The agony and anxiety of parenting decisions: To redshirt or not?

its-also-about-supporting-her-because-no-matter-what-we-are-in-her-cornerIn my day-to-day interactions with colleagues, I feel confident. I don’t know everything, but I do know a thing or 2 about communications and I have assurance in my ability to make decisions and manage projects to completion.
So why is it that I often agonize over decisions about parenting? I second guess myself all the time, and internally (and externally) analyze the pros and cons of every big decision.

This is exactly what happened after a recent email from my daughter’s preschool. The topic? Kindergarten readiness.

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Let me be clear, I’m not the type of mom who will blindly disagree with every bit of feedback about my children. And my 5-year-old daughter does, at times, behave “young” for her age. If I’m being introspective, a lot of that is probably my fault – I consciously wanted her to relish the carefree days before she started school. I’ve maybe done too much for her at times.

So I knew when this email came that it would not be positive feedback about my daughter’s kindergarten readiness. That was confirmed by a brief and frank conversation with the center director who listed a few issues, mostly around temper tantrums and transitions. Also, my girl has never been a fan of circle time, and sitting still for that specific activity has not been her strong suit. There is no disagreement that academically, she is ready for school in the fall. With a birthday in December, she’s old enough too.
16178608_10210166897721686_3764109366547061810_oSo we set a meeting coming up to discuss these issues. I agonized over this meeting for a solid 8 days.

I endlessly discussed it with my partner in life and crime, Dave. After almost 10 years of marriage, he is well versed in my anxieties and sensitivities. He also knows that I have to get it out of my system – if I don’t get it out by talking, it usually comes out anyway, in the worst ways (night terrors, which I still suffer from in adulthood, often pop up during these stressful moments).

I sought advice from other moms, a friend who is a kindergarten teacher and my best girlfriends who don’t have kids. I pored over countless Internet articles about “redshirting” and its benefits and drawbacks. Everyone (and the reputable Internet sources) had good advice. The general consensus? It will work out. And the fact that I’m so worried about it now (when kindergarten is not until next fall) is probably a good thing.

For the most part, the research says that kids who are a bit behind (either in maturity, academic ability, or both) catch up to their peers by 1st grade. And my teacher friend assured me that catching up in terms of maturity is often easier than catching up academically.

So why agonize over this decision? Why write this post? That’s a complicated question to answer, but if I’m being really honest, it hurts me to think that my child is not 100% “up to snuff.” I have always loved that she is a “square peg,” but I know that being extraordinary can sometimes make life challenging. I don’t want her to struggle, or to feel “less than.”

My decision? Redshirting is off the table. I can understand and respect others who choose differently for their child, but I have decided that holding her back will not help her progress. I don’t like the idea of her being a 19 ½ year old senior in high school. I believe she will benefit from being surrounded by peers close to her own age.
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This blog post is the final stage in my around the clock internal debate. I’m ready to let this one go, and I’m going into the meeting in a good place. I appreciate the feedback and any strategies the teachers might offer.

Dave and I know we will have to do our part to help her mature and do more things for herself between now and late August.

Coat zipping is our current project. Have you ever watched a kid try (but not really try) to zip a coat for 5 minutes when you need to be at work promptly at 8 a.m.? Let me tell you, that’s an exercise in letting go.

It’s also about supporting her, because no matter what, we are in her corner. And that means that when she gives her best effort, we eventually do zip that coat and tell her to try harder next time because we know she can, and will, do it.

Wasteland memories: H.G. Lewis

I had the pleasure of meeting H. G. Lewis in 2010.

H.G. Lewis died today.

I remember meeting the legendary “Godfather of Gore” in 2010 at Cinema Wasteland. I watched his newest flick “The Uh-Oh Show” and he did a Q&A with the audience. He was warm and funny, and he exuded a love of film-making.

Afterward, we stopped by his table and talked about his movies, and his work outside of the gore business — he also had a career in marketing, and even wrote a textbook on the subject.

What strikes me about this experience, upon hearing of his passing, is that it’s in no way unique for a Cinema Wasteland show. A small, intimate gathering,  Wasteland has a family-feel (not to be mistaken with family-friendly). It hosts a treasure-trove of the best, most unique guests representing the good old days of horror — when drive-ins were plentiful, 42nd Street was grindhouse and practical effects were the only effects.

No long lines and reasonable autograph fees allow fans to meet and make memories with guests like H.G. Lewis.

As we prepare for another Wasteland weekend, I’m looking forward to meeting the cast of “The Evil Dead” (for the second time, actually), as well as Sharon Farrell and Carmine Capobianco. We can only attend on Saturday (parenting duty calls), but here’s a preview of our schedule.

Want to see live tweets from the show? Follow me @andrearogers on Twitter.

3 p.m. Guest event: The cast and crew discus 35 years of “The Evil Dead” after the movie screening.

4:15 p.m. Classic TV on film: “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Final Performance,” with guest Sharon Farrell.

5:30 p.m. Guest event: Sharon Farrell meets with fans to discuss her long career in film and television.

7:30 p.m. Guest event: Carmine Capobianco shares stories from his fun films released in the video days of the 1980s.

8:45pmMovie: “Psychos in Love,” Carmine Capobianco’s most well known and loved film.

Home of the strange

Note: This post is a re-blog that I wrote for my friends over at The Smart Domestic. I was asked to ruminate on the question: “What makes home feel like home?”

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“Oh, give me a home
Where the boogie men roam
Where the ghosts and the green goblins play”
-Song lyrics to “Home of the Strange” from the book “Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters”

Halloween is, hands down, the biggest holiday of the year for my family. It completely takes over the months of September and October, and is celebrated in spirit year round.

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We transform our yard into a cemetery in late September, with tombstones bearing the names of ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. My husband, Dave, and I have one that says “Happily Wed and Newly Dead.” We usually have multiple costume changes and every weekend is taken up with some sort of Halloween activity – from family fare like hay rides and pumpkin carving to grown-up stuff like horror conventions, metal fests and masquerade balls.

You see, we’re a creepy family. Dave and I are huge horror genre fans, and through that glorious process of osmosis/parenting/indoctrination (whatever you want to call it) our kids have come to love and appreciate the things we love.

My 4-year-old daughter, Wilhelmina, is the most knowledgeable toddler Godzilla enthusiast on the planet. And yes, her namesake is the lovely Wilhelmina Murray from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” She can name all the Toho monsters – and a good deal of those from the Gamera universe as well.

My 2-year-old son, Corbett, is probably the only little guy in his day care class who asks to watch the 1987 cult classic “Garbage Pail Kids.” He just calls it “Kids.”

Of course, they were introduced to all of these things, and more, by me and Dave. But I like to think weirdness is in their genes.

There are a million quotes out there about how the worst thing you can be is boring. I won’t dig up any of those, but I always believed this to be generally true. I never really tried too hard to fit in, and when I did I usually failed. So at some point, I just decided to be me. And I tried to fill my life with people who were strange and interesting.

If I could, I would wipe out “small talk” completely. It’s so dull. At home, we don’t really ever do “small talk.” I get to talk about things I love with people I love. And never have I been more at home being me, than I am at home with Dave, Wilhelmina and Corbett.

After dinner we can run around the house pretending to be vampire bats, then grab some popcorn and watch “Hotel Transylvania 2.” We can read comics as bedtime stories, and tuck the kids in with Japanese robots.

Then, Dave and I can snuggle up and watch VHS classics, now re-released on Blu-Ray – like “Ninja III: The Domination” or a classic Italian gore-fest like “The Beyond.” We can drink craft beer and talk about serial killers or obscure death rock bands. We can be ourselves, and be loved all the more for it.

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Here lies the VCR, a relic of my childhood

By now, you’ve probably heard that the last VHS VCR will roll off the line at Japan’s Funai Electric plant this month.

vhsIt’s the end of an era. When I was little, my mom and I used to rent movies from the library. Rows and rows of black plastic cases, with untold treasures for creepy kids — “My Pet Monster,” “The Last Unicorn,” “The Huggabunch Movie,” “Goonies.” How I loved those flicks.

Back then, we used to rent movies at Video USA, “Home of the 25 Cent Rentals.” After my parents divorced, it became a special ritual to get Chinese food and rent 3 or 4 movies with my dad on his weekends. He introduced me to so many movies — “Escape From New York,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Commando,” Tombstone,” etc.

Later, when I met my husband, we bonded over our love of movies, especially scary ones. Here’s his VCR memory from our early days.

slaughterhousevhsI was 15 and Andrea was 13 when we met. That was about 1995. VHS played a huge role in our lives. I used to go over to my friend’s house and invite her over to watch movies, on VHS of course, since DVD had not yet arrived. We would flirt back and forth, hold hands and once we even kissed (gasp!) (that was Andrea’s first kiss, I’m proud to say).

I vividly remember one such evening, when I invited her over to watch a movie. She asked what movie and I enthusiastically replied, ‘Slaughterhouse!’ Of course, she accepted, how could she resist? We watched the ’80s slasher on glorious VHS in my friend’s room and held hands the entire movie.
‘Slaughterhouse’ on VHS brings the love.

sony-slv-d271p-4-head-hifi-dvd-vcr-combo-player-vhs-recorder-w-original-remote-14375a95528393c460835e44bb632254The year before I graduated from college, Dave and I made our first joint purchase — a DVD/VCR combo unit — knowing that we would be moving in together after school. That was probably about 2003, and DVD was making all our dreams come true — Anchor Bay was putting out titles like “Burial Ground” that we thought would never see release. But we both still had huge VHS collections, so the combo unit was perfect.

It’s now taking up space in our closet, but I keep it around because we still have a few VHS tapes. And VHS is having a bit of a resurgence among genre fans, so you never know, I may find it useful in the future.

It’s easy to dismiss these memories as nostalgia. But I think there is more to it — there was a ritual associated with VCRs and VHS tapes. Families would go to the rental store together, and pick out a tape for the evening entertainment. It was a “date” for couples to rent movies. It was special.

I wanted to share some of my VCR nostalgia, so I asked some Facebook friends for their memories. Here they are — feel free to comment and leave your own too.

  • Anne Merchant: “We got our first VCR in 1984 as a ‘family’ Christmas present. It was $500 and had a wood-grain finish. The first movie we recorded was ‘Woman in Red;’ however, I used to tape ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ in the hopes that they’d show a KISS video, or better yet, Gene and Paul would be guest hosts. R.I.P., old friend!”
  • Clare LaTourette: “My favorite videotape had ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ both recorded on it. It was my older sisters and I would get to watch it only when she wasn’t home. My family also acted out a Batman/ Robin Hood sketch when I was 2 (I was an evil witch playing the drums) and it’s only recorded on a VHS tape. I’ll be sad when I have no way of watching it.”
  • Kim Brett: “I used to love taping ‘General Hospital’ and watch it when i got home from work, LOL.”
  • Laurie Schueler: “Our first VCR had a remote control that was connected with a cord to the unit! So not very convenient! But we thought it was pretty cool at the time.”
  • Annie Sofran: “When Toby started speech therapy, he couldn’t speak but we would tape his sessions. By the time we stopped taping them four years later, he was talking like a champ. I’ve kept these tapes for obvious reasons and those are the only reasons I hold onto my VCR.”
  • Jill Morgan: “Our family VCR recorded Days of Our Lives, Monday through Friday, every week. My dad would make sure my mom “set it” before he left for work in the morning. At dinner time, we set up our TV trays and watched our soap opera as a family, dad and brother included. How would we have survived the Bo and Hope era otherwise?”

In defense of entertainment as art

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I was in a room full of very smart people for a recent leadership workshop on work/life balance. One of the exercises was to list 12 things you do every day, and then put a check mark next to those things that make you “your best self.”

#7 on my list was “watch TV.” I put a check mark next to it.

When it came time for the class to discuss and reflect, my check mark was met with a few judgy laughs — “You really think watching TV helps you to be your best self?” That kind of thing.

I defended my check mark — as a creative person, I tend to take my entertainment seriously. And yes, I do watch TV every day (and a few movies a week, too).

I get so tired of the old “TV rots your brain” mentality. I’m not impressed when people climb up on their moral high horse to look down at me and say “I don’t even own a television.”

We are living in a golden age of TV — any critic worth his salt will echo this sentiment. TV is no longer a reality show garbage dump or a laugh track graveyard — there’s real artistry at work there. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll trust the opinion  of David Lynch (director of “Blue Velvet” and “Eraserhead”) who told a French newspaper,

“Television allows you to tell a story over time, something cinema doesn’t. For me, the two formats will always exist, it’s like painting in a square or rectangular.”

The lines between entertainment and art are blurred in shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” Game of Thrones,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Stranger Things,” the list goes on and on.

The production values, writing, costuming, acting and cinematography on these shows is food for creative souls. It’s beautiful, challenging, thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating.

So yeah, I am working on my best self when I’m watching TV. Deal with it.

Cemetery girl: A walk through Glendale Cemetery

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I’ve always loved to walk through cemeteries. There’s something inherently tranquil about the grounds — not to mention, you are pretty much guaranteed privacy and quiet.

Akron’s historic Glendale Cemetery is such a lovely place. If you’re local or just visiting, it’s worth spending a couple hours walking among the headstones, by yourself or with a loved one. Check out my photos below, and go take some of your own.

 

Enough with the mashups already

I am not amused by your mashupFull disclosure — this post is going to make me sound like a crotchety old lady. You know, like waving my cane, shouting, “You kids! Get off my lawn!”

I’m so over mashups. Honestly, I never really understood them to begin with. What’s the appeal of a shirt that has King Diamond’s make-up on Johnny Cash’s face? Yes, both singers are national treasures of their respective countries. But why morph the 2?

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And why put Bill Murray’s face on John Wayne’s body? I’m not amused.

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Predator and Bart Simpson? Nope.

tumblr_o82o1n6ZdB1thr7ppo1_500Don’t get me wrong, I love horror and music merch, and some of the companies responsible for these stupid mashups are really cool and make great stuff. Just stick to the basics. Stop trying to make everything ironic.

I like Bart Simpson, Predator, King Diamond, Johnny Cash, Bill Murray and John Wayne. But I don’t need to see all 6 of them in some bizarre human-centipede-esque mashup on a T-shirt.

My advice? Embrace your contradictions. Don’t have any “guilty” pleasures. Just today, I listened to Twisted Sister and John Denver. I never want to see them mashed up, because they are totally awesome on their own.

What’s your favorite Friday the 13th movie?

fridayMine is Part VI, “Jason Lives.” First off, I love the opening sequence. We meet the newest incarnation of Tommy Jarvis (played by the wonderful Thom Matthews of “Return of the Living Dead”) as he is rushing to the grave of Jason Voorhees, in an ill-fated attempt to make sure he is dead (for real this time).

Jason looks grody in the grave — with makeup effects that mirror the face of Fulci’s most famous zombie. Tommy stabs him with a pole, which gets struck by lightning. Reanimated and ready for action, Jason rises from the grave and rips the heart out of Tommy’s friend. Tommy narrowly escapes only to be caught by the local sheriff.

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There’s no shortage of good kills, but the movie also has comic relief — including a doomed group of dorky paint ballers and a crotch-shot car chase to the tune of “Hard Rock Summer.” The movie also has an incredible theme by Alice Cooper, “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask).” It’s the second best theme in the franchise, after Part III’s title track by Harry Manfredini.

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I asked some of my friends about their favorite “Friday the 13th” movie — check out their responses below. And I’d love to hear yours, so feel free to leave a note in the comments.

  • Dave (my hubby): “‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,’ the fourth movie in the series, is my personal favorite.  It has the incredibly gory effects of Tom Savini, which make this sequel really stand out from the rest.  Corey Feldman shaves his head to trick and confuse Jason, who must be cognitively disabled to fall for such nonsense, and Crispin Glover gets bullied by ol’ ‘Teddy Bear,’ getting called such unforgettable names as a ‘dead f***.’There’s also some good and morbid scares to be had here.  The best example is when Rob gets killed in the dark basement screaming, ‘He’s killing me!’ as Jason brutally hacks him to death.  The final battle scene with Jason without the mask is unforgettable as he gets mutilated, culminating in a grand finale — Jason falling on the machete face-first.  Plus, there’s plenty of teen shenanigans along with a great clip of a vintage stag film.  Watch it this Friday the 13th and it’s certain to have you yelling, ‘Jesus Christmas! Holy Jesus! God****! Holy Jesus jumping Christmas s***!'”feld
  • Leslie Kotzas (of The Smart Domestic): “My favorite was the first. I like that it is true slasher film and not totally ridiculous like Jason in Space [‘Jason X’]. And the ending was really suspenseful.”friday_the_13th_uncut3
  • Dave Hronek: “My list of the original series in order from most to least favorite: 3, 4, 5, 2, 6, 1, 7, X, 8, 9. Part 3’s characters are my most favorite, plus it had my favorite leading lady and ‘ending’ with Jason mask-less in the cabin…banging on the windows, then blasting out the house. Creepy!”
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  • Jess Hicks (of Bloody Disgusting): Part IV, The Final Chapter. See her full rankings here.
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Thoughts on friendship

friendshipI’ve been thinking a lot about friendship — old friends, new friends and the kind of friend I want to be.

Making friends when I was little was easy. I was “friends” with most of the kids in my class. This seems to be the case for my 4-year-old daughter too. She even calls her classmates, “friends.”

Now, making friends is a bit like going on dates. It’s awkward at first, and it requires some give and take. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking, because I want to be liked. Don’t we all?

A few years ago, I was at a beer fest, and I noticed the guy in front of us had a pretty cool tattoo — a tribute to the band 45 Grave and the movie, “Return of the Living Dead.” I whispered to my husband, Dave, “That guy has a cool tattoo.” We exchanged glances, and took a chance — striking up a conversation with him and his wife. They turned out to be wonderful people, so much like us in many ways. How lucky we were to meet them. We spent most of the fest chatting them up, and exchanged info when we parted ways. Before we next met up with them, Dave and I nervously debated — “What to wear?” “What should we talk about?” “When should we next ask them to go out?” Spoiler alert, none of that really mattered. We got along swimmingly from the moment we met, and we’re still friends today.

I was remembering this experience because our friend-iversary with that couple is coming up. When I think about the fact that in my 30s, with 2 kids, I am still able to make new friends who are caring and kind, and also culturally and intellectually stimulating, I feel genuinely fortunate. I’m not special — what have I done to deserve such a gift?

I want to be the kind of friend who has a generous spirit, who gives as much to a friendship as I get from it. Sounds easy, right? Maybe it is for some people, but it takes a conscious effort to consider the feelings of others, to take a genuine interest in things I don’t really know much about, and to just listen.

Another thing I’ve been practicing is being happy for other people. I know that sounds bad, but try to stay with me. I think it’s human nature to be somewhat jealous or envious. I once read an author who described it perfectly — that if someone else had a slice of success, it was like there were fewer slices of success in the pie for her. She challenged herself to always express happiness for others, even when her life was tough and she didn’t feel like it. And you know what? A funny thing happened, over time, she felt more at peace with other people’s success. She even found that when she helped her friends to be successful, she felt happier. That’s the kind of friend I want to be.

When I see the amazing things my girlfriends from college are doing — advanced degrees, world travel, impressive careers, beautiful families — I feel genuinely happy for them. We shared some of the same passions and struggles during college, and we are becoming the women we wanted to be, I think. I probably don’t tell them enough how great I think they are, but they inspire me almost every day.

I was at a leadership seminar a week ago and asked to write how I would like to be remembered. My first thought was simple — I wanted people to remember that I was a kind person. I have a friend who has had some personal troubles over the last year. I’m not the best at giving advice, but I hope that I have given this person an ear to bend, or at least left him knowing that someone is in his corner when times have been tough. I am grateful for the people who have done this for me in life.

Recently, Dave and I met another couple, who I think will become good friends in the long run. We’re still at that beginning stage — the awkward, back-and-forth of getting to know each other. But, seriously, aren’t we lucky? Life is better when you have people to share it with – the joy, sorrow and fun are all deeper and more meaningful.