Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paper Jam

Here's the scene: it's my bedroom. The bed, to be exact. Nicely made, every thing looking normal, except there's a very large and disorderly pile of papers on the bed. Very, very large.

Suddenly the pile of paper moves. It breathes. It coughs. A voice can be heard from inside the pile of papers - my voice - exclaiming at the volume of paper, the quantity of paper, the sheer duplicative quantity of paper.

Of course - it's the camp paperwork and I've gotten buried beneath it.

My kids have gone to the same summer day camp almost every summer for the last six or seven years. The first year the amount of paperwork was a terrible surprise. I paid the camp fees, filled out a nice little two-sided sheet with our family information and a credit card number and, with a smile on my face, prepared to walk away. Suddenly I was handed a brick of paperwork and told to complete the forms contained in it for each child and then registration would be complete.

There's the normal stuff in there, like the contact sheet with phone numbers, and then there's stuff like the "Get to know your camper" sheet where I have to tell them about my children's psychological foibles to maybe smooth their way through their weeks there. Husband and I have had no small amount of fun over the years imagining what we'd really like to write under "Child's Three Favorite Activities" as opposed to what we actually write there. Not to mention the "Three characteristics that best describe your child." There's the challah order form, the lunch order form, the aftercare form - which needs to be filled out whether we use aftercare or not - and the friend request form. Then there's the one form I have to fill out twice: the medical/immunization form.

I've come to realize this form is created only to torture me since I must obtain my children's immunization records and then transpose those records onto the form. Each year I peer quizzically at the immunization form from the doctor's office, where they've abbreviated certain shots under one name, and tried to match them up to the form, where they've abbreviated them another.

As the years have gone by, my dread of doing this paperwork has sometimes become a deciding factor in whether my kids will go to camp, kind of like the "Sponge-worthy" Seinfeld episode. Is it paperwork-worthy? Is one week of camp worth it to fill out the paperwork? A resounding no. Two weeks? Three?

I jump back in the pile, pick up my pen with my claw-like hand, and finish the task.

Are your kids in summer camp? How voluminous are the enrollment forms? Every get overwhelmed and discouraged by paperwork?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blame it on the Blemishes

I have an important motto I've made up myself that is related particularly to the raising of children. At least I think I've made it up.

It didn't occur to me quite away because, frankly it wasn't needed. It occurred to me when Bar Mitzvahzilla went from being a smooth-faced twelve-year-old several years ago, into a raging, hormonal thirteen-year-old. And then the pimples came.

It was a normal night. The kids were up too late. The husband causing a ruckus in the house because those same kids had managed to mess up the house in the most minute ways; ways that seemed intended to drive us to the brink of insanity. I was hiding in my office, trying to get some writing done and wondering - lamenting - why my office didn't have a door. Oh yeah, I know. Because it's the living room.

Then Bar Mitzvahzilla marched in for a goodnight kiss. No knocking because, of course, there was no door.  He presented a face full of pimples for me to kiss. And I, of course, kissed the pimples.

It's not like I spent my life purposely kissing pimples. The common wisdom when I was heading into high school was that you could catch these things if you made out with a boy who had them. Since I already had enough of them to send makeup counter ladies running in horror from their stations in the mall, I wasn't going to purposely rub faces with someone who had worse pimples than me. There was also all the other stuff we believed about our skin right then: chocolate causes pimples. Rubbing alcohol will cure pimples (topically, not as a drink...). Use a blackhead popper on your pimples (hello, scarring!). We even believed that one day soon we'd grow out of them.

And, just like my nascent belief, as a teenager, in the fact that a ten-pound weight loss could change my life, I also believed that if I strategized just right, I could declare war on the pimples, and fix my social life.

I don't think Bar Mitzvahzilla was philosophizing quite as much as I had, as an adolescent girl. But he did march into my office for a kiss. So here's my motto, reiterated in case you missed it, used in the fullness of loving parenthood: Kiss the Pimples. And then get that kid to a dermatologist.

Any horrible acne stories from your youth? Archaic beliefs or practices? Any experience with this situation? Anyone else spend a lot of time in the dermatologist's office and not for Botox and Juvederm?

Linda Pressman, Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and, libraries and other retailers

Sunday, June 5, 2011

To Sleep or Not To Sleep

One thing about giving birth to Bar Mitzvahzilla - besides him being born a pound and a half, besides the whole prematurity thing, besides the coming home with an apnea monitor and an oxygen tank - he was never one of those kids who would fall asleep in the car.

We had to go a lot of places when he first came home from the hospital. Four times a week back to the pediatrician to monitor his weight gain and recovery from recent hernia surgery; a cardiac surgeon; an ophthalmologist; other specialists. And they were all very far from my house, like near the hospital where Bar Mitzvahzilla had been born. Could he have fallen asleep one time?

Instead I'd be driving along the interminable mountain passes of Phoenix on a thirty-minute ride downtown with a squalling by then four-pound baby sunk into a rear-facing car seat facing away from me in my car. Do you know how this drove me nuts? Can you imagine how many times I had to stop to make sure he wasn't strangling on something in the sunken tunnel of his car seat? Because he couldn't really fill the thing up.

Now Bar Mitzvahzilla is nearly sixteen. A big clunk, really, and thank goodness for it considering his beginning. I pick him up at school and he is irritable. Everyday. I guess he doesn't remember those heartbreaking scenes from next to his incubator. Finally, we descend into silence after he realizes that, whether he likes it or not, one particular day I'm bringing him to our store to work. Then it gets too quiet. He's sleeping.

A kid who could never even close his eyes as a tiny newborn now finds that the motion of the car lulls him tranquilly to sleep, in bright daylight and at nearly sixteen-years-old.

I shake my head at the contradictions of parenthood, happy for the silence from my teenager, wondering if every time he fights with me I could just somehow trick him into the car and make him falls asleep. Then I drive on, towards our store.

Did you have a kid who fell asleep in cars or stayed alarmingly awake? Any annoying sleep tales of teenagers?

Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
Available on Amazon, Kindle, B&N, and other retailers