Sunday, November 9, 2014

Give him room, folks. He's got a plan.

Today's column in the TFP is about Ben the Builder. Because sometimes I get home at the end of the day and I can't walk into the living room.

"Do not move my city," Ben warns me as I step into the house. He's standing at the center of a complex of Legos and blocks and blankets held in place with clothespins and…is that a spatula propped up on a tissue box? 

"Well, I will not move your city right now," I sigh. "But eventually we will need the living room for, you know, living."

"I know, but I have all the cars parked under the coffee table. It's a garage."

Obviously it's a garage. What else would the coffee table be? Because it's Life with Ben, chapter eleventythousand.

The dining room -- don't touch it!

The living room -- don't touch it!

The beach -- don't touch it!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maybe you should drive

Painful parenting truth: We start out knowing everything and telling them what to do; they end up knowing everything and telling us what to do.

It's a process that takes decades, but it begins (apparently) right around the time your older son turns 14 and begins to flex his superior sense of direction. So now that I'm grown really and truly all the way up, I'm learning another hard truth of adulthood:

When in doubt, do what the kid says.

Jack in a fancy car of some kind, practicing for life in the driver's seat (of a Honda CRV).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The dirty truth about my clean house

It has taken me several years to adjust to the idea that I pay someone to clean my house. But over time, I have evolved from vaguely self-conscious about it to unapologetically celebratory.
Every two weeks, I come through the door -- late, tired, hauling my laptop, my backpack, my gym bag -- and my house is clean. And it smells good. And everything is shiny and pretty. It's my absolute favorite day, every single time.
I spent a lot of years cleaning my house. For that matter, I grew up helping(ish) my mom clean our house because people who live in their houses keep them clean, right? Right.
And I hated it. Hated it when I was a kid, hated it as an adult. Because who doesn't hate it?
But I kept doing it, year after year, for all the usual reasons. Someone has to do it. And my husband will kind of do it, but he's terrible at it. And my sons will kind of do it, but they do it wrong. And really, I'm the one who deeply craves all this cleanliness and order, so I guess that means I'm the one who's gotta scrub and dust and scrape and mop and vacuum.
So I did and I did and I did, even after I became the full-time breadwinner for our family. Monday through Friday, I worked. Saturday and Sunday I cleaned.
Ugh.
Then my dad got me a treat. As a brilliant gift, he paid for the most incredible, wonderful woman on the planet to come deep-clean my house. She spent five hours doing her magic, and the clean that happened there that day was a whole new level of expert clean that I don't even have the vocabulary to describe.
And I had a revelation. "In addition to hating cleaning my house, I am terrible at cleaning my house," I told her. "I cannot live without you. Please don't leave me."
She laughed and laughed. She would not tell me the magical secrets of how she got all the things so clean (the tile! I have never gotten tile that clean!), but she was absolutely willing to come back and do it again. And it was amazing how quickly I managed to find the money in our budget for that.
"I'm being smart," I told my husband. "I'm outsourcing work to a contractor who has much deeper expertise in this area. It's ultimately a huge efficiency gain at a moderate cost."
"Cool," he said.
Unexpected bonus: Happier marriage. Because my husband and I never fight any more about cleaning the house. And I never spend my Saturday afternoon cleaning our bathroom and hating him because cleaning bathrooms makes me hate all men.
Now, about the yard...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Raising kids like a lying, creepy weirdo

If you are the parent of a kid who's losing teeth, you are either a creepy, gross weirdo who saves those teeth or a soulless monster who heartlessly discards them. You can't win. There's no right answer. My column in today's TFP is all about our Tooth Fairy adventures and my life as a creepy, gross weirdo.

But while I'm at it, I have to mention that the older my kids get, the weirder it feels to lie my face off to them. Santa. Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods.

Why did I ever set this bear trap of deception? The big kid at my house is officially over it, and he rolls his eyes any time any of it comes up. (Well, except Tiger Woods. He may still believe in him a little bit.) But my littler kid is still teetering on the brink of belief/disbelief, and I can't seem to bring myself to shove him over.

"If I grow up and find out Santa isn't real, I'm going to be really mad at you," he warns me.

"Really? You'll be mad at me for wanting to give you a magical childhood full of wonder and joy and piles of awesome free stuff you got for NO REASON?"

"Yes."

"Fine. Be mad at me. You'll be super unique in being mad at your mother and thinking she did a crappy job raising you. No one else ever thinks that."

People, we can't win. Tell the lies, skip the magic, save the teeth, throw them away, make their grilled cheese sandwiches or stand by while they burn their hands on the stove. It's all a trap. That's why god made therapists, you guys. We're here to keep them in business. 

And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

If Facebook wants to manipulate my mood, they are welcome to try. Good luck with that.

A lot of people are mad at Facebook because the site did a “psychological experiment” on users. Apparently, Facebook messed around with people’s newsfeeds to see how different types of posts (happy or sad) affected their inclination to post happy or sad stuff.

Then Facebook published the findings in a recent sciencey journal, and people got super mad all over the interwebs. Facebook was messing with their heads! Facebook was messing with their newsfeeds! Facebook is terribly bad and should be terribly ashamed!

Um, OK? Has everyone forgotten that marketing and advertising are things? They are things that bombard us all the time, everywhere we go, and they are designed to make us feel all kinds of feels and want all kinds of wants. They are absolutely messing with our heads at every moment of every day in an attempt to get us to part with our dollars in exchange for whatever it is they’re selling. It’s called capitalism. It’s pretty popular, as a rule, here in ‘Merica.

The only difference between that relentless everyday marketing and Facebook’s little experiment is that we can avoid Facebook. It’s easy. Don’t use it. The rest of that stuff is harder to avoid. Billboards, in particular, are an absolute plague of in-your-face, like-it-or-not, bikini-bodies-blown-up-to-the-size-of-a three-story-building marketing and advertising.

WAX YOUR WHOLE BODY OR YOU’RE NOT PRETTY ENOUGH, suggests the bikinied vixen on the billboard. (Which makes me wonder fleetingly if my grooming rituals are adequate.) My poor, battered psyche! But I don’t see anyone freaking out about that.

I use Facebook. I’m weirdly particular about who I’m friends with (as I am in real life), but I’m out there for some good reasons. For starters, they don’t charge me one thin dime for a service that allows me to communicate instantly with dear friends and family near and far, share my blog with those folks and offers me a fast, convenient platform for creating and distributing the annual invitation to our epic Halloween party.

But of course there’s a price for all that great stuff. And of course that price is privacy and information about me and my life and my friends and family. I get that. In fact, you know what? I like it.

Yes, marketing people, please make me the victim of your nefarious psychological experiments and send me coupons for things I like to buy. Please give me discounts on airfare for places I like to go. Yes, thank you for knowing that I do NOT want to see ads for golf clubs and I DO want to see ads for discount Calvin Klein bras. My fave!

Yes, I know Facebook is looking at my data, and at my friends’ data, and at the ways those data interact. Of course they are studying us and maybe even messing with us and responding accordingly. I mean, duh. Yes, I did notice that AS SOON as I started shopping for my son’s new soccer shoes online, all the ads I started seeing were for kids’ soccer shoes.

I know why that happened. I know they’re watching me. And I got a killer deal on soccer shoes because of it. GOOOAL!

If Facebook wants to mess around with my newsfeed and see if they can make me feel particular kinds of feels, that’s their right, I suppose. Their platform; their rules.

But if you’re that easily manipulated, you’ve probably got bigger problems than Facebook’s interest in your mood, anyway. I mean, I bet you bought a Snuggie, or stuck that weird sticker family or a monogram (why??) to the back of your minivan or clicked on the belly fat cure in those disturbing animated ads that make me feel queasy every time I see them.

Heck, you may have even given in to that billboard and gone for the wax. And no matter what Facebook is doing to your newsfeed, that experience has got to be a serious mood wrecker.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Matt Lauer should not be allowed to talk to women on TV. Or anywhere. Ever.

A couple of years ago, Matt Lauer grossed me out so much, you guys. So. Much. I don’t watch morning TV because it is relentlessly banal, but my newsfeeds just lit the eff UP over this interview. And then Anne Hathaway was SO kickass about the whole thing. It was worth seeing her dominate that sad little man, even if it meant I had to accidentally watch a little bit of morning TV.

For a minute there, I even thought, well, maybe Matt Lauer will learn from this experience about how to interview lady humans as if they are just regular humans and not talking vajayjays. Maybe he will get better at this high-profile job, for which he is paid a great deal – this job of talking to humans and not making everyone around him vurp every time he opens his face hole.

Maybe, I thought, Matt Lauer will grow as a person.

But I probably thought that because I am a woman. Women, you know. We’re prone to naiveté. And wearing skirts in public with our actual bodies beneath the fabric. Plus, shouldn’t we be home with our kids making sandwiches or something? So we’re pretty much asking for it, emirite?

Anyway, I did have the vapors there for a while, but my sweet little lady hormones eventually settled down about the whole thing. And I happily returned my life, supporting my family like a champ, teaching my sons about feminism, wearing skirts in public (with my actual body beneath them) and never, ever watching Matt Lauer do anything. But then a friend of mine at work emailed to ask: Did you see the interview with Mary Barra this morning?

Well, no, I didn’t. Because morning TV, emirite? But then I went out on the endless interwebs and found it and OMIGOD NO HE DIDN’T. Oh, yes, he did. He did. HE DID ask the CEO of General Motors if she could run that great, big, scary car company AND be a mom at the same time and not suck terribly at being a lady-type person.

“Can you do both well?” he asked in a totally serious way that suggests he really thinks that’s a real question he should ask a CEO. Of General Motors. Really. REALLY.

Holy hell, y’all. Holy HELL.

Oh, and he ALSO said – after squirming around and using the pitiful, cringe-worthy phrase “I want to tread lightly here” – whether she maybe, possibly got that great, big scary job at the car company because she is a lady-type person and we are “softer,” apparently?

Mary Barra, of course, responded with great equanimity and poise, because she is an incredibly accomplished and intelligent person who does not need to waste her time and energy annihilating a banal little morning TV host man. She’s kind of busy, yo. Being a BADASS and dealing with a massive manufacturing crisis in which people died.

Matt Lauer is a bug on the windshield of her life, y’all, because she has to talk to employees at General Motors and say this:

“We failed these customers, we must face up to it and we must learn from it.” Which is a brave and smart CEO thing to say and not especially SOFT.

Matt Lauer later got all defensive and insisted he would have asked a man that question about whether you can pay adequate attention to your offspring AND be a CEO, which is utter bullshit. He did not, for example, ask that question of this Ford CEO guy, who has FIVE kids. Three more than Mary Barra, for those of you who are counting.

Not that any of this has a damn thing to do with the reason she’s on the TV in the first place. I may have mentioned: GM CEO managing huge freaking crisis.

Hey, Matt. I hope Mary Barra’s softness and momness made it easier for you to get the message: You failed, you must face up to it and you must learn from it.

Instead of going on the defensive, try accepting the possibility that you’re a creep who has work to do on how he talks to female humans. Do the work, Matt. Say, hey, I sure am sorry about that, and I will think carefully about what I’m saying before I open my face hole on TV in the future.

In other words, man up.

But there I go again, being a silly lady-type person and thinking Matt Lauer will grow from this experience. Probably I just think that because I’m on my period.


Just because we CAN be polite to Matt Lauer
doesn't mean we should have to.





Sunday, June 8, 2014

English doesn't care what you do to her. She's a badass.

Sometimes people begin emails to me by explaining apologetically that they are not writers, and that what they're about to write will not be perfect or probably even good enough for my writerly eyeballs to behold.

To them I say: Relax, yo. I'm bad at many things, and good at only one. I do not expect everyone to be a writer, just as I do not expect me to be an actuary (say what?). I do not get all uppity about the finer points of writerliness in everyday communications. 

For that matter, I pretty much never get all uppity about the finer points of writerliness unless the topic is writing and the people are writers. (Which means about 5 percent of my life and 0 percent of most other people's lives.) If everyone could write, what use would I be to the people who employ me? No use at all. Which would be terrible for the checking account.

There are about 86 million ways to kindly and constructively communicate with people about how to write well. Every single one of those ways assumes it is more important to be kind and constructive than it is to smite the trembling ignorant among us with almighty writerly rightness.

But there are people out there who do not share my chillax on this topic. The indignant language scolds. You know them. You may have even been indignantly scolded by one. That's who hurt you. That's why you are afraid. And I'm really sorry about that. 

Don't listen to them. They suck. If it makes you feel any better, they always lose. Here's a column about why.