The Pursuit of Fun is Ruining Our Children

April 17, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, cooking, Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, MamaPop, Parenting, Writing | By

Should children have chores

You’d think that  technology or social media or violent video games or predators were the biggest threat to our children. It’s worse, folks. The biggest risk to our children’s well-being is much more insidious and it hides in the skin of a hungry and vicious wolf. It is “fun,” and fun will eat your children. Because fun? Fun is really, really bad for kids.

If something isn’t “fun,” kids don’t want to do it (mine included). Unfortunately, a large majority of things that need to be done aren’t fun. Society’s relentless pursuit of fun aka Let’s Make Life A Giant Carnival Cream Puff Bouncy Castle is hindering my ability to effectively parent my children while imparting any sense of reality about the world. This “fun” shit? I don’t like it. Not everything is meant to be fun. Like “work” for example. If – as a consequence of its nature – your job happens to be fun, that’s great! You’re one of the lucky ones. I’m happy for you; really. Now piss off and get back to the candy-tester factory. My point is that not everything is fun, or should be fun. When we try to fool our kids into thinking it is, we’re setting them up for some serious disappointment when they leave our homes for the real world.

The other day I told my kids we were going out for dinner. Their response should have been something along the lines of “Thanks, Mom! It certainly is kind of you to take us for a dinner out. What a rare and unexpected treat! We love you best!” Instead, I endured a 20-minute conversation about restaurant selection based on the most important criteria of all: which establishment offered the best treasure box after the meal. The food could have been fabulous, the service impeccable, but if my kids weren’t walking away with coloring books and crayons after, it was all for naught. This is not the type of discerning diner or future dater I wish to raise.

Some things are not meant to be fun; like a trip to the dentist for instance. I should have realized dental care was becoming too much fun years ago, because whenever I announced a check-up appointment my children would high-five each other. At our dental office after each successful cleaning appointment, children are taken to the “Prize Table.” The prize table is huge and covered with all sorts of crap that will soon be living in my vacuum canister in a dusty heap with errant Cheerios, Lego pieces, and my hopes and dreams. Sitting in the dental chair for an hour twice a year now earns you a Sponge Bob pencil and a Gooey Eyeball. That Gooey Eyeball was in my son’s pocket for less than an hour before it found a permanent home on my bedroom ceiling, where it is now stares at me with a lint-covered cloudy pupil when I’m getting dressed. Thanks, Dr. Brown! You make me long for the good old days when dentists hated children.

I don’t have a complete aversion to fun. Fun is important, and when I see it forming organically, I don’t shut it down. If my kids find a way to make taking the garbage to the curb enjoyable, or cutting the lawn bearable, I let them roll with it. That’s self-created fun, and it’s an excellent coping skill for the future. Kids need to learn that sometimes (most of the time) the result is the reward. Work hard and enjoy the benefits which arise from that effort. Maybe the outcome will be fun, and maybe it won’t. Maybe the only consequence of a dogged effort will be knowing you did your best and that will have to suffice. I’ll throw you a party on your birthday and for your graduation, but don’t expect a festival because you earned a new belt in Jiu Jitsu. You won’t get a bubble machine or a cake, but you can break a jerk’s arm in six different and painful ways, and really, is there anything better than that?

My daughter complains constantly that her chores are not fun. I take this with a grain of salt because she is 15 years old and nothing is fun except going to the mall or making Vine videos of opening a grilled cheese sandwich. I am fully aware that emptying the dishwasher and dusting bookshelves are not fun; I’ve been doing these things for over 35 years. They’re not fun. They never were, and they never will be. I hate doing them, and that’s why I make her do it. It’s the circle of life and I’ve assured her that one day she may be lucky enough to have children to do her chores as well. I’m pretty sure it’s all that keeps her going. It’s also furnishing her with pragmatic expectations for the future. My kids aren’t perfect. (Seriously; I have stories). But they work hard most of the time and they know: I don’t pay for grades, I don’t turn mind-numbing chores into scavenger hunts, and I don’t give rewards when they acquiesce to vaccinations. You want a gift for sitting still for your tetanus shot? Okay! Here’s some “Not Getting Lock-Jaw” for you!

It’s time to take artificially constructed fun out of childhood, because we are creating a gratification-seeking populace who won’t do anything unless there’s the promise of a chocolate milkshake afterwards. I can reasonably assert that our kid’s future middle-management supervisors are not going to offer them a trip to a treasure box for cardboard crowns when they close the Anderson file.

If we tell kids to pretend they’re scullery maids in a King’s kitchen when they’re scrubbing pots and pans, we are removing their chance to create their own fantasies. Doing dishes can be a time to sing show tunes or imagine ways to run away, or to just do the dishes. By making every chore and job fun we prohibit a child’s ability to seek joy on their own terms. If someone tells you what to pretend, is that pretending at all? That’s imagination restriction, and that blows. If kids make fun on their own while working, that’s awesome! But parent’s constant pursuit of fun for their children is a misguided attempt to bring joy to kid’s lives and while it’s admirable, it’s very harmful. It’s like Charlie Sheen continuing to make sitcoms; we may understand the motivation behind the endeavor, but ultimately it’s better if no one is exposed to that shit.

*image courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons

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Wherein I Solve 94% of Your Baby Related Problems

April 7, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, MamaPop, Parenting, Writing | By

Baby Cry Analyzer

Babies cry. Sometimes they cry a lot, and sometimes for seemingly no reason. You’d think that most people would understand this, but even I wasn’t aware until I had my second baby. Because Baby Number 1?  She didn’t cry. Like ever. One time, she made a sound that I thought was a cry, but no. It was a squeaky toy. That baby was awesome and glorious and so easy! But she was a curse, also, because being spoiled by her temperament was a huge slap in the face come time for Baby Number 2 – or, as we called him affectionately- “Scream in a Diaper.”

This boy cried long and loud and the noise didn’t stop until the minute he turned 85 (this is a projected date). When he cried, we did what we could, which was comfort him however he wanted, because my ex and I aren’t assholes. But some people don’t pick their babies up when they cry and if you don’t believe that, come with me to Walmart on a Saturday morning. We can hang out in the yogurt aisle where it is apparently more important to choose between Vanilla Greek Non-Fat and Lime Coconut Sugar-Free.

I understand that you can’t always get to your baby immediately and there’s nothing wrong with seeing if whatever the problem is will work itself out for a few minutes. But when it escalates to ear-splitting levels, do something. DO SOMETHING NOW. Because if there’s anything worse than the sound of my own baby crying, it’s the sound of your baby crying.

People don’t always know what the crying is about, but since 1998 – and the meteoric rise of the internet – Western civilization needs to know the answer for everything. Nothing is off-limits to scientists or savvy entrepreneurs, who’ve invented everything from battery operated marshmallow roasting sticks to diapers that analyze a baby’s urine. Some parents will buy anything in the pursuit of “better” parenting, and people know this, because not only can you now analyze your child’s waste, you can also interpret their cry. I’m picturing a magic 8-ball of sorts here, but it’s actually much more complicated. CTV News says of the process:

“The system operates in two phases. During the first phase, the analyzer separates recorded cries into 12.5 millisecond frames. Each frame is analyzed for several parameters, including frequency characteristics, voicing, and acoustic volume. The second phase uses data from the first to give a broader view of the cry and reduces the number of parameters to those that are most useful. The frames are put back together and characterized either as an utterance – a single ‘wah’ – or silence, the pause between utterances. Longer utterances are separated from shorter ones and the time between utterances is recorded. Pitch, including the contour of pitch over time, and other variables can then be averaged across each utterance. In the end, the system evaluates for 80 different parameters, each of which could hold clues about a baby’s health.”

Yeah. Dumb. I don’t think we need this, and here’s why: it sounds complicated and stupid and almost entirety pointless, as well as expensive. The resulting analysis won’t be converted to actual words, like “I ‘m being stabbed by a diaper pin, moron!” so even in medical applications I don’t see a lot of value in something that researchers just say “could hold clues.”

I’m going to save science a whole lot of money here, and supply you with your own printable list of why your baby is probably crying. I call it:

Why Youse So Sad, Baybeez?

Step-by-Step Checklist

Step One : This is the most important step, and the one that will end 67% of all crying – PICK THE BABY UP. Do not rock his car seat with your foot, do not say “shhhh…shhhh” while shaking his stroller, do not ignore baby while everyone else in the canned foods aisle plots your death, do not ignore the baby. Babies cry because they can’t talk and if they could they’d be saying “Pick me up, you lazy bastard!” Picking up the baby will automatically alert you as to whether or not the baby feels too warm, or too cool, or if their tiny arm was stuck inside their onesie in a twisted configuration. It also enables you to look closely for teething issues or other discomforts. Attend to discomfort accordingly.

Step Two:  Baby still crying? We’ve got this! Take a deep breath and check diaper for uncomfortable levels of stuff often found in diapers. Rectify.

Step Three: Still crying? It’s okay; it happens. Try offering baby food of some sort. A boob, a bottle, a Philly Cheese Steak if that’s what they’re into. Whatever. Give nourishment. Continue rocking movement while administering food and love.

Step Four: Secure baby in approved car seat and get in the fucking car. Drive around for a bit. If after a hundred miles the baby is still crying, re-route GPS to a.) your Mom’s house; or b.) the doctor.

So there you have it. Call me a Luddite if you will, but I think that science sometimes makes life more complicated with it’s crazy inventions and “progress.” (Except for blenders; if you think I’m smashing my ice for a frozen blueberry vodka lemonade manually, you’re sniffing glue.) If scientists insist on putting time and resources into machinery which will help to explain the great mysteries of parenting, I would ask them to consider creating a machine which would actually serve some purpose. How about a special pair of glasses that can decipher why my teenager rolls her eyes?

 

*photo courtesy of WikiCommons

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Hell just froze over

March 21, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, Dog, Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Parenting, Writing | By

kids and puppies

It seems hell just froze over.

In other news, we are getting a dog.

(To be fair there was no “first” news posted here which would indicate what is to follow actually counts as “other” news, but you’ve probably got a lot going on in your life which makes anything I say count as “other” news. It also means I couldn’t think of a good lede.)

I’m not sure if it’s due to a momentary lapse in reason, or a half-forgotten promise after a few glasses of wine, or guilt, or an undiagnosed head injury, but the end result is that by Saturday afternoon of this week I will be standing in the frozen tundra nursing a headache caused by attempting to make a small puppy pee using only my (admittedly limited) mental powers.

She’s a cutie, I’ll give you that, but I’ve made it clear to my children that she is a shared responsibility. (I am fully aware this will probably happen.) The 15 year-old jaded teenager in this house cried when we told her she was finally – FINALLY – getting a dog, although she’ll deny that and tell you it was hairspray in her eyes. She’s wanted a dog since she was old enough to know what a dog was, and my 9 year-old son loves anything covered in fur.

She is unnamed as of yet, a 13 week-old 3/4 pug 1/4 French Bulldog who still lives with both of her parents and one brother. The guilt at taking her from her mom and dad is affecting me more than I care to admit, which is surprising considering I am generally a terrible person.

Pug puppy

Pug Puppy

She should be a good match for us, because according to first-person owner accounts and stacks of puppy literature both pugs and bulldogs are good house pets for mellow families who aren’t very active. If this dog likes cheese-based foods and Will Ferrell movies, it’s gonna be a love match.

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Birthday Gift to Myself

February 17, 2014 | Posted in Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, MamaPop, Parenting, Writing | By

40th Birthday

* This post was originally published last year on MamaPop, soon after my 40th birthday.  I just turned 41 on Valentine’s Day and I think I need a refresher. Maybe you do, too. 

I turned 40 recently, and it was everything I expected it to be. Which is to say it was horrible.

Friends and family asked if I wanted to celebrate this milestone event with a party, but “milestone” sounds too much like “headstone” and so I chose instead to spend the day laying on the floor crying over pictures of my children as infants and eating Nutella with my fingers. This is probably why I don’t get invited to many parties.

People told me not to worry; that this was a common reaction to turning 40 – an age which, when represented on fertility charts, marks the spot where my eggs jump off a cliff. I think they don’t jump at all but rather are pushed by the vibrant 30 year-old eggs in skinny jeans standing there with smoky eyes and sullen looks.

My attitude about turning 40 had nothing to do with a decline in my ability to procreate, or even the new crepe folds starting on my neck, or the inability to sometimes remember why I had entered a room. I already have two lovely children, and as long as they love me enough to help me not feel bad about why I put my car keys in the refrigerator, then I’m good. This was more about the fact that who I was at 40 was still too much like who I was at 35. And 25. And 16. And 10. While this was okay in some respects, it was not in others, and I wanted it rectified immediately.

I decided that this half of my life was going to be different. I was going to change the way I interacted with people on a daily basis in order to preserve my dignity and increase my happiness. The second half of my life was not going to be spent sitting down. And please don’t tell me that 40 isn’t nearing the halfway point; that my friends, is BULLSHIT. Even with advances in cryogenics, how many 120 year-olds do you know?

40 was going to mark the fork in the road. From now on, I wasn’t taking any more bullshit.

I wasn’t going to smile and nod when people said offensive or ignorant things and I wasn’t going to look the other way when the most important person in my life – me – was treated poorly. I refused to continue modelling this for my children, particularly my 14 year old daughter. I don’t want her stuck in a similar frozen state of placidity when it came to defending herself or standing up to people who treat her poorly. Our girls especially are taught to “be nice,” even when being nice means “take this here bullshit, and please smile while doing so.” Screw that. I was done.

For my 40th birthday, instead of an 80′s party or Botox, I gave myself the gift of taking no more bullshit, effective immediately, no return policy, no exchanges. So the next time someone on my co-ed softball team remarked that I hit “pretty good for a girl,” instead of smiling and biting my tongue I told him he was perpetuating a sexist stereotype (and then maybe I called him a patriarchal asshole). And when a semi-estranged family member told me life was “too short” for me to be hurt over a serious issue, I agreed. Life is too short to keep taking bullshit. Why is this so hard, especially for women? Even writing this, I feel like I should be editing it to make it  “softer” in stance, but then I’d sort of be giving myself bullshit and taking it, and I think that’s how wormholes are created.

So far, this is the best birthday gift I’ve received, and I once got a gorgeous gold painted macaroni necklace.

I already had a preset bullshit tolerance level, but I wasn’t honoring my limits. Sometimes I probably look like an asshole for sticking up for myself over things that don’t bother others. I try not to be rude or irrational about it because I’ve also discovered that a message delivered with a sincere and level voice is more effective than a screaming match. But if I do get passionate or start yelling? TOO FUCKING BAD. I’ve got a lot of years to make up for. I’m sick of being passed over for things I worked hard to earn. I’m tired of being complacent when an occasion calls for spirit, and no longer will I be idle when I should be throwing verbal scrotum-punches. I don’t know everything, but I do know some things, and if you’re wrong, I’m letting you know.

If people don’t like what I have to say, or get upset with me for speaking my mind, well, that is no longer my problem. Frankly, I don’t give a shit.  I refuse to be an emotional sponge, soaking up the hurt feelings of others around me. If you want to be treated better, start exhibiting behavior that deserves that. It’s simple really; bullshit isn’t necessarily about getting the wrong order in a restaurant, or being cut in front of in a line-up. I’d be exhausted if those were battles I chose to fight every day. I mean the big things; the things that keep you up at night and go against what you stand for. Things like sexism, racism, ageism, or getting the wrong muffin at Tim Hortons for the 458th time. Yep; I’m more interested in taking a stand against things that get me at my core and erase any joy my cold heart allowed in for a minute. Like witnessing someone berate a child, or people who don’t use placements at the dinner table. Because we are not barbarians.

This freedom – this essentially no longer giving a fuck – it’s glorious and it’s liberating and it is everything I want the rest of my life to be. There are few truly scarier things in the world than a 40 year old woman who’s realized she doesn’t need to take your bullshit sitting down. Because nothing good ever comes from sitting down. (Or bending over; but that’s another story for another day.)

Birthday cake for kids

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A Defense of Pessimism

December 16, 2013 | Posted in Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, Writing | By

Defense of Pessimism

I am not a positive thinker. Never have been, never will be. Some people call this line of thinking “defeatist,” or “nihilistic,”  but I don’t agree, because these people are  head-in-the-clouds dreamers who refuse to acknowledge that bad stuff happens all the time and that it’s not going to change ever no matter how hard you wish on a star. Being a pessimist from the day I was born has served me well the vast majority of the time; I am almost never disappointed because I don’t expect things to go as planned anyway. I am a pessimist; being prepared for the worst is what sort of I do.

It turns out I’m correct in touting the benefits of pessimism as a life ideology. In 2012,  German researchers conducted a study of elderly citizens and concluded that pessimists are often happier in the end. The study reveals that “understanding that although things are fine right now,  they might get worse” seems to have “a positive effect” on their quality of life. The study notes that pessimistic people can actually benefit from a this outlook.  The researching psychologists acknowledge that while the results “fly in the face of ‘positive psychology””  the results make sense because being pessimistic helps you prepare for bad things, even if they never come. I agree completely. Pessimism is at the heart of why we contribute to retirement plans, build well-stocked pantries, make us wear sunscreen. I dread the hard times, but dreading them makes me think about them and thinking about them makes me DO something. A dreamer – a true dreamer -doesn’t worry about these things too much, instead choosing to spend energy on other pursuits like making wildflower bouquets and starting mason jar Pinterest boards.

But don’t cry for me, optimists! While I will never be a member of your club, I may come to your annual picnic if I’m invited. I’ll be the one with a rain cover, bug spray, poison ivy cream, and extra water bottles. Who’s going to be okay when the skies open up and killer bees hunt you down on your nature walk? Me, that’s who! Because I knew these things were likely and I made provisions for them. I’ll be dry and bite-free while you’re trying to sooth your itchy, hungry children with songs about magical fairies who shit jelly beans.

Pessimists constantly have to defend their ideology. I’ve had the negative/positive ying/yang debate more times than I can count and because life is what is it (which is not not great sometimes,) I fell in love with a an wonderful, positive thinking idealist. This, I believe, is my punishment for my one day of positive thinking back in 1992. He’s a wonderful, caring, slightly-delusional dreamer of a man and I’ve explained to him several times that pessimism is often borne of a need to protect oneself. If nothing good is likely to happen, then nothing is lost in the process. When something good occurs (but it probably won’t) then that’s a bonus. I call this outlook “conversation without expectation,” and it hasn’t failed me yet. But I will be ready when it does. He sometimes lovingly calls me things like “dream-suck” and “spirit-killer,” which I’m currently having an optimist of a friends cross-stitch onto a pillow for me.

The horrible, inconvenient truth is that life sucks – it sucks hard, and it sucks hard a lot. Pessimists know this and there is no hiding from this cold-hard fact. But we are not all joyless, defeated suckholes. I have a great deal of joy in my life and every day holds good. I can laugh at almost everything and my very dark sense of humor is a  gift that I’ve found most pessimists have. I appreciate this immensely because life demands you tolerate a a lot of bullshit and if we couldn’t laugh at it we’d all be in a lot of trouble.

Being a pessimist is not for lazy hacks, either. This outlook isn’t chosen for ease or for the sake of just being able to simply dismiss notions of good, thereby ensuring a cocoon of “I told you so.” Pessimism requires effort and tenacity. It demands attention and it criticism. You can’t lay on the couch watching porn with a trough full of Cool-Ranch Doritos if you’re going to call yourself a true pessimist. Those nacho-munchers are poseurs; they’re pessimoseurs. True, authentic, unadulterated  pessimism requires and inspires action. Troops aren’t called into battle because “Eh, probably nothing bad will happen.” Armies are formed and trained under the possibility of worst case scenarios and this is how wars are won. Pessimists – to borrow a line from Tina Fey  – get shit done. While you optimists are seeing everything through rose-colored glasses and  building your dream house “vision board,” we’re laying figurative sandbags in preparation for the impending storm.

So lovers and dreamers, chill the fuck out and stop telling me to think positively. Instead, why don’t you come over to “the dark side” and join us on the pessimist bench? We’re wearing black t-shirts and talking about silicone window caulking, because it looks like a storm is coming.

 

 

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The sun will come out…I dunno; someday?

November 26, 2013 | Posted in Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, Weekly Round-up, Writing | By

Self-PityI am sitting on my couch in ripped sweat pants, enjoying a day of ugh-what’s-the-point-of-anything-anymore before the statute of limitations on ennui runs out. I’m sad to say that my time writing at MamaPop has come to an end, as MamaPop itself has come to an end – for completely understandable reasons on part of the owners, but it sucks nonetheless. I loved writing there, and the pay helped keep us both in delicious snack foods and dental care (which sort of work together, don’t they?) Ahh; sweet, sweet symbiosis.

I’ve had people seek me out here and on email from MamaPop, wondering where else I can be found. I hope it’s because they like my style and not that I owe them a kidney or my first-born after a dumpster-adjacent game of Crazy Eights gone horribly awry. If that’s the case, I was never here. If it’s the former, you’ve come to the right place. I’m also on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or my professional writing site. Or come over to my house and we can sit around in cozy track pants and watch M*A*S*H reruns, eating deli ham straight from the bag while we lust after Hawkeye Pierce until the kids come home. Then everything is roses and sunshine and you gotta go, okay?

I am also entering week 783 of what is either a.) a sinus infection; or b.) some sort of terrible head/face/nose/ear/teeth/jaw disease. According to Google my symptoms indicate that I will probably be dead by noon today, so if you’ve got any quick sure-fire remedies allowing me to be pain-free enough to be halfway nice to people, thatdbegreatkthnxbai. Bring ‘em on in the comments. (Except don’t suggest a neti-pot; “intense drowning sensation” ranks even lower than “throbbing molar pain” on the Jeni Scale Of Cool Stuff to Try.)

But things aren’t all bad. I’m writing a new parenting blog at YummyMummyClub.ca called Panic Button Years. It’s about teenagers and their care and keeping, so please come see me there if you are a fellow sufferer. Let me know if there any topics you’d like to see specifically covered, as I will be posting at least once a week and while I think we could all relate to a post filled entirely with “ARRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I’m fairly certain the editors would like a little more content. I also have some print work projects lined up, so we’re not going to starve – not yet anyway. And I have half a grocery bag of Smarties left over from Halloween and they are a pretty versatile candy for use in soups and stews and whatnot.

Oh! The bell just rang on my self-pity timer, so I’m off.

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I almost stepped on your Gramma

August 29, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Health, humor, I'm a horrible person, Procrastination tactic, Weekly Round-up, Writing | By

This is the post where I should be telling you that the kid’s school uniforms have been pressed and hemmed, the lunch bags purchased and the pencils sharpened, and that all we’re doing now is waiting for the school bus to arrive. All of those things will be missing from this post. Instead, I have a two month’s worth pile of laundry to wash and dry and the kid’s uniforms are in a series of plastic bags scattered throughout the house, purchased as each piece became available. It’s the first year with uniforms at my son’s school, and to say it’s been a bit of a challenge is like saying something something hyperbole something something punchline.

I’m tired. Working from home with two kids underfoot did not go as planned, and the fact that I thought it would work out fine is proof that I am not a complete pessimist. I am now left with a backlog of writing to complete and uniforms to alter and there are several cucumber-sized centipedes occupying my laundry room which make going in there impossible. Yesterday my daughter found a centipede in a box where she keeps extra shoes. It was so large its heartbeat was audible. She pointed to the creature and we knew what had to be done. We burned the house down.

The summer has flown by and I’m realizing just how few summers I have left to spend time with my kids while they’re young. WAIT! I know my blog has been a bit somber lately with all the talk of “kids keep getting older and so do we haha we’re all gonna die one day and everything will be pointless,” but I can’t help it. Ever since I turned 40 mortality is something I’ve thought about almost constantly. When my daughter was young she wouldn’t leave my side and I used to long for time apart, even just an hour to catch my breath. Now she is 14 and her brain has convinced her that she knows everything and I am a withered husk of a woman who’s only purpose of providing her earthly body with a vessel has long expired. See? I can do funny still!

This long weekend coming up will be my time to get some things done around here; things like making lists, pondering said lists, sitting on the couch frozen with fear from the overwhelming amount of work on a now towering stack of lists, and maybe some naps due to “list-fatigue.”

Here’s something that happened recently that had a happy ending: The other day I took the garbage and recycling bins out for curbside pick-up. On the way back up the driveway I almost stepped on a tiny bird. He didn’t move when my foot came down and really it was just blind luck I didn’t step on him. I lay down on the driveway to get a better look. His wings didn’t seem broken and he turned his head to look at me when I moved. I was worried about him, this tiny bird I could have put on the palm of my hand twice over, because we have cats in the neighbourhood and they’re real assholes. I tweeted the Audubon Society because I was especially worried this bird was my Gramma. She hadn’t been feeling well the day before, and she told me she’ll visit me as a bird when she goes. I specifically asked her to do that, saying that if she came to visit it me after death and stood at my bedside tapping my shoulder I would be scared and probably punch her spirit in right the stomach. So a bird it is. The nice folks at the Audubon twitter account assured me that no, this tiny bird was a black and white warbler, but seeing as they had no knowledge of my Gramma’s appearance in the supposed afterlife, I may want to call her to be certain. I got the bird a small dish of water to drink while I confirmed my Gramma was still alive, and when I returned, it had gone. So, while it may have flown away or been eaten by a feral alley-cat, my Gramma was still alive and I now know what a black and white warbler looks like. Although I guess this bird could just have well been your Gramma or your Uncle or your old neighbour, or anyone really. If it was, please know I tried to give it water, and you can blame the cats. So hey; happy endings all around! Except the possibly mangled bird part, but blahblahblah nature’s course and all that.

20130829-231836.jpg

My Gramma, still not a bird.

20130830-112806.jpg

The bird; probably dead now.

So, with that crisis averted (at least for now), I was able to return inside to survey my growing list of to-do-tasks, a list which grows proportionally with my end of summer ennui.

Here are some other things I wrote in other places this month:

I Like “Em Dirty: In Praise of Blue Collar Men

Miley Cyrus Is Many Things, But Whore Isn’t One Of Them (And So What If She Was)

There’s A New “One Direction” Documentary, But Hold Your Tongue Thirty-Somethings

I will be back in a few days with requisite “Back to School” pictures of the kids, along with “Where does the time go?” cliches and many sad-face emoticons.*

*No I won’t; no one wants to see that shit.

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Sometimes, your people just get you.

July 31, 2013 | Posted in Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Writing | By

My family is funny. I don’t mean weird funny, or odd funny, or even “we have an uncle who lives with ferrets and hasn’t cut his toenails in 50 years” funny, although there’s a lot of that going on as well. I mean “anything is fair game” sarcastic funny and if you don’t like jokes about what the person in the casket is wearing, these are not your people. And hopefully not your funeral.

As a consequence of this, we all have a pretty thick skin. When my daughter was four, I cut off her pinky finger. It was a horrible accident, but still, pretty unfunny. Her hand went up in a flash when I slammed the car door and dimpled four year-old hands in tiny lavender mittens have nothing on GMC vehicle construction. The doctors were able to reattach it, and it took (thank Christ), but it was pretty bad and I felt like shit. I pictured her in a high school yearbook over the nickname “‘Ole Stumpy” and could visualize pictures of her on her wedding day, showing off a golden band on a slender finger next to a maimed and bent sister digit.

When she came out of surgery, the doctors had put a “I Did It!” sticker on her gown for her exemplary behaviour during the process. Although really, could anything they have done been as bad as say, having your mother cut off a finger in the van door? I’m pretty sure that getting X-rays taken and having three broken fingers set was like a trip to the park at that point. My father, upon seeing her wearing the “I Did It!” sticker asked if perhaps it should be on my shirt instead.

So we laughed and laughed and let my daughter eat ice cream until she barfed. Then we got our parking validated and left. That’s how we roll.

I was reminded today of how lucky I am to be a member of a funny family. No one makes me laugh harder than those I share DNA or a bathroom with; and whether it’s with or at them, these are the people who make me laugh longest and hardest. I found this in my mailbox this morning, a thank-you card from a cousin and his new wife – a cousin I love like a brother and who makes me laugh very hard at very inappropriate things. From the message he wrote in the card, it would appear he knows me well: Wedding Thank You

“Thank you so much for joining us on our wedding day. We appreciate the generous gift. Above all, thank you for not writing about killing homeless people in our guest book.”

You’re welcome, guys. You’re welcome.

I was also over at MamaPop.com this month, writing about Katy Perry (don’t do it, Katy!), Famous people who do a lot of good, and how the pursuit of fun is ruining our children.

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A Primer For Minecraft Parents

June 19, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Holidays, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, Writing | By

Minecraft SkinDo you have a child between the ages of seven and “I-stopped-counting-after-the-third”? Did you also make the huge mistake of giving them access to electricity? Do you provide opportunities for that child to have social contact with other human life forms? Do they shout random terms like “Butter!” and “Creeper Lava Diamond Pig!” even before you give him a dose of Benadryl on the drive to Gramma’s house? If you answered “yes,” to any of these questions then it is likely you know my pain. My gigantic, cubic, vertigo-inducing pain known as Minecraft Mania, or “MM” for short.

Note: If your child has not yet asked you to download this game, you should close this window, find your family’s passports, and make immediate plans to relocate to North Korea where internet access is sketchy at best. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?

MM has been going on at our house for some time. I first became alarmed when several friends inquired as to the prognosis of my child’s “medical issue.” I was confused until I realized that every time they saw him, he appeared to be attached to the wall by an electrical device charging plug, thus giving them the idea that he was on dialysis of some sort. The truth is that he lives with constant fear of a dead iPod, because something – something – Zombie – Pigman – Diamond – Sword – BUTTER!

My son awaits Minecraft updates with more anticipation than he does Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Because those guys? Meh. Board games and chocolate eggs have nothing on TNT and crafting tables. My nine year-old cannot be trusted to flush a toilet, but he can build a city better than a Mayan aristocrat, and that’s what will matter instead of pesky social graces when trying to secure a life partner.

We have a problem with MM you guys, and it’s sweeping the continent. It’s not even the game itself that forms the crux of the issue. I’m pretty strict with my kids about the games they can play and in researching Minecraft I’ve come to understand that it can be a great learning tool. Players get to be creative and tech-savvy, and they can build friendships with unseen online players in damp basements all over the world.  Minecraft also allows parents to have alone time to get dinner made, or a pile of laundry folded, or have sex with a partner who doesn’t require batteries. Nope; the real problem is this, and it’s approaching our house faster than my neighbours with a “cut your lawn” petition:

There are only so many synonyms for “cool” and if my calculations are correct, I’m due to run out at 7:16pm on June 28, 2013. Which, as the cruel fates would have it – is the last day of school here. I cannot spend eight weeks of summer showing continual awe over TNT and lava explosions without compromising my already fragile mental state.

Minecraft TNT

What does one say to comment on apparent carnage at a ski lodge? Is it “well done”? or perhaps “Super”?  Should I call a child psychologist?

Let’s help each other. Here’s a list I’ve compiled in case you’ve exhausted adjectives feigning interest in Minecraft:

  • awesome
  • neat
  • wow
  • nice
  • impressive (non-beginner parents only, please)
  • rad
  • interesting
  • hmmmm
  • mmmmmm
  • mmmmmm-hmmmm
  • FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST I SWEAR TO YOUR HOLY ENTITY OF CHOICE YOU BETTER GET THAT IPOD OUTTA MY FACE OR I WILL RUN IT OVER WITH THE CAR WHILE YOU WATCH AND I WILL LAUGH DOING IT

Sometimes you can get away with using a term more than once if you alter the inflection. (But be careful; I went too far turning “cool” into the three syllable “kewwwwll” and lost street cred with my son’s Minecraft gang. Related: Guess who found pee all over her new bathroom mat?) I will also warn you against pulling any smart-ass moves like using words that would appear in a freshman college paper. Words like “fascinating,” “riveting” and “enthralling” are best left to the pros, lest any sarcasm seep through. You can try “nifty” and “cats-pajamas, ole chap!” but only if you take blood pressure medication and could pick Slim Whitman out of a line-up.

I don’t ask for help often, but I am calling in all favours now. Hit me up with your terms and coping strategies parents, because if you’ve got a Minecraft kid, I know you’ve got some tricks up your sleeve (and also probably some tear-soaked tissues.)

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73 Things My 14 Year-Old Daughter Thinks Are Bull$hit

June 7, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, School, Television, Writing | By

Bullshit detectorI have a 14 year-old daughter. I am going to pause here for dramatic effect, and although I know you can’t see me, take this time to visualize me hanging my head and practicing deep breathing techniques. She’s a great kid (I have to say that, but she is really…) and while she doesn’t do anything “bad” in the way I did when I was her age, she. is. exhausting. FULL STOP.

Teenage girls aren’t exhausting in the same way nine year-old boys are exhausting. Nine year-old boys may require a parent to have stealth, cunning, and an unlimited grocery budget, but fourteen year-old girls require you to have a sympathetic friend with a similarly aged child who gets in her car when you text “ERMAHGERD LIQR STORE.”

To my 14 year-old daughter, many, many things all of the things are bullshit. This girl has an alarmingly low tolerance for bullshit of any kind,and while I understand that this trait will serve her well in her adult life, it does make living peacefully with her nearly impossible. And as you can see here, you may be best serve to avoid her on particularly grouchy days. Especially if you’re a sexist jogger with hairy knuckles who can’t divide fractions and enjoys guacamole. So here you go: (Note: I complied this list according to her comments during the short period between waking up in the morning and her crappy toast with crust and natural peanut butter breakfast.)

Things my daughter thinks are bullshit

  1. People who don’t understand math
  2. Book reports
  3. Reports of any kind
  4. Patriarchy
  5. Old toothbrushes
  6. Pantyhose
  7. People who don’t refill the milk
  8. Bras
  9. Rules
  10. Hair conditioner bottles that hold less than a gallon
  11. Stupid people
  12. Clumpy mascara
  13. Locked doors
  14. Dress codes
  15. Uniforms
  16. Fake pockets
  17. Telemarketers
  18. Slippery hair pins
  19. Patronizing tone of voice
  20. Snow
  21. Rain
  22. Anything that falls from the sky, really
  23. Toast crusts, bread crusts, DON’T GET ME STARTED ON CRUSTY ROLLS
  24. Heat
  25. Sweat
  26. Sun in your eyes
  27. Standing in line
  28. Homework
  29. Periods
  30. Boobs
  31. Knuckle hair
  32. Pimples
  33. Armpits
  34. The whole body; it’s gross, really
  35. Exercise
  36. Plain yogurt
  37. Whole wheat products of any kind
  38. Chores
  39. Sexism
  40. When the TV remote control is all the way over there
  41. Racism
  42. People in general
  43. Inconsiderate cyclists
  44. Rudeness
  45. Ignorance
  46. Toe socks, actually no; wait, I love those, I just hate them in theory
  47. The stupid TV show “Dog with a Blog”
  48. Pit bull (the singer not the pet)
  49. Not having a pet
  50. Seriously, when are we getting a goddamn dog?
  51. Pomegranate or grapefruit – wait; which one is the tangy one? JUST WRITE “BOTH”
  52. Slow scribes
  53. Unsweetened drinks
  54. *Guacamole (*who is this person?)
  55. Green foods except jello, and yes, it is a food.
  56. Chunks in salsa
  57. Overprotective parents
  58. Lying liars who LIE
  59. Excuses
  60. Arrogance
  61. Natural peanut butter
  62. Quick showers
  63. Pulp
  64. Early bedtimes
  65. Daily vitamins
  66. Lint
  67. Dust
  68. Putting away laundry
  69. Emptying the dishwasher
  70. Joggers
  71. Practice of any sort
  72. Short battery life
  73. I’m going to be late for the bus, MOTHER.

* Lest you think I am cruel or dismissive, I have posted this list with complete approval from my daughter. I asked if I could put her “beefs” on my blog and she responded thus: “Whatever. I don’t care if you put it on your blog. Blogs are bullshit.”

Have any to add?

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