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Welcome to the Moonies. Parenthood.

Warning: Having a baby is just like joining a cult. No, I’m not talking about the “cult of parenthood,” wherein your childless “child free” friends suddenly feel insulted that you’ve crossed over to this strange world where all you want to talk about is your kid. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. It’s just that what your childfree friends don’t understand is that you haven’t made a choice to get subsumed into this weird parenting cult. You’ve been brainwashed.

Think about it – everything that happens to you when you have a baby pretty much follows the play-by-play of Brainwashing 101. Just read the following and swap out “cult” for “baby.” Welcome to parenthood, sucker. Please leave your brain at the door.

1. The Cult Weakens Your Senses Through Sleep Deprivation

First, your sleep schedule is interrupted. You are no longer master of your slumber. You can be awoken at any time, day or night. Sleep comes in short bursts at highly irregular times. It is also interrupted by loud noises, a classic mind control technique. Sleep disruption is probably the most basic and essential step in brainwashing. Someone who can keep you up very late and wake you up very early, much less interrupt whatever spans of REM time you do pull together… they control you. They own you.

2. The Cult Further Disorients You By Altering Your Basic Routines

Second, your most basic routines get altered. Ever notice how it’s impossible to find sunlight while wandering around a casino? That’s because in between the loud music, the glaring lights and almost maze-like hall systems, you become disoriented and lose sense of time and place in a casino. By numbing your orientation, you become more vulnerable to making mindless decisions. Babies change what you eat (I don’t recall getting to eat a warm, freshly prepared meal for at least the first six weeks after my daughter was born!), when you eat (odd hours here and there), and how you eat (huddled like a starving animal scarfing it down as fast as possible!). They also change when and how often you shower and what clothes you wear (there are days when you never make it out of your pajamas in those early weeks).

3. The Cult Separates You from Your Support System

This is a super biggie. I had a roommate who the Moonies once tried to indoctrinate. She and a friend were invited to a “dinner” at a Moonie gathering place. They were picked up in San Francisco, driven about 40 minutes away (so they had no means of returning on their own) and then, once there, immediately separated from one another. Diana, my roommate, realized later that while everyone was friendly, she and her friend were kept in two distinct groups for the whole night.

Babies separate you from your support network just as handily. Because your sleep schedule is so off, good luck making plans and actually being able to fulfill them! Childless friends quickly drop off, taking your sudden lack of availability as a sign that they’ve been replaced by the baby. Friends with children are so busy raising their own brood they can’t make it. One day, you look up and realize it’s been MONTHS since you had a decent conversation with another adult.

4. The Cult Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Badly About Yourself

Now that the cult has got you alone, look out for your self image! It doesn’t help that your body is already in its worst spot – looking at the mirror post-baby is sheer depression-inducing. Plus, due to #3, you haven’t had a stimulating conversation in ages and your brain is completely fried. It’s very easy to lose perspective of all the wonderful gifts you have to give to the world and solely see yourself as a 24 hour baby-feeding, poop-wiping slobbering idiot. Now that you need it most, you are least likely to summon the courage to get out of the house and connect with folks in the outside world because of how low you are feeling.

5. The Cult Makes You Look to It as Your Sole Source of Value and Self-Esteem

Remember the feeling you got the first time your baby truly smiled at you? Enough said.

6. You are Now Obligated to Give the Cult All Your Money

Now that the cult has completely oriented your world around it, it demands that you commit all of your finances to its health, well being and development. The cult’s survival and growth is your highest obligation in life and every decision you make from here forward for the rest of your life will be filtered through the “is this what’s best for the cult?” modifier.

But It’s Worth It – I Swear! (says the brainwashed one)

After all – doesn’t this just make your ovaries jump?

I'd give up my life for this little brainwasher, and it's not even mine. I mean, really, how can you say 'no' to cuteness like that???

By the time we all make it out to the other side of early parenting, when we start to get some simple routines and normalcy back – like sleeping for at least four hours in a row – we have no idea we’ve been brainwashed. This is the new reality for us, our complete and total dedication to our young spawn. Little by little, we reclaim small pieces of our former lives: an occasional dinner date with a friend, some witty repartee with a stranger in line at the grocery store, wearing shirts not branded with baby spit up. We creep back into the sunlight of a world that seems just like that which we left the moment before our child was first born, totally and completely oblivious to the fact that we are now 100% owned by our charges. Sure, our child-free friends can see it, but they’re not going to tell us. They think we choose  to pleasantly bear through our toddler’s  temper tantrums, preschooler’s constant interruptions and nagging,  teenaged curfew blow offs and sullen, ungrateful consumption of thoughtfully prepared meals. They don’t know that we are so totally absorbed into the cult that we can’t even see we’re in it. They think we are aware of our shift from autonomous adult to parental automaton.

But, thank goodness nature works this way. Otherwise, how would we continue to propagate and thrive? Without it, babies would simply be left on their own and, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. Speaking from personal experience, without the decent brainwashing I know for a fact that I’d be incapable of fulfilling everything parenting demands – the late nights, the odd hours, the sacrifice and in the end, the terrifying letting go. So, here’s to a good brainwashing! May it never wear off!

—-

Thanks to my fantastic new friend, MBAMommy, who let me subject her to my quirky idea about baby brainwashers the other day 🙂 You can read MBA Mommy’s post about it here.

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This is the counterpart to the original “Axiom on Leaving the House with Small Children.”

If you have nowhere to go and no particular time to be there, you will successfully have everyone out of the house in ten minutes.

If you have somewhere to be, even if it’s somewhere that the children would like to be, such as gym class, accomplishing the aforementioned feat will take twenty minutes. Add another ten minutes if you are feeling particularly stressed for time.

Nota Bene: When you get where you’re going, you may notice that you were able to get out of the house in comparative lightning speed because you negelected to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, sunscreen, sun hats and water bottles. You may not notice this, however, because any speedbump that presents itself during your outing with the littles can easily be resolved by the dad-household-budget-busting-“I’ll-just-pick-it-up-along-the-way-if-I-need-it,” salvo approach. Also, in a pinch, a dad has no problem getting “MacGyver” in his approach, using a flannel shirt as a back up diaper.

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I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

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This is just a heads up, in case you have an as yet un-housebroken child meandering the halls of your house and didn’t know about this fascinating bit of child development already.

Your small child is not a freak if they finger paint with their poop. At least, they’re not necessarily a freak. They could still be seriously disturbed in the long run, but if you catch your kid schmearing poop on the side of their crib or their bedroom walls during the pre-or-mid-potty training phase, that’s not (necessarily) an indication you’ve got a future serial killer, Enron executive or parking space stealer on your hands. It just means your child is, well, interested in their poop. And that’s A-O.K.. Don’t just take my word for it – read some of the responses that show up from a Google search on the subject.


Some children… not all children, but some children (“some” as in “many”) get a little visit from the poop fairy when they’re starting to figure out their body functions. What this means is that the child, usually when left alone during nap time, pinches a loaf into their diapers and gets interested in seeing what’s stinking up their drawers. Since little children aren’t too good at thinking things through, they end up with poop on their hands which inevitably gets on everything else they touch.

Some children are absolutely mortified by this experience. That won’t necessarily stop them from repeating it in the future (again with that thinking things through bit), but at least they’re mighty contrite when you open the door to discover a freshly painted boudoir. Other children absolutely revel in playing with their poop and go out of their way to make a massive mess. Either way, this goes with the territory of toddler stripping that usually precedes and joins potty training.

I was at a friend’s house the other day whose eldest is younger than my daughter. This is a woman who will give full-fledged 3D descriptions of every moment of her labor to perfect strangers on an airplane, but it took over an hour of us chit chatting before she mentioned (sheepishly) why all the drapes were removed from her son’s room. The reason? He was a poop reveler and had just had his first experience with poop smearing the day before. My friend was so mortified and concerned, she could barely talk about it. I readily appeased her with stories of how totally normal it was for kids to play with poop (though 100% disgusting, I concur). I regaled her with the story of a friend for whom the idea of poop smearing was so normal that she’d posted an (unrelated) videotape of her two year old being goofy on Facebook… without ever explaining why he had duct tape wrapped around his diapers. I was lucky to get my Poop Fairy cherry broken when a mom friend’s son (three weeks older than my daughter) busted out his big move a month or so before my daughter gave it a try. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted had I not already known that this is a normal phase when I walked in on my daughter a few weeks later.


What To Do If the Poop Fairy Visits Your House

Calm Your Shit Down


That’s right, you heard me. Calm your shit down. The worst thing you can do is freak out over a poop painting fiesta. All that will do is make your child even more fascinated by the power of their poop. Even if, initially, the little one was a bashful poop partier, all he or she will need is a whopping reaction from Mom or Dad and – presto!- you’ve got an instant committed poop painting enthusiast on your hands.

So, when you enter the room and see little Susie’s gotten turdy during time out, force yourself to keep a deadpan look on your face. Calmly back out of the room, close the door, take a deep, deep breath, assess your clean-up plan and wordlessly re-enter the room. It’s probably best to just proceed with the whole clean-up attack without uttering a word. Your child will be awed by your level reaction and quickly bored into thinking poop fingerpainting is so much of a non-event it’s not worth the hassle.

How to Prevent Future Visits from the Poop Fairy

Lock Your Shit Down


Now that everything is nicely cleaned and cloroxed, it’s time to implement Phase Two of the Poop Harm Reduction plan. Namely, figure out how to keep your child from doing this again! When our daughter discovered poop surprises, we immediately started putting her footie jammies on her inside out (zipper on the inside). This really takes some technique! We took a huge sigh of relief after the first night passed incident free. We honestly thought the whole thing was licked… until three weeks later when she figured out how to undo her jammies, even with the zipper inside. Some folks will tell you the best technique is duct taping the diapers on, but that’s arduous to remove later and still not foolproof. Our 100% effective method was putting the footie pajamas on backwards (zipper in back). By the time my daughter houdini’d herself out of this tactic, she’d outgrown her fascination and was well on her way to productive potty usage.

Best Technique for Preventing Poop Parties: Backwards Footie Pajamas

Finally…

Remember this is a phase your child will outgrow… in fact, they’ll certainly move through it faster the more you help them to become independent with toileting. Try to view this as an opportunity – by the sheer virtue of the fact that your child has figured out there’s poop in his or her soggy bottoms, she’s telling you she’s ready to start figuring out potty training. If anything, a Poop Fairy visit could be regarded as a thing of joy. Behold! Your days of non-stop diapering are soon to be over! Help your child with potty training ASAP. You’ll soon discover that as they master the fine art of pooping in a potty or toilet, their previous fascination with holding their poop will be replaced with producing a poop in the right spot — one that can quickly be whisked or flushed away!

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One of my neighbors dropped by this afternoon and gave us some hand-me-down giant lego blocks. My husband has tremendous issue with my ready acceptance of hand-me-downs. He complains that I never turn anything away, and he’s right. As a result of my open-arm policy on hand-me-downs we have a home bulging with toys. The problem is compounded by the fact that I haven’t purged any baby stuff yet. It all just keeps getting boxed up and put in our (als0 bulging) garage.

When my daughter was an infant and I first started getting these piles of hand-me-down clothes and toys from various streams, I was blown away by friends and family generosity. Now that my daughter is almost four and my son is breeching two, I see it from a different perspective. We are choking on baby clothes, toys, tchachkis. Everything keeps coming in… nothing goes out.

The problem is that we’re not 100% sure that we’re done having children. Also, a lot of the hand-me-downs were provided with the understanding that I’d circle them back, if needed, to the original giver. Since no one has had babies since (except me, with our son), the stuff lives in our living room, our children’s rooms, our closets, our bedroom and garage. I’m choking for a good purge. Fortunately, one of my sister-in-laws is about to have her fourth (whoops! holy surprise on that one!), so I’m going to rotate half of my supply out (the girl stuff). I’m giving it with the same provision though…. “Hold onto it in case I need it back… don’t give it on to anyone else…”

Letting go of children’s things is really hard. As much as I hate tripping over it, feeling like it’s eating up so much space in our house… it’s hard to let go. It’s even hard to pack some things up to the Toy Purgatory of our garage because that means our children have officially outgrown them. The toys will sit in their storage boxes, silent, gathering some dust… waiting on the chance that we may have another baby in our lives. These are the thoughts and feelings that tug at me and make it hard to clear everything out.

My husband constantly complains about it. He was practically glowering at our poor neighbor while she handed me the basket full of Legos. Pressured by his frustration, I immediately set about to putting toys in two bags – one for the trash, the other for the garage – in order to create new space in the house for more age appropriate toys…

Until my husband saw me putting Emily in the bag. Emily is the $20, French, all-natural rubber giraffe teething toy that was all the rage when my daughter was 6 months old. Neither of our children play with Emily now. In truth, they didn’t play with her much when they were teething. But she’s terribly cute and she represents a moment in our parenting lives, the moment when we would pay anything to try to help give comfort to our little girl’s teething pain.

My husband stopped me as I put Emily in the bag — “You can’t take Emily!!!” “Why not?,” I asked. “Because that’ll mean they’re growing up.”

So, we live with some more clutter for now.

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next survivor series dad

**I did not write this – it was forwarded to me via email BY MY HUSBAND NO LESS!!! – but I thought it was so accurate, I had to share… I’m short on time (for appropriate excuse, see below), so forgive the obvious bad line-breaks from multiple forwardings***

THE NEXT SURVIVOR SERIES
Six married men
will be dropped on an island

with one car

and 3 kids each

for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports
and take either music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must

take care of his 3 kids;
keep his assigned house clean,
correct all homework,
complete science projects,
cook,
do laundry,
and pay a list of ‘pretend’ bills
with not enough money.

In addition,

each man 
will have to budget enough money
for groceries each week.

Each man 
must remember the birthdays

of all their friends and relatives,
and send cards out on time–no emailing.

Each man must also take each child
to a doctor’s appointment,
a dentist appointment
and a haircut appointment.

He must make one unscheduled and 
inconvenient
visit per child to the Emergency Room..

He must also make cookies or cupcakes
for a school function.

Each man will be responsible for
decorating his own assigned house,
planting flowers outside, and keeping it
presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television

when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must shave their legs,

wear makeup daily,

adorn themselves with jewelry,

wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes,

keep fingernails polished,

and eyebrows groomed

During one of the six weeks,

the men will have to endure severe
abdominal cramps, backaches, headaches,
have extreme, unexplained mood swings

but never once complain or slow down
from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings

and church,
and find time at least once to spend
the afternoon at the park or a similar
setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night

and in the morning,

feed them,

dress them
brush their teeth
and 
comb their hair

by 7:30 am.

A test will be given

at the end of the six weeks,

and each father will be required to know

all of the following information:
each child’s
birthday,
height, weight,
shoe size, clothes size,
doctor’s name,
the child’s weight at birth,
length, time of birth,
and length of labor,
each child’s favorite color,
middle name,
favorite snack,
favorite song,
favorite drink,
favorite toy,
biggest fear,
and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance.

The last man wins only if….
he still
has enough energy
to be intimate with his spouse
at a moment’s notice.

If the last man does win,
he can play the game over and over and over
again for the next 18-25 years,
eventually earning the right
to be called Mother!

After you get done laughing,
send this to as many females as
you think will get a kick out of it and
as many men as you think can handle it.
Just don’t send it back to me….

I’m going to bed.

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Let me preface this by saying that I am not one of those moms who trawls the Internets in search of information about anti-vaccination, unlearning and rationalizations to never brush your children’s teeth. I’m sure there are plenty who see me as fairly fringe in my views, but where I live, I’m actually extremely…moderate!

One of my big rants, however, is about food — its production, particularly the predominance of corn byproducts in our food system. That’s all a diatribe for a different time, however. The simple point is that, from a food perspective, I try to feed my children as healthfully as possible. I wrestle with the idea of giving them sugar, yet also recognize that it’s important to expose them to all types of food, including (*gasp!*) junk food. I grew up in a mostly sugar and tv-free household, which was great… until I could get my grubby little paws on candy with my allowance money, or whenever I went to a friend’s house with more liberal tv standards… I had no idea how to moderate my “consumption” of sugar or tv whatsoever. I’m now in my mid-thirties, and I still don’t, for that matter, which is why we only watch tv online and I moderate how much sugary food I bring into the house. If I don’t have it in the house, I’m not going to eat it, and I’m also not going to give it to my children.

As a parent, I wish I could guard my kids from the pernicious effects of television and junk food completely. Unfortunately, unless I plan on locking them down in a commune-setting for the rest of their lives, this tactic doesn’t prepare them for the real world. Even the some Amish communities are smart enough to let their children, upon entering young adulthood, experience the world beyond their realm and choose for themselves (Rumspringa). At a certain point, you have to trust that your children will be able to navigate the world and all its pitfalls… but you can only do that if you’ve taught them how to read a map.

So, food is, along with the topics of gendering (princessing, for girls), raising an unbranded citizen, facing religious crossroads and cultivating character in my children, a complex issue for me. We belong to a sustainable CSA, where we get most of our meat and a fair amount of our vegetables. We have a small backyard garden, mostly so my children can be have an intimate understanding of where food comes from and an excuse to get their hands dirty. I try to involve my children in cooking as often as possible,  and have them help me select produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Yet, I get caught in the same food traps as anybody else — the picky eater who will only have quesadillas every day for lunch, leveraging food “treats” as a means to get decent behaviour from my three year old, passing limitless little baggies full of peanut butter pretzels and goldfish to the shorties in the backseat, etc. For someone who bothers so much with thinking about good food, you’d be amazed at the the low quality of many of our daily nutritional devourings.

On second thought… after reading that last paragraph… maybe I am one of those moms and just don’t know itdamn that’s scary! Let me qualify so you can see the “moderate”: my daughter has had McDonald’s french fries (c’est horrible!!), loves fish sticks slathered in *non-organic* (gasp!) ketchup, prays to God every night that she’ll have a popsicle the next day (sacre bleu!!!) and has had almost all the recommended vaccinations (mon dieu!), though I regret having given her some. My son, at 19 months, races to the couch whenever we put the tv on to put on an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” or “Mr. Rogers” (c’est la vie.)

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