Posted by: Debby Carroll | February 28, 2011

2 Fun Things! How’s Your Sense of Humor?

Kid's ice cream cone shoes!

Image by jelene via Flickr

First, I entered a writing contest on the Two Kinds of People Blog (which a very fun thing to read on a regular basis) and won! Full disclosure… it was a very small contest but, hey, a win is a win, right? Read my winning entry here:

For more fun…. answer this question: What’s wrong with acting your shoe size?

We’ve all heard, “act your age, not your shoe size.” It’s what kids or teens say to each other to make fun of them when they act younger than they are. My question is, what’s wrong with acting younger than you are? And, shouldn’t we all do that sometimes? I’m 58 and I’m not sure what that means about how I should act, but I do know that my shoe size is 7 and I know how to be that age. It means I can swing on swings at the park, I can build sandcastles at the beach, I can laugh with abandon when something is funny, even if it makes me snort a little, or pee just a tiny bit. When my girls were little, acting like I was my shoe size meant I could build snow folks, sled and play board games with my daughters and even indulge in a Barbie world or two.

Our lives fly by and if we don’t take the time to act like idiots once in a while, we miss a real opportunity to have fun. Parents often correct their children about being “silly” or acting like a baby and I think that may be a mistake. Why hurry them to grow up?

The power of humor cannot be overstated. I don’t know if a sense of humor is inborn but I don’t think it is. I think it’s something you have to learn and I can’t think of too many more important things to teach a child. It should be part of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others…. oh, and make ’em laugh, too.”

Not only do I think we ought to let our kids be silly and to enjoy humor, I think we ought to get right down there on the floor and join them. Or, we ought to at least be able to sit back and watch the show and let it bring a smile to our lips. I believe that if we raise kids who stay kids as long as they can, they become adults with enhanced senses of humor and better attitudes about life. As they once said on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” … “a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” Nothing wrong with that at any age.

What “age inappropriate” activities do you still like? When was the last time you indulged? What are you waiting for? And what can we do to keep little kids younger, playful, and gleeful a bit longer? How insure a sense of humor in kids?

Alexis Writes: Even in high school I always enjoyed swinging on swings and hanging at the playground in general. My friends and I would go to playgrounds at night (yes I knew it was illegal as the parks were “closed” but we weren’t hurting anyone) and slide down the slide and hang on the jungle gym. One thing I think we discourage kids to do as adults by not acting silly is that we are encouraging them not to take risks. We don’t want them to do something where they can get hurt, but sometimes that means having no fun. It’s a balance they should learn from us.

People say that everything in life can’t be fun. That may be true but how much fun you have is often in your control. If you choose to have a good attitude,  many things in your life can be fun. I love my job because I work hard to make it fun for me and the kids. We sing and laugh together. One thing all my students agree is that I’m funny. They know that it’s important to me that they have fun while they learn. Teaching your kids to have fun and laugh is a life skill, a coping mechanism, and a way to connect with people. The last time I probably acted ridiculous was two hours ago when I sang: ” Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rockin the boat!” to a boy who’s notorious in my class for not staying in his seat. For most adults this would be outrageous behavior, but in my classroom it’s the norm, and it’s fun. We also have freeze dance every day. In the beginning most kids are shy and don’t dance very much. Now that we’ve been doing it for a while they are completely comfortable busting a move. I love dancing and often indulge in it. I dance around my house all the time full throttle, holding nothing back. There’s been many a time my husband has come home and walked in on me really giving my all singing and dancing to my current favorite song. I don’t mind being discovered that way. It’s one moment where I feel completely myself and happy. How many adults can say that about what they do? I don’t know about the seltzer, but the song and dance I am down for.

Tamra Writes: Okay, numero uno, no kids or teens EVER say “act your age, not your shoe size,” unless they’re singing a Prince song. Let’s just make that clear. I love to act silly, although I get not wanting to embarrass yourself. I end up embarrassing myself without doing it on purpose, and for other people who are like that, I could understand them not wanting to do it on purpose. That being said, it can be fun to act completely out of control and crazy like you don’t care what anyone thinks. We dance in my classroom too and often the kids are really shy at first. As soon as they see me embarrassing myself (hardly, I am an awesome dancer), they are more willing to bust a move or two.

Shira and I often end up having an impromptu dance party in the house and it’s so fun, we like to video tape it so we can watch it later and laugh. It’s good clean fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. No, I’m not going to put seltzer down my pants, although I will eat a gross combination of food just for kicks. I think adults need to stop worrying so much about what people think of them, so kids can learn to do the same.

The last time I indulged in ridiculous behavior? Probably yesterday, definitely at least once this week. Although I think at first people feel uncomfortable even just watching others let loose, eventually they loosen up and are at least smiling, or even laughing. Being silly is fun for everyone. Now, I’m a 5 1/2/ 6 shoe size, and I’d like to be either of those ages. I’m already lying and saying I’m only 21, what’s a few more years to lie about?? I love to play!

Shira writes: I totally agree that no one under the age of 50 has ever used the expression “Act your age, not your shoe size.” That’s something easily-annoyed librarians say when you’re being too loud in the fiction section. Somewhere along the line, I think I was in college, I decided I could have a lot more fun if I stopped worrying about being embarrassed. Now I’m known as the teacher who writes songs, hosts math karaoke, and always wears a pumpkin hat on Halloween. We have a lot of fun in my classroom, and sometimes I forget that I am not one of the kids. In addition to the spur-of-the-moment living room dance parties with Tamra, my grade partner and I have instituted a before school Friday morning classroom dance party for the teachers on our floor.

When I have a bad day, one of my favorite things to do is go to the bookstore, sit on the floor in the kids’ section, and read children’s books to myself. It seems weird, but the silly stories make me feel better. I am also “that girl” that you pass on the highway who has her music turned up all the way and is singing at the top of her lungs and car dancing as if no one can see her. It’s even more fun when I make eye contact with the people next to me and smile, just to let them know that I’m not embarrassed to be caught in the act of being silly.

My shoe size if somewhere between 7 and 7 1/2, and I think it would be a lot of fun to go back there. I also have some really great shoes.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | February 14, 2011

Did You Talk to Your Kids About Egypt?

As I watched the news from Egypt last week I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time — hope that the world will be a better place for my children. I was caught up in the power of the people — especially young people —  to effect change. I was caught up in the exuberance of the will of the people to overthrow a tyrant in order to have more freedom. I was enthralled by the role of social media in this revolution. It was… in a word… transformative.

And so, I think that parents should talk to their kids about this news event, regardless of their age (okay, maybe not the infants). I think this is a time when parents can and should talk to their children about what’s going on in the world. It’s not hard to explain this news to kids. Put simply, the people of Egypt, after being led for 30 years by a leader who didn’t care as much for them as himself, said “Enough.” They spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. And, they gathered and stayed in the streets for weeks, for the most part in a non-violent manner, demonstrating their demands for a better life. They demanded that President Mubarak step down and In the end, that’s what happened. And now, it will take some time, but maybe Egypt will become a true democracy. Maybe not, but at least now there is a chance. And if that happens, the region of the Middle East changes and takes steps toward peace, which, if it can happen in that area of the world, it can spread worldwide.

This matters a great deal to me and to millions of parents around the world, but it’s not about us. It’s about our children and the world we will leave them. This was no ordinary week in world events. What’s happened recently in Tunisia, in Yemen, and now in Egypt may mean that the way is paved for peace. Now is the time to talk to your kids about the world around them. I hope my daughters will each talk to the young people they teach in their classrooms, too. If each parent and each classroom teacher explains to kids that the way to peace can be non-violent and that the road to peace is open, maybe they’ll hope along with me that the world is going to be a better place. And, if we all believe that…. maybe it will transform our future.

What did you feel as you watched the news from Egypt this week? Do you agree that it’s news worth sharing with kids? Why?

Alexis writes: Watching the news since the protests began was a little scary. I don’t think a lot of people (including myself) were really well-informed about the reasons why the Egyptian people wanted change. I went online and read an article about what the people were asking for. I realized that what the people were asking for was very reasonable. They wanted to be able to have fair and free elections and they wanted to elect a leader that had sympathy for their plight. Several days later the subject of Egypt came up in conversation at work and one of my colleagues suggested that the reason the protests in Egypt were happening was because Al Qaeda had an interest in taking over the country. I was absolutely horrified that a person who should be educated would suggest something so unfounded.

I think a lot of times parents don’t want to discuss this stuff with their kids because they want to protect them from the fact that sometimes the world is a scary place. Be careful with this folks. There’s a difference between innocence and ignorance. You have a responsibility to your child to let them know being informed is important. Knowledge truly is power, give it to your children. Discussing things will give your kids intellectual curiosity and tolerance, both important life skills. What’s really great about this experience is that in school we talk about Martin Luther King but it’s hard for the kids to really relate to what it was like to be alive in his time. Now we have a real-life example of people taking control of their destiny and banding together to make change. It’s a great opportunity to be a real witness to history. What could be bad about that for your children?

Tamra Writes: I’m not gonna lie, I really didn’t have too much of a clue what was going on, besides what I had seen on Facebook. I haven’t turned on the news since I can’t remember when, so I had to do a quick catch up to find out the details of what was really going on. Now that I’m all caught up, I think I can respond to the blog (we’ll see about that).

I think what’s happening over there is actually pretty cool. I can’t imagine going through what those people have been going through, but I guess it wasn’t too long ago that this country was going through similar kinds of things – trying to change the laws so things are fair. I agree with Alexis about this one. I teach a unit on Black History during the month of February, and the kids really have a hard time understanding what was going on and realizing that it wasn’t that long ago that our country was experiencing these kinds of things. This would be a great opportunity to give the kids a real life example that is happening when they are alive. I hear it all the time in school, “can’t talk about that with the kids.” I agree that there are some things I censor, because I don’t know that it is my job to explain certain sensitive issues to 8 year olds, but parents can teach their kids about this kind of stuff and I agree that they have a responsibility to share this kind of news with their children. Besides, if parents don’t talk about it, their children could grow up thinking that it’s not important to be informed because they never heard their parents discussing news. Do we really need a generation of people who don’t care/know about what’s going on in the world? Could be pretty scary…


Ned Writes: Yes, this is important news as we may be seeing a remaking of the Middle East. Egypt, the largest country in the middle East with 80 million people, seems to be moving toward democracy and they did it peacefully. Of course when the military is on the side of the revolutionaries, then there was no force to stop the people. Egyptians want freedom, but they also want jobs and the ability to feed their families. I remember Tiananmen Square which started as a peaceful protest and ended in a massacre. We are a long way from peace and this new instability may bring more problems in an already complex situation. I think over time we are getting closer to a more civilized world, but we are a long way from peace on earth. So although this movement is inspiring and hopeful I am reminded of a favorite quote from Martin Luther King “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”


Shira writes: I admit that I limit my news intake to the 15 minutes of fluffy early morning news show that plays in the background while I put my make-up on, so my knowledge of the situation in Egypt was also limited. Sometimes even I think the news is too much to take, so I can imagine why people might think they are protecting their children from what is going on in the world. That being said, I do think it is absolutely necessary to be aware when something major is taking place, even if it’s not in our own backyards. I just had a discussion with my students on Friday about making changes in the world. We watched a movie about the role of youth in the Civil Rights Movement, and I think it was the first time they saw a large group of people close to their age making a difference.

When I taught in England, I was surprised how much my fifth graders knew about the rest of the world. They could actually locate Kenya on a map, and I worry that some American kids wouldn’t be able to tell me where Texas is. And I don’t think that is necessarily their fault. We adults are so worried about “protecting” kids that we forget to keep them informed. If we don’t give them a little information, we are going to end up with a world full of really ignorant adults.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | February 3, 2011

Is Being Judgmental Making You Sick? Yikes!

Everyone in our family is pretty positive overall. That’s good news, apparently, because according to the column I just read, positive people live longer and get sick less often. (The column went into some graphic detail about how they injected people with a cold virus and then measured their mucus production by gathering and weighing the tissues they used. In case you were wondering, positive people produce less mucus and were sick for a shorter duration. I think we’re in that low mucus group, thankfully. If nothing else, we save on buying tissues.)

Got me to thinking, though. What makes you positive or negative? And, what can you do to shift the balance to P from N? Turns out, much of it is determined by the things you say and the way you say them. For example, the column said, if you are critical or judgmental, you send out negative vibes and get those in return. If you meet people for the first time and they hear you judging others harshly, they get a negative vibe from you and that, in turn, sends negativity your way.

My girls and I may be guilty here. Does that make us less positive? We do, sometimes for sport, judge others harshly. We keep it quiet and among ourselves, though, so we don’t actually hurt anyone’s feelings. I’ve always thought that examining how others lived their lives and talking about it helped us to figure out how we could do better. When a friend’s kid exhibits a selfish behavior, for example, I’ll tell my girls about it and we’ll talk about how that kid is doing the wrong thing, hurting her parent, etc. and we process how we (who are totally perfect) would never behave that way. I thought this was productive. Now I see that maybe it just made us seem judgmental and negative.

Have I set a bad example here? Have I made my daughters seem negative to others with a judgmental leaning? Is it time for us to develop a new attitude and a more embracing-of-others philosophy?

Shira writes:

I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person, but honestly, I use a lot of tissues (allergies, you know). When I think of being positive, I think more about how I let the things around me affect me, rather than my own opinions of others. Despite numerous rejections from jobs, I’ve tried as hard as I could to keep a positive attitude about my job search, and it hasn’t always been easy. It seems that it paid off, because despite being 20 minutes late to the interview, I did actually get the latest job I interviewed for.

As for judging others, yeah, we do it a lot. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing. Being critical about the decisions others are making can help you make decisions for yourself. It might be a good idea to keep our opinions to ourselves more, but, let’s face it, that’s never going to happen.

Tamra Writes:

Just like Shira, when I read this, I immediately thought to myself, “I do use a lot of tissues.” Once I even had a discussion with someone about how some people are “tissue people” and some people are not. Somewhere along the line I changed from a “non-tissue person” to a “tissue person”, with my allergies and everything. Even with the abundance of tissues I do feel like I am a positive person. I don’t think there is anything wrong with poking fun at people you don’t know. They will never find out and it’s always good for a laugh. I’m not gonna lie, I love to judge. I’m not doing anything with my judgments, but I like having them around, and I think by looking at other people’s choices, whether it’s an unfortunate decision to wear tapered jeans, or the even more unfortunate choice to marry a guy you met online 2 weeks before, I think it helps me make the best decisions for myself. Is there any reason to not use other people’s mistakes so we don’t make the same ones ourselves? I don’t think so.  I feel that I am very positive. I always try to look on the bright side and work hard to do well. When other people at work complain, I try to make them laugh or show them the silver lining to their problems, which are usually ridiculous anyway. I think if you’re not letting your judgments make you become a negative Nancy, there is nothing wrong with keeping them around for another year. Besides, anyone who says they aren’t judgmental is probably lying.

Alexis Writes:

I’m confused about the tissues, but I don’t have allergies so maybe that’s why. I don’t think I’m a tissue person (that actually sounds kind of gross). I consider myself a work-in-progress person. I try to be positive but I am constantly frustrated by other people’s choices. I don’t really want to be influenced by what other people do but unfortunately the choices people make often affect me. If one of my co-workers tries lies about what they’re doing, they make my job harder. If someone says something that I find morally upsetting I don’t like to stand by and just absorb their ignorance. In this way the world can be a difficult place for me because I get very upset when I feel that I am being harmed, or see other people being mistreated. I understand that most people don’t let this stuff drown them so I try to ignore it when I am frustrated by other people’s choices. However, eventually what happens is I just get upset and explode later when it gets to the point that I can’t control it.

Because I know this about myself I am on a quest for inner peace. Most of the time this means exercising and lately it’s hot yoga. And, truth be told I’m even judging people during hot yoga. I look at who is wearing a cute outfit, who shouldn’t be wearing a crop top and most importantly who is better and who is worse than I am in my yoga class. This completely goes against the whole point of taking yoga but I have to tell you after about 10 minutes into the class I am so hot and sweaty and basically want to die that I am completely focused on myself. So that’s a victory because for a few moments I only worry about myself and I make no judgments about anyone (except whoever is teaching the class, because I basically want to kill them). The world is full of judgments. We are evaluated in our profession, we are evaluated in dating, and we are evaluated by other people judging if we are successful and happy. Judgment and judging is a part of life. The secret is not doing away with judgment, it’s how you deal with it that determines if you are a positive person.

Mom Writes: Okay, it sounds like a consensus. Judge on! Our optimism is safe within us and can co-exist alongside our judgments. If my goal was to raise positive people, I hope I succeeded. I do wonder, though, what other parents do to try to raise optimists. Or is it just inborn?

Posted by: Debby Carroll | January 20, 2011

We Made The New York Times!

Recently, Dr. Amy Chua‘s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” has become the center of a debate about parenting. Chua contends that raising her daughters by a strict set of rules (no sleepovers, no computer games, etc.) is rooted in her Chinese heritage and produces a more successful person. She tells of not accepting anything less than an “A” grade, of making her kids practice their instrument (violin or piano only) instead of “wasting time” playing imaginatively, of having them complete thousands of math problems in their free time whenever anyone else in math class got a higher grade, etc. She berated them, denied them bathroom privileges, threatened to burn their stuffed animals, and much more, all while contending it was action borne out of her love for them.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, a man with whom I never agree, responded in a column that Dr. Chua totally misses the point that kids learn a great deal, maybe their most important lessons, from the very thing that Dr. Chua eschews, that is social interaction. He says that negotiating the delicate balance of a sleepover, for example, teaches kids a great deal about how to find their way in the world. I concur. And, I wrote a letter to the NYT which is being published today (1/20) about how these parenting methods and debates come and go tirelessly. We’ll continue to debate them ad nauseam until the next “expert” comes along.

If I had to pick the animal mother that most described me, it wouldn’t be tiger mom. I wasn’t fierce, and I don’t think moms should be. I’d say I was more like Koala Bear Mom. Much more pouch mom than punch mom, anyway. I believe that good parents nurture first and then support our kids to success. We do shine a light on what we think matters and we should hold up our standards for them to achieve. But, all the while, accepting who they are and allowing their natural abilities and desires to mesh with our desires for them.

Baby koala, captured at Currumbin Wildlife San...

Image via Wikipedia

Maybe I was too easy on the girls academically, but I believe that while education is important, there’s more to life than straight As in school. A study out just this week shows that kids don’t actually learn all that much in college as they spend 4 hours a day on academics and 14 hours doing social things. Yet, many of them, my kids included, go out into the world successfully. My girls chose people professions, helping professions, (they all teach) and it’s likely they did so because they learned that those connections are what matter most in life.

Was I too lenient? I still don’t think so, but maybe I was just lucky that my girls turned out so well.

Alexis Writes:

I think this book shows how desperate people are for answers on the right way to raise their kids, but the thing is, parenting is an art, not a science. What ever happened to simply teaching kids to treat others the way you want to be treated? I am sure this mother loves her children, but if she was so confident in her upbringing abilities why did she have to write a book defending her methods and insisting it was all out of love? She sounds completely psycho. I’m curious to know exactly what she’s a doctor of but whatever it is, I don’t think I’d go to her for any consultation.

From my experience in the classroom, kids really learn the most from playing with each other. They establish rules for games and decide what’s fair. They learn to work through and anticipate differences and how to handle them. Problem solving and social interaction are skills involved in every job and life experience. If we don’t give children the gift of teaching them how to handle those social situations now, we are putting them at a major disadvantage. We all know that regardless of your stats on paper, if you can relate to people it always gives you the edge in life.

By the way Koala Bear Mom…I’m not saying you were the strictest with academics, but are you forgetting when you insisted on tutoring me for the verbal SAT section? Or what about when you made me write every single paper for my English classes with you? I wouldn’t exactly say those were nurturing experiences, but I will admit you never told me I couldn’t go to the bathroom and you never set fire to Monk.

Tamra Writes:

“Tiger Mom” sounds more like “Asylum Mom”. I think Alexis is right. I do believe that parents are either looking for the “right” way to parent or aren’t looking for any way at all. Just like in teaching where all kids should be taught differently, different kids should be parented accordingly. Some children need a lot of structure or they will take advantage, and others will be much more successful when left to their own devices. I think it’s all about knowing your kids, and making mistakes, and then learning from those mistakes. And, like Alexis, I’m certainly not booking my next appointment with this Dr. Mom. God forbid you don’t follow her strict regimen and she’ll put a burning stake in your eyeball. Also, any doctor would know it is certainly not good for any of your systems to deny the use of the bathroom…

Kids need to interact socially. A lot of the problems we have now are due to the fact that kids and young adults don’t know how to communicate with people appropriately and they think they are entitled to things just because they exist. Socializing teaches children how to compromise, share, listen, imagine, and create things. There are too many kids that are focused on earning that A, but they could care less what they are actually learning. If that’s what this mother wants, that’s her problem.

I’d say Mom was definitely not Tiger Mom, but Koala Bear is a little too docile a description. I’ve definitely heard you speak with customer service people after being on hold for over an hour, and you did make that salesgirl at Neiman Marcus cry that one time…I don’t know any koalas that would make someone cry over a 99 dollar Nicole Miller dress…

I don’t really want to read her book, but I’m dying to read the book her children write: “How I Ended Up In Therapy,” or “Don’t Look in the Eye of the Tiger-she might burn you,” or even “Living With a Tiger Mom: Memoirs of Life in the Wild.”

Shira writes:

I agree with all of the above, mostly. This mother does sound a little bit psycho and I truly believe that putting this kind of pressure on children has a high risk of having the opposite effect. Forcing children to do something they don’t want to do, or telling them that perfection is the only way to succeed, can lead to some pretty messed up adults, and some really angry (though often fantastic) rock music.

I think everyone is right, that there is no one way to raise every child. Even within the same family, you can’t always use the same methods with one child that work with another. I deal with so many parents that expect their younger children to live up their genius older siblings’ successes and it just might not be possible. I’m all about high expectations, but they have to be reasonable. Yes, it would be nice to get As all the time, but in the grand scheme of life, who really cares what grade you got on your report card in Reading in fourth grade? No one.

As for the koala, first of all, koalas are actually really nasty animals. But since I think you were going for the warm fuzziness of a koala, I’m not sure I’m in total agreement there. It’s true that there was not a lot of pressure on us academically, but it doesn’t mean there was (or still is) no pressure about anything. For the sake of keeping the peace, I won’t go into more detail about that (cough online dating cough).

Ned writes:

I can’t believe Debby actually is getting her letter to the NYT published. You should be really proud of yourself! Nobody hit Debby with a big stick. And thanks to my good friend and neighbor, Shimon, who emailed the David Brooks article to me and said we should blog about it. That Amy Chua is making me look like the Prince of Parents. And my kids say they’re a little scared of me.

Yeah, I was all about the trophies for every kid who participated in the soccer league but really thrilled when my kids got a solo in the school play or scored a goal in lacrosse. I want the girls to have lots of success (who wouldn’t?) but I trust that with some common-sense guidance they will find their way. There are some really good life lessons to learn from losing and not being the best. I spared the rod but yelled sometimes and punished even less. Our girls were encouraged to do their best and the rest would take care of itself. I’m really happy with my work. Read our book “A Koala and a Labrador Retriever Raise Three Ducklings.”

Posted by: Debby Carroll | January 18, 2011

Just Wrong!

Yesterday I was driving along, minding my own business, listening to the radio when a Jake Shimabukuro recording of “Mrs. Robinson” came on. Let me start by saying that he is talented and can do fantastic things with a ukulele so nothing I’m about to say is a judgment of his considerable musical skills. But, folks, some things shouldn’t be, and this is one of them. I once heard Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkle, the duo famous for “Mrs. Robinson”) say that his idea of hell was hearing any of his music turned in Muzak and then being trapped on an elevator listening to it. Or maybe it was a Saturday Night Live routine with him. Either way, I agree.

My friend Michele and I have an expression we use often — “Some things are just wrong.” We reserve it for the things that are truly wrong with the world. Or, in other words, the things that annoy us. So, yesterday’s musical misadventure led me to today’s list of things that are “just wrong.” These are in no particular order. Nor do they fit into any one category other than, “just wrong.”

1. Any recording of Simon and Garfunkle music that doesn’t include the lyrics. The poetry is the reason for the music, after all. And, lest you think I only savor the music recorded before 1970, I feel the same about any recording of Pearl Jam music that doesn’t include the hypnotic voice of Eddie Vedder. I may be old, but not too old to love Vedder.

2. The wearing of socks with sandals. This can be compounded by the unholy “S” trio — socks, sandals and shorts. If you must wear socks with shorts, do us all a favor and put on some shoes. There’s only so much we should be forced to look at.

3. The use of the word “it’s” to mean anything other than “it is.” Really, how hard is that concept to remember? On this same “just wrong” note, I could include the misuse of apostrophes in signs such as in, “Many coffee’s on sale now.” Why not just add the “s”? Why do you even think an apostrophe goes there?

4. Charging for bread in a restaurant. Raise each price of a meal 25 cents if you must, but extend me the courtesy of not charging for bread. It makes me feel unwelcome in your establishment.

5. Sixteen-year-old kids who drive (and own) nicer cars than… well… than I do. And, it’s not that I care about cars very much. It’s just… well, it should be obvious what’s wrong with that.

What’s “just wrong” in your world?

Tamra Writes: How many are we allowed to do???

1. Bringing little kids to movies after 9 PM. They don’t belong there. It’s too late and they can’t sit still. I don’t need to watch 40-Year-Old VIrgin with a 6-year-old.

2. Posting really personal, private, and intimate things on Facebook. Does everybody need to know that you lost your job, your mom died, and you just sat on the toilet for 3 hours after eating bad Chinese food? I don’t think so. If I die, please don’t put me on your Facebook status, it’s just wrong.

3. 12-year-olds wearing nicer clothes, shoes, or bags than I. If you’re 12, do you really need a Prada bag and a Juicy sweatshirt? You’re 12, you’re going to look awkward with or without a 500 dollar accessory.

4. When people say “supposively.” It’s not a word. It never will be.

5. Bad tippers. Unless your waiter or waitress is completely rude and horrible, there is no reason to not leave 20%. What is the difference to you between leaving 10 dollars or leaving 8 dollars? I can’t stand it. If you aren’t willing to leave an acceptable tip, don’t go out to eat and get your own napkins and refills.

I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t.

Shira writes:

1. Pronouncing espresso, “expresso.” Umm, there’s no X and I actually think it’s harder to say it that way.

2. Bridalplasty.

3. Text message chain letters. You’re the one that is going to have 10 years of bad luck if you send me any more of those.

4. When a 10-year-old said to me last week “Miss C, did you see the new Jersey Shore last night?” Not only is that show entirely inappropriate for pretty much anyone to be watching, but it’s on past my bedtime, which means, no 10-year-old should be up watching it either.

5. Posting sonograms and ultrasound pictures on Facebook. Do I have to see the inside of your uterus?


Ned writes:

1. People who call and don’t leave a message. I probably don’t want to talk to you anyway.

2. Drivers who don’t move forward when making a left (I don’t mean the other left). I’d like to make the turn too.

3. People who want to be Facebook friends. If you want to be friends, invite me over for dinner. Sorry, I’m busy that night.

4. People at the gym who don’t wipe off the equipment. That’s gross.

5. Reality TV. It’s not reality. It’s just TV.

Enough! Now I’m starting to get annoyed!


Alexis Writes:

1. People who bring in anyone under the age of 18 to a nail salon. That’s lady time– not Gymboree time.

2. The use of the word “yuz.” It’s also not a word and no matter who it is they always sound creepy when they say it.

3. Being rude in any way. No matter who you are, you still have no right to be rude to anyone.

4. Putting someone down. Get over yourself.

5. Asking for money so you can go on a trip for your own “self discovery.” Just because I want to go to Italy doesn’t mean I have the right to ask you to pay for it.

6. Getting completely naked in the gym changing area. I realize it’s a locker room, but really?

7. Saying Reality TV is wrong. Don’t judge me because I like it. It makes me feel better about my reality.


But, maybe it’s wrong to say what’s wrong. Who are we to judge?

Posted by: Debby Carroll | January 12, 2011

Cookies Are Good. Sometimes They’re Great.

I just baked the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. They are cookie heaven. They are thick and crisp on the outside yet chewy on the inside. I used an App on Ned’s iPad called Cookulus. It comes with a basic cookie recipe. Then, you slide the bars to pinpoint the exact cookie type you want, thick or thin, crispy or chewy, crumbly or soft and as you slide the bars, the recipe changes right before your eyes. Amounts and/or ingredients are adjusted, baking temperature and time may change, etc. I can’t do the math or even understand the math behind its clever little algorithms. But, I know a good cookie when I taste one and these are fantastic.

I’ve long believed that cooking and baking with kids is one of the all-time best parent/child activities. I even cooked with kids when I was a classroom teacher because I think there’s so much kids learn from that. It’s language arts, it’s math, it’s even chemistry. As a parent there’s a bonus, too. Not only can you help your kids learn (they read the recipe, they measure the amounts, they witness chemical reactions, etc.) but you can impact their eating habits, too. Lately, with 67% of Americans overweight, I’ve been thinking a lot about a parent’s responsibility to teach kids how and what to eat.

Which brings me to my Cookulus-perfect confection. (I downloaded the app from iTunes, by the way). Yes, it’s a cookie. No, it’s not a health food, and yes, I think it’s okay for kids to eat them.Full disclosure, I did use whole wheat flour instead of just white so that there is some whole grain/fiber in the cookie. But, I don’t think it’s a good idea to teach kids that treats are forbidden. I think it makes more sense to make treats together that kids are allowed to eat, that way at least you know what’s in them and then you can teach kids that the key is moderation.

When I used to pack my kids’ lunches, there would be a sandwich (whole grain bread), a fruit and vegetable pack (which I packed each night as I made dinner and was cutting fruits and vegetables for dinner, I’d put extras in ziplock bags for lunch) and a home-made cookie. Just one. They might have another small treat after dinner but that was about it for snack foods. I didn’t encourage gorging on sweets but I didn’t think it made sense to label them as “bad” foods. Of course, it wasn’t all as lovely as it sounds. My girls did ask often why our cookies were home-made while other kids had store-bought ones. And, no, they didn’t mean that as a compliment to the chef, either!

My daughters (the teachers) tell me that some of the snack and lunch foods that their students bring to school are really quite horrifying. Cupcakes galore, tons of candy and empty-calorie chips, sodas and all kinds of nutrient-free food. We’ve also talked about how some kids who could use a healthier diet (lower sugar and/or gluten-free foods for those kids whose parents see a connection between food and behavior and/or focus) have a hard time when they compare their foods to the foods of the kids around them.

That made me wonder whether my daughters ate those healthy lunches I spent years packing. And, do they think those years of balanced lunches impacted the way they eat today? So, girls, what do you think? And, moms, what are you packing in your kids’ lunches? Or, if they buy lunch at school, do you talk to them about what they eat? I think it’s true that you are what you eat. And, sometimes, it’s okay if it’s a cookie, but only in the scope of a whole balanced life. (And, if I’m going to eat a cookie, it’s great if it’s exactly the way I like it!)

Ned Writes: I just tasted the cookies Debby made using our Cookulus App. I think Debby chose to make them soft, chewy, and thick using the sliders. They were delicious. I had two, but the night is young.

Alexis Writes: The way Mom packed my lunch definitely influences what I pack now. I usually include a sandwich, veggies and fruit but I have to have dessert. I need something to look forward to. Treats are a part of life, and it’s important to teach your kids to eat balanced meals. I think when you completely deprive your children you’re doing them a disservice by not teaching them a way to handle foods that aren’t as nutritious. I’ve asked the parents of my students to specifically label their child’s snack in a bag because I can’t act as the food police for their child. There are many times where I raise an eyebrow about what someone is eating, but if a parent deems it okay for their child who am I to judge?

I know there are times when the kids try to trade snacks, which I discourage (too many problems and someone always confuses a “trade” with “taking” something). But I know there were times as a kid that I tried to trade one of my friends for her Jello pudding (at the time it seemed like nectar of the gods). I think it’s part of life that kids are curious about food.

So if I want to use Cookulus do I need an iPad? Because I definitely think I could talk John into buying one.

Mom Writes: I just checked the Cookulus


website ( and it says that right now it’s an iPad app but other operating systems (and other tweakable recipes — brownies, chili, other cookies) are coming soon. I like this because even though I make a lot of substitutions in my cooking (as my family knows well  from the now-famous spinach brownie debacle which has become family lore), I don’t know the exact ways to change the recipe so that the flavor is still good. This is the first program I’ve seen which lets me choose the final product and then tells me how to get there. As to talking John into buying an iPad, I think you could. Now whether you should… .that’s a whole other question. And, a newly married couple learning how to manage money, that’s a whole other blog post.

Tamra Writes: I love cookies. And I definitely love them if someone else is baking them exactly how I like them. I do like my cookies in a specific way, I like them chewy and chocolatey, and again, I like them when someone else is making them for me. There is nothing wrong with having a cookie for a snack. I don’t give the parents any instructions about snacks to bring in, because it is opening up a can of worms about me telling them how to parent, and really, it isn’t my business. Do I think an 8-year-old needs to eat a bag of Doritos at 9 in the morning?  Not really, but that’s not for me to say. I think the more we deprive ourselves, we end up teaching ourselves, and kids, that treats are NEVER okay, which is totally not true. It is important to incorporate treats into your eating plan to show yourself, and children if you have them, that it is okay as long as you are not overdoing it. I’ve been known to house many a cookie, and don’t get me started on my candy addiction (I can’t buy Halloween candy early or it won’t make it for the trick or treaters).

I am not a great cook. I don’t like spending the time doing it when I have worked a long day, but occasionally I have to eat something. I often struggle with knowing what I like to eat and taste, but not being sure how to create those tastes. If someone wanted to buy me an iPad, I probably still wouldn’t cook, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | January 4, 2011

Should You Teach Your Daughter That Clothes Matter?

On New Year’s Eve, one of my friends complimented my outfit and said, “Velvet and feathers really says New Year’s Eve like nothing else.” I totally agree and even more, I thought about how what you wear can not only reflect your mood but maybe even create it. They say that people who feel good actually do all sorts of good things like stay healthier, lose weight more easily, sleep better etc. I say that sometimes your clothes can make you feel better than you otherwise would. When you’re wearing velvet and feathers you are essentially making a statement that you are out for fun. Serious or depressing need not apply to a velvet and feathers evening. It doesn’t matter if you’re going out somewhere fabulous. In fact. we stayed home for New Year’s Eve and had just 7 friends join us. So, even a small and intimate event can be the background for an over the top outfit for no other reason than it just feels uplifting.

And, it doesn’t have to be new or expensive. My frolic-inducing outfit is many years old (and was a present from my lovely husband, who, while often is not a dapper dresser himself, has amazing taste in clothes for me) and if you know me, you’ve seen me sporting it before. None of that matters. What matters is how I feel when I wear it.

In terms of New Year’s resolutions, I’m not making any this year. But, I will try to consider how what I put on may determine my mood and, hopefully, that will mean more days of fun, fewer days of… well… not enough fun.

Do you think that what you wear matters and may even determine how you feel? I think this is an interesting topic to talk about with your kids. If they pick out their own clothes (and they should), are there outfits that just make them feel better? Food, or rather, fashion for thought, anyway.

Alexis Writes: Your fashion always makes a statement. I love clothes. Getting excited to wear an outfit you’ve just picked out can make your whole day. I know everyone always feels good wearing something they like. I’ve had a person comment to me that with my outfits “There’s always something a little bit different.” I try to do something stylish but not exactly what everyone else is wearing. I remember when I was in 6th grade my boyfriend (of all of 4 days) broke up with me and I was pretty devastated. My Mom’s advice– Get dressed in your cutest outfit and don’t show him how hurt you are. I never forgot that and sometimes when I need a little motivation I try to muster up the same courage and choose something that makes me feel confident. It doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money (although if you love it and don’t spend yourself into debt, it’s ok) but teaching kids that finding clothes that make them feel good is a great idea. It’s a good way to work on self-esteem and having fun. While you’re at it, make sure you take the opportunity to let your kids know that making negative judgements about people based on their clothes is way against the code of fashion. As long as someone isn’t hurting anyone, everyone should be able to wear what they want.

Mom Writes: While I don’t remember that 6th grade idiot boy (cause only an idiot would dump you), I’m sure he’d kick himself if he saw you or knew you now.

Shira Writes: I definitely think clothes can make the woman. When I have an event coming up, even something small, I always plan my outfit first. Something as simple as a fabulous pair of shoes can change my mood from blue to hot pink with polka dots. I always try to throw together something a little out of the ordinary. I know that not everyone would always agree with my sense of style. Tamra once spent half an hour in store convincing me not to buy a mini hat that perched on the side of my head. (I didn’t buy it, but I wish I had). I love that I can use my clothes to express who I am. I can show off that I am not concerned about what other people think and I just like to do what makes me happy. Even if that means wearing a mini-hat perched on my head.

A "Prom"inent Hat! Fabulous!


Mom Writes: No one wears a hat like you do. Remember your senior prom? Who else could have carried off that huge chapeau and look so fabulous in it?



Tamra Writes: I love clothes. I love shoes. I love buying them and I love wearing them. Everyone knows that I will make any excuse to buy something online. Going out for the weekend? Obviously I have to buy a new outfit for the occasion, even if it isn’t really an occasion. I have always loved fun clothes. From party dresses and way too many necklaces when I was little, to feathers and fur (faux), and even now, I never hesitate to treat myself to something I will enjoy wearing. I work hard and I deserve to spend the money on things that I will enjoy. Wearing a cute outfit that I know I look good in gives me something to look forward to and lets me have a good time when I’m out and about. Sure, I may have a small online shopping addiction, (I have 2 windows open right now with full shopping carts), but I could be addicted to worse, and I never buy anything I don’t actually have the money for. Once I had a whole 3-month relationship where I bought a new outfit every weekend. I am not exaggerating, literally every time I saw this person, I was wearing something new. We had to break up, because I would have had to declare bankruptcy, well that, and I got dumped. And guess what, getting dumped is just another reason to buy a new outfit!!! So it all works out in the end. Anyhoo…I say, wear what you like if it makes you smile and kick up your heels and say to yourself, “I’m ready to have a good time.” There is nothing worse than seeing someone out in an adorable outfit, with the biggest sour face in the world on. They don’t deserve that kind of fashion!!

And Shira, that hat was offensive. It didn’t look good on Sarah Jessica in Sex and the City, and it didn’t look good on you. You were hurting society by purchasing that. Believe me, I saved you 10 dollars.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | December 6, 2010

We’re the featured Bloggers today!

Please look at under “What’s Hot” and you’ll see us as today’s featured writers. Leave a comment so we’ll know you were there! Thanks!

Posted by: Debby Carroll | November 30, 2010

Do Your Daughters Feel Pretty? Do You?

Sesame Street has produced a new song for kids designed to teach black girls to “love their hair.” Called, “I Really Love My Hair,” it’s totally adorable. When it was posted online, that prompted a whole lot of people to view it and react. Lots of discussion about race and hair and how some black women torture themselves and spend a fortune so that they can love their hair.

While I understand all of that, I don’t think it’s solely a race issue. How many women do you know who love their hair in its natural state? Or, for that matter, how many of us love all the parts of ourselves in their natural states?

Of course we want to raise girls who love themselves and feel great about their appearance. How many of us succeed? I feel pretty good about myself and overall, I like to believe that I set a good example for my daughters, but, alas, not perfect. I have announced many times that I dislike my wrinkled neck and if I had life to live over, I’d wear sunscreen at a much earlier age. (Yes, I’m aware that in the scope of life’s regrets, if that’s my only one, I’ve done pretty well. Sadly, it’s not my only regret. It’s just the only one that is relevant to this post.) And, Shira once remarked that she’s surprised that I color my hair because she thought I’d be a woman who’d want to age gracefully. Gracefully! Moi? No, I’m going kicking and screaming… oh and dyeing my hair.

Having said all that, I do work at loving myself the way I am. When I run a few miles, I am grateful for the body that got me through it, despite that body carrying more pounds than I’d like. (Especially lately.) But, can’t I love myself and want to change some things about me? Is there a way to teach daughters that loving yourself is not mutually exclusive to working to better the parts you don’t love?

How can moms set examples that move our girls forward with security but still enable us to be honest with them about our flaws? Carroll girls, how do you feel about you? How did you get that way?





Alexis Writes:

I’m not going to pretend that I always liked the way I looked. I had a lot of body issues growing up and it messed with me emotionally. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that those same issues don’t creep up now and then. As a result, I know I am not often in tune with how I look whether it’s positive or negative. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that there are many beauty luxuries that I enjoy that also make me feel good about myself.

I get my hair cut and highlighted every eight weeks and in recent years I started getting manicures. My sisters don’t enjoy these luxuries nearly as much as I do and I think they think it’s a little ridiculous to spend the money I do on my appearance. But I love the way my hair looks and having my nails done makes me feel clean. I think of it this way–I work really hard to have the body that I do. I exercise, eat right, and take needed medication that sometimes makes me sick. I like the way that my body looks now, and I feel like I deserve to have those other things that “highlight” my appearance. Maybe that’s shallow and as my mother would say “Just when I think you’re shallow, you let a little more water out of the pool.” But I think that when I was younger I didn’t want to do things to call attention to myself because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be looked at. Now, I don’t care what people think of me  because I like the way I look whether it comes out of a bottle or not.

Beauty is about choice and confidence. Help your daughters see themselves the way you do. My mother was always my beauty advocate growing up. She taught me to have confidence in myself and how to take control of it in a healthy way when I got frustrated. My mother taught me about health and food, she taught me how sometimes our insecurities with our physical selves are often more about dealing with our emotional selves and in the traditional of do as I say not as I did I have always used sunscreen (never tanning oil).





Shira writes:

I’ve never really liked my hair. It’s very thin and when it’s natural, it’s a pretty dull mousy-ish brown. I use shampoo that claims to add volume and I DIY hair dye every couple of months. If I keep changing it up, I feel like people might not notice how boring it really is.

When I was younger, I was painfully shy, and it probably had a lot to do with how I felt about what I looked like. My mother always made a point to tell me that there was nothing not to like about me. It took a long time for me to believe her, but I think I’ve grown into a relatively confident adult. Yes, I rarely leave the house without make up and tend to put a lot of thought into the outfits I wear every day, because it makes me feel good. Although I sometimes need to be reminded that my difficulty finding a job is not a reflection on me personally, I think for the most part I feel pretty good about myself. I try to do things to make me feel good, and not worry so much about what the people around me think. Honestly, I think I’m pretty darn cute.





Tamra writes:

I like the way I look. Of course, there are times when I think I don’t look good in anything I own, or when I get one of Shira’s zit’s cousin’s, that’s always annoying, but for the most part, I feel pretty good about what I look like. I like to buy jeans that I think look nice, and pretty shoes and jewelry. I didn’t always like the way I looked. When I was younger, I hated being little. I mean I wasn’t just little like a child, but really small. I hated it. I felt tiny and it made me uncomfortable. Eventually, my smallness was something Mom and I could bond on, and it also got me out of putting away the dishes since they were too high.

I think it is important for girls (or anyone) to be able to see the positives in the way they look (or the positives in anything). Sure, your hair may not look that great, but then you get to go spend an afternoon at the beauty salon. You’re not always going to like everything about yourself, and that’s okay. Just like mom says, there is nothing wrong with wanting to change things about yourself as long as it is in a healthy way. Also, I don’t see a problem with wanting to improve yourself, again, as long as it is in a healthy way. I also use sunscreen and think I’m pretty darn cute as well – if I don’t think it, who will??





Mom writes: I leave it to the readers to decide. Check out the photo at the top of this blog. Do these girls have anything to feel inferior about? Seriously, though, the goal is to empower all of our daughters to feel beautiful. I think talking about how we look and feel openly is a good first step. Begin the dialogue and don’t let up until your girls see that how they feel inside reflects outside. And, it’s okay to pamper yourself once in a while. (or all the time!) Doing things to make yourself feel better doesn’t mean you feel badly about yourself. It may just mean you feel good enough about yourself to take good care of you.

Dad writes:

Hey it’s not just about daughters or women. Guys like to look good as well. They can get away with a lot less than women and now even the unshaved look is cool. But I think guys have trouble dealing with their looks too, albeit not as much difficulty as girls, perhaps. When I was young, I was skinny as a rail, had jagged teeth which are not much better today, and my face got too small for my nose. Not a very pretty picture. But I learned to accept how I look as I moved into my late teens, since there was not much I could do about it. A smile, a good sense of humor, and a pleasant disposition can go a long way to improving your looks. Now that I’m sixty that skinny body is looking pretty good, and combined with a full head of distinguished gray hair, I’m finally out of that awkward stage.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | October 25, 2010

Should You Make Your Kids Read?

While we were on the beach recently, our idyllic moments were interrupted by a particularly unhappy child. Okay, let’s tell the truth, she was a whiny and annoying child. She and her brother, perhaps ages 7 and 9 or so, were sitting behind us while Mom and Dad had pulled their chairs down to the water, far, far away from the kids. Couldn’t say that I blamed them, hey, this is supposed to be vacation and these kids were probably on their last nerve if the whining and arguing of today was any sample of what was going on all week.

“Mommy, Mommy, Todd is kicking sand on my blanket.” “Mommy, Moooommmmm, Todd got sand on my towel.” “MOOOMMMMM!!! Todd got water on my chair.” It went on, got louder with each complaint, and eventually began to drown out that lovely sound the ocean makes that is normally so calming and soothing.

Needless to say, we needed this to stop. Apparently, so did the mom, who finally, called out, “IT’S MANDATORY READING TIME!” Todd was none too happy about this, “Are you kidding?” “No,” Mom answered. “Do I have to?” “Yes,” mom replied.

And, here’s the part I couldn’t believe. He took out a book and started reading. The little girl ran down to Mom and had some private words and stayed there for a while. I don’t know if she read or not.

My girls and I looked at each other and we wondered, “Is this okay?” Should there be “mandatory reading time” on the beach? Or ever? I’m not sure I like the sound of it, “mandatory reading time.” It sounds… so, well, regimented. But, I’m all for parents encouraging kids to read, so I’m conflicted.

Our three girls all learned to read in their own time without mandatory anything. Alexis didn’t learn until the summer after first grade, but from the moment she did, she’s loved it passionately. Shira learned a bit earlier and also loved it. Tamra learned to read at the beginning of first grade, but didn’t learn to love it until several years later. Throughout her childhood, she loved listening to stories, but she would rarely take out a book and read for fun. I was disappointed that she didn’t devour books like the rest of us, but figured that as long as she was capable of reading, the choice was hers to make. Eventually, almost into adulthood, she developed a love of reading so I guess I never had to worry.

Overall, though, while I appreciate that mom’s desire to help her kids learn to read, I think beach time shouldn’t involve mandatory anything. Maybe that’s what bothered me. What do you think?

Alexis Writes:

A not so wise man once quoted the band My Morning Jacket and said “BAD IDEA!!!!” Reading should never be mandatory, way to ruin something that should always be done for enjoyment. Trends in reading instruction now all point to the theory that if there is one way to get kids to NOT be interested in reading it’s to make them do it. Kids should be motivated to read, either to learn or enjoy a story. That mom got it wrong, folks. The beach is for fun in the sun, and if your fun involves reading, then great, but for most kids it’s playing in the sand, swimming in the ocean, building sand castles, and flying kites.

Tamra Writes:

Totally bad idea. I think it’s fine to have some reading time set aside for your kids, but it shouldn’t be “mandatory reading time.” Perhaps the kids could pick a time they would like to read each day, or a few times a week. First you’ll have mandatory reading time, and next thing you know, you’re having your children sign out to go to the bathroom. At some point, parents need to realize that not every minute of every day needs to be regimented and scheduled.

It really sounds like mom needed “mandatory stop bothering me time,” which is totally different.

Shira writes:

I think that  mother went the most wrong by calling it “mandatory reading time.” That just sounds like a punishment. Every teaching professor I had in college repeated over and over never to give work as a punishment. Reading to your kids or taking the time to find books about things that they are actually interested in is the best way to get them excited about reading. Yes, it will take more time and effort, but if you aren’t willing to put in the time, you probably shouldn’t have had kids.

“Mandatory stop bothering me” time, on the other hand, is absolutely allowed. Get your kids some sand toys and leave them alone.


Our mandatory beach time looks like this!


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