Category Archives: Parenting

My New Year’s Resolution this Year: No More Resolutions!

No New Year's ResolutionsThere is one topic of conversation today that dominates all others: New Year’s resolutions.

Correction. For this year only, everyone’s talking about surviving the Fiscal Cliff. However, a close second is the aforementioned New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’m boycotting.

Every year on January 1st I vow to eat healthier and to exercise more. It’s one of those blood oath vows that I am 100% certain will stick. My goal is to lose 20 lbs., which is stupidly unrealistic because in order to maintain 110 lbs., I would have to live on a diet of diluted vegetable broth and run a half marathon on a daily basis. Frankly, I could care less how much I weigh as long as I lose this jiggly abdomen I’ve acquired this year and have arms strong enough to paint a ceiling without taking a break every five minutes.

I’m not going to call it a resolution. But I’m definitely doing more planks and eating less popcorn.

I also think I’m going to get more organized. It actually is a necessity because the clutter is clogging up the good stuff I can’t find. I keep meaning to make the transition from paper Day Planner to Google Calendar so the rest of the family can see what I’ve planned for them without having to decipher my chicken scratch.

Every year I hope that the coming year will be the one that gets us out of debt. This year I’m more realistic. Short of winning lotto, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I just plan to keep what I’m doing – paying my bills on time, juggling balance transfer deals, and only buying what I absolutely need. There are a lot of folks who are too poor to even accomplish that goal, so I absolutely feel like one of the fortunate ones. Of course I still wouldn’t turn down that lotto win.

Maybe I’ll eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, and pay off some debt in 2013, but I’m not going to make a deal with the devil to do it. If I fail, I’m not going to kick myself, single-handedly devour an entire Boston cream pie, toss out my Thighmaster, haphazardly throw the contents of my entire garage into a rent-a-dumpster or run through the mall like a banshee throwing my Visa card at everything in sight.

It’s the resolution relapse that bites you in the butt every time.

When exploring a list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, I realize that there’s a bunch that I already do. I’ve never smoked, I already quit drinking, I tell my kids and husband everyday that I love them, I volunteer, I recycle, and I already went back to school. I’d like to learn more Spanish than “¿dónde está el baño?and “con queso por favor,” but if I don’t master the language this year, I can at least practice rolling my “R’s.”

Many people put travel among their list of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t, because it would cancel out the previous paying-off-debt goal.

Some aim for a better job. I actually like my job, and my boss pays me well, but I could use some extra hours in the off-season. I can aim for that, but I’m not going to call it a resolution. It’s more like making some phone calls to see if there’s any freelance work to be had.

Wait. I already do that.

Another typical resolution is to learn something new.  If I had the time, I’d do that more often, but I figure that I’ll have plenty of time for that in the old folks’ home.

A resolution that’s popping up more these days is vowing to manage stress. I could use a little more of that one, but since my bad bout of shingles last year, I’ve really been trying to get enough sleep and not get freaked out by the things I can’t control. So I guess I’ve been sticking to that last year’s resolution. Done.

Here’s what I really want to do in 2013:

I want to write more Facebook comments.

I want to accept that other parents won’t become more courteous drivers just because I roll my eyes at them when they double park at school pick up.

I want to watch more Jon Stewart.

I want to quit obsessing over gas prices.

I want to take a bath one day.

I want to find a better hiding place to store my son’s coloring pages than the recycling bin.

I want to dye my hair before my roots are an inch long.

I want to beat my kids in a game of Apples to Apples.

I don’t want any of my blogs to be stinkers.

Sometimes I just want to do nothing.

I’m hoping to do all these things in 2013. I’m just not going to call them resolutions.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Illness, Kids, Parenting

Mary Had a Little Dog ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

My husband Tom is a huge animal lover. In his early 20’s he worked for a veterinarian tending to beloved sick and wounded pets, and later he was employed at the Wildlife Way Station caring for wild animals that had been abandoned in the city. He tells a very funny story about how he survived the low pay by eating Monkey Chow.  Maybe one day he’ll write about it in his blog Middle Age Metal Head.

Like Indiana Jones, he’s not terribly fond of snakes, but with the exception of his lukewarm enthusiasm for that not-warm reptile, Tom loves all God’s creatures except for one: little dogs. He really hates them.

His disdain for these small fluffy balls of joy came into conflict with the desire of my daughter Mary who’s been pining for a little dog for years. We currently have two dogs – a German Shepherd named Jasmine, and an Australian Shepherd called Spike. They weigh in at 65 and 55 lbs. respectively, and although they’re nowhere near the size of Great Danes or St. Bernards, they are sizeable dogs that could scare away any home invasion.

Although I was raised with mid-sized mutts, my siblings and their kids today are primarily adopting purebred miniatures. And unlike the dogs of our childhood who were secluded to the yard, the house, or the foot of our bed, these doggies accompany their masters everywhere. My niece Kattie is planning to have her Mini Yorkshire Toby serve as the ring bearer at her wedding. Just like in the G/PG movies, my sister Tammie used to sneak her Maltese around in her purse wherever she went, except for at home when Lacey would live in her cleavage. Lacey passed away recently, which was very sad. I know my sister loves me more than almost anything in the world, but I feel fairly certain that she cried over Lacey much longer than she’ll ever cry over my death.

Mary loves to go to her Aunt Tammie’s house. My sister has a huge yard with several dogs of all sizes and even though three of her four kids are grown and have moved out of the house, Tammie’s constantly babysitting their basset hounds or boxers. It’s always so heartbreaking if one of them has puppies. Mary begs and pleads to take one home, but Tom has been insistent. He calls them “rat dogs,” and says that the whole collection of toy dogs at Tammie’s house wouldn’t weigh as much as one of our dogs. I’m not sure why that matters, but it seems to really irk him.

But Mary has been persistent. This week she turned 12, and she has been begging for a small dog for her birthday. Tom started to cave a little and suggested that she start feeding, watering and walking our dogs and cleaning up the poop in the yard. He thought Mary might whine a bit, but she didn’t. She scooped up those stinky piles with gusto. Tom reluctantly agreed to a home invasion from a little rat dog.

Mary started looking online at the pet adoption sites, studying the little orphan’s names and preferences (Captain likes to catch balls; Tiny enjoys having her tummy rubbed), and of course breeds (Chihuahuas and Poodles not allowed – a hard limit for Tom). Tom originally demanded that the dog must be at least 20 lbs., which to Mary and me seemed like a medium-sized dog. I figured that any dog that could fit into Pampers Cruisers Diapers would definitely not be classified as “little.” But we wore him down, and Mary searched for pups that were Pampers Size 1 and 2.

Every day she asked if she could go after school and find her new dog, but I was swamped with work and kept postponing it. I finally told her when she was off school for Veteran’s Day that Tom would take her. She couldn’t have been more excited had it been her own birthday. Unfortunately, it turned out that the shelters were closed for the holiday and she wouldn’t be getting one after all. She came home and cried, which meant that she was really, REALLY heartbroken because it takes a lot to make that girl cry.

I told her we’d go the week of Thanksgiving while she was off school, and she couldn’t wait for the day. She had her eye on a Terrier named Samantha at the Burbank Animal Shelter. I bought her a dog bed from Costco, and we drove over to see if Samantha could possibly be the pup that would be her new best friend.

However, the shelter had some stipulations. We had to come back with the whole family to see how Samantha got along with everyone – a nearly impossible task since everyone always has something going on, and the shelter closes each day at 5:00. We were also to bring Spike and Jasmine along to see what they thought of her, probably to make sure they wouldn’t immediately swallow the little dog whole. If it was a good fit for everyone, then we had to schedule an appointment for the next week to get her spayed. After that, we might be able to take her home.

It was truly amazing the number of hoops we were going to have to jump through to adopt a dog that was already on death row.

The next day was Mary’s actual 12th birthday. I still had too much work to take a break, but Mary really, really, REALLY wanted a little dog, so I shoe horned a couple of hours by bending the laws of time – a superpower I try not to overuse. I called the Van Nuys Animal Shelter to find out if they had the same rules as Burbank.

“So even if we find a dog we like, we can’t take it home until we can get the whole family here, right?”

There was a pause on the other line. “No. Why do you need the whole family?”

“But do you still need us to bring our dogs there?” I asked.

Another pause. Then very slowly: “We don’t want your dogs here.”

An hour later, we were taking home Bella, an adorable 1-year old terrier mix weighing in at a dainty 8 lbs. Because her shots were up to date and she had already been spayed, the dog was ready to roll.

Despite himself, I think Tom really likes her. He’s nicknamed Bella “Little Turd,” and she even comes when he calls her. Bella holds her own with our big dogs, and if you ask Mary how she likes her new dog, her voice turns sweet as honey. “I love her,” she swoons. Which has inspired me to write this little ditty:

Mary had a little dog.

Its cheeks were white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went.

The dog was sure to go.

Obviously, we’re now working on potty training.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting, Pets

No More Trick Or (Candy-Free) Treats

When you’re a kid, it’s all about the candy. It’s Sweetarts for Valentine’s Day, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans for Easter, candy canes for Christmas, and goody bags and sweets-filled piñatas at birthday parties… all inevitably followed by the dreaded tummy ache and crossed fingers during the next dentist checkup.

And then there’s the Granddaddy Candy Holiday of them all: Halloween.

People who grow up outside the boundaries of the Land of Good & Plenty must think it an odd custom for Americans to ring the doorbell of a neighbor they’ve never met while their little precious dons a tiara or a muscle-laden costume (or a tiara and a muscle-laden costume if they live in West Hollywood) who hurls an opened pillowcase into the resident’s face and yells “Trick or Treat?” The neighbor repays this intrusion by plopping a piece of machine-wrapped candy into the overflowing bag, then the little tyke trots off to beg at the doors of the rest of the neighborhood.

When I was a kid, elderly neighbors used to hand out pennies or apples. We were told not to eat the apples, just in case that kindly octogenarian was really a mass murderer who snuck razor blades into the core. Forget that no kid would actually choose to eat the apple. With the choice of a piece of fruit or a Baby Ruth Bar, is there ever a dilemma? Also, you’d think the FBI could track down the homes of such sinister culprits, even without the use of fingerprinting or the more modern DNA test.

But the cold hard fact is – kids don’t want apples or pennies. They want the candy.

So why is it that for the past 13 years we have not offered such cavity contributors?

On August 12, 1999, my daughter Emily went to the pediatrician’s office for her 3-year checkup and instead was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is not the same diabetes you rampantly hear about on the airwaves where you are kept in check if you just eat right, exercise and take a pill, nor part of the epidemic among lower-income children who eat the majority of their meals under the Golden Arches. Roughly ten percent of all diabetics are type 1 (insulin-dependant), rather than type 2 (adult onset).  Most people are unaware that they are two completely different diseases, and at least for the type 1’s, it is contracted through absolutely no fault of their own.

Any food Emily eats with carbohydrates requires an insulin injection. Without the shot, in a matter of days Emily would be dead.

I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s just the truth.

It was hard on me and Emily’s dad, and of course even harder on Emily. So after two and a half months of counting carbs and turning our little toddler into a human pincushion, we were faced with the horrors of Halloween.

We decided to ix-nay the andy-kay and instead purchased our Halloween treats from the biggest overseas cheap trinket organization of them all – Oriental Trading Company. You don’t just buy one or two items from this website. The objects are often ordered by the gross, which means 144, which in of itself is mighty gross.

We purchased every cheesy Halloween novelty they offered – stickers, pencils, temporary tattoos, spider rings, squishy pumpkins, glow-in-the-dark balls, bendable skeletons, plastic vampire teeth, sticky eyeballs, skull keychains, rubber fingers, orange slinkies, bubbles in black mini bottles, gooey worms, spinning tops with witches and black cats, and monster finger puppets.

We bought a ton of these toys. Well, maybe not literally a ton, but certainly dozens of gross which weighed tens of pounds. For Halloween 1999 we handed those cheap toys out in lieu of candy, and for the most part, the kids didn’t seem to mind. Then unlike the leftover candy assortment that’s usually just eaten and transformed into resentful gross tonnage that becomes fodder for New Year’s resolutions, we just boxed up the leftover toys until the next Halloween.

And the next.

And the next.

Today, a week after Halloween 2012, I’m packing up our holiday decorations and this is all that’s left of that original 1999 Halloween toy collection.

Oh, Oriental Trading Company – you have served us much longer than Nestle’s, Hershey’s, and anything the Dollar Tree could have offered. We had no diabetic comas, no rotten teeth, and we have not contributed to the carbon footprint of our planet.

Forget the last one. I meant carb, not carbon.

And unlike Nestle’s or Hershey’s, nothing expired. As for the Dollar Tree candy – that would outlast the Apocalypse. There’s nothing natural in that stuff, so there’s no ingredients that could ever expire.

Even with the terrors of Halloween, that’s kinda scary… isn’t it?

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Holidays, Humor, Kids, Parenting

I’m a Half Century Old Today!

I got my AARP card in the mail this week. For those of you who have been living in a Forever 21 store or in front of the Jersey Shore all your short lives, AARP is the advocacy group promoting issues like Social Security, retirement benefits, and other concerns of Americans who are considered to be past their prime. Typical AARP members might include Betty White and Clint Eastwood, although if he were a spokesperson, Clint probably would have been dropped after his recent RNC rambling stint. However, 90-year old Betty White should be promoted to Queen AARP due to her witty Facebook response: “Is Clint talking to a chair?” A full 20 years after the cancellation of The Golden Girls, Betty’s still got it.

AARP used to be known as the American Association of Retired Persons, but is now an acronym without a title of origin, even though it is officially pronounced “ay ay ar pee” instead of “aaaarp,” which would sound like the bark of a small yapper dog, which coincidentally the majority of AARP members probably keep as their companions.

My kids are 5, 11, and 16 years old, and to them, 50 must seem absolutely ancient. By the time my mom was 50, she already had seven grandchildren – two who were older than my son is today. I was born before the Kennedy assassination, 7 years before the first moon walk, before most Americans had color tvs, before the Beatles released their first single, and 8 years before Republican Vice President Paul Ryan candidate was born. I share the 1962 birth year with Tom Cruise, Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Demi Moore, Steve Carell, Jodie Foster, Axl Rose, Garth Brooks, Eddie Izzard, Sheryl Crow, Jon Bon Jovi, Matthew Broderick, Rosie O’Donnell, MC Hammer, Emilio Estevez, Craig Ferguson, Bobcat Goldwait, John Slattery, Craig Kilborn, Joan Cusack, Kelly Preston, Flea, Felicity Huffman, and Ralph Fiennes.

1962 was a very fruitful year.

I have “1962” in my email address. I once had someone ask if that was the year I was born. I nonchalantly answered that it was.

“That’s awfully brave of you,” she answered.

No, I didn’t hit her. And I only thought about crying for a second.

When I told people that I had a milestone birthday coming up, many of them would try to flatter me.

“You’re turning 29!”

God, I never want to see 29 again. Back then I was in a horrible relationship, had zero self-esteem, and no life beyond work. It’s a good thing I didn’t end it all in desperation. I never would have known that my best years were still to come.

At 50, I have a full life – a little too full most of the time – but one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have a husband who always makes me laugh, three terrific kids who make my life worth living, a close-knit family I adore, a wide group of loving friends, a home that I appreciate, good health, a job that pays be a decent living and allows me to work from home where I have the freedom to choose my schedule, rewarding volunteer opportunities, a brain that still works most of the time, and I have this blog where I can try to be the funny that I have trouble being in person.

I don’t like my jiggly arms, varicose veins, grey roots, and recent vertical lines that are wrapping around my mouth. But I do like my smile lines, my red root rescue dyes, my thicker skin (metaphorically) and the wisdom that I’ve gained and still acquire more of every day.

I say 50 is the new 30.

Thankfully I’m not alone in having kids later in life, and most of us older moms can keep up with those younger mothers any day of the week. I’m not as frazzled and emotionally unstable as I would have been 20 years ago. And although I definitely was in a better boat financially, I don’t mind sharing my paycheck with my family. Balance transfers and a decent credit score keep the roof over our heads, our bills up to date, and our bellies more than full.

Realistically, I will probably never retire. Between my recent student loans, the debt equal to the GDP of a small nation that my husband has amassed by pursuing his Ph.D., and the inevitable college tuition bills of my three children, I will be paying off student loans until I’m dead. I don’t mind. I like being productive, and if there’s a choice between cutting lip smacks from the main characters of Once Upon a Time (or whatever show I land on after its hopefully 20-year run) or playing golf and bingo all day, I would choose the job.

Here is the Happy Birthday post I put on all my friends’ birthdays on Facebook. I don’t know who I stole it from, but if it’s you, I thank you for it. And now I share it with the rest of my readers for you to cut and paste on your own friends’ pages:

♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸•♫♪ hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*♫♪hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪♥ ♥ ♥hApPy bIrthDaY dEar cAtHy •*¨*•♫♪hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ xo

… and many more!

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Filed under Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

The Ill Timing of the Ill Child

Nothing can cramp the status quo day of a working parent more than a sick kid. I wake up in the morning eager to greet the world and earn my much-needed paycheck when my little angel stumbles into the kitchen.

“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

The Virgo in me wants to immediately correct his grammar.

Well, Sweetie. You don’t feel well.

But because he don’t feel good, I hold my tongue and touch his forehead.

Damn. It’s warm. But I tell myself otherwise. It’s not a fever. Perhaps he was just too bundled up while he slept.

He coughs.

Ditto damn. I try to ignore it. He’s almost 6. Maybe his voice is changing.

Then I hear the gag. I try to pretend I didn’t notice it. I instinctively jump out of the way as he vomits all over my jammies.

Crap. I guess he really is sick.

Some working parents earn a salary and can take time off work. Others get an ample amount of sick pay and can take a day off with pay, then take the second day off after they catch the nasty bug from their bedridden babe.

The unlucky working parents who don’t get compensation or time off have a lot of choices, but they’re all between a rock and that place that’s even harder than the rock: stay home with the kid and miss work, pay, and possibly jeopardize their jobs; sneak their sick child into work and risk contaminating the whole office; pump the sick kid full of medicine and send them to school with fingers and toes crossed; or let their little Typhoid Mary stay home from school alone, risking dire consequences and the possible wrath of a Child Services intervention.

Unlike most working parents, I have one big advantage.

I work from home, so if my kids are too sick to school, I put them back to bed, turn on the tv, and plan on taking a few more breaks playing nursemaid – serving soup and medicine, and sucking up to lots of whining. I can stay home and cuddle with them because although they’re sick, what really makes them feel better is to just have their Mommy. I fantasize about wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves and protecting myself with a 10 mil full body bubble, but since I don’t wear protection when I’m hugging and kissing their sweaty foreheads, or wiping their green snot, or double-wiping their diarrhea butts (thankfully the girls are older and I make them do that themselves) there’s a chance that all those abnormal bodily fluids pouring from my kids’ orifices today are going to be leaking from mine tomorrow.

I don’t think childless adults can possibly comprehend the sheer panic that goes into the instantaneous schedule juggling that goes into effect when your child suddenly takes ill. Any plans you might have – work, social or otherwise – must immediately be cancelled. The problem is, it’s hard to find the time to cancel those commitments because your child has a bowl resting in his lap while you race for the pediatrician’s office before the small window of drop-in hours closes. The minivan careens through early morning rush hour traffic with the parent voice-dialing her iPhone, and in between business calls she shouts in the direction of the back seat at her ill little imp:

“Aim for the bowl! Aim for the… DAMN!”

And as Brando himself would pine:

“The horror! The horror!”

You can spend 200 bucks on an auto detail, but that putrid puke stench is never going to completely come out of your carpet.

Jake at the pediatrician’s office not looking all that sick.

Last Friday, Jake woke up crying. He said his throat hurt – so bad in fact that he couldn’t even eat Cookie Crisp cereal, so I knew it must be bad. I tried to take his temperature, but our thermometer is a little off, so what I have to do is take my own temperature and assume it’s normal, then take his and add or subtract. I was 95.1˚ which would normally mean that I was already dead from hypothermia, and Jake was 98.4˚ which would in Goldilocks terms seems just about right, but by making me 98.7˚, Jake was actually 102˚ which means that he officially had a fever. This combined with the sore throat could possibly mean strep throat, which apparently is incredibly painful and therefore would explain Jake’s tears.

Call me Sherlock Holmes. That was exactly the doctor’s diagnosis.

After the pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy for an antibiotic, 2 oz. of cough medicine and 1-1/2 oz. of Children’s Advil, Jake was happily clutching his favorite blanket and looking forward to an entire day watching SpongeBob.

And after walking about 30 feet away, I went back to work.

Thank you God for my work-from home job, for walk-in hours for pediatricians, for children’s liquid antibiotics that taste like bubble gum, for Otter Pops, for fluffy blankets that are machine washable, and for husbands who will eventually come home from their jobs and take over nursing duties.

But thank God mostly to Nickelodeon for SpongeBob. Now I can get some work done.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Family, Humor, Illness, Kids, Parenting, Recuperating

Be Prepared: Massacring the Boy Scout Motto on a Cub Scout Campout

Last week I went on my very first Cub Scout campout. More specifically, I went on my very first Cub Scout campout with my 5-year old son Jake, which makes it sound so much more legitimate than the singular “I,” which would have been really creepy. My daughters spent the weekend with my ex, so Jake and I brought along my current husband, mostly because he is also Jake’s dad. (I like saying “current” husband because it’s fun to watch the troubled look on people’s faces when I say it, and fortunately Tom’s got a great sense of humor so he doesn’t care).

Because I have been incredibly uptight for pretty much my entire life, I’ve been making a point of not taking life so seriously by not over-thinking everything. I tell myself this in retrospect, because the cold hard truth is, I didn’t spend as much time and thought as I should have on packing for this camping trip.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” so I figured that if I forgot anything, these responsible scouts would probably have it in spades. And they did turn out to be quite well stocked when it came to preparedness items like a first aid kit, fishing bait and new batteries for a dead flashlight. However, Camp Whitsett is a far cry from Motel 6, so if I thought that they might have something like a spare disposable shower cap, I was sadly mistaken. Fortunately for me, I didn’t take a shower the entire 3-day span. Unfortunately for my fellow campers, I didn’t take a shower the entire… you get the picture. Or at least you can picture the smell. By the last day, I literally felt like Charlie Brown’s buddy Pig Pen with a putrid path of stinky stench trailing my every step, followed by a tornado of flies.

Naturally a Native American or Aborigine can survive in the Mojave Desert or Australian Outback with just a spear and a loincloth, but I’m a 21st century woman with survival skills that don’t run past the BRAT diet or placing the Magic Mommy kiss on a boo boo, so my haphazard packing skills could actually affect the safety, well-being and comfort of the rest of my family. Here were some of my packing faux pas:

The first night, I unwrapped a sleeping bag from the plastic kitchen grocery bag I store it in and found that instead of grabbing the sleeping bag, I packed our 6-foot stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster from Halloween. Besides not being very functional, it’s really not the face you want to see late at night in your flashlight beam when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

I ended up stealing Tom’s sleeping bag and being the manly man that he is, he forged his bedding from a couple of bath towels. I also didn’t pack his toothbrush or a jacket, and I mistakenly brought Emily’s water shoes instead of his. On the other hand, my 16-year old’s feet may actually be bigger than my husband’s.

Because my summer attire traditionally consists of a camisole and yoga pants, that’s what I packed for clothes. The outfits came in a variety of colors, and I thought I was so fancy by bringing one extra combination in case of an emergency. However, I had no cover-up to protect my torso from the sun except for a hooded sweatshirt which would have been unbearably hot since the mercury hovered over 90 degrees every day. And it took only about two seconds of actual camping for me to realize that I really should have packed a pair of pants with some pockets. I went through my cargo pants stage only a few years ago, so you’d think I’d know better. Instead, I improvised by stashing bottled water, the camp itinerary, my camera, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and my hat in places like my socks, my waistband and my cleavage.

A few weeks ago my family and I spent three nights in Palm Springs and Tom, Mary and Jake had all purchased new sun tops in red, yellow, and blue respectively. I nicknamed this crew The Primary Colors, and when they traveled in a pack around the pool it was easy to spot them. For the camping trip I packed Tom’s and Jake’s shirts, but instead of grabbing Jake’s blue, I packed Mary’s yellow, so Jake spent the entire weekend in a sun shirt that stretched down to his knees.

One thing I deliberately didn’t pack was our tent since we were told that the camp contained not only tents, but also cots. It sounded so luxurious – as if Camp Whitsett would be like Lexus camping rather than VW Bug camping. It turned out to be more of the VW variety – and not like the recent Beetle model but rather more akin to the beater VW van that needs to be pushed down a slope and kicked into gear to get started. The tents were the Army reject variety with occasional holes, placed over punctured plywood. Their canvas bottom edges didn’t quite reach to the ground so any number of small creatures and giant insects could wander in and cozy up. The cots were made of metal springs that were so stretched by decades of overweight Den Leaders that it was like sleeping in a hammock. There was a thin ancient mattress over the cot, but it still didn’t keep me from lying down and having my butt immediately fall to within an inch of the floor. Fortunately the stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster came in handy. I shoved him under the mattress and it filled the gap made by the sagging cot. Almost. I couldn’t flatten Frankie out evenly, so it felt like I was sleeping on a pad covering several rolling anthills. And frankly, with the number of stray bugs in the tent, that might not have been far from the truth.

Overall it was great fun and a terrific learning experience about what to pack for our next camping trip which takes place in only a couple of months. The first week of November we’ll be roughing it at Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay. After hearing stories from the other Cub Scout parents about the choppy boat ride to the island, there’s only one thing I know I absolutely must be prepared to pack for that trip:

Dramamine.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Husband, Kids, Parenting, Vacation

13 Suggested Tasks for a 13-year Old’s Rite of Passage into Adulthood

To see my vlog (video blog) of this post, click here.

Last month a woman wrote an article in England’s The Guardian about her son who rented the 1977 tv miniseries Roots and decided that he was old enough for manhood training like young Kunta Kinte – without having his foot cut off. Because he was nearing his 13th birthday and was looking for more freedom and independence, the mom decided to create a series of 13 tests as his rite of passage into adulthood. They included tasks like cooking a 3-course family dinner, taking a train by himself, and learning a piano piece and performing it in public.

I know this magical 13 years of age is a big moment in the Jewish tradition in the form of a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, just as it was I made my Confirmation. I was now an adult in the eyes of the Catholic Church, which meant that I was really going to hell instead of just purgatory. The adulthood milestone backfired when my brother was old enough to make his Confirmation.

“If I’m old enough to be an adult in the church, then I’m old enough to refuse to go to church,” he confessed to my mother.

Other than weddings and funerals, I think that’s the last time my brother ever went to mass.

There a lot of difficult tasks that adults are expected to perform, so if an adolescent wants a later bedtime or to convince his parents that he should have a supersize rather than a Happy Meal, here are my 13 suggestions that are sure to make him a man:

Note that all these tasks must be done without an iPod, iPhone, Gameboy, or any other device 13-year olds have their noses buried in these days.

Here we go –

1. Work for a week as a customer service representative for a boss who’s a complete jerk.

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2. Put together a desk from IKEA without having any unexplained spare parts.

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3. Call a medical insurance company and try to get reimbursed for a payment.____________________________________________________________

4. Attend a large university graduation ceremony on a really hot day.

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5. Stand outside the Reagan Library and try to get people to register as Democrats.

____________________________________________________________6. 6. Answer the front door to a Jehovah’s Witness without converting.

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7. Go to the DMV without an appointment. Wait and wait and wait until you reach the front desk and ask if they’ll give you a driver’s license if your mom tells them it’s ok with her.

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8. Serve one week of jury duty. More if you get an allowance and your mom & dad compensate you for it.

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9. Take a bus from Union Station to the Santa Monica pier and deliberately sit next to the smelliest guy you can find.

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10. Clean up a frat house after a wild Cinco de Mayo party. Score more manhood points if the tequila was really cheap.

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11. Make a dinner using only vegetables, then eat the entire meal without saying “yuck” or plugging your nose.

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12. Talk to a telemarketer for five minutes, then refuse to buy anything.

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13. Stall your car for ten minutes on a freeway off ramp right next to a man with a homemade sign and cup in his hand. Keep eye contact with him for the entire duration.

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Odds are your child will give up before he or she reaches 13 and instead return to being an obsessed Facebook and Nickelodeon fanatic.

That’s the bad news.

And the worse news:

After this ordeal, he’ll probably never leave home.

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