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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Yearning for learning

April 16, 2014 | Posted in Education, Family, Parenting, School, University, Writing | By

College lecture hall

I miss school. The learning part mostly, but the thermos of lemonade and Wagon Wheels were pretty cool too.

I’ve missed it for a while, but I knew things were serious when I started reading my daughter’s high school Geography textbook and bribed her into a “chat” about igneous rock formations and soil erosion. I was halfway through making a set of flash cards for conjugating my son’s grade four level French verbs when the kids staged an intervention and told me enough was enough. They’re smart kids and for the most part they get things on their own. As it is they rarely need my help with homework and my absconding with their textbooks is one of the only ways I can get my hands on “real” school materials.

More university  courses would be lovely, and I could go back to take a course for kicks, but it’s too expensive a hobby for now. I’ve tried book clubs for literary discussion, but almost no one wants to make flow charts about overlapping Gothic themes in contemporary literature and my “Come dressed like your favourite ‘Satanic Verses’ character” idea was shot down in flames, almost literally.

I just want to know more stuff! Knowing stuff is all I have! I love knowing stuff because stuff is super interesting and you never know when you’re going to need stuff. I am an information hoarder, where instead of cat fur and empty tuna cans, I want to know what comprised the basis of an ancient Roman’s diet and why does every episode of Frasier resemble a Shakespearean comedy and how the feudal system literally changed the landscape and what the hell does HTML stand for? These are some of the questions that run on loop in my head almost constantly, and as soon as one question is answered another takes its place. Reading is great and I do a lot of that, but there’s something very appealing – intimate even – that comes from listening to someone lecture on a topic they’re passionate about. One of my favourite classes in University was  “Rural Sociology” seminar. I took it because it fulfilled a requirement and honestly I had no idea what the syllabus would include. It turned out to be far and away one of the more fascinating courses I took because although at first glance the learning material looked dry – forestry, fishing, and farming practices in Canada – the Professor was so passionate about the material that when I scanned the room at the bored teenage faces listening, I wanted to tie all of their shoelaces together.

Apparently there are some intriguing and informative University lectures available on iTunes and through mail-order catalogs and I’ve also been thinking of doing a “Documentary a Day” self-challenge. This morning I caught the tail end of one on motorcycle gang culture in Winnipeg and it was giddy-with-the-learnin’-bug-goosebumps awesome. If you’ve seen a good documentary or read an interesting non-fiction book lately – no matter how obscure – I’d love to hear about it.

(Fires up the popcorn machine.)

*image courtesy of WikiCommons

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It’s his neighbourhood; we just live in it

April 14, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, Family, humor, Parenting, Writing | By

King of the Castle

My last post was about the state of my backyard after the long and crappy winter 2013. This post, to shake things up a bit, will be about my front yard. (I am all about variety here at highly irritable.) But I’m throwing in a bit of parenting theory for good measure. Because what good is personal parenting theory if it’s not spread around so everyone who does things differently can be made to feel they’re actually doing it wrong? That’s sort of why blogs were invented.

It’s been established that my backyard and garden are a nightmare. I am anxious for the weather to finally turn the corner here so I can get out and do something about it. I love having friends over in the summer and despite having some fairly brave friends no one would venture back there as it is unarmed or un-drunk or both. The raccoons who live under the hot tub aren’t going to be very happy with their eviction notice and neither is the nice Amish family I saw raising a barn next to the wheat field that somehow germinated there.

Because of the conditions behind the house, my son plays out front. It’s still a good sized area and we’re set back from the road far enough that he can play freely without worry, but he’s…well, he’s a curious child whose brain asks two questions: 1. What’s for supper? and 2. What will happen if I __________ ?

It’s his attempts to answer the second question that has left me with a maple tree wrapped with bright orange string, an old bath towel flying in the breeze at the top of a 30 foot pine tree, and assorted fallen tree limbs twisted into intricate and (probably) symbolic structures. Just in case, I’m staying on his good side lest he request sage and a lighter and suddenly wants to know which way is due North. But for now, I let him have at it. I’m not sure my neighbours appreciate his creativity with building materials, but as long as I keep the grass cut and the noxious weeds at a minimum I can’t be reprimanded legally, right? Are hockey sticks poking out of the eavestroughs okay now that local play-offs are over? Where do we stand on buckets of rocks dangling from a makeshift winch and pulley over the outside light fixture?

I know it’s not the most neighbour-friendly look, and I do make him tidy each project us when he moves on to the next. I don’t particularly enjoy seeing my old linens stuffed and woven around the fencepost, but I’d rather see that than a glassy-eyed child who plays video games until muscle atrophy sets in. I’d rather have him pee outside because it’s too much fun to come in than have him saving 2-litre soda bottles to avoid toilet urination because DUDE I made it to LEVEL 47, Call-of-Kill-All-The-Duty-Ops-Shoot-Em-Up-Game.

He is the King of the castle with a Kingdom spanning the whole of the front yard, and I am happy to let him have it. Because the rest of us here on the street? We are mere plebes here.

P.S. He spent a great deal of time making these these with an industrial roll of duct tape this winter. They were crafted with care so to be durable for what will hopefully be a long and warm “outside” season. Should I be afraid?

Making a shirt from duct tape

 Duct tape gloves

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Puppy Days

April 11, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, Dog, Family, Harlow, humor, Infographics, Writing | By

We are just into our second month of dog ownership here and by all accounts it’s going better than I had expected. Harlow is sleeping through the night – a feat my 10 year-old son has not yet achieved – and my worries about leaving the dog in a crate for an hour have been mostly unfounded. I work from home, but there are times I need to run out quickly when she can’t come with me. I already have two kids so I know it’s okay to leave something in a cage for a few minutes while you go to the movies, but what about longer than a hour or two? Would she begin to hate me and view her crate as a prison? Would she shit defiantly on my bedroom floor in retaliation? Would she report me to the authorities? The answers to these questions seem to be “no,” “yes,” and “it remains to be seen but there some unexplained charges on the phone bill this month.”

Harlow (can I interject here for a second to say how freeing it is to use someone’s real name here on my blog? I am “Jeni,” yes, but I don’t use my kids names to prevent them from having a huge Google footprint before their time. That’s a shame really, because my kids names are pretty awesome and suit their personalities perfectly). Where was I? Yes. Harlow. One thing Harlow hates is to be away from home. She got away from me last week during a walk by yanking hard on her leash when it wasn’t right on my wrist because she’s eight pounds and who the hell knew something that small could run so goddamn fast? I stepped on her paw in the melee and she ran as though someone had fired a starting gun and first prize was a mountain of dirty socks. I couldn’t catch her and started to visualize what it was going to be like telling my kids the dog they had for two glorious weeks was now gone, and probably for good because seriously so fast at the running. I finally made it home – even running full tilt it took me a few minutes to get there – and there was Harlow, sitting on the front porch and looking at me like I was the asshole. Oh, and she eats everything and then apologizes by shitting on it. We love her despite this, because:

Puppy_Beds

So, if you are considering a puppy for your family, I made a few handy charts to help you decide if a dog might fit into your family:

Are you ready for a puppy

housetraining_your_puppy

So there you have it. You’re pretty much screwed either way, because if you don’t get a dog, you’ll be hearing about it for years, and if you do get one and it’s a jerk, you’re gonna love it anyway.

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Unpaid Internships and Work for “Exposure” are the New Barrel Suit

April 8, 2014 | Posted in Education, Family, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, School, University, Writing | By

girl in a barrel

I am looking for work. When I am looking for work, looking for work is my work. I send the kids to school, fire up the computer, and then I go online in search of employment suitable for my experience and educational background. I don’t have high expectations. I would like a short commute or a work-from-home position; I expect a reasonable amount of courtesy in communication; and I would like to be challenged and given room to expand my skill-set. Oh, and I would like to be paid.

It is this last point – the “paid” part – where I generally run into trouble. I am a recent University graduate from a well-respected school and I have a decent portfolio and references who will tell you you’re a fool not to hire me. I am professional, I work hard, and frankly, I am a fucking joy to be around. I usually find several jobs per day for which I could apply. So why don’t I? Because they are unpaid. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Yep; they are “Thanks for everything; here’s your nothing” jobs. Great! I’ll use my non-existent pay cheque  to buy invisible kids shoes and some ghost groceries.

I can’t count all the ways these types of job postings state they are “sadly, unpaid at this time.” It’s actually funny in a lot of cases, because the responsibilities and qualifications are laid out and described exactly like a paying job – sometimes even resembling pretty intense, high-level responsibility jobs. The slam comes below the fold, after you’re hooked because this one sounds like the one, you guys! I’m not against internships of all stripes. I think internships can be a great way to learn about an industry, and time spent interning can be a great addition to a resume which also includes paid experience, and appropriate educational background. Networking and showcasing your talent is a good thing, but hey, why not pay people something for it? Even a pittance. Something.

If unpaid internships are offered as part of an educational program – say, a University degree, or college diploma program they are useful and often act as a springboard for a career in that field. Auto mechanics, welders, and other tradespeople often work between bouts of schooling, and they are almost always paid for their labour. Their wages may not be commensurate with their responsibilities at that particular point in their career evolution, but they can look forward to fair wages (hopefully) once they receive a trade ticket. If a company is willing to pay an intern “at some point in the future” for the same work they are doing now “provided they meet our (subjective?) standard” then PAY THEM NOW, JERK.

Summer internships and those specifically for students are sometimes unpaid. Okay; if they’re not full time then a student can generally work also, or perhaps they are also receiving student loans, etc. Because I am a writer, I have been searching the editorial/creative field for work and I am shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU – at the amount of work  I’ve seen which is to be compensated solely in “experience” and “exposure.” This no-pay structure comes through internships or because those seeking the material or content do not wish to pay anything. I was married to a business owner. I know how difficult and costly it can be to get a business up and running. I know that business owners often do not take a salary themselves until a profit has been turned. But I also know that not one single utility company, fuel provider, tax accountant, restaurant, cleaning person, maintenance company, delivery service, dog walker or liquor store will provide you with services and/or products free of charge for promise of “giving them a platform upon which their work will be exposed to hundreds of people.” If that were the case, I’d be chugging Chilean Merlot in a strip mall parking lot and yelling into car windows how this stuff is the best goddamn wine I’ve ever tasted so Shop at Bob’s Liq-R-Mart!

By comparison, I am “old” in a vast sea of debt-riddled new graduates. But the young ones can’t afford to work for free either. In fact, it may be worse for them because life hasn’t yet sanded smooth the edges of their hopefulness and they are still sickeningly full of optimism.  I have some equity and it is likely I won’t starve to death if I cannot find full-time work soon. Job-searching is soul-crushing at the best of times and I honestly don’t know how young graduates – kids! – pay their rent. I understand why so many have to move back in with parents and I really hope the climate changes by the time my kids graduate, although my daughter is headed for a science/math degree and no one wants an unpaid engineer building their bridges so she’ll likely find work. I don’t want to regret my English/History degree because it shaped my thinking and I call upon the analytical skills it enforced every single day. But when I am being brutally honest with myself I admit I’m tempted to visit every University Fair within a 50 mile radius and tell all prospective Liberal Arts students to “RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIVES!”

I am a decent writer. I have even been told that I am sometimes a pretty good one, and I believe it. That’s not hubris. There are a lot of things I don’t do well and that list is much longer than the one of things I can do. I would never apply to nursing school. I would never try to get a job as a school bus driver, or a server in a bar, because I wouldn’t do those things well and my exit would likely be marked by lots of flames and probably a lawsuit. I write, I edit, I social media-lize. I don’t posture myself as a Nora Ephron, or an Anne Lamott. I am Jeni Marinucci, and I would like to be paid.

___________________________________________________________________________________

*Disclaimer: I do have some recurrent writing jobs, so please, no panicked email from family members. I would also like to say that any work I post links to (or otherwise promote, be it through buttons on my blog, etc.)  I have been paid for or otherwise compensated fairly. I continue to be grateful to all those who give me a platform, and a pay cheque. I have – in the past, on occasion – provided second-run and re-print article free to various websites.

**Photo courtesy of WikiCommons

 

 

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How To Not Go Batshit Crazy this Christmas

December 8, 2013 | Posted in Family, Holidays, humor, Irritation Level: High, Writing | By

Christmas StressEvery year we all say that “next year” will be the one when we won’t stress as much during the holidays, and that we won’t “do so much.” There’s sometimes even crazy talk after a glass of mulled wine about doing a “handmade-only gift exchange next year” but anyone who’s tried to handcraft a gift for a teenage girl who doesn’t happen to be building an Amish hope-chest understands that this is what I refer to as “crazy talk.”  No, sir! you protest. Next year will be different!  Well, that’s bullshit and you know it and I know it, but for the sake of not wanting to alienate a reader, I’ll let the assertion stand.

But you know you’re lying; by this time next year your holiday gift list will have grown exponentially and you’ll probably be hosting that neighbourhood mixer you swore you’d never participate in. And what’s that? Oh yes; I even see a cookie exchange in your future. So yeah; you’re a liar, but it’s okay because so am I, and I’ll be right there with you trading Air Miles for something “Extra-Blaster-Turbo-Action-Starter-Pack” for my son despite the mountain of gifts for him already under the tree. We mean well and what counts when the fiery end finally comes is that we meant well, right? (I am no fun at Christmas parties.)

With so much to get done during the holidays it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Once you factor in baking, decorating, and wrapping gifts, there’s hardly any time left for sobbing into your eggnog because the only Christmas card you received was from your divorce lawyer.

In case you “swear-ta-God-cross-my-heart-stab-me-with-an-icicle-if-I’m-lyin’-I’m-dyin‘” mean it about less stress next year, here are some tips to get you started.

Elf on the Shelf

Get rid of it. If you’ve got more than one kid, the truth is you don’t need an Elf, unless it’s a real one who brings you chocolates and knows how to fix the dishwasher – we could all use more of that in our lives. If your children have siblings, you’ve already got a built-in Elf on the Shelf every day of the year. I’ve got two kids, and I’ve even given them incentives for reporting unsavoury behaviour. For example, one tattle earns a square of toilet paper. Two tattles? You get a sheet on your bed tonight! Three? That’s the big time, helper child, and you just earned yourself a full glass of non-powdered milk with dinner. During the holiday season nothing happens in this house without me being aware of it, and if something is so well thought out that it involves both children, I don’t want to know.

Caroling

Just say no. Seriously, does anyone even do this anymore? If you must participate in this tradition, make it easy for yourself: simply drive around the neighbourhood with your car windows open, cranking an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD.

Baking

Today’s home chef has the ability to make treats rivaling those found in European bakeries. Thanks to specialty shops and pushy friends selling Pampered Chef products, you too can churn out delectable, gorgeous treats just like those in a bakery. Have I said “bakery” enough times to indicate you should just GO TO A BAKERY? No one will know. Jab a few holes in the cookies with your finger, and maybe throw a couple into the toaster oven to burn the bottoms if you’re worried about appearing too perfect. I wish I had your problems.

Gift wrapping

Fancy papers, ribbons and bows, personalized name tags…Where does the madness end? You’re already getting a present. Now you expect me to spend 30 minutes carefully wrapping it in gold foil paper with coordinating hand-punched calligraphy name tag? Take a cue from my ex-husband: wrap everything in the bag it came in and seal it up with whatever roll of tape is in the junk drawer. Some of the nicest things I ever got came in duct taped Walmart bag. (And by nice I mean “okay.” And by “okay” I mean “not good at all.”)

Decorating

Right now my lawnmower is sitting out, mid-lawn, where it ran out of gas in August. I just threw some lights on it and called it a day, so maybe go elsewhere for decorating tips. I hear they do that shit over on Pinterest.

Meals

Planning nutritious meals for your family while you’re busy with things like shopping and crying, or wrapping and crying, or trimming the tree and crying can be hard. Fret not, friends, and wipe those tears away! Blow your nose on your light-up Christmas sweater because I bring to you one of the greatest gifts God ever bestowed on the Universe: the grocery store rotisserie chicken.  This golden BBQ bird has saved my hide (and potential calls to Children’s Services for suspected neglect) many, many times. In fact, in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” the verse “partridge in a pear tree” was originally “A chicken in my buggy.”

Parties

Make your parties “BYOBAFAYNLUEICU”: Bring Your Own Booze and Food and You’re Not Leaving Until Everything is Cleaned Up. Enforce this. Take people’s coats, their keys, whatever items you can pillage from their pockets during hello hugs, and hide them under piles of crusty dishes and empty wine bottles. When guests help clean up the mess, they find their stuff! This is also a great way to keep guests entertained, and eliminate the needs for additional party games. Win/Win. Plus, you’ll secure a reputation for being the “hostess with the mostest” by employing this technique.

So there you have it! A season of merriment awaits you. And please, add your tips in the comments if you’ve got some to share. We’re in this together.

Merry Christmas!

*this post was modified from a post I originally ran on December 20, 2012. I changed a few things and thought I’d offer it earlier in the season this time around, while there is still time to run for your lives. You can also see by this that I’ve learned nothing.

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Sock it to me

December 5, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Family, humor, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, Writing | By

 Socks without holes

I have two children. They’re…well, they’re many things but the point of my post today is my son. He’s nine and has a name with letters in it and the word means something in Greek or Italian or Latin I’m not sure which but boy did we pick the right one for him. Other suitable name choices would have been “JustGiveMeFiveMinutesPLEASE,” “OhferChrist’sSake” or “IAmBeggingYouAtThisPointToGoToBed!” Anything in that family. He is a conventionally beautiful child. This is meant to trick you.  He will have you with his pretty hair and his pretty eyes and his full lips and he will hug you with his lean, dry arms and he will squeeze every goddamn ounce of your energy and then he will make you thank him for the honour.

Today he needed socks. He needs socks every day because for some reason he puts holes into every piece of clothing his body touches. New winter coat? BAM! Sleeves ripped in a week. Fresh shirt? KAZAM! Caught it on a chain-link fence. Clean socks, right from the dryer? PRESTO! His feet shoot laser beam points of concentrated light, firing holes into the deep pocket of the formerly snuggly toe compartment.

Why can’t he find socks today? All the laundry is done. Every single piece of his clothing not currently on his back is washed, pressed (haha; just shitting you; I “press” nothing but my luck) and are  tidily folded squares in his drawers and look like the small colourful flags on the front page of an atlas. His sock drawer right this very minute contains no less than 12 pairs of sweet-smelling boy socks. They are tiny and dwarfed next to even my lady socks. But all of these socks in his drawer are new, because as I said, he goes through socks like Charlie Sheen does girlfriends on a weekend bender.

“I don’t have any socks,” he reports methodically. I know this tone.

“You have many socks. They are all in your drawer.”

“But these are all new. I can’t wear these.”

“Then wear the ones you already have on,” I reply, pointing to his already swathed foot.

There’s a hole in the toe (OF COURSE THERE IS) but Jeni? Jeni no give a shit anymore. I keep his hair tidy, his teeth clean, his belly full of food, I provide social experiences and homework help and pleasurable outings and gifts and extra-curricular opportunities and a soft place to fall and a bosom to cry into and a lap on which to cuddle and hands to hold and I am tired. Hole-y socks no longer register on my parenting-rage meter. They don’t even move the needle past “Meh.” I. Simply. Do. Not. Give. A. Shit. If you ever see my ragged-footed son and think “What of his parents?” know this: I am a good mother but I have my limits.

But uh, oh. So does he, and these horrible, too-new socks are it.

“I can’t wear these ones because my toe pokes out too far. You threw away all the perfect holed socks and the rest in here are brand new!” So, too holey socks aren’t any good, nor are good new socks. He explains all of this in a voice normally reserved for those in the drunk tank or the alarmingly obtuse (Of which I am currently neither.) He says that “new” socks feel weird because they are too new and don’t sit right. The heel isn’t broken in and the toes are too tight and the cuff is stringy and there’s a weird thing in the bottom and…

I listen. I understand and I am sympathetic. I’m sensitive about some things and we all have our quirks, but after having one child who would wear, do, eat, say, or participate in anything I merely gestured at, it is with great surprise that I find myself – at 40 years 10 months and 20 days old – standing over a washing machine in an attempt  to “break in” a load of tiny striped sweat socks for a pint-sized oligarch.

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The 12 Habits of Highly Irritable Underemployed People

December 4, 2013 | Posted in Family, humor, Irritation Level: High, Procrastination tactic, Writing | By

Top Habits Creative PeopleI’ve had a pretty productive week considering my writing commitments are lean right now. I suppose I could lie and say things are great but the truth is they’re not. They aren’t horrible, but they’re certainly not great. But I am querying like a mad woman and all my writing friends know what a picnic that can of worms is and I just mixed a metaphor dear Christ someone give me some work like right now before I say “alas” or “sadly.”

I am fine, so please don’t worry. I have a man who loves me and he worries himself into insomnia over me already and that’s more than anyone should but sometimes he says “ergo” non-ironically and so I call it even. Things will get better because they have to. I’m too spiteful to not have success on some level, because isn’t it true that assholes always win? I think that’s how the saying goes. Between the querying and applying and self-indulgent potato eating I now have more time to blog here and aren’t you so lucky now? WAIT; DON’T GO! I’ll put pants on, I swear! It’s fine! Here; I’ll prove it with this handy list of things I’ve done or learned this week:

  1. Memorized all the words to Travelling Wilburys “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.”
  2. Created an elaborate solo interpretive dance to “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.”
  3. That it’s in people’s best interest that I am never left unsupervised.
  4. Home haircuts can be classified as self-harm, and as such, having them remedied should be covered by your provincial health care plan.
  5. I can fit an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange in my mouth.
  6. A grown human woman can fit inside two laundry baskets.
  7. The mail delivery woman is very understanding and probably won’t report you if you yell “No fucking cheques today either? JESUS!”
  8. If you run out of toilet paper, coffee filters will work in a pinch.
  9. If you run out of toilet paper and subsequently offer a friend a coffee filter to wipe their squishy bits, you’ll eliminate the need for toilet paper and also reduce that pesky human contact people are always forcing on you.
  10. Six: Potatoes you can eat in one day; Times you can crank call your neighbour before they stop answering; Instances per minutes Bethenny says “AMIRITE, ladies?” in one episode; Kleenex used in average “I’m gonna die in a refrigerator box beside the furniture store dumpster” crying jag.
  11. Using only an iPod, a large piece of black organza left over from Halloween, and your teenage daughter’s hairdryer, you can recreate any number of Stevie Nicks music videos.
  12. The guy who pushes a shopping cart down the street and rummages for glass returnables on recycle pick-up day is surprisingly well-read and a very nice young man in general.

Let’s finish this on a high note, shall we? How about one of my favourite recipes the whole family can enjoy. It’s a super easy version of that current treat food fad all over Pinterest called “Cake in a Mug.”

First, get a cupcake. Then, jam it in a mug.

I’m here all week, folks!

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Physics Fail: I Don’t Do Air Travel

December 2, 2013 | Posted in Family, humor, Irritation Level: High, Writing | By

fear of flying I am not the adventurous type. I live in the same town I was born in, I married a guy I dated in high school, and we bought our house from my parents who bought it in 1978. I’ve had the same bedroom since I was five years-old and I order the same thing every time I go to the one restaurant I eat at. To say I’m a homebody is an understatement at best. What does going anywhere new accomplish? I already know what I like, and I have everything I need right here within my reach. I can call someone to deliver me the taste of Thailand, and Mexican music is available on iTunes. If something is worth experiencing, I’ll do it here. I’m up to party hardy dawgs, fo shizzle and I’m hip to a fun jive. Let’s just do it here in my living room, okay?

So it’s not a stretch for most to believe that I don’t fly. Flying is for birds and kites, of which I am neither. My affinity for the couch and all things gravity-based is stronger than any desire to see a foreign land or distant relatives. Until I can drive to Europe or Asia, I am content here in my 20 mile radius bubble of Berber carpeted comfort. I have flown in the past, so this isn’t a case of “but you’ve never even tried it!” I first flew when I was six years old, and quite simply, I was too stupid to know any better. Back then I believed in mysteries like the Tooth Fairy and physics. Today I am an adult and know that both these things are complete make-believe. At that tender age I didn’t yet have the ability to analyze things to death, such as how a humongous metal contraption could propel itself forward while hundreds of miles above the earth. An airplane is a magical mystery tube AND IT’S NOT RIGHT. I didn’t fly again after that until I was 23 years old. That trip was for my honeymoon and while my husband understood I had a fear of flying, I don’t think he truly comprehended the extent of my affliction until we went to the travel agency to book our vacation. He had turned down my suggestions of driving to Colonial Williamsburg or Florida, seeing that he wasn’t a 75 year old man with a penchant for golf and 4pm all-you-can-eat dinners. He instead insisted on someplace tropical, and so off we went to the travel agent with our criteria. His list was simple: it had to be hot, sandy, and have unrestricted access to a Daiquiri machine. My list was a bit more complicated. If he absolutely insisted on going outside of territorial North America, then I would consent only if the flight was less than three hours and on an airline which had had no incidents in the last decade. They must also have a clean record from all international aviation governing bodies and the pilot must be experienced, but not old. But not too young, either! Fellow passengers must be be tolerant during my hysteria during takeoff, landing, and all periods in-between. I also requested that the stewards be prepared for some serious urinary incontinence on my part should we encounter turbulence. Unfortunately this flight did not go as smoothly as my first, back when I was a little girl who was, quite frankly, pretty goddamn stupid.

I thought I was prepared this time and I even felt excited as we walked down the narrow gangplank that lead to the aircraft. But as I crossed the threshold from the tube now known as “the hallway of terror”  into the airplane, I could tell this wasn’t going to end well. My heart revved up to about 180 beats a minute and I began to sweat. The panic that comes from being out of control set in, and to make things worse, as soon as we were seated my husband fell asleep and I was left alone.  (I should not be left alone under any circumstances.) The fates had seated me next to a 13 year-old boy who was traveling to Bahamas to spend the summer with his grandmother. I don’t think he ever came back to Canada, because I passed the three hour flight sobbing onto his tiny shoulder, and reacted to every bump and noise with ‘WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” I felt trapped in this flying tinfoil coffin and I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack when the turbulence started. I describe it as being in a blender with a handful of rocks, but my husband assured me his drink didn’t even tip over. As far as turbulence goes apparently it was “minor” and I was “a complete lunatic and does this certificate of marriage have an escape clause?”

I couldn’t get a full breath in and my mind started going places it has no right to go. What if the pilot fell asleep? What if the co-pilot and he had a fight and they couldn’t pull it together to land this thing? Was the pilot a drinker? Was he preoccupied with a marital problem? The plane made another strange noise I can describe only as “shit your pants metal crunching.” I politely inquired across the aisle “DEAR GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE I THINK A WING FELL OFF?” and the kind gentleman answered “Gee…I don’t know. I fly a lot and I’ve never heard anything like that before!” which did not help.I decided then and there that I would never fly again if it could be helped. I can’t handle the feeling of the grip around my heart. My blood pounds in my ears and I cry and swear and I pray and make promises to Gods both recognized and invented and I’m out of control and I’m spinning and we’re all gonna die, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

Because of the way I react under travel stress, it is best that I resist flight at all costs. I’ve flown only four times in my entire life and I realize that there are people who fly more often than that every week. I hear there are also people who fly for fun. FOR FUN! Can you even imagine doing this by choice? I can only conclude that these people are nuts. Well-traveled, passport stamp collecting fucking nutters. No where on earth is worth that stress. You want warm temperatures and blue waters? Crank up the furnace and throw some Calgon in the tub.

From this fear I’ve developed some coping strategies for flight, should it become absolutely unavoidable. My first tip for fellow aerophobs is to avoid the discussion of  flight in the first place. I’ve discovered there are very few things a man will remember talking about if he’s interrupted with a pulled pork sandwich and the promise of sexual favor. My partner loves to travel, but thanks to my freakishly insensitive gag reflex and my homemade chipotle BBQ sauce recipe, I’ve only had to fly once the entire six years we’ve been together. Actually that’s my only tip. I’ve never had to go beyond that.

My fear of flying is a mixed bag of control issues, trust issues, over-analysis of every noise and bump issues, fear of heights and small spaces issues, and I-don’t-wanna-die-issues. There is likely no cure, and I’m totally cool with that. It’s not a problem for me because I don’t need to fly. People who’ve gotten over their fear of flying tell me my fear will lessen as I get older and my will to live diminishes, but I’m not counting on it. I’ve told my partner countless times to not fight my irrational fears with measured, rational counter-arguments rooted in things like “scientific fact” and “proven statistics,”  because science and data and rationality never solved anything.

Road trip, anyone?

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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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