Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Been Curiously Entertaining!

Rob and I have been talking about our 10-year plan and for some time now it's included retiring to Wrightsville Beach, NC. I even get Zillow updates on properties for sale in our price range. This year when choosing where to vacation we decided we should visit the place we want to retire, you know, before actually purchasing a property and moving there. So here we are in Carolina Beach, NC. We couldn't afford find a place to rent in Wrightsville.

Located just south of Wrightsville, Carolina Beach is billed as "a family-friendly, extraordinary beach town that's curiously entertaining!" The "curiously entertaining" part should have been a clue. I'm pretty sure it's synonymous with "uncomfortably amusing" or "freak show." Carolina Beach is also described as "North Carolina's most authentic beach town," which means "America's yahoos vacation here." Allow me to share the top 10 things I've seen this week (and the week is only half over):
  1. A tee that read "Cool story, babe, now get me a beer."
  2. A sign for a "Gun & Tattoo" show.
  3. A visit from the paramedics. Despite the fact that we were hanging on the front porch enjoying ourselves, she walked past us to the front door and when we looked at her strangely stopped and said "Didn't you call 911?" We hadn't. 
  4. Fishing charter boats so skanky I'd be afraid to eat anything they caught.
  5. Abby and Hope almost hit by a car and Rob giving the guy an earful.
  6. An absurd amount of vaping...
  7. A preponderance of Willie Nelson look-a-likes.
  8. An alligator.
  9. A bar with no public restrooms and a sign forbidding "club colors." Forgive my naivety, but I really didn't know Carolina beach towns were havens for gang violence.
  10. A brand new boardwalk all of three blocks long on which there is nothing but swings overlooking the dunes. Not a glimpse of the ocean to be found. And the boardwalk shops aren't actually on the boardwalk. Nor is there anything remotely worth shopping for. This place makes Seaside Heights look impressive. Almost. 
And now that I've gotten my elitist comments out of the way, allow me to add that bringing Lily on vacation was a mistake. We've had one escape in which she took off across the street, through parking lots, over the dunes and onto the beach. Some guy caught her by the collar and she dragged him several feet before he wisely let go. We haven't been able to leave her alone for fear she'll either die of a stress-related heart attack or destroy the house. We're going to the beach in shifts. 

Now, none of this is to say we're not having fun. The beach is lovely and the water is about the warmest I've ever felt the Atlantic. Yesterday we took a ferry to Oak Island and found a dog friendly beach that Lily enjoyed. We've played several rousing games of Polish poker, I finished a good book (Tana French's Broken Harbor), and we experienced hair raising thunderstorms. 

Still, I'd say there's an excellent chance we'll be home early. I prefer my yahoos without a southern accent. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

14 Things I Learned from the Elementary and Middle School Years

I am the mother of a high school graduate.Woo hoo! You'll be shocked to learn that I did not weep during Ian's commemoration or graduation last week. I have this weird ability to stay relatively chill during experiences that make unemotional people cry. It's silly stuff like the sunrise that get me choked up.

I have heard from many people one person that I did a good job of raising my son, and therefore I figured I should share my wisdom so others can benefit.  I have broken the marketing/ communication rule that says you should never write from the negative perspective, but given my glass half empty tendencies, I've decided to do just that. Here are two lists of what not to do during both the elementary and middle school years.

Soon, I'll write specifically about senior year. It's deserving of its own post.

See what happens to moms who volunteer? It's not easy being green.

  1. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be elementary school super mom. You don’t need to be the homeroom parent. You don’t need to make food for class parties. You don’t need to lead craft activities. As my daughter would say, “You do you.” In my case, that meant donating bottled water. Or cash. 
  2. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be a super mom at home. You don’t need to make meals. You don’t need to bake cookies. You don’t need to decorate the windows and door for holidays. You don’t need to visit Pintrest or read Better Homes & Gardens. In fact, delete the “need to” and simply DON’T do either of those things. Trust me, you’ll be happier. 
  3. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be an at-home mom. Been there. Hated it. Cried a lot. I was a much better mom the minute I took a job and left the house.
  4. Don’t help your kids with their homework. Trust me, after 1st grade you won’t know how to do it anyway, and by telling your kids you can’t do it in those early years, you’ll get out of helping in the future.
  5. Don’t drink too much in front of the kids, or else they’ll draw pictures and write short stories about how much mommy likes wine. 
  6. If you’re not comfortable with being public school enemy No. 1, don’t write a note to the principal questioning the appropriateness of wasting spending a month preparing for an extravaganza that involves less than 10% of the class. This will only lead to your child’s teacher never speaking to you again, and may actually sound the death knell for said event.  
  7. Don’t let your child quit a sport or a musical instrument without first having them sign a legal document absolving you of any wrongdoing when they change their mind five years later and it’s now too late to make the varsity team or first chair in the orchestra.


  1. Don’t drink alcohol or eat poorly in front of the kids. Their teachers are brainwashing them to believe one bottle glass of wine, and a bag handful of chips mean you’re a bad parent. 
  2. Don’t get involved in your child’s every issue. And if your child is having issues with a friend (and they will, guaranteed), don’t involve the friend’s parents. They’ll think you need to chill the f out. 
  3. Don’t panic when you hear your child has a significant other. This only means they’re holding hands while walking around the school track at lunchtime. They aren’t actually speaking to one another. That doesn’t happen until marriage, and for some, not even then.
  4. Don’t waste money on an actual bouquet for your son’s middle school dance date(s).  Pick up a Trader Joe’s flower bunch for $5, cut the stems short and tie a ribbon around them. Voila. 
  5. Don’t assume your child needs therapy. They might, but they might also just be a middle school age kid. That explains nearly everything. 
  6. Give up trying to find shorts that actually cover your daughter's tush. They don't exist.
  7. Sing loudly when you have your child’s friends in the car. Part of your job as a parent is to embarrass them and you want to stay consistent in this regard. Breaking into song at the hair salon is also good, as is chaperoning a school dance. And if you really want to leave a mark, shout, "I love you!" out the car window when dropping them off at school. They appreciate that.

Next up: What I learned about Senior Year.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 6, 2016

On a Scale from 1 to 10

It was Friday evening when this email showed up in my inbox:
It's okay to rate them if they're famous.

Dear Parent of the Class of 2019:

Last evening I was made aware of a posting on a googledocs spreadsheet being circulated among students in the ninth grade.  The author(s) of the spreadsheet have rated and ranked members of the freshman class in a manner that objectifies female students and may be viewed as a form of sexual harassment.

I have interviewed several students today in an attempt to determine the source of the posting and to do what I can to insure that that list does not exist on school district computers and is not continuing to be spread over technology for which we bear responsibility.  Our investigation leads us to believe the list appears on student phones, and not on district computers, and so we will need the help of parents to eradicate the list from the possession of students.

I have also referred the matter to the Nether Providence Police Department as a case involving possible sexual harassment.  Given that we cannot determine the source of the list, we are unable to issue school discipline in this matter at this point.  If we do identify the source, consequences would fall under our harassment policy, including police notification, school suspension, and parent notification.

Any parent with information regarding the list is asked to contact me via email or phone at your earliest convenience.  All parents are asked to speak with your student about the damaging personal consequences of misuse of social media and technology, the proper and respectful treatment of young females, and the potential legal consequences for those who engage in this type of behavior.

Thank you.

MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.

As the mother of a 9th grade girl, I had a number of reactions to this news:
  1. Huh. Interesting.
  2. Involving police and harassment charges seems a bit extreme.
  3. Those boys are in a heap of shit.
  4. I wonder how Abby did.
  5. I better burn my 8th grade yearbook in which I "starred" the cute guys. If that gets out, I'll never be able to run for political office.
Frankly, that's about as much thought as I gave to the matter. Until the doorbell rang.

"Mom, apparently, one of the boys who made the list is going house to house to apologize to the girls. So if the doorbell rings..."

It rang, and there stood a tall, classically awkward teenage boy with his mom. He confessed to being one of the boys responsible and apologized for what he'd done. His mom noted that many lessons had been learned. When they left, Abby said, "I actually feel bad for him." And Brooke and Ian, who'd answered the door and then listened in from the kitchen, called it one of the most awkward things they'd ever experienced. I give the boy's mom two thumbs way up for handling it the way she did. All you hear of are parents who do everything they can to keep their kids from having to take responsibility for their actions, and here was this guy, facing 50 female classmates (they ranked the top 50) with his mom at his side. Bravo, mom. Bravo. I'd say the punishment fit the crime, but will the school agree? 

Based on the principal's letter, school suspension, police involvement and sexual harassment charges may be forthcoming. And, despite being the mom of a girl on the list (who was significantly under-ranked, by the way), I want to say, "Isn't that going a bit too far?"

Let's face it, we are hardwired to find each other attractive. It's what keeps the species alive. And males and females have been making these kinds of lists for decades, probably centuries. Somewhere I imagine there's a cave drawing with stick figures of various women ranked in order of attractiveness, hunter/gatherer ability, fertility, dinosaur escape skills, and fire making know-how. And I wasn't kidding about my yearbook. It may not have been 8th grade, but at some point I definitely placed stars next to the boys I thought were cute. I may have even given them scores. If a teen girl did that today and her yearbook was passed around and she was caught, would she risk the same punishment as these boys? Knowing our school district, she very likely would, which makes me sigh and shake my head a bit.

I get it, really, I do. For centuries women have been treated as nothing more than objects in a male-dominated society. It's cost us in innumerable ways--emotionally, mentally, physically, professionally, financially. And because we can't allow women to continue to be undervalued, there have to be repercussions for this type of behavior. But somewhere in this mistake lies one hell of a learning experience that I believe can be achieved without the involvement of our criminal justice system.

Yes, the behavior was wrong. It was wrong to come up with a list of categories on which to rate a grade's worth of 15 year-old girls. It was wrong to put the list online and make it available for input. It was wrong to hurt these girls by deciding their worth in physical terms. But, it is forgivable. And a boy who takes the time to apologize to each and every girl on this list deserves to be forgiven. Lesson learned. Let's leave it at that.