Thursday, May 5, 2016

For the days when you just can't...

It has been busy lately. Too say the least.

I have two kids graduating (you cannot imagine how much momming goes into a 5th grade promotion), two jobs, several volunteer positions, an event to plan, a dog, a cat, and six chickens. They're all vying for my attention. Plus my entire family is coming to visit in just a couple of weeks and my living room is only a quarter painted. My husband does his best to help me keep my sanity, but there is only so much he can do. He works full time, and the status of my sanity is pretty fluid anyway. My kids help too. They do the dishes, take out the trash, and pick up their dirty socks. They would also tell you they clean their own rooms. I would tell you that they try.

Even with the help of my family, I am the one at home all day. By default, this means that I am the one stuck in the chaos. And most of the time, I have to tell you, I just can't. I seriously cannot. I have absolutely no can left. With normal daily life and a couple of work-at-home type jobs combined with my inherent laziness, I am looking for some ways to cut corners. To lighten the load. To be able to not rush out to the grocery every evening or feel like I'm going to be swallowed whole by an overflowing laundry hamper.

If I'm looking for the corners to cut, and I'm in my house all day, I can only imagine what parents who have jobs outside the house feel like; who can't throw in a load of laundry between calls; who work until 5 or 6 and still have to have dinner ready before soccer or ballet.

After some extensive research (5 minutes on Google), I have found some things I think will make life easier. And, because I'm a helluva gal, I've decided I will test them out so you don't have to.

Worst case scenario: I will know better than to cut corners in the future.

Best case scenario: I will provide myself and other stressed out parents a few precious minutes of downtime.

 AMAZON FRESH: I'm not really sure what I've been doing with my life that has not involved Amazon Fresh. I'm not really sure at all. So many wasted days...

Basically, Amazon Fresh is an offshoot of Amazon Prime. For a Prime Fresh membership, it will run you $299 for the year. But they like to tell you it's something like $3.84 per week in addition to your annual Prime payment. Isn't it cute how they do that? Normally, I would laugh heartily at that price point and keep scrolling, but, guys, desperate times...and also, FREE MONTH TRIAL! They got me with that one free month. I love free junk almost as much as I love lasagna. I set up an alarm on my phone notifying me when to cancel my membership (Yes. I am that cheap.), and started shopping.

Right off the bat, I could tell that I had found my happy place. Browsing the virtual aisles of this grocery store from the comfort of my sofa with a sleeping baby on my chest? YES PLEASE. EVERY DAY. My goal was to get all the non-perishable things I need for the upcoming weekend, and to spend no more than I would at Ralph's. It was very easy to find everything, even the same brands I use, either through the search bar or scrolling through the different departments. The way the site is set up, it is actually difficult not to find (more than) what you are looking for.

I double checked my cart, and discovered that if you spend $40 or more, delivery is free. Who doesn't spend more than $40 per grocery trip? I spent $67 this time around. About $20 less than I anticipated spending at Ralph's. Not too shabby. I saved 20 bucks and never had to leave my living room!

On to booking my delivery time. Since I was a rookie, I didn't realize that you could set your delivery date/time before you start shopping. I highly recommend doing this. You set your time, and they give you 60 minutes to shop. Because I didn't check, I had no idea that there weren't any available times left for today. So much for instant gratification. I set my delivery time between 10am and 1pm tomorrow, and reminded myself that patience is a virtue. But, ughhh. Patience is hard.

All in all, this shopping trip took me about 10 minutes start to finish. That includes the time I took to start my free trial. When I factor in the time it takes me to drive, shop, wait at the register staring blankly at Kardashian headlines, drive home, and unload the car, I'm estimating this saved me about 50 minutes. 50 beautiful minutes. That's nearly an hour of bonus sweatpants time!

I can't imagine that I will ever pay $299 annually for this service, but for a crazy month like this one is turning into, it is absolutely worth the $3.84 per week.

SAUCEY APP: Have you ever had one of those days where you have baby vomit in your hair, no clean pants, a dirty dish mountain forming in your sink, your kids look like they're reenacting Lord of the Flies, and there is not one drop of wine in your house?

No? Neither have I. Because I always have my shit together. But if I ever did have one of those days, I would think that Saucey was created exclusively for me. Some kindred spirit in a mom group brought this service to my attention, and I thought it needed further investigation. You know, just in case my shit isn't together one day.

You can download Saucey for Android or iPhone. You can even use the link above and order from your home computer. Enter your zip to make sure you are in the delivery area, then start shopping!

First you click the cool little icon representing what type of booze you're looking for. They have everything. I am serving swordfish for dinner, so I shopped in the white wine. From what I can tell, it's safe to say you'll be over charged by as much as $5/bottle. I expected that. We'll call it a convenience fee. They have to make money... The nice part is that if you reach a certain dollar amount, I believe it's $35.00, delivery is free.

They have a "mixers" section too. As I have forgotten to buy ginger beer the last 89348574 trips I've made to the grocery, I took a look for that as well. And limes. Because a Moscow Mule doesn't sound too shabby. They had both, and so much more. Marg salt, pre-mixed concoctions, maraschino cherries. They even sell ping pong balls and Solo cups for all you classy broads.

I hit a little glitch about this time. I'm not going to lie. This very easily could have been user error. The first few times I proceeded to checkout, it emptied my shopping cart and I had to start over. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. I was only getting 3 things so it didn't take long to refill the cart.

After you checkout, Saucey sends you a text letting you know your delivery will be there within the hour. They also give you a play by play of the action through the app...
Roshawn is on the way, guys!

The only notes I have on this otherwise flawless service are that you can't place an order before 4pm, so do not expect emergency mimosa deliveries for your 11am brunch, and there is no information on the site regarding a tip. Because this is a delivery service with a local driver, not a shipping service like UPS, I think tipping is the way to go. In fact, I am of the mind that only savages and Trump supporters fail to tip people in the service industry. You choose your own path, but know I will be silently judging you if you stiff Roshawn.

I have more services set up for the future, but it would be insane for me to try everything in 2 days. I have thoughts on Ubereats vs. Grub Hub and EAT24. I will also be utilizing a cleaning service after I find out who will give me the best price to restore my home to its former glory (former like before we moved in). I have to tell you, for the price, even that $99 topless maid van is in the running...if only I believed they actually cleaned anything.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Try Something New 2016

Every year, leading up to my birthday, I try something new. It is my way of proving to myself that I'm not too old for new experiences. Also, it keeps me from being bored and/or boring. This year, my Try Something New has had me living on pins and needles for nearly the last two months.

In February, I heard about this show called Listen to Your Mother. They were looking for stories about moms, being one, or having one. I jotted the information down on the back page of something important in the pink binder I have become physically attached to, and decided this was it. My Try Something New. I scheduled my audition before I could think better of it, then I set out to write the perfect story.

Only there wasn't a perfect story. So I wrote a few okayish stories instead.

One was awful. (You will never read that one. It has since been lost to the abyss that is my MacBook's trashcan. But it used words like 'meconium' so we should all be ok with that decision.) One made me cry every time I read it. I ruled that one out through choked back sobs. One was about my kids doing basic kid things. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was about being a mom. Good enough.

I write things all the time. People read the things I write all the time. Granted, they're usually reading them in the form of a school newsletter, but they read them nonetheless. So, I shouldn't have been nervous about reading this non-Shakespearean mom story to a couple of people. And I wasn't. At all. Because 'nervous' doesn't come close to the level of gut-wrenching, soul-crushing anxiety I felt that day. Nervous doesn't even live in the same galaxy.

I thought that would be it. My Try Something New. My goal had been to audition. And I did. I was so confident that I wasn't going to hear back, that I celebrated the conquering of my fear, my successful Try Something New, and worked to put it out of my head.

A week later, I was busy working and received an email that stopped me dead. "CONGRATULATIONS!" was as far as I read before my eyes started to tear. Was I excited? Terrified? Going to vomit? The answer was yes. At first I contemplated the very real possibility that a mistake had been made. Perhaps there were two Joannas? But more details followed. There was no mistake. I had somehow tricked those directors into thinking I was a competent person. They had faith in me. They complemented me. An early April Fool's joke? Probably. But they just kept including me in emails, then the table read, and the rehearsal. They even put my name on the flyers and programs. Nobody said "April Fool's!" so I kept going along with it.
It wasn't until yesterday that I truly realized my Try Something New had morphed into Try Participating in a Nationwide Show Which has Included Actual, Real Live, Published Writers like Jenny Lawson. (YOU GUYS. I LOVE JENNY LAWSON.) It was too late to run and hide somewhere in the desert. Besides, I don't like being hot, and my family would just use Find My iPhone to locate me. I had to go through with it.

So, there I was. Standing backstage with a group of fantastically talented people. Trying to convince them (and myself) that I was not there by mistake. Trying to quiet the loud voice in my head that kept screaming "IMPOSTER!!" Trying not to barf. I refreshed my insane looking make-up, sprayed a smelly powder something in my hair, and steeled myself up to face the audience.

Me before the show, looking awkward in a dress. With several of the fantastically talented people mentioned above (Juanita Mantz, Angela Riggs, Patricia Willson, Ashley Alteman), who look decidedly less awkward.
Then it was my turn. Just me. On stage. All by myself. Alone. I temporarily forgot how to read. Took a breath. Remembered. Then, just like that, it was over.

For two months I've thought about that moment. I've panicked on it. I've faked confidence. I've even pictured myself contracting some terrible illness that would keep me bed bound the night of the performance. Two months of preoccupation and worry instantly replaced with relief, and an amount of pride that almost embarrasses me.
Me immediately after leaving the stage. This is 'relief' personified. Not a single worry in the world.
I did it. With my friends and family there watching, I slipped on some heels and jumped outside my comfort zone. So far outside that by the end of the night I was even hugging strangers. (That's correct. I let people in my hula hoop. On purpose.) It was a Try Something New I won't forget as long as I live. And I can't wait for an opportunity to do it all over again. Barfs and all.

Thanks to Suzanne, Taia, and every one of you who gave me kind words and encouragement leading up to last night. Especially those of you who gave me Snickers bars. I'll never find the words to be able to express what your support means to me. So, I'll just say thank you, and thank you again, until you get tired of hearing it. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SBAC Testing a mom's last nerve

I wrote this about a year ago. My feelings on testing have changed very little in the time since. I still don't blame the teachers or the administration for the testing or for stressing its importance. I'm not naive enough to think that school scores and funding happen without taking SBAC test scores into consideration. The only thing that has changed in the year since I wrote this is me; my willingness to put my kids through the stress again, my failure to do something about it. So? I'm not going to deal with it this year. At all.

I'll be opting my kids out of testing this time around. I have no idea what they will be doing while their classmates are in testing sessions. Reading? Drawing? Sitting in the office? No clue at all. But, I do know they won't be having nervous tummies or worries about college.

I don't for one second even pretend to know what is best for your child, what pressure they can take, what is too much for them, but if your kids are like mine, and the testing is too much, I want you to know that it's not hard to opt out. I was a little intimidated by the idea of it at first, but after asking around, I discovered all I had to do was send a note. Our district asked for our principal's name, student name and grade, testing year, parent or guardian's name, and a signature. That's it. That's all it cost me....

April 14, 2015

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions reading this, I will say first and unequivocally: I love my children's teachers. I love their schools. I really do. And in the words of mothers everywhere, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As far as I'm concerned, we hit the educational lottery. The teachers in our schools are wonderful. The administration is supportive. They have always seemed to really understand the children (and the parents) they are serving. But then, Common Core and the subsequent standardized testing happened.

It's not their fault Common Core happened. It's not their fault that it wasn't introduced incrementally, or you know, in any sane kind of way. It's not their fault that they haven't received funding to buy all the new materials and books they need to implement it successfully. And it's definitely not their fault that after only one year of Common Core curriculum, our kids are being subjected to week-long standardized tests that they don't understand, and are almost guaranteed to bomb.

None of that is their fault. I understand that.

This is the second week of testing in our house since each grade tests during a different week. We went through it with Child Number One, and this is the first day for Child Number Two. I have approached this round of tests with an extremely laid back attitude. It's not because I don't care about their success. It's because THESE TESTS DO NOT MATTER. Our state has decided not to hold our schools accountable for test scores this year, so I have decided not to hold my children accountable for test scores this year.

Now, mind you, we are still doing the early bed time thing and healthy breakfast thing...blah, blah, blah...but I am not stressing the importance of the exam. Because, again, IT IS NOT IMPORTANT.

Which leads me to the focus of my disappointment: Knowing that this test means nothing, why are we still stressing the importance of THE TEST. Both of my kids were under the belief that colleges will look at their results. Are they actually supposed to think that their futures depend on doing a great job on dragging and dropping sentences, and clicking 'submit,' or 'next,' or whatever? That essentially they will be judged for their performance on this exam for as many as the next eight years??

No pressure kids!

At first, when this story came home to me in the form of a 13 year old boy, I thought maybe the educator who delivered the message was trying to prep them for high school. Maybe precedents were being set for things like the SATs, ACTs, or that California High School Exit Exam thing. So, I just reassured my kid that no college will care at all how he did on this particular test, then I let it go. Until my daughter woke up for school on Monday.

She was flustered and anxious. "Mom! I have to eat a good breakfast. I need to be my best! Testing starts today!" I told her the same things I told her brother, that she should always try to do her best, but this test really isn't the kind of thing we need to get upset about. My reassurances seemed to fall on deaf ears. I couldn't figure out why, until her friend came to walk to school with us. The nervous energy was palpable. There were even upset tummies. That's when I was told "colleges will look at this test!"

You've got to be freaking kidding me.

I couldn't really say what I wanted because I was talking to kids. I couldn't tell those two 10-year-olds that colleges will give exactly zero f***s about how they did on a test in 4th grade, but I did my best to convince them that they have plenty of years to worry about college. 4th grade is definitely not one of those years.

I don't think teachers have given the kids this impression on purpose. I don't even believe they actually said the words "colleges look at this test." I have no question that there was some adult to kid language that was lost in translation. I'm sure something like "when you're in high school, this is one of the tests that colleges will look at." was said to the kids, but they heard "if you don't do a great job on this test, you won't get into college." I am absolutely certain it was a misunderstanding. But it was two misunderstandings, at two different schools, with two different educators. That makes me think that aside from a misunderstanding, it might also just be a dumb thing to say to kids.

I am not against motivating children, and I believe they do need to know that there are natural consequences for not doing your best. However, I would contend that kids are stressed out enough already without our piling on. That is one arena where they really don't need our help at all. They have pressure to make fantastic grades, maintain their extra-curriculars, and play on sports teams that are ridiculously competitive. They have parental pressures and social stressors that, as children, we would never have been able to imagine.

My kids are perfectionists. They take things very seriously. They put so much pressure on themselves that sometimes it scares me for them. I love my kids' teachers. I know that nobody did anything intentionally to freak them out. No one needs to feel badly or apologize. I don't even think it needs to be mentioned again. In fact, that's more my point.

I would love it if we (all of the people who impact a child's life, parents and teachers alike) would calm down a little. Tone down the rhetoric. Let them play in the dirt without worrying what a college might think about it. That's as much a reminder for myself as it is for anyone else. I want the best, the most, and the greatest for my kids always. I want them to have everything. Everything except a prescription for Zoloft.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Struggle.

I've been wondering a lot lately how it is that I can nanny like I'm Mary Poppins, but I can only seem to parent like Rambo. I hate it, but that seems to be frighteningly accurate.

With the little ones I lovingly refer to as my loaner babies, I am all snuggles and lullabies. My method of discipline is giving time to "think about it." I don't lose my temper, but I'm still able to uphold boundaries and encourage acceptable behavior. Limits are set and reinforced firmly, but I don't get frustrated.

Then my real babies (they're still babies, because they'll always be babies) come home from school...

No matter how calm I try to be, I find myself leaving a trail of scorched earth behind me as I parent my way through the evenings. I really don't mean to, and it doesn't happen every day. But it happens. It happens more than I would care to admit.

My theories on why are many, but the primaries are:

1) Puberty. OH. MY. EFFING. G. PUBERTY. (People warn you when you're cuddling your sweet baby that someday they may not be so sweet any more, and you're like "Whatever. My baby is perfect, and will love me, and snuggle me, and listen to everything I say. Always. Just look at this little face!" Nope. Not so, noobs. Prepare yourselves.)

2) Maybe, just maybe, I'm a control freak. Or maybe I'm a Bitch. With a capital B. (Those of you who know me are thinking 'WHAAATTTT?' But you guys, it's true. I like things my way. I am strong-willed. I can be a bit on the demanding side. I know this comes as a shock.)

My bitchiness and their puberty are a dangerous combination. Unchecked, they can ignite our family time like a powder keg. 

I am (fairly) certain I do a good job of reigning in my bossy behaviors (most of the time), and I know I can't expect them to reign in theirs. (That's the truly awful part of the puberty problem...if they had any control of themselves or their feelings at all, there wouldn't be a puberty problem in the first place.) I try to aim low with expectations, and pick my battles. Still, some battles must be fought, and some behaviors can't be overlooked.

I never in a million years thought parenting would be easy, but I didn't think it would be this hard either. I didn't think it would change me into a person I don't recognize. A person who may as well have horns and fangs. Who snarls things like "Leave this room. Now. I need 5 minutes without talking." Or who daydreams of a trip to the grocery store for a few minutes of peace. Or who (infamously now thanks to Facebook) hides in the car eating chocolate bars.

I'm not looking for pity here. Not at all. But it did occur to me that if I'm going through this, someone else might be too. There are tons of blogs dedicated to the horrors and hilarity of parenting toddlers, but nothing I have found relates to where I am on this motherhood journey. That makes me feel a little icky. Alone. Overwhelmed.

So, I'm outing myself (for the sake of others, and because writing this is cheaper than seeing a therapist): I'm the mother of two amazing children. They are beautiful, bright, funny, and kind. And sometimes I'm not very nice to them.

Hopefully, one day when they have kids of their own, they will understand why their mom was a maniacal shrew beast. It was because sometimes, as beautiful, bright, funny and kind as they were, they didn't leave her with many options. Sometimes diplomacy failed. Sometimes the nuclear option was all that was left.

So it goes. Through the generations. I should probably call home and apologize to my own mother. Again.

The point is, if you find yourself Rambo parenting, there is nothing to feel icky about. You are doing your job the best you can. You aren't alone. And if you're overwhelmed, pour yourself a glass of wine, and tell your kids that they're lucky, because I am a much meaner mom than you are. It's probably true. I take away video games. (GASP!!!)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Fight

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling, I was angry.  When I get angry, I tend to do something about it.  Being completely powerless in this particular situation (I have not yet been chosen as a Supreme Court justice.  An oversight, I'm sure.), but still believing that dissenting voices should be heard, I posted something online.

Who cares, right?  Everybody posts things to social media.  That's why it was created.

It does make for a great tool, though.  It helps to let our representatives know the general feeling of their constituency.  It also helps to engage people in debate over issues that are effecting their lives.  Or not effecting their lives at all, if you just like to troll.  Either way, these debates have value.  Bringing attention to important topics, and presenting two well thought out and fact based sides to an argument is never a bad thing. Who knows, it may even lead to a more informed, less TMZ focused voter population.  (Hopefully.)

The point I'm making is this:  I'm all for speaking your mind.  I'm all for screaming your opinions from the rooftops, the soapbox, or the Facebook post.  Let your voice be heard.  Just don't be an asshole about it.

There has never been a time in our country's history when our citizens have had their voices silenced.  We can speak out against government decisions.  We can speak out against churches.  We can speak out against our neighbors.  It's a right we are entitled to.  And it's pretty awesome.

Regardless of the sides taken, I love that people are exercising this right.  I also love that you don't have to hold any qualifications to form your opinions.  You don't have to be an expert to share your thoughts.  And most of us aren't.  None of us knows everything.  Not one of us is able to divine the perfect answers to all the tough questions we're faced with.  Which is why I find it so odd that people resort to whining, calling names, and hurling insults while debating.  It's not helpful, and no one gains from it.

I've read some follow-up stories that have been published since the decision.  I've seen so many posts on the topic.  (Because I don't live under a rock.  Really.  Can this stuff be avoided?)

Some have been thought provoking:
When my daughter grows up, I hope she becomes a corporation.

Some have been less so:
I assure you, we aren't all thinking that.
I find this one from Planned Parenthood Action especially sad and unhelpful.  Here's why: the second you say you "deserve" something, you've basically resorted to that whiny voice kids use when they'd like to stay up past bedtime or want a second cookie.  "But moooom, I ate all my veggies.  I deserve it!"

People don't deserve things.  Ever.  People work for things.  Women don't "deserve birth control" coverage.  They've earned it.  It is compensation for doing their jobs.  Ladies, if you're going to fight, then fight.  If you're whining, you've lost the argument.

As for the insults, and there have been many, the most frequent I've seen in the comment sections of these articles, and everything ever published online actually, is "you're stupid" or ignorant, or dumb, etc.  (Only, let's be honest, it's almost always "your stupid" isn't it?  Those in glass houses...)  This seems to be an internet argument classic.  You're backed into an intellectual corner?  Come out swinging with a "You're so stupid!"  That'll teach 'em.

Holding a different opinion than someone doesn't mean the other party is stupid.  While failing to present facts or argue a logical point, and turning to insults may not mean you're stupid, it certainly makes you look that way.   If calling someone dumb is your ace in the hole, you've lost the argument.

I've also seen some insults that seem to only come from one side of the conversation.  That's the belittling of religious beliefs.  Weird coming from me, I'm aware.  I am a huge proponent of people keeping their religions out of my personal affairs.  I do not think religions should get to make reproductive decisions for everyone, just as I don't think that Jenny McCarthy should get to make vaccination decisions for everyone.  That doesn't mean that I don't respect the role religion plays in the lives of many people I know and love.  It's not for me, but that doesn't mean it can't be for them.  Calling deeply held religious beliefs "whims" is horribly insulting.  If you're belittling someone because of their religious beliefs, you are a bigot, and you've lost the argument.

Up to this point, the fan favorite of ineffective debating seems to be the name calling.  Or in this particular situation,  the slut shaming.  Seriously, America?  Women who are on birth control are all sluts who should just keep their legs closed?  Ask your mom if she's ever used birth control.  Ask your sisters.  Ask your daughters.  Then, if slut shaming is still all you have to contribute to the debate, shut up and read something.  If "just stop having sex" or "You're a whore!" (or implying that a woman's rights or opinions don't matter because they would like to have sex for reasons other than procreation) are the points you're trying to make, you've lost the argument.

Sadly, most of the name calling and insulting I've noticed over the course of the week has come from women.  I don't know why that is.  I don't know if there is some deep reason for it, like we don't teach our girls to be assertive the way we teach our boys.  I don't know if it's because women are more emotional, or if it's that the cause hits closer to home for women.  I really couldn't say.  But it's troubling.  

Personally, I feel that calling names and insulting people would only serve to make me look petty.  It would do nothing to further the conversation.  It certainly wouldn't help ensure contraceptive coverage for the women who work for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.  And, it would do absolutely nothing to force people to take my voice in debate seriously.  

Its all too easy to disregard a woman's voice.  She's angry?  It's probably just PMS.  Before that it was Female Hysteria, which could be diagnosed simply by asking a husband or father if a girl had a tendency toward speaking out or causing trouble.  (Um???)  This is why I'm begging:  Please women and girls, please, fight like you mean it.  No whining.  No name calling.  No insults.  Use facts and logics.  Separate the issues from the emotions.  Speak out, but listen too.  Don't take things personally, and don't get personal.  Do not give people a reason to tune you out.  

In the Facebook battle I accidentally waged on Monday, I was debating two men whom I happen to love dearly.  Two of my favorite people on the planet, in fact.  They think I am terribly misguided, and I think they are as wrong as anything, but I respect them.  I don't think they're stupid.  I don't think they're evil.  I don't think they're happy that some working women in our country can't afford to buy birth control out of pocket.  I just think they have a different opinion than I do.  AND THAT'S OK.  It doesn't fill me with hate or rage.  It just means family dinners might be interesting.  That's all.

Their team won this time.  It's done.  We can explain rationally, and without vitriol, why we think the Supreme Court made the wrong choice.  But beyond that, there's not a lot to be done.  Except contacting your representatives...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Day Survival Guide

I'm sort of a stupid-internet-article junkie. As such, I'm sure you can imagine the amount of advice I've read regarding the perfect Valentine's gift for the woman in your life. My unequivocal response to these is...NO.  

But fear not. On behalf of wives everywhere, I'm here to help. 

The most recent advice I've come across was in the form of a "10 best" sort of list from Yahoo. The very first suggestion is an (ugly) floral display and a teddy bear that hugs. Unless your wife is a seven-year-old, I would strongly caution all men to disregard this.  Do not get a fully grown, adult woman a teddy bear, unless she just had a baby or is expecting on Valentine's Day. Those are the ONLY exceptions. If your wife is anything like me, she has spent the last several years purging your home of unwanted stuffed animals. Just don't do it. 

Next we move on to the ever popular perfume. If your wife has a favorite bottle, and you notice she is running low, by all means get her a new bottle. And wrap it nicely. It will show her that you notice her, and that is wonderful. If, however, your wife has never worn perfume in her life, and you see a bottle that looks pretty when you're walking through the last minute, I forgot Valentine's Day aisle at CVS...keep on walking. Do. Not. Guess. Scents are very personal. A smell that you love may smell like week old trash water to her. 

And then we have the weird glass jewelry box complete with totally impersonal engraving. Think this one through. Does she have toddlers at home who will likely smash this gift into a million pieces? Does she even wear jewelry? Proceed with caution here. My husband would probably not be advised to purchase this. As much as I would love the thought, it would sit unopened in the top of my closet. Don't make your wife hurt your feelings. 

I could go on systematically dismantling the dumb gift ideas that seem to be conventional internet wisdom, but I realize that's probably not very helpful. For those of you who need a little assistance showing your lady how much you adore her, I'm going to try to give you some better ideas for a successful Valentine's Day*:

1. Strap on an apron and make her favorite dinner. DO NOT ask for her help with the dishes. 

2. If you have small children, handle the bedtime routine while she relaxes in a bath...with noise canceling headphones and her favorite bottle of wine. She'll be in a much more romantic mood if she doesn't have to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 300 times. I promise. 

3. (Warning: this one is very sappy...but girls love the sappy junk. You can thank Nicholas Sparks. He's ruined all of us.) Make a list of all the reasons you fell in love with her. Real reasons. Not "Your cooking tastes just like what mom used to make." In fact, avoid mom comparisons at all costs. This should be about her, and all the reasons she's special. Because she is. And you know it, even if you forget to tell her the other 364 days of the year. Throw in a box of chocolates for good measure. (Not the cheap waxy chocolate though. Go for the good stuff.)

4. Take the day off together. Couples massage at her favorite spa, wine tasting, walking through a book store. Whatever you like to do together, take the time to do it. Don't rush. 

5. Jewelry. But nothing featured in a Kays commercial please. Nothing says you're one of a kind like buying her something that is mass produced and marketed during breaks from Nick Jr. shows and NFL games. Don't go for the children's birthstones either. Save that for Mother's Day. She was your Valentine before she was your baby mama. (In most cases.)

Lastly, the most important piece of knowledge I can impart: Do not ever, ever regardless of circumstance or necessity, DO NOT buy her a vacuum.  I cannot be more clear about this. Nothing good will come of it. 

Keep in mind, Valentine's Day is about love. It's not about the price tag. If your girlfriend is annoyed that you didn't spend a lot on her, but you took the time and found her something special that reflects how you feel about her, well...your girlfriend kinda sucks. (I'm not including wives in that statement, because in general wives just want to know they're still your girlfriend too. Wives are easy.)

*You know your wife or girlfriend better than anyone on the internet. Take these and all suggestions with a grain of salt. Just be sure any gift you get comes from your heart. Woman are very powerful bullshit detectors...especially on Valentine's Day. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

If I was the president...

With the State of the Union and the upcoming President's Day vacation, I have overheard my beloved after-school study buddies discussing the presidency on several occasions over the past few weeks.  They agree that it would be "super awesome amazing!" to be president.  You would never have to make your bed or do homework.  But sadly, you would still probably have to do "real boring stuff" sometimes.

Keeping their chats in mind, I readied today's group project.  I asked the kids if they knew who the current president is.  After I pinky-promised them it was not Washington...or Lincoln (Eventually one of my girls proudly stated, "I know!  It's ARACK ARANA!"  Close enough.), I sat down with each child, and posed a question:  If you could tell the president one thing, what would it be?  It could be anything; a piece of advice, suggestion, criticism, something you want to change, anything at all. 

Some had an idea immediately.  Some sat deep in thought for a few moments.  Regardless of the length of time it took them, the little bits of wisdom they doled out are pure magic.

Originally, the idea was to write their thoughts on their own illustrations, and send them off to the White House.  And, I will still do that.  We're hoping for a response from President Arack Arana himself, fingers crossed.  But I just can't keep this level of genius between myself, and the White House staffers tasked with reading adorable kid mail.

"If I was the president, I would say, 'Girls are allowed to wear ties!'" --age 7

"Make peace with everybody in the world.  Right now." --age 8

"If I was the president, I would make sure everybody is safe.  Even the boys." --age 7

"Be more like Abe Lincoln." --age 7

"Thank you for making this a better place." --age 6


"You are the nicest president.  But I don't know the other presidents." --age 6

"Be in charge of our whole school." --age 6

"You should take care of your family and your country!" --age 8

"If I was the President of the United States, I would rule the school.  I think you could probably rule the school too." --age 6

"I think you should give us cupcakes every day." --age 7

"I like how you gave your speech on TV.  You had a serious face.  If I did that, I would barf." --age 7

"If I was the president, I would make everyone wear purple.  It's my favorite color." --age 6

"Go to the North Pole." --age 6

"If I was the president, I would do things you don't get to do that see a circus." --age 7

"Ban homework from the USA, and give everyone a dog to cuddle." --age 7

"If I was the president, I would run every restaurant in the world, and I would make everyone eat my food.  They would love it." --age 8

"I want to be president when I grow up too.  Maybe you could teach me?" --age 7

"I like George Washington more than you, because he makes quarters and fights in the army.  You don't do that stuff." --age 6

"You should change all the cafeteria food to macaroni and cheese." --age 8

Don't think of the preceding just as 20 cute statements from six to eight year old children.  Consider them as indisputable evidence that kids are better than us.  Children are a lot more worldly and wise than they are given credit for.  Clearly, they have their itty bitty fingers on the pulse of the nation.  They know the issues that matter.  They understand the problems of the masses, and they know exactly how to solve them:  With cupcakes, doughnuts, and macaroni and cheese.