Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hello Kitty is not a Cat and Other Deceptions

Years from now, I'll tell my children that I remember exactly where I was when I heard the startling news that Hello Kitty is not really a cat. Of course, I'll say I was reading on a G-rated website and not Dlisted, which is my new favorite thing in the entire world, other than Mom's new dog, Hello Puppy.

This picture is your reward for reading this long, boring post.

But, now that I know that Hello Kitty is not a cat, I'm wondering about Hello Puppy. Maybe he's not a dog at all, but really a perpetual 3rd grader named Puppy White who lives in a London suburb with his parents, George and Mary. I'm sure that Mom is just imagining him peeing on the rugs and chewing the furniture legs because he's really in London asking his mate for proper DI-rections to the loo and noshing on some black pudding.

In all seriousness, there is a brilliant lesson in the Hello Kitty story, which is that things are not always as they seem. For example, when I wear yoga pants and flip-flops you might think that I'd just practiced Bikram yoga and executed a flawless crow pose. The truth is likely that I've just been to physical therapy where I had needles inserted into my back. (Also, I could never do Bikram yoga after reading this article. This wasn't a big sacrifice as I never considered doing Bikram yoga prior to reading the article. Just like it's easy for me to not go to Hobby Lobby because Michaels is closer and I already know where to find everything.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Father's Day - The YETI Cooler

Okay, so it's a little late to be posting about Father's Day, but I don't seem to be able to do anything on time these days. I think I need this:

You know if you search "Sorry I'm Late shirts" in Google images you get images of people who have taken the time to style their Sorry I'm Late shirts, i.e.:

I am late because I left my shoes in a wooded area and couldn't find them.

When you take the time to style your Sorry I'm Late shirt and make an entire Sorry I'm Late ensemble (and then take a picture), it probably explains why you are late.

The creator of this ensemble had another issue:

in that she had to time travel back to 1995 to create her outfit. I mean, I can't tell the scale of that backpack, but I'm pretty sure it's one of those tiny backpacks that was all the rage in the mid 90's. Felicity and Baby Spice wore them and they were perfectly balanced by four inch-high platform sandals. I recently saw a picture of Miley Cyrus toting a tiny backpack, which means she's ruined both teddy bears and tiny backpacks forever. 

Obviously, you all can tell that I'm late with my Father's Day post because I got "busy" Googling, "Sorry I'm Late shirts" and looking up pictures of 1990's celebrities wearing tiny backpacks. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Throw the Tiger in the Whirlpool: Why I love our á la Carte Chore Board

I have not been very good about giving the children an allowance for doing daily chores. I started a few times but got tired of nagging them to do the chores, and instead of leaving their chores un-done so they could bear witness to their slovenly ways, I'd succumb to my mild OCD and make their beds and clean up their messes. Sometimes, I would pay them even though they hadn't actually completed the chores which taught them nothing about getting paid for working, but instead primed them for a future as county road crew workers. We've always ended up back in the same place, scrapping the allowance and me doing everything.

Recently, I took a different approach, one that gave the kids the option of earning money on a per-chore basis. I think that when I've finished telling you all about the how this system has worked, you'll agree that it's vastly superior than just giving a straight allowance. I made a chore board where I post different chores that I would like the children to perform and assign each chore a monetary value. So, making your bed gets you .25 and taking out the garbage is .75. Value is determined by frequency, grossness, and duration of a given chore. This valuation system is no different from society where long-haul commercial fisherman earn more than Justin Beiber. Oh wait, no. Clearly my value system needs some tweaking to put it in line with American society. Five cents for scrubbing the toilet and ten million dollars for making up racist song lyrics. Better now. Anyway, here are some (as yet unperformed) tasks on our chore board:

This way the kids are earning money only for the work they've actually done (novel concept, I know). I wish I'd thought of this years ago because would be a freaking millionaire.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy Campers

Remember back when camps were basically all the same? The camp had some name that evoked nature; Camp Porcupine Mountain, Camp Lake Vulture, Camp Meadow Chrysanthemum;  or it had some faux-Indian name that the owners had to change in the 1990's (yes, summer camps are more progressive than the NFL). And the activities at these camps were all basically the same: swimming, weaving lanyards, singing campfire songs, eating s'mores, drinking bug juice, and trying to eavesdrop on the counselor's conversations.

Remember this classic summer camp movie?
"Little Darlings," starred Tatum O'Neal (left, front row) and Kristy McNichol
(right, front row). Believe it or not, that's Cynthia Nixon (Miranda from SITC)
next to Kristy. Another bit of trivia: Matt Dillon played Kristy's love interest.
I was waaaay too young to understand the plot when I watched
 this on video at a friend's birthday party. 
Now there are all of these camps where children can explore their most arcane and specialized interests. When I was making our camp plans for the summer, I was floored by all the options. Here are a few camps that didn't quite make the cut for us:

1. Junior Exterminator Camp - Junior Exterminator camp provide the opportunity for kids to learn about animals in their natural habitats! Enjoy up-close animal encounters with roof rats, squirrels, possums, mice, and raccoons! New for 2014: Campers will love exploring our simulated attics, basements, chimneys, and crawl spaces and hunting for their favorite rodents. Camp mascot Billy the Bat will be giving out our fun, "I literally killed at Junior Exterminator Camp" shirts to the campers \with the most captures. Please make sure your camper is up to date on all of his or her vaccinations and sign up for Junior Exterminator Camp today!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Appreciation Fatigue

Last week was "National Teacher Appreciation Week," which is conveniently followed by "National Parents of School-Aged Children Nervous Breakdown Fortnight." This is a festive time during which copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, prescriptions for sedatives are renewed, and emergency rooms log a marked increase in the number of people coming in with hot glue gun burns. The end of school is nigh for many of us and this means that everything between now and June 1st will be a blur of recitals, field days, tournaments, end of year celebrations, moving up ceremonies, volunteer luncheons, teacher gifts, assistant teacher gifts, coach gifts, and assistant to the coach gifts (for reals - I'm collecting for this one, care to donate?). It's just I certainly appreciate all the teachers and coaches who have taught my children this year, but I feel like I would appreciate them even more if the appreciation week was in, say March. Further, I would appreciate the ceremonies and performances and tournaments more if they weren't all crammed into a two week period. It's like tragedy fatigue when one disaster happens on the heels of another disaster, people get overwhelmed and are less likely to donate to victims of the subsequent tragedy. I feel like I have appreciation fatigue, so that by the time that last school-related event on the calendar (the Boy's end of the year ice cream party) rolls around, his class will probably receive whatever I already have on hand for ice cream toppings. (Why yes, dried basil flakes and pepper are delicious on vanilla ice cream. And they're certified peanut and gluten free.) Luckily, the Boy is indifferent about my presence at his events. Sometimes he outright requests that I don't come. Maybe it's in how I ask him:

Me: Do you want me to come to the second grade lunch?
Boy: I don't care.
Me: What if I promise to sit next to you and hold your hand?
Boy: Mom, stop!
Me: I'll play with your hair and sing to you?
Boy: No! Please DO NOT come.
Me: Are you sure?
Boy: Yes.

It's all in the ask.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Play that Funky Music

I'm not one of those parents who believes that my parental responsibilities include making sure that my kids have decent taste in music. That's for parents who want extra credit. I'm just trying to get by with supplying food, shelter, and transportation. Some of my friends have taken their children to carefully selected concerts and play their kids classical, jazz, and world music to make sure that they know a wide array of music genres. Other than some baby music classes that I forced upon the Boy (currently the least musically of the children, coincidentally I am sure) I have done nothing. This has worked out fine until recently when the girls both independently decided that they are interested in music. The Baby has "Let it Go" on repeat and has listened to it so much that she has memorized the entire song. This is most shocking when you know that this child often asks me at 3 pm whether she's eaten lunch. (I'd like to note that even in the sorry state of affairs that my life has become in the last year, the answer to that question is usually yes. Eight out of 10 times, anyway.) By the way, I would post a video of her rendition, but I figured that would be the equivalent of telling you about a dream that I had. There is a very slight chance you would find it interesting, but there is a much greater chance that you would want to tear out your eyes and ears. I will share this picture of her in full Elsa costume:

In case you haven't seen "Frozen" (Echo, echo, echo), the crown and cape are vitally important to the Baby's performance of "Let it Go" because Elsa tosses her crown away, symbolizing her abandoning her former life as the queen of Arendelle. Likewise, she dramatically flips the cape prior to entering the ice castle she has created and slams the door behind her at the end of the song. The Baby incorporates all these little flourishes into her performance, with that weird rainbow dreadlocked headband getting tossed across the room (often hitting someone). The deer blanket I used to decorate for the K's white trash birthday party last year is obviously her cape. I was shocked when it ripped because it seemed such good quality (sarcasm font). Instead of slamming the door to her ice castle, the Baby has to settle for slamming the door to the laundry room. I promise that when she's finished, there's not a dry eye in the house.

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?