Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Act Your Age (or) The Golden Girls Go to the Mall

There’s nothing like going to the mall to make you feel old. Particularly if you are, well, getting old. Especially if you are still a teenager, trapped in the body of a thirty-something.

Let me explain.

Sara and I went shopping yesterday in hopes of hitting some President’s Day sales. We wanted to go to the stores we rarely go to with kids in tow. TJ Maxx was our first stop. Borders and the mall were also on the radar.

While driving down to the big city for our shopping excursion, we actually discussed how we are perpetual teenagers deep inside. We still secretly care too much about what people think, want to look young and stylish, want to fit in, and just want to have a good time with our girlfriends. We get pretty silly when we’re with them.

Every shopping quest seems to come down to one particular thing for me: the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans. Even though I didn’t leave the house with this in mind, it quickly became my goal. I tried on a pair of Seven jeans at TJ Maxx that were a bit destructed, something I have been wanting and something Sara is “ethically opposed to”. She won’t pay for ripped jeans (Sara, you’re sounding like a mom!). The jeans were too big and too long, but it was okay cause I didn’t like the signature 7’s on the pockets (Sara did). I got that taste for finding the perfect pair of jeans and couldn’t let it go.

Here’s the thing: I knew where to find them. I had tried on the perfect pair of jeans back in September. As I recall, my shopping day went very similar to this most recent one. I went to TJ Maxx. I bought a pair of jeans that were okay. I liked them well enough, but they were kind of … matronly. Like I said, the quest is for the perfect pair of jeans. I got that taste and decided to do something I had never done, go somewhere I had never gone….

I went into … gasp…. I can’t even say it. I can’t even tell you which store I went in. I’m so ashamed. I said I’d never go in there, and I did….

The sales girl was so cute. I could barely look her in the eye when she asked if I needed any help. “I’m looking for a pair of destructed jeans. NOT skinny jeans!” I laughed nervously.

She laughed like a giggly fifteen-year-old. “I totally know what you mean!” And she graciously showed me the flare and boot leg pants.

They didn’t fit. Thankfully. I can’t admit to you how much they cost. But I can tell you that if they had been the perfect pair of jeans, I would have paid for them.

I moved on to the next store, with little hope of finding what I wanted. But amazingly, I did! When these jeans came on, I knew they were it. The ones. Perfect. Comfortable. Flattering. Very flattering. Destructed. Hip.

But, they seemed a little big (I was worried the stretch in them would stretch too much) so I had the store order the next size down for me. When they came a week later, it was like I had gained 10 pounds and they looked ridiculously tight. I sadly returned them to the store and didn’t bother to order the next size up, the ones I had tried on in the store. But for the past five months I’ve been thinking of those jeans. They looked great. No weird pockets. No gap in the back. They made my legs look longer. They were fabulous.

So yesterday I decided I wanted them. No more dreaming about them. We had to go to the mall to get them. We had planned to go there anyway, but to the smelly lotions store. Veering off course into one of the preppy teenage clothing meccas wasn’t part of the plan. My goal was to get in there and get out before someone assumed I was buying the jeans for my teenage daughter.

I was thrilled that they had the jeans in my size and even tried them on to show Sara, just to make sure I still thought they were perfect. She agreed they were fabulous. And they were on sale for a deep discount - $5 off. What’s with these preppy clothing meccas? Don’t they know moms want things for like 80% off? Oh right, moms don’t shop here. Not for themselves anyway.

I was on a shopping high once I had my little brown bag with my jeans folded inside. I had the perfect pair of jeans! Woo-hoo! Life is good! I feel like I’m seventeen! I can’t wait to wear my new jeans!

But then it happens.

Sara needs a Dairy Queen fix. The mall is close to closing down so there’s no one in the food court. This adorable girl is working the counter at DQ. She’s skinny, turbo-tanned, a frequent user of Crest Whitestrips, and looks fabulous in a yellow Dairy Queen/Orange Julius T-shirt. If I wasn’t nice, I’d hate her. I never looked good in any kind of t-shirt. And her jeans? The same ones I just bought, only 19 sizes smaller.

You think I’m kidding.

Sara makes friends with everyone. In fact, before we left town for the day, I had to stop and get gas. Sara goes in the store to get coffee and takes forever. Why? The girl at the counter loved her earrings. So they end up talking at length about jewelry. I think they even exchanged numbers. Sara plans to go back daily to visit her new friend and show off other cute earrings shw owns.

This little Dairy Queen is not to be exempt from Sara’s life purpose :“Can you and I be friends?“ Sara starts telling her about how her very first job was working a DQ. “Do you still have those 50 pound buckets of ice milk you pour in the machine? Oh those things were so heavy! My hands would hurt at the end of the day from making Blizzards. The machine vibrates soooo much.” The girl stared at her with a bit of a blank expression, but laughed politely.

“Oh, back then.” She smiled.

Okay, stop. Did you hear that? Cause Sara and I heard that. And at the exact same moment, I’m guffawing at Sara and she’s guffawing at the Dairy Queen.

“Back then?” I snort.

Sara takes her Blizzard from the girl’s hand and says “Yeah, thanks a lot! Have a nice night!”

She was not friends with that girl anymore. I don’t think she even got a chance to turn that Blizzard upside down and show us it wouldn’t fall out of the cup. We were out of there.

We laughed the whole way out of the mall. And we laughed some more on the way to our next stop, the mecca of bargains for middle-aged women. On our way, we made a checklist of all the benefits of our age. Things like bling on the fingers, professional foil jobs versus a $5 box of Clairol, driving your own Honda, not Daddy’s, and having one hot husband to spend your life with. (We’re really not that superficial).

We laughed so hard. Inside, we’re still teenagers. Even though we pretended to be offended by the girl’s innocent comment, we weren’t.

But to shake off any bad feelings, we acted our age. Our age inside, that is. We tried on goofy hats and posed with hideous purses. We sent silly photos and text messages to the boys we love. We played car karaoke on the ride home. Being a 30-something isn’t all that different from “back then”, when we were young little Dairy Queens ourselves.

So the moral of the story is this: Grow old gracefully. And make sure you have someone to laugh about it with.

Really? That’s the moral?


And find yourself the perfect pair of jeans. (Hint: They’re probably at the mall.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Hazards of Home Education

I'll be among the first to tell you that homeschooling is not for everyone if the argument comes up for debate. In some circles, with some people, when I admit that my children don't go to public school, I get a defensive reaction kind of like "Oh, so you think EVERYONE should homeschool?" Gee, I hope I don't come off that way.

So, for the record, let me reiterate: homeschooling is not for everyone.

I've been making a mental list of what I've deemed "The Hazards of Home Education". I find myself in the most difficult homeschooling year ever, mostly due to having a busy toddler in the house. It's absolutely wonderful, but absolutely crazy at the same time. Most of the precious things in my life are like this- my relationship with God, my husband, my kids, my friends, my family- you get the picture. Wonderful, but crazy.

For home education to accomplish what you desire it to(and for each family that is different) it takes blood, sweat, and tears. It's not for the faint of heart. You give up your career, the paycheck, your "free" time, and the perks of sending your kiddos away for 7 hours a day (admit it homeschool moms- it has its perks!). My desire is not to paint myself as a "homeschooling martyr". Honestly, I gave up my career long before my kiddos came along. I could care less about supplementing the family income, and I really love what I do. But it ain't always easy...

Here are my workplace hazards, the Hazards of Home Education (at the Mathews house anyway)

1. My house is never, ever neat and tidy the way I would like it to be. I greatly dislike stuff being everywhere. I remember with fondness the early days of our marriage and the first two years of Mister's life when things were so organized and neat and somewhat sparse. Now I live in the land of Littlest Pet Shops and Legos everywhere I turn. I step on them, I pull them out of my baby's mouth, I find them in the cupboards, on the piano, in the sink. Which leads me to my next point...

2. Toys are not conducive to getting school done. We generally school at the dining room table, which is inevitably littered with the above mentioned toys plus oodles of others. Picture books too. All a major distraction when I'm trying to teach my children. I can remove them before school begins, but inevitably something shows up to draw their attention away from me and the lesson at hand. One of the delights of homeschooling is the familiarity of your classroom- it is also one of the major annoyances.

3. The telephone. It rings and, even if I intend to ignore it, my children think it must be answered. They've begun answering it for me. My math tutoring is interrupted and all focus is lost.

4. The internet. My greatest asset in homeschooling! What would I do without it????? Last week I used it to get a lapbook on Leonardo DaVinci- for free! But how easily I can find myself on the computer social networking instead of devoting my time to my kids.

5. Food is a hazard when you home educate. It is readily available at all hours of the day. Not only is it another distraction during a lesson, but it's easy to eat and eat and eat whenever the mood hits you (for me, most anytime). And when food- and it's companion, drink- end up getting on my homeschool supplies (and they do) I am ready to make a rule that there is no food allowed in the dining room. Because it's also the school room. Do you see what I'm getting at?

And the crumbs... need I remind you of my blog title?

6. Guilt. Guilt for having a messy house, enforcing rules like no toys at the table, and for checking my friends' facebook status when I run downstairs to grab a forgotten book. Guilt for losing my patience while trying to teach a math concept. Guilt for not doing more outside activities. I know all mom's have guilt... you just add more varieties of it when you keep your kids home with you all day.

7. Social deviance. I mention this one kind of tongue-in-cheek. It's the first question my husband always gets when he tells coworkers we homeschool our kids. It's what my dentist's assistant asked me about and what my hygienist asked me about and what the kids' pediatrician asks me about... "What about the social? Do they get to see other kids?" Should I really get started on that one? Oooo, I'd like to.... but I'm not going too. I'll just assure anyone that of course they see other kids. But I also have to admit that they are perhaps not like the "typical" child of their age- which may not be a bad thing entirely. My kiddos have some habits that would probably be "peer pressured" out of them if they were immersed in a classroom all day- things like whining, being a poor sport when losing a game, tantrums, nose picking... Things I get to handle instead.

8. Exhaustion. On every level. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. And it's not just me. But it's mostly me. One child finishes all their work for the day, but there's still one more. And then there's the toddling baby to play with and read to and keep from climbing on the piano (newest trick) and throwing valuable things into the trash (like Kitchenaid attachments). As soon as I sit down, I heard the shrill cry of "Mama?!" No coffee break. No teacher's lounge. No study hall monitor. No ed techs. Nothing. No one. Nada. Just me.

I could add little things to my list like- nobody raises their hand if they have a question. They just start talking all at once. They decide they need a pee break in the middle of my science lesson instead of going during break time. My red pencils disappear. I really like my red pencils. They make me feel like a real teacher. Please stop using them to color with.

The things I love about home educating are also some of the things that drive me crazy about it. It's wonderful being able to stay in where it's warm, in your jammies if you wish, and snuggle in my bed while reading a great book to the kids. It's excellent to monitor what they eat and be the one to give them a good diet. It does my heart good when they have questions about what we are learning. I love their innocence and their ignorance too. I wouldn't change what I do for the world and I pray I never have to.

I wouldn't mind a roll of bright yellow or orange CAUTION tape though, to rope off the dining room. Just to keep me from getting too serious about all these "hazards" of homeschooling around here.