Peer Pressure: Can it be Positive?

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about peer pressure.

JC is a really picky eater. As in, eats only three foods. Luckily for me, they are pretty healthy foods. While I don’t have to worry about his nutrition, I do have to pack up and carry around these three foods when we go anywhere, whether it be a play date, day trip, or vacation. When I brought it up to our pediatrician, she said to make sure he sees other people eating real food–especially other kids.

“They’ll make fun of him for eating like that,” she told me critically.

I have carried around her little nugget of opinion with me for awhile. JC has a little friend who is a really great eater, so the last the time we had lunch with her, I pointed out what she was eating and asked if he would like to try it.

“No,” he said firmly. “I like what I like, mom.” Fair enough, kid.

We have recently joined a preschool co-op, and one of the first things I thought about was that JC will get to see other kids eating their snacks, and maybe he would notice he was the odd kid out. Maybe it would encourage him to try something new.

Then when I thought about it, I wondered if I really wanted that to happen.

Of course, I want him to branch out on his eating. But do I want him to do it because other kids judge him and he feels different? Do I want him to change his ways because he feels left out? I don’t know about that.

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My son doesn’t have a lot of experience with big groups of kids. He doesn’t have any experience with peer pressure or the mob mentality. Is the first lesson I want to teach him that he should do what the rest of the group is doing, and that if kids make fun of him, he should change his habits to fit in? Sure, the outcome would be positive–he might try new foods. Peer pressure, I suppose, can be positive–it can challenge children to try harder and be a part of a team. But I want JC to continue thinking for himself. I want him to fit in, but not at the expense of making his own decisions. So will I continue to encourage him to try new foods? Absolutely? But will I compare him to the other kids? No way. As much as I want this change for him, I want it to be one he comes to himself.

How does your child handle peer pressure? Has the mob mentality had a positive or negative effect on them?

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Real Romance

Today, Mama Kat asked for a love story. So here is mine.

Love story

Nine years ago yesterday, he asked. And I said yes.

When my husband and I announced our engagement, there was drama. After all, I was only 22. And he was 30. And we’d known each other less than a year. We got a tidal wave of emotions from our family and friends, not all of it positive.

But I knew it was right. And I’m assuming he did too, or he wouldn’t have asked. I’d known it was right from the night I met him, when we covered past relationships, future goals, religion, family, and everything in between during our very first conversation. We laid all the expectations for the rest of our life right out there and, well, they matched.

“I met The One last night,” I told my friend on the phone the next day. She sighed, clearly exasperated.

“Oh, Allyson,” she said. “Are you sure? Of course you’re not sure.”

I was sure.

We did everything “wrong”: we moved in together too fast, joined bank accounts too fast, got engaged too fast. But if how we did it was wrong, then I don’t want to be right–because almost ten years from the day we met, we’re still going strong. Us and our adorable, rambunctious, curly-haired 4-year-old.

And so on the anniversary of our engagement, I want to talk about romance.

Here is what I’ve learned about romance: true romance is realistic. Don’t get me wrong, flowers are great. And so is sparkly jewelry. And I’m a sucker for handwritten notes. Those things are the icing on the proverbial cupcake of marriage. But the real stuff–the stuff that makes it all come together–is realizing that romance isn’t just what you give. It’s what you do and how you act, every day.

This is real romance: my husband working 10, 12 or 14 hour days so I can stay home with our son…and then coming home to us at the end of the day to give our kid Super Dada kisses and tuck him into bed.

Real romance is doing things he would never do in a million years if I wasn’t in his life, like going to half a dozen Hanson concerts with me.

Romance is knowing that when I’ve had a bad day the best cure is a warm blanket and reruns of Samantha Brown’s Great Hotels featuring Disney resorts.

Romance is being the one to meet me outside the hospital on a deceptively beautiful May afternoon, looking me in the eye and telling me my father was gone.

Romance is buying my Christmas present early and then not being able to wait until Christmas to give it to me.

Romance is being there: holding my hand when our son came into the world. Cheering me on at the end of my first race. Cheering me on at the end of every race. Catching my eye from the back of the church as I stood to give my uncle’s eulogy because he knows public speaking terrifies me. Bringing his PS3 into the bedroom to play because he knows I sleep better when he’s close by. It’s being himself, and letting me love him for him–and doing the same for me.

We don’t try and change each other, and we don’t play by anyone else’s rules. What works for us, works for us. Some people don’t get the way we function, and that’s okay.

Because at the end of the day, I still can’t wait to see him when he comes home. And I still get a little flutter in my chest when I see his name pop up on my cell phone.

And that’s romantic.

How Spring in the South is Like a Toddler

It’s spring here in the south. Know how I know? I wore a tank top and got a sunburn on Saturday, and wore a coat and warm socks on Sunday.

March, April, and sometimes even May are a guessing game when it comes to weather in Atlanta. The temperature can swing wildly from one day to the next, be bright and sunny one moment and pouring down rain the next. Southern springtime clearly has an issue making up its mind.

Kind of like a toddler.

I feel cold today, says spring. Lets make it 40ish degrees. Oh look, there is everyone all bundled up on their morning commute. Lets make it 60 degrees!

I completely understand, says the toddler. Today I refused to leave the house unless I was dressed like a cowboy. Then a bird looked at me funny and I had to take it all off.

Sometimes I like to surprise everyone, says spring. Like when there’s been five straight days of beautiful sunshine, and a great outdoor concert has just started, and then I make a rainstorm. Keeps people on their toes.

I do that sometimes! says the toddler. Like when I insist on using a blue spoon all the time, for every meal, and then I wait until we’re eating out and–surprise!!–blue is suddenly incredibly offensive and I must have orange. 

That’s a really good idea, says spring. I should apply that concept to pollen count. 

So bring on the spring. I’m prepared with a wish list and armed with a pair of cute rain boots.

Spring Collage What are you looking forward to this spring?

Cinderella: Old vs. New

I saw the new live action Cinderella movie this weekend and wanted to share my thoughts on how it stacked up against the classic animated version.

We all know how much I love fairy tales, and I had been looking forward to this retelling of Cinderella since the teaser trailer of the glass slipper came out ages ago. However, I always go into remakes cautiously–especially when it comes to an iconic story like this.

The live action version was visually stunning. The set and the costumes were unbelievably detailed and intricate–a perfect backdrop to let Lily James’ natural beauty shine through. For most of the movie, she’s dressed very plainly, and it is very effective.

rags

And then there’s the moment she gets her ball gown. That DRESS. Sigh…

newdress

new dress

The step sisters and nasty old stepmother brought a little humor to the story, but they were more cruel than funny–Cate Blanchette in particular gave her character a lot of depth. Even when there was an opening to feel sorry for her, I still didn’t because she was so mean.

stepfamily

stepmother

The character that did make me laugh? Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Boy, did she get a costume upgrade in the new movie.

FGM

She was hilarious and her part was over far too quickly. I wish they had given her more screen time!

The prince got more personality in the live action than he did in the animated version, which was nice. He even got a couple little plot twists and was the proper amount of dreamy.

PicMonkey Collage

I have two complaints. The first is that they didn’t use any of the classic music in the movie. Not even in the background or as a different arrangement. I was really disappointed in this, because the music from the classic version is so well-loved (I walked down the aisle to “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, so I might be a little biased). One of my favorite things about Maleficent was that creepy arrangement of “Once Upon a Dream” they used in the previews, and I was hoping for something like that in the new Cinderella.

The other was that there were three parents who died in the movie and each was given their own heartbreaking scene. It was depressing and, I think, a bit overkill. If I want a sobfest over dying parents, I’ll go watch Lion King.

But overall? It was pretty to look at, the mean people got what they deserved, and the good guys got their happily ever after. And another fantastic dress. And really, what else can you ask for from a fairy tale?

wedding

Writing Prompt Challenge: Full Disclosure

Every couple of weeks I like to give myself a writing prompt challenge to work on in. This week:

They toured the house with the real estate agent.
“We love it,” he said. “Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?”
The agent looked down.


Should she tell them? Deb felt nervous, her stomach in knots. She could tell the couple adored the house–just look at them, for heavens sake. Wide-eyed first time home buyers: the wife gazing around, Deb knew, picturing where her furniture would go and where she would hang the pictures. Naïve enough not to ask why this beautiful, three-bedroom house in an affluent part of town was still on the market for such a steal.

Deb exhaled. She knew her boss wanted this house sold. She knew she was in for a fat bonus if she sealed the deal. She knew all she had to do was smile a big smile, laugh, and say something like, “All you really need to know is the house’s future–with you in it!” They would sign the papers, money would be transferred, the happy couple would move in. They probably wouldn’t go crazy like the last tenant, right? That could have been any number of official mental illnesses, after all. There were plenty of legitimate, medical reasons why people heard voices and saw fairies who moved the furniture and painted on the walls and–

“Deb?” He interrupted her chain of thought and her head snapped up. She plastered a big grin on her face.

“No,” she said. “In fact, the last resident hated to go.”

This was not exactly a lie. Technically, the last resident had hated to leave–she’d been removed forcibly by the police and put in a mental institution. Deb still remembered the picture in the paper, of the woman clinging to the door frame while two flustered cops pulled on her legs.

But this couple was new to the area, and hadn’t seen the papers or heard the gossip around town. One lady going crazy was newsworthy, of course, but what really got tongues wagging was the fact that it wasn’t one person. It was seven, in fact, over the last decade. Seven residents all with the same story: voices, tables up-turned, small scale fires set in the linen closet. All blamed on the fairies. Pesky problems that turned into full blown disasters, making most people leave feeling a little unnerved and others–like the last resident– lose it completely.

But this woman, she seemed like the kind of person who might get along with fairies, right? She was sort of plump and she smiled all the time and her eyes had a far away look to them, and–

Deb stopped herself. What was she doing, likening this woman to someone who might enjoy fairies? There were no such thing. She pulled herself together.

“The house won’t stay on the market long,” Deb lied. “It’s the perfect place for you.”

The couple looked at each other, smiling dopey smiles, and nodded.

“We’ll take it,” he said, and the wife jumped up and down a little, clapping her hands.

Three weeks later, the papers were signed. At the closing that morning, Deb had shaken their hands, collected her bonus, and got on a plane to somewhere tropical. It had been a stressful month for her, making sure nothing went wrong in the process. During the home inspection, the inspector’s camera kept switching off, and every time he reached for his pen to make a note, he found it in a different pocket. During the final walk-through with the buyers, every time Deb touched a door knob, it fell off. And one of the walls in the master bedroom had inexplicably turned purple.

But the new residents were happy, walking into their house for the first time. Carrying in boxes, watching as the movers brought in all the furniture.

“Do you like it?” He asked his wife when the last of the things were brought in.

“I do,” she said. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, then grabbed a handful of throw pillows to bring upstairs. She had already made the bed in the master bedroom, smoothing the comforter as she did and enjoying the way the sun streamed in through the window. When she walked back in, she found all the sheets and blankets in a rumpled pile on the floor.

“Well,” she said, and surveyed the room. The linens weren’t the only things amiss. The windows had all been cracked open and the boxes piled in the corner had all been taped shut again.

Without another word she went down to the kitchen and rummaged around in a box. A few minutes later, she set a small bowl of honey and a little pile of sugar on the table. When she passed by an hour later, the honey and sugar were gone. In it’s place were flowers.

Deb had been right about the buyer. She was the sort who understood fairies. It looked like the house–and its inhabitants–had finally met their match.

Two Words

2words

I saw this on a Facebook page I follow, and it made me think.

I spent awhile reading the comments–once I got over the surprise of how many people chose things like birth control and leave him, I found some good ones:

Respect Yourself.
Mom’s right.
Think Twice.
Don’t Settle.

I wanted to leave a comment with my two words, but I struggled. I’m not a “two word” kind of girl…I’m wordy and verbose. It’s why I struggle so much with Twitter. 140 characters? How can I possibly wax poetic in 140 characters?!?

Anyway, I spent a day or two thinking about it, and I finally settled on two words I would send back to my younger self:

Stay True.

I almost always have a gut feeling about things–and it’s when I don’t follow my gut that I get into trouble, end up involved with toxic people, or find myself in unhappy situations. And there have been too many times in my life that I’ve ignored my inner voice and listened to the ones around me instead.

So if I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be to stay true to my beliefs and what I felt was right. It would have saved me a lot of messes!

What two words would you tell your younger self?

Every Summer Has a Story

Every summer has a story. 104ddc387796b29fe950c3a5b7ce6fcf I found this image last year and instantly fell in love with it because, well…it just GOT me. Summer has always been my favorite season, and almost all of my big, wonderful, larger than life memories happened in summer. So when this week’s Mama Kat Writing Workshop prompt was, “Is summer time yet? Dig into your archives and share some favorite summer moments you’d like to relive“, I was happy to oblige.

When I was a child and a teenager, summers meant spending time with my best friend, who lived a couple states away from me. We spent a week at my house, a week at her house, a week or two at the beach. We got into epic scrapes (like the time we got ourselves locked out of the beach house on her father and stepmother’s anniversary…all day…in the rain), stayed up far past our school year bedtimes, and slept in until noon before waking up to breakfast on cookie dough and read Teen Bop magazines (we also got into trouble for this). These are some of my sweetest summer memories.

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Teenage me. Remember when we were skinny without trying? Ah, those were the days.

Exciting things happened in childhood summers, like trips up north to visit my family in Boston, where I discovered Harvard Square and the North End. Every summer brought a new Girl Scout camp–some summers I repelled down mountains and went whitewater rafting, while another summer brought me to New York City with girls from all over the country.

I was 13 when the Olympics came to Atlanta, which was a 1.5 hour drive and a lifetime away from the North Georgia town I grew up in. My father took me downtown two days before the games started. We took a steep escalator up to the street from the Marta station (Atlanta’s public transportation) and I was suddenly surrounded by tall buildings and busy sidewalks full of people from all over the world. We ate lunch at Planet Hollywood, had milkshakes at Hard Rock Cafe, and walked through the brand new Centennial Olympic Park. That was the day that started my love affair with the city.

My summers as a college student were typical–I worked as a day camp director and a nanny, so my summer rhythms didn’t change much, only now I was in charge. Days off were even sweeter in the summer–lounging at the pool, going to concerts downtown, still staying up way past my bedtime. There is just something about summer that makes it hard to go to bed on time.

I got married in the summer, on a hot day in late June. I had so much hairspray in my hair that it took me days to wash it out, but my curls held in the Florida humidity. I still can’t smell Bumble & Bumble long-last hairspray without thinking of my wedding day.

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Those curls weren’t going anywhere.

My son was born in the summer. We broke heat records that year, and I waddled around in a constant state of sweat and swell until a stunningly hot day in July when he made his entrance. The remainder of that particular summer is a blur, and when I finally pulled myself from the new mother haze, back-to-school commercials were on.

And now that I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, the magic of summer is back in full force. This summer is shaping up to be sensational: we’re kicking it off with a weeklong trip to the beach, leaving our apartment for a house (with a yard, joy of joys!), celebrating JC’s 5th birthday, and my first book is set to be published sometime this summer. I know all those things will be awesome, but I also know that the story of this summer won’t be written by the big events. It will be in the tiny moments: the lightning bugs, the sand between our toes, the picnic lunches, late nights with old friends, and the magic that can only be found in the warmth of the summer air.

What is your summer story?