How to Throw a Sleepover Without Singing the Slumber Party Blues

 

Ever wonder why they call it a slumber party when no one gets any sleep? My daughter just talked me into having a slumber party with middle school girls.  The last time I threw one for her she was in elementary school.

We had too many girls – 14 to be exact.  The girls looked adorable when they first arrived all huddling together in fluffy PJ’s, with matching slippers.

After they got jacked up on soda, candy and cake, they started running amok,  jumping on beds and having pillow fights.

You might as well be watching a scene from the movie Where the Wild Things Are with the kids ready to let the rumpus begin!  One child was giving my daughter’s favorite American Girl doll a crewcut fit for a marine, and another was hiding in my linen closet  smearing more chocolate on my sheets than you’d find at Hersey Park, whining, “I’m starving, there’s NOTHING to EAT!”  She’s the redhead with pigtails who already left a snow cone melting on my den rug.

At 1am when the girls wouldn’t go down, I started cursing the inventor of the sleeping bag.  Then my husband yelled, “There’s a mouse in the house!” seeing a rodent scampering behind the tv cabinet, moving faster than Bo Jackson in his heyday making a 40-yard dash.

hamster-birthday-hatMy husband didn’t  realize that the girls let my daughter’s hamster out of the cage.  By that point, I was  actually thinking of calling  parents in the middle of the night.

Blogger Lori Lite of  Stress Free Kids  has some great tips for a birthday party. She tells me that her post Stress Free Birthday Party  was inspired by a middle school party.  She talks about the need to limit choices, manage technology, and set boundaries.  I obviously didn’t do this.  The girls at my daughter’s party spent hours arguing over  which Movies On Demand to rent  and kept sending messages to each other on cell phones. Lite suggests limiting movie choices with the birthday girl deciding ahead of  time and collecting cell phones at a certain time.birthday-947438_640

I would also advise you to avoid slumber parties before kids reach middle school age. The little kids are way too young for group overnights.  Have  the younger kids come to a  “pajama party” instead where they dress for bed and watch movies and eat pizza but leave by 9:30pm.  This way you won’t end up with more bags under your eyes than you’ll find in a box of Lipton Tea.

Girl Drama 101:How to Survive the Middle School Years

Our girls enter middle school playing with American Girl dolls, and leave flirting with boys.  Some even have boyfriends and are dating by the time they head to high school.  In middle school our girls are trying to grow up, but still have a lot of “kid” left in them.

It’s a lot of change in a short time. Raging hormones, painfully awkward social interactions, and academic pressure lead to stress.   The stress usually winds up dumped on our doorstep.  Between the ages of 10 and 13, tempers flare and conflicts with parents increase. So does the backbiting directed at other girls.  Any mother of a middle school girl would be lying if she didn’t tell you that this stage comes with  drama.  One moment they act like angels, and the next the fangs come out.  You may  need more wearwolf hunters than you’ll find on an episode of  Teen Wolf.

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When the cliques form in middle school, there is always one girl in the group who deserves an Oscar for Best Tween Drama Queen.

Some girls  thrive on the negative attention.  girls-914823_640They  gossip, betray confidences, and pit one friend against another to remain center stage.   You need to stop it while you can still mold them like a piece of clay, or they’ll be the type of toxic adults you avoid at high school reunions. The rapid physical and emotional changes can put almost any  middle school child on edge as they struggle to find their identity.  Are they a nerd, a jock, a goth?  They worry that they won’t fit in.  One minute they are deliriously happy, and the next miserable.

Any little thing can set them off and trigger back talk or a meltdown worse than any toddler you’ve seen.

Experts say that arguments with parents are normal as they separate  and assert independence. The key as a mother is to keep calm. Do not take the bait and resort to sarcasm,  name-call or fly off the handle and yell. I find yelling doesn’t work.  The “loudmouths” may have gotten high ratings on Morton Downey Jr.’s old “trash” TV show, but your child turns it around and asks, “Why do you yell?” If they yell, the best way to get them to stop is to tell them that they don’t want to sound that way.  You also need to pick your battles or kids will rebel if  you are too rigid.   Middle school meltdown triggers can include:

  • Not being able to find a hair tie
  • Their favorite pants are in the wash
  • They are forced to admit you are their mother publicly
  • You turned off their computer before they caught a Pokémon
  • Jimmy Kimmel has you tell them that you ate all of their Halloween candy and plan to eat their Christmas stocking stuffers too, down to the last peppermint pattie

A recent study found that having a child in middle school is the most stressful time in a mother’s life.  It’s just such a roller coaster.  But look at the bright side, at least they’re potty-trained and share their feelings.

Jennifer Aniston Pushes Back: She’s Not a “Sad, Childless Human”

Hollywood superstar Jennifer Aniston opens up about her life in the latest issue of Marie Claire.  In an intimate interview, the actress calls out the notion that a woman who doesn’t have kids should be pitied.

In the Marie Claire article in the December issue out on newsstands November 15, the 47-year-old actress says:

“I HAVE WORKED TOO HARD IN THIS LIFE AND THIS CAREER TO BE WHITTLED DOWN TO A SAD, CHILDLESS HUMAN.”

In the  interview, the former Friend’s star explains why she fought back against the harsh judgment women feel for not getting married or having children in her powerful Huffington Post op-ed she wrote in July. In that piece she said:

“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”

She now tells Marie Claire that she wants to change the critical lens through which we look at women.   You can get a sneak peak at the article here.

I feel there is also harsh judgement doled out on mothers.  When I worked in TV news, people who hardly knew me would come up in the supermarket and start shaming me about the long hours that I worked at a demanding  job away from my kids.  “Why did you have kids if you didn’t want to raise them?” one ballsy neighbor asked after word spread that I was late for my own daughter’s birthday party.  I was covering a political convention.

Interviewing former Lieutenant Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey at the Democratic State Convention in NYC, 1998. Seated next to McCaughey is RNN Talk Show Host Richard French. He and I provided live convention coverage together throughout this event.

Interviewing former Lieutenant Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey at the Democratic State Convention in NYC, 1998. Seated next to McCaughey is RNN Talk Show Host Richard French. He and I provided live convention coverage together throughout this event.

It didn’t matter that I had called my husband, who had left work early to back me up. The MOTHER wasn’t there.  “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” my daughter said when I arrived late quoting from the phrase kids use when they think someone is lying.  I had promised her that I would be there. I let her down. She ran into the house sobbing.  Having other people pile on only made it worse. “What kind of a mother are you?” said another woman lashing out.  Her daughter was a party guest and she had stayed to help my husband.   I felt  belittled. I felt condemned.  No one cared that I had just scooped the competition.

It’s sad that a beloved megastar like Aniston, who has brought so much joy to our lives, feels she’s been shamed too.

You have to wonder how many women feel this way who try to achieve.  In the Marie Claire interview,  Aniston candidly says her love life has been “shamed” throughout her career, including her 2005 divorce from Brad Pitt.  Aniston is now happily married to actor Justin Theroux.

Aniston is so right that we need to stop “picking” women apart. One size does not fit all, unless you are a teenager shopping at Brandy Melville.

Can a Digitally Impaired Blogger Make It in an Internet Age?

 

When I thought about starting a blog, I had that childlike feeling of elation …  like when you find a light-up Saber spoon in your Froot Loops or first learn how to roller blade without crashing headfirst into the garage door.  But how would a  middle age mother raised on an Olivetti typewriter and a push button phone figure out how to set up a blog? Uggh! I am digitally impaired and dyslexic. I probably would have a better shot trying to learn morse code than computer code.

Since I started blogging in 2014,  I still can’t wrap my head around  some of the basics like how to link my posts to my Facebook fan page. Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.35.18 PM There is no number to call at Facebook.  I can’t find one for WordPress either.  Instead, these companies direct you to help forums where other pathetic, digitally impaired bloggers ask the same questions hoping you know something they don’t know about plugins or backlinks to build a blog and an audience.  Good luck if you’re counting on me.  Until a month ago, I couldn’t even figure out how to comment on another blog until I read a beginners guide  from  blogger Darragh Doyle. I highly recommend it for other bloggers who need a little dumbing down.

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I think children today are born knowing how to surf the web. They live in an age where life is driven by the internet.   But it’s all still Greek to me.  I resist change and still won’t give up my flip phone.

“You are an embarrassment with that phone,” my oldest daughter said trying to grab it out of my hand over lunch at a restaurant  in the Upper East Side of New York City recently.  “We can’t even communicate,” she huffed.  “You are from the ice age,” she blurted out, before stating that she could only spend short amounts of time with me because I get on her nerves.  I guess my unfavorable rating with my daughter is as high as the one for Donald Trump in the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey.  Seven out of ten things I say annoy my daughter.

When she insisted that I get an iPhone and wanted to head to the Apple Store, I still wouldn’t budge.  Old habits die hard.

 “You’d be a better blogger with an iPhone,” she told me saying I could be keeping up on all the latest apps, tweets and trends and shoot video to drive traffic to my blog.

 sapm-909485_960_720It took me over a year to figure out how to add share buttons to my posts.  I think I added too many buttons, but I’m afraid to edit anything that actually works.  My best advice to the digitally impaired is to try to master at least one concept a day.  YouTube tutorials are easy to follow.  You’d be surprised at how fast you can catch up this way. Simply put a question in the YouTube search bar and someone usually has made a video with the answer.  These YouTubers have mastered the key to being successful in the digital age.  People who can solve a problem and provide valuable content get views.

People send private messages all the time asking me why I don’t syndicate my blog by having an RSS feed.  I’m lucky if I feed the kids.  I never find time to cook.  So the next time you hear me talking about spam, I’ll probably be eating a cold sandwich out of the can.

 

The Dryer Ate My Gym Socks and Other Lame Excuses for Not Working Out

As I stare down at the scale, I have that feeling of dread…like when you find a hair in your soup or the man on the bank line in front of you is wearing a ski mask.  Uggh!!  I’ve gained another pound.  How did I do it? Too little rhubarb, too much spiked seltzer!  I step on and off the scale a few times.  First I remove my socks, then my earrings, and finally in desperation I fling off the wedding ring.  But the number doesn’t change.  I am packing on  pounds faster than a sumo wrestler on steroids.

 

You know you’re overweight when you step into the elevator and a stampede of people run out fearing the weight capacity has been exceeded. You notice that it’s not just shoes, but clothes that come in wide sizes.  You pull a disappearing act with the bowl of Halloween candy.  When you go to the car wash, they find Tootsie Roll wrappers under the front seat of your Volvo, a melted Hershey’s chocolate bar sticking to the registration in your glove compartment, and half-eaten candy eyeballs you got on sale at Walmart hidden in the trunk.

belly-2354_960_720Everyone knows your metabolism slows as you get older.  So why aren’t I working out?  I have been coming up with a variety of lame excuses like: the dryer ate my gym socks, my husband likes a woman with meat on her bones, and I have an embarrassing hole in my sneaker.

Okay, so by now you realize that I make a lot of excuses for myself.  All summer long I work hard to control my weight and stay fit, but as we head into the holidays my good intentions fly south for the winter.  Like a lot of women, I have gained and lost the same ten pounds for my entire adult life.  I was talking to a woman recently  at a luncheon.  She told me, “I hate looking in the mirror every day and seeing another mole, or fold under my chin, or gray hair.”

“Let me guess?” I added.  “You can’t stand feeling over the hill.”

“Yeah,” she said patting the bottom of her chin. “It STINKS!!”

I feel that same way about my middle age bulge.  Why can’t I ever get a handle on this?  I’ve done some soul-searching which leads to questions like, “If Marie Osmond can do it why can’t I?”

Or this: “Where is Richard Simmons when you need him to tell you how to get a terrific workout from a chair?” And: “Does Dr. Oz know the Wizard of Oz?” Perhaps I just don’t have the motivation or discipline that all the fitness gurus claim you can muster with the latest fad diet, pill or exercise plan.

My idea of a workout is going to the Y and sitting on a mat and doing a few Diary of a Wimpy Kid type stretches.  Then I’ll give it a go for a few minutes on the elliptical machine. I barely break a sweat before my bad knee starts aching or my trick elbow starts to twitch. I don’t think Fitness Magazine is going to put me on the cover anytime soon.   So next time you go to the beach and think there is a huge, hairy porpoise or a whale struggling in the water, don’t call the Coast Guard. It’s only me.

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Editor's Note:This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been revamped. Unfortunately, my figure has remained the same.

 

True Confessions:Dreading the Dog Days of Summer

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I am dreading the “dog days” of summer when my kids will be out of school.  The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a “stormy, sizzler ahead.”  I can already see me standing there dripping with so much sweat that you’d think a glacier is melting, with the kids looking miserable complaining that there is nothing to do.  How about making your bed, cleaning your room, or vaccuming? Uh-uh…don’t even think about it.  “C’mon, get over yourself,” my son will say when I suggest that he clean up mud tracked from a water fight. Before my kids drive me stark raving mad, I have a few things I’d like to confess and get off my chest.

#1. I am writing an autobiography entitled, “Why I Hate My Kids.”

2.The bubble cap I wear in the pool is vintage.

I bought it on eBay.  It was owned by swimmer Esther Williams, affectionately known as “America’s Mermaid” back in the 1950s.

3.)I believe that I was a mermaid in a former life. 

4.)I’m worried that my bathing suit won’t fit.  I tell people that I have a thyroid problem but I’ve gained 14 pounds in six months by eating donuts.

It’s hard to say exactly what drives me the most crazy when the kids are out of school.  The sound of the jingle blaring from the ice cream truck is definitely a pet peeve. child-419419_960_720 So is washing beach towels,  making camp lunches, and listening to kids whine.  For those lucky enough to have nannies, beach clubs, or expensive sleepaway camps, the thought of summer may be a pleasing one.  But for the majority of women on a budget, it’s only going to get as good as a beach ball from Walmart and a trip down to the local beach. animal-1207073_960_720 Like most mothers, my summer survival kit  includes bug spray for all those horseflies, wasps and mosquitos.  But the thing that really bugs me is how many weeks these pesty kids are out of school.  What bugs you the most about the summer?

 

Yada Yada Yada:The Grass Is Not Always Greener on Seinfeld

You say that if you change one more diaper you’ll scream.  You ask if you throw in the towel will you have to wash it too?  Next to being a doormat, nothing is more stepped on than a stay-at-home mother.  You secretly yearn to be single and footloose and fancy-free.  

When we think of singles, we think of Seinfeld.   Jerry Seinfeld’s wacky single world with it’s zany characters always kept you laughing.  But finding  Mr. Right always went wrong on Seinfeld.  I thought the final episode bombed.   I wanted the guy to get the girl, not wind up in jail.

I am a true romantic.  I wish Seinfeld had just proposed to Elaine on the show.  But here’s what he’d probably say about that: “Are you kidding me?  Yada yada.  Get outta here.” Does anyone ever say yackety-yack anymore? I think that phrase from the 1950s went out of vogue along with poodle skirts and saddle shoes.

It’s hard to believe the final Seinfeld episode aired 18 years ago this week.

Even though it’s been said that Seinfeld was a sitcom about nothing, it showed mothers something.

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It made us realize that the grass may be greener getting grass stains out of our kids’ clothes.

 

Tick Tock, Tick Tock, How to Put a Sock in Your Biological Clock

When is a woman too old to have a baby?  In the past, if you had enough hot flashes in a month to feel like Alicia Keys singing Girl On Fire, you would have been done.  But now it seems the joy of motherhood can come at any age.  If you’ve been trying to have a baby, it might be time to book a flight to India. 

A  72-year-old Indian woman has given birth to a healthy baby boy with the help of a fertility clinic.  Sky News is reporting that Daljinder Kaur and her 79-year-old husband became parents last month through in vitro fertilization.  The couple was childless for 46 years.  Kaur said when interviewed:”My inspiration was Over the Hill Mom.  If she can do it, I can too.”

Like a plant that never stops blooming, I’ve been a perennial mother of a small child  for my entire adult life, aiming for the Guinness World Record. I decided to have my first child in my 20s, my second in my 30s, and my last in my 40s.

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Hearing about the Indian birth,  I’m thinking of  having another child.   This is a big decision, so I had to put some thought into it. After wrestling with this for at least five or ten minutes, I made up my mind.  “Pack your bags,” I told my  husband, “we’re going to India.

“You are out of your mind,”  he said not sounding too supportive. “We already have three kids.”  He did that little eye-rolling thing husbands do when they’re ticked off.  “And besides, you probably won’t be able to breastfeed,” he protested.

“There’s always goat milk and they don’t kill cows in India,” I said.  I had all the bases covered.

When I told the kids they were really excited about going to India.  They want to take selfies in front of the Taj Mahal to post on Instagram.  It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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My husband became so  terrified when I told him I wanted more kids that he never slept or shaved for three days.   “We’ll become the Eighth Wonder of the World,” he quipped.  He’s wondering if he’ll ever see another home-cooked meal, pair of clean socks or underwear again in his lifetime.  

“I’ll find some great no-cook recipes for no-cook meals,” I assured him.  And of course, he’s worried about money.

“Many people have twins or triplets when they go to fertility clinics, don’t they?” he asked sweating.   He had a point.

“How will we get these kids home?” he asked.  He’s always thinking ahead.

He’s picturing himself as if he were one of the elderly grandparents who all share a bed in the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  He’ll be eating a supper of watery cabbage soup and a melted chocolate bar.  “We’re going to starve,” he said thinking he’d have to feed an army.

He’s just being ridiculous.  If we decide to stay in India it’s cheaper there.  There will be plenty of food to eat.   India is known for it’s  exotic delicacies.  It’s not  just cabbage soup he’ll but eating, but red ants, snail stew with steamed hornet larvae, and goat’s liver. Behhhh…now that should get his goat.

Hovering is for Helicopters and Prom Moms

There comes a point in every mother’s life when she’s told she has to let go.  Kelly Ripa, one of my favorite television stars, is in the news after revealing on her show that she wants to be “overly involved” and help her son Michael get ready for his prom.  She thinks he needs a  hand with the corsage. teenagers-699784__180 She wants her son’s date to be as happy as the young woman pictured with the man here. Ripa believes her son doesn’t know anything about corsages and if left to his own devices,  he’ll pick a potted plant instead.   She knows her son.

Michael Strahan, Ripa’s co-host on Live! With Kelly and Michael, encouraged her to let her son do it his way saying he’ll learn from his mistakes if he gets it wrong.  Women help their daughters find prom dresses.  What’s wrong with finding a corsage for a son?  I agree with Ripa.   But then who am I to talk?   I’ve been accused of being a helicopter mom.

I wouldn’t let my daughter walk to school, ride the bus, or take a math test without tutoring.   I always bought Velcro sneakers, so she wouldn’t trip.  I’ll never forget the time her elementary school teacher called me in a for a conference.

“Hovering is for helicopters,” the teacher instructed, insisting I was coddling by pushing the wheelchair when my daughter had a broken leg.  My daughter was in a cast and totally incapacitated.  “You have to let her take the fall now or she will later,” the teacher said.

“But I thought she already took a fall?” I said.  This know-it-all, windbag with a swelled helium head, thought she knew something I didn’t know.  Her words floated away.

I resent all this unsolicited advice.  I really do.  I hate the advice, I hate the people who give it, and I hate having to sit there and listen.  Mothers know our children better than anyone else.

And it’s not like kids come with instructions.  It would be so much easier if along with the umbilical cord each baby came with a set of directions.  A simple Post-it note on the baby’s forehead would do. It could say something like:Loves blueberries, has chocolate allergy, should be burped every three or four hours, will be a terrible teenager.  At least this information would give you a heads up.  But no, we go through parenting like a car rounding a blind curve, never knowing if there is a tractor trailer coming at you in the wrong lane.  Let’s face it, if something goes wrong, mothers are the first ones you blame.  girl-947754_960_720So, when Ripa’s son has his date show up wearing a potted plant to the prom, you better hope it’s being held at the botanical gardens.

 

 

Striking Out: Has Anyone Seen My Bowling Ball?

Aside from the lost city of Atlantis or the Loch Ness Monster, the hidden treasure that lurks in my child’s school locker is one of the most baffling mysteries of our time.  Every time things in the house go missing, my oldest daughter tells me, “No worries mom, it’s in the locker.”

I’m sitting here wondering how many things could possibly fit in a school locker.  Right now we are missing gym sneakers, a tablet, winter coat, scarf, a pom-pom, pocketbook, tennis racket, boots and a bowling bowl.  Even the fish is gone. 

I am beginning to think that I should consult with Robert Ballard, the famed explorer who found the Titanic in 1985.  I met him at a party at a friend’s house a few years back. He seemed like a fine fellow.  Being an oceanographer, he’s probably good with fish.

But when I called his office today they told me he’s tied up working on bigger projects.  He’s been in the news in recent years,  trying to find evidence of the flood that the Bible says carried Noah’s Ark.  His team claims to have found shells, pottery, and shipwrecks pointing to the flood submerged beneath the surface of the Black Sea off  the coast of Turkey.  Even though Ballard’s track record for finding the impossible is legend,  it’s been reported that he doesn’t think he’ll actually ever find Noah’s Ark.   I left him a message, telling him my best bet is that it may be hidden in my child’s school locker, if he can crack the code.