Tag Archives: Kids

A Sixth-Grader’s Nightmare: Christmas Edition

6 Dec

709fd2be62450971e334b29ee4c7f54aMortified. Horrified. Petrified.

I used to flip through teen magazines to the back section, a place where girls would write in to share their most distressing personal tales of embarrassing mishaps. “It was mortifying!!!” said every girl ever.

How awful! That would never happen to me, I thought. And as I chuckled over their misfortunes, in the back of my mind, I prayed that similar events would never happen to me.

Wrong.

It was my sixth-grade year. Instead of a traditional Christmas chorus concert, the entire grade put on the play The Runaway Snowman. Four kids would lead the production while the rest of the grade chimed in as the choir. I was one of those lucky few selected to fill one of the acting/singing parts.

This is it, I thought. People will recognize me, my talent, what I can bring to the table. As a sixth grader, I was consumed with the ideas of popularity, fitting in and standing out (go figure). And without athletic talent, this was an arena that I could perhaps shine in somehow.

So after many practices, our class was ready to present the show to our parents. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the entire school day beaming. I was a star, I was brimming with absolute joy and excitement. My fellow cast mates and I were let out of class early to prepare for the production. A band director’s office was our costume slash prop room, and we had carefully laid out our clothes and makeup ahead of time.

After the lead character, the snowman, had put on his ensemble and headed out the door, I prepared to put on a dark blue jumper dress and a pair of my mother’s high heels. Not only was I playing the part of an adult woman, I would look the part. Absolutely stunning. There was a boy in the choir that I had been crushing on hard core. I kept thinking with the blush, lipstick and outfit (forget the thick glasses, buck teeth and braces), it would be hard to not take notice of me on stage.

And standing with just my Pocahontas underwear on (I was changing from my sports bra to a training bra), it happened. The door opened. And not one, or two, but four of my fellow male classmates happened to be standing right there. Wide mouthed.

I didn’t know what to do. How did they get in? Why were they here? What did they see?

I started to scream, “Get out! Get out!” I suddenly crossed my arms against my bare chest, realizing what they had just seen.

And the guys started screaming and running from the door, almost as horrified as I was.

I leaped under the teacher’s desk, crouched, breathing heavily. Was this a dream? It had to be. No way would something this horrible happen – it was too humiliating.

The frightened boys had come into the classroom to get the props for the stage, and I had forgotten to lock the door for privacy.

Something that people have nightmares about just happened to me. A 12-year-old girl just gave some of the cutest boys in school quite a show.

I couldn’t go back out there, even with just 15 minutes until the production would start. It took quite a bit of coaxing from the director to get me to show my face, and the confidence I had displayed earlier (after displaying my assets) was completely out the window.

For months, I couldn’t live it down with students teasing me about the incident. The boys were also unable to make eye contact with me or utter more than two words at a time in my presence.

Honestly, I hadn’t remembered the incident until a few days ago. Repression has most likely hidden many of my middle school slip-ups – especially terrible ones like this one.

After the event, it was difficult to visit that embarrassing moments page in the magazines. Part of the fun was knowing those events couldn’t happen to you. But I now knew for a fact that they could.

And although it was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time of my life, a few years later, I would understand that I could fill a couple pages with horrible moments similar to this one.

Classic Books From My Past

24 Apr

Books have been an integral part of my life. I despised, repeat despised, any kind of forced sport in the summer, and would rather spend my time curled up in my air-conditioned local library (shout-out to Kendall Young, seriously the best library I have EVER been in). If I wasn’t there, I was sitting on my bed with my Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies and any number of books. My bookshelf was always overflowing, and I never just checked out two or three books at a time. I was fortunate, in that my mother gave me $5 each month for my Scholastic book order. I was overjoyed when I received the thin-sheeted catalog and always stretched that money and bought the cheaper books. When a book sale came to school, I was given money there too. Sheer excitement for any and every book.

Now, I still read books meant for middle-school readers and have recently begun to restock my library as I had gotten rid of many over the years (why???). Here are a few (or more than a few) that helped shape my literary world and became quite dog-eared in the process.

(Note: Haven’t included board books or The American Girl classics from my past … OR a list of my absolute FAVE Sweet Valley Twins, those all seem like longer lists for another day. Also, these are just the ones I remember at the moment. I’m sure tonight, there will be a ton of other ones I wish I had mentioned.)

Interstellar Pig

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I never thought of myself as someone who enjoyed the science fiction genre, but this one just kicked serious behind. A boy goes on vacation, gets bored, starts playing games … with ALIENS. It’s pretty great.

The Giver

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What is not to love about this book? I still read it at least twice a year, and feel that it is the best Dystopian novel that I have ever read. Oh, I love The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Road, and stories like The Lottery – this one is just the best. Each time, I come away with a different conclusion.

Tuck Everlasting

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This was, for me, my Where The Red Fern Grows. That book made me cry just a bit too much. I became too emotionally invested in this book, and had to step away from it for awhile. (It was always a bit hard to separate fantasy from reality for me as a kid.)

Blubber

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This is the actual book cover of the one in my collection when I was younger, which I find somewhat disturbing now. It was my first Judy Blume book. And while it is an older read, I really find this book to be a great learning tool for children to prevent bullying. The main character isn’t exactly a nice person, and I really enjoyed having a non-hero as the story’s teller.

The Long Winter

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I never got rid of any of my Laura Ingalls Wilder books. That might have been blasphemous. And while I count all of her novels as “favorites,” this was my go-to. Every winter, without fail, I’d cozy up and learn about the plight of the Ingalls family and all of their neighbors during a horrible blizzard.

The Wish Giver

9780590420402Amazing. One of my absolute faves. After attending a local fair, four people are left with “wish cards.” Unfortunately, three of their wishes do not go as planned. SOOO GOOD!

The Indian In The Cupboard

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Going to be honest: If any doll or toy becomes real, I will instantly love it. There is one book, Melony, Melody, I don’t know, it starts with an ‘M’, about a mean fashion doll becoming real. The copy that my sister and I owned was in absolute pieces from the amount of times we read that sucker.

Charlotte’s Web

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“That’ll do, pig.” This book is just a classic. So sad, so poetic, so wonderful.

The Best Loved Doll

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I’m getting into more younger book territory here, but I have continuously read this book throughout the years. A little girl brings her favorite doll to a party. She could pick one of her more fancy dolls, something impressive, but she chooses to bring the one she loves best. It’s ratty and torn, but very loved. The Store Bought Doll and Corduroy come to mind when thinking of this book.

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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Oh, wow, this book is so good. Two children decide to run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And live there. What is not to like about this story?

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

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Rats helping Mrs. Frisby (a mouse) and her family escape from spring plowing. It is such a beautiful tale, and it makes me cry every time.

The Baby-Sitters Club: Baby-Sitters On Board!

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I honestly wasn’t a huge TBC fan. I had a few of these on my bookshelf, but they were far outnumbered by the Sweet Valley Twins. Yet, I had one that I would read constantly, and this was it. The club goes on a cruise and to Disneyland (some have to work, while others can breeze on through the vacation, which I felt was unfair) but it tells the tale from multiple viewpoints (like the other books, but this one just worked even better). I wanted to be on that trip with them. I wanted to be Stacey (without diabetes) or Claudia (who was just plain awesome). Not Kristy, though. Never Kristy. She scared me.

Little Women

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I read this very early in my career as a reader. First, with one of those easy-to-read versions and moving on to the real thing. If it is not my favorite book, it is definitely in the top 3 of all time.

The Devil’s Arithmetic

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I have had the pleasure of seeing Jane Yolen speak on a few occasions. One of these days, I’m going to thank her for writing this book. During a Passover Seder supper, Hannah (who is Jewish) is transported to Poland in 1942, where she is sent to a Nazi concentration camp. It is an absolutely attention-grabbing read, and led to many, many other books on the subject of World War II. At the time period that I first read this novel, I was only buying books that told of tales from the Holocaust. I was pretty young, and I remember my parents taking away my WWII books because I couldn’t sleep at night. This is a book I recommend ANYONE read.

The Secret Garden

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This was not the book jacket of the book I own (to this day). Mine is beautiful, and I would stare at it for a long time before opening because of its breathtaking artwork. I would pretend that I had a secret garden, which was actually an outdoor art studio in my neighborhood. No one knew about it, except for obviously the photographer and his family, but I pretended it was all mine.

tumblr_m8tnl4nalC1qzgrn9o1_400R.L. Stine really should be mentioned because he was my gateway author to Christopher Pike. I mean, I read all of their books, reiterate ALL, but this is the book I will still read. A girl runs away from home and her problems, and ends up picking up a couple of hitchhikers. She reveals more and more of her back story, and it is just an absolutely wild tale. This one isn’t just a horror novel, it is one that makes you think. After reading this book, I was ready for the world that Stephen King offered.

Sweet Valley Twins: The Magic Christmas

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Ask any of my family members (extended, even) what my favorite books from yesteryear include, and they will say “Sweet Valley Twins.” I have them all. Every single one of them. I have read them all more than four or five times each. And when I was packing away my life’s belongings to move to NYC, this is the box of items I left at home for safe storage. I will never sell them. And while I love all of the books and specials, The Magic Christmas is my absolute favorite. After arguing and fighting on Christmas Day, the girls are transported along with their dolls to a magical land. I wanted to be one of the twins most of the time, but never more than in this novel. I still read it every Christmas.

I could have listed young adult or middle school books that I read now, like the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series, but I didn’t discover those until I was out of grade school. And there are so many other books I could list that I so enjoyed, like the Pick Your Own Adventure series, but these are the few I will still go to every once and awhile and get to remember what I was like as a kid. Reading these remind me of certain moments of my life and how I felt at those times. And so while I enjoy these books for the texts contained in them, I also read them to cherish my childhood once more.

Sleepover!

19 Apr

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I’m pretty excited for this weekend. One of my best grade school friends is coming to visit. And this time, I feel a bit more prepared. We have had visitors, but they all came within a couple of months of us moving to the NYC area. We were definitely newbies, didn’t know exactly how to use all the public transit systems, and were iffy when it came to general directions. I knew where the important things were: the mall, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Times Square. So after being here for more than half a year, we can act a bit more like residents instead of tourists. We have our favorite watering holes, restaurants, and areas of the city. So, yeah, exciting.

But what I’m most excited about is having a friend spend the night. At my apartment. Okay, as a late twenty-something, that isn’t so exhilarating as it once was, but it used to be! Remember gearing up to spend the night at someone’s house? Be it a birthday party or some other occasion, it was something you looked forward to all week-long. And you were nervous about it, too. Sometimes more the latter for me. Will it be fun? Will everyone like me? Will I be able to go to sleep in a different house? The only time I ever didn’t feel like that was when I was spending the night at one of my cousin’s houses. Because it felt almost exactly like my house. So anyways, here are a few of the top things I almost peed my pants about with slumber parties:

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Many times you went to a slumber party for someone’s birthday. In that case, you either went roller skating or bowling. So awesome.

11-mini-individual-pizza-ready-cookThe food. A lot of times it was make-your-own-pizza. Sometimes it was make-your-own cookie pizza. Whatever the occasion, it always included pizza. And occasionally I would throw up said pizza after a whole night of no sleep and getting sick because of it. Yum.

what-are-the-best-late-night-snacks-1351168261-nov-9-2012-1-600x400And snacks. Always snacks. Whether it was popcorn, M&M’s or cake – there was always something. Sometimes my parents served sparkling cider. I felt like I was a million bucks – the snobby little kid I was.

6a00d83451761569e2017c34ca9bf0970b-800wiGames. You played some kind of game. It could have been on a Super Nintendo game, but I always remember playing Jenga. Perhaps it was because I never owned the stellar game myself.

Girl-Talk-A-Game-of-Truth-or-Dare-Board-GameNot exactly this game, per say. But, the game of Truth or Dare. God, I hated that game. I always was stuck with the most outrageous dare or telling my deepest darkest secrets. For some reason, I remember running around houses in my underwear more than a couple times. It’s a bit disturbing. And why was that the first thing that people thought of? Run around the house in your underwear. Please. Then another girl would have something SOOOOO damn easy, like hold your breath for a few seconds, and it would just piss me off.

cootiecatcher-LASTPICAnd this. Cootie catcher, paper fortune-teller – whatever. We made these constantly at slumber parties. And yes, they were completely accurate. And if you wanted a do-over, you couldn’t. Because that was the rules.

mash1997You had to play this game. I think it might have been required? Pretty sure there was a written requirement that MASH had to be played. And I always ended up in an apartment or a shack. And I never ended up with the right guy, enough money, or a great car. It really gave me high hopes for the future.

catsTwice, there were times when I felt like demons had entered my body and were allowing the person to float. Once, I was the one floating and the other, I was using all my strength to carry the girl with my hands. But it felt real. 2 a.m. and a room full of middle-school-aged girls definitely is a magical time.

ouija-boardOh, I played. I sure did. I felt bad and dirty about doing it. That I was going to hell or was somehow in an initiation to become a witch (I didn’t understand a lot about religion back then).

After all the games, we’d start talking about our secret crushes. Our Top 10 hottest list of boys in the school. These top-secret conversations were never recorded, so those guys could never prove it ever happened. If though, you attended a slumber party where you knew that a certain girl also had the same crush, you kept said boy’s name to yourself. You didn’t want no middle school cat fight to break out. Nu-uh.

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Oh, I heart you nameless boys that will never, ever know that I hearted you so much.

nail-polish

After all that, if we had time, we’d bring in our stashes of nail polish and go to town. I loved the horrible colors – silver, green, and brown. Grrreeaaat.

MV5BMTUyMjYxODg0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTU4MzU5._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_Maybe, at 4 a.m., we’d watch a movie. This was always a go-to at our slumber parties. BECAUSE I LOVE THIS MOVIE, SO MUCH. I wanted to be Idgie so bad.

ice-cubes-for-toned-glowing-skinAnd you just hoped, just hoped, that you wouldn’t fall asleep first. Your bra was frozen or you had ice cubes stuck in your sleeping bag. Again, strict rules for slumber parties. Just had to happen. Both super uncomfortable. And made for one crabby pre-teen.

Last, but not least, the most nerve-wracking part of a slumber party was wondering if you would be invited. This was a super valid question, and was frequently a downer for me. I’d feel oh-so-bad walking home from school, knowing that many of my friends would be sharing secrets, pizza, and having fun with NOT ME. Oh well, I always had these people on Friday night.

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The burden of a fish sandwich

11 Feb
Beautiful. The perfect combination of grease, fish, and guilt.

Beautiful. The perfect combination of grease, fish, and guilt.

Temptation and guilt.

As a child, I had always been confused by the Valentine’s Day holiday intermixing with the season of Lent. We were given various treats in our handmade mailboxes, gum and chocolate, and I was always quite ready to indulge when that season came along.

Ash Wednesday meant going to church during the week, fasting, fish and a black dot on my forehead.

Although I questioned much, I have to admit that I always enjoyed the ash on the face part. Always amused with the smell of incense and ashes.

But I didn’t fully understand the concept of fasting. I always thought it meant that although we didn’t eat between meals, it meant that I would eat until I was under the table during lunch and supper. And the fasting meant no snacking in between (which I was so full by then, I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway).

And there was always the questions about certain drinks and foods. Was a milkshake off the list? How about vegetable soup broth? I was very willing to bend, if allowed.

There was also the question of who to ask when it came to these Lenten negotiations. Do I pray to God for an answer to my solid food questions? Would I ask my parish priest if I could indulge in my recent stash of holiday candy? I had other hesitations. Many others.

One included the fish issue. Where did that come from? When did Fridays become vegetarian/seafood day? Did Jesus come up with the concept?

All I knew is that I found it a tasty element of the Lenten season. Without fail, I could always count on eating my beloved McDonald’s Filet -O-Fish sandwich. Smattered with tarter sauce, this greasy concoction became an instant fave. I also didn’t mind hitting up the cheese and vegetable pizza combinations, as I have never cared much for the red meat variety.

So I became troubled at an early age. If I really enjoyed the food I was restricted to, was I really giving up something? Should I do a reversal? As I loved fish and vegetables, should I instead gag on a steak or painstakingly spread hundreds of pepperonis on my pizza?

At the age of 10, I was quite concerned with my contributions to Lent.

My biggest problem was with the idea of giving something else up until Easter. I have always needed more direction. If given the option to give up whatever I would want, I would start to get really thoughtful in a not-so sincere kind of way.

I would ponder soda. That would quickly be thrown out. Stop bickering with my brother and sister? No, we enjoyed that so. Usually I came up with the concept of being a “better person.” It was so vague, so uncertain. Even though I wasn’t technically giving something up, I always gave the excuse that I was giving up being a less better person. So it worked.

It could involve mentally being less judgmental, without having to give proof of my changed betterment. Or I could smile a bit more, so that others would think that I was nicer. Maybe it would just include cleaning my room or helping more with the dishes.

Unfortunately, even if that was my beginning thoughts, I seemed to find excuses for the season. If I did give up pop, I would always have leeway on Sunday, as that was the day of rest. (I had to obey other church laws too, you know).

As an adult, I still find it quite impossible at times to follow the Catholic traditions of Lent. I understand the concepts, the stories and understand more of why my family have been active participants. I also have changed my perspective on the whole concept of “giving up” something for Lent. It could mean volunteerism or something more, rather than just giving up chocolate.

But still, Wednesday, I will pass an inquisitive eye over my Filet-O-Fish before I down it with my French fries and Coke. I will think WWJD? After pondering deeply (or not so much), I will then enjoy.

P.S. With Ash Wednesday coming up, I would super love it if a Culver’s would pop up in NYC. I love me some North Atlantic Cod with a side of seasoned green beans!

Won’t you be mine?

14 Feb

In fourth grade, my desk was wedged between two Adonis’s. One with velvet brown eyes and matching hair, a farm boy. Another blond, tan and oh, so perfect. Let’s just say that going to school was a treat. I had my books, my favorite teacher and the opportunity to crush from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the two boys to the left and right. Heaven.

I often imagined that one of the two would figure out that I was THAT girl, too. With my large glasses and retainers — it was my dazzling personality that I hoped shined through.

But it never happened. Fall came and went, and we remained friends on the playground. The snow fell, and by Christmas break, no declarations were declared. But when school resumed, I knew my greatest chance just loomed around the corner: Valentine’s Day.

What adults don’t understand is the holiday isn’t really about them — their fancy dinners, romantic moments and dazzling jewelry. It’s about the kids (as is every holiday).

Whatever love we got at home on this day was nothing compared to the event that came at school. For we had been preparing for such an occasion.

That week, we spent a great deal of time (or maybe 15 minutes) decorating our “mail bags” — brown-paper sacks that we had glued glitter, paper hearts and had scrawled our names on (ever so carefully). We taped those love sacks to the front of our desks, maybe a couple of times, to get it just right. It was a proud achievement. But after completing the task, the worry set in. You see, it wasn’t just creating the “best” holiday sack; it was the filling that made the 10-year-olds anxious.

Parents took the kids down the red- and pink-colored Valentine’s Day aisle at a local store — letting them pick out the perfect hard-papered cards that would be handed out to their fellow classmates. It was a hard choice. You wanted to choose what made you happy (for me, it was Lisa Frank cards), but, but, but … (there is a but), you had to choose valentines that would be girl and boy friendly. Oh, the humanity. So it was hard decision. Choose what fit you. Or what others would find fun. And then you would settle in the middle. My middle was Barbie valentines. (Isn’t that a little more girly?) But the final choice came because there was an equal amount of Ken valentines mixed in for the guys (a little more manly). Then it was the candy. Sweet Tarts or sticks of pink gum? A choice that would last with you forever.

So that panic subsides. It’s sitting at the kitchen table with your class list deciding who gets what that brings your blood pressure up. You didn’t want to give a guy the wrong idea with a valentine that says, “I heart you” or “Won’t you be mine?” And if you had no feelings and even a bit of hatred in your heart for a fellow peer — the lamest, stupidest, dumbest card was for them.

I didn’t leave that anything to chance. The lovey-dovey cards were meant for the two hunks near my desk. They would get their valentines and at least one of them would get the hint. I was sure of it. And I would finally have my first boyfriend (if they had to fight each other for the honor, so be it.)

That morning, I took my valentines and casually threw the valentines into the right sacks. I gingerly touched the two valentines and placed them ever so carefully into their designated mail sacks. I prayed and thought and dreamed and ….

“Hey, thanks Carrie.” Brown-haired guy said. “Thanks for the gum.”

“Yeah, did you like my Garfield card?” Blond guy added.

My envelopes that contained my inked valentines torn to shreds on the ground.

My heart gave a slight jump, and then settled back into its normal place as the guys thanked the other boys and girls in the class as well. Sigh.

Oh well. Maybe next year a guy will figure it out and I will have my first real valentine.

(Side note: I thought that same idea for quite a few years before having my first real boyfriend during my junior year of high school. The wishing, hoping and thinking (and just please get the hint) plan just doesn’t work too well for me.)

 

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