Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thank You TV Execs for Screwing Up My Internal Clock

All day long I have thought, felt and believed that it was Friday. As you well know, today is Thursday. The weekend has not begun. That happens tomorrow. But I am discombobulated and I have TV network executives to blame. For the past 10 years, I have faithfully watched Survivor every week on Thursday with the exception of the season finale shows which typically air on Sunday nights. I can't say I've seen every episode, but there were very few Thursday nights I missed.

Survivor just began its 21st season. Let's do some math: not considering the new season that has just begun, 10 years with 2 seasons per year with an average of 14 episodes per season comes out to roughly about 280 episodes of Survivor.

That's 280 Thursday nights where I have prepared myself for the start of the weekend, knowing that the next day was Friday. Unfortunately, the TV execs decided to switch this new season of Survivor to Wednesdays. I can only imagine their reasoning. But one thing I know they did not consider was the effect this change would have on all us devout viewers who while not only thoroughly enjoy watching the greatest reality show (and the only one that we really need, I must add) but we used the show as a spring board for our weekend festivities. For the past 20 seasons, my weekends have begun on Thursdays if only in my mind. Now I must reset and postpone my weekend attitude each week for one more day.

I can adapt. But I must say I am a bit concerned about my reaction to the new schedule of my other favorite show which is set to premier on Wednesday, October 27, 2010....Friday Night Lights...on Wednesday. Now who's brilliant idea was that?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Schooled - Fair Edition

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
- from Animal Farm by Geoge Orwell

I'm not a farm girl. And I'm not a carny. So I have a lot to learn each time I visit a fair. This is what I got out of our recent trip to our local fair.

Underneath all that mud, muck and slop, pigs really are pink.

These little guys are only a few hours old so they haven't really had time to dirty up their pink flesh too much. Give them a few more hours and they won't be pretty in pink ever again.

Just like the popular thought, sheep really are followers. They have a secret society.

This is their leader.

The society is anti-goat.

This guy told me so. Although I'm not sure you should trust someone with rectangular pupils.

Speaking of trust, I learned how much my youngest son trusts his big brother.

Helios agreed to ride the "big" rollercoaster for the first time if Leonardo rode with him.

Neither one looks to be enjoying the ride. And it only went downhill for Helios.

But Leonardo stepped up as protector. See his right arm around Helios? Good boy.

And speaking of good boys, I have one of my own. And I learned, all over again at the Fair, something about him that I've always known...

You can take the boy out of Tennessee, but you can't take Tennessee out of the boy!

This post is happily linked up with

Unknown Mami

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Fair Chicken

It's time to rejoin our friend, Sticky Chicken and see what he has been up to lately. As it is in many parts of our great country, it is fair time where Sticky Chicken lives. The Great Frederick Fair is in full swing and Sticky asked to go. He specifically asked to visit the poultry exhibits. This is a first.

As Sticky's guardian, I had some concerns about Sticky making a visit to the Poultry Barn. He's been domesticated his entire life in a true suburban, middle-class home with no barnyard in sight. And he has been sheltered from the realities of the life of the less fortunate commodity birds. I wasn't even sure he knew some of his brethren lived in cages. But the poultry at the Fair are treated well, at least until judging is complete as far as I know. So we decided to take him.

Upon entering the Poultry Barn, the first chicken he sees could have been his brother. The resemblance was uncanny.

Just look at them! They bocked for awhile and tried to find a common ancestor to no avail. It was nice to start the visit with a friendly face because the rest of the faces were not so friendly or familiar to Sticky, like take this guy for instance.

Sticky got real excited when he saw this guy. The moment was kind of like one of us getting our picture taken with Don King or Lady Gaga. You just have to get a picture of normal me next to this freaky thing!

After the freaky fun, we had to endure some fear in the name of a bantam cockerel.

 This guy scared Sticky...alot. If you look really close, you can see that Sticky has soiled the edge of the cage where he sits. It was embarrasing for all of us.

But we didn't leave the Poultry Barn without bringing our mood up a bit. As we were making our exit after the cage-soiling incident, we passed this guy.

We all thought he was in the wrong barn. What's a sweet puffy Persian cat doing here? Or, where did that fluffy little Shih Tzu puppy come from? It was such an anomaly, that we had to snap a shot. Then we realized this was no purring kitten or cute puppy....

'Cuz no kittens or puppies we know have blue beaks!

That was about all of the fair Sticky could take. After the Poultry Barn, he snuggled into my camera bag for a nap while the rest of us enjoyed the other sights, sounds and smells of the fair. I'll be sharing those in another post. Until then...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's Up With That? Wednesday

I was recently transported to another world. I found myself, as an observer, plopped in the middle of a strange culture where the beings spoke an unfamiliar language. The beings had human characteristics and features. But the humaness of their features was mutated as if they had once been inbred with some other worldly beings and only shadows of their human lineage remained. The beings were clothed in wildly fantastical garments. No one was like the other. The only similarities were their penchant for the outlandish and obscene. Their costumes emphasized their oversized body parts, their breasts and hindquarters and nether regions. They danced ritualistically in group formation to the rhythm of lasers, strobes and electronic beats on a stage that was Orwellian and Jetsonian all at once. There was a spokesperson of sorts who, between crude rantings, ushered in group after group to perform their dances for a mob of other beings. The frenzied mob chanted, bounced and stretched their arms pleadingly at the performers.

I watched the alien spectacle in amazement, confusion and with no small amount of fear. Where was I? Who are these beings? And then my husband arrived and said, "Oh, the VMAs are on tonight."

Yes, I watched portions of the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. And the experience felt no less alien to me than if I had literally been ejected from the Starship Enterprise into some previously unknown alien civilization. I have never been more thrilled to see Eminem in my life. At least I know who he is.

I recognize that I am squarely outside of MTV's targeted demographic, but I wonder who is their demographic? I Googled "MTV target demographic" and the first hit I found was a link to the Time Warner Cable Network. The link shows MTV, in some strange sort of dichotomy side by side with Cartoon Network, as one of the networks that targets Men ages 12-17. This description of MTV follows:

What's happening and what's next in music and popular culture? Young adults turn to MTV to get the answers. From fashion, lifestyle and sports to attitudes, politics and trends, only MTV offers what's consistently fresh, honest and groundbreaking. The driving force behind MTV is its deep bond with young adult audiences. They talk. We listen. Music is relevant to every young adult's life. To ignore this passion is to ignore who they are. For over two decades, MTV has been there for young adults. MTV is their source, confidante, sounding board, partner and much more.

I am sure there are other demographics that MTV is targeting. But as the mom of two "Men 12-17 to-be", this is the group I'm interested in. And I have a few question about this. For starters, since when are 12-17 year-olds "men"? And since when are teenagers no longer teenagers but now "young adults"? I couldn't resist. I Googled again and Wiki'd too and found this definition of "young adult": (and several others that supported this one):
According to Erik Erickson's stages of psychosocial development stages of human development, first enumerated in Childhood and Society (1950), a young adult is generally a person between the ages of 20 and 40, whereas an adolescent is a person between the ages of 13 and 19. The young adult stage in human development precedes middle adulthood. A person in the middle adulthood stage is between the ages of 40 and 65. In maturity, a person is 65 years old or older.
Erickson first stated these life stages in 1950, but the stages of human development really haven't changed that dramatically since then. Although some marketeers and ad execs seem to think so and seem be trying to force a change.

By the above definition, I am closer to being a young adult than Justin Beiber is. And Lady Gaga just makes the cut by four short years. I have one son that is a mere Cub Scout rank away from falling into MTV's target age group and that prospect is a scary one. I really don't want my "12-17 year-old ManBoy" hearing Chelsea Handler (or whoever takes her place as host next year) make reference to getting high with Ke$ha or having hot tub sex with The Situation.

This is not the MTV I grew up with. In the words of Dire Straits, I want my MTV. Sure there was stuff on MTV back in the day that parents cringed at, but it was only a bit naughty as compared to the depravity and tastelessness of what we see today, if the VMAs are any indicator.

I am not a prude. I do like a good dirty joke. I laughed out loud several times watching the VMAs. And I will be the first one to say if it offends you, don't watch it, read it, buy it or listen to it. But I am an adult (see the defintition above) and I can make those judgments for myself. I don't know many "Men 12-17" who can. Shame on you MTV and others like you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Give Me Liber-Tea!

"Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths." ~John Egerton

The crisp days of autumn are just around the corner and our hot weather days are dwindling. Fall brings to mind hot mulled ciders, not iced tea. But iced tea is on my mind today and here is my overriding thought:

Only Southerners really know how to make iced tea.

I have lived in Maryland for over eight years and I have been trying desperately to find a good glass of iced tea outside of my own home since we arrived here. It can't be found. Really. I hate to be rude and an ingrate, but the tea in these parts is not good tea. First, it is not sweetened properly. At times, I have resorted to ordering unsweetened tea only to sweeten it with artificial sweetener (yikes!) because that actually tastes better than what is being passed off here as sweet tea.

Second, its strength is inconsistent, watery here, bitter there. Can we all agree on a recipe and stick to it, people?

And have to beg for lemon! If you order iced tea, they don't automatically serve it with lemon. You must ask specifically. I can't tell you how many times hubby and I have ordered iced tea with lemon and they bring us one skinny old slimy lemon slice that has been sitting at the bar for several days and nights. Where's the fresh cut lemon? Are they being saved to squeeze on your Maryland crabs?

These experiences are common from diner to drive-thru to fine dining. I kid you not.  It's been eight years of this, so why am I on a tirade about this now? Because I was in the South recently, ordered iced tea all over the place and was served consistently sweet, properly strengthened iced tea with unsolicited, fresh lemon wedges every time. It reminded me of how I am suffering up here. I even got good iced tea as close as Winchester, Virginia. But something happens when you cross the Potomac. Even though Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon line, there apparently has been no sharing of the tea recipe north of the river.

I am not one of those Southerners still fighting the Civil War, but I do think it is every American's, no every human's right, where ever they live, to have a decent glass of iced tea. This kind of breach of civil liberties is just the kind of thing to start a revolt.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Schooled - It's Barney & Me Vs. Kids

From The Andy Griffith Show:
[Andy and Barney are watching a sign painter]

Barney Fife: Ain't he got chicken spelled wrong?
Andy Taylor: No, it's right.
Barney Fife: You sure?
Andy Taylor: Yeah, it's "i before e except after c and e before n in chicken".
Barney Fife: [chuckles] Oh yeah, I always forget that rule.
As the straight man, Andy was pulling Barney's leg a bit with his spelling device. And Barney, the gullible, bought it. I sometimes try these kinds of things with my boys when I don't know the real answers to some of their questions. Most of the time, the boys don't pull a Barney and fall for my tricks. They are smarter than Barn and me so they tell me stop playing around and just Google it.

Sadly, I find these situations when I don't know the answer occurring more frequently. The kids are exposed to so much more information than we were when we were kids. For instance, my second grader freely uses words like "rubric". I didn't learn that word until well into my 40's and still I am not comfortable enough with my mastery of it to toss it about in everyday conversation.

My fifth grader has known for some time that you can determine if a number (no matter how many digits) is divisible by 9 (or any factor of 9)  if the sum of its digits adds up to 9. Try it. I may have that slightly incorrect, but that is my very base understanding of that math trick. Thank goodness my Smartphone has a calculator.

My boys are much more highbrow than my generation was at these young ages. They already read novels. These are the graphic type not to be confused with comic books of our day. The differences between graphic novels and comic books are better quality paper and covers, more words and fewer gratuitous "Pows!" and "Boinks!" And the publishers can charge more if they call it a "novel". But my boys devour them and reading is reading.

I am not old and I don't feel old but I sure sound old when I talk about things like this. I am schooled in some way every day by my boys. But that's good. I'll let you know what else they teach me next week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Tweens Are From....I Don't Know Where

My boys are for the first time in two different schools. A nice side effect of that situation is that I get some alone time with each of them everyday, between dropping off and picking up the other boy. This time has naturally (by that I mean, I didn't force it to) become a time where the boys are actually talking to me. They are sharing things with me that they don't seem to share when their brother is around. Some of it is silly, funny stuff and some are real issues bothering them. I won't go into any details here. As the parent of tweens, I must respect the boundaries of parent/tween confidentiality. I have been told not to say anything.

But I wasn't told not to blog anything. It's tempting to spill it all out here because the material is so good. But being a mom who respects my kids' privacy and boundaries, I can't blog specifics. But maybe it would be okay to give just a conversation lead-in.

One such conversation began with "The problem with girls is..."

My mental response was"My goodness, it's 8 a.m. and you're not supposed to be thinking about girls for at least 4 more years!" Of course, I didn't say this out loud. I gave a supportive response but had to end my answer with the real truth of "and get used to not understanding women."

I learned that from my husband. Don't get me wrong; my husband understands me better than anyone does. But it has taken years to get to our level of understanding. We communicate very differently and have found over the years that we can be arguing about something only to realize that we are arguing the same points. We are on the same side but our communication styles and the way we approach things can be so different. Once we recognized our communication differences, things have run much smoother. We for years have started many potentially conflict-laden conversations with, "I know you're from Mars, but..." or "Maybe this is just a Venus kind of thing, but..."  A verbal nod of acknowledgment and respect of our differences.

And that's what I was trying to impart to my tween. Girls go about things differently than boys, no matter the age. My tween was perplexed by the difference in communication styles of the girls and boys in his grade. I use communication style here as a very loose term as I am not sure there is any real communication going on during the tween stage. Clearer messages are sent between chimpanzees through screeches and wild hand gestures than what comes from tweens. And my tween has recognized that. From our conversation, I don't think he's one of the ones flailing his paws about and shrieking at the Ladies Who Recess but he is wondering what approach works.

I tried to steer him away from the chimpanzee method and recommended the more subtle approach of just being himself. Now, that may seem like conflicting and confusing advice given that the nature of tween boys at times is wild, impulsive, seemingly uncontrollable behavior, not unlike said chimps. But what I meant was to not worry about the girls and what they are thinking. Dr. Seuss said it better, I believe:

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

This was just one of many such conversations to come. I better start preparing for more of these. But I will leave all future conversations related to "There's A Wocket in My Pocket" for my husband to manage.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over

School has been in session for about two weeks and things have been running very smoothly. This year I have my boys in two different schools for the first time. In anticipation of this added school to our logistics, I was worried that our schedule would be more harried than in past years. I was concerned about the boys adapting to being in separate places and for one of the boys, in a new place. With much relief, I can say that my fears were unfounded. Our schedule is quite manageable since the school start/end times are different enough to allow plenty of commuting time between the two. And the boys are happy and have adapted to the change better than I expected. But it is my job to worry, so I did and that one can be checked off the list.

There has been homework to which the boys' reaction has been very mature and responsible. They are doing it with little, albeit a normal, amount of revulsion. Actually, there haven't been the homework struggles that we've had in the past. As I said, things are going smoothly....too smoothly, in fact.

So what's going on here? I just realized what it is as I sat down with my calendar. The activities haven't started yet. This two week period has been a ruse. The boys have been able to come home from school, get a snack, do their homework and then have hours ahead of them to play and just be before bedtime. No rushing through homework to then gulp down a quick dinner so we can get out the door to Scouts, karate, piano, or other activity du jour. There's the harried schedule I remember! Now it's all coming back to me. And guess what? The first of the activities starts today!!! The honeymoon is over.

I know. We do this to ourselves. And I even said this myself, "Not every kid needs to play every sport every season." My kids only have one sport at a time. Check. But what about the other activities that are important - music lessons, Scouts, church groups? These activities round out a child and a family. How do you say no to these things? It's hard to pass on activities that you recognize have this type of value. But what also has value in our home is family time. We have been trying very hard recently to keep family time at the top of the priority list. So this year, before we sign up for every activity that my boys want to try, I will be counting the times we sit down to a family dinner each week. That is one benchmark that is quantifiable and controllable.

My oldest informed me recently that he is a "Tween" and that he can't wait to be a Teenager. (These words are capitalized and italicized here to show you how he enunciated them with a smidge of prepubescent attitude.) Both of those "T" words stopped me in my tracks. Actually, my youngest, by his status as second child who does everything earlier than the first child did, is for all practical purposes a Tween too. So as we gingerly enter the "T eras", the importance of family time ramps up.

I'll try to keep the balance between family time and keeping the boys engaged in an appropriate amount of well-rounded activities. In doing so, I may go a bit greyer (but only my secret hair lady could confirm) and my slowcooker will definitely get used more often.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Real Working Moms of Maryland

Earlier this summer, I got my first real paid writing assignment. I've been writing for a long time, unpaid - if you call blogging writing and I do. Ironically, the writing assignment was for a magazine article in which working moms share tips on surviving modern parenthood. The irony stems from the fact that some might say I am not a "real" working mom, based on what I just told you about my amateur status. So what could I know on the topic? Now we all know the "Real Housewives" on TV are not real housewives either so this sort of label confusion thing clearly happens all the time.

Regardless of my status, there were very real working moms contributing to this piece; I am just the messenger. I want to thank all the moms who contributed to the article. Your insight and ideas were so helpful. Even while working and juggling your family, you took time to respond to my email requests and phone calls - truly a testament to how much moms value helping other moms. Thank you!

So to end the suspense, you can read the full article here at Taste of the Bay.