I Ordered The Summer Reading Book

It’s almost August, so I finally broke down and ordered the book my daughter, who is a rising high school sophomore, has been assigned for her required summer reading. I didn’t assign it. Her school did, and I’m not gonna lie…I resent it.

First, summer is my time. I’m not complaining. I love our daughter’s school, but summer is my time. I don’t want to receive school emails. I don’t want reminders. I don’t want to see her schedule or her school supplies list. I don’t want any of it, because frankly, I don’t even want to think about school. This is summer. It should be free time… and I’d appreciate it if I could keep it that way.

Alas, I can’t. Every year, we have to do health forms. I took her for her physical early this year, in June, so I wouldn’t have to keep seeing the emails from school, requesting the information. I got her physical done, got the forms signed by the doctor, and sent them in early! Done! I eliminated those weekly “reminder” emails about the health forms. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful our school requires them. I’m grateful that they want all her health info, in case they can’t reach me when something happens. But I want to do it all while school is in session. I don’t want to ruin the peace of summer with health forms.

Recently, apparently, there was an email about high school students at our daughter’s school picking up their iPads before school starts. A mom came by my house today, and while she was here, she asked if my daughter is picking up her iPad tomorrow. I hadn’t seen the email, because it is summer, and I don’t check my email very regularly in summer….so ummm…no, she won’t be picking up her iPad tomorrow. It’s July 28th. School doesn’t start till August 21. She would likely misplace the damn thing before school starts if she picked it up now. Aside from that….I don’t want to think about the school iPad yet! Truth be told, I wish she didn’t even have a school iPad.

It’s times like this I wish the whole world could be more like the 1980s. When I was in high school, we had cheerleading practice all summer, but we didn’t talk about school stuff till school was about to start. Summer was for lounging by the pool; eating French fries in the clubhouse; going to the beach, where we walked to Dairy Queen every afternoon; family vacations; watching soap operas (Dr Noah Drake, anyone?); and just hanging with friends. And we never had summer reading!

It is a pain in my butt every…single…year. I know some people have kids who love to read. They love any book they can get their hands on, and I admire that. But mine isn’t that kid. She would rather be running around a field hockey or lacrosse field, hanging out with friends, going to the beach, eating French fries at the club…or other stuff I did in the 1980s. I ordered the book today, though, and it will arrive by the weekend, and she will read it when she reads it. And I will resent it.

I just want her to be a kid while she can be a kid! These kids have so much more pressure on them than we had as teens. As early as seventh grade, parents at her school, in meetings, were asking about curriculum paths for their kids to get into the “right colleges.” Honestly, I don’t give a crap where mine goes. She will go somewhere. But I don’t want her worrying about that, because guess what? She is in 10th grade. She doesn’t know squat. And do you know why she doesn’t know squat? Because she is a kid, and she shouldn’t be having to make life decisions at 15. She should be thinking about teenager stuff and enjoying the lazy days of summer.

Plus, I think kids learn a lot in summer, in a different way. I think they learn about scheduling. If they travel, they learn more about the world in which they live…even if they just travel to a neighboring town. They learn that the world is a big place. They meet new people and hang out with people with whom they don’t go to school. They grow. They play. They learn how to do things on their own. When our daughter was a toddler, any time we traveled…even just for a weekend…I noticed she was different when we got home. She had learned something that made her a little different. Has she ever been changed like that by a book? Maybe, but this was every time we went somewhere…she came home different. Being exposed to different places and people is a different kind of education.

So, am I going to badger her about her required summer reading? Nope. I’m not even going to “remind” her. She will get it done on her own terms, but mostly, I hope she enjoys the last few weeks of summer. I hope she hangs out at the pool with friends, goes to concerts, hangs out some with me, listens to music, eats as many French fries as she wants, floats around on a giant inflatable pink flamingo, and doesn’t even think about school.

Maybe I’m the slacker mom, but I know she is going to be OK. I know she would be OK without summer reading, and she will be OK with it too.

But most of all…I hope she enjoys the last few weeks of summer…like kids are supposed to do.

***If you’re wondering, the required summer reading book is called A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. I’m ordering one for myself too, just so I can see what makes it special.***

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Photo by LRM Exterior on Pexels.com

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We Need Erma Bombeck

Today, I was talking with a friend about how depressing it is when it rains for seven days straight. Fortunately, it was a friend who always makes me laugh. And she didn’t fail me this time either. In fact, she mentioned someone I haven’t thought about in years. It’s someone my mother looked up to. My mother and her friends used to sit around and laugh about her. The person she mentioned? Erma Bombeck.

For those of you who are younger than I am, look her up. I don’t care if you look on Wikipedia or wherever, but you need to look her up. Like I told the flight attendant who didn’t recognize Frankie Valli sitting across from me. “This person is a big deal. Go call your mother and ask her…she’ll know.” Erma was an author and columnist who was the voice of moms and housewives everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s.

My mother loved Erma Bombeck. I think lots of moms did, because she said what they were all thinking. She lived like they did. My mother was a stay-at-home mom…back then it was called a “housewife.” While my mother enjoyed being a housewife, it had its challenges. Mrs. Bombeck wrote about the same challenges in her newspaper columns and in her humorous books. And my mother loved her.

My mother and her friend, Polly, quoted Mrs. Bombeck to each other, and they laughed and laughed. I remember seeing Bombeck’s books around the house. If mother was reading one, it was often on the kitchen table, where she enjoyed reading. I can still hear mother laughing out loud, her nose buried in an Erma Bombeck book. And that’s how, as a teenager, I even read Erma Bombeck. I was too young to be a mother or housewife, but even as a teenager, I knew good humor when I read it.

Erma Bombeck is what I’m missing in my life. I need more Erma. In fact, today, just before I started writing, I ordered a few familiar titles from Amazon: If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, Why Am I In the Pits?; The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank; All I Know About Animal Behavior, I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room; Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession; and When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. There are more; these are just the ones I ordered today, and I can hardly wait to get them! You can see them and order them here.

Bombeck had some of the best quotes. Selfishly, I wish she were still alive, so she could guide us with humor through this generation. I know, there are humorous people on YouTube, and there are funny people on Facebook, but dang it…Erma was the original. No one can do motherhood/housewife humor like Erma could do it. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should become familiar with her work. Buy some books and enjoy an evening or two of easy reading that relates to your own life!

Her wit was unmatched, and her quotes were too. Here, words to live by, courtesy of the late, great Erma Bombeck:

  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Yes, it’s the title of one of her books, but it is so true, literally and figuratively! Anywhere someone has a septic tank, you know where it is in the yard…just look for the greenest patch of grass. It’s absolutely true. And in life, people always say “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” in reference to thinking what others have is better. But really…since we only see what people want us to see, the septic tank quote is more fitting…underneath all that green grass might just be a bunch of poop.
  • If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. True words. I’ve gotten through lots of hard times with laughter. When my daddy was sick with pancreatic cancer, we laughed a lot…a lot. We knew we had to keep laughing to keep from crying. And it helped us. It helped him. We actually look back on those months with good memories.
  • When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. This makes me laugh out loud. My mother usually gave good advice, but sometimes I didn’t want to hear it. She gave it to me anyway. And she knew I didn’t want to hear it. If I got mad, so be it. She knew I would get over it. I’m sure my daughter feels the same way about my advice.
  • I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex. Erma and I should have been friends. We could have had lunch together.
  • Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you. I think this just means “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” I’m a subscriber to that way of thinking. I know there will always be someone taller, richer, thinner, prettier…but there doesn’t always have to be someone happier or more satisfied with their life. Being rich, tall, skinny, pretty…none of that means your life is better. We should all choose our own paths…and enjoy the journey down that path.
  • Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time. Spoken like a true mother. Any mother knows the car is where dropped food goes to die…and create a stink. My husband has never understood this, but he has never hauled around seven kids. No, I don’t have seven kids…I only have one, but there have been times I’ve had seven kids in the car at one time, and they make messes. Moms will do anything to keep them quiet in the car, including letting them eat Cheerios, ice cream, or whatever else they want.  Moms know this. Dads don’t. Fortunately, my child is a teenager now, so the car is cleaner.
  • Children make your life important. While there are lots of folks out there who don’t have kids and don’t want them, for me…this quote of Erma’s is true. I once had a coworker who had two children. I was in my 20s. I said one day, “I don’t think it would be a disaster if I didn’t have kids.” She said to me, “Kids are the meaning of life.” While this isn’t true for everyone, it certainly has been true for me. I only have one daughter, but my life became exponentially better because I had a child. The sky is bluer. The flowers are brighter. Life is better.

The list goes on and on. I could continue to quote Erma, or I could tell you to go over to Amazon or your favorite bookseller and get some of her books. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

I wonder what Erma would have thought of 2019?

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Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

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Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

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Hurricane Sanity Preparedness

This is not one of those standard posts about hurricane preparedness. You’re hearing plenty of that with 24-hour news, I hope. Between the hype and the doom, they throw in a little information about getting prepared for a disaster. This is about being prepared for the long hours of being stuck indoors…waiting. How will you stay sane?

Hurricanes are scary. No doubt about that. I “survived” four hurricanes and a tropical storm (at least one) when I lived on the Gulf Coast, so I know how scary they are. For one of them, I was 20 miles from the eye at landfall, so I know how long it can take for a hurricane to arrive and move out…making for some long hours.

So for Hurricane Florence, do everything you can to be prepared…stock up on nonperishables (and favorite junk food snacks!) and bottled water, remove any possible projectiles from your yard (planters, patio furniture, etc), fill your tubs with water in case you need it to flush toilets later (this is rare), bring in pets, charge your cellphones and laptops, charge your portable chargers, put fresh batteries in your flashlights, and settle in for a long ride.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What they won’t tell you on TV is how to stay sane during the storm. My disaster preparedness routine includes entertainment for sanity. I’m not making light of the storm, but if the power goes out, we will need entertainment. Otherwise, everybody just gets grumpy. We don’t need a situation like The Shining after everyone starts getting cabin fever.

So here is my list for hurricane entertainment in the event of a power outage:

  • Charades. I know. Sounds boring, but charades by flashlight is hilarious. I’ve done it. Heck, even if the power doesn’t go out, it’s fun to play Charades by flashlight!
  • Movies. Have movies pre-downloaded on your phone or iPad and watch an old favorite or one you haven’t seen before. Since Burt Reynolds just passed away, I will be downloading some of his movies. Or maybe watch movies about a storm…The Perfect Storm, Adrift, or even Sharknado! Or rewatch a favorite classic…maybe some Hitchcock: Vertigo, Rear Window (one of my all-time favorites), or The Birds. I was at my parents’ house one time during a storm, and since Daddy loved Lonesome Dove, we watched the whole series while we waited for the storm to pass. We were very close to where the storm made landfall (20 miles away on the bay, and my parents lived less than a 1/4 mile inland) and we never lost power.
  • Prompt stories. Have everyone in the family write single words on tiny pieces of paper. Put the papers into a bowl or hat and take turns pulling words from the hat. When you pick a word, you have to tell a story from your life using the word. Some good words to use: sunset, key, gate, walk, accomplishment, sport, etc. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good way to get people to talk.
  • Start a blog…or do lots of writing for a current blog. I’m always looking for subjects for my blog and making notes. I have a long list of topics, so what better time to sit down and write than in the middle of a hurricane? Aside from the storm itself, there won’t be many distractions or obligations.
  • Clean. I know…cleaning with no electricity sounds terrible, but you might not lose power, and if you do, there are some things you can clean by flashlight. My bathroom cabinets can always use a purge. Being trapped inside is the perfect opportunity to sit down and go through all the stuff to see what can go.
  • Read a book on your Kindle or Ipad. If you’re going to be stuck without TV or power for a few days, it creates the perfect opportunity to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to read. Daily life is so busy that it can be difficult to carve out time to sit down and read.
  • Play board games or cards. How often do you bring out those old board games? Well, this is your chance. I could spend hours playing Yahtzee and Scattergories. In fact, I could likely destroy my family’s sanity by forcing them to play.
  • Laugh. Find things to laugh about. Laughter will cure a lot of ills and get us through a lot of hard times. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • Watch sports. Download ESPN, CBS, and ABC, so you can watch all your favorite college teams Saturday and favorite NFL teams Sunday, even if the power goes out. You’ll need your login information for your provider. Again, make sure your electronics are charged in advance, and remember you can charge things in your car if you need to!

And if your grocery store was out of bread and water when you went, I hope you bought cake and champagne. This is a good time to enjoy that!

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In all seriousness, hurricanes are dangerous and frightening. It’s not a good time to be inebriated, because you need to be able to react in an emergency. Take care of yourselves and your family, and say a prayer that no one is injured or worse, but please don’t sit around worrying! If you’ve prepared, there is nothing else to do. Worrying won’t help. Try to relax and stay aware of what’s going on in your area.

Stay safe, friends.

 

 

 

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Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…