What Happened to Halloween?

When did Halloween become such a big holiday? It must have happened sometime after I graduated from college and sometime before Princess Galen was born. A couple years ago I realized nearby neighborhoods were just as decked out for Halloween as Christmas.

Cemeteries pop up in yards, pirates dangle by nooses from trees, and zombies stand by driveways. It’s a lot to explain to a little kid. I don’t even know where to begin.

The year before my daughter was born I made the mistake of going to a Halloween party. I wore a twirly dress and fairy wings. My husband put on his cowboy hat and boots. We looked like we’d made an effort. The rest of the people at the party looked like they had been hired by a haunted house. I felt so lame. I also felt overdressed. The women wore nothing short of clothing appropriate for a prostitute.

When did Halloween become about wearing sexy clothes? And why have kids’ characters been sexualized? I think that creeps me out the most.

care bear

Cheer Bear from the Care Bears

Even Sesame Street isn’t immune.

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Big Bird

Where did we go wrong? When did Halloween become more about sex and less about games

2014-10-18 10.27.44and cute kids’ costumes?

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What I’d tell my 15 year old self….

Guess what? Turns out, I’m an athlete!

That’s what I would tell the teenage version of myself. Chances are, she’d laugh her ass off. But only if she could do it without putting down her book. The teenage me would never imagine she could be good at exercise

Musician Willie Nelson Gets Promoted To 5th Degree Black Belt Gong Kwon Yu SulBut, hang on a minute, because there’s someone else I’d like to say that too also. I’d say it to the nine year old me also. Because that’s when I got that idea. The idea that I wasn’t an athlete.

I remember the moment clearly. I was about nine, in maybe the third grade. We were playing something in P.E. Softball, I think, but it might have been kickball. It was one of those bases-loaded moments. I was in the hot seat. I buggered it. I humiliated myself (in my own eyes) and the team lost. I went home in tears. And that’s when it happened. My mom, trying to comfort me, said, “It’s okay, honey, Beierles just aren’t good at sports. We just aren’t very coordinated.” (Beierle is my maiden name.)

I internalized that phrase, “Beierles aren’t good at sports.” it became part of my identity. Not good at sports. Not an athlete. Not coordinated.

It was okay. I was smart. I loved reading. (And that’s a subject of another post, probably one I already wrote.) I didn’t mind not being good at sports. I mean, I minded every day in P.E. when I was picked last. When I always fumbled the ball. When I stood in the wrong spot on the volleyball court and got hit in the face with the ball. I totally cried that time, because, damn, that hurt. But I was okay with my identity of not being an athlete.

For most of my life–as that teenagers and as an adult–I really struggled with exercise. I know I need exercise to be healthy. I wanted to find something I could force myself to do, but I just never found it.

Until yoga. Which I love. But the Iyengar yoga I do is slow and methodical. I’m good at it, but it’s yoga. It’s not exactly the stuff of athletes.

And then, a year ago, my son said he wanted to take Tae Kwon Do. So I found a place to take him. And then my daughter started going. And I did.

It made sense. I write action, so it’s technically research. I could get help choreographing fight scenes. Plus, it turns out, it’s just fun. No. Really.

Yeah. That’s me saying that. It’s exercise and it’s fun. I look forward to it. And now here’s the really weird thing: I’m good at it. There are two other women in my class who are at the same level as me. I don’t carry them, but they don’t carry me either. We are equals. One of them jogs every morning. One of them was a star basketball player in high school. And I’m their equal.

That’s amazing to me!

And here’s the thing that I never understood about what it means to be athletic: I didn’t know that even lazy, uncoordinated people could be athletes.

Oh, any number of P.E. teachers and coaches said, “Well, you just need to practice. You’ll get better at softball/kickball/tennis/basketball/volleyball/etc.”

I had absolutely no faith that I would get better. I was a naturally uncoordinated person. How could practice help that? I couldn’t imagine that any amount of practice would make me not a clumsy lunk. I never understood that practice would build muscles. That having muscles would mean I’d have better control over my limbs. That using my muscles regularly would help me develop muscle memory. That I would totally feel like an athlete!

Yeah, I’m still uncoordinated. Yeah, I still cringe at the thought of playing a team sport. Yeah, I’d still probably be the last one picked to play kickball. And, yeah, I’d probably still get the volley ball to the face. But guess what? Now, I could totally drop kick the guy who did it. (Not that I would do that. That would be rude.)

(By the way, I had all kinds of cool pictures of my getting my red belt, but now I can’t find them. I don’t think I understand how my phone works with the new update. So instead, I included pictures of Master Um, my instructor, with his far more impressive student, WIllie Nelson!)

Mommy chuckles

So I just finished and turned in a book and I’m fried… I always enjoy a good laugh, especially ones about being a parent. Which one(s) of these do you relate to?

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I do this ALL the time!

I do this ALL the time!

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This is so me!

This is so me!

My favorite is when they ask - "what are you eating, I smell chocolate."

My favorite is when they ask – “what are you eating, I smell chocolate.”

Father-Daughter Bonding

I could write a long, mushy blog post about how fabulously, gloriously blessed I am to have my amazing parents.

Barcelona Trip March 2011 195
Mom, Dad and me in Barcelona

family pic
A recent family pic for our church

I can honestly say that their strength, support and understanding has guided me through many a dire situation. But since my parents are so amazing, they each deserve their own blog post. Today’s is dedicated to my dad.

It’s often said that a daughter’s relationship with her father is special. A father is someone a daughter should be able to rely upon— in good times and bad. A man she knows is there for her no matter what. A man she can look up to. A man who serves as a role model for her own partner.

I’m not rose-colored glasses enough to believe that this is always true. Which leads me to give thanks every day for the man I call Dad. Or Pop. Or Papi. Depending on my mood, the moment, or the language I’m speaking.

So today, I’d simply like to post an homage of pics representing the numerous father daughter bonding moments my dad and I have shared in recent years. A testament to the fun-loving, sometimes embarrassment-inducing, inappropriate comment-making absolute best dad a girl could ask for.

My dad’s in tuned with his cultural side, here we are:

ushering a broadway show
Wearing our tuxedos, snapping a selfie as we usher a Broadway show at our main performing arts center

Gainesville Latino Film Festival
Supporting the Gainesville Latino Film Festival

salsa dancing
Salsa dancing at a local event

Marc Anthony 1
At the Marc Anthony concert together

We’re huge Gator fans! Dad may not have attended UF, but says his money did as both my sister and I are alums. ☺

Gator baseball game
Enjoying Gator baseball

Gators_Basketball_Sweet_16_UF_Fans_2
Cheering on our 2007 National Champion basketball team

LSU football tailgate
Tailgating at last week’s Gator football game

Papi has thrown his support behind my endeavors as well as my daughters’

MFA grad
Celebrating my MFA graduation at Seton Hill University

off to work consent shirt
Proudly wearing his “I Always Get Consent” shirt to raise awareness in the fight against sexual violence on college campuses– an organization one of my daughters co-created at her undergraduate university

We’re a family of characters who never miss an opportunity to play dress up whether it’s for an Oscar party, World Cup soccer

halloween
a Halloween zombie party

biker babes
Or being biker babes riding Dad’s moped, taking a selfie at a loooooong stop light

If you know my dad, you know he’s crazy about karaoke. My dad is a regular Frank Sinatra, Willy Nelson, David Allan Coe and Neil Diamond all rolled into one. So, no blog about my papi would be complete without a pic of him singing karaoke:

karoake singing

And finally, I’m sharing this last pic just cuz I love it. Here’s my dad and me, relaxing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during a family reunion. My head on his shoulder, comfortable and safe with my dad at my side.
me n dad at Disney

Te quiero, papi! XOXO

It’s A Scary World

So I live in North Texas…you know, near Dallas and Patient Zero. That hospital you’ve been hearing about? Yeah. Both my kids were born there. I personally have spent over a month there as a patient. My ob-gyn is there. My fertility specialist. I get my mammograms there. I’ve walked the halls, eaten meals, made friends. Needless to say, this is all hitting way close to home.

Last week I’m walking my daughter, a 5th grader, home from school, and she and one of her besties are excitedly telling me they talked about it at recess and figured it out: if the Ebola starts spreading, we all need to get to some remote island. We’ll be safe there…well, as long as we can figure out how to purify water and get food. Bodily fluids with Ebola can’t survive across water…can they? The salt water would kill them…right?

I smile. I engage with the girls. I discuss the merits of their plan, while at the same time working to assure them that we don’t need to worry about that (even as, in the back of my mind, the little fear bug gnaws away.) And then I find myself opening the front door and walking into the cool confines of our house, much like the afternoon last year when I learned about the active-shooter drill at the elementary school, so, so SAD that these little kids, these CHILDREN, have to worry about stuff like gunmen in their schools and Ebola.

Flash-forward to today, and I’m messaging with a writer friend and reflecting about all the Huge Stuff kids today have to deal with—Ebola! ISIS! Beheadings on YouTube! Mass Shootings at school and movie theaters and just about everywhere else! Cyber Bullying! Sexual Predators! Online Sexual Predators, and More, More, Always More!—and she wisely says, “They will learn to deal with it. It’s our job to raise responsible adults not dependent children, as hard as it is on us parents (and grandparents.) Our job is not to keep them away from scary things, but to teach them to deal with and overcome fears.”

And I just kinda sat there going…wow. You’re right. You are absolutely right. That is our job as parents. To teach our kids. To prepare our kids. To ready them for the day that they walk through the world as adults. Sometimes this involves protecting them. Sometimes this involves taking a deep breath while bumps and bruises happen, understanding that they are an inevitable part of growing up.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about swimming—and drowning. When we have kids, we naturally worry about them falling into water. Given this, one of two courses are available to us: we can keep them away from water, which is really, really great, because if you’re not around water, you can’t drown…until the day something unexpected happens and are you are around water and you aren’t prepared. Or…we can teach them to swim.

So I started thinking…and talking to some friends. How do we do it? How do we teach our kids to function in this scary world? How do we prepare them for the world they are going to live in?

How do we teach them to swim?

And while it may seem like a big, overwhelming responsibility, I realized there really are some salient approaches that make a big difference.

  • Be honest. Tell them the truth. Answer their questions. Don’t create fairy tales that some day will crash around them. If they ask what Ebola is, tell them. Is they ask about ISIS, tell them. BUT…and this is huge…operate on a need to know basis. For my 6yo, telling him that Ebola is a bad sickness and ISIS is a group of bad guys in another part of the world is enough. That satisfies his 6yo curiosity. He doesn’t need to know more than that. My 10yo, however…she needs deeper answers. And I can pace myself by feeding bits of information, and letting her questions guide me. She’s functioning in this world. She’s around televisions and newspapers, radios, and the biggest information source of all: the Internet. So she has access to information as it is. I need to make sure she feels comfortable that when she asks me questions, I’m real with her, because if I’m not, she’ll quit asking. Which brings me to,
  • The media. All of it. TV, radio, print, Internet… Dial it back. Minimize their exposure. Maybe we want to hear what’s being said, but that doesn’t mean we need to expose young impressionable minds to all the spin. And hysteria. And hype. Sadly, the 24-hour (entertainment) news cycle is about ratings (i.e., making money) and not much else. If kids aren’t hearing this stuff, then a whole lot of their fears can be mitigated before they ever even begin.
  • Just like with water and swimming, teaching plays a huge role in preparing kids to live in the world that is awaiting them. Teach them about responsible Internet behavior. Teach them about the dangers of posting racy selfies. Teach them about sociopaths who pose as children on social networks. Teach them about the dangers of giving out personal information. Teach them about Ebola and how it’s spread, what bodily fluids are, and what kinds of safety protocols we can all take. Sure, what you teach a 5yo will be very different than a 10 or 15yo, but we can’t pretend bad things don’t happen, because that’s like letting your child who doesn’t know how to swim go play at the lake without a life-jacket, and simply telling him to stay on shore.
  • Acknowledge fear, but teach them skills to deal with their fears–fear is an important feeling that tells us to beware, be vigilant, but not be paralyzed. If kids are taught never to fear anything, they are too naive to function in the real world. And finally…
  • Create a consistent, peaceful, loving environment for your kids at home. Give them a safety net, a place where they know they are safe and loved, where they can exhale and trust and retreat, despite whatever ugliness they may encounter in the outside world. Listen to them. Hug them. LOVE them.

Interestingly, when I asked family and friends what their ONE piece of advice would be for parents raising kids in a scary world…a consistent, loving, peaceful environment at home was the number one response given, and the response given by every single young adult and teen. I found that pretty fascinating, and pretty telling. Love. It’s so darn important, the very foundation of our children’s lives. Maybe we can’t eradicate Ebola or stop ISIS, but we can teach, and prepare, and wrap our kids in love…and maybe just maybe, the scary world won’t feel quite so scary.

 

Identity and Motherhood

My daughter is an amazing, unique person. I love her style. I love the way she runs around with carefree abandon. Barefoot. In dresses. In Werewolf costumes. I love her creativity. I wonder what she’ll be. Because there is so much potential contained in her beautiful little self. She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

I want her to have dreams, and I want to see them come true. I want them to be as far reaching as the stars. Big, big dreams.

I was pondering this the other day and realizing that I was once someone’s little girl. And my mom had all those same thoughts for me. I know she does, because she tells me.

That got me thinking. Thinking about identity. Identity once you’ve become a mother.

I love being a mother. I love my children. I feel the need to put that out there even now for fear claiming I love anything else might undermine that. Because…so often anything else in our lives is treated like it does undermine that love. Like any other aspiration we might have somehow robs from what has now become the primary part of our identity.

Very often when I tell people I’m a writer, the first comment is: That’s so wonderful! You get to be home with your kids.

I find that interesting. As though the only truly great thing about my accomplishments is how I’ve somehow managed to find a way to get paid to make myself available to do the one thing I really should want to do: be home with my kids.

But that perspective underserves the way our family works. I am not ‘home with my kids.’ I work full time at an office in my home. There are many challenges that go with that. My husband is the ‘stay at home’ (HAHAHAHA) parent. Who puts in so many miles on our car getting them where they need to go, who bears the burden of housework and grocery shopping and keeping us all functional.

Yes indeed, I am flexible in schedule, and that’s a wonderful thing. But…I have a job. A job that requires me to put in full time hours and sometimes LOCK my office door and build a security fence around my time.

My husband is a hard working stay at home parent. He spends a lot of time working on his music. He’s good at it. It makes him happy. It’s part of who he is. Because there’s more to him than ‘dad.’

Though, he’s never asked to justify these things. Often, he’s in that unenviable position of justifying his position as full time caregiver to the kids. People always want to know what ‘else’ he does. (And that’s a whole problem too.)

I find people often don’t want to know what ‘else’ moms do. Too often we’re only seen as one thing. Too often we see ourself as only one thing. 

I don’t like it when people justify that I use my time for anything BUT my children. “It’s great because you’re home with your kids.”

I think it’s great because I love what I do. Because it makes me happy. Because me being happy makes me a better wife and a better mom. 

Because I am living out my dreams. Because I’ve kept that part of myself that ran barefoot in dresses and let her hair fly in the wind, just like my daughter.

I don’t want her to lose that when she has children, if she has children. Because I prize all of who she is.

I should prize those same things in myself.

We all should.

A Life Milestone

My husband and I recently celebrated our 20th anniversary! I can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been married for 20 years. Is there a secret to staying married that long? I don’t think so. As writers of romance, we love the idea of happily ever after! But every combination of people is completely different, so the same relationship “advice” wouldn’t apply to every couple. While our marriage has not always been rainbows and butterflies, in our particular case I think “don’t sweat the small stuff” has been a good mantra. We had to realize early on we weren’t the same person, and didn’t share a brain, and that our differences were what attracted us to each other in the first place so we couldn’t try to change those personality traits now. We also are very much friends and equal partners in life, without one person being more “in charge” than the other. Also, my husband does all the laundry. :) Enough said. He’s my dream man. Truly, I love him to pieces.

So how did we memorialize this milestone in our life? We splurged and went on a trip a-l-o-n-e, which we never do. We live in Texas, and we traveled to Banff, Alberta Canada and stayed in the “Castle of the Rockies” the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

We took bad selfies…

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Ate ourselves silly and found that YES, we can hike all the way up the mountain to Tea House above Lake Louise!
Lake Louise
We made some beautiful memories. It was WONDERFUL! I can’t wait to do it again. Here’s to twenty more years with Mr. Dalton!!

What about you? Have you celebrated any life milestones year? Made any big changes? Tell us about them!

The Decision that Ruined My Son’s Life

….or so he says.

It all started innocently enough, a new video game my 10 year old daughter heard about from friends and asked if she could play, too. We checked it out and didn’t find anything alarming, so we said sure and off she went. She’s never been a gamer, so we were fairly amused and intrigued to see her hunkered down with her device, building all sorts of intriguing virtual creations, via the world of Minecraft. All so very innocent and innocuous…until her little brother caught the fever. He’d never done anything online before, was pretty much consumed by his Lego’s, so we saw no red flags warning us….Stop! Don’t Do It!

If only we’d known then what we knew now.

Maybe summer hit at the wrong time in our son’s Minecraft love affair. Maybe he had too much time on his hands. Maybe it was just too hot outside to do much running around outdoors. Or…maybe…he’s just a whole lot like both of his parents: Type A, OCD, all-in…whatever you want to call it. He started out playing on his iPad, but quickly evolved to the X-box–and before we knew it, our 6 year old was utterly consumed by the world of Minecraft. It was all he wanted to do, all day long. It was all he talked about–even in his sleep. Even, on occasion, racing into our room in the middle of the night to tell us some cool nuance he’d just discovered or wanted to try out. Oiy.

Now, that’s not to say there was no good, because there was. Lots of it. His imagination took flight, and we soon discovered we may have a budding architect on our hands. Or a natural-born storyteller (ahem). Maybe both…but definitely a gamer. By the end of summer, our earlier fascination had turned to frustration…and some other less than attractive emotions. Because for our son, playing Minecraft was not passive. It observed him. Consumed. He would talk to his world as he played. And fuss. Complain. Yell. A perfectly happy kid could sit down to play, transforming in a very short time to a grumpy grouch. And his now soured mood would transfer to every other aspect of his life. Heaven forbid we told him it was time to put the device down and come eat dinner…run an errand…take a bath. And don’t even get me started about group play. I quickly learned there are reasons that, technically, Minecraft is for older kids. Yes, from a technical standpoint, younger kids can easily navigate the world of Minecraft (and do really cool stuff). But from an emotional maturity standpoint, they’re just not ready for someone else (a sister, a cousin, a friend) to enter their world…and make mischief (which is, in all fairness, an intriguing part of the game.) If he spent hours (and I do mean hours) building some master creation, only to have his sister slip in and catch his world on fire….OMG. The rest of the day wasn’t only ruined, but drama and fighting would ERUPT, and our blood pressure soared.

Which brings me to the end of summer–and our decision. By the time July rolled into August, my husband and I had not only had enough, but we realized we had a problem, and it was up to us to solve it. We did some research on the game, as well as on kids and screen time, and, after talking with a friend who goes “device free” during the school week, we decided that’s what we needed to do, as well.  Our 6 year old was starting kindergarten, and we couldn’t have him obsessing about a video game day in and day our, not when our schedules were getting busier, and sports were starting up. So. We announced that Monday-Friday were going to  become “no screen time” days.

Needless to say, he freaked. Shock quickly gave way to anger, to yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth, to absolute mania. We couldn’t do that! We didn’t understand! We were being mean! And yes…we were ruining his life. His LIFE, I tell you. RUINING it.

But we held firm. This was one of those occasions where we knew what needed to happen, and we weren’t about to let any amount of ranting change our mind. It was time to be the parent, not the friend. And so school began, and the devices got put away.

For the first week, he begged every single day. He pleaded. He tried negotiating. Deal-making. And…yes…threats. But we held firm (and let him know in no uncertain terms that threats were NOT going to be tolerated around here.) Then week two rolled around and…nothing. No pleading. No whining. No negotiating. It was like he finally realized we were dead serious, and there was no getting around our decision. And then, glory be, other changes began occuring. The Lego’s came back out. He began drawing pictures again. Making forts. Doing all those things that I once thought drove me crazy (and, yeah, probably still do, but at least they engage him physically and mentally and he’s not glued to a device.)

Now, a month into the school  year, and it’s rather stunning how dramatically the “device-free weekdays” has changed our family. Our son is more relaxed. He’s not amped up and talking Minecraft 24/7. And he’s REALLY gotten into his taekwando classes. He’s about to test for his first “color” belt–a yellow–and he’s (on his own) practicing like crazy.

Does he still long to play Minecraft? Yes. Does he count down the days of the week until Friday afternoon, when he can dive back into his virtual world? Yes. Does he squeeze in Minecraft as much as he can on the weekends, between soccer and softball and t-ball games? Well, yeah. But come Sunday evening, the devices go away, and peace returns.

Did our decision ruin his life? He might still tell you yes, but as for the rest of us-my husband and 10 year old daughter and myself-we’d tell you our decision was one of the smartest we’ve ever made.

 

 

 

Robyn vents

Some days I wish I were just a mom, a regular stay-at-home-mom. Not that there really is such a thing. But the whole work-at-home-mom gets tedious. Like trying to balance everything is wearing me out and I feel pulled in so many directions. I thought that when Busybee started Kindergarten, things would get a bit easier, but the pick up situation at her school is overly complicated and takes forever. And then there’s helping her with “family projects” and homework – not that I mind spending time with her, I don’t, it’s actually pretty fun.

But I have my book deadlines, which the current one is really giving me fits, I’m running late, which I hate and would never have happened in pre-kid Robyn, but now it seems to be a fixture of my life – just goes to show that I still haven’t compensated enough time when picking said deadlines. In any case, then I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and take swimming lessons. The lessons themselves only take 30 minutes, but they’re at the university, which is not super close to my house and parking is obnoxious.

My house is never all picked up and tidy and clean at one time. It’s like I can manage one room a week and the rest of the house goes to hell. Needless to say I’m living in that Calgon commercial from so long ago, feeling overwhelmed and unsuccessful at everything.

Just seems like if I didn’t have my “job” (which, of course, I love) then I could just be a wife, mom and homemaker. It’s a wistful thought, not anything that will ever happen, nor anything I truly want to happen. But it’s nice to daydream sometimes about a simpler life. Any of y’all ever do that? Do you struggle to balance it all? What are your tricks to making everything run smoother?