Middle Schoolers Seeking Dating Advice From Crazy Parents: A True Story

My oldest son is now in middle school.

We have entered the big leagues, my friends.

The thought of String Bean walking through the doors of middle school sent me into a panic. All I could think about were my uncomfortable days of junior high.  I never wanted to relive those moments of hell again.

Fortunately, all my worrying was for nothing. String Bean has had a good run thus far.

Lately, he has been asking me some unique questions.  Questions that he has decided I am the best resource to ask.  Questions about dating.

Yes, dating.  Apparently something resembling this happens in sixth grade.

Sadly, I don’t want to share my middle school dating experiences which only consisted of one slow dance, a note that had the words, “Will you go out with me? Circle one: yes, no or maybe,” and being dumped by the said note-writer because I wasn’t allowed to go with he and his older brother to an amusement park.

Obviously, I was not the best person to ask.  I didn’t become a good person to ask until later in high school and in college.  Oh yes.  Good times.

So sorry – I digress. Back to String Bean.

“Mom.  Can I talk to you?” he said as he is working on his math homework.

“Sure thing, dude,” I said as I stared blankly at his math homework.  It looks more advanced than my college Algebra class.

“How do you know if a girl likes you?” he said, not making eye contact with me.

“Do you talk to the girl at school?”

“Yes. We sit near each other in Social Studies.”

“Have you talked to her about anything in particular like movies or Legos or anything?”

“Mom. Seriously? You think I am that dorky that I would talk to a giiiiiiiirrrrrrrlllll about Legos?”

“No, not at all. Probably not a good idea to talk about Legos.  I was just thinking about Legos for a second. My bad,” I said while looking at the Lego Shakepeare figure he gave me last week.

“How do I know if she likes me?” he said, starting to lose patience with me.

“Has she given you any hints that she likes you, such as giggles or whispers to her friends or smiles really big when you are around?” Yes, I am grasping here.  Failing like I failed many a math test.

“Yeah, kind of.  So, how do I ask her on a date?”

Wait a second.  A date? Wwwwwwwhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaatttttt???

“Umm. You could ask her if she likes Thor, and if she has seen any of the movies,” I said.  I am not sure where my response came from except for the fact I really like Thor.  Really like him.  And I want to see Thor, so I would take anyone to see it with me!

“OK.  Maybe I will talk to her about movies then,” he says and goes back to his homework.

Successful dodging of topic!  Hooray!

Later in the evening, as we are doing the bedtime ritual, I go to tuck String Bean in.

“Mom.  So how do I ask a girl on a date again?”

“Starting talking to her and then see where it goes,” I said, and, knowing full well The Captain was nearby, I added, “Maybe you should ask your dad because he is a guy also.”  Ha.

“Dad, how do I ask a girl out on a date?” he said.

The Captain appeared in the doorway looking completely baffled at the question, but without missing a beat, he replied, “You are too young to go on dates.  Now go to bed.”

String Bean looks at me and whispers, “See, Mom, this is why I asked you. Dad must not have had any dates in middle school.  He probably talked to girls about Legos.  Poor guy.”

They grow up too fast...

They grow up too fast…

A Time to Tap

My favorite tap shoes.

My favorite tap shoes.

A million moons ago I taught tap.

I was the kid in middle school and high school who was always in dance classes.  I was the kid who kept taking dance classes even as other students dropped out.  I was the kid who competed in dance.  I was that kid.

My specialty was tap.  I loved tap dancing – the rhythm, pace, sounds – all of it.  And I was pretty good at it.

In my 20s, I was approached by a friend to teach tap at her studio.  I was a young pup, and with my schedule, it was easy and fun.  I taught for her for quite a few years, but when I was pregnant with our second son, I was put on bed rest.  I wasn’t allowed to teach tap – or do much of anything for that matter.  After Squishy was born, I did not go back to teaching tap.  I really didn’t miss it that much.  My hands were full with a three-year-old and a newborn.

But, in the summer of 2012, I was approached by a former dance student of mine named Lacey.  She was in her second year of running her own dance studio, and wanted to talk to me about a few things.

I stopped in and she sat me down and asked me to teach tap for her.  She said all of the right things to convince me to teach: that I was enthusiastic, that she looked up to me, that I was a great tapper and that I was hilarious.

She played the funny card.  I was hooked.

I taught classes at the studio all last year, and realized that, yes, I did kind of miss it.

At first, the mirrors were daunting.  I wasn’t used to seeing my full self in floor to ceiling mirrors.  Do you know what this can do to someone’s self esteem?!  Scary times!  Those mirrors helped motivate me lose weight.  Really.

I also wasn’t used to tapping for three to four hours in a night.  After teaching angelic high school students English all day, tapping until the sun was in bed was a hard transition for me.

Recital time!

Recital time!

But I did miss a few things about teaching dance. First, I missed the kids and how entertaining they were.  Fixing hair bows and tying tap shoes and consoling little girls who missed their mommies was something I was not accustomed to being a mom of boys.  I also missed the thrill of seeing their dance steps finally click – those “I got it!” moments.  I missed choreographing and perfecting recital dances.  But what I missed most of all was me.  I know it sounds strange, but all the memories flooded back about how much I loved tap dancing and who I was when I was knee deep into shuffles, flaps and wings.  I had found a part of me that was lost; a part I truly missed.

Teaching tap again has made me a better person.  It amazes me how life can be a series of reinventions, but sometimes it is important to look back to help remember, reflect and refine today.  Dance does that for me.

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

On the day of the recital, I told Lacey how important the year of teaching for her had been.      I told her how I found a piece of myself I thought may have been lost forever.  I thanked her for what she had given me – a chance to find a hidden side of myself I had thought was long gone.

She said these words to me: “You made my year special and memorable. I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you.”

Maybe we all find ways to find ourselves.

Gotta love the dance.

“You Old Hag” and other not-so-nice sayings

I knew that I had a wild child when he told my dear grandmother, Charlotte, that she was “nice stupid.”

My youngest, Squishy, has a way with words.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

When he was just a little dude at the tender age of three, he vocalized his feelings.  He didn’t hold back; he just said whatever was on his mind.

My dear grandmother, who was in her early 80s at the time, was talking to him asking him what he wanted to eat (she always wanted to feed all of us – all of the time).  He kept telling her that he wanted ice cream, but she had trouble decifering the toddler-speak.

Finally, when she asked him for the third time, he stood up, put his hand on his hips, and blurted out, “Mam-ma, you’re stupid.”

Enter epic parenting fail.

She, however, didn’t miss a beat, and, this time, she perfectly understood what he just said to her. No decoding needed.

“Luke, Mam-ma is not stupid.  Mam-ma is nice,” she calmly retorted.

He turned as if he was about to leave the room, and then turned back, dropping his arms to his side and tilting his head ever so slightly.  The wheels were turning in that three-year-old brain of his.

And I was petrified by what he would say next.

“You’re right, Mam-ma.  You are not stupid… You are nice stupid,” and he did an about face and left the room.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

At school, Squishy was (and is) the perfect angel.  It is just at home where his filter is lacking.

A few summers ago, when Squishy was six, he called my mother-in-law an old hag…in front of her bridge club.  (Yes, I am a proud parent – cough, cough).  Apparently he was “just kidding” and “only wanted some snacks.”  When she asked where he learned that phrase, he said “my mom.” I don’t recall ever in my life uttering the words “you old hag,” but in his mind, it was a free pass out of trouble.

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

More recently, he has been caught saying “shut your pie hole.”  Now I do know where this reference came from.  It is from the movie “The Sandlot” and The Captain was very excited the dudes liked the film.  Very excited, indeed, especially when Squishy not-so-subtly said this to my mother-in-law.

I found out about this gem of a phrase when I walked in on my mother-in-law discussing my “poor parenting choices” with a friend of hers.  She went on to tell the friend, “and she just laughs at what he says instead of disciplines him.”  Later I found that, once again, he blamed me for teaching him the phrase.  Hmmm.  Is there a trend going on?

When I addressed the behavior, he justified it by saying, “She wouldn’t stop talking, Mom.”

Touche, Squishy, touche.

Autumn and the Zombie Archives

In Ohio, the autumn weather can be tricky.  Usually there are some pretty days of glorious color followed by overcast and drizzly days.  This past weekend, we were lucky enough to have one of those gorgeous fall days when I want to spin on a hilltop singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”  Wait, that is another fantasy.  I digress.  Of course, there are only a few pretty days left on the calendar, and this was one of them.

With a beautiful weekend day comes the classic question: “Mom, can we go outside and play?”

Of course, my answer is, “Yes, please, do, go, bye!”

On Saturday, the sun was shining, and I received the question I knew was first thing on their minds when they woke up that morning.

“Mom,” said Squishy, “It is nice outside! Can we go outside and play?”

“Of course you can,” I said, looking up from the waffles I was making. (Actually, Eggo made them. I put them in the toaster. For me, this is domestic bliss.)

“Well, when can we go? We have some business in the woods to take care of,” he said sounding like he was about to audition for The Sopranos.

“What ‘business’ do you have in the woods?” I asked.

“Oh, Mom, all you need to know is that it is for your protection. OK?”

“What, in fact, are you protecting me from?” I questioned him as I sprinkled cinnamon on the waffles (see, I am a domestic diva!)

Zombies are the thing.

Zombies are the thing.

“We are saving the neighborhood from the upcoming zombie attack,” he said with sheer seriousness.

I turned to him in horror thinking maybe he had seen an episode of The Walking Dead or something?!

“What would make you believe there is an upcoming zombie attack,” I asked, praying he didn’t access my Netflix account on the iPad (darn you, zombie shows that pull me in, darn you!)

“Mom, it is just a matter of time when someone makes a vaccine that will take out the human race and turn everyone into a zombie.  Seriously, you should know this. You are a teacher.  Gosh,” he stated as he rolled his eyes, disgusted with me.

Now I am wondering if he was scoping out my Kindle and came across my latest read, The Passage.  Or maybe I Am Legend.  Was there some zombie thing on TBS or something?  Darn you, TBS, darn you!

“I highly doubt that will happen, Squishy, but if it does…”

“If it does, Mom, you will probably make us have the shot at the doctors, and you really won’t be prepared when we turn into zombies. So, we must prepare now,” he said interrupting me.

What the heck is he watching on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel?

“OK,” I said, knowing full well he was getting antsy to get outside and save the world.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

After a while, I went outside to check on the progress of thwarting the impending zombie apocalypse.  I found Nerf guns, sticks and a mountain of leaves ready to protect the innocent.  I also found the neighborhood posse in the middle of the street strategic planning their next move.

“What are you all working on?” I said to the group of defenders.

“Mom, I already told you. We are making sure the neighborhood is safe,” Squishy answered.  The rest of the posse nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, in that case,” I said, “carry on.”

And they did.

So, a message to all zombies: Beware, zombies, beware of our street.  We have protection in the form of elementary students.  Scary, right?

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

Coffee Mug Crusade

When it comes to travel coffee mugs, I have horrible luck.

Now I know this isn’t a deep topic, but I realized this morning as I stared into the cupboard that I only have three travel mugs left in existence.  There is an eight to ten extinction rate with my travel mugs.

This is a problem for it seems I can never find the perfect mug.

Or, it seems that no mug will ever fulfill its sacred duty: traveling day to day with me to school and back and living to tell about it.

For some reason, I have incredibly bad luck when it comes to travel mugs.

I blame my husband, The Captain, for part of it.  He does not heed to the warnings imprinted on the bottom of the coffee mugs.  Many say, “Not dishwasher safe.”  He believes they say, “Put in dishwasher. Hope they last.”

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

One of my favorites came out of the dishwasher in the shape of a lava lamp.  Another ended up with so much condensation inside it looked like it came straight out of the rainforest.

And then the worst of all.  My Disney Finding Nemo mug began to leak.  From the bottom.  Leaking water, not coffee.  I do not understand how this is possible, but, alas, it is.

Darn.  I love that mug.

So, now, I am in a quest to find quality travel mugs that can a.) withstand being useful each and every day of the school year, and b.) withstand The Captain’s insatiable desire to put anything and everything into the dishwasher.

Wish me luck!

Today is Jean Day Friday

One of my favorite bloggers, Tales from the Motherland, nominated me for a Liebster Award.  She is a wonderful writer, and I am truly honored for the nomination.

She made me laugh, however, with this comment: “…You’ve gotta tell me: why JeanDayFriday, when your name is Allison. Gotta know. ;-)

Surprisingly this is a question I get a lot. Sadly, the story is not too interesting.  But, I will share anyway, especially at the request of the amazing Dawn from Tales from the Motherland.

I wish this was a quirky tale, a fascinating one dealing with how the name of my blog arrived at me like a beacon of light.  I wish I could simply explain that my middle name is Jean, but, alas, it is not.  Truthfully, my blog name is nothing more than sheer desire to wear jeans to school each and every Friday. Oh yes.  That’s it.  Nothing more than honest vanity (or comfort).

A few years ago, my district began having jean days every Friday.  There was a dollar charge weekly, and those who paid, would get to wear jeans.  The dollars would go to something good for students – scholarships, fundraisers, etc.

At first, only a few people “bought” into the Friday jean-wearing craze.  But now, most participate and love it like I do.

So, each and every Thursday evening, my pal, Views from the Valley, and I would text something like this to each other: Tomorrow is jean day Friday!  Hooray!

This became a saying we used often.  If our Friday wasn’t going too well, we would say, “Hey, you know, it is Jean Day Friday!” Or if Thursday was less than desirable we would say, “At least tomorrow is Jean Day Friday!”

There are so many reasons this fit as my blog title.  For one, Fridays are just plain ol’ good days.  They signal the end of the work week, and the anticipation of the weekend.  Secondly, I dress professionally every day of the week, but Friday is a day where I can whip out the jeans and a school shirt and viola! I am ready for Friday!  Also, it is almost freeing in a strange, silly rebellious way.  I’m sporting jeans today and it’s Friday – Ha!  And most of all, it is something to look forward to, a glimmer of optimism/quirkiness and comfort.

So, I wanted my blog to give a similar mood, tone and feeling that I have when it is Jean Day Friday:  a quick, little smile in the week, and a reminder that it’s the little things that can make the days a bit brighter.

I wanted my blog to be fun and comfortable.  I wanted it to be a place where I could just be myself, close to the way I feel every Friday when I have my jeans on. I wanted it to be happy.  I hope it is some of those things.

Because it is Jean Day Friday after all.

Suz and I sporting on jeans on Friday.

Suz and I sporting on jeans on Friday.

The Birds, the Bees and Puppies

You never know when you may have to explain the birds and the bees to your children.

I did not think this would come into play at their tender ages of 11 and eight, but thanks to my mother-in-law, I had the horror opportunity to tell them a little bit about how babies are made.

One Tuesday night as I was in the middle of teaching a tap class, I received a frantic voice mail from my mother-in-law, Salt.

It went a little like this:  “Allison, hey. We have a problem here. The dogs are stuck together and I don’t know what to do! They have been stuck for over 20 minutes and I can’t get a hold of anyone.  You must call me back as soon as you get this because I just don’t know what to do!”

Reluctantly I returned the call.

“Hi there.  I only have a minute because I am in between classes,” I said.

“Chewie and Maisy got stuck together!  It has been over 30 minutes!  I didn’t know what to do!” she wailed.

“Are they still stuck together?” I asked in a calm voice so I could try and assess the situation.

“No. Finally they got themselves unstuck.  I called the vet because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone,” she exclaimed, her voice revealing how stressful it had been for her. “And the boys wanted to watch it the entire time!  I had to close the curtains!”

After hanging up with her and finishing teaching my dance classes, I ran my dudes to the store.

It would be an understatement to say there were a few questions that were asked.

“Mom, why were the dogs stuck together?”

“Mom, grandma said that Chewie’s penis had to shrink before they could be unstuck.  Why?”

“Mom, what does amorous mean?”

“Mom, why did grandma tell the vet the dogs were ‘getting it on’?  What does ‘getting it on’ mean and where were they getting it on to?”

“Mom, did you know that Chewie looked like he was doing the Harlem Shake on Maisy’s back?”

“Mom, Grandma kept trying to close the curtains so we couldn’t see the dogs. Why was she doing that?”

and the biggest question of all:

“Mom, is that how people make babies?”

OMG.

By this time, I am standing in front of the cashier at Kohl’s.  She is staring at me like I have lost my marbles (which, at that second, I wished was true).  Both boys were staring at me, too, waiting for answers.

Surely this should have been the exact moment I could’ve said, “Ask your father.”  But, alas, I am not that lucky.

I started lightly.  “Amorous means really, really lovey.”  Yes, I took the easiest question first.  Can you blame me?

Next answer: “Chewie probably doesn’t know the Harlem Shake,” but then I asked the stupidest question, “How exactly did this start?

Both dudes jumped at the chance to answer, speaking over each other.  The cashier looked at me like I had horns.

“Well, you see Mom, Chewie came inside and started following Maisy around. I mean, literally, (he uses this word a lot – he is 8) Chewie would not leave her alone,” Squishy chimed in.

“Yeah, and then he started to jump on her and stuff,” said 11-year-old String Bean with a wide-eyed grin, “And he wouldn’t stop, don’t be mad if I say this next part, Mom, OK?  Grandma said it wasn’t a bad word.”

“Ummm, OK, I guess?!” Fear bubbled up inside of me.

“Chewie started humping her.  That is what Grandma called it,” he said, looking at me to gauge my reaction.

Squishy interjects, “Yeah, Mom, it was crazy! It looked like this,” as he begins a vivid demonstration even Elvis would not have attempted on national TV.

“OK. You can stop showing me now,” I said as I pushed them out of Kohl’s.

“And Grandma said Maisy was a hussy.  What exactly is a hussy, Mom?  I’ve never heard of that word before.”

And so it goes.

As I tucked the dudes into bed that night, they were still buzzing about the events of the evening. They were hoping puppies would arrive soon (I did have to break down and explain how puppies are made), and they were bouncing off of the walls about the entire situation.

Squishy did have an ace up his sleeve.  “Mom, look at this!” he said, shoving his iPod in my face, “Here they are stuck together!”

Photographic proof of the event taken by an eight-year-old.  Amorous, indeed.

Stuck together.

Stuck together.

Rationalize It

Last January, I was going to go on a diet/exercise regime.  By the time April rolled around, I realized something. I had actually and successfully poorly rationalized three full months away.

Yeah, these cupcakes do contain calories.

Yeah, these cupcakes do contain calories.

What completely cracks me up about my behavior is that I act as if I am a person who does not rationalize poor choices.  There was a guest speaker at a previous Etech conference (a big technology conference for educators) and he spoke all about how humans rationalize things.  Feeling sick?  It will probably be OK tomorrow.  Eat the cupcake?  Sure, I can work it off.  Another glass of wine?  Heck yes, I deserve a fun night.  And so on.

Sitting there, I thought to myself, “I am not this person.  I don’t rationalize like that at all.”  Then, I looked around at all the suckers who, I thought, probably do over rationalize.  Poor souls, I thought, they are rationalizing their lives away.

Even Jim from The Office rationalizes.

Even Jim from The Office rationalizes.

Hello pot, meet kettle.  Crap.  I was one of those suckers.

I never realized until hearing this speaker and really pondering about it how much I actually rationalize things.  Here are some examples:

If I don’t write on my blog for a few weeks (hello blog, nice to see you again), I rationalize this by saying I have a lot on my plate right now, or I want the blog post to be good, or I am too tired/sick/cranky/silly to write.  Sadly, my last post was before Christmas.  I have rationalized almost a full month of blogging away.               Bad, bad girl.

I also rationalize people’s sometimes poor behavior.  Someone was rude to me earlier this week and instead of just sucking it up and being OK that they don’t like me, I rationalized it by thinking maybe they were having a bad day.  When I saw them in the hallway at the end of the day and they were laughing really hard, I realized they weren’t having a bad day.  They just don’t like talking to me.  Oh well, it happens, right?

Work out? In the cold? Sure! (Not!)

Work out in the cold? Sure! (Not!)

I rationalize other things, too.  My checkbook is one.  Oh, sure, I think to myself, I have money in there, and I really, really need it so it is OK if I go ahead and buy the flenderfloozle.  Not a good plan. And exercising, need I say more?  I am Scarlett O’hara sometimes with this.  I rationalize that the next day is a better day to exercise.  Then I think the next day and the next day until it becomes a vicious cycle with absolutely no exercising.

So, for my one and only New Year’s resolution, I am going to stop rationalizing things.  I am going be honest with myself and know that I am not going to walk outside in 28 degree weather and, instead, opt and read the latest YA novel on my Kindle.  I am going to pass on the gurligeezles and flenderfloozles because I really don’t need them and, if I eat the cupcake, I may not work it off later.

Glad to be back, and I will do my best to try and not rationalize another month away!

Hey, Santa!

Yes, you, Santa, the man in red with the belly bursting out of your suit, the laughter that is practically trademarked and the rosy cheeks from too much exertion after eating junk food.  You.  I have a bone to pick with you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

Look, jolly dude, I am getting tired of not being on your payroll.  You owe me big time.  I am so busy doing things for you, and I am getting sick of not getting any of the accolades.

You need to cough up some dough for this job I am doing for you, Santa.

Let me start with the search for the perfect gifts that I can’t even put my name on.  Yeah, I spent three hours hunting down an obscure Lego set, yet you get the smiles and the thanks.  Really?  Is this fair, Santa baby?  I don’t think so.  And now, both of my dudes want iPods.  These are not cheap, Kris Kringle, and, yet, your name will go on them.  That stinks, bearded man, it really does.  Will you set them up for the dudes?  No?  Oh, so add this to the list of another one of my grievances.

And then there is the Advent calendar.  Each night (or early in the morning when I wake up startled by the fact that I forgot the night before), I run and put little gifts in the Advent calendar.  Gifts that are “supposedly” from one of your minions.  Yeah, the elf that sneaks into our house, i.e. me, is getting ticked, Santa.  So are the dogs.  Why, you ask?  Because they get blamed when there is nothing left in the calendar.  Poor dogs, Santa.  Poor, poor dogs.  They sit, hearing the blame, and tuck their tales between their legs.  Is that fair, Kringle?  Shouldn’t you be sending a reliable elf each night that doesn’t have to swear through piles of essays to grade?  Yes, Santa, you should.  And you owe my sweet, innocent dogs.  Big time.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

And then the creepy Elf on the Shelf.  Do you know where he was one of the mornings?  Why he was sitting next to Mary and Joseph in our manger scene.  He actually moved Mary and the baby Jesus in order to fit in there.  Creepy?  Heck yes, Santa.  He also has these spooky, hollow eyes – I almost feel like he is following me (and even undressing me) with them.  It is a strange feeling, Santa, and one you both should be aware of.  The last thing that looked at me like that, the chocolate Easter bunny, met an untimely demise.  IMG_2889 The dogs are mad at him, too, because they were also blamed for his failure to relocate one evening. I am sure they would like to have him as a chew toy, Kringle, so you need to tell the Elf, who the dudes named Henry, to keep himself out of the dog’s reach.  And stay away from my martini glasses.  Seriously, Papa Noel, those are not for children.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

Oh, and Santa?  I just want you to know that I am leaving you carrots and celery this year.  They are for you so don’t try and pass them off to the reindeer.  Maybe it is time you join Cookie Monster in demonstrating a healthy lifestyle.  You need to be careful, Santa dear.  Plus, I have discontinued the candy tradition in the Advent calendar.  Why, you ask?  Have you ever witnessed an eight-year-old who has candy for breakfast?  No?  It is not pretty, St. Nick, but you wouldn’t know anything about that because you haven’t been there to talk a small child down from swinging on the chandelier.

Checking my list.  Twice.

Checking my list. Twice.

Your present this year is a lump of coal.  You are on my naughty list, Santa dude, yes indeed.  You may make it to my good list if, and only if, you can turn that coal into a diamond for me next year.

I need to go, Santa, I am bidding on eBay for a present that is completely sold out at Toys-R-Us.  You owe me.  Big time.  Ho, ho, ho.

On the eve of 40

Tomorrow marks the day of my 40th birthday, or as my mom calls it, “the big one.”  My husband, The Captain, has another name for it.  He calls it a “decade” birthday and says kind things like “it’s not a big deal” and “it is just a stupid number” and the sweet, special insight such as, “you know, your life is halfway over.”

As with everything, these “big” or “decade” birthdays are a “rite of passage,” right? And “age doesn’t matter” and “it’s how you embrace life that gives it meaning” and “it’s just a number after all” and a million more clichés folks use to make “the big one” feel a little smaller.  Phooey.

So, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I decided to think of some cool things about turning 40 to soften the blow without sounding too much like a Hallmark card or a group therapy session.  “Hi, my name is Allison and I am going to be 40.”

The first cool thing about turning 40 is that I am now confident enough to say NO to things.  This was a hard lesson to learn, and many times I would find myself involved in activities I hated just because I felt that I had to say YES all of the time.  Now, I say what I think.  Do you want to do this? No.  Can you…” Nope.

Second, my children are potty trained.  This may seem like a small issue, but really it is not.  I don’t have any children in diapers therefore I don’t have to buy diapers anymore!  Woohoo!  That is relief within itself.  My purse can now be my purse, not a diaper bag, not a living, breathing, well-stocked necessity for every venture out of the house.  Also, I don’t have to carry any training pants in it for “emergencies” or throw away those training pants in the mall bathroom because “someone had a little, itsy, bitsy accident in them.”  Also, it is a relief to not have to stock up on Cheerios just to teach my boys where to aim in the toilet.  Cheerios have returned their “kitchen only” usage in my home!

The third thing cool about turning 40 is that I rock at the Pop Culture Edition of Trivial Pursuit.  Give me any question from the 80s to present day and I have got it.  Except for sports.  Those can just stay in the rectangle box.

The fourth cool thing about turning 40 is that I don’t get carded anymore.  This means I don’t have to wiggle my driver’s license out of my wallet which can be very inconvenient.  Really it is!  And if I do get carded, it is a compliment to how well my Clinique make-up looks.  Thank you, Clinique!

The fifth cool thing about turning 40 is that everything that I grew up with, like The Smurfs, Superman, vampires (think The Lost Boys), The Muppets, Super Mario Bros and Star Wars are all back. Back and, as George Costanza said, “Loving every minute of it.”  And guess what?  My dudes seriously believe I’m “cool” because I know about all of this crap.  Being 40, I think I may be a hero to my kids.  The force is with me.

The sixth cool thing about turning 40 is that I can brag about awesome concerts I have seen.  Now, I didn’t get the bragging rights by seeing the Beatles, but I have seen The Rolling Stones in concert (yeah, 8th row in Chicago) and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet tour (among other Bon Jovi shows).  I have seen The Boss in Asbury Park, NJ, and Sting and U2’s amazing Joshua Tree concert.  Plus, Clapton, BB King, INXS (the original), REM, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the king of boat drinks, Jimmy Buffett.  Oh, and the Boss?  Bruce Springsteen?  Yeah, I dated his cousin when I was a ninth grader.  We went to the mall together.  Twice. And a dance. Once.  It didn’t last.

And the last cool thing about turning 40 is that I get it now.  I get that my parents were right – they were right all along.  I get that my dudes are kids and they need to be kids as long as possible.  I get that my students have a lot of growing up to do and that’s OK because they are teenagers.  I get that I can always reflect back on my 30s, 20s, and younger and know that each experience was important, priceless, and each lesson learned made me who I am today.  I finally get it.

So bring on 40.  September 11th, 2012.  Anyone up for some Trivial Pursuit?

My facial expression is one of fear. Forty candles looked like someone set the entire cake on fire.