2014-THANKSgiving

Raising my Kid on 6 hours of TV a Day

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little-boy-watching-tv Image via Shutterstock

Moving to a new city is hard. Starting work from home with three kids in school and one left behind is harder. Hunting for other lonely four-year-olds is a headache that makes you wonder if you should have had a fifth kid simply to keep this one company. It’s such an ugly cycle.

I used to be a good mother. I would plan play groups and coordinate my my boys’ outfits on a daily basis. We used to have bath toys that actually belonged in the tub and a real bath time routine. Our days were filled with public library trips and Heaven forbid I mention all the homemade play dough and jello finger painting. I pretty much killed myself off trying to fit 18 years of parenting into the first four.

But the biggest part of my parenting methodology was to make sure that under absolutely no circumstances would my children ever be allowed to watch more than the medically approved two hours of television a day (except on really tough days when they watched three hours—it probably happened twice).

And there was none of that irreverent sludge like Sponge Bob or the ever violent reruns of Power Rangers, and don’t get me started on Sesame Street. We all know it’s responsible for the outbreak of ADD and Autism. My children watched a strategically chosen selection of Barney, Baby Einstein and the occasional full-length Disney movie…if it was raining.

In between story time at the public library and pre-planned playdates I learned the number one rule of parenting the hard way: Pace yourself.

Fast forward ten years, and I am finally home alone with my fourth and final child who is one year away from that beautiful institution we like to call Public School. I’d like to tell you that she attends playdates and outings to the zoo, but frankly, I’m too old and too tired and far too lazy to search out young, energetic mothers who still bathe their children everyday.

What do you do with the last kid? Well let me tell you, you let them watch whatever they want on television and ply them with crayons and cardboard boxes so they will leave you alone and let you work. Sprinkle a few Cheerios on the ground, leave the water trickling so she can climb up and fill her cup, turn on Baby Bratz and bam, four hours of work done with very little whining from the gallery. Thanks to my smartphone I don’t even have to leave my desk in order to move her onto the next feature presentation.




Sure, we try to watch things like Super Why and Daniel Tiger to ensure she’s learning letters and civility, but she’s lonely and six hours a week of preschool does not a full schedule make.

So I’m done with feeling guilty. Somehow through the miracle of osmosis she’s learned to write some of her letters and most of her numbers and is teaching herself to tie shoes. Quite frankly, limiting my second child to two hours of television didn’t save him from Autism, so I’m not too worried about her brain turning to mush.

Sometimes as mothers we have to do what we have to do. When I was four-years-old I went to my father’s real estate office five days a week because my mom had to go back to work. There were no iPads or DVD’s, just me and a bunch of old filing cabinets in the back room with a broken safe to play in. Worst year of my life until my father purchased one of those new “VCR’s” and one lonely video that I watched over and over and over. It kind of changed my world. I can still recite every line from Charlotte’s Web to this day.

I’m done berating myself for the fact that this last little baby has to spend a year at home without a sister to play with. I can’t be her playmate and I hate the pressure that says I should get down on the floor and play learning games with her all day long. My Lake Learning years are so over.

If she wants me to babysit her dolls during their nap time, no problem. Otherwise, let’s see if we can learn a little Spanish from Dora today, shall we?

Related post: 7 Things to Love About Caillou

10 Comebacks to Frequently Asked Questions From In-Laws

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mother-in-law-from-hell

Fall has arrived, and that means the holidays are soon upon us. (I know, I’m sorry.) But, at least I have a few ways to respond when your in-laws make those little self-esteem eroding comments that are just so adorbs (I learned that word from my kid’s 20 something gymnastics teacher last week).

1. So, you don’t cook much? No! I never cook. I usually feed the kids cereal. But don’t worry, it’s Froot Loops, and I read how pink colored food has beta carotene. Or was that orange? Either way.

2. Did you get the baby’s cough looked at? What, at the doctor? Didn’t we tell you? We use a homeopath now. At least I think that’s what the card says. They do a lot of stuff with incense. And fire.

3. Hmm, new couch? Thanks for noticing! Your hard working son got a bonus and wanted to put it toward the kids’ college fund, but I was like, I would rather spend it on jewelry for myself. So I did, but then you know what, I never even ended up wearing that tennis bracelet. Que sera. Oh, and we spent the rest of it on the couch.

4. Did you get our granddaughter evaluated for the gifted program? I don’t actually think she’s that smart, to tell you the truth. I did sign her up for some dance classes so she has a shot at working the pole if community college doesn’t pan out.

5. Are you still working full time? No! We won the lottery. We’re keeping it hush hush though, so every day I pretend to go to work and just sit in Starbucks reading US Weekly while our kids call the daycare lady “Mommy.” I also do Sudoku.




6. They need jackets in this weather. Not if they’re going to be prepared for moving to Halifax. Didn’t I tell you?

7. You look tired. Thanks! That’s the look I was going for. Well, actually, it was “tired and dumpy” so the night is still young if you want to mention my weight gain. Hint hint.

8.  Is my son getting to relax at all? I don’t really think so, to be honest. Between the trees I demand he chop into firewood, and the coal I make him push around in a wheelbarrow, he doesn’t really have time.  Oh, and I have him give me pedicures too.

9. You should make the kids listen. Oh my God, you’re right. I was just wondering the other day, should I make the kids listen? And I was waffling about it, because, really, it’s so adorable when they yell and scream and defy me. But now that you phrased it that way, I am totally on board. God, sometimes something just clicks.

10. When did your parents last visit? Never. We only hang out with you guys because we like you more. Don’t tell them though. They don’t even know about Halifax.

Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Dares You To Use These.

Related post: 10 Topics Mothers-in-Law Should Avoid At All Costs

Halloween Then and Now

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halloween-kids-costumes Image via Shutterstock

The Halloween I remember was good, simple and fun — you dressed up and ate candy. My memories of Halloween are scented with the cheap plasticky smell of those drugstore purchased costume masks. I remember huffing and puffing through the neighborhood, breathing through the “made in China,” mask, exposed to who knows how many BPA’s and toxins. That smell overwhelmed me as I dashed from house to house, cradling my plastic orange pumpkin in my arms, because its cheap plastic handle had fallen off after I threw in the tenth Tootsie Pop.

My mother was not crafty and I am not crafty. The difference is she did not have Martha Stewart and Pinterest telling her the “right way,” to do Halloween. But one year she thought it would be fun to make me a homemade costume. And for some reason she thought I would be a beautiful peacock. What slightly pudgy, self-conscious, fourth grade girl doesn’t want to go to school in a leotard covered with multi-colored feathers? My mother crazy glued about seven thousand feathers to a leotard that year.

The feathers fell off at an alarming rate throughout the day at the school parade and I was handed a plastic baggie in which to gather my feathers, as I molted all over school. But you know what, it was fun. Halloween was always fun. When you are a kid, costumes and candy go a long way, but now Martha Stewart, Heidi Klum and Pinterest beg to differ with our old ways. See?

Halloween Then:

1. Halloween Costume: Sometime between October 20th and 25th your mom asked what you wanted to be for Halloween, then she either gave you a witch hat and black dress, a sheet with some eyeballs cut out, or took you to the Drugstore to see what costumes they had on sale.

2. Candy: While you were at the drugstore, your mom grabbed a few bags of candy. On Halloween, she threw the candy into a big stew pot from your kitchen to serve the trick or treaters when they passed by.

3. Halloween Parade At School: When the big Hallowen Parade at school arrived your mom took you to drop off, happy that someone else (your teachers) would be handling the insanity that comes along with having hundreds of small excited little people marching around school in costumes, hopped up on candy from the parade.

4. Pumpkins: Pumpkin carving involved a trip to Giant for a couple of pumpkins, a sharp kitchen knife, and some candles mom found in the junk drawer.

5. Decorating: Halloween decorating was limited to the hang up sparkly witches and skeletons they sold at the Drugstore alongside the candy and costumes.

6. Trick or Treating Sustenance: Mom swung through the drive-through at (GASP) McDonald’s on the way home to get you something “healthy” for dinner before you consumed thirty pounds of candy.

7. Trick or Treating: If you were over seven, mom sent you out into the hood with your friends to trick or treat. Why not? She knew the neighbors, how much trouble were you going to get into really?

8. Candy Rules: Mom made you throw the apples away because Urban Legend had it that the nut jobs would put razors in there. Thus we were told to “just eat the candy, kids.”

9. Mommy and Daddy: Mom and dad passed out candy looking at all the ghosts, witches and the occasional Rubic’s Cube (because some moms were getting crafty back then). They kicked their feet up, drank wine and ate non-organic, mass produced cheese and crackers.

10. Stuffing Your Face: When you got home, you and your siblings stuffed yourself with as much candy as you possibly could grab out of your pillowcase or drugstore plastic pumpkin.

11. Photography: Some polaroids.

Halloween Now:

1. Costumes: Mom asks the kids what they would like to be the Spring before Halloween. This is necessary so she can take the appropriate screen shots of the summer’s blockbuster kid’s movies to make sure her costume is authentic. We wouldn’t want an Elsa in the wrong cape now, would we? She also starts her pinterest board. No such thing as too early for holiday prep.

2. Candy: Mom goes to Target the day school starts to make sure she has first dibs on the best candy to give out to the neighborhood kids. Bonus points for Non-GMO treats.

3. Crafts: Mom heads from Target to Michael’s crafts to buy some large baskets, faux leaves and orange velvet to dress up the baskets she plans to use to give candy out to the neighborhood children.

4. Costume Accessories: In July, when the catalogs arrive, mom sits down after dinner carefully selecting the kids’ seventy five dollar “Wishworks,” costumes, supplementing any extra materials (wings that actually fly, black roller skates to faciltate the devil with real wings’ speedy turn along the parade route). Mom also buys a “backup costume,” for photos Halloween night in case the first costume is soiled in the parade or Halloween social at school.

5. Professional Makeup: Once costumes have been planned mom calls the Face Painter, to make sure someone is available to do makeup that complements whatever costume the child has chosen. Two bookings are made. One for the school parade and one for Halloween night.

6. Trick or Treating Sustenance: Mom starts planning her neighborhood potluck: organic chili from Whole Foods, corn bread, Ceasar salad with lettuce from her garden, and organic nut-bran to sustain the kids while they trick-or-treat, chaperoned by the appropriate number of adults. Two adults per child seems to be the right ratio these days.

7. Trick or Treat Pail: Mom orders the monogrammed, glow in the dark, Halloween totes from Pottery Barn or Lands End no later than August 1st when they typically sell out.

8. Halloween Decorating: While the kids are in school, mom goes to the local nursery to fill the extra twenty decorated Michael’s baskets with miniature gourds, fairy-tale gourds, and green gourds.

9. Pumpkin Carving: Mom prepares for the pumpkin carve by purchasing the correct carving tools at William-Sonoma. She pre-empties the insides of the pumpkins and prepares pumpkin soup and spiced pumpkin seeds to supplement the organic pot-roast she serves at the Pumpkin Carve. It’s an event now.

10. Halloween Parade at School: Mom goes to school to attend the Halloween Social. She spends the three days before baking non-gmo, paleo friendly, gluten-free, nut-free, organic cookies for the Halloween bake sale. She also brings twenty bags of organic apple slices because there is no candy allowed at the school’s Halloween Social. Mom is told to stay after the party and change her children out of their costumes, as these costumes impede the chidren’s ability to learn.

11. Photography: Mom photographs all children in full face paint with full costume to upload to her Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed and blog.

12. No Stuffing Your Face:  Mom takes all candy bags hostage when the kids are done, allowing them one piece a day for the next two months, so as not to go over their daily sugar limit.

Happy Halloween!

Related post: Vampire Vodka: A Halloween Must

5 Good Reasons to be an Evil Stepmother

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Evil-Stepmother

You love your man. He makes you laugh, he lights you up. But he also comes with permanent fixtures. His kids. And, of course, that makes you – The Stepmother.

According to the Brothers Grimm, you entice Hansel and Gretel into the forest. And abandon them in the dark, dark woods. To lie down in the swirling snow, and slowly starve.

For Disney, you don a swishy, sinister black cape, and cackle like a psycho in front of a magic mirror. Then, you command a huntsman to slice out sweet Snow White’s beating heart.

Sometimes it feels as if that’s just how your step kids see you.

Their Evil Stepmother.

When you tell them what to do, they look at you as if you’ve stomped a puppy. Their eyes well up with reproach. “We don’t have to do that at Mom’s place” they say. “Mom doesn’t make us eat our greens.”

They’ll look you square in the eye and insist that “Mom” never, ever makes them brush their teeth, take a bath, or go to bed before the start of PG television.

And then they wheel out the real killer. “You can’t make us. You’re not our real Mom”.

Ouch.

But you’re onto them. They’re gaming you. It’s their job. They’re kids. Even if you do get it right, they’ll never admit it. At least, not to you, and not before they turn thirty.

Okay. So, where do you go for a reality check?

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most evil stepmom of all?”

1. Evil Moms embarrass their kids. They give humiliating, uncool displays of support and enthusiasm. Do you insist on going to their school sports days and concerts, and clap like a mad thing? Do you cheer them on from the sidelines? How could you? That memory of being encouraged and supported will stay with them until they’re grown and gone.

2. Evil Moms force their kids to learn cruel and unnatural behaviour. Such as, manners. Do you make them sit up to the table and eat with a knife and fork? Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Even though they’ve told you, over and over again, that their ‘real’ Mom only ever feeds them pizza from the coffee table? Thanks to you, they’ll be able to handle any event with a tablecloth.

3. Evil Moms flagrantly impinge on their kid’s privacy. They have to know where they’re going. Who with. When. Who’s driving. Do you force them to introduce their friends? Meet their parents? And then … exchange phone numbers? So you can, like, text their friend’s parents? O.M.G. Unbelievable. You’ll do anything to get all the information you need to keep them safe.

4. Evil Moms gang up on their kids. They collude with coaches, teachers, anyone with license to boss those poor little lambs around. Did you check with their ‘real’ Mom, and send them to bed at the same time as she does? Before PG? How can they trust you now? You conspired against them. Just so they can live with consistent routines and rules.



5. Evil Moms brutally strip their kids of computer access, and forcibly subject them to boring family events. And then take photos. And post them. Do you drag them along to your family gatherings? Insist on them receiving love and connection with even more weird people? You are unspeakably cruel. You’ve created a community that will always be there for them.

Yep, it’s time to look for that cape.

And next time you wait for them at the school gate?

Swirl it with pride.

Related post: The Top Five Things No Step-Parent Wants to Hear