Sunday, November 27, 2016

What Not to Gift

Before I get to the main topic du jour, just an observation about American culture.  While free trade to a degree but mainly automation have killed American manufacturing, there is one thing we continue to manufacture at levels unseen anywhere in the world: Stress.   No country on earth can compete with us, for we are always finding new and unexpected ways to add it to any and every situation.  Case in point: The Holidays, in theory a time of enjoying family and friends.  In actuality, a time of enjoying very little because of all the things we think we need to do and buy and also the fact apparently a lot of people don't actually like their family and very many of their friends.  I've seen so many "handling holiday stress" stories on TV and magazine covers, I'm starting to think that if I don't feel stressed at the holidays, I'm doing something wrong.

Now that that general observation is out of the way, let's turn to one of the things we Americans get very worked up about, gifts.  What to give people who already have whole houses full of crap and have zero capacity for delayed gratification, which is pretty much every American to some degree.  And what to give to those tiniest and most spoiled of Americans? Well, I'm here to help.  I've not got a clue what you should buy your children/grandchildren/other spoiled small humans in your life.   But I'm going to give you some general guidelines about what NOT to get them.  The main thing to think of when choosing a kid's gift is What effect will it have on the mother of that child? Will it ease her burden or add to her insanity?  Unless you do not like the mother in question, or if you are the mother in question and live with an abiding self-hatred, you want to avoid gifts that will result in a trip to the psychiatric ward.

More specifically, when choosing a gift, ask yourself the following questions, and if you answer YES to any of them, PUT DOWN THE GIFT AND WALK AWAY.  Do NOT buy it.  Do NOT.

Does the item make spontaneous noises that cannot be turned off?  Noises are OK in general, especially if they feature in a toy that will actually engross children long enough for mom go to the bathroom, to include thorough butt-wiping (I don't know about you, but there have been many unfortunate instances when I had to rush off to do the Heimlich maneuver on a child without adequately tending to that task).  In addition, most noises are easily drowned out by children fighting over them (I think Pokemon Go has sound, but I've never heard it), or valuable items crashing to the floor, or hordes of feet stomping around or anxiety-ridden dogs freaking out over any of those other things.  But there are some toys the noises of which give the distinct impression of demon-possession, and that's not going to be good for anyone's mental health.  They turn on without warning or provocation, like Kanye West at a charity telethon.  You are just walking through a room, and suddenly, you hear a chipper voice say something creepy like, "I love you, hee hee."  It startles you enough to send you fleeing, barefoot, over a field of legos, which you will then spend the next several days dislodging with tweezers (and perhaps then reassembling into an x-wing fighter).  Or, you will be drifting off to sleep, safe in your bed, only to be roused by the random, mocking chirps of a Zhou Zhou pet in the other room because a faint, molecular disturbance has mistakenly alerted him that someone wants to play or his hamster wheel is in the vicinity.   My friends, battery-operated toys require an on-and-off switch. So do tweeting Presidents-elect, but we ain't getting that, so please choose your Christmas gifts more wisely than you do your government officials.

Does the child need assistance with the gift?  And I do mean ANY assistance.  If the child can't grab it off the shelf, know what to do with it within 5 seconds, and operate its every feature completely alone while mom is passed out on the sofa, do not buy that toy.  In a similar vein, consider age appropriateness. Yes, your 3 year-old nephew is a genius who needs intellectual challenge, but let's face it, he is not going to be able to dissolve insect carcasses in homemade hydrochloric acid all by himself.  In fact, science experiment sets in general are a big NO unless the child is old enough to have no interest in them anymore.  As are most crafting sets.  My 5 year old will not be able to sew a sock puppy unless I sew the sock puppy.  The sock puppy is really for me to make, if we are being honest.  And guess what, I DO NOT WANT TO MAKE A SOCK PUPPY!!! I also don't want to make a mosaic stepping stone, excavate dinosaur bones from a block of cement, or weave a bunch of rubber bands together to make fine jewelry.  I want to read a book while my children do things that don't involve me.

Does the gift have more than 3 pieces? Let me tell you what children do with toys that have parts.  They take the toy apart.  They scatter the pieces all through the house as if they are venturing into an enchanted forest and will need a way to get back out without being eaten by a witch.  They take pieces into the car.  They take other pieces over to someone's house and leave them there.  They bury some pieces in the sandbox.  They eat pieces, poop them out, and flush the toilet.  They use their evil child magic to vanish the pieces into thin air.  And then they cry because they cannot find the pieces to their toy and it is now ruined and they can't possibly sleep until all the pieces of the toy can be located and the toy is placed whole again in the their bed where it will ward off all the other evil toys that tried to dismember it so they could then come and feast on the child in the night.  Nor can they shoot those evil toys with their nerf gun because all the foam bullets have eloped with some very essential legos.

And now, A Very Special Word About Legos.  Legos are the Thomas Jefferson of toys.  Brilliant, creative, inventive, and generally a force for good in the world.  Until they go and own some slaves--or in the case of legos, have one million billion tiny pieces that do not stay assembled--and ruin everything.  Parents keep buying legos because they are cool and because parents themselves love legos, but then like that awesome guy you dated in college who turned out to be a serial killer, legos come for your sanity and they do not rest until they have crushed it into a million lego-sized pieces that they then mix in and get vacuumed up with.  Last Christmas, my children convinced me to buy them a 6 million piece rendition of the Ewouk village from Return of the Jedi.  It wasn't a hard sell, because Oh My Dear Aunt Jemima IT'S FREAKING STAR WARS.  And if I had been on the fence, one glance at the teeny tiny Ewouk figures would have finished me.  Those things are the cutest.  I bought the set, and I then had an absolute blast assembling it (not joking, it was really, really fun), with minimal help from my largely uninterested children.  When it was done, they were thrilled.  They immediately seized upon it and began playing.  One piece fell off, two, three, 23, 53...I frantically tried to reassemble it in real time.  I was like Kellyanne Conway trailing Donald Trump with a pooper scooper.  After giving up on that, I tried to grab the pieces and at least put them in a separate container so I could fix the set at a later date.   That later date never arrived, and my kids found the container and dumped in in with all their other billions of legos which they then scattered to the four corners of the earth as if they are blowing dandelion seeds all over creation.  The set now sits a sad ruin of its former self, a testament to a proud past of mommy accomplishment that will never be revisited.  Maybe I should have just bought a lego set of the Parthenon and made that, then you wouldn't be able to tell when it was wrecked.

So, will I ever buy another massive lego set again?  Yes, yes, I will. I now have my eye on the Millennium Falcon.  But I have also since bought lego glue (yes, it exists), and I'm going to build that thing to withstand Hurricane Katrina.  You just wait.

Does the gift have any glitter of any kind anywhere on it?  Glitter is of the devil and should not exist among any species that hopes to outlive cockroaches.  Glitter may even kill the cockroaches, I wouldn't underestimate it.  In fact, the only thing I could imagine worse than a nuclear bombing would be if the bomb was laced with glitter.  If anyone survived the initial explosion, radiation poisoning would be the kinder way to die slowly.  

Does the gift make any kind of mess whatsoever that a dog/raccoon cannot ingest?  Messes are like noises, some amount is tolerable if it buys parents some free time. But it has to be proportional.  If the activity lasts 5 minutes and results in a mess that takes 3 hours to clean up (I'm looking at you, silly string), that is obviously unacceptable.  Unless it's edible, then send in the wild beasts.  Or even if it's not edible but won't kill anyone.  Maybe the silly string is OK in that case.

Is it harder to get into the packaging than it is to get into Hamilton? Oooh I really want to see Hamilton.  Anything that makes American History cool and annoys Donald Trump is what I'm about. But you can't get in, not without a million dollars.  Much like toy packaging these days, except that all the money in the world won't save you.  I'm waiting for someone to actually die from opening toy packaging. That hard, sharp plastic could easily sever an artery, and you would definitely bleed to death because everyone would be so preoccupied by the children having seizures at the time it is taking for their toy to be liberated that no one would even notice your life ebbing away.

Does the gift NOT come with Hamilton tickets, a gift card for spa treatments, prescription psychiatric drugs, or offers of free babysitting?  Ideally, all children's gifts should come with adult accompaniments, because even if you have meticulously gone through this list and have tried your best to pick an unobjectionable toy, you will probably fail.  Children excel at making even the best things in life a form of torture (see legos), and whatever you give them, the adults in their lives will probably live to regret it.  So just preempt the lawsuits by slipping in something special for Mom and Dad.  Maybe a lego set of some vegetables or something children are afraid of.

Good luck with your holiday shopping everybody!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How To Talk To Your Kids About the 2016 Election

So I am super depressed today about a certain president-elect.  I can't even put his name in the vicinity of the word "president."  Just seems like an insult to George, Abe, FDR and the gang.

But life must go on and I gotta get out of bed, mainly because I have children who really are capable of surviving for at least a few days by themselves, but whose whining borders on listening to Donald Trump say "China" on loop as one of my Top 10 Ways I Don't Want to Go Insane.  Interesting Top 10 list, you might say.  Begs the question of how you WOULD want to go insane.  Thanks for asking, I have actually thought about this extensively, since my insanity is pretty much assured anyway, and I've settled on being licked incessantly by kittens OR living the rest of my life in the grocery store cereal aisle OR, my perennial favorite, baking cookies with my children.  Those all rank highly because, while they will indeed drive me insane, there could intervals of enjoyment.

In addition to whining and various other annoying activities, my children are also looking to me for (shudder) leadership on how to view this election.  After ruling out running through the house screaming "The end is NIGH, Patriots!!!!" while throwing random things into boxes marked with an address in rural Cataan, which my husband has repeatedly settled with great success, I've decided to go with some more measured options that will reassure my children and even show them the upside of this election, which I will share with you now, because as you know, this blog is ALL about offering expert parenting advice on a variety of difficult life topics.

Emphasize that they are not going to die from the election. Today.  Kids don't really know how to take the long view, they live in the now.  And right now, the adults in their lives are subtly signaling to them that the world will spontaneously combust soon, and that may be upsetting to many children.  But you can share with your children the good news that this election is highly unlikely to cause their deaths today, especially if they simply play away from the windows and doors through which angry mobs of feminists are likely to fling their pantsuits. If you feel up to it, however, you can go ahead and have a more challenging discussion in which you gently tell your children that everyone and everything on earth dies eventually, including two-hundred-and-forty-year-old democracies, and that the world actually will eventually spontaneously combust since we are apparently not going to do anything about global warming.

Explain to them that hypocrisy is actually very normal and nothing to be ashamed of.  The ways of adults can be baffling and overwhelming to children because they simply have not acquired the neurological maturity to process them.  For instance, children assume that when adults tell them that certain behavior is wrong--such as calling people names, lying repeatedly and compulsively even when there is TV footage proving you wrong, grossly stereotyping whole groups of people and then strangely adding "the" to the groups' names, and light sexual assault-- children actually believe that we are serious.  They don't understand that those things are only wrong when there isn't a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and that the rest of the time, hypocrisy is a perfectly normal thing that  grown ups do sometimes within the context of a loving relationship with their own righteousness.
And that goes doubly for Christians, because Jesus called us to win every single time and at all costs and when Paul said they will know we are Christians by our love, what he really meant is that they will know we are Christians by our single issue voting.

Tell them that sometimes good people make bad choices.   It doesn't mean they are bad people.  Ask little Susie if she remembers that time when she chose to eat cat poop and then vomited it up all over the new, Constitution-shaped sofa and then ate the vomit and threw that up, too. Was that a good choice? No. But did Mommy still love her and think she was her adorable baby girl? Yes, she did.  However, the sofa was never the same, and nor was Susie's digestive tract.  Sometimes there are consequences to our actions.

Explain that there are almost certainly historical preservation and zoning codes that will constrain the new president's White House decorating scheme.  Children find it reassuring when their external environment remains unchanged.  You can gently assure them that it is highly unlikely that Donald Trump will be able to gold-plate the White House or set up a casino in the basement, although a red velvet throne in the Oval Office is a distinct possibility.

Assure them that McDonalds will not cease to exist as a food option.  McDonalds is a top priority for our children, and though America as we have known it may be ending, McDonalds is here to stay, because if McDonalds can survive Michelle Obama, it will certainly survive Donald Trump.  Until he deports all the undocumented immigrants.  OK, McDonalds may indeed cease to exist as a food option BUT we will still be able to buy chicken nuggets at Costco and China will provide the Crappy Meal toys to all American children for free.

But certain vegetables might.  Your children will feel much better about the future once you've told them that trade embargoes could easily make avocados and other vegetables unavailable in the United States.  On a similar front, coffee may also be unavailable, which means their parents' vicious cycle of drug addiction and their own co-dependency may finally come to an end.

Reminisce to your child about how fun the fear of nuclear holocaust was.  The Cold War was a super interesting and exciting time to be alive--the drama! the intrigue! the cheesy movies! the oversimplified dichotomies!  You have not lived until you have seen Red Dawn, and if the movie was that good, imagine the real thing.  No more boring Saturday afternoons around here!

Explain that Donald Trump will not let Robert Mugabe take all our land.  OK, this one may be case specific to my household.  But if you also have a child who is terrified of Robert Mugabe and fears that his fellow autocrat will invite him to America to pillage our property, you can soothe your child by explaining that Donald Trump almost certainly does not know that Zimbabwe exists and thinks Mugabe is the name of the villain in Zoolander.

Tell them that there WILL be other elections.  Actually, scratch that, that might scare them worse.  

I am sure I not covering all the pertinent issues that your child may bring up.  Feel free to forward me your questions, and I will do my best to help.

Peace out American parents!!! And today's parting tip, just for dads: Remember, your daughter needs to be regularly assured that she is sexually attractive enough for you to date in order to have the confidence to compete in today's job market.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Pokemon Goes and Saves Us From Ourselves

My kids are very avant garde.  They were deep, deep into Pokemon at least a year before the Pokemon Go craze.  And I was deep, deep in confusion about why weird-looking, poorly done Japanese animation with a taxonomic system more complex than anything found in actual science was so awesome.  The kids have a book 2 inches thick with entries on each of the millions of Pokemon, their multiple evolved forms, and what their special moves are, the meaning of which is not given and which I can barely fathom. What, for instance, is Cotton Guard? Do you smother your opponent with cotton balls? Crab Hammer?  Frenzy Plant?  Some of them make more sense, and in fact, I think I myself may have these powers, such as Belly Drum, Dragon Breath, Spite, and obviously, Captivate and Charm.  My mother-in-law could crush any Pokemon out there with her Worry Speed powers.  Some Pokemon have powers I can only pray they use on me, such as Aromatherapy, Happy Hour, and Zen Headbutt.  The whole thing is just dizzying, and clearly shows that children have a capacity for mind-numbing detail that might be better applied to something useful, like editing the tax code or hunting for Donald Trump's charitable donations.

Given my lack of enthusiasm for the world of Pokemon, I was not that eager to download the Pokemon Go app.  I managed to keep the news of its existence a secret through the summer by keeping them locked in the house and cut off from the outside world, which wasn't hard to do, since they apparently want to live out their time on earth sitting on the sofa.  Which is of course part of our problem around here, but I'll get to that.  But of course September came, and they returned to the vibrant cultural exchange that is elementary school.  Their little friends told them about Pokemon Go.  They were immediately enraged at me for keeping this earth-shattering development in human history from them, as if I had watched them struggle with a horrible disease while sitting on the cure the entire time.

And at that point I realized I was indeed sitting on some kind of parenting kryptonite--I could give them something they wanted badly.  This kind of thing comes along once in a rare while and has a finite life, and when it does, you must squeeze every last drop of power out of it.  Thomas the Train bestowed upon me a good 4 months of benevolent dictatorship.  Star Wars has offered me some intermittent authority.  But their desire for Pokemon Go seemed to eclipse all of their previous addictions.  I put aside my many fears of falling off a cliff, getting mugged in my driveway by tech-savvy street gangs, or being stalked by Chinese hackers and downloaded the app.  I briefly perused it before informing the kids, thinking how hard can this be? You walk, you see Pokemon.  No big whoop.

My children greeted the news of our first Pokemon Go outing as I would Bono's arrival for dinner at my house.  Shrieks were heard. Minds were lost.  Then Mom couldn't figure out the app.   I thought you were supposed to see the real world instead of a cartoon version????  Where are the Pokemon?? There's a Pokemon!!! Catch it!!! How do you catch it?? figure it out!!! Now!! Hurry!!!  Give me the phone!!! No, Give ME the phone!!!! Cut to me, going into PTSD flashbacks to that ambush in the Mekong Delta I barely survived.

Finally, we left the driveway (and without being mugged, I might add, so I counted that as a win).  We accepted that the world would just be animated.  We walked and walked. No Pokemon.  We grew restless.  We decided to go toward a Pokestop even though we had no idea what that was. It turned out to be a spinning blue circle.  We clicked on it. Nothing happened.  We googled, "What is a Pokestop?"  It said there was supposedly a bunch of useful crap in there that would fly out.  We clicked on it again.  Nothing flew out.  We got angry again.  This was not going well.

We decided to walk over to the park.  Not only was there another Pokestop there that we could futilely click on in hopes of useful crap flying out, surely there would be a bunch of Pokemon going down the slides, because everyone loves slides.  We walked and walked.  We got to the park.  No useful crap and no Pokemon.  Then, all of a sudden, we hit an apparent Pokemon convention, I'm guessing they were nominating a presidential candidate, in which case, I'm with Her/Him/It.   We started hurling  Pokeballs at things.  We had some philosophical disagreements about technique that involved yelling and grabbing at the phone.  Then, WE CAPTURED A POKEMON.  Yes.  I felt an instant surge of success.  It was a non-evolved, grass type Evie, genus grassius maximus, species Evienovitch with special powers of Belch, Zap Cannon, and Parabolic Charge, in case you were wondering.   We threw more and more balls.  We captured more Pokemon. And then...We ran out of Pokeballs, a great tragedy I did not even know was a possibility, like a major political party nominating a sociopathic, self-tanning circus performer.   In both cases, there was much weeping and wailing and pressure on good Americans to come up with some kind of solution before we are all destroyed.

Then, the miracle we were all waiting for finally arrived.  No, Jesus did not return, yet, he's waiting for all the Pokemon everywhere to be captured first, and I hear there are still quite a few left in the Central African Republic.  But Mom did finally have a scientific breakthrough!  Actually TWO.  There WAS indeed useful crap at the Pokestops, namely Pokemon-attracting incense that has the added side benefit of putting everyone in a really good mood.  I figured out how to get that stuff out of the spinning blue dot.  Also, you can BUY more Pokeballs (and a bunch of other stuff)! I should have known the app wasn't actually free.  There are no free apps or lunches or government programs.  You will be separated from your money eventually, of that you can rest assured.  But some things are worth paying for, and Pokeballs are definitely one of those things.  The jury is still out on the Osprey helicopter.

With our renewed stock of Pokeballs and our mood-mellowing-Pokemon-attracting incense, we were in business.  We caught Pokemon left and right.  One of them tried to smother us in cotton balls, but we caught that little deviant, too.  We were finally having a good time.

And, secretly, we were walking for an hour and a half.  No juveniles who would ordinarily be pretending to have contracted polio and left for paraplegics even noticed.  They were too busy scooping up strange Japanese animation.  And the next day, they wanted to do it again. And the next day.  And they began going to bed on time and eating vegetables when threatened with a Pokemon Go moratorium.   I now had absolute power.

To review, Pokemon Go has caused my lazy children to walk for hours without complaining, revived my dictator status thereby restoring order to the household, and given us a family activity that does not give me panic attacks (now that we have figured it out) or leave me bored out of my mind (because I can actually look at trees instead of the phone).  True, my children still have no real contact with the natural world, but baby steps, people.  Perhaps once we prove to them they have functioning legs, we can at least shut down their complaints while hiking Yellowstone or force them to come up with excuses so ridiculous, it becomes a form of entertainment.  And, if the Pokemon do nominate a presidential candidate, we may even get a decent leader out of the deal, maybe even one with powers of Pay Day, Recover, or Amnesia.  Aurora Beam might also be nice.

Who says technology is all evil?  Pokemon Go clearly demonstrates that if we can figure out how to destroy ourselves with it, we can just as easily engineer our salvation.

Until the children lose interest.  Hopefully not before they develop some muscle tone.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Struggle to Feed My Children

That title is purposefully ironic, don't worry, I'm not an oblivious jerk.  While many, many mothers in the world--perhaps the majority of mothers in the world--literally DO struggle to feed their children food of any kind, I and many of my privileged, American cohorts struggle to feed our children something besides chicken nuggets, sugar, and sugar-coated chicken nuggets.  Not quite the same struggle.  And whereas those mothers are not responsible for their plight, we over here have mainly ourselves to blame.  And America.  But mainly ourselves.  Still, however pathetic it may be, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

I can't speak for all mothers, but here is how I became entrapped in a chicken nugget death spiral.
I started out, as all naive American mothers do, with the best of intentions, feeding my babies lots of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, which they actually ate.  Until they were around 2, when they made some important scientific discoveries.  First, they discovered the existence of highly processed, sugary foods that are literally created to be delicious and chemically addictive, because we are so advanced in America, we have engineered our own destruction.   They also discovered they possessed a tremendous power, small though they may be, to reduce a grown adult woman, a woman on whom they are completely dependent for their very lives, to a begging, pleading, cowering idiot by simply refusing to eat what is offered.  Finally, they discovered that that pathetic adult woman had the added vulnerability of hating to cook, which meant the more time the woman spent planning and preparing food, the more insane she would become when the food was refused.  Ability to produce insanity=WORLD DOMINATION.

Long, long story short, both my kids will now eat four foods. Not four food groups, four foods.  And the list keeps shrinking.  Just because they loved pasta a month ago does not mean they will love it a month hence.  And you can forget about a casserole.  Thou shalt not mix food substances.

Obviously, this is an unacceptable situation, because casseroles are the easiest thing to make, and they freeze well.  Also, my kids are endanger of becoming malnourished.  Good thing American toothpaste has fluoride in it, that is at least one nutrient they are getting.  Oh, you aren't supposed to swallow toothpaste? Dammit, they aren't getting any nutrition then.  So, yeah, it's not good.

As with so much of my parenting, on this I travel between poles of sloth/resignation and frantic "makeovers."  Every third week is New Year's Day in my house. I have made so many resolutions, devised so many strategies and gone through so many plans, I have lost count.  My kids always, ALWAYS win the war of attrition.  They are ruthless and without pity or shame.  And even more embarrassing, they often win the battle of wits too.  I used to think I was pretty smart.  Now I know I am a total sucker.

As I mentioned, my achilles heel is that I hate to cook.  More specifically, I hate deciding what to cook, buying all the stuff I need to cook more than 30 minutes before I have to cook it, and then cooking it while people are yelling at me. Or even if there is a chance people will yell at me.  It's very bizarre, but I literally get a kind of "flight or fight" thing when I start to cook, a panic that someone is going to interrupt me or harass me or pee on something before I am finished, as if the distraction will cause my stove to explode and burn up my entire house.  Rationally, I have no idea why this stresses me out, it's actually very bizarre, but nonetheless, I feel like I am in a race against time, like I'm a spy at a Russian Embassy party madly trying to photograph all the secret documents before my date discovers I'm not actually a Brazilian swimsuit model.  It's very stressful.  I've tried various meal planning strategies and services.  I tried Blue Apron, which sends you 2-4 recipes a week with all the ingredients you need.  I like someone telling me what to do, however, they tell me to make meals that are pretty gourmet for kids who eat 4 foods.  I tried Munchery, which just delivers the meals already cooked.  A little expensive, but not too bad, again, assuming my kids would eat any of their selections, which they won't.

So of course the solution is to do some kind of tough love strategy where my children are forced to eat whatever is put before them.  I have friends that make their kids clean their plate or they get that same plate over and over and over again until they do.  These people obviously have no mental health issues and are ideal candidates for dangerous secret missions in which they could be captured and tortured by our enemies.  The doctor told me to "put a small amount of a variety of foods" on their plates and then comment no further, promising me that in time, they would be eating escargot, sushi and raw kale.  Wrong, doctor, so wrong.  They won't eat any of that crap, they will just wait until their next birthday party invite and binge on enough cake to survive until Christmas.  I've tried making them take a bite of everything lest they never eat sugar again.  This has resulted in extended, rather Clintonian negotiations about what the definition of "bite" is, accompanied by Oscar-worthy performances of disgust and revulsion (think Tim Robbins crawling through raw sewage in The Shawshank Redemption).  You might point out that a woman who has run two marathons should have the mental toughness to withstand some extended whining, but I just don't.

I have come to absolutely hate dinner time in my house.  The question of "What's for dinner?" sends chills down my spine.  I either have no idea what is for dinner, or, more rarely, I have spent much time and energy coming up with a plan, the announcement of which is greeted by loud protestations and pretend gagging noises.  What I really want to do is yell, "I AM DONE! FEED YOURSELVES!" but this is actually illegal so...Here I am, buying chicken nuggets and peanut butter in bulk.  Until one of my children decides they no longer like peanut butter.  Then it will just be chicken nuggets.  Until they both decide they eat nothing but ice cream.  That day is coming.

Of course, it doesn't help assuage my guilt that I live in a community where moms bake their own organic flax/kale goldfish crackers.  I wish I were joking, but I met a real woman who does this.  She informed me that you can buy a tiny goldfish-shaped cookie cutter to assist you in this important endeavor.  I had no idea.  That truly is a wonder.  

If we went right now to a refugee camp in South Sudan and told the mothers there that American mothers were driven to psychiatric distress cutting out tiny goldfish crackers and begging their children to eat something so appalling as a vegetable, those mothers' heads would probably explode just trying to process the existence of such a world.  What I would really like to do is send my children to a refugee camp, not forever, just for like a week.  See how they like eating peanut paste and fortified corn-soy mush for every meal.  The whining would probably create an entirely new refugee crisis, as camp residents fled to escape the psychological torture and take their chances with lions and war lords.  Or they would just stone my children.  Either way, it wouldn't be pretty.

But probably no worse than meal time in my house.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Mother's Declaration of Human Rights


Whereas females of the human species who have reproduced or who have otherwise assumed parentage over a juvenile (hereafter referred to as "mothers") continue to be human beings with inalienable rights after becoming mothers, despite any evidence to the contrary, such as the possible usage of a breast pump;

Whereas the legal requirements of motherhood include the feeding, clothing, housing, and basic cleanliness, health and safety of juveniles, in addition to their education, which can be outsourced to the state; and do not include the eradication of boredom, inconvenience, annoyance, or deprivation of sugar and/or plastic items from China;

Whereas able-bodied men who may be present and juveniles of sufficient age are able to perform any manner of duties to maintain the well-being and proper functioning of themselves and their households, to include the location of misplaced items, the cleaning of clothing, the acquisition and preparation of food, the disposal of refuse materials, and the tending to the necessary sanitation of involved body parts after defecation;

Whereas the health, safety, and happiness of juveniles is dependent upon their mothers' own health, safety, and happiness (sometimes referred to as the "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" axiom);

We, the often unwashed and unheard masses of mothers do declare these our Human Rights, which shall be respected by all other humans and can be invoked by mothers, with vocal protests and/or the refusal to perform services, at any time when they are perceived to be violated:

Article I
A mother has the right to feed her children any substance approved by mainstream medical professionals--a category that does not include random women in parks with no medical degrees peddling essential oils--free of judgment, ridicule, or interference, and can command other able-bodied adults in the vicinity to administer said substance at any time of the day or night.

Article II
A mother has the right, in the presence of other able-bodied adults, and especially a male who may be complicit in her predicament, to refuse to remove soiled diapers from her infant and to place upon him or her a clean diaper, therein,  or to otherwise perform functions involving bodily fluids of any kind, by virtue of the mother's service as the incubation and delivery vessel for said child, or simply because she does not wish to perform said function.

Article III
A mother has the right, assuming an infant or older juvenile is known to be in a secure location or not otherwise at risk, to employ auditory blocking devices or legal pharmaceuticals during sleep.

Article IV
A mother has the right to maintain a posture of relaxation when ordered into service by a juvenile of sufficient age and ability to tend to their own needs; or, in cases where the juvenile is not of sufficient age or ability but is in no immediate danger if deprived of such service.

Article V
A mother has the right to refuse service of any kind to or in the presence of her able-bodied male partner at any time and for any reason.

Article VI
A mother has the right to employ technology--to include televisions, Netflix, laptops, tablets, wii, playstation, and any number of electronic devices, both presently in existence or invented at any time in the future--at any time, without judgment, ridicule, or interference to maintain sufficient mental and/or physical health needed to meet her legal responsibilities.

Article VII
A mother has the right to tend to necessary bodily functions in privacy and without interference and to employ locking devices pursuant to this aim.

Article VII
A mother has the right to depart from areas and disengage from situations in which juveniles are employing methods of psychological torture but are otherwise in no immediate danger if left unattended; locking devices may be employed pursuant to this aim.

Article VIII
A mother has the right to partake of entire meals while seated and to refuse to participate in such meals intended to "celebrate" her but which include juveniles insistent upon human rights violations during said meal.

Article IX
A mother has the right to dispose of any item at any time that has been improperly deposited in her abode and/or whose value is not easily determined, to include scraps of paper; plastic items obtained from birthday parties and/or fast food restaurants; organic items such as sticks, dirt clods, and leaves; and play items that have not been employed in recent memory, if ever.

Article X
A mother has the right to refuse to assist with the entertainment of juveniles, to include instruction in cooking and gardening that might otherwise be efficiently accomplished in pleasant solitude; assistance with handicrafts, particularly those involving glitter, paint and other noxious substances; participation in games that involve sitting for long periods on floors, physical exertion of any kind, or elaborate, nonsensical rules, noncompliance with which is met with apoplexy; and the planning and execution of logistically complex outings, parties, or other activities that involve leaving the house.

Article XI
A mother has the right to avail herself of medicinal assistance, in moderation, to include chocolate, alcohol, spa treatments, antidepressants or other legally obtained psychiatric pharmaceuticals, in pursuit of baseline mental health.

Article XII
A mother has the right, free from judgment, ridicule, or interference, to maintain a position of employment, if she so chooses, and to arrive at her place of employment showered and wearing clean clothing, if she so chooses, or to have the fact of her dishevelment overlooked if she instead has prioritized sleep over personal hygiene.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women--including those women who have sacrificed their bodies, careers, and sanity for the sake of the continuation of the human race--are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are Sleep, Peace, Sanity, and Private Toilet Use, the deprivation of which constitute gross violations that Mother-kind will probably allow but will be bitter and resentful about so please cooperate people!  Don't make us count to 3!!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Thoughts on Acne and Grace

A little departure from whining about motherhood today to reflect on two constants in my life: Acne and grace.  Unfortunately, I probably spend more time thinking about the former, and that tells you a lot about what is wrong with my life.  The grace part is less---wait for the awesome pun--in your face (ha! was that amazing or what!) so it's easier to lose sight of.  But nonetheless, as I hope my overall life demonstrates, grace undergirds it.

So the other day it occurred to me that my skin problems might offer a great metaphor for grace. But before we get to grace, I want to try to explain the Christian concept of sin, because people seem to misunderstand it (quite possibly because so many Christians are total jerks about it, more on that later).  The secular world thinks Christians are a huge kill joy in all their sin talk, telling folks they can't do this and that, which many of them often do.  In many folks' minds and in the way many Christians communicate it, the concept of sin basically becomes a big list of broken rules (usually perpetrated by those other than the people who harp on sin, endearing them to everyone who knows them).  In actuality, sin is simply the human condition of being imperfect that we all share in.  If it is CNN Breaking News to you that you are imperfect, then I really can't help you out, you are almost certainly a narcissist if not a sociopath (I'm talking to you, Donald Trump).  For the rest of us, is it really a newsflash that we are not perfect?  That we make mistakes? That we hurt others? That we do and say things we regret? That we need to apologize on occasion, if not frequently/every single day? That we can be selfish and petty and exclusive and jealous and just plain hateful?  I didn't think so.  Now, it may be hard to admit that to ourselves and others, and we may even hide it very well, and some of us may have a really really hard time apologizing for anything.  But in the quiet of our hearts, we know the real deal.  We fall short of the ideal we have for even ourselves.

So sin is like when I look in the mirror and clearly see right there on my face that I have pretty bad acne (which, just to be clear, is not a sin, I'm just trying to illustrate something here).  My skin is far from perfect, and quite frankly, I really can't stand that.  So I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy worrying about it, trying to get rid of it, trying to hide it.  Deep dark secret--I pick at it constantly just from the anxious need to feel I am DOING something about it.  Sometimes I succeed--maybe my pimples are not so numerous some days, and I can effectively cover them all up with make up.  And those days I might feel pretty good about myself.  But I know that lurking beneath all my products, those zits are still there, and I feel kind of...ugly.   I may even be hypercritical of others' imperfections to make me feel better about my own--noticing all those people out there with cankles since my nice slim ankles are one of my best features (and those who know me are DYING of laughter right now.  I'm being sarcastic.  I have the worst ankles the world has ever seen).  You may not be able to stand all the more clear-skinned people because you are so jealous.  Your acne not only makes you feel less-than, it builds walls between you and others.  So that's sin (and again, having acne--or cankles--is not a sin.  Unless you attend church in Hollywood or some kind of supermodel church.  Then, maybe so).

Then let's say one day you are due to meet the world's foremost authority on skin, some kind of super dermatologist crossed with a beauty critic/mogul/Oprah, someone who goes around judging skin and saying whether or not skin is acceptable or not.  You've slathered on all your make up and tried to get things looking OK so this person--and we're going to make her a SHE because it's my illustration so there--so she at least won't be repulsed by your skin.  You meet her, you chat, and then she takes out a  wet cloth and starts wiping all your make up off.  You are kind of freaked out (because, hello, that's just weird, a stranger wiping your face like that.  So is the idea of some kind of skin goddess, but again, let's go with the illustration, people!)  but you let her do it, and soon you are barefaced before her and you have to admit, yeah, I have terrible, acne-pocked skin.  And you wait for her to say, yuck, it is horrible and disgusting.  But instead she tells you your skin is beautiful, she loves your skin, and more importantly, YOU are beautiful and so much more than your skin anyway.  And she says it in a way that leads to to believe she is sincere, and you come to believe it in the depths of your soul.

You go home, you throw away every product you have piled up in your bathroom, and you feel liberated.  The acne is still there, and it may in fact remain a problem for your skin for the rest of your life, but you no longer feel you must deny and hide it, and you no longer feel obsessed with it, ruled by it, because you've come to believe in your skin's inherent beauty.   But because you are less anxious about it, you pick at your skin less, you worry about it less, and your acne actually does get better over time.  Now, you will have days, weeks, even longer periods where you forget what the skin expert said and you descend back into the abyss of acne-ridden self-hatred.  But hearing what the skin expert said and dwelling on that gives you a pathway out, gives you a way to know that you are not defined by your acne.  You can face the truth of its existence, but it loses its ability to make you feel ugly. And because you have made peace with your acne and have come to be free from its power to make you feel hideous, you are less threatened by the more clear-skinned people and less fixated on others' imperfections.  You can actually compliment people on their lovely skin and mean it.

And that is what grace can do.  When you get a glimpse of yourself as the divine sees you (and for Christians, that happens through the person of Christ), it is liberating.  But you can't get that perspective if you are caught up in the carefully constructed image of a falsely perfect self, and that goes for all the Christians out there who think they know they are sinners but never actually talk about how they are flawed, never apologize to anyone, never admit they are wrong about anything, and fixate on all of the horrific things other people are doing.  No matter who you are or think you are, you can't be free from your flaws and failings until you face them first.  And that is confession of sin.  See?  Not that painful! And hugely rewarding for everyone!

Here's where many Christians have sadly given confession a bad name, however, and I'll go back to my acne metaphor.  If acne is sin (and again, not really), many Christians fixate on what kind of acne we are talking about exactly.  They'll say, you know, cystic acne is really the problem with our skin.   We need to eradicate cystic acne, then everyone will be better off.  Of course, none of the people saying this have cystic acne.  They have tons and tons of blackheads, which they will rarely talk about, but no cystic acne.  But guess what, blackheads are still acne.  And meanwhile, not only are the blackhead people not dealing with their particular form of acne,  they have isolated themselves from all the cystic acne people, who think they are a bunch of delusional, mean people because it's obvious to everyone their faces are covered in blackheads.

So the bottom line is, we ALL have acne, people.  Not a truly clear-skinned one among us.  Even Gisele Bunchen has a breakout during her period (I'm guessing), but she just stays at home instead of being photographed in a bikini.  We all need to approach each other with massive amounts of compassion and empathy and to remind each other that the Great Dermatologist loves us all and thinks we are gorgeous.

And that is the end of a truly bizarre extended metaphor.  If anyone is confused, well, I don't blame you.  Much grace and peace to all.

Friday, April 29, 2016

How the Other Half Lives

I have a lot of friends who are truly excellent mothers.  They are patient and kind.  They are consistent but loving disciplinarians.  They read all the parenting literature and actually follow the guidance (vs what I do, have a panic attack).  They cook with their kids, they garden with their kids,  and they take their kids to interesting and fun places from young ages without getting all stressed out.  They have well-thought out "systems" and "methods."  I have one friend who has all her kids' toys organized in bins, and each bin has a toy to provide a different kind of education and stimulation.   AND they actually STAY organized (this on par with Moses parting the Red Sea in my book.)  I have numerous friends who feed their kids no processed foods of any kind.  Their kids eat seaweed and arugula cheerfully.  I think most of the moms at my church actually do the activities and memorize the Bible verses the Sunday School teachers send home every week instead of throwing them atop Mt. Kid Crap that sits on the laundry counter and is eventually thrown away when it scrapes the ceiling.  And lest the working moms climb on their high horses about "of course they do all this stuff, they don't have jobs," some of these moms actually DO have jobs.  I know.  In addition, I can't honestly dismiss these women as being shallow or one-dimensional, because a lot of them are really, really smart and well-read.  And I must honestly admit they are also mostly not showy or fake people or condescending and judgy about less-than moms.  They are nice people.  They are just really that amazing and awesome and good at motherhood.  And their kids no doubt adore them and will grow up to have countless lovely memories of their gorgeous, gentle moms who were always there for them and made their childhoods magical and delightful.

And then I have a friend who is all those things and does all those things--everything she does and is is adorable.  She has 3 kids under 5, one of them a newborn (A NEWBORN, y'all).  Her Facebook feed is one beautifully composed and filtered photo of her exquisitely cherubic kids after another.  She herself looks cheerful and gorgeous in every photo, even the ones taken after being up all night with the newborn.  She is constantly doing precious things with her kids, like berry-picking, mini-hikes, crafts, cooking, you name it.  This week she posted about how every month she picks a theme for the kids and organizes all their activities and books and even the (probably) rare video around the theme, and she shared that this month's theme was bugs and how she incorporated that into your parenting during the month.  Whenever she does complain about motherhood, it is punctuated with "But it's all worth it!" and I truly believe she means that.

I know this woman, and she is a really good person.  I have never felt judged by her.  And I know she posted this out of a generous spirit, to give ideas to other moms and to be encouraging.  But I read her post and immediately felt like a failure, an emotion I then disguised with mockery and humor, the way I always do.  I almost typed, "Our theme this month is once again Zoloft and booze" (and no, Mom, I'm actually not a heavy drinker. I am on Zoloft, as everyone knows).  Which, come on, is HYSTERICAL. It's also very snarky and mean, so I didn't type it.  Instead, I shared it with several similarly under-achieving mom friends, who offered their themes for the month, which included "takeout," "showering daily," and "video games."  (And of course I am sharing it here, within the proper context of an admission that I am a terrible person).

Deep down, though, I was really impressed with her idea, and I briefly fantasized about how I might implement it.  I actually love the idea of "systems" and "methods" (see my attempt at a 12-month family makeover plan), but they invariably break down (see the abandonment of said plan after two months).  In my fantasy, our theme-based adventures would be miraculous times of bonding.  However, realistically, this is probably how it would go in my house:

Me: Hey, kids! Guess what, we are going to start having a theme of the month.  This month is going to be snakes.
Lawson:  I hate snakes.  I hate themes.  I'm going to play Wii.
Charlotte:  OK, Mom, what are the rules?  which days and times are we going to do the themes? I need to know because what always happens is you make a rule, but you don't really mean it, and I end up having to enforce everything.
Me: This time will be different.
Charlotte: You always say that.
Me: Well, this time WILL be different.  The first week, we will go to the library and get books about snakes and read those books.  The second week, we will take a field trip to some nature centers to see snakes.  The third week, we will do a snake-themed craft.  and the fourth week, we will learn some songs about snakes and maybe put together a little show for Daddy.
Lawson:  I don't want to do any of that.  I hate songs and crafts and field trips. I hate snakes.  I'm going to go play Wii.
Charlotte: No, Lawson, WE ARE DOING THIS. You WILL cooperate.
Lawson: I DON'T WANT TO COOPERATE!! (throws fit.  I run into my bedroom, lock the door and do some online shopping)

Week One
Me: OK, kids, it's time to go to the library and pick out snake books!
Lawson:  I don't want to go to the library! I hate the library! I hate snakes! I'm going to go play Wii.
Lawson: NO!!!! I don't want to go to the Library!!!
Me: This time, I am standing firm and not online shopping.  We WILL go to the library.
At the Library:
Me: OK, guys, here's the section on snakes, pick out some books.
Lawson: I hate snakes.  I want a Star Wars book.  I want a book that is basically a Wii game.
Me: you can pick out a Star Wars book, but we are also going to get snake books.
Lawson: I hate snakes! I want to go home!  I want to play Wii!
Lawson: No!!! (throws fit)

Week Two
Charlotte:  Hey Mom, we need to organize our snake field trip.
Me: Hmmm, gee, I'm not feeling great.  We're just going to stay home and watch movies. Do you want some ice cream?
Charlotte and Lawson: ICE CREAM!!! ICE CREAM!!!
Me: Ice cream and TV it is.  I'm just going to be in my room online shopping.

And scene.  You can see why I read my friend's post about her theme and feel about one-inch tall.  And you can see why I then feel the need to belittle and dismiss her themes in order to feel OK about myself.

Which is not OK.  The fact is, there are moms of all different types and talents (and as always, I'm talking about the normal spectrum of loving, non-abusive moms), and there is no need to tear each other (or ourselves) down.  Of course, there are truly self-righteous, judgmental witches out there who think they are better than other moms because they make their own diaper cream, and those women have no place in civilized mom society.  But for the rest of us, and I'm talking mostly to myself, we need to let other moms do their thing, and we need to do ours and not be threatened by what they are doing.  My friend is CLEARLY rocking the baby-small-kid phase.  That phase is definitely not my forte, and in fact is the 9th level of hell in my book, but now my kids are getting to be school aged, and I can see that I am getting better at this.  I still can't do themes, but at least I'm not depressed all the time.  And I could be totally jinxing it and will no doubt be humiliated by this statement in a few years but--I think I might actually be good at the teen phase.  Mainly because I think it will be awesome to embarrass my kids all the time ("Is that your mom over there? the one with the purple mohawk wearing Christmas lights?")   My friend may run out of themes by then and may need my advice.  Actually, who am I kidding? She'll be FINE, because she's clearly building a strong relationship with her kids now that will carry into the teen years, whereas my kids will probably be sullen gamers who interact with me via avatar.

In any case, we are all doing our best.  Some people's best is just better.  And that's OK.  God loves us all, and we are enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Best Parenting "Hacks"

Just for starters, I hate the term "hack" and am not really sure how it came to mean shortcut vs. a way to brutally murder a person, cake, or website.   While we are on the topic, I also hate the word "meme" and have no idea how it went from being a French word meaning "same" that rhymed with "femme" to being a term used to describe a photo defaced by internet users and rhyming with "beam," as in please hit me over the head with one before you use the word "meme."  It just sounds creepy to me, like "ganglia" or "undulate."  Sometimes I really despise the internet.

But not today, for it is the 8th, as in the EIGHTH or VIII,  Snow Day of the winter for my kids, and the internet means that my children can watch movies and play Wii all day while I sit in bed bemoaning the annoying words that have recently entered the English language.  I could venture out into the house to do something useful like reorganize a closet, but then I would witness the utter destruction of civilization that awaits me there, involving all the furniture being refashioned into a World  War I-esque trench fortification, dishes affixed with the remnants of sugary and starchy foods littering the floor, piles of soggy snow clothes by the doors, bits of crafting debris and crayons crushed into the rug, and of course my zombie-like children who are apparently responsible for the destruction though they give no indication of having moved or even processed a human thought in several weeks.

So instead, I am going to pass on the wisdom I have accumulated over the years on how to be what I call a "minimalist" (read: lazy) but still (barely) acceptable parent in this day of overactive, overachiever parents.  I will also present pseudo-scientific evidence to make you feel better about it. These are my "hacks."

1) Stop bathing your kids!!! JUST STOP IT!!!  Americans KILL me with this, bathing their precious babies every. single. night.  In addition to making your life more complicated and costing you ever-depleting energy, my research shows you are basically ripping off layers of their sensitive skin and giving them immune systems so weak, one meal at Chipotle could finish them off.  Meanwhile, we eat at Chipotle's dirtier cousin Taco Bell weekly without digestive consequences.  First of all, babies and non-potty-trained toddlers get their yucky parts washed multiple times a day anyway, so there's hardly any need to bathe them ever.  Once potty-trained, I use the same rule I use for the dog.  When I smell something funky or see stuff in their hair, time for a bath.  Otherwise, carry on.  Even the APA says a weekly bath is plenty.  See? What. are. you. doing. to. yourself.

2) Swimming in a swimming pool or even some lakes counts as a bath.  Until their hair gets that green tinge.  I actually don't think that happens anymore, I think the chlorine is of superior quality these days.  For sure it is going to disinfect your kid's entire body.  Done.

3) Speaking of Taco Bell.  It's not as bad as McDonald's.  It's beans, it's rice, it's cheese. It's possibly some other stuff.  But it's fine.  And it's cheap, fast, and easy.  Go to there.

4) Don't get involved in homework.  Especially before it counts toward their college application.  Why would you do that?  Why, I say?  I attended the 2nd grade, I did very well in the 2nd grade, I have nothing to prove here.  My research says it builds confidence and responsibility to leave all this homework stuff to the kids.  Plus they get in the habit of doing their own homework and managing their time before it really counts.  In addition, you get to keep reading your own book.

5) Similarly, unless there is blood, don't get involved in fights.   Most of the time it's easier to sort out Syria than it is to determine who is at fault at which point and who started it and who isn't sharing and who had it first and then to work out peace in our time.  You aren't going to be able to do that, so just stay out of it (maybe Syria too? I don't know).  The kids will develop problem-solving and people skills.  And, most importantly, you won't have to get off the couch.

5) More generally, if a child can do something on their own and leaving them to it has few consequences for you, tell them to do it themselves.  At 8 am on a Saturday, breakfast is Get it yourself.  Sure, they may spill something and they may eat a popsicle.  But it's fine.  It builds resourcefulness and initiative.  And it builds in a few extra minutes for Mom to lie in repose.  On the other hand, if it's 8 am on a Monday and you need to get out the door, then breakfast is Whatever Mom gives you and you will shut up about it and eat it NOW.

6) This includes brushing teeth and washing hands.  Now that Charlotte has some permanent adult teeth, I pay slightly more attention.  But baby teeth? Please. Those are practice teeth.  Taking good care of those is like going to relationship counseling with your 8th grade boyfriend.  If Lawson doesn't do a spectacular job, whatever.  Basically with both hands and teeth, I'll start micromanaging their cleanliness when folks start getting cavities and dysentery.  Guess what? Hasn't. happened.

7) Oh friends, this one is my FAVORITE, and I can't claim credit.  My best friend (who's even bester now) was visiting and watched my morning routine of cramming my kids into their clothes because even though they can do that themselves, they can't do it in less than 45 minutes.  She casually mentioned that she had a friend whose kids slept in the next day's clothes.  What, you say?  Well, Why not? The difference between kids clothes and PJs is basically the difference between Donald Trump and a giant, mean, narcissistic grapefruit.   Imperceptible.  Especially if you are dealing with my daughter's wardrobe, which consists of exclusively leggings and T-shirts.  She regards denim as something banned under the Geneva Conventions.   Now my morning routine consists of yelling "get in the car" and giving them a granola bar.  Done.

8) If you kids say they are bored, get a box and start putting all your kids' toys in it to take to Goodwill.  Works every time.

9) Don't organize, throw away.  Indiscriminately.  Papers, drawings, Chinese crap from birthday parties, colored-in coloring books, dried up play doh, broken crayons, the endless stream of unsharpened pencils, toys with a bunch of pieces that are now dismembered and scattered, all of it.  If you don't know what to do with it, in the trash.  yes, an important legal document or two may get in there accidentally.  That's the price you pay for being able to move freely around your house.

10) Snow days DON'T COUNT.  The kids can watch as much TV and wii as they want.  They can eat whatever they want.  The adults can drink as much alcohol as they want.  No one bathes.  Snow=the suspension of the normal rules of human society for the sake of the survival of the species.

11) Zoloft.  I've gone on at length about this so I won't belabor the point.

I think I'm done for now.  Now I know what you are saying--These are not really "hacks," in the Pinterest sense of the term.  Hacks are supposed to be cute ways to get you to the same or higher level of living in a more efficient time frame.  These are just a lower level of living.  You are basically just inviting us all to wallow in the mud of sloth with you.

But are they really a lower level of living?  Are the results really different, my friends?  When I compare my kids to those of my more overachieving mom friends, I can't really see a difference.  If anything, my kids get sick less.  They are healthy.  They are learning well in school.  They are fed, they are clothed.  They don't have all their teeth, this is true, but they have age-appropriate toothlessness. Their mother is (relatively) sane.  OK she is crazy, but she's like a fun kind of crazy, it works.  Now they are more badly dressed, I can't deny that.  And their crafts are self-directed and therefore pretty avant garde.  But I maintain they would still be badly dressed and their crafts would be ugly whether they slept in PJs and I crafted with them or not.

And the best part is, I am still in bed, in my PJs.
(Seriously, why have we made parenting so much harder than it already is?  Just stop it.  Lean out. On all fronts.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

An Army of Mommy Bloggers

I have lots of kind friends who read my blog (or at least pretend to) and encourage me to write.  "You should do this for a living!" say some of the more indulgent and/or delusional among them.  I would love to do this for a living, but unfortunately, so would about a billion other "Mommy Bloggers" out there. There are more Mommy Bloggers than there are screaming toddlers at a Wiggles concert (or anywhere, really).  If you literally made an army out of Mommy Bloggers, they could probably conquer the earth in about 3 days and have a delicious, nutritious dinner waiting in the crock pot for when they got home.  Some of the famous ones have actual talent.  But the depressing thing is some of the famous ones have zero talent, and the rest of us are left shaking our heads like William Shakespeare catching an episode of the Real Housewives of Miami.  Even more depressing is how many really good, undiscovered bloggers there are.  People are always sending me links from Mom Blogs that "remind me of you!" or that "I think you'll like!" because they wrongly assume I am not petty and can appreciate similarly talented people instead of wanting to destroy them.  Too bad the only thing I can hack is a big chunk of mucus up from my chest during a cold.

So why don't I write about something else, anything else?  I actually know a lot more about other things than I do about motherhood. The problem is I don't want to get fired from my job and I don't want to get divorced from my husband, so that rules out a lot of topics.  And I really have little time for any other field of endeavor.  So that leaves me searching for my place among the ranks of the Mommy Bloggers.

So where do I fit in?  There are of course many types of Mommy Bloggers, and I will break it down for you now.

1) Momprah (that's Mom and Oprah combined, see what I did there?).  This blogger is inspirational and will help you through your darkest days with empathy, compassion, and a good pep talk that generally boils down to--this is really hard, you are beautiful, you are amazing, you are amazingly beautiful, and you need to just keep doing what you're doing, girl.  These ladies have women across America, if not the world, weeping into their computers and reposting things on their Facebook pages with chapeau language like, "YES," "THIS," and "THANK YOU."  When your newborn triplets want to nurse around the clock and projectile vomit it right back up onto your cracked, infected nipples while your husband is sick in the other room with fungal pneumonia and a blizzard rages outside, you need Momprah to show you the deep meaning to be found in all of it and above all to tell you that though you look and feel like roadkill that somehow still manages to appear fat even though it is smashed on the pavement, your soul has never been more shiny and radiant.   She probably will not tell you what you may need to hear, to drop the martyr act and go get some formula, that would be left up to...

2) Profanity-Laced Mom.  This mommy blogger is a brutal realist who always tells it like it is, and in far too much detail for comfort ("My kids just cussed out the flight attendant for refusing to serve them alcohol.  Fortunately, I drank their share and then some before passing out on my seat mate. They had to deplane me with a wheelchair.")  She can send you into fits of laughter one minute and have you looking up the number for Child Protective Services the next.  She probably went into labor while dancing on a table in a crop top and leather pants at a club.  Weeks later, she was back doing the same thing with a baby carrier in tow. Her readers are overgrown teenagers, criminals, and regular moms looking to feel better about letting their kids eat Lucky Charms for dinner.  This blogger is the absolute worst nightmare of...

3) Dr. Mom.  This Mommy Blogger may or not be a real Ph.D., but she might as well be, because she has read every study, book, article, medical journal, and probably even a few dusty dissertations on parenting, early childhood development, pediatrics, education, nutrition, psychology, theology, criminology, or anything that has anything to do with children.  This woman knows her stuff.  If she's a nice person, she will offer her wisdom up in a helpful, non-condescending way ("10 ideas for stimulating your child's brain development during a blizzard") but if she's kind of a witch, it will be a bit more pointed ("How that corn dog you just served your toddler is shriveling her liver into a raisin").  She's a great resource to have for when you earnestly need advice.  But fair warning, reading her blog will either send you into an anxious frenzy of organic farming, compulsive crafting, and feeling-validation exercises or it will cause you to descend into a paralyzed, catatonic state as you are overwhelmed with all the things you need to start and stop doing to ensure your child doesn't turn out to be an obese, hyperactive serial killer with a shriveled liver.  Or a merely average person.  Dr. Mom is an towering intellectual giant next to...

4) Hello Kitty Mom.  I've named this Mommy Blogger after the too-cute, rot-your-teeth-sweet, overly pink Japanese cartoon because this mom, her kids, and her entire life is absolutely nauseating.  Her blog consists of an endless stream of precious, instagram-filtered photos of her 16 amazingly wonderful and identically-dressed children, the adorable cakes she makes for their birthdays ("Just whipped up this sweet 3D animatronic cake for Hawthorne's Frozen party!!!!  I just love how the laces in Anna's iceskates turned out!!! So easy, too!!!"), the darling owl she and her kids carved out of butter ("Butter carvings make dinner time so fun!!! So easy, too!!!"), selfies of her itty bitty former-cheerleader self in maternity fashion ("soooo hard to dress my big belly!!!  So easy, too!!!"),  fun family outings ("We just hiked the Appalachian Trail!!! the baby crawled behind us like a trooper!!! So easy, too!!!), all with chapeau language laced with plenty of rainbow, heart, butterfly, and pony emoticons. Sure, motherhood can be rough, but "soooo worth every minute of life with my precious babies!!!"  Indeed, "mommyhood is the best job ever!!!!"  Hello Kitty Mom risks being bludgeoned to death by...

5) Feminist Mom.  This mom's blog is all about Girl Power, Raising Strong Daughters, and Fighting Gendered Stereotypes.  Her day job is corporate CEO, and while she has no time to bake animatronic cakes, she will have a tasteful, successful birthday party for her daughter, complete with a Gloria Steinem impersonator.  Her blog deals with such topics ranging from "Where to buy a Power Suit for your infant" to the missing Rey doll conspiracy against women to a list of companies to boycott for not offering enough non-pink clothing for girls.  She is really torn about breastfeeding, because on the one hand, it's clearly a male plot and makes it really hard to take over a company when you are pumping 10 minutes out of every hour, but on the other hand, how is her daughter going to take over the world without a sky-high IQ.  It's a conundrum about which she will blog at length.   She is a lot more energetic than...

6) Me.  And a lot of bloggers like me, probably most of them.  I can't claim to be even remotely unique or talented when I take in the full array of the Mommy Bloggers.  We have no real agenda other than just getting through the day and being decent enough parents.  And trying to find humor in it all so that we don't just collapse into a weeping pile of snot in need of rescue by Momprah.  And trying to prevent insanity or brain death or alcoholism in the case of Profanity-Laced Mom.  So we blog.  For something to do.  For therapy.  For ourselves.  If people read it, fine. Some of us will go viral and have a brief moment in the sun.  Some will have an entire career made.  If no one reads it, well, at least we rescued a few brain cells and brushed up our English language skills.