Friday, April 29, 2011

Great expectations

drama queen

I don't know what I was thinking: Setting an alarm to wake up at 3:30 a.m. with the intention of making scones? Dragging the kids out of bed to watch two people get married an ocean away? We'd sit in front of the telly with tea and biscuits?

What a royal pain in my ...

"Silliness," I said to the dog, who was roused and curious at the sight of a human lumbering around the house, breaking the silence of the dark by turning on the TV. It would be at least another hour until the prime event would take place anyway.

"The kids would rather eat sawdust than scones," I said as I stroked the dog's head and retired the idea before I'd even collected ingredients.

It was all so last minute. It wasn't about the pomp or the circumstance, it was just about the moment.

Thirty years ago when a similar scene was playing out on network news I sat in the living room of my mother's house, watching a horse-drawn carriage carry another soon-to-be-princess through the London streets.

We didn't analyze the spectacle. We didn't ooh and ahh. We just witnessed it together - my mother, my sister and I. And the memory of that vision has stayed with me as if all happened yesterday.

Today isn't anything like that day.

Fairytale things have little place in Ittybit's real life. She rarely dresses up like a princess anymore. All that stuff has been packed away in the trunk of a younger girl's imagination and fancy.

This was just a wedding of two people she didn't know -- a pretty woman in a pretty dress and a groom she'd mistaken to be the bride's father -- and nothing more.

"Can I play Math Bingo now?"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cartography corrected

map of her room ...

"Not to be picky, but this isn't really accurate, is it? I mean ... Where's the mess? ... and where's your brother's bed? It's missing, and yet he sleeps there, too."

"What? You want for everyone to laugh at me?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Career counseling

type hand

"Mom ... If you quit your job you could write a book."

"That's a surprising suggestion coming from you. You never like my stories."

"What do you mean? I LOVE your stories."

"As I recall you said, and I quote: 'they have a beginning and end, but no plot'."

"That's true ... but if you didn't have a job you could work on the middle."

"I'm thinking maybe YOU should write the book."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unnecessary translations

Will you adopt me?

Mostly I don't like thinking about the lowest point you can reach as a parent. It's a dark place that doesn't often take kindly to humor. It can also be like poking an injured creature with a stick.

It is neither nice nor necessary.

Although this parent's more respectable cousin (also known as Mother Of The Year) has witnessed her lowest points at dental practices all across America. It is here that we find out how much damage we've done with our permissive ways.

"Oh. What? ... How many cavities? Does she even have that many teeth?"

The dentists always tell you not to take it personally. It's not an indictment of your parenting abilities. It could be genetics. But we know by their wide-eyed smiles that THEIR kids have perfect choppers.

But that initial defeated feeling isn't the lowest point you can reach.

You shrug, accept and then you resolve to do better. You've tried to get them to brush properly. You've employed timers and flossers and toothpastes of all flavors, but it's not enough. You've tried to be diligent, but you fall just short of trying your best. You know there's always room for improvement. At least that's what you've been telling the kids.

Disappointment fades to forgotten.

No, you hit the low when your kid ... happily sitting in the examining chair watching a movie ... asks the dentist the most important question of all:

"Will you adopt me?"

And as you fail to translate what he really meant by the word "adopt" you succeed in feeling the sharpest truth of what was said: If she did adopt him, at least he'd have better teeth.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Easter Gnome garden brownie

Bunny left a Garden Gnome on a field of brownie.

The boy plowed through it pretty darn quick.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sweet 16

birthday wishes

I know you are probably wishing for more of the cat's food and the freedom to take whatever you want off the plates of the kids.

Oh wait ... You've already got that finagled now, haven't you?

I'll tell you what I wish.

I wish we could have you around for another 16 years.

Happy Birthday, Miss M.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The best toy you never had to buy

dainty dirt


Second best toy?

raise the roof

An old, fitted sheet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Food for thought

This week the Chicago Tribune reported a story about a ban on homemade lunches at Little Village Academy, a public school.

Seems the principal at the school decided to enact the moratorium six years ago after seeing some of the junk food kids brought with them on field trips. She contends school lunches are healthier and should be required of students who don't have health concerns or allergies that would prevent partaking in the meals.

When I first read the story I immediately thought "of all the incredibly bone-headed things ..."

I started listing the outrages in my mind:

So parents wouldn't be able to pack ... say ... This:


School-made lunches aren't any healthier ... We all know the stories about how healthy school lunches really are: Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers, mozzarella sticks, pizza (that's a typical weekly menu at our school, anyway). Here's a sampling of school lunches from flickr.

The lunches certainly aren't any cheaper ... if you don't qualify for a subsidy it's, on average, $2.25 a day on top of your now inflated grocery bills.

And most kids toss them out if they don't like the offerings. So as officials are demanding food revolutions, some kids aren't eating anything during the day, and families are paying for the privilege of their kids going hungry.

There are just so many Head-Meet-Wall Stories my wee brain can take.

I'd like to think we come up with cockamamie ideas and turn them into rules because we truly mean well. But mostly what I think happens is that people see a problem they have no idea how to fix and so they start making new and often useless rules.

Which makes me wonder what exactly do educators know if not education? It seems to me they are in a perfect position to inform parents on healthier choices and they can do it through our children.

I know my fifth-grade teacher showed me the joys of yoga and eating whole wheat bread ... and my mother happily indulged those changes.

Of course, some parents will still pack their kids' lunches with sodas and candy and high-fat snacks. ... So how do schools control what students eat? The answer seems simple enough to me: They can't. Not entirely. The best they can hope to do is influence it ... and offer more exercise.

Which leads me to wonder what happens when schools try control food? After six years there should be some positive change in obesity rates at Little Village Academy, don't you think? The story never mentioned if there was.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The yoga of parenting

Exercise guru

Children can make everything you do in life seem that much harder.

But everything you do in life can seem that much better because you have children.

Monday, April 11, 2011

When 'Farm Market' takes on a whole new meaning for mom


Let me set the scene:
It's the morning commute on a gray, rain-threatening day. The landscape, still crisp with fall colors though it is spring, rolls past our windows at 45 miles-per-hour. The boy is in his car seat talking non-stop about the things he sees - asking and often answering his own questions.

"Ders a guy with wandry. Where's he going? Maybe to da wandrymat."

"Can we go the wong way? I yike the wong way. It's faster than the short way."

The long way it is. Past school buildings and playgrounds. Past apple orchards and cattle ranches. Past miles and miles of fields.

"Is that a farm?" He asks as we drive past acres of wide open fields.

"Yes. That's a farm," I answer absently, momentarily wondering to myself if there will be a train at the crossing up ahead.

"What do they grow there?"

"Oh, I don't know," I say, trying to focus on his conversation. "It's a pretty big field. It could be hay or corn, or something like that."

"Don't they grow zombies there? I bet they grow zombies there."

I start to laugh. Of course he'd wonder about whether an iPhone app offered a window into the agricultural practices of the undead.

"That's just a computer game. There's no such thing as zombies."

"Well ... I think it would be fun if they did grow zombies. Because if they grew zombies I could keep one for a pet."

"If zombies were real," I tell him (as if this is the most natural conversation in the world to be having with a three-year-old) you most definitely would NOT want one for a pet."

"I would. I would keep him in a cage and feed him every day. I would!"

"What would you feed him?"

"I don't know. Zombie food. It costs five dollars and you can buy it at the store."

"I don't know how to break it to you bud, but zombies - which are not real anyway so don't go chasing nightmares - eat humans. And that makes it completely unsafe to own a zombie."

"Well ... If I had a zombie I would train him not to eat humans. That's what I would do."

Friday, April 08, 2011

The bully pulpit

the usual suspects

The Times Union's "Parent to Parent" blog this week posted a video that showed a portion of a fight between two girls on the Shenendehowa High School campus. The fight allegedly happened last year but, as the author explained, the video had “just surfaced” on YouTube.

The posting describes the contents of the clip in a paragraph, highlighting the potentially controversial fact that an administrator knocked one girl, presumably the aggressor, to the ground. It continues on to commend the “superhero” for doing what “he had to do to stop a bad situation.”

The post also pokes a little fun at the girl who is seen throwing punches, noting the irony that her t-shirt bears a peace sign. (On its official Facebook page posting of the piece, the "TU" commented that the newsroom was “giggling” over that, too.)

Predicably, a number of comments on the blog, as well as where it appeared on the TU's Facebook page, took the bait and started swimming to the murky depths.

Some brought up the girl’s weight. One called her a “low life.” Many blamed “the parents.” They wondered how long it would be until the administrator was sued. One called for a return of a “good spanking.” Another wanted the teacher to “lower a shoulder.”

Standard stuff I suppose, and stuff that included opposing and thoughtful view points. But does one really balance the other? What does viewing a video clip add to the discussion?

We (journalists included) routinely swipe video from Youtube or photographs from Facebook with the conviction that what we are exposing is for the greater good. Critics might say that the business of news and analysis is leading us all down this desolate road ... if we don't we threaten our own survival. But as we troll more and more for the stories we promote, I can't help but think we run the real risk of adding to the greater harm instead of the greater good.

Let’s not think about copyright or ethics for the moment. Let’s not think about the supposed victim in the video, and how she might feel about seeing the clip dredged up by a professional arbiter of information. She's just a performer in the theater of ideas. That this fight, and countless others, will last in perpetuity isn't really our concern. After all, it is owed to a perfect storm of immaturity, the ease of technology, and the desire to keep click counts hopping on slow news days.

I just wonder: Does promoting videos like these really add to our understanding of, or reporting on, the problems of youth? Or are we just facilitating bullies and becoming ones ourselves?

Thursday, April 07, 2011



Bedtime. It's bedtime. Get ready for bed. Please. Please. Please get ready for bed. It's time to go upstairs and get ready for bed. Get on your pajamas. Brush your teeth. Pick out your books. Get ready for bed.

Brush your teeth, boyo. Now. Brush them. That wasn't brushing. That was holding a toothbrush near your face. Brush. Your. Teeth. For two minutes. I'll set the timer. Brush. Your. Teeth. Either YOU brush your teeth or I will brush your teeth. Which do you choose?

And you, girly-girl, you can stop laughing at me and get on your pajamas. And stop jumping on the bed. Stop. Jumping. And take your pajamas off the cat. Really. Calming down. That's the goal. We're callllllming down. Now. Calming. Down.

I'm only reading one book. Just one. And not the one that is 200 pages long. So don't even try to sneak that one under my nose. I will not be tricked into reading the Tolstoy of children's fables. So don't even try.

OK ... I'm reading now.

I'm reading. Now.

Stop playing with whatever that thing is in your hand and listen. To the story. Listen. With your ears. ... not with your hands.

OK ... where was I?

... and they all lived happilyeverafterTheEnd.

(Switches off light).


No, I did not skip any pages. I love you. Go to sleep.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Knock, knock

Who's there?


A fifteen-pound cat who wants to play.

A fifteen-pound cat who wants to play who?

You! Go ahead, keep on dangling that purple shoelace thing-y ... I'll just watch.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The sweet, the sour and a multi-tasking failure

"Oh ... I meant to throw that one out before you saw it. ... Sorry."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Are your kids on the dole?


My husband and I have a long-standing disagreement over what should constitute an "allowance."

I always assumed an "allowance" was a small amount of money parents gave children each week in order to teach them how to budget (and ridicule their consumer choices).

He believes allowance should only be paid for work the children do that is above and beyond the scope of chores they would ordinarily be doing if they were three-foot-tall tenants and their rooms were private apartments.

For instance ... they shouldn't get paid to clean their rooms, clear the table, pick up their toys or do anything that is in the purview of family obligation.

"Which leaves what?" I wonder ... "Paving the driveway? Re-shingling the roof?"

Technically speaking, in his estimation, we shouldn't be giving them any money for vacuuming under the couch cushions simply because the majority of what is found there is a pulverized version of the snacks they eat while watching TV.

So ... aside allowing them to keep the pocket change they find when vacuuming the crumbs under the cushions, we've yet to settle on a firm way to put our kids on the payroll.

Do you pay your kids a true allowance or do they work for their money? What chores to you have them do?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Coffee talk

Coffee break


Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, set off a little firestorm in the ethosphere this week after he published, then temporarily retracted, a tongue-in-cheek essay on positions pushed by Men's Rights organizations. The post had feminists calling him misogynist and men's rights advocates crying misanthropy.

I'm not sure I really have an opinion of the original essay to be quite honest, but I thought Adams' explanation of the whole debacle was an interesting little journey through the bowels of social media.

See, a few weeks back, I wrote a column in which I complained about family game night. It was supposed to be an off-beat, light-hearted glimpse of some mundane thing we all do, and that from time to time drives us crazy. It was supposed to be akin to looking at a snapshot, not painting a portrait.

In the print edition it appeared on a page opposite the obituaries ... which that day happened to contain an obituary for an 8-year-old child. I was mortified by the context I now found my story. Some mother was mourning her son, and if they looked to the right they would read my complaints about a family ritual they will never be able to have again with their child.

I thought: This wouldn't happen on the internet. My frivolousness wouldn't share a page with someone else's sorrow.

Now I see how it can. And how anything, no matter what audience it was meant to entertain, can take on meaning it never was meant to convey.


The NYTimes ran a story this week that city schools were planning pricey technology purchases despite cuts in other areas of education spending, namely teachers.

Questions about the effectiveness of these new technologies as they pertain to learning and evaluation persist, but we are like moths to the technological flame. ... We seem to prefer the automated bells and whistles despite any proof that they work better than the lest costly tool they replaced.

As in the case of Interactive White Boards it seems pretty clear: Everyone likes them, but there's no real way to tell if they are more effective than their low-cost cousins.

I know I'm kind-a old school, here. But I'd rather have more teachers.


You've no doubt heard about the female King Cobra that supposedly slithered out of the Bronx Zoo last weekend. Well, zoo officials didn't think the venomous viper got far, but by Monday a mystery asp started a twitter account under that moniker "BronxZoosCobra" and began live-tweeting its supposed tour of Gotham.

Among its tweets:

"Dear NYC, Apples and snakes have gone together since the beginning."

and "Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!"

and my personal favorite: "At the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Temple of Dendur really kicks some asp. #snakeonthetown"

In few days the little viper was on slitherabout, she'd had garnered more than 190,000 followers. The Bronx Zoo was sponging up some of the curiosity, too. Its follower count jumped more than 100 percent (to 8,000 including @bronxzooscobra) after the snake started tweeting. She even got @Jon_Favreau 's attention by posting a link to a photo on display at Ellis Island of his 1900s doppleganger.

Snake = winning.

Of course zookeepers said they believed the snake was holed up somewhere inside the confines of the zoo and would mosey on out when she's got good and hungry. Which many had hoped would mean a few weeks of reptile raillery.

On Thursday afternoon, however, the zoo reported the snake had been located, leading many twitter fans to wonder (and hope) that would be keeping its smartphone.

and ... @bronxzooscobra's first tweet back in captivity?

"Just regurgitated my iPhone. Oh, it's ssso on now. You'll never guess what's coming. #freethebronxzooscobra"

Keep the party going:

Score = tied.