Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Parenting Continuum

Have you all heard about this study in which researchers observed parents ignoring their children because they were so absorbed in checking their smartphones? Although this was not a scientific study, more like anthropological observations, one of the researchers noted that children whose parents were on the phone the longest were more likely to act out to get their parent's attention.  A psychologist not involved in the experiment commented that when parents put their digital devises ahead of their children they are sending the message to the children that they are not interesting and that they don't matter. I think we can all agree that the conclusion reached is indisputable. Obviously, we all know it is better to engage with your children than to ignore them. Additionally, I think we'd agree that it's incredibly rude to pull out your phone mid-conversation with anyone, a child or an adult, and start texting or checking email. My problem is that "research" like this is part of a whole trend in parent-shaming that makes it hard to feel like you are ever doing enough as a caregiver.

The cards are stacked against parents from the get-go in the anthropological study. The researchers observing 55 groups of adults and young children dining at fast food restaurants (a McDonald's according to the radio broadcast of the story) in the course of one summer. The key points to me are the location (a fast food restaurant) and the time of year (summer). You know when I tend to take my kids to fast food restaurants? When I'm in a hurry and we're away from home. You know when I take my kids to fast food restaurants in the summer? I do it when they're not in camp and we've been out doing some child-centered activity in the morning and need to eat lunch out before segueing into our afternoon of child-centered activities. If the researchers were watching me, I guarantee that I'd be checking my phone when we sat down at the table. Would the researchers prefer that I do that while driving to Chick fil-A?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter-Related Musings

We celebrated Easter yesterday with lots of eating and sitting around, two things at which I could excel except that on most days I only have five minutes to shove a meal in my mouth before racing off to some activity. When I retire I plan to devote more time to eating and sitting around; it would be practically un-American not to. We also went to church and the minister told a funny (to me, anyway) story about receiving a promotional email from a company that will provide the equipment to enable people to fly during church Easter productions. The email said something like, "You know what's missing from your Easter production? Flying!" I'm a little bit upset that I've never received an email saying that that the one thing missing from my life is flying, because it's true. I already get 1,000 emails a day telling me that what's missing from my life is the perfect pair of ankle-cuff sandals or some new outdoor furniture, but not a word about flying. After the minister told the flying story he said some religious stuff, little of which I retained because the Boy distracted me with pictures of soldiers that he was drawing on the prayer request pamphlet in the pew. Since I left the pamphlet there, I  hope someone finds it and decides that it's a prayer request for the military and not just random vandalism.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All Joy and No Fun

After today, my kids have 30 more days of school before summer break. For the first time, I think I'm looking forward to the break more than the children. I'm going to be blunt: This school year has kicked my ass six ways to Sunday. Part of the reason that I haven't been posting is because I've been working on revising my novel (BTW, I hate the way that makes me sound like a pretentious cliche - like how all SAHMs with a camera are suddenly "photographers" and all SAHMs who have a camera and fancy themselves writers are bloggers ;-)). But this is supposed to be a humor blog and I've been in such a funk that I've had a hard time seeing the funny side of anything. 

I'm self-aware enough to realize that it is ridiculous for me to be stressed out. Objectively speaking, my life is pretty easy. I don't live in a war zone, my children have enough to eat, and all my problems sound like whiny first-world problems, i.e., "Worst day ever! Whole Foods is out of brown rice sushi!"  The other day I was rushing around the grocery store (my umpteenth visit of the week) and saw an old lady sitting on a scooter and rummaging in the bargain bin wearing a "I'm too blessed to be stressed" t-shirt. That got me thinking: Surely, I'm at least as equally as blessed as the old lady. So, why am I not walking around humming "Happy," with a perpetual grin on my face?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Fever

You could always count on a handful of warm days in late April or early May in New Jersey. It was your reward for making it through six months of cold, grey weather. Of course, what seemed like "warm" was really temperatures in the mid-50's, but it still seemed like time to break out the shorts and tanks because it was so much better than 20 degrees and snow. On those warmish days, we would beg our teachers to have class outside and when they invariably refused, we'd stare out the windows, waiting for the bell to ring so we could just feel the sun. "Spring fever," the teachers would sigh, and at the time I thought that they were concerned that we weren't going to learn anything for the rest of the year. Now I realize that they were probably just planning their shore vacations and dreaming of tossing back drinks at Bar A. (Aside: As I look at pictures, I realize that Bar A has barely changed since I was there in 1994. Although, it does look like they've added the saddest VIP area ever. Note to Bar A: random potted plants and garden stools do not a VIP area make. Also, who are these alleged VIPs hanging out at Bar A? I'm picturing Caroline Manzo's sons, Albie and Chris from "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." They probably have some girls with them from their Stripper Car Wash and the girls probably pronounce "cabana" and "grotto" with that nasally Philly accent and are practically handicapped because their fake nails are so long.)

The point is (yes, I have one) that spring fever used to conjure up all sorts of good images: sunglasses, sitting outside, and the end of the school year. Now I can't even hear the word "fever" without immediately wondering if we are fully stocked with Children's Motrin. Those pleasant images have been replaced with this image:

Now spring fever comes with spring
coughing and wheezing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Scots-Irish Leprechauns

Did you know that there are more people of Irish descent living in the United States than there are in Ireland? Here's a map showing the places in the United States with the highest concentration of people claiming Irish heritage:

via The Washington Post
This explains why I assume that everyone (except me) is Irish. Where I grew up, everyone is Irish. It's funny that even though I lived around all those Irish people it wasn't until I moved to chartreuse-colored Georgia and had kids that I learned about the St. Patrick's Day leprechaun. Just in case you've miraculously missed out on this addition to the ways-to-make-overtaxed-parents-even-crazier department, I will explain. The St. Patrick's Day leprechaun is brought to you courtesy of the people who adore Elf on the Shelf and need a mid-year fix. Your leprechaun materializes on St. Patrick's Day eve, trashes the house, dyes your toilet water green, sprinkles glitter hither and yon and creates a mess that you'll still be cleaning up when you reach for you first Guinness at noon.

Monday, March 10, 2014


As soon as the daffodils start poking through the ground here in Georgia, the calls start. "Call from RUT-A-JERS," says our caller-ID lady in a flat monotone. "Call from Anne Marie." Who's Anne Marie, I wonder and then glance at the phone. Oh, Emory. I usually let the first few of these calls go because I know what they want. First, the pretense of checking to make sure my contact information is still the same, then the gracious thank you for my previous gift, and then the real reason for calling, hitting me up for more money. "I see you gave $100 last year. Would you care to bump up your donation just a bit to $10,000?"

I'm not sure what got into me lat week, but when "Rut-a-jers" called, I decided to answer. I spoke to a junior named Carmine. Sometimes the callers ask you about yourself: (Caller: "I see you majored in English, do you work in that area?" Me: "Yes, I speak English every day"), but Carmine was all business. He also said "you know" so many times that I wondered if he was playing a drinking game with someone in the call center who had to do a shot every time he uttered the phrase. Trust me, if this were the case, his friend would be dead. He also said, "I see you live in DECK-A-TUR, Georgia," which is fine because there's no reason that he should be able to pronounce Decatur correctly. But New Jersey is so full of towns with weird names (Paramus, Piscataway, Ho-Ho-Kus, Parsippany, Hoboken, Weehawken, Moonachie) that it's funny to hear someone struggle with Decatur, which is pretty much pronounced the way it looks (aside from the long "a"). Despite Carmine's less than suave delivery, I ended up donating to Rutgers because, well, for kids like Carmine who could use a decent communications class before they hit the working world.

Not to be outdone, Emory called the next day and I got to talk to Meredith, a freshman at the college. Bless her heart, Meredith was just about everything that Carmine was not. She was so chatty that I started to worry that she hadn't made any friends at school. She asked what I missed about law school. (My answer: Great professors, being in an academic environment. Truth: Going to a bar after my last exam.) She asked what activities I was involved with at Emory. (My answer: Activities weren't really common among law students, but I did work on a journal. Truth: I worked on a third-rate journal and was a functioning alcoholic.) Why did you decide to go to law school? (My answer: You learn skills in law school like critical thinking and persuasive writing, that are useful in any job. Truth: Why did I go to law school?)

I blame Oprah.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kids' Graphic Tees Can Stop Having a Moment

I'm trying to do a better job of looking for the bright spot in what seems like a bad situation. Take for example all the cold, snowy weather that we've had the last few months. Yes, it was very stressful and maddening to have the children home from school for basically all of January and February, but look at it this way: less of an opportunity to get lice, a lower probability of contracting a stomach bug, and as long as it stays cold you can postpone spring clothes shopping. This last item is key, because have you seen some of the options for children's clothing? I'm pretty sure that I've stumbled onto what is corrupting America's youth, and it's the graphic t-shirt. In other news, get off my lawn.

But really, please look at this:

Okay, so Target may have pulled this shirt out of stores because of complaints, but still, someone thought that Rainbow Bright, Robin Thicke's rapey song, and Flashdance-styling would all combine to form a perfect little girl's shirt.

The boys don't fair all that well either. They get the likes of this:

Who decided that it is cute to see kids wearing clothes emblazoned with sassy, dated pop-culture references? It's like some executive at Wal-Mart said, "Classy clothes, ain't nobody got time for that!"