The Attack on Titan Effect

I’m that mom at comic conventions who hasn’t a clue… and I love it!

I love that my kids have a passion for something and they feel secure enough to not only create homemade cosplay but to wear it proudly. You may have seen some of these pics before so I apologize for not remembering what I’ve posted and for being too lazy to check. Enjoy!

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The Winter Is Coming Certainty

I’ve only seen snow a handful of times whereas my husband R grew up in it. Our oldest has been lucky to see snow in every state we have been stationed though I’m not sure Georgia counted since he was only two weeks old at the time. The girls have only seen snow on a road trip to Disneyland of all places. When a great price for a hotel in Lake Tahoe came up on Groupon (awesome discount site, not getting paid to promote), we could not resist.

Needless to say, the kids were ecstatic.

We worried about the cost but not too much. After all, we save for this very purpose. We decided to do our Disneyland approach– bringing snacks and drinks, buying most of our meals at a grocery store or local restaurant, and limiting our site eating to just one meal. There would be no skiing as I bought some sleds on clearance the year before so we packed those. I figured we could enjoy just being in the snow. We packed layers and weather-proofed shoes, socks, sweaters, and coats. We were ready.image image image

Or so we thought.

We got cold and wet and wet and cold. We had to go to the room to warm up a few times a day. Still, we had a wonderful time.

For all of the George R. R. Martin fans, winter is coming. Guess who’s getting the new GOT map book for his birthday on Easter Sunday… (tried to upload a pic but failing tremendously)

World’s Worst Parent (or Is Santa Real? Part 2)

I did not wake up this morning and decide to crush my daughter. I promise, I didn’t.

I rely on mini-discussions to follow up on the big discussions. My daughter A is in fourth grade but some of her friends have already started puberty. I’ve already presented her with a “growing up” book and talked to her about bodily changes. We haven’t had THE TALK yet but there’s a lot of ground to cover with girls so we have to go slow.

Last week my husband R had mentioned in passing that A needed to start wearing deodorant. Not an easy subject for a dad to approach with his preteen daughter so I said I’d handle it. After all, in my second year of teaching I did tell my class of thirty-three fourth and fifth graders that they were starting to smell bad. (I was a young teacher and was very blunt.) This called for a mini-discussion.

I sat A down and reminded her of the body book she had. “You smell,” I said. “Just like mommy. So now you have to wear deodorant so your pits don’t stink.” She laughed and asked if she could have deodorant that was made of candy.

Um, no.

She chose her own “flavor” at the store and reminded her younger sister to quit laughing at this and bra talk because she’ll go through the same thing in a few years.

So naturally I followed up with A in private. “Are you wearing your deodorant every day?” “Yes.” And I had a couple of other puberty questions and statements that we’ll save for another time.

Then I said, “Since you’re growing up, I have to tell you something else.”

And the truth about Santa came out. I didn’t plan it. I just knew that R or I would have to do it sometime and NOT in December. I figured, I may as well do it right now.

There were tears. There was denial. There were apologies.

The apologies were from me. Though I didn’t articulate this as much, I felt like I crushed a huge part of this wonderful, intricate lie I helped to construct. Now I was asking her to participate in this charade to protect her younger sister, who when she turns ten, I will crush her as well.

Later I told R and said that I felt like the world’s worst parent. He said he was glad I did it, more so because he said he would have probably lost his nerve in the middle of the truth and taken it all back.

He’s right. I am and have always been THAT parent. The one who disciplines, the one who sets the rules. R will put them to bed at night and be totally frustrated that they are still running around, laughing, yelling. I am the one who yells toward the stairway, “I’m coming up to check on you in five minutes!”

I am the one that produces silence with just one sentence. I’m fine with being THAT parent. I have ALWAYS BEEN THAT parent. It just sucks being that parent sometimes. This is one of those times.

I assured A that nothing would change. We are Catholic so I reminded her that even though there was a Saint Nicholas, Christmas was never about Santa. I reminded her about our faith and what it means.

“What does it mean?” I asked while stroking her hair. She sat in my lap taking in all of the information and slowing unraveling memories for the truth. We sat for what seemed like an eternity. Did I crush her? Will she ever trust me? Did she lose a part of herself that will never be restored?

I asked again, “What does it mean?”

“Presents,” she replied with one of her typical smirks.

I hugged her and she went to play outside, promising not to reveal the truth to her sister. World’s Worst Parent, my ass.

The Case for Delayed Gratification

I often hear friends say that they want to give their children what they themselves never had. It shouldn’t surprise you that I feel the opposite: If I didn’t have it, my kids don’t need it.

Sure, we freaked out about the first kid, even before he was born. I thought I really needed a diaper changing table and that it had to match the super fancy crib we saw at the Exchange. Super fancy meaning a crib that cost over a hundred bucks!

Turns out we didn’t need a changing table nor a high end crib. We were just a young couple on a young kid’s military salary, after all.

We did get caught up in the single-parent, daddy’s-deployed guilt for a bit but I’m sure there are a handful of posts in the archives covering all of that.

I’m talking about the need for stuff. I’m talking about instant gratification. And when you put those things together, I’m talking about entitlement for said stuff.

One of my cousins once told me that whenever she took her kid to Target, he was only allowed to buy one toy.

What?

For a birthday, fine. Reward for a good report card, okay. But simply just because there would be a temper tantrum without it? I don’t buy it.

We have convinced ourselves that we deserve it, we earned it, we need to spoil ourselves. Do we really?

I will treat myself to a mani-pedi but do I deserve it? Am I entitled to this? No, I worked hard to pay for this among other things but I certainly don’t have to have it.

When we pass this line of thinking on to our kids, we are buying into this materialistic fantasy in which we have been immersed. The amount of money spent on advertising is mind-boggling. McDonalds says we “deserve a break today” and instead of being grateful, instead of praying/meditating, instead of just being content, we need to prove it to ourselves and to others by buying a Big Mac. Beauty product companies prey on us in the same way. We used to be something– whether it is younger, thinner, happier– and don’t we deserve to be that again?

I’m not proud that I chose to celebrate a new job offer with a designer purse or am even taking a coffee break at the local coffee chain to catch up on work. Can you say hypocrite?

I do it too but I’ll be damned if I take it too far and choose to teach my children this. I grew up in the eighties with two working class parents. My little brother and I spent most of our time outside. We were able to play video games but it didn’t hold a candle to going to the park, meeting kids in the neighborhood, and goofing around until the street lights came on. We didn’t have a lot of toys and we didn’t go out to eat often. Perhaps growing up without extras allowed me to grateful for whatever came my way.

For others though, it’s probably seen as deprivation, as something they did not have so they will provide that for their children but at what cost?

Kids are starting to believe that things that used to be luxuries to their parents are now the new necessities. No, we don’t have to eat out everyday. No, you don’t need a non-coffee drink at the coffee place like mommy. No, you absolutely-positively-over-my-dead-body do not need a cell phone, let alone the newest iPhone!

I sometimes work at a nearby high school and facial piercings and tattoos have become increasingly popular. I do not have a problem with facial piercings and tattoos but I do have an issue with the money used towards vanity when the kids clearly did not work to buy these alterations. I asked a few of these kids right before class ended how they got the money to get pierced or tatted. One said he got birthday money and used that money toward his three hundred dollar tattoo. The rest said their parents paid for it.

There was nothing scientific about my informal survey and I’m thankful I have this relationship with these students to have such frank discussions. So frank that I was able to ask half-jokingly, “Don’t you think you should have saved this money for tuition or a textbook?”

R said one of his friends freaked out when his daughter in college got a tattoo. R and I had very different viewpoints. He said he didn’t know what the big deal was, especially since he and I both have permanent artistic renditions on our bodies. My whole thing was that everything she had should have been going toward college. If she’s willing to throw away several hundred dollars on something, anything that did not have to do with her primary goal of graduating from college, what else is she willing to sacrifice? A sacrifice that is costing her parents tens of thousands of dollars. Several hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket but I’m sure her father felt that it was a huge sign of disrespect when clearly he was sacrificing so much to send her to college and she could not delay her gratification until she earned her own money to buy it.

I don’t care if my kids want to get their nose pierced or a tribal tattoo that has nothing to do with their heritage. Really, I don’t. (However, if they do the latter, I will tease them until the end of time.) I do care, however, if they use money that was earmarked for something else, college being the primary goal.

It can happen without warning, without intention. And it can happen over and over.

During a particularly hectic week due to work and kids’ afterschool activities, I didn’t realize that we were going out to eat a lot. From the back of the car, I heard a voice say, “Can we just eat at Grandma’s house instead of burgers and fries?”

I broke down a few years ago and bought the boy a phone when he was in fifth grade. He had to walk home with both of his sisters afterschool and the walk was a little over a mile. While they had many friends who lived along the way and I gave them permission to stay at any of their friends’ houses (nes that I have met and know their parents) if they ever felt unsafe, it still gave me piece of mind, even a false one, that he had a cell phone. I quickly squashed his dreams of ever having a smart phone, citing that neither Daddy nor I had a cell phone until we were in our late twenties and even then, we had only one between the two of us.

Even if I have taught my children the art of delayed gratification, it is not my intention for them to automatically dismiss something or some goal simply because of cost.

At an anime convention, my middle daughter saw a key chain that featured her favorite anime character. She knew I wasn’t going to buy it for her and decided that she would save her money until she could earn it.

Now I could have dropped the six dollars to buy this key chain for her but let me tell you, the joy of having that keychain would not have come close to the experience we had at the last anime convention.

After months of saving, she had enough to buy that key chain and more. She pulled out her purse to pay for her souvenirs with such pride and with such conviction that it was worth much more than six dollars six months ago could ever bring.

A friend of mine recently had twin boys and while walking around the baby section of the toy store, I felt so overwhelmed. My own “baby” is seven years old but many of these products didn’t even exist then! Did you know there are baby swings that can move in more than the usual back-and-forth? You can simulate a swing, a car ride, and a few other movements I can’t remember. How easy it was to fall into that line of thinking. I didn’t have that for my baby, maybe I should get two for her twins.

In the end, I walked out empty-handed. I seem to be doing that a lot these days.

The Time After Time Insufficiency

I am typing this post on my phone at 4 in the morning. My husband R is awake to begin his commute to school in San Francisco. Usually I sleep right through his morning routine.

Usually.

In the midst of going full time next school year, I’m sometimes struck with waves of emotion. This morning is no exception.

I don’t know what grade I’ll have nor where my classroom will be. I don’t know my schedule. I have not signed a contract.

The anxiety of not knowing is sometimes overshadowed by the excitement of it all. While I have almost seven years of classroom experience, the years are relatively far and few between. I’m grateful for the years that span almost twenty years but also realize that it feels like starting over each time.

I thought I would be one of those teachers who spent decades in the same grade in the same classroom but little did I know that would be a fleeting thought once I married the navy. And it’s only now at 4 in the morning that I realize this is not just another job assignment, but a chance to prove to myself that I can still be that teacher.

Time is and is not on my side. True, the decades of teaching in front of me are limited to two depending on retirement restrictions. But in the golden age of R’s retirement, of the years of living apart, and of the foresight to buy a house while the housing market was at rock bottom, time is finally on my side.

Unfortunately a good night’s sleep is not.

The Elf Implementation 2014

Our Elf on the Shelf has been busy in years past…

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This year our friend Ellie came in like a wrecking ball!

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Before I go on, our elf only poses like this long enough for me to take a photo. She goes right back to the G-rated fun for which she was created. In fact she doesn’t get herself in cutesy predicaments because she’s so exhausted and sometimes forgets to move at all! That’s when our 13 year old son gives us a hand.

And now, more adventures of this little elf gone wild…

Cover your eyes! Ellie made a sex tape!

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My coffee has been tasting rather shitty lately.

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Do these pancakes taste funny?

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Um…

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Anyone hungry for dachshund adobo?

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Those are NOT snowflakes!

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Someone’s been dipping!

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What the hell?! Not our wedding picture! Not the baby pictures!

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Is Santa Real?

The other day my middle daughter A asked me if Santa was real. She’s nine years old and in fourth grade. I thought for sure she knew the truth when she was in second grade for that’s when we broke the news to her older brother. He knew all along but he wanted to spare my feelings.

I asked A, “What makes you ask that?”

“When I was at catechism, there were kids who were saying that Santa wasn’t real. Can you believe that?”

My husband R and I had agreed the week before that we needed to come clean with A after the holidays. We both thought she knew.

We were wrong.

I gave her a hug and sighed. “What do you think?” I asked, careful not to arouse suspicion from the youngest in the next room. L is only in second grade and seven years old. Too soon to know.

R interrupted the moment and asked for her help to finish making the blueberry pie. Saved by the art of pastry making.

When A joined my husband in the kitchen, our son, who at 13 is the oldest, whispered to me two words that made me teary-eyed: “Don’t tell.”

Our two oldest have a real love-hate relationship. Most of the time they get along and gang up against me to find the most annoying sounds to repeat at a crescendo until it’s too much for me to bear and finally I blow up and tell them to be quiet. Okay, so I’m exaggerating the latter but it feels true.

When they don’t get along, it’s gets pretty bad. Dukes get raised. Nerf darts are shot. Dirty looks all around.

So when the oldest asked me not to tell the truth, the spirit of Santa had never felt more alive.