saw a cute IRO dress that was marked down to around two hundred dollars from a thousand. It was small but it seemed to have some give to it, and in my mind, I figured I'd just try it on for the hell of it. I didn't even really want it but I wanted to see what a thousand dollar dress would look like. 

What did you think I was going to say happened?? Of course I got stuck in that sucker. The second it got just past the point of no return. I was thinking, what do I do? Do I call someone? Could I even tell someone this? Does the store ever have something like this happens??

It took me some extra time but I managed to get myself out of that nightmare. And into the fresh hell of a different store in a different mall. 

In the end, I actually did somehow, magically find a dress, AND a back up. I even found shoes and a bag. I'm actually most impressed by bargain finding. I found E a shirt and shoes in person, and I ordered him a suit. Fingers crossed that the suit fits. I'm so glad the process is over because if I never have to see the inside of a dressing room again, I'll take it. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wekeela 2021: They Did It Again


E has been home from sleepaway camp for about ten days now. It's been a whirlwind of chaos, Axe-bombing and laundry. I would've written sooner, but if you've read my previous blogs about the return home from camp, it's sort of like having a newborn and going from zero to one again. The first year his bags consisted of twigs, dirt, rocks, a ton of crap that wasn't his and much of his stuff gone missing. Last year was somewhat better after I looked like that Taylor Armstrong meme with the cat the first time. This time was leaps and bounds above the past two times but still involved wet towels and foul smells. 

Enough about me and how I'm affected by his return. I'm focused on the negative aspect of his return because there's so much positive about what goes on there are camp for him. People who don't get camp always ask if I'm ready for him to come home. If I miss him. If I'm excited for him to come home. I don't really know how to answer truthfully without them thinking I'm a sociopath. I know they don't get it but the real answer is a big fat no. Why? For WHAT? What is he coming back to? 

Should he come back to roam around downtown, going to CVS to buy candy to shove in his face? Can't do that at Wekeela. They don't allow packages and don't allow parents to send candy. Even though parents decided to just do their own thing this year, trying to hide candy contraband in tampon boxes and pillows. Too bad they got caught, candy confiscated, life threatening allergies of other campers they weren't thinking about, avoided. I'm happy to have a camp that doesn't allow packages. One less thing to think about and less garbage for him to put into his body. He does that enough for the ten months he's here.

Should he have come back to endless news of the Delta variant of Covid raging, things shutting down again, and people getting sick, when they had a lovely little bubble of wellness, not even having to think about Covid? I loved not having to think about where he was, what he was doing, who he was with, and the possibility of any virus transmitted.

Or, should he have come back to the wettest, grossest July in NJ since like the early 1900s, where I couldn't even go to the town pool? Although now, he's come back to pretty much the same weather in August that we had in July. 

He left on the last day of school, June 24. We don't start school until September 9th. When people say to me- "I can't believe you send your kid away for the whole summer", they clearly have no idea what they're talking about. He comes home generally around August 10-12th. That means he basically has another whole MONTH of summer before school starts here. He basically gets TWO summers. An awesome time at camp, then a whole month to be bored enough here to be so grateful he gets to go to camp. So for anyone in NJ on the fence about sending your kid, which you don't even have to do for the full seven weeks, but they STILL have SO. MUCH. TIME. to...summer with you. Trust me, I have plenty of time to tell him to pick up his stuff, be home by a certain time, be a chauffeur, etc,

So far, he's been back ten days. He's been in a theater camp this week, thank goodness, from early morning until mid-afternoon. Then he comes home and if I don't tell him to go do something, where do I find him? On his phone. There are no phones, no video games, and no internet access at Wekeela! I didn't have to read texts, receives FaceTime calls to my phone (don't ask), and hear the pinging of group texts all day and night. 

He has rules for screen time and phone use when he's home. But for seven glorious weeks I didn't have to even look at that thing. It could've been a deck of cards. He didn't look at it. We all ignored it. He was seven weeks phone free and better for it. I have the screen time thing set on his phone but I haven't gotten around to changing it from when he was in school. Like I said above, he left for camp on the last day of school. I never had to set it for during the school day hours. I don't have time to police him all day. If I don't think about it or he's not in front of me, like today, he gets away with more time than I'd like until I get to changing it. It's just an annoyance I wish I didn't have to deal with. 

Back to camp. This was a crazy summer. There were employee shortages everywhere. I know restaurants had that problem and then I heard about camps. A friend of a friend had to pick her kid up after six days at sleepaway camp in New Hampshire because they didn't have the staff to keep the camp running. I read an article in the New York Times that said there were numerous camps that had to close because of staff shortages. Camp is not somewhere you want them getting by on bare bones. Another camp I know with what I thought was an impeccable reputation had like thirty-five cases of Covid run through the camp. All I know is that Wekeela went on for the seven weeks with enough staff to stay open, fully operational, and no Covid. 

This summer was the first time E had any of his friends from town come as campers. Three of his friends came for the three and a half week second session. I was a little nervous how that would be since this is his place. However, it turned out great. Two of the boys are his closest friends. He was friendly with the third boy but they weren't close. It turned out they became very bonded after being there together and now that boy is going for the full seven weeks next summer. And he was the one whose mom was the most unsure he'd want to go back because he'd never gone to sleepaway camp, wasn't that keen on going in the first place, and just doesn't get that excited about much. But, he LOVED it and had the best time. 

Especially, in this weird time of Covid, I feel like sleepaway camp is one of the best, most important gifts you could give your child. After a year and a half of virtual or hybrid learning, fear of getting sick, possibly losing friends and loved ones, political fighting, etc, kids don't even know how to relate to each other. It's like in Footloose at the dance when the kids are all just sitting there until Wren gets everyone up. Kids who used to be somewhat normal, or whatever is normal for tweens and teens, don't even know how to talk to each other! They've barely been in the same room for eighteen months or so. It's really sad. There has been a huge uptick in anxiety, depression, anger, lack of confidence, etc. They need a win. The win can simply come in the form of normalized socialization. Now that we're going back to uncertainty in what school will look like AGAIN this year, they are going to need camp more than ever.

If you're going to send your kid to sleepaway camp, you want to send them to a place who has managed to do it really well over basically two Covid summers. Kids are really messed up emotionally from being schooled virtually, being home with their families almost full time. Who knows what they've been dealing with since this mess started in 2020. To be able to send your kid away to some kind of normalcy, where they can re-learn how to interact with their peers of both their own gender and the opposite, is priceless. It's something we'd have taken for granted in the past, but so needed more than ever now. 

Every summer my son comes home there is more and more personal growth. This summer was no different. He said he had a great time. He wishes he was still there. Three out of three of his friends had a great time. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. All four boys are bonded in a different, better, stronger way than before they left that only comes from living together for that time, in that special camp way. Sharing their inside jokes, color war, and of course, wearing each others clothes, much to my chagrin.

Every time someone says to me- "I could never send my kid away. I'd miss him/her too much...". My answer is always- "It's not about you". And it isn't. Sure. I miss him. But I also know what I'm doing for him. Giving him. It's a gift of independence and maturity that I couldn't replicate in any other way. It's also the only time in his entire life, I know he's fully taken care of, and I have absolutely nothing to do with it. And being able to grow at Wekeela, where they teach and believe in becoming better people- I couldn't be sending him to a more amazing place. 

The only thing I hope for in the future, is being able to return to having visiting day. Since Covid, B sort of became adept at using the hair clippers and E could definitely use a mid-camp haircut. Plus, I LIKE TO GO THERE. B thinks foregoing the trip to Maine is totally fine. I LIKE IT and I WANT TO GO. It's our one chance to see him in his element and I enjoy it. 

If you're ready for your kid to have the summer of their lives, and then by extension you to have the same, I'll be happy to talk your ear off about all things sleepaway camp, Wekeela, and E would be more than eager to hook up with your kid to do the same. Psst- Earlybird enrollment is now open - I know you probably think it's really soon to be thinking about next summer, but it certainly isn't. Before you know it, you'll be wondering what your kids are going to be doing and it will be too late. I'll never forget learning this lesson in pre-school. Signing E up for only three days going into the 2's class because "he seems so little". Only to get there and he totally could've done all five days. Except I was shut out by then. I had to scramble to figure out what to do with him for those other two days a week because he wasn't a "sit around" kind of child, ever. Grab your kid's spot now! Camp Wekeela

Thank you Cafluns, Wekeela, and Maine, for yet another amazing summer! 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Life Lessons


I consider myself fairly educated. I have a high school diploma. I would say it's from what was I would consider a mediocre school in Bergen County NJ school district in the nineties. New Jersey has always ranked pretty high as far as public schools go, and Bergen County even higher, so even mediocre is probably pretty good in comparison to other places. I also have a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Rider University, with minors in Women's Studies (not sure if that's still a thing) & Social Work. Notice though, none of those say doctor. I am not a doctor. Of anything. So I don't try to play one. 

When I was pregnant with E, I had been on message boards for ages already. I was already reading too much. And you actually CAN read too much. The internet is a double edged sword as we've learned. I chose a pediatrician based on not wanting someone old-school, that would push off any concerns I might have.

I chose a holistic pediatrician or something like that. I thought I had chosen the best. At first, it was great. Until it wasn't. My kid had real problems and his doctor was more interested in being on Good Morning America than being available. Then they thought they'd just solve everything with some tea tree oil and massage. Yeah, no, that wasn't going to cut it. But while I was still with them, it was also the height of the MMR shot = autism panic. And I remember those of us in the more holistic camp being in the "we'll do our own research" camp and being with this kind of practice because they spread out vaccines and weren't all gung ho about vaccines in the first place. I think they even took non-vaccinated kids. I don't know because I wasn't all that knowledgeable about the whole anti-vax movement at the time. I was only concerned about the MMR. 

It's funny though, back then, those of us going to the holistic practice thought we were doing so much more, with our research bullshit, and being so careful, when it probably didn't do anything and it was just more money spent in co-pays. Back then, at least of people I knew, it were the more politically conservative/registered Republicans going to the old-school doctors and the more crunchy Dems going to the holistic guys. Funny how the tables have turned and it's the right wingnuts who are anti-vax now. Not particularly people I know, but in general. I don't associate with wingnuts of any kind as my social media friends list gets smaller and smaller....

All I can remember is that by the time E needed the MMR, the pharmaceutical companies weren't breaking up the shots anymore and he just had to get whatever he had to get. Maybe he got it a little delayed but he got it, and he was fine. I was nervous but it was what it was and it had to get done, probably for school. He was in preschool at the time. I left that practice shortly after because he had something wrong with him that they weren't figuring out or curing with tea tree oil or some other holistic measure, I could never see his doctor, and I was fed up with the whole scene. 

Back to our own research. I learned a valuable life lesson. What research was I going to do, and where? The internet? The internet chock full of false information, information on any side of an argument I want to find? I realized- I'm not a doctor. I pick a doctor for a reason. I have to trust that doctor. Do doctors make mistakes? Sure. But generally speaking, they have more knowledge in their field than I do. And definitely more knowledge than the average person I went to high school with, that has ZERO higher education, who has spoken to NO doctors they actually know and trust, but getting their medical info from Dr. Internet. Or getting info from question quack doctors with shady reputations from the internet. Or from self appointed clergy somehow passing themselves off as some kind of medical gurus as well. 

Even if you don't trust doctors as a general rule- We're still in a freaking global pandemic. Even if you think people who are dying under the diagnosis of Covid had underlying causes that ultimately made the Covid more deadly to them or whatever conspiracy you're swallowing, you still can't dispute that 4.41 MILLION PEOPLE ARE DEAD worldwide and it's COVID RELATED. Covid adjacent. In some way, Covid responsible. Covid is in there SOMEWHERE. So wouldn't it stand to reason that you might trust science a little more than a pastor, priest, Candace Owens, Dr. Google, your chiropractor (NOT A DOCTOR. By the way, notice chiropractors are notoriously anti-vax for years. Might it be…because THEY CAN'T PRESCRIBE MEDS?? I love a good adjustment, but still not an infectious disease expert in any way, shape or form. #sorrynotsorry)? Dr. Google told my son his stomachache last month was cancer, so.... #itwasnt

It wasn't bad enough my son had to lose all the special things of fifth grade. Which, by extension, we lost as parents. Then, sixth grade had to suck. Now, we're going to go into seventh grade, which I thought was going to be more normal, only to have the Delta variant of the virus and who know what other mutation, because people had to do their own research or none at all. We have people not getting the vaccine AND refusing to mask. Hundreds of thousands of people are DEAD, but they're still calling it a hoax, not that bad, a government created scam, and I don't know what. As it's still decimating businesses, filling hospitals, and killing people. 

B and I got vaccinated in April. E is twelve and got vaccinated in June. We did what we were asked to do. What we felt was our civic duty to do. What was for us to be safe and for the greater good of all the people. I'm not mad that the vaccine didn't work. I'm angry that people have been so selfish, stupid, and short sighted that they didn't get it and now this thing has mutated and mutated to where what we did could possibly be practically useless. So, when I say, I don't care what happens to the unvaccinated, it seems callous and cold, but if everyone who could have gotten vaccinated did, as soon as they could have, we wouldn't be back to square one now. If they want to pissed at anyone that we're back to being asked or told to mask or being told to stay home again, they only have themselves to blame.

Speaking to those angry at being told or asked to mask again. I'm baffled by these people. I just watch their arguments. I don't feel I even need to get into it. I'm vaccinated. My kid is vaccinated. I have had two vaccinated friends who have tested positive recently. Breakthrough cases, as they're called. They've been sick, but they didn't need to go to the hospital and obviously haven't died. I feel like B, E and Me- we're vax'd - we won't die. So while I don't enjoy a mask, I've enjoyed not being sick of any kind until about three weeks ago, so if a mask kept sickness at bay, whatever, it's fine. We follow directions. If we're told to mask, we mask. If we don't have to, we don't. It's NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. I'd bet anyone, the KIDS don't care about wearing the masks. It's just the weirdo vigilante parents who have made it their pet cause.

However- when I'm watching their anti-mask crazy on social media, first, I want to ask when and where they got their doctorate. I don't know any of them to be any brighter than anyone else so I'm curious where the pulled this "it's their choice" out of their bunghole. No, no. It isn't really a choice. It's putting you, your kids, and other people at risk. I guess it's a choice, but it's a choice that affects others. Like smoking. Not like, it's my body, my choice, in terms of abortion which really only affects you and your family. Actually, NOT having abortions affects us all adversely. Because that's just more people, bigger carbon footprint, more money for resources needed, blah blah. But whatever. I'll stop on that one.

Second, for those with kids too young to vaccinate but still are anti-mask, you see the news, you see kids on ventilators. You see hospitals packed with kids now. Do you not believe your own eyes or ears? Do you just think your kids will magically escape it? Not get that sick? Not sure what the motivation is here. Like, what is worse about the mask than your kid on a vent in a hospital? Or with an illness that has unknown long term effects.

Lastly, some of these people I've seen all of a sudden vehemently anti-mask have never been political, or have opinions about anything of substance, at least publicly. I wouldn't even know if they vote because they've never posted or said anything either way. I'm fascinated, with all of the atrocities of the world- this, THIS, is the cause they decide to take up? One that doesn't even make any sense? I could see if they wanted to get all up in arms about Afghanistan....

The ones on Facebook though, putting up their lawn signs- At least give the reasons to back up why they're anti-mask. I haven't seen one good reason yet, that makes medical, parental, scientific, etc sense. I've seen "free the smiles" which is cute and all I guess. But I'm not really into freeing smiles at the expense of life. And again, I don't really care for my kid, personally. He's vaccinated! He's not going to die. He might get sick, which would suck. But he's most likely not going to end up on a vent in a hospital. At least at the moment, that we know. He has, from the medical information I've received, pretty decent protection. 

The rest of these kids- little ones and the ones his age with no vaccine- they have NOTHING. Except what they do have- parents who believe stuff like microchipping, magnetization, and other conspiracies putting them in harms way, on some kind of farkakte dipshit mission to free the freakin' smiles. Oh, I think I read one of the reasons was some BS about breathing their own carbon dioxide? #debunked #stillnotadoctor #noideawhaturtalkingabout

*I just scrolled by a Facebook article or newsbreak that they're protesting in Wayne, NJ. That it's not about the mask, it's about being forced, choices being taken away... I've also heard parents use the argument that the government doesn't know better than parents. Uh, yes, yes they do. Clearly. Just being a parent doesn't magically make you smart. I can tick off a list longer than most kids Christmas lists of dumb parents I know. Parents that shouldn't be able to decide what to give their kids for lunch let alone make medical decisions that affect their kids and other people's kids. It's a piece of cloth. Get over it.

This mega-maga-moron I know, who IS political online, let's call her Eva Braun, because that's who I picture when I see her write anything, literally wrote on someone else's Facebook page: "There is going to be such an increase in depression and social issues in all these kids who don't see smiles at all during the day. It's no joke". Well, asshat, guess what would REALLY cause an increase in depression in kids?? DEAD FRIENDS, FAMILY, TEACHERS!! JFC, I can't.

You know what? If your kid needs to see smiles so badly, send them to sleepaway camp. If you need a recommendation for one where they manage to make a maskless, Covid-free bubble for seven weeks, I have a great one for you...they can openly smile to their heart's content in another ten months. *Unlike the ones that had to CLOSE or after days or weeks due to staff shortages from the ripple effect of Covid or had COVID itself running through. 

The governor of NJ had to be responsible, as Covid cases are ramping up, and mandate masks for the start of school. People are furious and I've seen people I know ready to home school. They're angry and starting riots over keeping your children safe. Bye girl bye. You're on the wrong side of the debate. Someone is trying to keep your unvaccinated kids SAFE. Trying to keep immunocompromised kids safe. Immunocompromised parents safe.

Does someone need to hypnotize you with that information? Speak it in tongues? Get Tucker Carlson tied up and say it? WHAT??? What will get through to you? 

This isn't like trying to get you to like liver and onions. No one should like that. No one LIKES masks. It's just a necessary evil thanks you people in the first place who want to do your own research.  If you'd have gotten vaccinated in the first place - WE WOULDN'T BE IN THIS MESS. 

But please, go ahead and homeschool! I'm thrilled for you to take your unvaccinated kids out of the schools. And for you to have to see how very f'ing difficult it actually is to TEACH CHILDREN. You know you can't just hand them an iPad and call it a day, right? RIGHT?? Good luck to you. I'm sure your homeschool pod will be very bright considering this brain trust you're getting your information from.

Then there are the ones threatening to move out of Jersey to Florida - to DeathSantis's state. BYE. Don't let the door hit you in the ass. I mean, personally, I think Florida should fall into the ocean, but whatever. Feel free to move to that maskless bastion of stupid any time you're ready. We can use less congestion.

I JUST saw on Twitter some other putz write something like- I didn't get vaccinated because we don't know the long term effects of the vaccine. This was in response to a story about some unvaccinated conservative radio host in grave condition, asking for people to pray for a miracle.  *Update* He's dead now. No thoughts and prayers needed.

Well. Let's see. WE KNOW THE LONG TERM EFFECTS OF COVID CLEARLY COULD BE DEATH. So, which are you gambling with? I had the vaccine. So far, so good. No third boob. No extra horns outside the ones I was born with. 

So why did I write this? I don't know. I know I'm not changing any minds. I just had to get it out I guess. Instead of yelling at people in the shower. Or yelling at them on Facebook. I get to say whatever I want here and I don't have to take any comments.  Darwinism will take care of the rest. 

And if instead, you need someone to be nice and stroke your hair as an appeal to you, which I apparently can't do, listen to this lady. She's nicer than I am. 

Or you can read this one and see how doctors are feeling at this point - because this is how they deserve to feel.

Sure, if you don't want to get vaccinated, wear a mask, or have your kids wear masks, that's your "right". Just don't cite science, FOX News talking heads, Facebook research, and freeing the smiles as why. Come up with something....real.


Read here what scared Governor Abbott, who consistently downplayed Covid did once HE tested positive. Oh the hypocrisy…

Read here about South Carolina Republican leader who spread coronavirus conspiracy theories. He's dead now. 

Texas GOP leader- he's dead too. 

Young, unvaccinated father- 36, dead, with no underlying conditions. #waytogoAlabama

A horror scene....