I Hate Shopping

by Jane Hart, Blogger for a Day

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I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I hate shopping, but I know it had something to do with having children. From my teens to my twenties, I actually enjoyed clothes shopping. It was an event I could do with my girlfriends. We would try on clothes and give (mostly) honest opinions about the outfits.

I am now responsible for many household purchases, including food, home décor, and electronics. All of this shopping saps my energy, and I’m too exhausted to shop for clothes for myself. Or the kids. I loved shopping for them when they were younger. They would wear anything I picked out. Now that they have minds of their own and I am the parent of a preteen, it’s not so easy. Said preteen does not like anything I choose and must scour the mall before making a decision on even one single article of clothing. Back to school shopping was not without its drama. The three of us (me, older daughter and younger daughter) traipsed around the mall one hot August morning. None of the shirts in her favorite store came even close to meeting the dress code requirement (4-finger-width shoulder straps and must actually conceal what’s under the shirt) so on we went to the next store (my choice). The shirts all had a design on the front or a pithy saying – which is passē once you turn 11.

So when the time comes to buy clothes for myself, I have neither the time nor the patience to get the job done. Is it any wonder, then, that I buy my clothes at Costco? It’s quick, easy and mostly painless since I don’t have to try anything on after sampling the artichoke dip, the power bars and the new salsa they’re selling. Well, it always seems like a great idea until I have to stand in the mile-long return line because the jeans made me feel like a sausage squeezed into its casing.

Uh oh! I mentioned the four letter word – jeans. Okay, so it’s five letters, but I believe every woman out there knows about the dreaded jeans shopping. I feel like a foreigner in the jeans section. Boot cut, slim cut, low rise, flare, skinny jeans, jeggings. What does this all mean and why can’t I find a pair of jeans that fit? After I had children, my body shape changed and buying jeans became a much bigger chore than before children. I am essentially the same weight and I haven’t grown taller, yet I still cannot find jeans that fit and don’t have my underwear hanging out the back. Who came up with low rise anyway? I have owned bikini underwear with a higher rise than some of the jeans I’ve tried on.

Sizing for women after children should follow an algorithm, like Garanimals for adults. Plug in the size you were before children into the computer, your present weight, and height and how you like to feel in your jeans (sexy, somewhat comfortable, glamorous, fun loving) and the computer spits out the perfect choice for you.

So, after Christmas, I’ll be the one cursing in the return line at Costco hoping my one good pair of jeans will survive the 4007th washing. It’s only six months until swimsuit season, I should start looking for one now. Shopping for a bathing suit must be easier than finding the perfect jeans, right?

About Jane Hart: When she’s not shopping for ill-fitting jeans or working at her job as a physical therapist, Jane can be found leading Girl Scout expeditions while eating chocolate and reading the New York Times.

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Blogger for a Day

Are you a Mom or a Dad with something to say but not enough time or patience to have your own blog? Do you love to write but never get the chance? Do you have any tips Moms or Dads could use to help make parenting easier and more enjoyable? New for 2015 is a feature I am calling Blogger for a Day. Here are the rules: type something up (around 600 words, give or take) and send it to me with a short bio as well as any accompanying images via email: gmacrandall (at) gmail (dot) com. If I think it fits, I will either edit it or not and feature it on my blog as a regular post. After it goes live, I will provide you with a link to share with your friends and family on social media, and I will do the same. Sound good? I hope so! Can’t wait to see what you all come with.

With love,

Gina

5 things I don’t hate about Christmas

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If you know anything about me, you know that I dread Christmas. I mean, why don’t you take my already overwhelming life with all of its cooking, laundry and children, make it painfully cold and slippery outside, throw in a stomach virus or two and tell me to erect a seven-foot pine tree in my living room? Then, make me leave the warmth and comfort of my house to track down and purchase several dozen items my kids don’t really need (at least not all at once) and have me wrap them individually under a veil of secrecy like I’m in the CIA while planning an elaborate meal that is supposed to impress 13 family members in a house that simply cannot accommodate them all since there is a giant friggin evergreen hogging the living room.

It is no exaggeration to say that Christmas and all of its stress brings me to tears every year and there is no one more happy when it is all over than me.

Still, I have to admit that not all of Christmas is bad. Truth be told, there are five things I don’t hate about it:

The Yule Log: There is nothing more cheesy or delightful than this televised, crackling fire accompanied by a medley of classic Christmas carols. I flick it on via my remote after we open our presents on Christmas morning and feel sorry for people who have real fireplaces and real chimneys with real animals nesting in them and real carcinogens to worry about. The Yule Log is only on for a few hours Christmas morning, but the joy it brings to my heart lasts all year long.

Chevy Chase: You can have your It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. For me, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is as beautiful a piece of storytelling magic there is. I cannot get enough of Eddie’s black dickey turtleneck, Aunt Bethany asking Clark if his house is on fire, and Clark asking Eddie if he can drive him out to the middle of nowhere and leave him for dead. Cannot. Get. Enough.

George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau: I’m pretty sure that serious wine drinkers scoff at this young, light and heavily marketed red that comes only once a year, but I don’t care. It’s good, it’s affordable in bulk, and it takes the edge off. Without it, I might not be able to find even one thing I don’t hate about Christmas.

The Elf: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t hate the Elf on the Shelf. I actually kind of like him. Every year, when I have to put the stupid thing back in its box, I get all misty that another year has passed. I have big plans for the elf when my kids are older and I can do all sorts of creepy things with him, but for right now I love don’t hate how my innocent little darlings stumble out of bed every morning with their hair going every which way to scour the house for him while still wrapped like hot dogs in their blankets.

The Nostalgia: There is something about Christmas that makes me long for another time. I think it’s the music. Almost every song reminds me of something or someone from the past. Whenever I hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas for example, if I close my eyes I swear I can smell my grandmother. My grandmother hated Christmas as much as me, and I love her even more for it. I miss the way she would shove her guests out of the way so that she could get the damn dinner served and over with already. I try my best to keep her spirit alive by emulating her disgust at Christmas every year and according to my mother I do a pretty good job. Now my grandfather, swear to God, was named Rudolph so it’s impossible for me not to think of him over and over and over again this time of year. I wonder what will remind my kids of me at Christmas when they are grown? If I’m lucky, they will think of me whenever they hear Happy Holidays by Andy Williams and sing it the only way I know how–with extreme sarcasm.

Lost at the Parent/Teacher Conference

I had my parent/teacher conference recently and I think it went well, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I was a little lost. Mostly, I was lost when it came time to discuss my son’s progress in reading. He is in the third grade, and as his Mom, all I really want to know is a) can he read, and b) does he understand what he is reading. The short answer to both of these questions is “yes,” but as it turns out, the parent/teacher conference is not the time for short answers. Instead, it’s the time for long, complex answers that hurt my brain and make me regret not learning more about the Common Core standards or whatever.

It’s not that I am unhappy with the education my children are getting–I am confused by it. There are all of these methodologies and constructs and performance assessments with weird acronyms and to be honest the communication hasn’t been all that great. As a result, I can sense a growing chasm between them (educators) and us (overwhelmed parents who have NO IDEA what to make for dinner tonight).

During the conference, my son’s teacher assumed I knew a lot about how she assesses my child’s reading ability, but the truth is, I know very little about that particular thing. She and thousands of teachers across the US use this complicated system called the Fountas and Pinnell Text Level Gradient that places a book into one of 26 categories, each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet that increase in complexity from A to Z. Also, letters close to each other in the alphabet have apparently joined together to form bands. For what it’s worth, I predict LMNOP will be the first one with a hit song.

According to my son’s teacher, he is reading “M” level books, which doesn’t give me much insight into how smart or not smart he is. I guess he is in the “Middle”? Or maybe he is “Marvelous”? Actually, that’s not fair. His teacher did give me a printout explaining all 26 categories in excruciating detail, but my eyes glazed over around “J” and I started thinking about what I was going to serve for dinner again.

All I know is that at home, when he is putting off bedtime, my son reads comic books about farts, butts and boogers. I personally feel he could do better and should be reading real yet age appropriate literature–like maybe James and the Giant Peach or Charlotte’s Web–but apparently comic books are not only OK, they are actually encouraged in school, so I pretty much have no hope for James or Charlotte.

My son’s teacher also assumed I knew all about the various ways reading comprehension is measured today. It’s not enough that a child simply understands what he read, now he must retell what he read, refer back to the text when he is retelling it, and/or infer something about what he read. My son’s teacher told me he could be better at inferring, but I’m telling you, unless the text discusses the finer points of farts, butts or boogers, he just doesn’t care.

Another thing that upsets me about education today is how my kids don’t receive letter grades but numbers on their report cards. Their teachers have told me that 1 means “needs improvement,” 2 means “developing,” 3 means “consistent” and 4 means “exceeds grade level expectations,” but I’m not sure how to react to these numbers. Should I freak out over a “1” the same way my Mom freaked out over an “F”? Is a “4” the same as an “A” and if so, how come he didn’t get any? I wish I could understand the rationale for leaving letter grades behind. I mean, they are practically ingrained in our culture. Plus, numbers intimidate me and remind me of math.

Speaking of math, the way it is taught today could not be any more different than it was when I was in school. In fact, two plus two today does not so much equal four as it equals a brain aneurysm. Seriously, how complicated is the new math? My kids’ school figured out pretty early on that they would need the full support of parents if the new math was going to be anywhere near successful, so they held an informational night where all of these CEOs, lawyers, doctors, and investment bankers sat in the cafeteria to learn how to add all over again. It was amazing. I drank actual Kool-Aid that night and left a full-fledged believer in something called Singapore math. Now all I need to do is locate Singapore on a map and I’ll be all set.

At War with Water

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Whenever I had a nightmare as a child, my mother would soothe me and tell me to go back to sleep, but I would be afraid because what if I had the same dream again? My mother, desperate for some sleep, would tell me that it was not possible to have the same dream twice. She was very convincing, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I believed her until the age of 30 when I bought my first home.

That was when my recurring water dream started. I now have it at least once a month. Invariably, my dream takes this progression:

  1. A storm is approaching
  2. There is some excitement
  3. The power goes out
  4. Water gets in
  5. House is gone

A psychologist might explain that this dream is really just a metaphor for all of the anxieties I face in which the home represents my inner sense of peace and the storm represents all of that which is out of my control, and I might believe that nonsense if not for the fact that as a homeowner I fear water like a rabbit fears the fox.

My first clue that water is public homeowner enemy number one came even before we closed on our starter forever house when there was a flurry of correspondence back and forth between lawyers about how exactly the sellers intended to sell a house without a sump pump. Back then, I didn’t even know what a sump pump was, but I could tell it was important just by the passion in my lawyer’s voice. Today, we have one that is made of solid gold and I check on it every night before I go to bed whether or not it is raining. In fact, I might have slept next to it during Hurricane Irene.

My second clue that I was going to be at war with water every single day of my life came when my mother was visiting and took a shower in our master bath. I went into the basement to do some laundry and holy shit, it was raining down there! Apparently, there was a leak where the shower pan met the drain pipe, but only when my mother was in there. My husband, who is significantly heavier, never had any problems.

I have actually lost count of the number of times I have hired someone to fix a leak. I feel like on any given day, I have a leak somewhere in this house it’s just a matter of how observant I am. We recently renovated our main bath–as in, we gutted it down to the studs–and one day soon after it was complete when I was in the basement doing laundry, I looked up, not because I suspected anything but because I was smug. Never in a million years did I expect to see a leak, but I did. And then I saw another. My contractor came back and made everything right again, until his caulk turned moldy and now I cry a little about it every day.

I also cry when it rains in the fall (and the spring, and the summer too), because our gutters are always clogged with leaves and mysterious debris and as a result our gutters are always overflowing, causing hundreds of gallons of rainwater to pool in the exact place it’s not supposed to pool–right at the foundation. Unfortunately, there is no safe way to clean the gutters, and so we pay our landscapers to do it. The problem is that our landscapers don’t live here with us in this house and can’t clear them every 20 minutes like they need so I will occasionally hang out my bedroom window by my ankles in the middle of a thunderstorm with a 14-foot green pole I found in my mother’s garage a few year’s ago. It’s fine, don’t worry.

When you rent you don’t fully understand all of the ways in which water will destroy you. You still see water as a good thing, providing cool refreshment and necessary hydration. I see the young kids today, doing research on Urban Compass to try and find the best NYC neighborhood for their personality and I think they have no idea what they are in for when they move to the burbs and have to give up their “flushable” wipes so as not to have raw sewage backing up into their basements. I envy them and their ignorance, but then I wonder, have they familiarized themselves with the city’s flood zone maps and evacuation routes? Because they really should.