Saturday, December 21, 2013

Label Shopper

The hubs shook his head when I told him I wanted a pair of Uggs for my birthday. He was diligent and went and even checked them out. I wanted the sweater kind, and he located them in the one store that carries them (Dick's Sporting Goods--can you believe it?). He wasn't sure that I really wanted them, because they seemed flimsy and impractical for our snowy winters here. He got me a gift card so I could get what I wanted, even though he didn't understand it. I ran to the store as soon as I could and purchased them. They were unbelievably on sale, and I ended up getting them for more than 40% off the retail price. All proud of the savings, I showed the hubs the boots. He just shook his head and said, "They just seem pricy."

Normally, I am not a big label shopper. There are some brands I like, and some that I consider luxuries. Ironically, the hubs prefers certain brands (like Brooks Brothers and J. Crew), but he buys so much less stuff than I do that he can justify the expense. I often look at the name brands and sometimes even salivate a little. For instance, there is part of me that really wants a Coach purse, but there is another part of me that thinks it is ridiculous to spend that amount.

For the kids, because they are growing, I'm even less likely to buy them name brand stuff. I cannot see paying $30 for one pair of sweatpants for Jake, just because they are Addidas. But on the other hand, I remember when I was a kid and how much I wanted all the name brand items like my friends had. I had a friend who had Sassoon jeans in nursery school. I was green with envy. My mother told me I could get designer jeans when she could find them at Filene's Bargain Basement. My first pair of "designer" jeans were Calvin Klein, and I bought them for myself after I was married. I bought them at Sam's Club. In grade school, I wanted the Reeboks in all the colors (I did have one pair of black and turquoise). I wanted the Swatch watches. When I got to high school, I wanted to shop at Express.

I've been waiting for this with my kids. I went to Catholic school, so I wore a uniform every day. I don't know if that made the clothing envy better or worse. I expected, especially with Sophia, that she would look at what her friends have and want the same thing. So far (fingers crossed), she likes what she likes. She likes sparkles and ruffles and animals. She pretty much likes what is in her closet that I have gotten for her. Some of her favorite outfits are hand-me-downs that came from who knows where. She likes to coordinate and look pretty and sparkly. Other than that, her requirements are slim. I have taken her to Justice to shop. I like the store because they have pants that fit her (she is super long and skinny). She likes the glitz. Actually, she likes all the crap in the store more than the clothes. She is just as content with the sparkly clothes from Target.

Jake likes sweat pants and t-shirts. As long as they are not too big, he is content. He is also an almost-10-year-old boy, so matching and coordination do not always come naturally, but he really tries. I have to bargain and barter with him to wear dress-up clothes. He HATES shirts with collars that button. He loves turtlenecks. He is occasionally tolerant of polo-style shirts. His motto is comfort.

So, here's the thing. Jake has a diagnosis of autism. It is mild, and pretty much everyone agrees that it doesn't really fit him, but nothing else does either. But it is his label, to help him get services. Somedays, I can see that he sort of fits. Somedays, not so much. He does have sensory issues, which is why he doesn't like the collared shirts. I think buttons were challenging for him for so long that he doesn't want to do them. He likes the snug feel of the turtlenecks and footie pajamas. He won't wear socks with a hole, and cannot stand if his clothes get even a little wet. These are all not uncommon with people with autism. So other than how the clothes FEEL, Jake has never cared about how he looked.

Until today.

He asked if I could get him a pair of Nike sneakers for Christmas. Frankly, his sneakers are his only pair of shoes, and they're pretty worn out since he wears them all day every day. He complained that I never get him Nike (which is true, because they're not really supportive, which he needs). He told me that EVERYONE in his class wears Nike and he feels that he looks like an "idiot" because he doesn't have the right brand of shoes. He did clarify that no one has called him that, but he just feels different because his sneakers are different.

Hold the phone. This is my kid who is not supposed to be tuned into that sort of thing. But he TOTALLY is. He wants Nike sneakers because his friends have them. It is just a regular kid thing to want.

So, even though I'm done shopping, I took him out today to get his sneakers. I made him try on other brands so he could feel the difference, and he still wanted the Nike. We found a decent pair (at only the second store). I didn't care the price. Ok, I did a little bit, but he needs something to wear on his feet right now. He is pleased as punch that he has his Nike sneakers and can't wait to bring them to school after break. He is happy that he has his name-brand shoes, just like all his friends.

This is just another reminder to me not to limit Jake based upon his label. No label fits him.

Well, other than super-awesome.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By the Numbers

Age I turn today: 38

Height: 5'3"

Weight: Enough

Number of children: 2

Years of marriage: 12.25

Years in practice as a PT: 13.5

Number of cats: 2

Cups of coffee/day: 2

Days of the year that I eat chocolate: 325

Number of blog posts: 112

Number of Page Views on Biel Blather: 10,005

Number of copies of Good Intentions sold: 145

Number of brick and mortar bookstores that carry Good Intentions: 3

Number of 'Likes' on my Facebook author page: 126

Average review on Amazon: 4.6

Months until my second novel debuts: about 2 (yikes!)

Number of words in my current work: 52,007

Number of times I was up during the night thinking about this post: 3

Amount that I am grateful for my family, friends and the love in my life: Infinity

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cinderella Myth, Part Two

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... oh, wait, wrong tale.

Yesterday, I blogged about the whole Cinderella thing being a myth, and how we, as women, can never magically transform into the beautiful princess without a lot of hard work. And perhaps a Pinterest mishap or two. This is more about why I have a problem with the idea of princesses, especially in terms of my young daughter.

When I was young and idealistic, I had the notion that I would not inundate my daughter with princess stuff. When my son was born, I was happy that I would not have to tell people, "No, we don't do princess stuff." The Disney princess machine was huge at this point, and I was happy with our Thomas the Train, and not having to ban princesses.

Then I had a daughter. And, by the age of two, she was naturally gravitating towards anything and everything princess.

Why, you might ask, would I have a problem with princesses?

There are two main things.

Actually three. Three main things.

1. I don't want my daughter thinking that she would need a man to swoop in and save her. She is a capable, smart, savvy person, and she can use her own brains and strengths (whether it is muscular strength or cunning and cleverness) to help herself. She does not need a dopey prince to slay any dragons for her. She can handle it herself.

2. I don't want my daughter thinking that it is as simple as "and they all lived happily ever after." It is not that simple. Marriage, and life in general, take a lot of hard work. There is no fairy tale ending. Even when people are happy together, it is because they have worked hard at it.

3. This is the big one. There are women who proclaim themselves "princesses." You see them on reality TV shows like Bridezillas, Real Housewives, Dance Moms and Say Yes to the Dress. There is a whole generation of women who feel that they should be treated as royalty at all times. These are horrible, horrible women. I do not EVER want my daughter prancing around with this sense of entitlement and attitude. Respect and good treatment are not givens. They are earned through good deeds, kindness and selflessness. I do not want my daughter thinking that she deserves some kind of special treatment just because she is.

I hope that through my behavior and actions, I am steering her on the right course. She, at the age of 6, has informed me that she is "soooo over princesses." However, at the age of 5, she was certainly happy to partake in the princess makeover at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Disney World. It was her birthday surprise, and she did love it. She also loved that, for that day, every person we walked by wished her happy birthday. It was her birthday, and she certainly did feel special. She did not expect the same treatment afterwards (although I think her 6th birthday was a bit of a let down). I hope that she is well liked and respected, not because of her clothes or sparkles, but because of her sparking wit and clever ideas. Those gems are as rare as the crown jewels.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Cinderella Myth

From the time I was a little girl, I heard the stories about princesses. While I liked them, I didn't buy into them a whole lot. Somehow, they all seemed too good to be true. But nonetheless, I was fascinated by the fancy dresses, and wanted nothing more than to attend that fancy ball. Somehow, that fancy ball never really came along, and I realized that life doesn't happen the way it does in the stories. Now that I'm (sort of) grown up, I can tell my daughter will all certainty that these princess tales are a load of hooey.

Here's how I know.

This past weekend, the hubs and I got all gussied up and went to a formal event. And there was sure-as-heck no Fairy Godmother bippidi-boppidi-booing in and making me look my best. Oh, no. There was work that went into it. Lots of work.

The dress was easy. After combing e-bay, my friend and I went to a local consignment shop. This shop gets dresses from a bridal shop, so there are a lot of new dresses that were floor models. They carry a lot by one of my favorite designers. I found one (ok, two) that I liked and got it (them). One fit a little better than the other, so rather than have to worry about dropping a few pounds around Thanksgiving, I went with the more comfortable one. It needed to be shortened, and I was even able to do it myself. It involved taking the dress apart, which was a bit nerve wracking, as it is a designer dress. I have to say, I felt pretty proud that I was able to do that kind of sewing work.

But that is where the similarities to Cinderella end. While I was getting my hair done, I decided on a D-I-Y facial a few days before. I did what all the women I know do--I consulted Pinterest. That was my first mistake. I read the blogs about how to do the facial, a pore cleansing one. People talked about the smell, so I was prepared for it. I was not prepared for the absolute pain and agony as I removed the mask. It was supposed to be pore cleansing, but I believed it ripped out all of the fine hair off my face. Also, because I'm entering a more "mature" phase of life, the skin on my face is not as tight as it used to be. As I tried to peel off the mask, my skin was going with it. Tears formed in my eyes, and I was worried that I would not be able to continue, and that I would be forced to live out my days with half of my face frozen in milk and gelatin.

Pinterest fail.

Then, there is the getting the hair done, the make-up process, the pedicure. Okay, that stuff is pretty enjoyable. I've gotten pretty good at false eyelashes. There was a minor moment when I grabbed the nail glue instead of the eyelash glue. (At least they would not have fallen off. EVER.) I caught myself and let out a big sigh of relief.

Then there are the nails. My job, plus my awful habit of nail biting, leads me to have to use false nails. There are ones that go on very quickly (like, in 5 minutes or less). Doing the first hand was fine. But I am not used to having long nails, so I had a lot more trouble putting the nails on the second hand. Which led me to, at one point, use my mouth to reposition the nail that I had just tried to glue on. Which led to getting nail glue on my lips. Luckily, I did not glue my lips together, but it was mighty close. How would you explain that one?

So the nails lead me to another issue that I bet Cinderella never had to deal with. Do you know how hard it is to pull up Spanx with fake nails on? On a good day, you can get a decent cardio work out just trying to get into Spanx. Pulling them up with nails on, damn near impossible.

Of course, it snowed the night of our event. It was sleeting as we got there, and downright snowing by the time we left. I was happy to have open-toed shoes and bare arms. My husband just looked at me shivering and said, "Well, you're the one who didn't wear a coat." He didn't get that my fur wrap looked so much better. Never mind its complete and utter uselessness in the elements.


I'd like to think all the efforts and near disasters were worth it. We had a lot of fun, so I guess that is what counts (as well as the fact that we were supporting a very worthy cause).

Next year, I just want to be able to say, "Bippidi-Boppidi-Boo!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

Holy crap! It's December 1st. How did that happen?

Every year, at different points in the year, I have a dream that it is the week before Christmas or even Christmas Eve, and I haven't decorated or gotten presents for someone (like my parents) or something of the like. I wake up in a panic, only to realize that it is only May.

Except now, it really is December. I know that Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, but it seemed late to me this year. Here it is December 1st, and I'm still gorging on turkey and stuffing (and trying not to think that my pants may not fit on Monday morning). I host Thanksgiving dinner, so for the past week or two, I have been tunnel-vision focused on that. I did start some shopping last week, but really only because there were some sales and coupons that would expire before Thanksgiving. I have a "No Christmas until after Thanksgiving policy" for the most part.

I was also doggedly determined to finish (or "win" as it is called) National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It did not seem so bad at the beginning. I was consistently a day or two ahead of schedule. Until last week, when I got totally engrossed in T-day preparations. I got to the point where I was on day 27 with 46,000 words and not sure if I'd be able to hit the 50 K mark. I hunkered down and hit 50,050 on Friday night, which was one day ahead of schedule. While I am pleased with completing that task, it added a pressure that I don't think I really needed. I write to relieve stress and make me feel better. If I had a contract and a deadline, it would be a different story. But for right now, it is recreation (although I wish it could be my full-time job).

So that brings me to December 1. The day was spent still visiting with family in town for the holidays. I did at some point realize that my children will want to wear pants to school tomorrow, so I had to squeeze in a bit of laundry as well. I had to clean up Thanksgiving so I could start Christmas. About two or three weeks ago, it was about 65 degrees on a Saturday. I considered putting up my lights (not plugging them in of course). Instead, I took a nap. So today, in the 30 degree weather, I put up my lights. Mental note to self: naps are overrated and can be done when it is cold out.

I started decorating in the house, but decided to do it one box at a time, rather than have the hubs bring all 600 boxes up and try to do it in one fell swoop. I got a little done and am pleased that the house is starting to look like Christmas-y. I am now allowing Christmas carols to be played as well (they were banned before this weekend).

Because of the presence of two annoying young felines, I have had to make the decision that some of my more valuable decorations will not go out this year. This includes the Manger set that was my grandmother's, and that I have been putting out for 15 years. However, when the kids were really little, we bought them the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set so they could have that to play with (in hopes that they would leave mine alone--it worked). So today, in a stroke of brilliance (in my mind at least), I asked my daughter to set that up instead. This way, if the boys (the alias for the cats) get into it, it will be no big deal (the table where the Manger is set up is one that they like to sit on and look out the window. Putting something breakable/valuable there is just asking for it to be broken).

We looked at the calendar and have one free night this week. We will be putting the tree up then. I like to have my tree up for as long as possible. Ironically, as a child, my parents never put the tree up until a few days before Christmas, and it was all because of me. My birthday is December 18th. My parents did an excellent job of separating my birthday from the holiday, so the tree never went up until after my birthday (although the rest of the house was decorated). In my own house, I like the tree, so I put it up right after Thanksgiving.

Slowly but surely, it will get done. But I'm not concerned if it doesn't. Because the perfect lights or the wreath hung just so are not what matters. What matters is my son luring me under the mistletoe so I will kiss him. What matters is my daughter feeling so proud that she gets to set up the Manger and that she is contributing to the decorations. What matters is the night that we will all sit and watch 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and laugh when Snoopy kisses Lucy. What matters is how my children will learn to give to others and that Christmas is about giving and doing, not receiving.

But bring on (a little) snow because in the Biel house, it's beginning to look a little like Christmas.