Don’t Let Your Pants Ruin Your Day

by Abby on October 27, 2014

You might not think boys care about their clothes, but you’d be wrong. Mine care about comfort first, coolness factor second. Or rather, comfort first, coolness factor of the T-shirt design second, and fashion forwardness not at all. And don’t you dare call them cute. When my 8yo was a toddler he once said, “Mommy, I’m cute in my jammies and cool in my clothes.” But these days it’s all too-small sweatpants, Minecraft hoodies, and Crocs with socks. Don’t care; not a battle I choose to pick.

But he does wear a uniform to school (thank God), and I was surprised and a little amused when he came downstairs one morning wearing fashionably slim-cut khakis. The thing is, his grandmother buys a lot of his clothes and I don’t think she or he noticed these were skinny pants. They looked really cute on him, but I’m not allowed to say that anymore, not even about his jammies. Did I mention he’s 8 now?

boys' slim fit pants from Mini Boden
This boy in the Mini Boden catalog is clearly not inhibited by his slim-cut pants

Anyway, off to school he went. When I picked him up, he was uncharacteristically grumpy. “What’s wrong, bud? Did you not have a good day?”

“No! It was the worst day ever! I couldn’t run around at recess or at gym because of my pants!”

“Because of your. . . ? Oh, you mean they were too tight?”

“Yes! Worst day ever!”

Pants are a big deal in our house. What can I say, they’ve gotta be comfortable. Even for me. (I did the Mister Rogers change-up in reverse today – started with yoga pants, then changed into skinny cords for pickup. Sometimes I feel the need to make an effort. P.S. I usually peter out, along with my wardrobe, by Thurs.)

Then here’s the other kid: rushes in the door from school, up the stairs, and back down again in a T-shirt and gym shorts, no matter what temperature it is outside. “Ahhhh!” he sighs. “I like these clothes. You know why, Mom? They feel like summer.” I totally get that.

Albert Camus quote

Clothes matter. They do. They can affect our mood and our confidence. Which is how I talked myself into buying an amazing Theory blazer I found waaayyy on sale. Fits like a glove, looks like a million bucks. I will be oozing confidence and style in my next business meeting. Of course, I haven’t taken the tags off yet. Maybe I’ll exchange it for another cardigan? No. I need to back away from the Athleta catalog and embrace the occasional tailored cut. I can always change when I get home, right?

LINK O’ THE DAY: This Washington Post story about a teacher who shadows her students for 2 days is really eye-opening. One of her takeaways? Kids sit. All. Day. Long. No wonder they’re often tired and grumpy and can’t concentrate.

My son’s first-grade teacher did this thing called “brain breaks,” where she’d put on a music video and let the kids dance and jump around for several minutes a few times a day. This NY Times article proves why this is a great idea: a study of 8 to 10yo students showed that after 20 min. of exercise, all showed marked improvements in their math and reading comprehension scores. More striking, the children with ADHD significantly increased their scores after exercise.

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Anything Happens All the Time

by Abby on October 21, 2014

I was heading out the door for my morning walk with the dog when I noticed a nattily dressed older gentleman strolling down the sidewalk. “I didn’t take your parking spot, did I?” he asked with a smile. “I used to live on this street a long time ago. Just came by for a visit.” I don’t know what it is about my neighborhood that inspires trips down memory lane, but I’m not complaining. Just like that, an ordinary morning took an interesting turn.

The gentleman introduced himself and explained that he and his family had lived in the very first house built on the street, back in the 1930s. He went on to describe each house and its occupants, by name and profession, in great detail. The two sisters who lived side by side and couldn’t have been more different. The men who rode to work on the streetcar. The man who came home from war blind, but you’d never know it. He knew every neighbor by their voice, and would always grasp his wife’s elbow when they went out, a chivalrous gesture that masked the fact that she was leading him instead of vice versa.

The man painted a scene of long-ago Christmas Eves, when the neighbors would string lights from the trees and gather together to sing carols. The land we now stood on was once an apple orchard, he told me, with a creek running through it where a street now was. I could almost picture the old-fashioned cars rattling down the rutted dirt road.

1940's streetcar; photo: Daniel R. Blume, flickr
photo: Daniel R. Blume, flickr

I’ve always been interested in historic houses and old buildings. In elementary school, I did a project on a historic row of painted Victorian houses in my hometown. I got to meet some of the residents and hear their stories. I snapped Polaroids of the wrought-iron railings and intricately carved wooden moldings. There’s something about stories from the past that makes old plaster walls and crumbling brick steps more interesting.

Back in the present, as the owner of actual crumbling brick steps and cracked plaster walls, old buildings have lost some of their magic for me. I fantasize about living in a home where the doors meet the frames at right angles, with unchipped bathroom tiles and smooth walls free of layers of old wallpaper and paint drips. I can’t look at my house without a running tally of repairs and contractor fees going through my head.

The family that lived in our house back then had 5 children, the man told me. When the father went off to war, the mother and children moved into the basement and first floor and rented out the top floor. My eyes widened at the thought of 6 people packed into our small basement. And I think *I* get cabin fever stuck in this house with 2 kids?! I wondered what kind of boarders occupied my bedroom. Did they soak in the same old iron tub with the same black-and-white tiles, now littered with Spiderman bath toys?

I could have listened to this man tell stories all day. But I had a walk to take, work to do, kids to pick up later. But he had brightened my day by reminding me of something I often forget in my Groundhog Day existence as a harried mom of young children: life won’t always be like this. Not in a “hang in there, it gets better” or an “enjoy every minute while it lasts” kind of way. Just as a simple, basic fact of life: time marches on. I’m not the first person to raise kids in this house, and I won’t be the last.

I have plenty of moments of real magic and joy in my life. I also have days that are long, dull, and/or stressful. I loved this chance meeting with a stranger because it shook up the predictability of my day and reignited a sense of possibility. That’s something that often goes missing for me, along with my phone charger and the matching sock.

There’s a line in the movie, This Is Where I Leave You, that stuck with me. A free-spirited character says to a less free-spirited character: “Anything can happen. Anything happens all the time.” Just step outside your door and you’ll see.

NEWS O’ THE DAY: Speaking of old buildings in Baltimore, the city is hosting its first Doors Open event this Saturday, Oct. 26, when 42 sites from the old Montgomery Ward factory to the Charles Theatre (a former streetcar barn) will be open to the public.

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