Monday, May 28, 2012

The Princess Clique: Who's In, Who's Out?

Disclaimer: I'm not really good at this blogging thing. I wrote the following back in March but never got around to editing and posting it. Damn kids and work and life getting in the way... I finally decided to write a new entry, but figured this one was worth posting first.

After my last blog post where I expressed my desire to "break the fourth wall" with a Disney princess, I feel I need to report on whether or not I was successful. I'll be truthful--once I got to Disney World, I didn't even want to dispel "the magic." I totally got sucked in, primarily because of Lauren.
She greeted each princess with awe--even on day seven, by which time we had so many character signatures we had to get a THIRD signature book.
I may have gotten sucked in, but I was still skeptical of those wig-wearing, overly made-up beauty pageant drop-outs. Over the course of the week, I realized the line-up of princesses resembles, in many ways, that "clique" of popular girls you'll find in any high school. So here's my impression of where each princess would fit in the high school hierarchy:
Snow White: the slightly chubby wannabe who just barely made the cheerleading squad and is friends with the popular girls, but not part of their inner circle. At Disney World, you find Snow White greeting guests in seemingly random spots--she does not rank high enough to be in the official "Storybook Princess" greeting area where you find the "big three" (or what USED to be the "big three"--more on that later).
Jasmine: Jasmine is just plain cool. With awesome abs. Everyone likes her because she rocks that skimpy outfit without looking sleazy. She is the closest you can get to a "bad girl" among the Disney princesses.

Ariel: the perpetually bubbly one who is EVERYONE's friend. During lunch, she'll sit with the debate team one day, the cheerleaders the next, and end the week with the thespians. She's definitely one of the "popular" ones, but not in an intimidating way.
Mulan: cool as a cucumber, Mulan doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and that's why people like her. She could care less about being part of the "popular" crowd, and that is exactly why she is part of it. The "popular" girls are in awe of her beauty, intelligence and strength.
Tiana: the new girl in town who falls easily into the popular group with her quick sense of humor, good looks, and sassy attitude. She's the type of girl people want to get to know better.

THE BIG THREE (you'll find them at every princess "character meal" and they greet guests together in a special space at the Magic Kingdom)
Belle: she doesn't have all the material trappings of the other popular girls, but she's cute and smart and loyal to her friends and family. Just plain likable.
Sleeping Beauty: ah, the ice queen. So beautiful that she is part of the popular group by default, when in reality she is not particularly nice. Because of her beauty, she has been handed everything on a silver platter since birth. She now expects that kind of treatment and manages to get it, with a little intimidation directed at those "beneath" her.

Cinderella: "most popular" by a hair, and only because she has held that position for so long. Sure, she's pretty, smart, and has everything else going for her, but she's sort of old news. She doesn't really live up to the hype.
And finally, RAPUNZEL: Quickly overtaking the "most popular" title from Cinderella, thanks to her adorable personality, independent spirit, and the fact that she's pretty in an approachable way. And that hair! Everyone wants to be Rapunzel's friend because she just exudes fun.

So there you have it. My princess line-up. Parents of princess lovers: do you think I got it right?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

And I Looked Her in the Eye ...

So we're preparing for what seems like our umpteenth trip to "the happiest place on earth." I like Disney. But I don't LOVE Disney.

It's not because of the ridiculously long lines, or the tired, cranky kids. It's not because of the mediocre, overpriced food, or the cell block-sized "resort" rooms.

It's because of the characters. Namely the ones who do not wear masks, meaning you can look them in the eye.

My goal for this trip is to "break the fourth wall" with a Disney princess.

Before I sound like a cynical, jaded bee-yotch, let me assure you I am not (at least not all the time). I just want to get some little sign that there's a human underneath the layers and layers of foundation, lipstick and fake eyelashes.

I know Disney is all about the fantasy. When you're at "the World," fairies are real and an extremely oversized mouse wearing clown shoes is totally normal. Ariel spends more time out of the water than in it, and Captain Hook isn't so mean after all. It really is "the happiest place on earth."

But the characters canNOT be happy--at least not all the time. Those princesses spend hours greeting whiny kids, many of whom are too scared to even get close enough for a picture. They have to try to engage them in conversation while the parents urge their child to scoot closer, and then mom snaps a zillion photos, trying to get the perfect shot. The princesses must have quite the cheek muscles after smiling that long.

If an adult looks a princess in the eye, she doesn't so much as flinch. She maintains the facade no matter what. I know that is her job, but I really want to see a little wink or even an eye roll--some acknowledgement that underneath the make-up and scratchy dress is a working girl just putting in her time until her shift is over.

I guess I should be thankful there are people out there willing to put up this facade for the millions of wide-eyed kids under the Disney "spell." I know the look on Lauren's face when she met a Disney princess for the first time was truly priceless.

But I still sorta want to see Cinderella "snap." Maybe I really am jaded after all ...

C'mon, Tink, you cannot possibly be happy about those
shiny hose and that ball o' hair on top of your head.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adventures in Patching

Lauren isn't allowed to become a Girl Scout.

It's not because of the cookies.

Or the possibility I might have to camp outside with her in a tent.

It's because of the badges. The seemingly innocuous little patches of fabric that you adhere to the Girl Scouts' sashes.

I don't know much about them, but I don't need to. I already know I HATE them.

I spent three hours of my Saturday trying to affix a total of five patches to Alex's Cub Scout uniform.

I had conducted an informal Facebook poll to see how others did it without sewing. I was willing to sew a couple stitches, but there was no way in hell I'd sew an entire patch on that shirt.

I should have sewn the stupid patches. I ended up with a combination of worthless, supposedly adhesive substances on his shirt where the patches were SUPPOSED to go. I finally gave up and just sewed the corners of the patches onto the shirt. If I have some free time, maybe I'll add a couple more stitches. Yeah, it will be an empty day in Wegmans before that happens.

I don't know if iron-on patches actually work, but you'd think someone would TRY to make the patches easier to apply. The whole experience convinced me the Boy Scout organization is run by people who don't understand the concept of efficiency, despite what they try to teach the scouts.

I did some research on the Girl Scout patches, and apparently they are "iron-onable." I'm skeptical, though.

I know parenting is all about making sacrifices. I don't mind the sacrifices that make my kids happy. But Alex could NOT care less about those patches. He's in scouting for the socialization; he doesn't care about earning a patch for mastering how to "whittle" (yeah, that's a word I use everyday ...).

After this experience with the patches, I think I might prefer to go barefoot in a public bathroom.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Get Thee to Kindergarten

It's bittersweet when your child is about to start kindergarten. Many parents get downright sad about it.

"MAH BAAAABY. My little, precious baby is going all by herself to that big scary school, with big scary kids. She has to ride the school bus! She has to find her classroom! What if she gets lost? What if she needs help in the bathroom? What if she doesn't make any friends?"

Yeah, whatever. I'm more than ready to ship Lauren off to elementary school.

Is it because I want her to grow up faster? No, of course not.

Is it because I think she is mature and ready to enter elementary school? I do, but that's not the reason.

Is it because I'm ready to stop writing the big monthly tuition check for her (wonderful) preschool? That would be Brian's answer, but it's not mine.

My real reason? I cannot wait for Lauren to torment her big brother when she sees him in the halls.

That's just part of being siblings, right? The younger one, new to school and the "sibling engagement" rules, spots the older one in the hallway and tries to get his attention and let EVERYONE know they are related.

I have a picture in my mind of Lauren yelling "HI ALEX" and running through hordes of kids in order to give him a huge hug.

(I may have actually already encouraged her to do that.)

His friends will watch as the look on his face changes from annoyance to total disgust.

Because kindergarten teachers keep a short leash on their students, the incident will be short, but so worth it--for Lauren, and for me when my children tell me their different versions of the story.

LAUREN: Mom, I was so excited to see Alex in the hall today that I ran over to give him a big hug! I love going to "big kid" school!

ALEX: MO-OM. Lauren is SO annoying. She always embarrasses me in front of my friends. Could you tell her to just ignore me when she sees me in the hall?

Me: (Will fake paying close attention to the lint on my sweater and pretend I didn't hear them.)

I have a younger brother (hi Grubby!). I really don't remember if he "embarrassed" me in school. I was three grades ahead. I think it is probably a little different when the boy is the older sibling. A younger sister may look up to her big brother more than a younger brother would look up to his big sister. Or maybe I'm stereotyping.

Whatever--I just know that, based on my children's personalities, Lauren will definitely go out of her way to make sure everyone knows that Alex is her big brother. And Alex will likely be embarrassed. Deep down, though, I know he really won't mind.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I Don't Want a Hoochie-Mama Preschooler

My 4 3/4-year-old daughter is quickly outgrowing sizes 6 and 6x. Which means no more brightly colored mix-and-match Carters outfits, or modestly cute shirts with polka dots and stripes instead of "OMG" and "BFF."

I like to shop ahead for the next season. Recently, when scouring the sales racks at Kohl's, I saw this:

It is a girl's size 10. If I had looked a little harder, I could have probably found one closer to my daughter's size. No, thank you, she is not quite ready for a little black dress.

I know Kohl's is not the only store to blame. Justice offers this:
And this:

Neon aside, is this appropriate for an almost-5-year-old? To me, it looks like what teenagers wore in the '80s (gawd, I'm getting old ...). And the fringed shirt is just plain tacky. Maybe if she were auditioning for Jersey Shore ...

Full disclosure: I looked around the Justice website and there WERE a few cute, appropriate things. But they still looked "old." I feel like there are very few options for girls in size 7-14 who are still, well, little girls.

Some may suggest Gymboree, but I'm a little over the coordination out the wazoo. And I swear their color palettes are just a leeetle off--meaning it is near impossible to mix and match with clothing from other stores.

And then there's the Gap. Ah, the Gap. The "meet in the middle" option between dirt-cheap Old Navy and overpriced Banana Republic. Relatively modest yet stylish.

For little kids, it's great. The clothes are super cute and can easily be worn with items from other stores.

The "big girl" styles are okay overall. I'm not going to dress her in this (that's a shirt, by the way--I think it would be better as a dress!):

But overall, the styles are pretty cute. The problem is the sizing. Lauren still has some baby fat. A size-7 t-shirt from GapKids is skintight. And Old Navy is even worse, sizing-wise, because the clothes are so cheap.

Lauren loves clothes. She loves when people comment on her outfits. She is the type of girl who will want the "older" styles, and I'm dreading it.

So, moms of elementary-age girls, what do you do? Where do you find clothing that is modest yet still stylish?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reclaiming My School Pride

I've never been a rah-rah Penn State person. I don't like football. I own one Penn State sweatshirt and one Penn State t-shirt, purchased not from a store on College Avenue, but from the clearance rack at Target. I went to football games during college, but usually left at half-time (my dad would have disowned me if I did not get season tickets). I don't get what the big deal is about Creamery ice cream. Obviously I'm not the type who claims to bleed blue and white.

But yesterday afternoon, as Joe Paterno's funeral procession passed down Curtin Road, I was never prouder to be a Penn Stater. It was almost like a parade atmosphere during the nearly two hours I waited outside with thousands of other students, alumni, faculty and staff. But as soon as the crowd saw the flashing lights of the cars leading the motorcade, silence fell. With helicopters buzzing overhead, reminding us that more than our local community was mourning this great man, we watched the cars and buses pass. Sue rode in Joe's seat on the team bus, with his grandchildren waving from the back. It was over in minutes, and then everyone went their separate ways, contemplating, I'm sure, what we had just experienced.

I have not published a blog post in six months, first because life got in the way, and then because I didn't want to write my usual blather when my community was in turmoil. I feel very strongly that those of us who currently live in State College have experienced the events of the past 2.5 months differently than anyone else. No offense to Penn State alumni and fans who live elsewhere--it's just that living here means we have experienced everything on a whole other level. We have been criticized. We have been misunderstood. We have had our town overtaken by media who could never understand what it means to be a Penn Stater.

There are some bad people out there in the world, this town included. But they do not represent Penn State as a whole. The people lining the streets yesterday represent Penn State. And I was proud to be one of them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

She's Crossed the Line

The tables have turned. Six months ago I never imagined my 8-year-old son with premature pre-teen angst would be "the pleasant one," but it's true. My divalicious 4-year-old has crossed the line from sassy-cute to sassy-bratty.

Declarations that have recently crossed her lips:

When asked why she was acting so bratty: I don't like ANYthing ANYone is saying.

While riding in the car with a chattering Alex: I don't want to hear ANY sounds!

When I dare to smile at something she says: Stop laughing at me!

When told it was a "school day": I do NOT like school, so I'm NOT going (no offense, Ms. Brooke!).

When presented with a meal composed of something she did not specifically request: I do NOT like [insert random food item], so I'm not eating it. [Random food item] is gross.

I know other parents say their 4-year-olds--especially girls--are sassy, but I truly believe Lauren takes it to another level. She goes from this:

To this:
in a matter of seconds.

I told Brian I thought Lauren had been acting particularly bratty recently. He said he hadn't noticed. That's because she's a total daddy's girl. Actually, she sucks up to all the males in the family. The other day, my dad got her a cute wall hanging that says "girly girl." He had shown it to me, but not to her (because, not surprisingly, she was cranky at the time). I just went ahead and hung it on her door. The next morning, she grumbled about the sign to me, saying she didn't like it, until I told her that Pop had gotten it for her. Suddenly she loved it. Watch out, future suitors. Lauren will play you like a violin.

Despite her increasing brattiness, Lauren is still almost always willing to put on a "dance show." The bigger the audience, the better. However, she has very high expectations of her audience. She gets upset if you don't clap loudly enough. If she asks someone to introduce her from "offstage," and you are not enthusiastic enough with the introduction, you're gonna hear about it. Fortunately her, uh, interesting dance moves--that somehow demonstrate both a sense of rhythm and a scary sense of what's sexy--make her "shows" enjoyable despite her diva-like behavior.

I'm pretty sure I'm better at appropriately reprimanding and then ignoring outbursts with my second child. I'm also pretty sure this is just a phase. I still see enough sincere sweetness in my little diva to know she is not permanently headed down the "mean girl" route. Although I'm not 100% certain ...