Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Victorian Era.

My daughter and I were recently invited to attend a Victorian Tea Party.   When I explained to her that  it meant we would get to wear frilly clothing and use the tea cups her grandmother had sent, her eyes widened to the size of the tea cup saucers.   Finding dress-up clothes at the thrift store is one of her favorite "sports", and she had a whole month to put our outfits together.

As I was helping her locate pictures of Victorian clothing, hats, shoes and hairstyles for ladies, I started wondering about a few things.   The most bothersome one being, "What if I really DID live in that era?"

Yeah.  I know.
I should have just had that second cup of coffee and left my fuzzy brain alone.

Instead, I continued to wistfully imagine myself as the Lady of the Manor.  Sipping tea and nibbling toast points.  Idly chatting with friends. Entertaining guests on the pianoforte in the someone to entertain my guests on the pianoforte in the salon. (There isn't enough coffee in the world to get my imagination to the point where I could be responsible for an evening's entertainment on an instrument...even the kazoo.)

Let's see.....what else.... oh, yes...the clothes....
Luxurious fabrics and flattering designs, sparkling jewelery, pointy shoes, lacy shawls...the works. 
Damsels in distress and dashing young men coming to the rescue, with happy endings for  one and all.
I realize that it sounds as if I read far too many British authors, or watch much too much BBC television, but the perceived romance of the period is very captivating.

Today was the day of that tea party.   My daughter and I spent the early afternoon putting the final touches on our outfits and completing our "toilets"  complete with curling iron and hairspray.  (obviously talked into this by my daughter...normally curling irons and my head are farther apart than our current political parties.)

We entered into our 21st century coach and four with visions of tea and crumpets and life in the 1800's dancing through our imaginations.   Then we were rudely hurtled back to the realities of life in 2012.   It seems the "horses" under the hood had died, and our coachman had taken the day off.
So I found myself at the crossroads of Lady of the Manor Avenue and Woman of 2012 Street.
As a Woman of 2012 I set the example for my daughter, popped the hood, grabbed a wrench and proceeded to make the diagnosis of dead battery.  Note the hair-do, shawl and jewelry still in place.

As Lady of the Manor, I promptly canceled the coachman's day of liberty..... called my own dashing hero, absconded with his smaller carriage and continued on to the society event only slightly past fashionably late.

Thankfully I am married to a man who indulges my flights of imagination into fictional worlds.  This Woman of 2012 is very thankful that he humored my inner High Society self, and fixed my carriage later in the afternoon.  Because while I didn't miss the class on car maintenance, and am very capable of changing a battery, it's not very often I get to play in the 1800's for the day.  :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to get the summer clothes completely stored away before you need them again.

I saw the calendar now reads mid-October so, I figured it was time to put away the summer clothing and brave the plastic storage bins containing our various collections of  long-johns, fleece lined pants and wool sweaters.  
 Some of the other clues that helped prod me towards this decision were:
1) Thinking that I should probably turn the furnace on,
2) My children telling me I should turn the furnace on,
3) The neighbors seeing the icicles hanging from our noses and suggesting that we turn the furnace on.

You would think that it shouldn't take such drastic signs for a mom to get some warm clothing out of the basement and into her kids' rooms....right???? would  think....unless you were a mom.
See, moms who live where there are more than 2 seasons a year DREAD  the quarterly "Changing of the Wardrobes" ritual more than almost anything else. Well..except maybe the  Avian Flu, Swine Flu and  stomach bug du jour hitting the household simultaneously.   What could possibly make this chore that bad? 
Oh!  I am soooo glad you asked that question.  :)

Here is how the procedure works at our house.  By the number of plastic bins I have seen in other homes, I am thinking it works the same for many of you as well.  While the following steps may refer to children..plural, I have found this works best one child at a time.  I don't think there is enough coffee and chocolate in the world to get me through this with multiple children on the same day.

Step 1  Clean up the living room. Find all the spots that haven't been dusted since the last season change. Find the 13 pairs of socks your son said he was missing. Sigh. Brew a strong pot of coffee.

Step 2  Require the children to empty all of the drawers, closets and corners in their rooms of  any and all clothing. All clothing must be brought to the living room for sorting.  Have a cup of coffee while the children are in their rooms.

Step 3  Create three separate piles for the clothing.  One for clothing that is too big and will fit next year. (HA!)  A second pile is created for clothing that will not fit/does not fit and can be donated or passed on.
The third pile is for the clothes that are still in good condition and may be taken to a consignment shop....more on this later..... 

Step 4  Go to the basement and try to find all of the plastic tubs containing the winter clothes.  It is necessary to find all of the tubs because everyone's clothes didn't make it into their individual tubs last year. Sigh again.  Get a second cup of coffee. And some chocolate.

Step 5  Put all of the tubs in your living room.  Sort out the winter clothes that you thought would still fit but don't.  Try  not to forget which pile of clothes is the "too small" pile.  Take a chocolate break when you realize that you did, indeed, mix up the piles and need to go through them again.

Step 6  Have the children take the new set of clothing up to their rooms.   Nag said children about putting the clothes away neatly.  Reserve some chocolate for next week when you check their rooms and find the clothes in piles on the floor.

Step 7 Put the clothes to be donated in bags to sit by the door for a few weeks until you remember to go to the donation center.   Gather the clothes for the consignment shop and spend  a good portion of the rest of the day washing, stain treating and ironing things.  Put these clothes in a specially marked bin and take them to the shop, forgetting that they buy 2 seasons in advance and won't take your bin.   Take the bin  home and put it back in the to the bin of clothes that you should have taken...from the last time you tried this.  Get a third cup of coffee.

Repeat with second, third, fourth, ....child.
 I would caution you to only do as many children a day as your caffeine consumption and chocolate budget allows.

  This  next step is the one that gets me every time.   The one that has the potential to put me over the edge, no matter how many cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee or squares of Godiva dark chocolate with sea salt I consume.  (Or Hershey's Special Dark...I'm not picky lol) The one that makes this chore so onerous and tiresome.  The one that makes this thrifty soul want to just give up and buy new clothes every season. (This severely cuts into my chocolate budget, which is why I refrain.)

Step 8  Spend the entire winter still finding last summer's clothes going through the wash!
Remember back in step 2, where you tell the children to empty their rooms of all clothing?  I inevitably forget to tell my concrete, bottom line thinking children to do things like: check under the bed/dresser/chair/desk/fishtank/bookshelf/curtains/legos/stuffed animals etc..  for any clothes that need to make their way into one of the three piles set up in the living room.   I also usualy forget to make sure the laundry is done the day before.  So we spend the dark and dreary winter months catching brightly colored summer clothes in the laundry and stuffing them in whatever plastic bin we can reach. Thus leaving me with the task of more sorting four months later when the season starts to change again.

I am sure there must be a better way to get this done.  Perhaps one that involves less caffeine and chocolate consumption.  Maybe even one that requires fewer platic bins! If you know of an improved method, please sell your stock in Dunkin' International and let me in on your secret...

'Cause I missed the class on I'm going to have to stock up on more coffee.....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

  Trial Law for pre-parents.

This really should be a required class at some level of the educational experience.   Forget birth education, parenting style seminars and the debates over when to introduce solids, when to potty train and when /if you let a child cry themselves to sleep.   I have news for you:   Most children will eventually sleep, eat, pee and poop in a socially acceptable manner  On. Their. Own.   Many times in spite of , not because of, any method you choose to employ.

Therefore I submit that  pre-parents' precious time, money and energy be spent on a much more valuable class.  Trial Law.
The majority of your parenting years will be spent attempting to reason with small people who are concrete, literal thinkers and happen to live in your house.  You will quickly figure out that the Halls of the Upstairs can be turned into the Halls of Parental Injustice in the blink of an eye, so why not get some legal training?

Think about it.  What makes a successful trial lawyer?   One who knows and applies the following rules:
1) Only ask a witness questions to which you already know the answer.
2) Ask  a witness mostly yes or no questions.
3) Stop a witness immediately after they have given a minimal satisfactory response.
4) Some witnesses may be considered "hostile".
Substitute the word "child" for "witness" and I believe we have the perfect parenting class!

Case in point:
My children are old enough to take care of ALL of their personal hygiene needs. I could just assume that they are performing the needed tasks at the appropriate times, but since putting myself through my own little pre-law course (list of materials can be found at the end of this post)  I know that I must become the trial lawyer mom every night at bed time.  The living/courtroom scene usually plays out something like this:
(court stenographer skills not necessary unless going for advanced parenting of teenagers certification)

Mom: Did you brush your teeth?   (rule 1 &2)
Child: Yes.
Mom: Tonight?
Child : Yes
Mom: With toothpaste?
Child : ummmmm, well , you see...
Mom: (interrupts...see rules 3&4)  Go. Back. Up. Stairs. And. Brush. With. Tooth. Paste.

Various other items (shampoo, dental floss, deodorant  etc...) should be checked on random evenings to keep the witness guessing.

Second only to Trial Law in importance is Contract Law.  You should always, always, always  remember to leave multiple layered contingencies in any contract you make with any witness  child living in your home under the legal driving age.    For example:

Mom:  If you clean your room by lunch, then I will take you to the zoo.
Child: OK

Now in my opinion, this contract does not have enough clauses and sub-paragraphs in it.  An almost air-tight liability free contract should look something like this:

Mom:  If you clean your room by lunch,  don't hit your sister, eat all your veggies, leave the cat alone, get your shoes on when I tell you, don't fuss in the car, don't cry when its time to leave, the planets align, and you promise to put me in a retirement home in Hawaii while I'm still young enough to enjoy it, then I will take you to the zoo.
Child: OK

See?   Much better!
After they reach legal driving age, an auditory signal is often enough to produce the desired behavioral results :   the jingling of the car keys.  Almost no other contract required.

So, my dear jury of readers, should you happen upon some poor, unsuspecting victim  pre-parent at the local bookstore standing in front of the fourteen shelves of parenting books, please do them the favor of rendering the verdict of  "useless on almost all counts" to the entire parenting collection and gently guide them to the much smaller, but infinitely more useful legal section.   They will thank you for it later, when they realize that they didn't miss the class on that.

**** I have found that the best legal training can be found on cable TV, as there is hardly an hour of programming that does not include some episode of some version of Law and Order on some re-run channel.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I didn't really.  I was a history major, then a history teacher.  I went through the whole scenario of All Hallows Evening, All Saint's Day, Martin Luther and his posting of the 95 Theses, etc, etc, etc...
I get the historical and religious significance of the day...just not why we have turned it into its modern day sugar extravaganza.

Don't get me wrong.... I love chocolate and high fructose corn syrup just as much as the next mini-van driving mom....second only to pumpkin spiced lattes as my favorite thing about autumn. I just have a few issues about the process of how we obtain said corn syrup at the end of this month.

The following is a short synopsis for the current cultural method of candy re-distribution.

1) Go to the store in AUGUST and buy $200 worth of candy wrapped in special fall colored cellophane.  Hide  the stash from yourself so it will still be there in October.

2) Decorate your front lawn with inflatable vampires, bats and Frankenstein monsters.  You make your home look warm and inviting.

3) Search high and low to find the perfect costumes for your children that ......
        a)EVERY other child their age will also be wearing .....and....
        b) will be covered up by their winter jacket anyway  ....and....
        c) much like your wedding dress....will cost too much money and is only worn once.

4) Spend most of your child's young life telling them about "Stranger Danger" but then on Oct. 31 undo all that good parenting by:
         a) sending them out after dark on a school night
         b) wearing masks and dark clothing (covered by their winter jackets)
         c) going straight up to the strangers' houses
         d) demanding candy
 While you try to find what is left of your stash purchased in August to hand out to the other neighborhood hoodlums.
Then try to explain to your child that all candy-bearing strangers automatically turn back into federal criminals on Nov. 1....only to be given a reprieve the month of December if they agree to wear a red and white suit.....but I digress.....

5) Spend the next 20 days trying to "ration" the $20 worth of candy they brought home in order to avoid the sugar crankies.  (and hope they don't notice how many pieces they started with.....)

After calculating the cost of the candy, costumes, vampires, dentist bills and new elastic waisted yoga pants for mom, decide to do the following next year:

Take that $200 and load a gift card to your favorite pumpkin spice latte carrying coffee shop, let your kids stay home and cry about how mean you are, and take all the other moms in the neighborhood out for coffee on Oct. 31

Then just tell everyone:  "Hey, sorry.  I must have missed the class on that Halloween thing, but have you ever tried whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles on those lattes?"   ;)