Tag Archives: childhood

Confessions of a Childhood Thumbsucker

I have a confession to make: I used to be a thumbsucker. Not the kind that did it out in public everywhere that I was taken, but done at night in the safety of my bed to help me sleep when I was little.

I don’t remember the initial introduction to this habit, but my mom said I was a few months old and never used a pacifier. What I do remember is that I had a white blanket with fringe on the end, and I would wrap a clump of the fringe around my little finger before pulling it off and smelling it while I sucked my thumb.

We apparently called this “Nonny Nose,” although I’m sure I would have come up with something more clever had toddler me been given the option.

But here’s where it gets interesting, as after the blanket, there was Bun.

Instead of bringing the fringe up to my nose when I sucked my thumb, it was his left ear—almost always the left one. Why? Because I slept on my right side—always facing the door in my room—and so his left ear was closest to me.

bun1I can’t tell you exactly what it was about that first in a series of OCD rituals, but I remember thinking that his (snot and spit-covered) ear smelled different with my thumb in my mouth. Also, the left ear was superior to the right and if I didn’t suck my thumb and smell his ear, I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

When we traveled up north to our trailer in the summer, I would sleep on the top bunk of our triple bunk beds. After the second time I fell out—I guess we had to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke— we put in a bed rail. Because Bun often fell out, we tied a shoestring around his neck noose-like and secured him to said bed rail.

A bit dark, yes, but it did the trick.

Bun’s little withered body eventually began to show the wear and tear of being loved a little bit too much. It was a sad day when I finally let go of his scrawny little neck, but my dates were getting uncomfortable with the fact I let him keep his side of the bed.

I kid, I kid. We all know I don’t have dates.

But I have to confess that this ritual went on a lot longer than it probably did for most kids. I never brought Bun to sleepovers or anything, but when I got anxious it was a comfort to pop that thumb in to help me sleep.

I rationalized sucking my thumb was no worse than other kids who bit their nails, which I thought was gross. And it’s not like I was a 9-year-old turning to a beer or a jumbo box of Marlboro Lights every time life got to be a little too much or anything. Plus, it’s been said that the tip of the thumb has a sensory receptor that triggers the body to release endorphins and cortisol that help the body relax and feel happy.

Whatever. I just thought his stupid ear smelled good.

So what made me finally break the habit? Did I suddenly realize it must be stopped in order to blossom into a functioning member of society?

Sure, we can go with that. Or we can go with the real reason, which was that I was getting adult teeth and everyone told me that people who sucked their thumbs would be cursed with crooked teeth. The Tooth Fairy didn’t exactly leave that on a note, but that was the rumor I heard.

Perhaps it was too little too late at that point because I had to get braces a couple of years later anyway. Now whether or not the thumb sucking contributed to that or not is still unknown, but once I got them, that thumb stayed out of my mouth and those tiny rubber bands of pain went in.

But for those early, formative years, there was no greater comfort than a raggly white blanket and spit-covered plush.

Thumbs up to you, faithful friends.

Like the blog? Buy the books and click below!

P.S. If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Stepping On My Seasonal Soapbox

The music, the decorations, the sale ads—the holidays are already here. While I promise to get back to humor next time, today I have to step on my seasonal soapbox.

fall

Like a lot of people, I sometimes find this time of year to be hard. Between the loss of family gatherings due to time and distance, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and a partridge in a pear tree, I would much rather just skip to January 2.

There won’t be a big family meal, and come Christmas there won’t be many—if any—gifts. Times are tight and money is even tighter, regardless of the date on the calendar.

I’ve never been bitter because we don’t have money for things, but I do get annoyed that others are so obsessed with those things.

However, I get it. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy things, eat foods that don’t make you feel good and stress about spending time with people you might not enjoy all that much except in small doses.

When that’s no longer an option, you learn a valuable lesson—be better, not bitter, and be thankful for all that you have.

So this time of year I really have to distance myself from certain things online and on TV, as I can’t stand seeing people filmed on Black Friday – ravenous for deals on TVs, cameras, phones, etc., people in malls pushing others over, obsessed with getting things.

Then they show Christmas Day.

The mall is quiet. People are home with their families. The holiday is over. Until the next shot when it’s Dec. 26 and people are right back at the mall again, ravenous for after-Christmas sales and replacing the gifts they didn’t want. It’s like somehow Christmas didn’t happen for some people. It didn’t fill the hole. It wasn’t enough.

It’s different when you’re a kid, or at least it was for me, and so I understand that it’s different for parents.

The holidays were a magical time with no worries, only wonder. The fact that parents can take the time to create fun traditions and keep that magic alive is priceless, and something I keep with me now.

Growing up I was lucky enough that every holiday dozens of people in my big Polish family would be crammed around tables full of food and conversation. And while I might remember a few of the special gifts that I got, those “things” aren’t first on my mind.

What I remember much more are the things that we did and said, making the food that we ate and places we went every year.

So this year with every Black Friday ad, every person complaining about “surviving the holidays” like it’s a terminal illness, I’m going to try not roll my eyes.

Instead when they complain about feeling burdened to buy gifts, I might kindly remind them to connect to why the person they’re shopping for is special to them and how they want them to feel when they open the gifts.

Instead of overcommitting to events that just leave them drained, try to take a moment to stop and take in the sights and the smells of the season. Step back and ask, “What do I want to remember?” And if they have kids, “What do I want them to remember?”

Because even though some things are unavoidable—crazy uncles making “breast or leg man” jokes around a dead bird carcass stuffed with stale bread, awkward company parties, people freaking out over red cups at Starbucks—there are some things we can control.

We can be thankful for things that we have and make the memories that we want to keep–and that doesn’t cost a dime.

(Steps off soapbox, trips, has a piece of broccoli fall out of my shirt that fell in there sometime while I was eating dinner.)

Let the season begin.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

zazzle.jpg

P.S. If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Birthdays are Weird

My birthday is in August, but don’t worry, I’m not going to write a post about everything I’ve learned or done in the past year. This is because a) I don’t remember what I did 10 minutes ago b) I write about enough crap on here c) I forgot the third reason.

See? I think I just proved my first point.

Anyway, even though I like celebrating everyone else’s birthday, I don’t like my birthday. It’s not because I hate getting older as much as I just don’t really like the hype or expectations.

carded1

But when you overthink about it, birthdays are weird. People celebrate you for doing nothing more than pushing your way out of your mom’s lady parts after causing her heartburn and morning sickness for nine months.

That’s it.

You took a trip down the ol’ birth canal and voila! Every year from that point on, instead of honoring the woman whose loins you were ripped from, people buy you gifts and stand around baked goods covered in flames and sing to you awkwardly off key.

But with that said, my mom has always been awesome about making me feel special on my birthday.

Because it fell in the summer, my birthday served as an excuse to throw many large parties with copious amounts of friends, my large family and food. The crowds and hoopla gradually stopped as everyone grew up and away—or got tired of me—but the bits and pieces of birthdays gone by will always remain in my mind.

However, there were a few that were a little less than stellar.

Strike One

There was a Fiesta themed party complete with stereotypical sombreros and music, Mexican food and a piñata. While a piñata was good in theory, that theory flew out the window right about the time the piñata stick accidentally flew through the air and directly towards an inattentive neighbor lady.

Smarties and plastic jewelry did not fall out of the cut on her head. Our disappointment was profound.

Strike Two

Nothing fell out of the cut on my head a few years later when my presents were hid throughout our large backyard and I was blindfolded and forced to hunt for them on my hands and knees. A Frisbee was thrown from a great distance and managed to hit me square in the head. Being blindfolded and covered in grass burns, this was literally a blow to what dignity I had left.

We had cake. I forgave.

Strike Three

Then there was a year that the stars aligned and the Tigers were playing the California Angels at home on my birthday. I was convinced I was going to marry their first baseman—JT Snow. This was obviously a sign of our destined eternal bliss.

We drove the three hours to the game, where after a couple innings he came up to bat and hit a foul ball directly towards my dad. A great ending to this story would be that he made an effort, caught the ball and concluded the perfect birthday of his 10-year-old daughter.

Didn’t happen. We had cake. I had resentment.

But despite the few (literal) hits and misses, I have to say that I’ve had it pretty good. I don’t expect a marriage proposal or physical and emotional scarring this year, but I do expect applause when I enter the room and a tiara to wear.

In other words, treat it just like any other day.

What have been some of your birthday hits and misses?

Like the blog? Buy the books!

P.S.  If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Ice Cream Trucks and Wino Wheels

Ahh…summer.

The sound of birds chirping, lawnmowers buzzing and music like “The Entertainer” coming from a janky 1980s model white van driven by a creepy older male trying to lure children to his vehicle in order to sell them sugar-laden treats.

Oh yes, the ice cream truck.

As a kid I can remember the siren song of summer and how we would run outside and try to chase after a moving vehicle in order to procure many of the same frozen treats found in our freezers.

But when you think about it, ice cream trucks were  “trendy” ahead of their time. It’s like some marketing genius thought, “Hey! Just thinking out loud here, but how about a food truck marketed only towards kids! Instead of food, it sells nothing but ice cream!”

Running with the idea, they decided to play kid-friendly music on repeat—including completely nonsensical songs like “La Cucaracha”—and drive by the houses right about the time harried parents are trying to convince their kids that eating the spinach on their plate will make them strong like Popeye.

(Popeye. Another theme song they used. Well-played, Ice Cream Man. Well-played.)

Because kids love anything related to sugar and instant gratification, the ice cream men decided to see just how much they could charge before the BBB got wind of their sleek operation.

A menu of carefully arranged the choices was painted on the side of the truck so that there are the plain popsicles or ice cream sandwiches that cost $2—known as “boring and stupid” by most children—and then, right next to them there are the ones shaped like Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse with candy eyes and sprinkles for $5.

In other words, the price parents would pay for a whole box of the things. Frozen food truck or wizard on wheels? You be the judge.

But I think they’re really missing another gold opportunity with this one. Apparently when you reach a certain age, it’s “inappropriate” to go running out of the house with a five-spot, pushing small children out of your way in an attempt to flag down the ice cream man for a Bomb Pop.

Who makes up these rules?

Anyway, what they need to do is have a second truck creep about 100 yards behind the ice cream truck. Only this time instead of serving ice cream and blasting “The Entertainer,” this truck serves iced adult beverages and streams Bon Jovi through speakers.

Think about it. Parents will LOVE to hear the ice cream man come down the street and happily let their kids spend $4 for a sherbet push-up if they are secure in the knowledge that a drive-by wine tasting is only a few minutes away.

These Wino Wheels could easily expand their reach by parking down the street from ice cream trucks at youth sporting events, making those outdoor soccer tournaments and softball games a little more tolerable after a swig of chardonnay or a beer.

Everyone can enjoy a cold one of choice.

Happy kids. Happy parents.

Cheers to that!

Like the blog? Buy the books!

P.S.  If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Politically Correct Children’s Books & a Giveaway

It’s no secret that I love books, which is why I’m giving two away at the end of this post.

But some of the classics from when I was a kid would probably fall under the “not politically correct enough” category today, seeing as people have evolved to suck the fun out of everything.

So while I read these books and didn’t become the Unabomber, I thought it would be fun to take a cynical eye to some classics. And because I’m all about solutions, I will also propose a more “modern” take on the books.

Green Eggs and Ham

Summary: Sam I Am tries to peer pressure a friend into eating a potentially dangerous substance. (If you ever come across green ham, it’s probably horribly expired. Do not eat it!) While he initially resists, he eventually gives in and realizes it’s not as bad as he thought. So basically parents say drugs are bad, but if your friend likes it, then it’s good enough for you.

Suggestion: In this updated classic, Sam starts a food blog in which he details the merits of eating “green” eggs in the sense that they are eco-friendly, free-range organic eggs grown on a farm where chickens have spa days and sip Perrier. He shares a variety of healthy recipes focused on locally-sourced ingredients that win him fans and friends.

Frog & Toad are Friends

Summary: While this book claims “Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be,” Frog is often a terrible friend to Toad. Toad is embarrassed by his swimsuit, and Frog laughs at him with all the other animals. When they fly a kite, Frog just stands there with the string while Toad runs with the kite, getting constant abuse from other teasing animals. Thanks to Frog, Toad is trapped in a vicious cycle between narcissism and self-conscious insecurity.

Suggestion: Frog and Toad are “Friends,” just as Frog and Toad are “Together” in the sequel, if you know what I mean. Toad was just trying to be “fabulous” in the swimsuit incident and Frog was annoyed that Toad left the seat up at the lily pad again. These books follow in the steps of the first character to ever come out—Bi-curious George—and readers are shown that love and families can take many forms.

Cat In the Hat

Summary: A giant mutant cat shows up at the house while the mom is out and proceeds to touch and play with everything while the kids look on in terror. They try to get this strange intruder to leave without success, and the cat proceeds to release two “Things” that tear around the house, destroying everything. The cat cleans up the house in the end, but this encourages felonious behavior.

Suggestion: Seeing a cat show up at their house wearing a gigantic hat, the kids quickly whip out their iPads and start taping what they see. When the mother returns home, she finds they’ve posted a video to YouTube of the next Internet cat sensation that quickly goes more viral than Keyboard Cat ever did.

Cinderella

Summary: Girl, evil step-relatives, menial gender-stereotypical labor, geriatric godmother, pumpkin, prince, shoe.When the females of the town attend a ball for the chance to marry one man because he is rich royalty, a fairy swoops down, switches out Cinderella’s peasant garb and gives her glass slippers that DON’T EVEN FIT. She attends the ball, wins the heart of the prince and goes back to being “plain” at midnight.

Suggestion: Instead of women being portrayed as shallow, vindictive and sometimes helpless victims waiting to be rescued, in this version Cindy moves out, goes back to school and opens a fair-trade shoe company that produces only comfortable and practical footwear called “Fairy Footwear.” At a fundraiser for her non-profit dedicated to eliminating small rodent labor, she meets a young man who respects her for her brains and not her beauty.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

GIVEAWAY TIME!

I’m giving away a copy of both “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “Moms are Nuts” to one lucky U.S. resident. All you have to do is leave a comment about books–your favorite, the worst, a “politically correct” version of a classic, etc. by Tuesday, June 17. I’ll randomly pick a winner and notify them by email. Good luck!

I Love Not Camping

I originally published this a couple of years ago, but seeing as it’s almost “camping season” and no one is on the Internet this holiday weekend, it’s worth a rerun.

Spring has sprung, which means many people will be packing up to go camping in the coming weeks. I will not be one of them, as I do not camp.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the outdoors and worship the sun and nature. And while I’m not high-maintenance, I don’t find appeal in sleeping on the ground in a tent pretending I’m homeless.

But despite the tent aversion, I do have a bit of camping experience.

When I was younger we had a trailer up north that we spent a good deal of time at in the summer. It was a decent sized rig with a shower, small kitchen, deck, etc., but it was still a trailer.

I fished, shot my bow and arrow (not at anything living, at least not on purpose,) tore around on the 4-wheeler and hit the lake with the inflatable alligator before coming back to nighttime campfires, Cribbage games and attempts to attract bats by throwing random crap up in the air by the park lights.

I was young, and other than the fact that I rolled out of the top bunk of triple bunk beds—a bed rail was quickly installed—I had no real complaints. Now that I’m older and (questionably) wiser, I would have many complaints, which is why I don’t even attempt to pretend to want to camp.

Why someone would want to leave indoor plumbing and decent food and increase the likelihood of contracting mosquito malaria, dirt-covered food and being attacked by a baby deer in the woods is beyond me.*

*Of course, to each their own (disclaimer so campers don’t get pissed, although if they’re camping, they shouldn’t have access to Wi-Fi.)

But for those who enjoy camping and would like to recreate this experience at home, I have a few suggestions:

  • Hang your clothes over a wood fire to get that signature smell, the one that will hopefully cover up the other signature smell of musty dampness.
  • While you’re over the fire, singe your eyelashes and grab a hot poker to recreate the experience of starting the fire and attempting to roast anything with a metal stick.
  • Scald the skin on the roof of your mouth in an attempt to eat whatever it is you were trying to roast that didn’t fall into the flame.
  • Hover—a lot—and get used to swatting bugs with one hand while wiping with the other. This takes skill, which is why you will most likely find yourself pissing on your own leg (hey, you wanted to go camping.)
  • Pour sand directly into the bottom of your bathing suit and any exposed crack or opening in your body. If a lake is nearby, also include seaweed.
  • If you feel like getting fancy, spray yourself with a water bottle to recreate the (lack of) water pressure trailer showers provide. Forget about washing your hair (this is actually a positive in my book.)
  • Plant families of the loudest bugs on the planet in your backyard directly next to your window. If available, add in the mating calls of mystery creatures you’re sure are rabid and hunting you down.
  • Roll your meals in damp dirt.
  • Roll your clothes in damp dirt.
  • Roll yourself in damp dirt.

So for those of you starting your camping season soon, may the force be with you. I plan on working in the yard a bit, reading and enjoying the luxury of warm showers, good food I didn’t have to catch and a few good baseball games.

I love not camping.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

P.S. A reminder that Facebook is limiting what you see, so if you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

For Love of the Game

If you know me at all, you know that one thing I love is my baseball. Every year around this time I wax poetic about Opening Day, and this year will be no exception.

baseball.jpg

But don’t worry.

Although I’m repeating myself, this post isn’t going to be filled with statistics and names or metaphors about the game that I’ve loved all my life. If you don’t love baseball, I won’t try and convince you. If you do love baseball, you don’t need me to tell you why.

But for me, it’s more than a game.

It is just a bat and a ball, but it can unite a city, a state, a family with one swing of that bat or one pitch of that ball. It can make grown men cry, and sometimes, even a 32-year-old woman who usually only cries for road kill and good food spilled on the floor.

It’s remembering summers by games that were played—the crack of the bat, the stitch on a ball, the smell of the grass in the field. It’s looking forward to spring training in the dead of winter when every other joy seems frozen beneath layers of ice and of snow—especially given the historically horrible winter that we’ve endured.

It’s being able to identify players by their batting stance or jersey number and feeling an instant connection with strangers wearing clothes with the old English “D” for my Detroit Tigers.

For me, it’s an escape.

Sports in general afford me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while and to spend time with others who take pleasure in enjoying a similar break. It’s a reminder that I can still feel excited about something when a lot of the time I’m just numb.

For me, it’s family.

It’s a 92-year-old woman who can’t always remember who I am, but who might tell me about a game in 1948 with a clarity time hasn’t stolen quite yet.

I know this year will be different.

Gram doesn’t understand the games on TV and can’t comprehend what we’re watching. Selfishly, this makes me sad because I feel like we lost our big “thing”—the talks about players, the gripes about calls, the excitement of recaps and scores.

Yet watching the game with her takes me right back to being sprawled on her living room floor as a kid, watching each game on mute while Ernie Harwell came through on the radio. (But not lying underneath the ceiling fan, as I was warned the goddamn thing would inevitably fall on me and crush me to death. Fuzzy memories.)

For me, it relates to everyday life.

The goal of every single hitter is to always make it back home. There are daily ups and downs, success and adversity. You can fail miserably one day and be the hero the next day. Slumps happen, but you have to let go of the past and look forward and remember the goal—and that you’re not in this thing by yourself.

It’s tradition and memories tied up with box scores and hopefulness mixed in with stats.

Sure, it’s a “pastime. ” But it’s my favorite way to pass that time.

Play ball.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

P.S. A reminder that Facebook is limiting what you see, so if you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.