Friday, December 28, 2007

The Tween Christmas

It was a rough Christmas for The Girl. She is 13, the age where no one quite knows what to buy for you. At 13, you are too old for dolls, although some part of you may still yearn for them. At 13, you love new and fashionable clothes, but still feel cheated if that is all you get. It's the equivalent of an "underwear Christmas". But there are no "toys" for 13-year-olds. Basically, there are electronics and video games, the occasional board game that disappoints because you can never get anyone to sit and play it with you and there are clothes.

Don't get me wrong, she loved her presents, even the clothes and the "girly" items. But some part of her deep down inside is not quite ready to give up her child's Christmas. I understand because I was thirteen once. Thirteen is a bridge between the child you were and the woman you will be. The woman who is struggling to become tries to shake off the child that still desperately clings and it's both exhilirating and heartbreaking.

I remember when I was nearly that age, maybe 11 or 12. I had my eye on a doll that rode her own little bike and it was just the sort of doll I had always wanted but never had found under the Christmas tree. Due to one of my tomboyish escapades, I had broken a tooth some years earlier and now I was at the age where the dentist wanted to do a more permanent repair; my dental age being sufficiently matured, something other than the bonding was required. Because this was to be a long and painful procedure, my mother wanted to reward me with something that would make up for the long hours in the dentist chair and lift my spirits. I asked for that doll.

It wasn't until I actually had the doll in hand that I realized what a mistake it was to have asked for it. I wanted to play with her and feel the joy and wonder that I would have felt if I had been a few years younger, but I didn't. No, I wasn't trying to recapture my youth. I realize now, it was the child in me trying to create the experience she had always wanted and never had. A last desperate act of the child in me trying to resolve final issues and tie up loose ends as the woman slowly assumed control.

I wish I weren't aware of my tween's struggle, or why she seemed so disappointed. It would be easier to tell her to grow up and act her age, to explain that she is too old for toys and that she needed the clothes and the boots and the bath accessories. But instead, I want to go out and buy her a toy, a doll, or a stuffed animal, anything that would say, it's okay to be an in-between. As a mother, I mourn the loss of the girl-child as much as I take pride in the emergence of the young woman.

Perhaps I should tell her about my doll.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Anticipation of Precipitation

It's been three years since we had a snowy winter, and The Boy was much younger then, much easier to pry off a snowbank and convince that we should take refuge from the icy pellets striking our faces. During that time, I had forgotten what it was to be a child in the snow. I had forgotten that children don't get cold. They don't notice icicles hanging from dripping noses or that their mittens are ice-caked, nor the brittle, frozen digits encased therein until they nearly break one off. I had forgotten how many pairs of pants, gloves, and mittens are soaked through in only one afternoon's snow play (The Boy set a record of 8 pairs of pants this weekend). But mostly, I had forgotten what snow means to a child.

To them, the snow is a mysterious gift. It covers the hard and unforgiving ground with a soft blanket. It cushions their falls and wraps itself around them. It transforms the bleak landscape into a white playground of delights. Surely, snow was made for children. They belong to the church of the Anticipation of Precipitation, and truly they believe.

They are glued to the television as the snow evangelists talk about rain/snow lines and visions of the storm as seen by satellite and radar - the tools of the meteorological prophet. In an ancient ritual, they don pajamas inside out and backwards to insure enough snow to cause the schools to close. They lay down at night with prayers on their lips. "Lord, thank you for the snow we are about to receive".

And when it comes, they erect a monument in thankfulness for their bounty, as those who came before have always done.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We are Not Amused

I am not often in favor of more governmental regulation, for as we know, it usually makes things more expensive and increases red tape, but I was amazed to find out that there is almost no regulation when it comes to amusement park rides. Even those amazing rides at Disney World do not have to meet any government regulations for safety and in fact, the government cannot inspect them or even come into the amusement park unless invited to do so.

An average of four deaths and thousands of injuries take place on amusement park rides every year. Faulty rides are often disassembled after an injury, before any inspector gets there to conduct an investigation.

But a bill to set federal standards on safety and inspections of these rides has been waylaid in the House of Representatives and may not be voted on before the holiday recess. Lobbying by the powerful amusement park industry seeks to prevent it from passing.

People go to amusement parks to have fun. We expect to be thrilled, excited, maybe even scared - not to suffer serious injury or be killed. I have always thought there were some kind of standards that regulated what rides could operate. Apparently, there aren't any federal regulations whatsoever, and federal regulations are necessary because of the number of carnivals that travel state to state each summer.

I think everyone should contact their representatives in Congress and tell them that this bill needs to be addressed as quickly as possible and not shoved off the calendar. Now that it is winter, the flurry of stories of ride injuries and deaths is over and people forget. Let's tell them to act now to avoid another case like 13-year-old Kaitlyn Lassiter who had both feet severed by a loose cable on the Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Tell them that we won't forget. Our kids are too important for us to forget.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mothers Are Always Right

The Boy has a friend, a rather rambunctious friend whose favorite things are not raindrops on roses, but rather wrestlers raining destruction. The Boy has his rambunctious side but can often be cajoled into a quiet way of occupying his time - a movie, a video game, a model car to build or the reading of a book. His friend, however, does not seem to be blessed with the "sit-down gene". It makes me wonder at times if he is physically capable of bending at the waist. I do know he is physically capable of nonstop movement.

Needless to say, the playdates when his friend visits are noisy times of constant warnings from me, the most common refrain being "don't do that, you'll break your neck". Imagine my surprise when the boy came tearfully to me the other evening, one hand to his head, crying "I think I broke my neck".

Ah ha, you say, there she goes off in a panic! But I was amazingly calm, being almost as convinced as The Boy that nothing I worry about ever really happens. I saw The Boy walk into the room, he could breathe and talk; therefore, it was unlikely that his neck was broken.

However, he refused to move further and cried in pain so that I decided I couldn't transport him to hospital myself, but rather called 911 for an ambulance. I knew they would secure his neck to avoid any further injury which they did by strapping him down to a longboard and off we went to the hospital. The paramedics assigned me to the front seat of the ambulance next to the driver. Now, here was something I was free to panic about, and I made the most of it. It's a curiously insecure feeling to be in a vehicle that weaves its way in and out of traffic while emitting a high-pitched scream. I thought screaming was my job.

In the end, the true story came out that (with his friend's encouragement)The Boy decided to jump onto his bed from the bureau and gave himself a nice case of whiplash. After four hours in the emergency room, and the testing of all extremities, it was determined that there was no serious injury but a very strong muscle spasm that caused a good deal of pain.

They gave him a muscle relaxer, some pain reliever and a soft collar to support his neck. Once he had the muscle relaxer, he hardly seemed to need any of their other ministrations. They had released him from the constraints of the longboard many hours before, but The Boy had lain stiff and still, hands at his side for those long hours. Suddenly, he was gesturing with his hands, moving his legs and being animated and happy. Instead of being shocked that they administered such a medication to my small son, I experienced a feeling of gratitude that they gave me a prescription to get four more doses. That meant two more days of this pleasant and delightful child.

It shouldn't come as a shock to me when The Boy does something boyish and suffers the natural consequences. It may not even be his fault or stem from the fact that he's a boy. As a tomboy who was always chasing after my older brother, I spent many hours in the emergency room myself as a child, and caused my mother her share of worry. So perhaps I am only reaping what I have sown.

But the important and most lasting lesson to be learned from all this is that mothers are always right. When we giggled for hours as children, my mother used to say "you'll end up crying" and she was always right (although usually it was because eventually we got a spanking for our loud and annoying behavior). Thankfully, The Boy didn't break his neck but that doesn't mean I was wrong, and maybe in the future, my warnings will carry just a hint more credibility.

Although they still may not listen to "one day your face will freeze like that".

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Elegant Rug

When I was young and proving useless and aimless (well, perhaps disinterested is a better word) I had a guidance counselor at school who felt that finding me a good way to expand my horizons might rev up my interest level in life and school and maybe even homework. So, off I went for piano lessons.

Although I was a poor student in that I rarely practiced, I enjoyed taking piano lessons and playing music. But I enjoyed going to my music teacher's home more than the lessons or the music.

She had a wonderful array of books and lamps and vases and items that evoked the style and attitudes of an earlier period. The house had atmosphere. There may have been rock n' roll and dayglo and tie-dye outside, but in her world there was Bach, Beethoven and a sumptuous Victorian elegance.

What I admired most were her gorgeous rugs, of which she had two. They were Perisan carpets of different color schemes, one mostly red and the other a delicate blue. This firmly set Persian rugs in my mind as the ultimate in home decoration.

This rug is nearly exactly like the blue rug in my teacher's front room. In my child's mind, it has become the symbol of what I want when I finally achieve my goals and have the home I want. I will build my decor around it, in fact, there will be a room dedicated to it. A bright, open room with shiny, hardwood floors and a shiny, black baby grand piano to perfectly accent my rug.

There are other criteria for this dream house such as that it must be by a lake or the ocean and I have this idea about a deck but all of that is very complicated so I am going to concentrate on starting with the rug. I will work up from there.

Fighting Fat with Coffee

As evidenced by the coffee cup prominently displayed in the upper right hand corner of this blog, you will note that coffee is one of my passions. I am not picky, I love nearly all coffee - except for two brands, neither of which I will name but if you have tried them, you feel exactly the same way as I do and don't need me to tell you which they are.

Now and again I will run across an article touting the health benefits of coffee and I will proudly tell friends, neighbors, readers and anyone who can't politely dismiss themselves from the conversation, all about how good it is for me to drink gallons of coffee per day.

But even I have trouble believing this study. Brazilian researchers (who, I am sure are completely unbiased towards coffee products) have discovered that a body cream laced with a 7% caffeine solution will slim your hips and thighs. 80% of women applying this cream lost inches off their thighs and 69% lost inches from their hips as well. They applied this cream for 30 days.

There was no explanation as to how this cream accomplished these effects and no scientific basis given for the fat-busting properties of caffeine. In fact, they said that the cellulite composition was unchanged by the cream and they don't know why the women got thinner.

I don't believe a word of it. But just in case, there's no harm in taking a coffee bath, is there?