All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You?

I can't believe it's been 25 years since the Challenger accident. I remember as a kid hearing my parents talk about where they were when JFK was shot. I was struck by how they all remember exactly how they heard the news. And then, when I was a senior in high school, I experienced that horrible type of imprinting event. A little change of style today, and a question posed to you each. Where were you?

I was going from one class to another and stopped in to the guidance office. The radio was on, and I thought, "Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Did the shuttle just explode?" There were murmurs and then a reminder to get to class. I had gym, where we assembled in our rows on the floor and the principal came on with the news I had known for the last 10 minutes, but thought I'd misheard... wanted to think I'd misheard since it didn't seem to be spreading. Over the coming days, we learned a family friend lost her nephew, Ronald McNair. For those of us too young or not born when other brave souls were lost in the space race, it was a total shock. The shuttle just "worked." It was, dare I say, routine.

I've copied the text of one of the most beautifully written speeches below, President Reagan's address to the nation the night of the accident. I remember seeing it, but the words are powerful to read, and worth a look. Then, after, please add your answer to the original question, "Where were you?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

"For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

"And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

"I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: 'Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.'
"There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dante's Vision of Hell: Disney?

First things first, thanks to Shannon at Milk and Cuddles for inspiring this trip down memory lane. Shannon, and assuredly hundreds of thousands of people, are thrilled to learn they are expanding Disneyworld. So I have a parenting confession here: To me, that would be like Dante writing The Inferno~ Part Deux. But then I realized, maybe he DID write the sequel already. It was typified in the short foray our family took there several years ago. We left NJ and landed in Dante’s hideaway for this millenium, DisneyWorld.

We took a 3 night cruise and then after disembarking, surprised the kids with the news we were going to Disney for 4 days. So hindsight do-over #1, for starters, would be to stay on the cruise ship. Though my surprise seemed like a good idea at the time, when the cat was out of the bag where we were going, I’d secured myself two insanely excited kids with ADHD, which is like giving Red Bull to someone already on speed. Do-over #2 would have been to slug some wine before telling them, just to steel myself.

Within the first 30 minutes it was plain to see everyone on property was going to be happy and insist upon us being happy – DAMNIT. We had two kids trying to climb into the Polynesian gardens while some poor overheated woman (?) in a Lilo suit was trying to lei us up. Hey Li- how’s about greeting moms & dads with some tropical drinks instead?

Once checked in and having scoped out all amenities, it was off to the parks. We did a different park each day, but in a way in didn’t matter. We could have just as easily driven to our local mall and walked in and out of the Disney Store 50 times. This is because EVERY ride exited through a gift shop. You have now been warned. The shops feature (of course) the ride’s theme or characters. But wait, there’s more! Because if perchance your child is not in to that particular theme, they will scatter other characters sure to catch your over-stimulated child’s eye. We thought we could breath easy leaving the Toy Story ride-cum-strip mall, only to be met head on by a pleading Son1 in a Darth Vader mask with light saber. Huh? Son 2 found at least one stuffed Winnie the Pooh everywhere we went for 3 days. And whatever you do, do NOT try the excuse the things are too big to carry around or fly with. Some perky little jit is ready to breathlessly assure you in front of your child that you can buy it and send it right to the hotel, or even ship it straight home. Fabulous!

I think the bathrooms had gift shops. I think the gift shops had gift shops. And then there were the fixed and the mobile kiosks, so we could dodge the same Pirate firearm stand every 90 minutes.

If you are planning a trip, I suggest you get a heads up on photo opp times for the character(s) your child adores. They publish it ahead, but we found it not always accurate. Disney, if you say “Tigger” I do not expect to see Belle, got me? Tell Belle to scoot her Beast-loving behind back to the “cast area” and don the Tigger garb. Maybe Tigger was hung over or something. He did surface but two hours after planned. And wham bam 30 minutes and they’re GONE. Why? Why so short, why so soon? Why not just encircle us unsuspecting parents in souvenir kiosks for the character in question and then make us cool our jets? Oh wait- you do that. You just pull the character once we’re trapped.

Next, you may want to look at websites that review rides to see what to avoid. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there are apparently some rides with a reputation for downtime. I don’t mean they don’t open. I mean they open, you wait and wait and wait with everyone’s blood sugar dropping, you get on, your car pulls out, and the ride breaks down. The Toy Story one seemed to be going through a rough season the year we went. It stopped 3 times while we were on it. THREE. The Haunted House ride had several issues. One hour into the Dinosaur ride wait, after being herded into an enclosed “prep”space where they play this recording to kick off the ride (all the rage on attraction rides there), they lost power. So there we were stuck deep inside a spiraling maze of crowd control, having invested all of this time and spent the “in case of emergency break glass” ½ xanax in my bag. We waited the 20 minutes for it to resume simply out of laziness.

Once the “sketchy reputation ride search” is completed, I suggest you scope out in parallel: 1) the location of any child care or playroom to which you can exile the cherubs 2) all bars and convenience stores that sell wine. Day 1 we caught sight of the “Peter Pan Room.” Day 1 we also noticed Florida (happily) had different laws regarding the sale of wine and beer than NJ did. This was very handy knowledge to have. By the end of Day 3 which felt like Day 3,333, after being badgered for the umpteenth time for a souvenir purchase, I did not lose it. The hubs did not lose it. Before we had a chance to say a word, my mid 20’s stepdaughter whirled around on her little brother, the stunned Son1, finger pointing into his wee chest and shouted, “I thought I was the most spoiled child on the face of the Earth. UNTIL I MET YOU!!” He was motionless, passersby uncomfortably watched, we kind of snickered, and she merely walked past hubs and me to announce we were sending them to Peter Pan-land ASAP and getting a bottle of wine. It was touching really. Son1 was put in his place by someone other than me, and the hubs from then on looked at his little girl as a grown up. Who likes white.

My final bit of awareness has to do with the safety measurements for “how tall you need to be.” Disney- yours are completely inconsistent. Whatever the number, it should equal the same height all the time. 40” should be 40,” not more not less. At Busch Gardens, they measure kids once and issue a corresponding wristband for what kids are cleared to ride. This is genius. But Disney had them at the start of the line, the midpoint (in event of growth spurt? Or osteoporosis collapse?), and at the ride entry. We learned the hard way they just don’t match.

With an early afternoon flight, we figured we’d try to cram a few hours at the Magic Kingdom before heading out. Never can get too much magic, eh? After 2 out of 6 attempted rides with mechanical issues, we thought, ok, we’ll do Space Mountain and then go. We measured Son2 at the start, all clear. We measured Son2 at the midpoint. Still clear. Close, but clear. We got up to the actual entrance, 2 back from departure and BAM the ride stopped. They ended up turning the lights on, which really killed the “magic” of Space Mountain, but still we waited. In the glare of the now illuminated space, a “cast member” spied Son2. The ride resumed, the lights went out, and we nearly boarded. But then she stopped us and said she had noticed him in line and wanted to measure him. (You couldn’t have done this with the lights on? 10 minutes ago?) Well you know where this was heading. He was too short. He was too short by like 2 inches. TWO INCHES? WTH? We told them we had used their own height guide and it had been fine. After trying to make us feel like parents unconcerned with our child’s safety, her hot idea to calm us was to offer one parent a ride w/Son1 and then on the very next run, allow the other parent to board and ride with Son1 again. Well, Son1 loved that idea. How she envisioned that helping Son2’s tantrum, I’ve no idea.

At some point, and I don’t know exactly when it was because I was trying to calm Son2, magic finally did occur. The magic that occurred had to do with taking my normally calm and composed hubs and turning him into a yelling, cursing, madman. It was like he was me for a few brief, albeit very public, moments. The last few minutes of our Disney vacation were spent listening to my overtired, over stressed, father-of-a-sobbing-7 yr-old hubs unleash on all things Disney to the Disney employees present. It was lyrical. It was epic. It ended with, “If I NEVER see that F’IN mouse again, it’ll be too soon!” And then he stormed out, leaving me with Son 1 and 2, amid dumbfounded Space Mountain workers and some shocked teens waiting to board. And I really wish he had used the abbreviated “F’in.”

Yes, it will be quite some time before we attempt another Disney trip. Maybe in a few years after they’ve added some new attractions, we’ll work up the desire to head back… if they let us back in the “magical” f’in place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What We Say vs. What They Hear

I've always thought my kids really needed a hearing test. It seems at times they don't catch a thing the hubs and I say. But I've noticed the issue is not really hearing, it's processing. For two young kids, Son1 and Son2 seem highly advanced at "inferences." Drawing inferences is that much sought after decoding skill in 2rd grade reading class used to gauge if a child gets what's going to happen next. My kids must have gotten our money's worth out of Sylvan, because they've haven't stopped at the written word. They've expanded into oral instruction, drawing (self-serving) inferences for every thing we say.

They appear to have some processing fixation which causes clever attachments with additional meaning to our words. They end up completing a task, but always with some horrid loophole based upon them tacking their own desired meaning on to our instructions. Here are just a few. I'm sure your kids have their own and I would love for your to share (mainly so I can learn from your fiascos and see where I need to specify more).

We say: Take a shower
They hear: you can run the water for 30 minutes with your smelly AXE while the liner is outside the tub letting water escape creating a lagoon on the bathroom floor which comes down through the kitchen lights below.

We say: If you ask me one more time to take you to Target today I will implode.
They hear: ... so you'd better flip to whining for Walmart so I implode.

We say: You need to put your clean laundry away.
They hear: ... in the hamper, without even bothering to unfold it, mixed in with really muddy clothes so I have to rewash them --simply to say you're done.

We say: Check and make sure you have your bathing suit for swimming.
They hear: ... just as you're walking into the Y after the twenty minute rush hour ride.

We say: Don't toss that football near the fish tank.
They hear: ...when in it, displacing five gallons and five clownfish, is so much more exciting.

We say: Don't wear your soccer cleats on the wood floor in the kitchen.
They hear: ...only. Walk through the entire house. Four times. Unless the field didn't drain from the rainstorm and they're coated with mud. Then make it five times.

And, the most apparent example of language processing issues if you have sons:
We say: Don't punch your brother in the stomach first thing in the morning!
They hear: ...wait until he's just eaten dinner.

Are my kids the only ones using hyper-inference abilities to creak their own loopholes? And will I ever be prepared for the exteneded interpretations of mine own instructions? I fear not, I truly fear not.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Years Resolutions: Day 11

It’s not that I try to torture my self esteem, I just find every year that optimistic side of me creeps out and says, “HELL YEAH! Let’s make some changes!” So, without further excuse (kind of), let’s have a status check on 2011’s New Year’s Resolutions:

1) Re-learn Spanish:
Watched 2 minutes of Dora the Explorer and don't even have a preschooler. I also listened to Enrique Iglesias/Pit Bull duet. This is a huge step up in effort from last year and 2009, since this is a carry over resolution.

2) Exercise every day:
The beauty of this was I left myself a loophole. I never committed (to me) to do 30 min, 60 min… one push up and I’m technically done. And yet, I’m still only 9 for 11. Good grief.

3) Blog at least twice per week
Well, let’s see—it’s the 11th and this is post #1. Okie dokie.

4) Clean up my mouth around the house
Sh*t.- Oh, just STFU.

5) Complete my first sprint triathlon
I’m actually getting somewhere with this, though I’ve had repeated nightmares that I’m being forced into the Atlantic Ocean and it’s January and I have no wetsuit and my family is cheering me on, not seeing that I’m really shivering to death not laughing really, really hard.

5B) Check the average water temp for Long Branch, NJ for August and check out wet suits
This wasn’t a resolution until the nightmares started, but I added it.

6) Keep the mail pile up off of the Dining Room table
DONE! I bought a WonderFile. That thing holds EVERYTHING. By September, I’m probably going to need a second. Or, maybe I’ll actually sort the piles I toss in there each night.

7) Avoid being sucked in to Son1’s “I’m a teenager and must have last word” challenge
Do eye rolls count? I’m not really sure how to self-assess on this one.

8) Be more patient with Son1 and Son2 in the morning
Moving right along…

9) Be more patient with Son1 and Son2 during homework time

10) Stop screaming like a banshee over their volume
Wait, what?

Oh, just STFU. I’m trying, ok. I need to go shop for a wetsuit, do two sit ups, and make sure there’s a corkscrew in the WonderFile.