Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

Good Humor: Confessions of a Joke Wh%re

The-Power-of-Laughter

When you dream of your child’s future, what do you see? Rocket scientist? Brain surgeon? Leader of the free world?

While those all sound pretty great—I share your enthusiasm—there’s another parental fantasy I’ve been secretly indulging: comedy writer.

I can trace the early roots of my reverence for humor back to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. When I was 7, I would brag that my mother didn’t watch TV except for Laugh-In. Her affection for the show must be what drew me in, but it was something else that kept me watching even though the jokes, gags, and sketches about sex and politics were beyond me. Sitting on my mother’s white shag rug next to black Lucite cube tables, watching a small TV perched on the shelf of a teak wall unit, I remember the Laugh-In set’s psychedelic swirls and mod flowers, but most of all, the funny women.

There was Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann with her [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

Sister Wives (Without the Mister)

When my son’s soccer coach called from practice, I figured I must be late for pickup. Instead, our conversation went something like this:

Coach: Kai and Evan collided during practice and he’s complaining that his ribs hurt.

Me: Which one?

Coach: Which rib?

Me: No, which kid?

Coach: Your son. That’s why I’m calling you and not Evan’s mom.

Me: Oh, of course. I’ll be right over.

This little exchange made me laugh and reminded me that my Sister Wives approach [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

eMOMicons

Given the modern family’s busy lifestyle, who has time for words? If you want better communication with the kids, just text, tweet, or Facebook these emoticons for moms: eMOMicons. Finally, your kids will get the message.

Look at Me When I’m Talking to You

(  ‘}<<< {‘  )

Watch Your Language

(>_<)#!%

Go to Bed

(=_=)

Don’t Act Like You Don’t Know What I’m Talking About

(?_?)

Give Grandma a Kiss

(  ‘} (^0_0^)

Feed the Cat

=^_^=

Leave Your Brother Alone

(>_<) (‘;’)

Take Off Those Headphones

d(-_-)b

Because I Said So

(^^o^^)

What eMOMicons would you add?

 

This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

My Hometown

When I skipped in my denim overalls with the safety-pinned strap from my small, somewhat diverse private school to my new town’s public junior high, the transition wasn’t pretty. On the first day, the biggest obstacles weren’t social or academic but mechanical: cracking the code of my locker combination and covering books with advanced origami folding techniques before the dawn of the book sock.

Within a few weeks, I would think of the locker and book-cover challenges with nostalgia—however much they had made me sweat—as a group of 8th grade girls surrounded me to ask why I had called their friend a “f*#%ing whore.” I had no idea who these girls were or exactly what the phrase meant, but the fact that I wasn’t in my version of Kansas anymore was painfully clear. Like the book sock, anti-bullying legislation or even awareness didn’t exist, so as far as I knew, this was my problem to solve.

I became less naïve about the ways of middle school as the months passed, but this didn’t help me much in 8th grade when a case of mistaken identity put me in the crosshairs of the girl who sat directly in front of me in homeroom. It wasn’t me but a friend of mine who had denied her a piece of gum back in 7th grade, and now she wanted blood instead of Bazooka. She’d regularly turn around to say in a menacing whisper how she was going to beat me up after school. She never did, but the surges of fear still packed a punch. [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

What Would Lincoln Do?

Lincoln is inarguably one of the most important people in history, but not until I watched Spielberg’s Lincoln with my 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter did I fully recognize him as a personal hero and role model.

Although Lincoln isn’t a biography, it gives us a round picture of the president, father, husband, and man that Lincoln was. The movie is an epic but deeply personal portrayal of Lincoln’s process of getting the 13th Amendment passed to abolish slavery as the Civil War was ending.

Spielberg’s Lincoln may not be the first movie you think of for family viewing. Your kids (and you, if you’re like me) may be confused by some of the details of the political process and the various players in it. But the significance of Lincoln’s words and deeds transcend those details, giving you a gut-level experience of good and right.

It struck me that we were given principles to live by in Lincoln’s example, and now we can ask ourselves, what would Lincoln do?

Listen to and fundamentally respect everyone without suffering fools gladly.

While guarding his boundaries, Lincoln gave reasonable time and consideration to all people without regard for differences like status, position, race, and gender.

Don’t bend to the will of a group that thinks it knows more than you do but doesn’t.

After thoughtful consideration of the opinions of his cabinet, Lincoln appropriately exerted his authority to pursue passage of the 13th Amendment.  It never would have happened otherwise.

Don’t give up your singleness of purpose even in the face of the seemingly impossible.

The odds were overwhelmingly stacked against convincing Representatives opposed to the 13th Amendment to vote yes. Hired political hands won some with political favors. Lincoln himself quietly converted the rest with a personal moral appeal.

Know when the ends justify the means, and when they don’t.

When the possibility of Confederate delegates in Washington there to end the war nearly stopped the vote on the 13th Amendment, Lincoln crafted a note to the House that was technically true (the delegates were not actually in the city) but strategically deceptive (they’d be on their way at his signal). There are only certain times when the ends justify the means, and Lincoln knew how to discern that.

Take time for the story, especially if it’s funny. [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

Arrested Development

Between bites of Boursin on a Town House at a recent holiday gathering, I suddenly lost my appetite, and the retro cheese platter wasn’t to blame. It was a chilling tale of arrested development that stopped my crunching cold.

A friend recounted a visit from her boyfriend’s grown children during which the 29-year-old son left his dirty underwear in the middle of the living room floor because “there was no hamper in the bedroom” and he “didn’t know where else to put it.”

I already know my 9-year-old son resembles a 29-year-old man in several ways, including his aptitude for negotiation when it comes to getting what he wants and his sarcasm when he doesn’t.

What pulled me up short was how much a 29-year-old man could resemble a 9-year-old boy. Underwear on the floor. A confused expression when asked why. Lame excuses. Sure, some teenage boys I know share obvious similarities with my son, such as blowing their noses in the hand towels, leaving a trail of crumbs and food wrappers, throwing clean clothes in with dirty (and dirty with clean), letting their toenails grow into talons. But a grown man? An adult by all other accounts?

One summer, especially tired of finding wet swim trunks on my wood floors wherever the hapless wearers decided to drop trow, I attempted to institute the Boys to Men program. This was a special disinterest group of Camp Benign Neglect, where all campers are welcome provided their parents agree to our terms of service (which doubles as our motto): “If it ain’t bleeding, don’t fix it.” [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

The Power of Suggestion

My 9-year-old son says he’s worried that I’m going to contract shingles because it’s something “older people like you, mom” can get. He’s happy to report that there’s now a vaccine. No, it’s not effective for everyone, and may cause “difficulty in breathing and swallowing,” but maybe I’d prefer that to a painful, blistering rash.

Why did the FDA ever think it would be a good idea to let drug companies market to consumers, especially on television?

When that ad for Enbrel is over, sure, we’re all relieved that the nice lady can wear short sleeves to the luncheon, but mostly we hope she doesn’t end up with a “serious infection that may lead to hospitalization or death.”

Are the makers of Viagra aware that middle-aged men aren’t the only ones watching baseball games? Maybe they recognize that some youngsters (like my son) could be an excellent source of referrals, rare risk of “a sudden decrease or loss of vision or hearing” aside?

Is it just me, or does your exposure to prescription drug ads have you wondering if SNL’s Chantix spoof is really that far-fetched?

[Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

I Need a Huggle

Hugging or kissing as a greeting is like tipping: if, when, and how much aren’t always entirely clear.

As a kid, I hated walking into a big family party because it meant hugging and kissing a lot of people I didn’t see very often or possibly even know at all. Beyond the aunts and uncles and cousins, there would inevitably be someone’s friends or neighbors there, and if I wasn’t sure I knew them, I’d hug and kiss them, too, just to play it safe. I’m not sure where I got the idea that this was required, but I always felt like it was my responsibility to anticipate and deliver the right greeting.

A couple of years ago, my college-age cousin and her roommate from Florida stayed with us for the weekend. Toward the end of their visit, my cousin’s roommate remarked that I had hugged and kissed her when we first met, the kiss part of which she wasn’t used to, but liked and thought was cute. The scary thing is, I didn’t even remember the kiss part. It’s like I go into some kind of fugue state when it comes to hellos, and dive straight in with arms wide and lips pursed. Same for goodbyes, but there I’ve figured out that the later you leave, the fewer people you have to decide whether or not to hug and kiss. It’s a lot easier to hug and kiss a couple of people as they leave than to face a room full of people and have to make the rounds. [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

To See or Not to See?

When my mother invited me to see Alan Cumming in Macbeth at Lincoln Center Festival, I thought it might be a great time for my 12-year-old daughter to experience her first real Shakespeare production. She and her 8-year-old brother are in theater camp this summer—she out of interest and he because siblings were half-price. Lines from various Shakespeare plays have been woven into the original play they’re performing (along with some choice show tunes). Just so happens that some of my daughter’s lines include a passage from Macbeth’s Weird Sisters.

If Macbeth weren’t already one of Shakespeare’s most murderous and grisly stories, in this modern interpretation, Alan Cumming plays a psychiatric patient who appears to have committed a hideous crime of his own and is destined to play out the Macbeth tragedy over and over in the solitary confines of a mental hospital. Cumming masterfully plays all of the roles, having convincing conversations with himself using various props in the room to dramatic advantage. The effect was enthralling and disturbing.

After some hesitation, I decided that my daughter should see the show. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Shakespeare fan, so that probably swayed my judgment in the “for” direction over concern about adult themes. My daughter is even named after a character from The Tempest (no, not Caliban). And while she was at a little disadvantage seeing Macbeth without knowing the plot and characters beforehand, there’s something about Shakespeare—the language and themes—that I expected would have positive impact anyway. And it did. Alan Cumming’s Scottish accent didn’t hurt either (or maybe that was just me). [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.

Got S’mores?

Writing you (not-so-)fresh from the conclusion of my daughter’s 12th birthday campout sleepover party. Not sure if it’s the coffee and Synthroid or the campers’ 2:22 a.m. bathroom-snack-gossip interlude (to name one of several middle-of-the-night happenings) that has me feeling exhausted yet jumpy.

Arguments over who sleeps in what tent aside, I think the girls—10 of them—plus a little brother and his 8-year-old wingman all had a good time. (I’m in touch with my operatives—mothers whose daughters tell them everything—to find out for sure. Like me, my own daughter tends to play it close to the vest, so the in-house post-mortem is a little light on content and color.)

Left to my own devices, I might’ve locked the girls out in the yard for the night with some Slim Jims and water from a questionable source (on the premise that figuring out how to desalinate could be a good life skill). Lucky for my daughter and her friends, however, there’s Sergeant Fancy, my pal for more years than I’m permitted to say out loud, and especially not in writing (Fancy’s orders).

Sergeant Fancy earned her officer-ship this party, although the official title is just a formality as her leadership skills have always been actively applied. The Fancy part is testament to her style in party-throwing, and is in sharp contrast to my own moniker Plain (as seen on would-be TV in our imaginary cooking show Plain & Fancy where our renditions of the same dish live up…or down…to the promise of our names).

Thanks to Sergeant Fancy, each girl was greeted at the door with a unique tie-dye t-shirt printed with “Got S’mores? Camp Miranda 2012.” The evening kicked off with snacks, bug juice, and a no-sew pillow-making craft. The tents had been pitched, festooned with lanterns and streamers, and directional signs told campers where to find the mess hall, toilets, first aid, lake, and other camp hotspots. Pizza was served, followed by swimming and s’mores cupcakes. Campers then sidled up to the make-your-own trailmix bar, and took their places for an outdoor screening of Furry Vengeance. Ghost stories around the campfire were followed by s’mores and a game of Manhunt. The girls turned in for the night around 12 and “slept” (read: didn’t sleep at all) until Sergeant Fancy played Reveille at 8 a.m. Breakfast buffet included fruit salad, bagels, and juice. Campers packed up and became their parents’ problem again by 10 a.m. [Read more...]

Tara Spinelli

About Tara Spinelli

Tara is a proud-of-Jersey mom of two from Nutley who thinks if you’ve lived in New Jersey for 10 or more years, it should be against the law to say you’re from New York. Tara is a writer and UX designer for the web, sometime blogger and published essay-writer, volunteer on town- and school-based green and wellness initiatives, and pal of fellow JerseyMomsBlog contributor Chris Surretsky (make a note of that name and remind her she knows Tara—T-A-R-A—once her book hits the best-seller list) whose hilarious, skillful, and seemingly effortless writing style Tara wishes she could borrow, even if only on holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, especially if she’s from Jersey.