Friday, May 27, 2011

Don't Start the Rapture Without Me

Apparently it was the end of the world last Saturday and I almost missed it. My husband emailed me to let me know that it was coming in about two hours. I announced to our girls that some minister predicted that the end of the world was imminent. Nicole asked what imminent meant. I replied, "Any time now." Natalie cheered and said, "Tthat means quesadillas for dinner." I'm really glad my children don't take anything I say too seriously, but it’s somewhat puzzling and a little disturbing that Natalie continues to equate Armageddon with Mexican food.

I told them, honestly, if the end of the world were coming, I would have tried to have been better prepared. You can't let something that momentous that happen without preparation. Nicole asked me what I’d prepare. I told her I’d pack my favorite clothes, some comfortable shoes and some heels (just in case). I’d pack a little snack for us as well. Natalie started suggesting treats we could bring when Nicole burst our little end of the world plans with real facts learned in science class. She announced that the end of the world would only happen when the sun died out, which was in about a couple of million (or did she say billion?) years. Natalie chewed on that fact and asked me if I intended on being around then. I informed her that I would not. Natalie thought about it for a moment and decided that she too was going to miss the sun dying out event. Nicole, again with the facts, assured Natalie that none of us would be around to witness it, not unless they froze our bodies and then defrosted us just in time for the end. I let them both know that there would be no freezing of my body under any circumstances (although I think I better put that in writing). I went to college in Chicago, I know what cold is. I’m not going through that again, especially not for a few million (or possibly) billion years.

One of the things that I love about kids is that you can have nonsensical, theoretical conversations like our doomsday discussion and they will present their arguments and opinions and look at all sides of the issue even if the issue makes absolutely no sense at all. Adults like to call it “out of the box” thinking. Kids were born out of the box. We’re the ones who put them in there when they’re young and then they spend the rest of their lives trying to relearn how to think outside it again.

But enough about that…I have lots of packing to do. Apparently that minister has discovered that he made a miscalculation. The end of the world wasn’t May 21st; it is going to be on October 21st! Now I still have time to get the fixings for quesadillas.

Friday, May 20, 2011

That’s So Porno: Part 2

The tweenager shock jock talk continues at my daughter’s school. Last week, Nicole came home and asked me for a definition of porn because some friends in her fifth grade class were tossing the word around and mocking her for not knowing what it meant. This week’s word starts with a “c” ends with a “t” and I don’t really have to tell you the letters in between. Why do I feel like I’m on an X-rated version of Sesame Street? Her two friends (both of whom have older siblings) were using the word to describe another girl and when Nicole asked what the word meant, they again laughed at her and walked off. Now, knowing that I’m a fountain of information when it comes to defining four letter words (all those years bantering with Teamsters on set weren’t wasted), Nicole came home and immediately asked me to make things clear.

I gave her a very clinical definition, told her my opinion of the word, and of the use of curse words in general. The next day she came home and said that she’d told the kids that she now knew what the word meant. When they asked who told her, she said to their shock, “my mom.” She went on to tell them, bragging ever so slightly, that she can ask me anything. I told Nicole I was glad that she felt she could ask me/tell me about anything and encouraged her to continue to do so, no matter what my response was.

I both love and hate that my daughter feels like she can talk to me about anything. She should be able to and I want her to feel like there is nothing she can’t say to me. That’s my grown up side talking. Sounds so adult and together, right? But what I really want to say is, “OMG, I don’t want to deal with it! Don’t ask me those things! Don’t make me explain that stuff to you! I want to get mad at you and your little friends for growing up too fast – IMO - and already starting to talk about that stuff! La,la,la,la…I’m not listening!” Whatever happening to picking up this stuff in the street instead of asking your parents about it? Damn this progressive, 21st century, uber communicative childrearing. Can’t we go back to the days were misinformation was passed around in school restrooms and you learned about cursing and sex from your friends gossiping at sleepovers or at boy girl parties where the fast kids couple always disappeared into darkened basement bedrooms and whispered details of it later? Oh, yeah, remember those days and they weren’t all that informative. Most of what was said, rumored and done was incorrect or just plain stupid. I still giggle when I think of my seven year old friend who said in all earnestness that her big sister claimed you could get pregnant touching a doorknob. That must have been a hell of a doorknob.

I have no doubt that Nicole’s friends will test her theory that she can tell me anything by feeding her more salacious words to bring home and ask me about. I will continue to keep informing and correcting Nicole when she comes to me with these questions, even at the risk of being labeled the foul mouth dictionary mom - I’ve been called worse…starts with “c” ends with…you get the idea.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

That's So Porno

Porno, porno everywhere…it was found in Bin Laden’s compound, and now in the classroom at my kids’ elementary school. This week, while the news reports continued to come out of Washington that the treasure trove of information seized from the raid in Pakistan included large quantities of pornographic films, my daughter’s fifth grade class was shown a “maturation” film. The film is something they have been showing to the graduating fifth graders for decades, one for boys and one for girls, which talks about how their bodies mature, sexuality and personal responsibility. The parents had to sign a release form to allow their kids to view it. Nicole was more excited about the promise of goody bags at the end of the screening which were rumored to contain tampons, pads and deodorant – all in a nice little carrying case for girls, than she was about actually seeing the movie.

The reports of porno films in Bin Ladenville had already intrigued me as I grappled with the irony of a religious sect hoarding skin flicks when Nicole came to me and asked, “Mommy, what is porno?” Surprisingly, I didn’t freak out about how to respond to the question as much as I thought I would. We have had the ongoing conversation about where babies come from, body maturation and sexuality ever since she first started asking at age six. I always tried to answer only what was asked, not elaborate unless she wanted more information, be direct, honest and non-judgmental in my responses. My husband, David, would rather our girls not get any information at all because in his mind, that means they are growing up, something I don’t think he’s quite ready to face. He cringes when Nicole comes out dressed for school looking more mature than her 10 years only by virtue of how clothes are now fitting her and he often sends her back into her room to make her change out of skirts and tank tops into sweats and camp shirts. So when Nicole asked me the porno question, several questions of my own raced through my head. I wondered where she had heard the term – assuming at first that she had picked it up from the news reports I’d been watching. But then, the thought popped into my head that maybe someone had exposed her to it. Before I could start imaging the worst, I said, “Why do you ask?” Nicole explained that after they’d seen the maturation video, the boys and girls were exchanging notes about it and one of the boys said to her, “Oh that film, that was so porno.” I smiled, relieved that she hadn’t been pulled into some back alley somewhere by persons unknown to watch Debbie Does Dallas.

I back-tracked, asking her what she thought of the girls’ maturation film. As expected, she said that we had already talked about almost everything that was in it. I asked her if she had any questions about what we hadn’t discussed or what she had seen. She circled back to the porno question, clearly the only part (which wasn’t even in the school film) which confused her. I searched for the appropriate words (I’d gone over in my head a million times how to answer the where do babies come from question, but this one was off my radar in terms of questions I’d be asked) and finally said, “It’s a movie that exploits people having sex.” She thought what I said for a moment and then asked, “What’s exploit mean?” I gave her a Merriam Webster response for the word. She didn’t ask for any more details about porn and I didn’t offer any. Finally, she shook her head knowingly and said, “He was so wrong about the movie.” She went on to tell me that when she didn’t know what the word porno meant, the boy waved her off dismissively and went to chat with the other girls who were up on their porno definition. Rather than being upset or bothered by the concept of porn, she was more frustrated by not knowing a word that everyone else seemed to know. Although I suspect a lot of those girls were smiling and nodded without having a clue. I explained to her that different people learned about (say/do) different things at different times (a mantra in my house that my girls make fun of me for saying) and that if he was rude enough to dismiss her for not knowing the word, that it was his problem not hers.

Fifth graders, who are generally 10, 11 or in some cases even 12, are so conflicted at this age. They want to be grown, and like this boy, toss around titillating words or phrases, pushing to see movies or listen to music which is probably too mature for them, asking for cell phones and solo visits to the mall or ice cream shop – all things which they think prove how grown they are or that they are in the know, while at the same time, they are still so little, wanting a hug or a cuddle. They struggle daily, caught between the desire to remain a kid and the wish to be adults.

So now, at the ripe old age of 10, Nicole knows what porno is. Not really, but at least she has a sense of the word and she knows it is not the maturation movie shown at school. But she was disappointed; they didn’t get the tampon-pad-deodorant goody bags this year because of budget cuts. The economic crisis strikes again.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I don’t like reality shows. Cheaper to make and often much more profitable, they have just about killed scripted television and the incomes of those who work in it while simultaneously rotting our collective American minds. Who today doesn’t know who Snookie is, whether they want to or not? But ask them to name the senator from their state and they’ll stare at you blankly. Reality t.v. has created stars out of ordinary people, rich kids, experts in obscure fields and B-list stars seeking a comeback, people who in many cases have no particular talent other than a willingness to exploit their personalities and, as my grandma used to say, “Act the fool,” for the camera, inviting millions of people into their lives as housewives, bigamists, extremists of any kind, hoarders or residents of a house by the shore.

My daughters forced me to watch two of the competition type reality shows with them and I am slightly embarrassed to say I enjoy them, despite my rallying cry against reality. But at least dancing and singing take talent and passion and watching people struggle to get a routine or wow a judge shows honest effort and sometimes real defeat – something that I think is often missing from television today, both scripted and reality. As much as I love Law & Order, the detectives always get the perp and the prosecutors always win their case. Unfortunately, it’s not so in real life.

I was laid up in bed in recovery mode, drinking a Diet Coke and munching on one of my homemade cookie creations, a “faux nut” butter cookie – a recipe I created to satisfy my desire for a good old fashion peanut butter cookie for someone who can’t eat peanuts or wheat. Natalie curled up in my lap and started channel surfing and together we happened upon a new show, “Extreme Couponing.” Natalie and I looked at each other, both wondering how watching people who cut coupons could be an interesting t.v. show. We had to watch. They profiled a woman who spent 4 hours a day cutting coupons from the 9 newspapers she subscribed to (not to read the papers, of course, but to get the insert coupons – why be bothered with all that current affairs dribble?), and then spent 6 more hours of her day prowling the aisles of her local grocery store checking on special in preparation for her shopping day! She bragged that she usually put close to $1,000 in items in her shopping cart and usually only paid, after coupons, $5 to $10 dollars for all of it. Now while that savings is impressive, hell, it’s extraordinary, she complained about not being able to spend time with her husband and children because she was couponing, and how her house was being over run with the 2 year stockpile of products that she had. One woman they profiled even had a very expensive, complicated looking rack (which I think she designed herself) made to store her purchases in a way that the items with the oldest expiration date were pushed to the front so nothing would spoil. All the couponers complained of running out of room in their homes – one woman had 1,000 rolls of toilet paper stuffed under her son’s bed - in the same breath that they boasted of saving $40,000 or more a year on groceries.

As much as I’d like to cut back on the cost of my groceries, that kind of effort, time, dedication and ingenuity (a specially designed rack???) is being wasted on shopping. And despite the fact that they had stockpiles which would see them through five natural disasters with enough to feed the entire block, they still continued couponing and shopping. I had to turn the show off. Their obvious obsession was difficult to watch. As much as I was fascinated, I was also repulsed. It’s like the hoarder show – amazing to get a glimpse into their minds and their homes, but it’s a little uncomfortable once you’re inside.

I tried to watch the couponing show again, but I had the same response. I was talking with another friend of mine about it – he’s a reality show devotee who keeps up with several of them – and he told me that some of the coupon women actually use their “talent” to get groceries for free (or nearly free) and then donate the grocery items to charities/shelters, which made me feel slightly better. I mean how many families need a two year supply of dishwasher soap?

But I guess if it wasn’t extreme, it wouldn’t work on t.v. Who wants to see me go to Ralphs, fumble through my purse at check out for the three coupons I managed to tear from a mailer tossed on my lawn, to find that only one of the three coupons was for an item I actually purchased? I got $1 off because they doubled the coupon and I felt like a winner. But that’s how most people deal with coupons in real life. And real life would never work well on reality t.v., now would it?