Ellms Family Farm

Over the weekend, J and her gymnastics team visited Ellms Family Farm.

I’d been to Ellms before, but just for cutting down Christmas trees. But it turned out to be a pretty excellent autumn experience, too.

First, we hit the Maize Maze.

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As you may have guess, I am not a corn maze aficionado. My sense of direction is so very poor in real life that I generally don’t try to get lost for sport. That said, we got pretty well lost in the Maize Maze. This year they have a baseball theme, so as you travel through the maze, you can learn some baseball trivia and work out a puzzle and that sort of thing. But I was with the gymnastics mamas, so mostly I just shuffled along, chit-chatting. As you walk through the maze, someone carries a big flag that monitors can see from a bridge above, so you really can’t get too, too lost. Which is good, because it’s one of my talents.

There are plenty of pumpkins, just for sale, or you can pick your own out in a pumpkin patch (they’ll give you a ride).  There aren’t apples at Ellms. I was chatting with someone from the family who said that people always arrive looking for apples, so they might have to plant some trees. And then literally within five minutes of hearing about that, I received a text from Cute W saying, “Can you pick up some apples while you’re there?” Luckily they do have apple cider and homemade cider donuts.

DSC00032Beyond the Maize Maze and pumpkins-not-apples, there are plenty of other attractions. They’ve got a huge jumping pillow, zip lines, live music, a petting zoo, pedal cars for kids and grown-ups, and all sorts of other stuff. What I liked most about it is that almost everything is included in the general admission (I think you had to pay separately for the corn cannon), but everywhere you turned there was something to do, so it’s really lovely for wandering around with kids freely and doing whatever appeals to them. Some examples are a sports center

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or their little “Sound Garden”

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along with all sorts of other things, like bean bag toss games, a little mechanical “Chicken Show,” tires to climb around on, fun toddler toys, a bunch of other mazes, and more. They’ve got basic food (so you can stay for hours and hours), but only port-a-potties (so go light on the cider).

J really liked the big slide:

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But, honestly, I think her favorite thing was rolling downhill in these tubes:

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What I liked the most about this was that the tubes were just out there, lying around, and kids could do whatever they wanted. In fact, down the hill from J in the picture above, there was a pedal car track, and the parents kept reminding kids to aim away from the pedal cars to avoid a crash. But they were pretty sensible about it, actually. And it was nice to just let them go nuts and see where it led them.

For little kids, there’s a sand box, a corn box, and more. There were almost too many things to do, and what was nice that they were mostly very open-ended and low-key, so it’s a nice place to wander and play. I would say any kids 12 and under would happily spend hours at Ellms. They have a big pavilion and other space for birthday parties, too. And, really, kids 12 and up would have a good time in the maze, the jumping pillow, and other activities, too. Since some super-cool big kids might be turned off by the attractions for the little kids, I wouldn’t pick Ellms for a group of teenagers, but it’s wide range of activities makes it awesome for multi-age groups.

Neighborhood Walk & Random Updates

On my birthday, I took a little walk around the neighborhood. My original vision was a family walk, but when I tried to recruit, only J was truly interested (Cute W would have come, but we all know it would have been a Pity Walk. I don’t need no stinkin’ Pity Walk). Anyway, we were barely halfway down the driveway when J announced that she was in the mood to run. So it turned out to be an all-by-myself walk, punctuated by the occasional visit when J circled back.

Okay, can I just say that if Ebola were spreading like the Little Free Libraries are spreading throughout Niskayuna, I’d have our whole family wearing decontamination suits right now. It’s nuts. I think that I mentioned that now there’s one across the street from us. J paused her jog long enough to do a quick inventory check.

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And then we headed to visit the newest one, at Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church:

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On the way home, I noticed a scarecrow who had collapsed on our neighbor’s lawn:

 

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Even though it looks a little bit like it’s dead, I was delighted to see it. That’s because we’ve consistently had a collapsed scarecrow on our front lawn, too. In fact, I’ve been calling it the scarecorpse:

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He was attached to our lamppost at one point, then leaning up against a tree, but it seems that any time he appears to be secure, one of my (damn) kids decides that he needs to be moved or incorporated into some sort of game, and then they lean him up in a haphazard way, and next thing you know, the poor guy’s slumped over again.

Which reminds me, speaking of wanton destructiveness in support of play, did I already tell you that my kids energetically raked a whole massive pile of leaves? Except, they didn’t rake the leaves on our lawn. They raked the leaves on the public median. And then they brought the big pile of leaves from the public median onto our lawn. They like to jump off our tree swing into a big pile of leaves, and apparently our lawn wasn’t supplying enough for them.

A while back I wrote a blog post about buying costumes instead of making them. I wanted to point out three things about this post.

1. You should just look at it, because those kids are adorable.

2. And also because I found a picture of M dressed as a witch that didn’t appear in the post originally because I couldn’t find it.

3. The other day, I’d pulled out the little witch doll from that picture along with a whole bunch of other decorations, and when M saw it, she gasped and said, “It’s you! Hello, you! Oh I love her so much, I missed her. She is my favorite Halloween thing.”

I also wrote a blog post where I wrote fake captions for various Halloween pictures. Actually, I thought I’d written it a long time ago, because this is one of the posts I’ve re-read several times. Which I don’t usually do all that much, but for some reason I can’t help myself with this one.

It’s off-topic, but we’re watching Parks and Recreation right now, and that reminds me that members of my family have called me Leslie Knope twice in the last week. Which, I believe, is a profound compliment.

And speaking of tv, I’m proud to report that I’ve resisted binge-watching every single episode of Gilmore Girls, now available via instant Netflix. Impressive, right? I’ve only spent, like, four or five hours on it.

 

Birthdays

J is now ten. I meant to report on her birthday, because I was very pleased with the cleverness of the Gift Presentation. Her big gift was a Yogibo lounging-bag-type-thing. I don’t really get the appeal of these things, honestly, but the girls always want to go into the store whenever we’re at Crossgates. A while back at the Carrot Festival, where I was tabling, the Yogibo people had a booth, and there was some fabulous discount, probably because no one wanted to schlep the stock back to the store. We oh-so-sneakily smuggled a ginormous bag of not-beans into our garage, where it hibernated under a tarp until J’s birthday.

But, of course, wrapping that bad boy was going to be tough. So, the night before her birthday, we put the Yogibo down in the basement playroom, and then I unwound a long string from the Yogibo, up the stairs, outside, around the front lawn, in through the screened porch, and into our dining room. Then in the morning, she unwrapped a gift that was just tissue paper, more tissue paper, and nothing else but a little note that read,

Holy cow. There isn’t even a present in here? What the heck kind of stinky birthday is this? Maybe you should ask your family if they have some chewed-up gum or a used tissue or an old piece of string or something. . . .

And then Cute W fished a piece of gum out of his mouth, and I blew my nose extravagantly and offered up the tissue, and M offered her the end of the piece of string. And she took the string, which obviously led somewhere, and followed it down to her gift.

So that was fun. We still haven’t had her kids’ birthday party. . . she was undecided about what she wanted to do, and finally settled on a trip to Flight Trampoline Park, but of course it’s a busy place, and we’ve got tons going on, too, so by the time we settled on it, we had to schedule it for later this month. And we’re going with a gymnastics cake, which I believe will be a normal cake with silhouette cut-outs of gymnasts slapped onto the sides.

Yesterday, J and I went to see “Newsies” at Proctors, and I wrote this review for KidsOutAndAbout.com. Then, last night, Cute W and I had a date night at Aperitivo Bistro, where we enjoyed calamari, among other things.

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I didn’t take pictures of everything. In fact, I didn’t even take this picture. I started to do it, except I didn’t have my camera (I lost it a while back), and then my phone was dead. So my sweet husband took the picture. And then got me a new camera for my birthday. And also let me drink way more than my half of the bottle of wine. It’s a good life, my friends. And I would write more, except that after take-out Thai food and homemade chocolate cake, every system in my body that isn’t essential to maintaining life and/or digestion is shutting down.

 

 

 

Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows

Now that you asked, it really was a crappy morning.  I woke up at the usual time, which meant trouble right away.

Last night, J was sobbing over her math homework. She was appalled by her Unbelievable Stupidity. The math teacher had mentioned, oh, by the way, you kids haven’t learned how to do long division yet, but she didn’t continue with the crucial phrase, “So go ahead and skip that last math problem, because it’s long division.” Or maybe she did, but my kid didn’t hear it. All she heard was the voice in her head telling her that if she weren’t such a loser, she’s be able to psychically intuit how to do long division without ever having to get it explained to her. So last night, she’d begged me to teach her. And I could have, because I actually kind of like long division. But since she’d already worked too long on her homework, she was sobbing, and she was already late to gymnastics, I flat-out refused. I told her that she had permission to wake me up early so that I could help her with it in the morning.

So when I wasn’t shaken awake early by J the Perky Early Morning Math Enthusiast, I knew that my other daughter, J the Grouchy, Already-Behind-Schedule, Failure-At-Everything, would be greeting me instead.  I love both daughters equally, but I have to confess: there’s one of them who’s much more fun for just hanging around.

Sure enough,  not-so-fun J showed up, in dire need of a pair of jeans. We went into her room, where I opened up a drawer full of what appeared to be perfectly fine jeans and pants. Sadly, they were declared too small; too small; too big; and, my personal favorite, too fuzzy.

Proffers of belts were ignored, the “too fuzzy” rationale was not intended for a fact-based debate, and I was forced to explain the concept of Adequate Laundry Lead Time until my grumbling little storm cloud picked up something inside-out from the floor. The good news is that my children no longer argue with the Adequate Laundry Lead Time speech, because they know that if a follow-up speech is required, it’s the Anyone This Passionate About Their Own Laundry Should Be Doing Her Own Laundry speech. It’s remarkable how that one really quells the laundry passion.

So, it was a rocky morning. Generally speaking, J’s pretty organized. She’ll usually pack her own backpack, and she’s fairly on top of things. But J had forgotten some crucial supplies yesterday, so she was more anxious than usual. Plus the Great Jeans Kerfuffle had set her slightly behind schedule, although since J likes to leave a full 20 minutes for her 10-minute walk to school, her version of “late” is skewed. But she was barely holding back tears as she struggled to pull her cello case on her back and her backpack on her front while clutching paper towel-wrapped breakfast sausages and checking the clock to see that she was 3 minutes behind schedule.

Meanwhile, moments earlier, M walked in on Cute W and I bowing and scraping to help J gather her roughly 15 pounds of gear while ensuring that she had morning protein and asked, “Mom, where are my white uniform socks?” I answered that I’d help her look in a couple of minutes, once we got J out the door. Since M had a bit less than half an hour before it was time to leave for morning chorus practice, it seemed like a reasonable response. To me, anyway.

I remember reading about sibling rivalry a decade ago, and one of the tips was to cater ostentatiously to your older child when the new baby comes so that she doesn’t think that she’s being neglected. Heck, I didn’t just read about it: I did it. I remember calling out, “I’m coming, J! Just let me finished filling and closing up this milk cup, because M needs her milk!” And I’d beam down at M, who would accept the sippy cup imperiously, no more than she was due as Princess Toddler. And then I’d scramble over to J, whose fretfulness always seemed tempered by the instinctive patience of a subsequent child.

So, I try to make everyone feel loved and cared or, blah-blah-blah, but come on, dude! You are three grades ahead and you have 25 minutes to spare, but you’d like me to drop everything to help you? Never mind that getting that pesky younger sister out the door will allow your dad and I to focus on you like laser beams, allowing you to briefly resume your rightful place (lost, lo those ten years ago) as the Sun in our family solar system?

That’s not happening.

Finally,  J was on her way. And by the time I was able to shift my priorities back to where M would argue they rightfully belonged, she had located the white sock, dirty but present, and she knows better than to critique laundry management skills. But she was all attitude. I asked a question and got mockery and smart-assery. I addressed the rudeness and was, I kid you not, mimicked. And then . . . I was done. “I don’t need to put up with this,” I said. “You have a good day at school.” And I turned and went upstairs to my bedroom to read. She is fully capable of feeding herself and packing her own lunch and backpack. Plus Cute W was still in the kitchen, eating and reading the paper now that Hurricane J had whirled out.

And, here’s the thing: I think that leaving was the right choice. M was being disrespectful and unpleasant, and trying to discuss it with her would only have caused more drama. Her behavior was intolerable, and the easiest way to convey that quickly without escalating was to step away.

But it’s freaking depressing.

We have good mornings. Often. We joke around. Sometimes there’s dancing. Or Cute W and I trying to disgust the girls with loud kissing. There are usually multiple sleepy, warm hugs. Often there’s singing or a a bit of affectionate back-scratching.

I got no M hugs this morning. I feel like I’m the one who’s been punished. And I don’t deserve it: I was delightful.

So, better luck tomorrow, I hope.

 

 

Minor Irritations

For no particular reason, here are some things that are irritating me this fall:

Helicopters. You know, those maple seeds? They are sticky, and with the warm weather, I’m still running around outside barefoot, and inevitably, these stupid helicopters stick to the soles of my feet. Although looking for a link, I learned something new: they’re edible! So now I’m intrigued. But I’ve tried harvesting dandelion greens from my lawn and I thought that they were gross. But if you see tons of dandelions growing on our lawn, anyway, it’s not because we are slacking off on our mowing duties: it’s because we are nurturing a community bee preserve. You’re welcome.

My cat. She is showing her deep and abiding love for me by stepping onto my laptop keyboard right now. Someone asked me recently if my cat, Isis, resents the extremist group for sullying her name, and I explained that she is not bothered by it at all because she is also a ruthless killer, and I believe she takes pride in her savagery. But personally, I’m offended on behalf of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

J’s constant desire for effortless perfection. There was a meltdown during her cello practice today when she realized that a Yo-Yo Ma-level concerto was not to be achieved today and, frankly, not for at least the next 3 to 4 weeks. So obviously this means that she is a Horrible Failure at Everything. I am often cheerfully supportive; tonight I was tired, and my patience wore thin.

Tree trimmers. Ever since that damn ice storm, a fleet of tree trimmers spend a couple of weeks of the year treating our neighborhood trees like ginormous bonsais. Yes, yes, I know that power outages are annoying and inconvenient. Acknowledged. But our trees are so beautiful, and sometimes they’re just lopped off to accommodate wires and they end up looking comical. No, tragi-comic. It’s just, the trees are gorgeous, an then they lose their dignity. Plus, the other day I was driving a couple of miles and ended up having to go around three separate crews. And I’m going to be a nut, here: I think our family would enjoy a 24-hour power outage. The girls have wonderful memories from the last one.

M saying “I hate you.” Enough, already. This weekend we required M to do something that she wasn’t really psyched about. Okay, okay, I believe that the exact quote was, “I’d rather shoot myself in the face.” But still. She’s been saying it for a long time (my precocious little prodigy!), and I do my best to remain pleasant in the face of such obnoxiousness. But it wears me down. Today I said that we should create a little sign for M about days-since-she’s-declared-hatred, like the one for J and homework crying. The Cute W and M said that they were going to tally up the declarations of hatred. Which is the opposite, people. We’re not trying to come up with a record high number, here.

Squirrels. Have you noticed that they seem to have a death-wish in the fall? Is it because they’re heavy and sluggish, yet still busily completing their autumnal errands before the snow sets in? I don’t know, but it feels like they are throwing themselves at my tires. Which I resent.

I am, however, pro-rain. Slobbing around the house was exactly what I needed today, so I was glad that the weather cooperated. Hope everyone’s having a great weekend.

 

The Perils of Facebook

I’ve said before that I have a love-hate thing going with Facebook. I’m on it quite a bit, between putting these posts on the Capital District Fun page, adding all sorts of updates to the KidsOutAndAbout page, and helping out with the Schenectady Working Group on Girls page. It’s reconnected me to some lovely people, and I like keeping up with them. Plus, there are pages that I’ve “liked” that always offer up something illuminating or fun, like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.

But there are things I hate too, of course, like how Facebook puts the pages with cash up front and hides those of us who are cheapskates. And also how sometimes you find out someone you thought was lovely has crazypants-awful views about something, and then you have to decide whether to say something or ignore it, to “unfriend” or “hide,” or whatever.

I’ve had a couple of other awkward Facebook situations lately. The first is when I had a quick calendar panic and texted my friend Jen:

“Crap!!! Is the first OWL class tonight?!?!”

It took just a minute or so before I realized whom I’d texted.  Not Jen, the one whose daughter will be attending the OWL class with M. But Jen, the girl who was in a couple of my high school classes, whom I haven’t seen in the past twenty years. Well, maybe she was at that one reunion, but we didn’t chat. And as the realization erupted from my gut and vaporized out the pores of my flushing cheeks, my phone pinged:

“Who is this?”

Ah, who indeed?

Readers, what would you have done? I confessed, we exchanged friendly texts, and I beat a hasty techno-retreat. Luckily I had an easy excuse, since I was clearly not on top of the family’s evening schedule.

But, that was awesome.

No, no. It wasn’t really so bad, just a little embarrassing.

Much worse is what I’ll call the Facebook Condolence Feed-Flood. That’s when something like this shows up in your news feed:

So-and-so posted on Jane Doe‘s page: We’re thinking of you, Jane, dear. Much love from us all!

Somebody else posted on Jane Doe‘s page: So terrible! You have our family’s sympathy.

Another person posted on Jane Doe‘s page: Please let us know if there’s anything we can do.

7 Other friends posted on Jane‘s page.

And then your stomach turns inside out, and you start calculating. What’s going on? Is it Jane’s daughter? She and my daughter hang out all the time! Is it her husband? Dammit, what’s his name again? Wait, if it’s some ongoing thing, we could totally carpool, that would be helpful, right? Oh, no, what if it’s not ongoing? What if someone’s died? Wait, are they vegetarians? I have that massive pot of soup. But that’s stupid–clearly someone else has offered up food. Wait, what’s her address–I could drop off a card. Except, what do I say when I have no idea what’s going on? Oh, crap.

And then you click on the person’s page and try to figure out what’s going on. And you consider if any of the people who’ve posted on the page would be willing to update you without thinking that you’re just trying to get the latest gossip. And of course you’re curious. But it’s also that helpless, powerless feeling of knowing someone’s in trouble and not knowing if there’s anything that you can do. So maybe you tell that good friend of Jane’s who’s not on Facebook that she should check in with Jane? Because you’re not close enough to be on this person’s Crisis A-List, but you want to be helpful. And just asking for information would be causing trouble without helping, and you’re a firm believer in that whole comfort-in, dump-out Ring Theory thing. Your distress at wondering if everyone’s okay is not something that anyone who’s inside the circle needs to solve. But you know how to make casseroles! And watch children! And make phone calls. . . well, you hate making phone calls, but you’d do it. Absolutely.

Seriously, has this happened to any of you? It’s happened, multiple times, on my news feed, and every time it starts to feel like this incredibly awkward thing. Like, people want to do something or say something, but they also don’t want to betray anyone’s confidence. But it comes off weirdly creepy thing, or at least that’s how it feels to me. As a policy, I don’t Facebook-condolence unless someone’s Facebook-announced something. It just feels way too public. And way too private. And all that.

But because I completely hate these situations, I’d like to put it on the record here: please, if something awful happens to my family and you would like to react via Facebook, I urge you to make your post as informative as possible, as a service to my other friends. You might say, for example:

Katie, I was so sorry to hear that aliens abducted your whole entire family, but isn’t it fortunate that the girls were dropped out of the spaceship’s beam and only suffered broken tailbones? I’m going to visit them at Ellis during the 4-7 pm visiting hours, since you said it was okay, and meanwhile, I’ve signed the petition asking NASA to set up a search party for Cute W, and here’s the link if others want to sign, too.

or, maybe:

Oh, man! I just heard about your tragic pogo-stick-hopping accident, and I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been confined to your bed for the next 5 weeks. I’m bringing mint chocolate chip ice cream and trashy magazines for you and fried meat and baby carrots for your kids, and I’m going to check your list of favorite recipes to do more. and I can’t take on your current PTO obligations or walk your cat, but I’m sure that someone from the neighborhood can!

And I will be comforted and my friends and neighbors will be suitably informed. And if anyone Facebook-chastises you for over-sharing, other blog readers will rise up in your defense and suggest that people who have time to engage in debates with friends-of-friends would do better spending their time cooking meals for me and leaving them, anonymously (so that it’s impossible to write thank you notes) in disposable containers at my door. And you will be rewarded with massively wonderful karma.

And even mentioning this feels like I should knock on wood, because I’m clearly jinxing myself. In fact, maybe part of my strong reaction to the Facebook Condolence Feed-Flood is that I have a neurotic desire to do something helpful when tragedy strikes, as if responding to other people will give me some sort of karmic booster against ever needing help back. In fact, I even wrote about this on the blog before. Which is, of course, delusional. Maybe I just need to be more content with offering up vague good wishes and general prayers.

I understand that whining about this is entirely selfish. And even though I offered up those samples as a “service to my other friends,” I would genuinely appreciate mint chocolate chip ice cream and trashy magazines if I’m ever confined to bed. So, really, that’s pretty selfish, too. Am I, like, the worst person ever? You’re totally going to “unfriend” me, aren’t you? I guess this post is moot. Never mind.

 

Observing Birthdays

J turns 10 tomorrow. This has meant a flurry of preparation at our house. Mostly, it’s food. Birthday Child gets to pick family breakfast and dinner, which means that Cute W is prepping his exquisite waffles, which will be ornamented with homemade whipped cream and overpriced raspberries. Dinner is artichokes, veal scallopini, mashed potatoes, and green beans with almonds, and then chocolate mousse for dessert. The mousse is better if you make it ahead, and so I went to work on that scrumptious recipe last night.  So, first of all, I was reflecting on how butter and chocolate together are even more wonderful than just butter, or just chocolate. Now, you know I can enjoy kale and roasted garlic and even pumpkin seeds, but none of these can approach the joy of butter and chocolate, melted together.

While I was concocting the mousse, I was fretting about M. She’d been invited to go out to dinner with one of her closest friends to celebrate her friend’s birthday. When she extracted permission for this outing (following a full day of school and a soccer game, occurring before any homework could be done at home), my first thought was, “Wait! What about her locker?!?”

In our middle school culture, loving girl relationships acknowledge birthdays in two crucial ways: first, you decorate Birthday Girl’s locker and fill it with candy. In 6th grade, this was deeply, deeply important. It’s just so. . . public. I sort of hate it. In fact, I kept trying to convince M that she and some friends should get together and be, like, a Secret Locker Fairy Club who could go around decorating people’s lockers if they weren’t getting decorated. She rolled her eyes at me and said that the teachers took care of that sort of thing, and basically, I should butt out. I argued that it was an easy and fun way to spread joy. She rolled her eyes some more. Then, throughout the course of the year, there would be Maternal Fretting about one locker situation or another. In my presence, a girl M knew gave a broad hint about getting her locker decorated. M was unreceptive. “We’re not close friends,” she scoffed, “Someone will do it.” And I was all up in her grill: “Nobody hints like that unless they’re afraid that no one’s going to decorate their locker. If you’re not going to help decorate it, you need to make sure somebody’s on it.” That locker got decorated, but with only a bit of assistance from my kid.

Here’s the thing: M doesn’t sweat over this sort of thing. She’ll get invited to a party where they say “No presents,” and so she refuses to bring a present, and then everyone is there, toting presents, and this does not bother her at all. I guess what I’m saying is, I am far more a victim of peer pressure than she is. But I digress. The point is, when I found out about the birthday dinner, I said, “Wait! Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be decorating her locker?”

Here’s another thing: even though I appear to sweat over this sort of thing, it’s nothing compared to other moms. Other parents remember kids’ birthdays and take their kids shopping for locker decorations and drive their kids in to school early. I remain mostly oblivious. M will clatter downstairs and say that she’s leaving a half-hour early because she’s decorating a locker, and she buys stuff at CVS with her own money, so I’m mostly not involved, unless I’m pledging to “sponsor” the decoration of some kid’s locker, which she pretty much ignores, and so it’s totally useless.

So I’m usually clueless, and ignorance is bliss, because when I get a shadow of a clue, I start stressing out. “Why aren’t you decorating her locker? Won’t she be upset? Wait, is it only a 6th grade thing?” I am following her around, throwing out questions.

“I forgot to get a pass, she doesn’t really care, we’re thinking of doing it tomorrow.” My daughter was slacking. To my knowledge, they never decorated her locker. Or maybe someone else did. Or maybe 7th graders are way too cool for that. I have no idea, and if I bring it up again, it will only become an ugly conversation. So I was stirring my chocolate and butter and fretting.

I said that Middle School Birthday Love is shown in two crucial ways, and number two is: a post on Instagram, usually comprised of a photo of the Birthday Girl and a long, ardent comment, including at least three (and possibly more) of the following statements, “I love you SOOOOO much. . .  We’ve been friends since. . . . . .  You’re so beautiful. . . . . You’re so funny. . . . .Remember how we. . . . Happy Birthday!!!!!”

Really, it’s adorable. I sound like I’m making fun, but I think it’s sweet. Would I like the girls to focus more on their friend’s winning personalities and special talents instead of how great their hair is and how their shoes are always so cute? Well, of course. But generally speaking, it’s a lovely tradition.

My child has no interest. Because I’m an Instagram Stalker, I scrolled through lovely, heartfelt messages for the friend. “Hey M,” I asked, “are you going to do an Instagram birthday tribute of some sort?” [Did you predict the eyeroll here? Good for you! You win a cookie! Go get yourself a cookie.] She said, “Mom [eyeroll], you know I’m not into Instagram.”

I sighed. Because what am I supposed to do? Insist that she conform to middle school society and get on social media? That’s stupid. But as a grown woman who made it through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, I fear this hazardous combination of taking girlfriends for granted during an era of massive hormonal fluctuations. I’m worried because I want her to be kind, but I’m also worried that people who aren’t required to tolerate her frequent bouts of seeming-indifference (as her family must)  will drop her like the proverbial hot potato.

So I must have been fretting about that more than I realized, because this morning I opened the fridge and saw a bowl full of egg yolks. The egg yolks that I was supposed to gently beat into the butter and chocolate mixture when I was making mousse.

“On NO!” I moaned. “I ruined it. I have to make it again.” Cute W laughed. “I think we’ll be able to choke it down.” Sure, it was 7 am, but we each got a spoon to test the product. It was actually still pretty delicious.

In a way M’s lack of enthusiasm for the sort of treacly middle-school girl effusiveness that feels essential to 7th grade friendship is a lot like that mousse I made. Okay: no egg yolks, so the mousse is lighter, without that rich, nuanced egg yolk texture. But it tastes the same. And, like M’s straightforward, no-nonsense friendship style, my defective mousse is absolutely less likely to induce nausea.

 

A New Car!

Hey! So, the directory that took over my life for a while has been submitted to the print shop. There’s a bit more work to be done, still, but comparatively speaking, it should be a piece of cake (knock on wood).

Oh, and here’s a quick programming note: if you haven’t been reading “More” of various posts, you’ve got some catching up to do. I’m not sure what happened, but at some point, my little “More” link stopped appearing on the site. Probably, something changed when I did a WordPress update. Anyway, if you click over via Facebook or Google Reader or some other source, you probably didn’t miss anything, but if you usually read by looking at the site, then you may have only seen the beginning of the post. For a bunch of them, I added a little note, but if you want to double check, you can always click the title of a post to view the complete post. I’m probably going to skip the “More” section until I figure it out. As long as we’re talking boring stuff, I generally do keep up with the Events page, but even when it’s outdated, the link to the KidsOutAndAbout newsletter link at the top of the Events page will always be up to date.

Here’s the link to my spot on WNYT yesterday. I think these always play extra-slow on Mozilla and quicker on other browsers, but it could be my imagination.

Okay! What else?  . . . Oh, yes, I’ve been meaning to tell you, we got our new car! I mentioned that I did some test driving   about six weeks ago, and we ended up buying a Nissan Rogue on the very last day of August (because Cute W and I had both listened to that car dealership This American Life episode). So we went in to order the exact Rogue we wanted (red, no bells and whistles) and allowed ourselves to be convinced to take the one already on the lot (blue, a few minor-league bells & whistles). Buying a new car causes financial pain, but this was better than our other options, and we got a better deal than we’d expected.  So. . .

 

IMAG0483

TA DA!!!!!

We’re happy. I’ve said frequently that what I’d really like to own is a clown car, because I like small cars, but I wanted to be able to fit at least six people (so that each daughter could invite a friend somewhere and/or I wouldn’t be the lame car pool mom who couldn’t pick up everyone). This is the closest that we could get.

It’s a change. I went from stick shift to automatic, and even though I miss the control, it’s nice to be a little lazy. It’s also much higher, which feels weird, but I liked that I could raise the whole driver’s seat up and pretend like I’m taller than I am. And it hooks up to my phone, which is delightfully convenient, even if I accidentally send a text to people that says “CAN’T TEXT: I’M DRIVING” every once in a while.

M had been lobbying hard for a minivan. “Minivans are SO COOL!” she said.

“Honest to God, M,” I’d said, “Minivans are not cool. They’re like, considered to be the exact opposite of cool.”

So I was concerned that she’d be  bummed, but nope: everyone’s happy, happy, happy.

And if we haven’t actually had enough passengers to need that optional 3rd row that I needed, so far Cute W’s been too polite to mention it.

Schenectady Working Group on Girls

Fall is volunteer recruiting season for the Schenectady Working Group on Girls, so I wanted to take the opportunity to invite local women to join us!

Fall is volunteer recruiting season for the Schenectady Working Group on Girls, so I wanted to take the opportunity to invite local women to join us!
The Schenectady Working Group on Girls was initiated by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women 11 years ago. Representatives from local  girl-supporting organizations (a list of affiliated groups is on the left panel of the SWGG home page) began to work together ‘to put the spotlight on girls, facilitate programs on their behalf, and educate the community about their needs, challenges, opportunities and successes.”  For several years SWGG hosted community forums to address the challenges and opportunities that girls faced locally. In the past five years, SWGG has hosted Girls’ Day Out to help support and celebrate Schenectady city girls.

Site photo

Now, each fall, seventh graders, many of whom have been specially invited by a school clinician, go on a field trip for a Girls’ Day Out at The Glen Sanders Mansion. It’s basically a girl-power conference, where girls attend workshops on topics like talking to parents, dealing with bullies, or maintaining healthy relationships, listen to a panel discussion by 8th graders on surviving 7th grade, or participate in (and perform) activities like drumming, yoga, or dancing. The girls also enjoy a lovely breakfast and lunch, which is a special treat for everyone.

After the conference, attendees are invited to join a Girls’ Circle at their schools, where small groups meet regularly with a pair of volunteer co-facilitators called Muses. The Muses bring pizza for an informal (often very energetic) gathering in which the girls do most of the talking. Muses facilitate discussions, offer up fun crafts, and advise about things like making goals and working toward them, standing up for yourself without resorting to violence, and making choices for a happy, healthy life. The sessions are kept confidential and a school clinician sits in on the discussion, so Muses can rely on a professional to tackle any situations that require serious intervention. The girls are terrific: they’re fun and smart and they really love being together and bonding with each other.

In April, everyone gets together for a celebration at Schenectady High School,  where the girls can invite a woman whom they consider to be a role model. The girls, their specially-chosen women, and the Muses get an opportunity to celebrate their appreciation for each other’s awesomeness. It’s also a chance for the girls to talk about what the program has meant to them. I was surprised and moved to hear girls, including some from our own circle. talk about how the group had changed for the better how they view themselves, the people around them, and the future and their place in it.  It was beautiful. Muses who are willing and able can continue with the same group as the years progress.

popsicle stick art

 

New Muses attend training in October (3 or 4 evening sessions), they’re invited to attend Girls’ Day Out on November 19th, and they determine a schedule with their Co-Muse and school clinician for the Girls Circles. Most Girls Circles meet during lunch periods or right after school every other week, although some groups choose to meet more frequently. Because so many of the girls we serve are African American, Hispanic, or Indo-Guyanese, prospective Muses who share one or more of these ethnic identities are particularly encouraged to become involved, but any woman who has successfully navigated the sometimes-perilous waters of adolescence is welcome. If being a Muse isn’t for you, there are opportunities to volunteer in other capacities such as helping with special events, offering up your talents as a resource, or providing other support.

If you’d like more information about volunteering, contact Gail Gordon at  518-439-3973 or gailhillgordon@gmail.com or Miranda Rand at mirandarand411@gmail.com. You can also “like” the Schenectady Working Group on Girls’ Facebook page.

girls with backpacks photo

 

 

Running on Empty

Cute W traveled for business last Monday to Friday, and I’ve been a bit swamped. The homework drama, thankfully, has simmered down, but I’ve had my own homework to make life difficult.

I’m doing the printed directory for M’s middle school, and the straightforward, not-too-bad volunteer job took a turn for the worse this year. My job switched from collecting some information and basically reformatting a spreadsheet to attempting to convince each and every family in the community to create an online account and enter a bunch of family information that, sadly, doesn’t quit synch up with the information we like to have in the directory.

I sent out a barrage of emails first, acknowledging the people who had actually already done what they were supposed to do as awesome, and then nagging everybody else. Then I spent hours calling all the people who hadn’t responded to my email nagging. And then more hours upon hours trying to whip the data into shape. I now have a full-on rant about how this online directory business should have been organized, but I won’t bore you with it. I’m hoping to get the damn thing out to print by Monday, so one way or the other, the worst will be over soon.

In between slogging away at the computer, my only significant break was the town fun run. The kids were excited with the new, non-running activity (that’s J pushing M upside-down):

 

Fun Run

J ran the mile fun run, and she was excited because a couple of good friends ran, too. Part of the attraction is that the school gym teacher always comes to this event, and if he sees that you’ve participated, he lets you slack off a bit during gym class. J was particularly pleased because she’d shaved nearly a minute off of her previous record for running a mile.

(For some reason my “More” link isn’t working properly at the moment–there is more, and you can click the title of the blog post to read it.)