Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seven is the New Eighteen

I'm not having a great 24 hours.  Last night, I watched GI Joe: Retaliation.  (Jon Chu, you owe me an apology.)  Then this morning happened.  I am no longer fit to be around people today.  No amount of coffee can fix it.  I'm going to quit.  Lock myself in my bedroom, watch The West Wing on Netflix, and ponder a new business.  

Yes.  I'm thinking of starting a business.  I'll call it something like Bitch For Hire.  The name pretty well describes the service I'll provide.  Prospective clients can pay me to scream at their insurance companies.  I do it all the time for free.  I figure I might as well profit from my expertise.  I really do excel at being a raging, monstrous bitch.  It's almost a superpower.  The more timid percentage of the population could really benefit.

While you ponder this brilliant idea, let me back up and explain...

I spent the morning at the dentist with a completely freaking insane child.  My sweet daughter ceased to exist.  She was replaced with a tiny, little, human-sized mass of anxiety.  It was ugly.  She was absolutely terrified.  She was a maniac.  She wouldn't even allow the hygienist to take X-rays.  It was not the most fun I've ever had.  In fact, it was not fun at all. 

It's not like she's never been to the dentist before.  We go every 6 months.  The only explanation I can come up with for this borderline mental patient behavior is my daughter's new found total hatred and distrust for all people in scrubs or lab coats.  A little spider bite PTSD.
Our dentist didn't seem too invested in the battle, and surrendered fairly quickly.  She referred us to a pediatric dentist in another town. (That's how badly she wanted to get away from us.  She sent us to a dentist in an entirely different town.)  She said it would be best to have the girl sedated for the whole exam.  After what I had witnessed, I didn't think that was a terrible idea.  In fact, I kind of wanted to sedate her for the car ride home.  Or sedate myself.  Whatever.

I took the referral form from the receptionist, and we left the office.  The belligerent little angel was victorious over the evil hygienist, and my humiliation was palpable.  At least my son was leaving with sparkling teeth, and clean bill of dental health.  He was the only evidence that I have any control whatsoever over my offspring.  I may buy him a video game as a reward. (Kid if you're reading this, I love you, but I am not really buying you a video game.  Sorry.)

I called to schedule a new appointment from the car only to find that our insurance won't cover a pediatric dentist.  You see, according to the Mensa members who are responsible for planning out the terms of our medical coverage, you are an adult once you pass the ripe old age of 7.  7?  Seven??  S-E-V-E-N???  You've got to be kidding me. 

The receptionist at the office very patiently explained to me (Apparently she mistook my disbelief for stupidity.  She talked to me like I was Forrest Gump.) that I would need to pay out of pocket, and I'm not eligible for reimbursement.   Zero coverage.  None at all.  The visit, the X-rays, the nitrous and the IV would put us over $300 before she's even treated.  The treatment is additional, and they can't (or won't) price it out until these fees are paid.  Naturally, the treatment wouldn't take place on the day of the initial visit.  We would need to schedule another appointment several days later.  This is done to "make the patient more comfortable".  (This begs the question:  Can a person be uncomfortable in a nitrous haze?  Is it even possible?  I'm no expert, but I kind of thought that was the point.)  That means that we get to pay for everything, except the X-rays, twice.

How much do you think I could get for a gently used kidney?
All this brings me to my new venture.  Over the last 6 months or so, for a variety of reasons, I've made many, many calls to our insurance company.  (So many that I'm thinking of looking at properties in Canada.  I hear Saskatchewan is nice.)  This afternoon, yet another unsuspecting service rep will get to take my call.  I pity him/her on a personal level.  I'm sure they are actually nice people.  I'm sure they aren't medical despots lording over the sick and injured.   I'm sure they just needed a job, and only the insurance phone bank was hiring.  Hopefully when I'm done shouting, and cooler heads prevail, we can be friendly.  I'll explain to them that it's just business, and convince them to give my number to other people they're screwing over.  I could use this unfortunate situation to drum up some customers.  Bitch For Hire could my silver lining. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Carlos Danger Strikes Again

Rarely do I have the time to write twice in the same day.  By rarely, I mean this is the first time it has ever happened.  Typically I would use this extra time to do something important.  Like paint my nails, or eat bon-bons.  But my nails are freshly manicured, and bon-bons make me fat.

I once said that I wouldn't write about politics.  And I stand by that.  However, I am all for dishing out life lessons.  I think this post falls more under the life lessons category than the political one.  But I blame Anthony Weiner entirely for this even being on my radar.

Sexting.  It's every parents' nightmare when we hand our puberty addled, hormone fueled adolescents cell phones.  I know your kid isn't doing it.  Mine isn't either.  Because they are innocent little flowers.  And we are amazing and vigilant parents.  But still.  It's a thing.

That must mean adults are the problem. (I'm excluding people in committed relationships here.  If you've been married for half of forever and still sext, good for you.  But ladies, until you get the ring, proceed with caution.) 

I'm talking more about the kind of guys who routinely tweet, text and email naked pics to unsuspecting ladies.  I've been on the receiving end of this, so I'm sure some of you have too.  (Since I logged onto Twitter for the first time, I've seen more naked Asian men than a urologist in Shanghai.  Coincidentally, this is why I don't really care for Twitter.)  I'm curious about these people. The Carlos Dangers of the world.  Why the hell would you ever send naked pictures of yourself to a stranger?  I get sex addiction is a disease, but surely there is a smarter way to be a perv. (Or perhaps I'm just a prude with trust issues.  I guess that's possible too.)

Aside from my curiosity, it also makes me worry that the young ladies involved don't have any kind of positive female role models in their lives.  Maybe no one has ever told them about the blocking option Twitter so graciously provides its users.  Maybe they don't realize you shouldn't sext mayoral candidates.  Maybe they don't know it's not ladylike to get intimate with married men.

So, all you 23 year old vixens with your finger on the send button, I'm volunteering.  I'll be your positive female role model on the topic (No other topics though, as I fear I'm unqualified).  Please read on:
Let's start with the basics. Do not send naked pics to anyone who goes by the name Carlos Danger.  Really, don't send naked pics to anyone.  You'll never fulfill your dream of becoming the first female president of these great United States (or whatever your dream is) if your junk is on display on an NSA desktop.  And as soon as you hit send, it will be. Believe it.  Big Brother and all that...

You might also want to take a break from tweeting about how hot you are.  Or that you want to marry your own legs.  Or that all you are is good make up, hair, boobs and tattoos.  Might as well add 'insecurity and attention seeking behaviors' to that list, because that's all people will see.  You are an intelligent, independent, beautiful woman with much to offer. I know you know that, so don't shortchange yourself.  Do not ever give people a reason to discount you. 

My most vital and urgent piece of advice:  Find a better group of girlfriends, because yours suck.  They failed you.  Badly.  Real girlfriends call you out when you're being stupid.  Sexting a married, serial philandering, former congressmen qualifies as stupid.  Even if he's your legislative hero.  Someone should have warned you.  

If all else fails...If you can't figure out how to block him, your friends don't tell you it's stupid, you can't help but tweet ridiculous and demeaning things, and you accidentally find yourself in a sexting relationship with Carlos Danger...well, my final piece of advice is to go get paid. Sell your story to the highest bidder. Use the money for good, or to buy shoes, or crack, or whatever.  Just cash in quick.  Because with any luck at all, nobody will remember your name by next week. 

Dusting Off My Megaphone

The back to school, crazy busy time of year is here again.  I'm off to pick up the middle school enrollment packet this morning. (Barf.  Middle school.  I have a kid in middle school.  That means I'm old, doesn't it?  Don't answer that.)  While I'm not actually in any big hurry to send my kids back to school, I do love the fall sports.  And they start tomorrow.

I have filled out a staggering number of forms.  I've purchased the necessary equipment.  I've sent team emails.  I'm ready to go.

It's funny what youth sports turn parents into.  You can be in mid conversation with other moms at a game.  A completely calm, normal conversation.  And it's commonplace for at least one mother to start screaming, "Don't just stand there!  Run for the ball!"  "Ref!!!  What game are you watching?!?!?!"  or my personal favorite, "TOUCHDOWN!!!!  WOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!"  Then she'll step right back into the conversation without skipping a beat.  These are my people.  The football/volleyball/soccer/baseball/hockey parents of the world.  It's good, if not loud, company.

We understand each other.  We cheer the loudest.  We wear matching team shirts.  We paint our faces.  We bring snacks.  We always bring snacks.  Our cars are loaded with equipment, coolers, smelly sneakers, and those astonishingly comfortable sports chairs.  (I have managed to shove all this, and an outdoor propane heater for those chilly night games, in the trunk of my tiny clown car.  It's like Tetris in real life.)

Even though we love it, we have been known to complain about different sports programs for kids.  Either they are too competitive, or not competitive enough.  Either the coaches are too strict on the kids, or they're not strict enough (I usually fall in with the latter.  In my head, football practice should be run something like a military boot camp.  R Lee Ermey should be shouting cadence as the boys run drills.)  But all that is white noise.  The only important detail is seeing your kid's smiling face when he/she makes a big play and looks out to find you in the crowd.  I know, I'm a sucker. but it gets me every time.  (I can answer definitively: Yes, there is crying in baseball.  But it's usually just some proud mother in the bleachers.)

There are those few individuals who give all sports parents a bad name.  Those parents or coaches who punch a ref...or a coach...or a kid...and end up on CNN.  Those people are not sports parents.  They are assholes.  And, not because youth sports made them that way.  They were born like that.  They're likely the same people that cut you off on the freeway, and don't hold doors for old ladies.  The people that I've met through our 7 years of nonstop kid leagues are some of the most caring, involved parents I could ever hope to know.  And I love the time I share with them.

I cannot wait to get this season started.  As a coach, a spectator, and as a tired, overworked parent who kind of needs a break.  Tomorrow afternoon, we will run from volleyball practice to football practice with time for a little snack in between.  It gives me a valid excuse to spend a couple hours with my best friends drinking coffee and gossiping (not that we gossip).  Also, the busy afternoon will leave me with very tired children.  Which will provide me with a peaceful evening, where the kids can't wait to crawl into bed.  I haven't had an evening like that since last season.

Thank you organized youth sports.

Friday, July 19, 2013

(I Really Tried to be) The Best Mom Ever

Yesterday was the big day.  The surgery day.  It would seem that the parents involved had a much more difficult time than the child actually having the operation.  I guess that is not surprising.  After all she had Turtle Power, we didn't. My daughter out of her mind on Versed and anesthesia is something I never want to see again for as long as I live.  But, we got through it.  She was home by yesterday afternoon.  Destroying a giant pan of mac and cheese by yesterday evening.  She's still in pain, but according to her "I've taken medicine for 4 months.  I'm not taking any more."  So no pain killers.  She's kind of a bad ass.

She got completely spoiled rotten from our friends and family yesterday.  New dresses, books, coloring books, flowers, cookies, candies...We tried to spoil her too.  I say tried, because thus far I have failed to follow through with our spoiling.  But it's not due to a lack of effort.

The only thing she wanted in the aftermath of the surgery was the new Crayola Marker Maker.  (Thank you so much Disney Channel for playing that commercial 938456984596 times a day.  You're the best!)  So, we went out last night to get her one.  Toys R Us doesn't carry them.  We went to Target.  Nope.  Looked online to discover it is a Wal-Mart exclusive.  Awesome.

 Something you may not know about me:  I believe, while Wal-Mart may not be the root of all evil, it is definitely one of them.  It is the worst place imaginable.  I would rather be locked overnight in a Claire's Boutique with 50 bedazzled tweens, high on cheap nail polish fumes, screeching about One Direction, while listening to dubstep, than have to step foot in a Wal-Mart.  But I love my daughter.  And I promised her the marker maker.

Is this really worth the trouble?  Probably not.
This afternoon, I called to confirm that they were fully stocked with marker makers.  Then I loaded the girl in the car and drove to the arm pit of Los Angeles to the soulless retail giant with high hopes of being named "the best mom ever!"

Everything about the trip was a mistake.  Even Siri didn't want me to go there, as she gave me the wrong directions several times.  We finally found it, and after walking the gauntlet of aggressive panhandlers, made it inside.  It was everything I knew it would be.  Hell on earth.

We put our heads down and muscled through to the toy section.  No marker makers.  We tried the back-to-school Crayola section.  None there either.  We asked for assistance from several people who didn't speak English or were just rude.  (Some of both, I think.)  We finally found someone to take us to the stationery department, where they kept the shelves "fully stocked" with marker makers.  Except there were absolutely no marker makers.

The girl was disappointed, but settled on a $3 dress, which I'm fairly certain was handmade by Chinese orphans in a one room shack with a dirt floor for 19 cents per month.  I feel a little guilty about it, but my daughter looks so cute in coral.

We left Wal-Mart the same way we came, through the obstacle course of panhandlers and methed out homeless ladies who were probably 23, but looked more like 90.  Drove all over the place, because Siri refused to get her shit together, and because I am unfamiliar with the Arm Pit, Los Angeles area.  We finally made it back home after an hour in the car.  

We have decided to order the marker maker online, and possibly never leave the house again.  And it's all because Crayola decided to sell a Wal-Mart exclusive.  At least The Spider Saga is over...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Spider Saga Continues

I am completely preoccupied today.  This morning, I tried to make coffee without water.  Then I fed the dog the cat's food.  I'm out of it.  But, I have an excuse.  For the last 2 weeks or so, I've been dreading July 18.  Now I'm less than 24 hours out, and I have no idea what to do with myself. 

Those of you that know me, or followed me on social media pre-blog, already know the saga of my daughter's spider bite.  The CliffsNotes version:  She was bitten (the doctors say it was a black widow, but for the purpose of this story, we'll call it a venomous, 8-legged, hellbeast) during an egg hunt on Easter Sunday.  And, just about every waking second since then has involved wound care, medications, doctors visits, pain management, and tears.  109 days of this, and the bite still will not heal. 

I hate spiders.

Tomorrow morning, the saga continues.  She will go into surgery to have all the damaged tissue removed.  Hopefully once this is done, the area will heal on it's own.  No more medicine, no more hot saline soaks, no more tears...from either of us. 

I should be happy that we're so close to the end of this story.  But, if I'm being honest.  I am freaking terrified.  The idea of strangers wheeling my unconscious child away from me is just not appealing.  At all.  This is the first time in my 11 years as Mother-in-Chief that anyone besides myself, or my husband, will be in control of one of my children's well being.  I'm driving myself nuts about it. 

I'm a mess of nerves.

And I hate spiders.

My daughter, on the other hand, is handling it like a champ.  We avoided telling her about the surgery, thinking that telling her in advance would just give her more time to worry about it.  I finally had the conversation with her yesterday.  She asked some pretty smart questions (about how much it will hurt after, and what happens if she wakes up while they're working), then she went to watch TMNT.  She's fine.  She's not excited about it or anything.  But, she's anxious to get it over with.  She's ready to have her arm back.  And, she's thrilled to be able to eat all the Reese Cups her grandmother sent her when the surgery is over. 

She's even planned the outfit she's wearing to the hospital.  She's going in full Ninja Turtle regalia, so that everyone there will know that she is tough and brave.  (Yes, I know.  My daughter is awesome.)  She asked me if she's going to act like this kid when it's over.  I promised her that if she does, I'll take video so she can see it.  I think that's what she's hoping for, so at least she'll have a funny story to tell.  The apple doesn't fall far...

I know most of you have been through some sort of scary situation with your kids.  It happens to all of us at some point, and every parent is sensitive to the absolute helplessness of having a sick or injured child.  It sucks.  We all know it.  But in an effort to make it suck a little less, I would love to hear from any of you who have been through something similar.  Or any of you who dread going through something similar.  Words of encouragement, tips for tomorrow, questions I should ask, or maybe there is something you've thought of that I've forgotten to panic about.  I'll take them all and be grateful.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lemonade Stand

Today I endeavored to teach my children an important lesson:  The more junk you want to buy, the more money you need.  The more money you need, the more you have to work.

Kids always want the newest, the latest, the most sparkly.  They can't help it.  I mean, I always want the newest, the latest, and the most sparkly too.  It's human nature.  The trouble is that kids don't have any concept of what it takes to acquire these things.  You have to work to get the money to buy the sparkly stuff.  (Unless, of course, you have a husband who does all the work, so you can stay home and blog all day.)

With this noble lesson in mind, we decided to have a lemonade stand.  I thought a few hours of sitting in the sun, hustling passersby for pocket change would do them good.  I thought they might finish the lemonade themselves then come in with $1.50 to show for their efforts.  I thought after a day of hard labor, they would instantly become grateful for all the things we buy for them.  I thought wrong.

Here's how things really went down:

First, I went to the store to get the plastic cups, sugar, and the missing ingredients for cookies by myself.  The kids stayed home to play with the neighbors.

Then, I picked the lemons and squeezed each one by hand (Enough to make 3 gallons of lemonade.  Around a metric ton of lemons.) by myself.  The kids played video games.

Next, I made the cookies by myself.  The kids ate some.

Then, I moved the tables outside and set up the stand by myself.  The kids colored a sign.

Next, I Instagramed, tweeted, Facebooked, and texted to get the word out.  The kids sat down, and raked in the money. 

When it was all over, I cleaned everything up while the kids counted their earnings.  They divided it up evenly, giving me 0% of the take.  And, because of the sugar expenditure, I ended up in the red.

All told, the kids had a great time.  They made some spending money for the arcade, or the candy store.  It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, made even better with celebratory swimming after.  But, I am pretty sure the only person who really learned the value of a hard day's work was me.   

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mom Panic!

It is Saturday.  We made it.  And nobody died.  Or spent time in an asylum. 

I'm surprising myself by even thinking this, but I'm not sure it was worth it.  It turns out that kids complain a little when moms ask them to do anything, not just turn off games.  It turns out that siblings will always fight a little, not just over controllers.  It turns out that moms will always stress out and convince themselves they're doing something wrong, not just over allowing too much screen time.  Moms will worry themselves over not hosting the proper number of play-dates, making sure their kids are eating vegetables, or whether their child is wearing clean socks.  Moms drive themselves crazy over everything.  Games were just my thing last week.  I'm sure I'll have moved on to some new insecurity by tomorrow.

As I'm writing this, I'm holed up in my office appreciating my coffee and the quiet that the morning provides, and contemplating all my crazy kid-induced anxieties.  It's a rabbit hole I really shouldn't have gone down.  Do I yell too much?  Do I hug enough?  When my kids are grown will they remember all the fun birthday parties, family nights and vacations, or will they only remember the time I summarily banished their video games?  Mom panic.

I know that I am not the only parent who has these thoughts.  My own mother has confessed to me at times that she still has regrets and worries that she did things wrong (For the record, she did everything right.  My mom is a parenting ninja bad-ass.  Just look at how well I turned out.  My sisters too.  We are walking, talking evidence of her mothering superiority.)  My beloved Gran once told me the same types of things.  She said she knew she made mistakes, but everyone does.  The trick is to let yourself off the hook for them.  She told me that I'll make my own mistakes too, because no matter what we do or how hard we try to be perfect we all mess up our kids our own way.  I think of that conversation almost daily.

The more I think about it, the more it amazes me that mothers have this innate ability to worry themselves over the littlest details of everyone's lives, while simultaneously forgetting to feed themselves, or shower.  Moms are funny creatures like that.  I find myself freaking out about my daughter brushing her hair, while I'm flipping my head over and tying mine in a knot.  A hairbrush hasn't touched my head since...well...I don't really remember when.  I worry about my son getting enough protein (he's my growing boy after all) so I'll make him a big breakfast before school.  My breakfast usually consists of a coffee poured hastily in a travel mug.  I even worry about my husband this way, and he is a grown, capable adult.  I worry a lot. 

My point is that maybe instead of worrying about everything and everyone else all the time, I should try teaching by example.  Maybe my daughter would learn to keep her hair neat if I kept my hair neat (lofty goal.)  Maybe the kids would learn that a nutritious breakfast is important if I could manage to eat something before 11am.  Maybe they would learn to keep their rooms tidy if I stopped doing everything for them (I'm very skeptical on this point).

My anti-tech experiment has taught me much more about myself than about the way my kids cope without games.  I didn't expect that.  It's made me all introspective and junk.  Perhaps my next experiment should be an internal one where I just calm the eff down for a week or two.  I'm not sure I can do it without the aid of pharmaceuticals, but it's worth a shot.  I'll let the kids be kids, and maybe I'll actually get a good night's sleep. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 2 and Crappy YouTube Parents

The second day of our tech free week was surprising.  For a couple of reasons.  For one, the boy child offered to add more days without games, just to prove he could.  After the initial morning asks, neither child mentioned games, TV or Minecraft all day.  It was parallel universe weird, and I loved it.  For another, I realized I was right.  The kids really didn't understand why this horrible thing was happening to them.  They thought they were in trouble.  Dummies.  We talked it through, and they understand now that they aren't in trouble.  That I just want a week of peace, and I want to see their faces without the obstruction of the iPad in front of them. Things are good.

I will note that a life with limited technology is freaking exhausting.  Two otherwise self-sufficient tiny people now need my input on everything.  I am required to entertain them in ways I've never needed to before.  So far, the ends are worth the means. 

Since I began this mini boycott, I've received emails, tweets and Facebook posts from people.  Some showing support, some telling me that I am a monster and taking games away is akin to cruel and unusual punishment, some with funny videos and articles attached.  My favorite was this YouTube clip from my brother-in-law.  It feels good to know that whatever my struggles, I am not these parents.  And I don't have this child.

Watching that clip made me think about things.  The way I parent.  The way I talk to my children.  The way I allow my children talk to me.  It also made me think that these parents have lost all control.  I really do try not to judge other people's parenting style.  Except for when they suck at parenting.  And in my ever so humble opinion (which is never actually humble), these people suck at parenting. 

I'm not saying you beat your child with a stick when they act like this.  I'm not even saying you need to raise your voice.  You just calmly walk over to the computer, pull the plug, pick it up, and walk out of the room.  Whether or not you throw the thing out of your car window while doing 90 on the freeway is up to you and your local littering laws.  But, you most definitely do not stand there like an idiot, and have a prolonged argument about when or if your child turns off a game.  You really don't call in your spouse for back up.  Both of you don't need to say "Turn it off."  One parent is enough. 

I know your kid will scream like a banshee.  I know that it will be hard to see your sweet angel so upset.  I know these things.  I just don't care.  Parents and children are not equals.  'Family' is not synonymous with 'debate club'.  I've worked with kids for as long as I can remember.  Long enough to know they have the attention span of a house fly on meth.  They will get over it.  They won't hate you forever.  Maybe a day or two at most.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tech Blackout: Day 1

I am not having fun.  In fact, I think I have made a terrible mistake.  I know I need to stay strong, and that the first day or 2 will be the hardest.  But honestly, the withdrawal is worse than I thought it would be.  The kids are ANGRY.  And, they really don't understand why this horrible thing is happening to them. 

I tried to distract them yesterday.  I took my daughter and our neighbor girls out for makeovers at the local beauty school while my son went ice skating with friends.  That killed about 3 or 4 hours.  Only leaving 12 waking hours for them to complain and act crazy.

It was a very long day.  A long day that ended in a battle, because even though it was nighttime, I still wouldn't let them play their games.  "Mom!  It's night!  What else are we supposed to do?!?"  Sleep.  Stare at a wall.  I don't care, but you're not playing Minecraft.

Today we have another friend over.  I'm taking them to lunch and a movie.  Again, about 3 or 4 hours occupied.  I think I'll have them wash my car afterward to kill more time.  (Actually my car badly needs washed.  I just don't feel like doing it myself.) 

I am hopeful that today is the day they'll forget about games.  I am hopeful, but doubtful as I've already been asked for Minecraft about 9283759486543 times.  In truth, I think today will be a carbon copy of yesterday.  More "I'm bored."  More "Please!  Just for a minute?"  More me with a headache.  This week will be very profitable for the makers of Advil.

I really do have good motives for this experiment.  I am hoping to teach the kids that they can have fun in real life.  That they don't need to be constantly "connected" to be connected.  My intentions are pure.  It's unfortunate that I can't seem to communicate them to my kids.  Maybe if I sent them in a text...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Since the dawn of (modern) time, parents have pondered the question: How much technology is too much for our children? Do we allow them to have access to everything and trust them to police themselves?  Do we use video game, movie and app ratings, and parent restrictions to limit access?  Do we give them 30 minutes of screen time to reward them for taking out the trash and doing the other chores we don't feel like doing?  There are myriad paths parents can choose to take.  I'm not sure which is the correct one, but I know the path that I've been on isn't working for me.  And, here's why:  Technology turns my kids into jerks.

Some parents I know have adopted a 'just say no' philosophy.  No television, no computer, definitely no phones, video games or ipods.  I used to think those people were a little extreme (crazy). Unrealistic even. But I have to admit, the older my kids get, the more I think they might be on to something.

My kids watch tv, because I watch tv. They play video games, because their father plays video games. They have phones, because everyone has a phone.  (And, because I think think it's a safety issue.  I am an overprotective control freak, and putting iPhones in my kids' hands is as close as I can legally come to implanting them with GPS tracking devices.)  I think we do a fairly good job monitoring their use and access to that technology though.  No social media.  We read all their texts.  We keep the passwords for everything secret.  They can't even download music without our permission.  I would give us a solid B+.  (I bumped it down from an A because of those days where I just need some quiet time, so I let them play Minecraft for 2 or 3 hours straight.  It happens.  I'm not proud of it, but I'll cop to it.) I let them play games or watch the Disney Channel for a while when they wake up in the morning.  Then I kick them out of the house and make them play outside.  They read books, have play-dates and go on day trips.  It's not all screens and buttons.

But when it is, things go south in a hurry.  After an hour or so of screen time, I will give the kids a 5 minute warning.  The exchange always goes down something like this...

 "Games off in 5, monsters."

"But, Moooooooooooooooooommmmm.  Can I please just finish this?  I'm almost done.  Really.  Then I'll turn it off.  Promise."

"Ok.  Finish up, then turn it off.  I'll give you an extra couple of minutes, but I really mean it.  Game time is over."

"Alright.  I'm almost done.  Look."

"Sweetheart, I don't know what I'm looking at.  Just turn it off ok?"


20 minutes of reminders from me and 'almost done' from them...

"You've had extra minutes.  Time's up."

No response, which if I'm being honest, pisses me off more than anything in the world probably ever.


"Guhhh...I'm almost done. Seriously, mom!"

Then I walk over and press the power button.  Hell hath no fury like a child playing Minecraft scorned.  Voices are raised.  Feet are stomped.  Doors are slammed.  Eventually, they even turn on each other.  One blaming the other for me turning off the game.  It's ridiculous.  It's ugly.

The results are similar when I tell them we don't text while walking through the grocery store, or Disneyland, or anywhere really.  Or, when I tell them that we don't need the iPad to occupy us on 10 minute car rides.  We can actually look out the windows and speak to each other.  Weird, I know, but speaking to each other passes the time too.

While we were on vacation, my son's phone went missing.  Watching him learn to adapt to life without it over the week it was gone was amazing to me.  He read a novel in an afternoon.  He played with his sister.  He spent quality time with his dad with no distractions.  He was extra lovable.  The immediate withdrawal symptoms were trying, but once he got through it, it was all sunshine and rainbows.  Then we got his phone back in the mail...

So, in light of all the unnecessary drama brought into my life by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and inspired by the temporary loss of the boy's iPhone, I am declaring a tech moratorium.  For the rest of this week, my children will live like Laura Ingalls.  They will be forced to play board games, do craft projects, have fun.  They might even have to do things in real life instead of pretending to do them in an app.  I am excited to see how this little experiment will play out.  I'm feeling optimistic, and like a true woman of science, I will be documenting the results here.  So you can laugh at me.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

A friend of mine got married today.  I am over the moon for her, and her husband, and their 2 beautiful boys.  I wish them nothing but the best in their lives together, and in honor of their special day I'd like to pass on some sure-fire tips for a happy marriage. 

I'd like to, but I can't.  There are no sure-fire tips for a happy marriage, because every marriage is different.  I can, however, pass on some tips that have worked for me in all my years of wedded bliss.

1.  Don't be an asshole.  Really.  It's that simple.  Take into account the fact that there are 2 people in the relationship, and they aren't both you.  Husbands have feelings and opinions too...even if they're wrong.  Listen, and don't discount him. 

2.  Dress to impress.  This one is a little 1940s-50s, I know, but I still think it's important.  I like sweat pants as much as (more than) the next girl.  But, when my husband walks in from a long day at work, I don't think he wants me to greet him in the same outfit I wear when I have the stomach flu.

3.  Try to make things easier for each other.  Pack a lunch, iron a shirt, whatever.  Doing those kinds of things doesn't show that you're inferior.  It just shows that you care. 

4.  Have your own interests.  If I had to force myself to pretend that I love video games, I would go completely freaking insane.  I am a nerd.  I like books.  My husband respects that, and I respect that he is a nerd who likes video games.  We can sit next to each other, happily ignoring one another.

5.  Do not gossip about your husband to your girlfriends.  Just don't.  Ever.  You may forgive him for whatever he's done to make you angry, but your girlfriends won't.  They're like elephants.  They'll never forget.  Write it in a diary.  Call your mom.  Get a therapist. Just do not air your dirty laundry. Once it's out there, you can't take it back. 

6.  Victoria's Secret.

7.  Laugh at/with each other.  Everything is easier to deal with when you have a sense of humor.  Housework, kids' tantrums, grocery shopping...there's humor in everything.  Find it together.

That's it.  In nearly 11 years, that's all the wisdom I've acquired.  I'm still learning a little more every day.  But, the one thing I know for sure is that marriage is not a job, though sometimes it does require hard work.  It's more like an adventure.  Enjoy every day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Coffee Addicts Anonymous

Yesterday I celebrated Independence Day in the traditional way. I ate too much, played with sparklers, let my son light smoke bombs, watched some fireworks, and stayed up too late. It was just as the forefathers intended. And, though the hardest thing I had to drink was a water on the rocks, I am nursing a serious holiday hangover today.

I woke up this morning 2 hours later than normal. I was completely out of it. Unmotivated. I had only one thought on my mind. Coffee. 

I actually found myself worried about the number of minutes it would take my coffee maker to produce my first cup. I was almost anxious about it. Like it was an emergency. In those (approximately 3) minutes between hitting that 'brew' button and taking my first sip, I remembered an article I read in The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. It was all about how caffeine addiction and withdrawal are now classified as mental health disorders. 

I have liked (loved, needed) coffee my entire adult life. I have made a pot first thing every morning for years and years. During both pregnancies I (very painfully) switched to decaf, but I could never give up the feeling of that warm mug in my hand. However, I never considered my coffee addiction to be a mental disease. I think that's called 'denial'.

I love my coffee, and my coffee loves me too.
According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (World's most boring name. I think The Great Big Book of Crazy is a bit more of an eye-catcher, but whatever.), you have to have 5 of 12 symptoms to be considered intoxicated by caffeine. I have at least 7 most days. That's not a great number. But, my love of...or addiction to, if you is so serious that even as I write this, I'm thinking "That means there are 5 symptoms I don't experience.  That's not bad at all!" See?? Denial is awesome.

Also according to The Great Big Book of Crazy, you have to have 3 of 5 symptoms to be diagnosed with caffeine withdrawal. When I'm not exhibiting those first 7, I'm exhibiting all 5 of these. An even worse number. And these symptoms don't mess around.  A headache so severe that it makes me consider an at home DIY lobotomy being one of them.

It's kind of funny to me that the American Psychiatric Association considers it a little bit bonkers if you use caffeine regularly or if you quit using caffeine regularly. You can't really win.

So, the question becomes which mental health disorder do I choose. Do I choose to be all bitchy and headachey, and attempt to kick the habit? Or, do I continue to wake up every morning and push the brew button, meet friends for a latte at my favorite cafe, and continue to be a (somewhat) pleasant and high functioning human? 

The choice is a fairly simple one.  For my own comfort, and for the well-being of my husband and kids, I think I'll stick with the kind of crazy that allows me my coffee each day.  

I am actively deciding to pay no attention to these latest studies and findings.  But, if the American Psychiatric Association releases the next version of it's DSM and expands it to include's lightning deals addiction, I'll start to take it personally. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writer's Block. The Silent Killer.

For a person who always has something to say, I have come down with a ridiculous case of writer's block. It sucks. I am a blank slate. No ideas. None at all. My mind is blinking a giant, neon "VACANCY" sign. 

It's making me crazy. 

I've watched the news hoping to be inspired, but that was a terrible plan. The news is stupid depressing. Commentary on the Zimmerman trial doesn't make for light reading, I will absolutely not write about celebrities and the idiotic names they give their babies, and if I write about politics I figure about 50% of my readers will hate me no matter what I say. 

I've done my usual people watching while back home in Indiana, but other than to point out that people in the Midwest seem to smile more (Let's work on that CA. It bums me out.) there's not a whole lot there. 

My children, whose exploits are typically my favorite topics, have been fairly mellow. I appreciate the peace time, don't get me wrong. It's just not that interesting to write, or read about. "Dear Internet, my kids watched TV together for 30 minutes without screaming today..."  See??

I'm at a loss. But, at the same time, every day someone asks me what I'm working on. I'm very flattered by that. I love it. I'm amazed anyone reads this at all, let alone regularly. I'm also a little embarrassed by it. Because, when they ask, all I have to say is "Um...uh...well...nothing."

But, I'm working on it.