Year-Round School Schedule and Why We Love It So Much

Me and Meg by treeOur kids’ neighborhood K-8 public school happens to be on the year-round schedule, which means that though we only get five weeks off for summer break, we are treated with 3-week breaks spaced evenly throughout the year in the fall, winter, and spring.  Although the school year starts at the end of July (yes, that part is cruel), we finish with the other schools in our district the following June.  We have absolutely loved the year-round schedule.

Just when our kids have had enough with classes and homework, we get a few weeks off to refresh our minds.  And just when we parents are starting to go bonkers with our children being home all day, they go back to school.  Teachers say that their students retain more when they return for the new school year.  The teachers all love the year-round schedule as much as we do.

We particularly enjoy our fall breaks.  The weather is milder, the crowds thinner, and airfare cheaper than during the summer.  Many of our school families take their big trips to exotic places during the fall.  We take off to Hawaii every fall to go see their grandparents.  It alleviates the heartache we feel returning to school when other students are still enjoying their summer.  After all, while most families are going to back-to-school night, we are boarding a plane to paradise!

But, alas, no good thing lasts forever.  When Josh finished 8th grade, it was over.  No more year-round schedule in high school.  Due to sports and other inter-scholastic activities, all high schools in our area are on the traditional school calendar — long, hot summers and virtually no breaks all year except for a few days here and there.

Even worse, I would have our kids on two different schedules!  It pretty much meant that we were not going to be going anywhere for two years until Meg graduated middle school. Oh, the sadness!

What was I to do?

That’s when I took my friend Heather’s advice: enjoy spending time with one child at a time.

This August, after Meg already went back to school, I took Josh and his friend Sam to Honolulu for a week.  Yes, it was very hot, crowded, and expensive, but we had a wonderful time.  It was fun getting reacquainted with my teenage son while enjoying activities together such as snorkeling, swimming, and just hanging out.

Then this fall, I went back again to Hawaii for a mother-daughter time with Meg.  Her activity of choice was shopping, of which we did plenty in Waikiki.  The more time I spent with this girl, the more I enjoyed her.  We ate a lot of good foods together and spent much time with my parents and my sisters, her aunties, who also flew into Hawaii to be with us.  Between these two trips, my parents were also able to have individual times with each of their grandkids, which was a blessing.

(The only person in the household who hasn’t been able to go to Hawaii much this year is my husband David!  Don’t worry — he’ll be spending an extra week with Meg in Honolulu during winter break.)

Navigating the rough seas of various school calendars and breaks have taught me that, once again, parenting has a lot of unexpected surprises that could turn out better than even before.  Don’t get me wrong — we have absolutely loved year-round schedule and wish high schools had them, too, but we somehow figured out how to work with two overlapping schedules.  We are going to be entering uncharted waters once again when both of them are in high school next year, but I have a feeling that it is all going to be okay.  After all, in only a few more years, they are both going to be out of the house.  That is going to be so sad…but maybe unexpectedly good, too!

Does anyone else like the year-round schedule?  Tell me what to expect when our family enters traditional schedule.  What do you do with your long summers?

Teaching My Asian Kids The Power of “No”

IMG_0949I come from a culture where the word no is a bit of a taboo.

It’s not that we don’t have the word no in Japanese. It is iie (pronounced ee-ee-yeh).  The trouble is, we don’t often come right out and say it.  Our culture is really big on saving face, both our own and that of the other party, so to just say no without much padding around it is not very cool.

So, we Japanese have perfected the art of beating around the bush.

Thank you so much for inviting me.  I really don’t deserve such kindness. (i.e., I really don’t care to go to your party)

That certainly is a colorful dress! (It’s actually quite dreadful)

I have never tasted such an interesting dish. (Ewwww)

I’ve seen some beautiful ladies with that same haircut. (Bad style on you)

Both parties are adept at reading between the lines, so they dance in unison around the truth until they both get the clue.  Yeah, it’s like speaking code half the time.  For the people within the Japanese society, however, this is normal and everyone totally gets each other. Often, one caves and ends up saying yes out of obligation, but at least no one loses face.

Imagine our shock, then, when my family emigrated here when I was a child.  Americans are so direct!  From our perspective, our new neighbors seemed completely rude and cruel for being so straightforward.  It took quite a while to stop feeling personally wounded by every direct answer.

In time, though, I began to appreciate the honesty of this culture.  It was rather freeing not having to read between the lines and guessing what people were truly saying.  We actually saw the value in coming right out and saying yes or no, thereby extinguishing false hopes and expectations.

I realize I am generalizing here, as I have since met indirect speakers in the US as well as blunt people in Japan.  But in any culture, I see a keen need to balance honesty with kindness — “Speaking the truth in love,” as it says in Ephesians 4:15.

Having grown up in both cultures, I now prefer hearing straight answers over indirect ones, and I certainly prefer it over lies.  More often than not, though, I still have trouble speaking directly, which drives my husband up the wall. “You’re being cryptic again.  Just tell me what you want,” he tells me in frustration. I also still end up doing something out of obligation occasionally because I just could not say no, but I’m making progress.  It’s still important to be considerate of others, but not at the expense of my own sanity.

For my own kids, therefore, I am trying to raise them up in the best of both cultures.  I want them to be honest with their feelings while being gentle. The word tactfulness comes to mind here.  More importantly, however, I want them to be able to say “no” when they need to, especially to bad people:

“No, I don’t want to try drugs.”

“No, I don’t want to go out with you.”

“No, that is not a nice way to speak to me.  Please stop.”

The best way for them to learn to do this is at home.  In order to accomplish this, therefore, I have to resist busting through their no‘s.   I can allow them to not like my new recipe, return outfits I bought for them on my own if they don’t like it, and, someday when they’re grown adults, to let them choose to go on a trip with their friends instead or coming home for the Holidays.  Of course, we wouldn’t allow “No, I don’t want to go to bed!” when they’re 5 years old, but you get the idea — incremental no‘s at age appropriate steps.

I have learned a great deal on this topic through an insightful book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  I highly recommend it for everyone but especially for parents.  After all, we have to be healthy to raise healthy kids.

I don’t know about you, but becoming a parent has forced me to grow up.  Hasn’t it, for you?

Yes or no?

What We Did At Summer Camp

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We exercised together...

We exercised together…

I hung out with some of my biggest fans.

I hung out with some of my biggest fans.

I gathered a few other moms for some late night workouts!

I gathered a few other moms for some late night workouts!

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We spent quality time with some friends.

...And learned great lessons about God from wonderful speakers like Pastor Rene Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA.

…And learned great lessons about God from wonderful speakers like Pastor Rene Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA.

After the week, we had our traditional dinner out at Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA.

After the week, we had our traditional dinner out at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA.

Here's one of the best parts -- we FLEW home instead of driving 8 hours this year!

Here’s one of the best parts — we FLEW home instead of driving 8 hours this year!

How Much Would You Pay For Your Child’s Yearbook?

Joshua's very first yearbook

Joshua’s very first yearbook

My freshman son came home the other day with his first high school yearbook.  It’s beautifully bound and is as thick as an encyclopedia (not that he would know what that is because he’s grown up always looking things up on the internet).  It has glossy pages filled with color photographs of smiling teenagers.  The price tag for this year’s edition was nearly $100.

Is it worth it?

When I was in middle school, the school asked those of us on the yearbook staff to vote on our choice for yearbooks — printed on-campus and stapled together for about $12 or professionally bound for a whopping $25 at the time.  At the meeting, the principal shared with us some words of wisdom: “We know the school year memories are really important to you now, but in a few more years they won’t matter so much.  You probably shouldn’t spend too much money on something like this.”  We didn’t really agree with him but our parents sure did.  Given the choice between getting a slim, cheap yearbook for which our parents would pay versus an expensive one for which they would not, the decision was easy.  A majority of my classmates were in the same predicament, so the vote was cast in favor of the in-house, stapler-bound middle school yearbook.  I just remember this fiasco, because my artwork happened to end up on the front cover of this very yearbook.

We hated to admit it at the time, but our middle school principal was right.  The precious 8th grade year book lost its luster only 12 months later when I got my first high school yearbook.  I think I paid (or, more accurately, my parents did) nearly $60 for this memory book, thick with glossy pages and professional binding.  The photos were great, but the autographs were more important.  “You’re really cool.  Have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall,” signed almost every single one of my friends.  I guess we weren’t all that creative back then.  I still have my high school yearbooks for all four years somewhere in my closet, but I no longer possess the middle school yearbook in spite of the fact that I was the cover artist.

School year is ending in just a couple of days, and my son is upstairs poring over the pages, already reminiscing the various activities he was involved in last fall and looking forward to his sophomore year starting next fall.  He will probably continue to look at this yearbook with fond memories in the years and maybe decades to come.  I took a peek at some of the autographs he’s gotten from his friends, and they all seem to appreciate Joshua’s humor, his prodigious trumpet playing, and his kindness.  He is a good friend to a variety of students, and I would imagine that reading notes from these friends will encourage him to continue pursuing his musical and social skills.  I suppose that’s just as important as keeping memories of high school activities alive in these pages.

So maybe, just maybe, it is worth paying upwards of $100 (or more, I’m sure, for some schools) for my kids’ yearbooks.

But does it have to be so expensive?  And what happens two years from now when both of my kids are at the same high school?  Should I buy one and have them share or get a separate one for each?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall…

Tap Shoes, Dance Competition, and Active Parenting

958253_10151642609894866_104325619_o“I can’t find my black tap shoes!  I called daddy at home, and he can’t find them either!” panicked Meg in the dressing room at her weekend dance competition.  We arrived about 90 minutes early so she could calm herself and warm up with her dance team.

I had helped pack her stuff for the two numbers she was dancing today.  I could have sworn I checked for every item. I had also asked Meg to double check.  She did have her tan tap shoes for the second routine but needed the black ones for the first.  Seeing that they were neither in the suitcase nor at home, they could only be at the dance studio where she had last worn them during rehearsal last week.  The studio, unfortunately, was closed for the weekend due to this competition.

At this point, I had a choice to make:

A.  Let Meg suffer the consequences for forgetting her tap shoes.

B.  Rescue her by going to the local dance store and buying a new pair.

I went through all the lessons I learned years ago at my Active Parenting classes.  They strongly encouraged us to let our kids experience consequences for their own actions; otherwise, they turn into entitled brats and we fail as parents.  However, they also emphasized that we parents be able to live with those consequences. For example, you just don’t say, “Johnny, we’re canceling our Hawaii vacation if you don’t stop hitting your sister,” if you truly want to go to Hawaii.

So, I took a deep breath and went step-by-step:

1.  If I let Meg experience her mistake, then what are the consequences?

Well, she could just not dance with the team at this competition.  There will be other competitions (like one next weekend, in fact).  Or, she could wear her black jazz shoes instead on stage.  Sure, it doesn’t make any sound, but with over 25 kids tapping on stage, who’s really gonna know?  Alright, so maybe the judges who will deduct a few points…

2.  Whose responsibility was it to make sure the tap shoes were packed?

Both of ours.  Although dance is Meg’s own thing and she is normally very responsible for her age, she still is only 12.  With four different dance routines, it is hard for anyone to keep track of all the costumes and shoes, let alone by a 7th grader. We both should have been more careful.

3.  If I rescue her by going to buy new tap shoes, what are the consequences?

For one, I would be $65 poorer buying the same tap shoes I had just bought recently for this competition season.  Meg could also think that mommy will always be there to rescue her and not learn responsibility.  She could take me for granted and continue to think that money grows on trees.  Or she could be eternally grateful and someday look back at this competition fondly at mommy’s love in action.

Okay, that does it.  I called the local dance store to reserve those tap shoes in her size, then I hopped in the car.   What should have been a 10-minute drive turned out to be 25 heart-thumping-blood-pressure-rising-white-knuckling minutes in Friday traffic.  I was able to buy the shoes and return with only minutes to spare. Meg then got on stage with her team and danced fabulously.

Just as I predicted, Meg was very grateful.  She also said that she was not worried at all about it because she “knew you’d be back with the shoes on time.”  (Yikes!  I wasn’t so sure…) Even when the other dance moms were stressed out (i.e., freaking out) over the situation, Meg kept calm.

“I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?  I could have just worn my black jazz shoes, and no one would have noticed,” she explained.

I love that things don’t rattle her like they did when I was her age.  I wish I had learned long ago the truth from 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

If this incident taught Meg the true meaning of this verse, then I just might have made the right choice.

And you, parents — what would you have done?

4th Grade is Too Late To Start a Sport. Seriously?!

Young Boys In Baseball TeamMy son Josh signed up to play Pony League baseball in fourth grade.  His best friend from church, Sammy, talked him into it.  Sammy, a very athletic child, had already been playing baseball for a few seasons.  Josh, on the other hand, was brand new to the game.  It quickly became apparent that at age 9, it was much too late to start a new sport.

As immigrant children, neither David nor I were familiar with this all-American subculture of baseball.  We naively signed him up and showed up at the first practice at the nearby field, Josh dressed in his everyday shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers from Target.  We immediately realized that he was completely in the wrong attire.  All the kids were wearing baseball pants, jock straps (we presume), and cleats.

The coaches called for the practice to begin.  The kids all seemed to know what to do and where to go for each drill, whether it was catching, throwing, or batting.  Josh stood in the middle of the crowd looking bewildered.  If it wasn’t for his buddy Sammy, he would have been completely lost.

Josh kept getting singled out to go off to the side with an assistant coach to work on his basic skills, none of which he had developed prior to joining the team.  I think he even had to show Josh how to drink from the sports bottle and to spit.  Josh knew nothing.  Although some kids would be spurred on to work harder through such individual attention, Josh only felt embarrassed and discouraged.

As parents, we were also lacking in experience.  We realized quickly that we were as much of a novice as our son.  All the parents were sitting comfortably in their deluxe folding chairs outfitted with cup holders, umbrellas, magazine racks, and clip boards for keeping stats.  I think some models even came with a barbecue grill.  Meanwhile, David and I sat on the unforgiving bleacher bench, roasting in the sun, fanning ourselves with the rule book — rules, mind you, for parental behavior during games.

When I was 9 years old and living in New York, I walked to the nearby ice skating rink and fell in love with figure skating.  My parents signed me up and watched me for the first few lessons, but thereafter sent me and my sister off on our own.  I kept taking my classes, working hard and advancing to the next level every few months, and was just beginning to compete when we moved to California.  The nearest ice skating rink was then a 30-minute drive away, so when Mother got tired of that drive, I was done with my sport.  It was fun while it lasted, and it taught me valuable life lessons in setting goals and achieving results, but I was always aware that I was not Olympic material.  And that was totally okay.

Recently, my friends tried to sign up their two kids, ages 10 and 13, with a private tennis coach.  To their dismay, they were told that there was “nothing he could do” with the older child.  “But there is still a chance I could train your 10-year old at this point.” The coach was assuming that my friends were thinking Wimbledon, but they were only hoping that their kids would get some exercise outdoors instead of playing video games all day.

What kind of a society is this when we cannot start a new sport mid-childhood?

Whatever happened to playing a sport for fun, exercise, and camaraderie?

Josh finished off that baseball season and didn’t pursue that sport any further.  Some of the best players in the league continued on to the All-Stars then to the travel league, never taking a break year-round.  Some of them are probably playing on their high school teams now, hoping for college scholarships and perhaps even major league contracts.  Josh now takes casual tennis lessons and resists joining the competitive tennis league, perhaps due to his less-than-stellar experience with team baseball.  His dad and I wish that he were a little more competitive, but we are certain that tennis will serve him well throughout his life for good fun and exercise.

I just wish that society looked at organized sports that way.

Trials and Tribulations, Part 2 — Going Without Running Water for a Day

20130424-120101.jpg“It’s the hot water heater tank in your garage, ma’am. It blew a hole in the back,” said the plumber, who promptly disconnected the crippled unit and turned the water source back into the house. Great–at least we have running cold water again!

We had spent the previous 24 hours pretty much without running water. We could tell there was some sort of a water leak in the house but didn’t know where. In order to avoid more damage to our drywalls and wood floor, we just shut off the water valve into the home and only occasionally turned it back on in short, 2-minute intervals until the plumber could come the next day.

Going without running water is eye-opening for those of us who live in the developed world. During one of our brief “water-on” moments, we’d fill up as many pots, pans, and buckets we could with water so that we could 1) wash hands, 2) flush toilets, and 3) wash dishes and utensils until we could get to the store to buy disposable paper and plastic goods.

I ditched my plans to cook dinner at home that night and skipped past even the thought of take-out. Instead, we went out to eat at a nearby Marie Calendar’s, reminding everyone in my family to please stop by the bathroom afterwards at the restaurant. We would have washed our hair in their sink had we remembered to bring our shampoo to dinner.

Flushing toilets became an artform. You can get two flushes out of the commode even without running water, but after the second time you will have to eventually refill the cistern. It was a chore to pour water into it without splashing, but the floor was already ruined downstairs anyway. The toilet tanks are not designed nor well-positioned to be refilled by hand.

“Kids, use the downstairs bathroom only, please! It’s too much work to haul water upstairs to refill,” became our mantra.

When it was time for us to shower, David went to the garage to turn on the water valve and started the stop watch. We had the kids take the quickest showers on record, but even then we could see the water seeping in through the walls during the few minutes we turned water back on. I chose to skip the shower until I could get to the gym in the morning. David then shut off the valve again, we mopped up the extra water splashing on the floor, and we all went to bed.

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When the plumber arrived the next day, I almost wanted to hug him. As you can see in the photo above, the wood floor was already pretty much ruined.

I have always known that many people worldwide live everyday without running water, but now I got a little taste of that kind of a lifestyle. Up to 6,000 children under age 5 die every day from illnesses related to a lack of access to clean water. A lot of children spend their days hauling water from the nearest water source which might be a mile or more away, weighted down with heavy buckets of water, missing school. And their water could be contaminated! Our problem was quite temporary; theirs, permanent.

We as a family have a renewed appreciation for clean, running water. We think every child of God deserves to have clean water — don’t you? If you want to help provide relief for someone somewhere in the world who needs a better life, click on this link to find how you can work with World Vision to help give someone access to clean water. You could do this for as little as $20 a month.

So, now that we have cold running water, life was improving for us. Will we get HOT water again, ever? For that, you’ll have to stay tuned to my next post!

Trials and Tribulations of a Panda Mom, Part 1

By all accounts, it has been a rather crazy last few weeks at the Cheng household. One thing after another kept going wrong, costing us time and money in the process. While realizing that nothing we experienced compares to the true suffering that many others are going through at this time, I write this post as a way of explaining why I have been silent these past few weeks, and maybe get some sympathy from you in the process :-).

Earlier this month, we had a lovely lunch celebrating Josh’s 15th birthday.  We ate at a nearby all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue place, Josh’s favorite.

20130422-133323.jpgAfter the celebration, we came out to the parking lot and got into my minivan.  To our surprise, the car wouldn’t start.  Good thing we weren’t far from home.  My husband and kids walked home while I waited for AAA to come help jump my battery, which is what I assumed was the problem.

20130422-133239.jpgUnfortunately, it was not the battery.  It was the starter, which required a tow to the shop. I have never been towed before.

I'm following my minivan being towed by a tow truck.  It was a weird sight to behold.

I’m following my minivan being towed by a tow truck. It was a weird sight to behold.

The starter, I’ve learned, is way down deep in the engine, so they had to do a lot of diggin’ to get to it.  In the process, of course, they uncovered several other problems which required immediate attention due to “some safety concerns” (hate it when they pull out the “safety” card because I know nothing about cars).  Of course, it was just after my 7-year/70,000 mile warranty ran out, so I had to shell out $1375 to get my car fixed.

Then, Meg spilled water on her MacBook Air. We now know that AppleCare does not cover water damage. Total cost: $800.

As I was on my way to pick up the said MacBook, I got a text from my husband who took Meg to get some X-rays on her pinky toe which she slammed into a doorway a few nights prior.

Yup -- a broken pinky toe.

Yup — a broken pinky toe.

A fracture. Meg’s dance competitions start in a few weeks, so she will have to go easy but continue dancing until she is healed.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, one day last week as I was walking back into the house with the kids after school, Josh pointed at some water seeping up from under the wood floor downstairs.

“Mom, what’s this?”

Water in the garage, water on our floors, water everywhere...

Water in the garage, water on our floors, water on our fireplace hearthstone…

We weren’t sure what it was, but we knew we had to shut off water into the house until we figured out what the source of the leak was.  Was it in the pipes?  Slab leak? The insurance company said that they we would get an emergency response to this leak…at noon tomorrow.  Evidently, our coverage defines “emergency” as anywhere from 24 – 48 hours.  Okay, so we had to go with no water for one night.

We saved water in buckets so we could occasionally flush the toilet by manually refilling the cistern.  “Use the bathrooms downstairs, kids.  It’s too much work to haul water up the stairs,” I proclaimed.  First world meets third world.  We hunkered down and went to bed.

“It’s only money.  Honey, it’s only money,” I kept repeating to David, but mostly to myself.

What will the morning bring?  What will the plumber say?

What are the kids thinking as they watch their mom and dad’s reactions to all these things?

Stay tuned for my next post…

How a Misdiagnosed Case of Shingles Made This Mom Slow Down

photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

“Uh-oh, I’ve got a pimple!” I sighed while getting ready to volunteer at a book fair at my kids’ school.  I tried to brush my bangs over my forehead and hide this blemish which sat squarely above my right eyebrow.  Acne, thankfully, was not one of my many afflictions during my teen years, so I was surprised that I would get one now…as a middle-aged mom.

“Oh well, I’ll let the other moms envy me for being young enough to still get a zit,” I quipped to my husband who chuckled.

My life was busier than ever back in those days, what with a kindergartener and a second grader keeping me on the go as a chauffeur, chef, and mom.  I barely had time to look at myself in the mirror each day.  But I couldn’t help noticing that this pimple was growing. And it hurt!

The next day, I noticed another pimple threatening to break out just a hair away.  Now, I had two volcanic cousins right next to each other, like Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  They both hurt so much that they were giving me a headache!

At last, I went to my doctor-husband, David.  “Honey, can you take a look at my forehead?  I can’t believe these pimples!”

He took a good look.

“They’re not pimples — they’re spider bites,” he diagnosed, very doctor-like.  “Brown recluse spiders tend to bite like that. ”

What?  We have a brown recluse spider living in our home, crawling onto the bed, across the pillows, and onto my forehead to bite me at night? Yikes! 

I immediately stripped our bed and washed the sheets in extra hot water.  I vacuumed every nook and cranny in our bedroom, hoping to eradicate this arachnid before it killed me.  I couldn’t help but wonder why the spider liked my forehead so much more than David’s.

Research on the internet provided me with more frightening information than I ever wanted about spider bites.  Some terms left me with a sense of doom: venomous, necrosis, gangrenous.  Ewwww!  And on my face?

I made my husband immediately drive me to his clinic for a second opinion.  I needed another physician to take a look at my necrotic bites on my forehead by a venomous brown recluse spider before my forehead turned into a huge gangrene.  The pain kept getting worse, but I couldn’t tell if it was all in my head — er, I guess it was, technically.

“Doc, I think that’s shingles on your wife’s forehead,” stated David’s colleague.

Shingles?  Well, I did have chicken pox as a child.  That virus lies dormant inside until something triggers it to manifest itself as shingles.  A common trigger?  Stress. Gee, who would have thought that a mom of young children would be stressed?

Since my shingles were so close to my right eye, they did an eye exam to make sure that I wasn’t also going blind. Fortunately, my eyes were clear, and I was sent home with some topical creams and meds to reduce the pain.

This was no ordinary diagnosis, for it did wake me up to the fact that I was putting myself under a tremendous amount of stress, and it was showing up…on my face.  I needed to cut back on my activities and to stop trying to be Super Mom.  I reduced my volunteering schedule at school and at church, I began to pray and meditate on Scriptures every morning, and I began exercising more regularly.  I also hired a housekeeper to help with the cleaning so that I would never have a brown recluse spider moving in.

Those volcanoes on my forehead did erupt a few days later to create the telltale blisters that typify shingles.  “Now I see it!” exclaimed my husband rather sheepishly.  (For a while afterwards, I think he diagnosed every pimple or rash on his patients as shingles.) They left two little scars which are still on my forehead today, several years later.

Now, when I look at those shingles scars, they serve as my daily reminder: slow down, stress less.

Thank you, Lord, for shingles!

Disney’s New Policy and My Spring Break Dilemma

599630_10151104064574866_450922753_nI read in the paper recently that Disney will now require children to be accompanied by a chaperone who is at least 14 years old (Los Angeles Time, 3/19/2013) at their Southern California Disneyland parks.

Gasp!

This is going to spoil some plans I had for spring break for my 12-year old daughter Meg.  I was going to dump her and her gaggle of preteen friends for a day (or two.  Or three) at the park at some point during their 3-week spring break.  Yeah, I was counting on Minnie and Mickey being their sitters.  My kids have been going to Disneyland on the Southern California passes since they were babies, and they know the place like the backs of their hands.  Admission isn’t exactly cheap these days, but it’s still better than flying to Hawaii for a vacation like we did last year.

Now, what am I going to do?

Disneyland might be the happiest place on earth, but I can’t imagine my daughter being very happy having her mother hang around her and her friends all day.  No matter how cool I may think I am as a mom, I am one of the dorkiest human beings alive in her adolescent mind.  She certainly wouldn’t want to be seen at Disneyland with this middle-aged lady trailing her, what with my wide-rim hat protecting my skin from age spots, sun glasses attached to Croakies hanging around my neck, and a fanny pack around my waist keeping my hands free to take pictures and dispense hand sanitizers on the ready.

Call me ignorant, but I still believe that Disneyland is one of the safer places on earth.  I wouldn’t send an 8-year old without a parent there nor would I allow my 12-year old to go there alone.  But the place is clean, family-friendly, and there are patrons and workers just about everywhere you go.  When I was her age, I often spent days during school breaks at Disneyland with my 6th- and 7th-grade friends.  It was a right of passage to go there on our own for the first time without a parent.  We’d giggle our way to Tom Sawyer’s island, scream our heads off on the Matterhorn, and order whatever we want to eat at the Carnation parlor.  It was so freeing, but it also made us behave a little more responsibly, a little more maturely.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to send my 14-year old son Josh to chaperone his sister and all of her girlfriends.  If that doesn’t give him a headache, I’m not sure what will.  The only way to bribe him into this torturous assignment would be to pay for one of his friends to keep him company, which will then triple my cost of daycare during spring break.  Then, of course, the boys will want to go on different rides than the girls, and the group will split into two along the gender borderline, defeating the whole purpose of sending these bodyguards with the group of girls.

I would, of course, make it a rule that everyone stays in the group and that they never go to the bathroom alone.  But they’re girls, so that’s pretty much a given.

Yikes — this spring break is getting pricier by the minute.  I wonder if my daughter would like to stay home with me and work on some crossword puzzles instead.  Okay, maybe we’ll go shopping. In either case, my kids are growing up fast and my days of spending rich times with them are going to end sooner than I can imagine.  I should enjoy the precious time I still have to spend lots of quality time with them during this break.  Maybe this is what God is trying to tell me through Disney’s new age limit policy.

I just wonder if my kids have the same desire to spend quality time with me.  Yeah — not so much!

What do you think about the 14-year age limit for unsupervised children attending Disneyland?  Is it fair and right?