Month: May 2008

Our High Standards Hamper Us

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twister Not that I was ever that much of a partier, but I’m finding that even among our married (with children) peers, both CareerMom and I are boring, with a capital “B.”

Looking around, I’ve found that there are apparently two types of parents in this world:

A) Those who lead active social lives prior to having children and who, once they have children, see no reason not to continue doing so. They’ll pack the kids up and drag them to the ball park, Disneyland at the age of 2, Hockey games and other places, which to me, seems a bit nonsensical since you spend all your time watching the kids rather than whatever it is you’re there to see!

Then there are these folks:

B) Those who are somewhat social prior to having kids. Then after having kids, they realize that dragging all that baby crap everywhere is just a big ol’ pain in the butt, and ayway, who wants to see and hear my screaming youngins when they paid good money to be here!

CareerMom and I are most decidely of the “B” group, while it seems like everyone we know, is in the “A” group. Case in point, we recently were invited to a neighbor’s house for something they have called, “The Event.”

Billed as something only offered to a “select” group of people, The Event promises:

– South African wine tasting
Martini bar
Craft brew bar
Chair massages
Complimentary drive home
Couples pool tournament
Beer pong
Afternoon pedicures and manicure

Does this not sound like the best! It does to us too, but we’re already finding problems getting a babysitter now that all the high-school kids are out of school and at the end of the day, CareerMom and I both seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s too much of a hassle to get someone to watch the kids. It appears that we’ve reached a silent agreement that we’ll just skip The Event altogether rather than making the effort to find a new sitter. How pathetic are we?

Now granted, there are probably 50 teenage girls in our neighborhood and we’ve barely scratched the surface in trying to find one, but part of the problem is CareerMom’s high standards for babysitting. Apparently, they have to meet the same standards originally set forth by CareerMom’s recently graduated youngest sister, and our longtime “old standby” babysitter:

1. An affinity for playing with children (Most teenage girls qualify: check)

2. Be able to determine when water is hot enough to scald child in bath (Most teenage girls qualify: check)

3. Doesn’t need to be motivated to clean up after playtime and/or dinner (Most teenage girls qualify: check)

4. Be able to figure out how to manipulate the three remote controls required for proper television viewing (Most teenage girls qualify: check)

5. Know our kids already (Most teenage girls qualify: OH! So sorry…thanks for playing!)

So really, it’s that one criteria preventing us from being social. Or are we just using it as an excuse? I suspect it’s a bit of both.

Are we really that boring or are we like our own little saboteurs, hamstringing our inner-partier so that we can play the martyr while everyone else is having fun?

I tell ya, right about now, I could use a martini bar, some beer pong and maybe even a game of naked twister if the mood’s right.


Confessions of a Errant Parent

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colsave W e parents are hard enough on ourselves. Why, just this past weekend when my dad visited us, no fewer than twice did he start a sentence with, “There are a lot of things I regret; things that I wish I’d done differently.” And though I did my best to ameliorate any bad feelings he has, I know that this is simply one of those things that each parent feels as he or she gets older.

So, it really bothers me when we parents, as a whole, make it seem like there are things that other parents should be doing; especially when those “things” are not endangering the child’s life, or for that matter, even making the child sad in any way.

Here I am then, about to admit to something that has been plaguing me since my kids were born–something that I’ve (we’ve) not been doing that I’m sure many folks out there will frown upon and which might possibly shock some considering that according to U. Sam, we don’t deserve a government “pre-bate.”

Here it is:

We’re not saving for our kids’ college!

There ya go. Fire away. I know we’re scum. No, we’re worse than scum, we’re incompetent parents who apparently can’t think 18 years down the line well enough to know that we’re jeopardizing our children’s future–nay, our children’s children’s future even.

Ok, in the name of theatrics, I might have over-stated the situation a bit. We do in fact have savings accounts (with ING) for each of our kids where we deposit all the checks from the various family. What we don’t have is a dedicated college savings account.

Call me crazy, but right now, the $20K we’re spending each year on daycare pretty much sucks up all the free money we might normally have to put in a fund. Add to that gas prices, food prices and just simply the cost of “living” (i.e. satellite TV so the kids can TiVo Iron Man and The Superfriends), and we’re pretty much just treading water here.

Now I will say that once these boys are in school (probably public), we’ll start funding those accounts more heavily but right now we’re not and quite frankly, I’m not losing too much sleep over it. I didn’t go to college until I was 29, and though I wish I’d done it right off, things turned out OK for me.

But I’m wondering how many other parents out there are carrying around a dirty little secret that wouldn’t really be dirty if society weren’t such a pain in the arse about it.

Care to come clean?

How Not to Spend Your Evening

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Wildwood G enerally speaking, I’m happy with my Homeowners Association (HOA). Having moved from an older neighborhood with absolutely no neighborhood standards, I have no problems with rules such as,

Garbage cans must not be put along the curbside prior to 6 p.m. the day before pickup and must be removed from the curbside by 8 p.m. the evening of pickup.”

Rules are OK, when they are logical and when they are evenly enforced.

Every year we have our HOA meeting and last year, though it was abysmally boring, they at least served beer and wine and kept everyone from getting too annoyed with the 2.5 hours it took to listen to each Committee chair.

This year, in the announcement for the meeting, the President of the HOA made it very clear that they were going to try and limit each Committee head to a five minute presentation in an effort to keep things moving along.

So, I cooked an early dinner, ate and then headed down while CareerMom stayed home with the boys.

When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was, “Hey, no beer!” And I wasn’t the first to notice either. It seems that a Georgia law was passed that says non-profit Corps (which our HOA is) cannot serve alcohol during meetings. So, even though we are just a bunch of homeowners sitting around a clubhouse, because we are technically part of a non-profit, we can’t drink.

Wow! What a worthwhile law.

Anyway, things were going smoothly until some woman stands up and–get this–makes a motion to abolish the $5 charge that any resident who plays in the local tennis league (using our courts and others to do so) must pay.

$5!  Let me say it again…$5.

Would you believe that her complaining, and our HOA president’s explanation of why this charge is necessary, went on for 45 minutes!

By the time it was over, I was about ready to go home, pour myself a drink and walk back down for the remainder of the meeting!

But finally she shut up and we voted the very same incumbents in that have been there forever because nobody else wants to be the target in the front of the room for stupidity such as this women had just shown, and THEN, once we had adjourned with a very official sounding, “Yes, I second the motion to adjourn” agreement, we were allowed to drink.

But by then it was 9 p.m. and I needed to get home. Man, what an enjoyable night outta the house. Tonight, CareerMom’s youngest sibling graduates from High School, so while she goes and celebrates, I’ll be home with the kids. I could go with her and drag the boys, but I’d just end up watching them anyway, and at least tonight the swim team (for which residents pay $85 for each child on the team) doesn’t have practice and we can get in before 7 p.m.

Hooray for me!

What’s next? Nudist camp?

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flutter I can’t believe I’m about to jeopardize my creative integrity, but I feel I must. I’m about to devote an entire blog to butter. Well, fake butter (futter) actually, but in my dietary world where the war against fat is a constant, futter IS butter.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve eschewed real butter thanks, I’m sure, to some public service announcement in my youth telling me how bad all that butter is for my arteries. Course, they also said that about eggs, and I consume probably a dozen and a half eggs (mostly just the whites) each week for the protein content and last time I checked, my resting heartrate was about 52 bpm, so take that state of Alabama!

Anyway, my futter of choice has been “Country Crock” for years and years. Considering we never really slathered our food with much butter growing up, my taste for Country Crock came more from a “can’t miss what you never had” background moreso than out of any love for the actual flavor. Country Crock has always come in this big tub and even with my family of four now, it usually lasted nearly two months.

But the other day when I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items, futter included, I couldn’t find my usual tub of futter and instead, there was this half-sized container of Country Crock futter proudly proclaiming, “Now with Omega Plus.”

Omegas? That’s the nutrient you get from fish right? I mean, isn’t that the big secret weapon in salmon and tuna and all those wild Alaskan swimmers we hold so dear? Well, I’m not sure what fish oil would taste like in futter, but I’m game. So, I purchased a container and sure enough, it tasted just like my old Country Crock.

But thing is, the container is about 2/3 the size of the original and guess what? Yep, it’s the same price!

Well, fool me once and all, I decided that the next time I needed futter, I’d break out of my 20 year rut and try a different brand, so I picked up a full-sized tub of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” figuring anything that’s been around at least as long as my Country Crock has got to have something good going for it.

OMG! What I can’t believe is that people believe the name! This is quite possibly the nastiest surprise I’ve put in my mouth since my brother and his friend convinced me that giant mushrooms growing wild in the woods are tasty and delicious!

It’s so bad, it has me reconsidering just how bad REAL butter can actually be. I mean, it’s all natural right? My mom believes that all the processed food we eat is making everyone sick and while I actually tend to agree with her to a certain degree, I also don’t see me whipping out the Fry Daddy and cooking up a batch of fried chicken and french fries just because canola oil comes from…Canolas? Come to think of it, where does Canola oil come from?

So I am torn, I will admit. I’m torn between feeding my kids something that might clog up their arteries, but which is probably not going to give them cancer, OR I can keep feeding them a low fat butter substitute and pray that their consumption level doesn’t approach that of those poor lab rats with IVs in their veins that have futter dripping through them 24×7.

But if I go down the all natural path, I’m going to have to do some serious fridge cleaning out.

Do you all eat the fake stuff or is your family au naturale (with food I mean)?

(Later: As if I needed another reason to not like Country Crock anymore; I went to their Web site to leave a complaint and their input screen will not let you use apostrophes. Which means “no contractions.” What kind of grammar nazi’s are they? I suspect they do it to frustrate users into NOT leaving complaints, but I’m a writer and crap like this fuels my bravado!)

"It seems my hypocrisy knows no bounds…"

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Daddydaycare As I admitted (gasp!) to CareerMom this weekend after she scolded me for saying, “Dammit!” in front of the boys, I’m not perfect. I drink a beer in front of them every now and then. I get annoyed when they keep asking the same, or similar, questions time after time. And OMG! When MLE starts crying in the car, I could scratch my nails down a chalkboard and find a happier place. I’m not perfect, I’ll freely admit it.

I am also, I’m discovering, a sexist and a hypocrite to boot!

See, despite my, “Hey, men are just as qualified as women to be child-care-givers,” attitude, I’m finding myself having a hard time accepting the fact that a man now runs our daycare facility.

What happened is, our daycare, which was previously run completely by three generations of women (they all worked there at the same time) has apparently made so much money off us parents that after only five short years, they are selling to a national chain of daycare centers (sounds like, “Grids R Grids”). We actually found out about this poorly kept secret this past weekend, and it was confirmed this morning as CareerMom greeted the new daycare owner, a man, in a wedding-reception-like gladhanding session as she dropped the kids off.

And I’m not too thrilled about this. I think part of it stems from the fact that another large chain of centers in our area (sounds like, “Snoddard School”) is also run by a man who just creeped the hell outta me each time I visited there; so much so that right after enrolling MLI after he was born, we pulled him out based almost entirely on the “creep vibe” the dude put out. So, I was already biased against men running daycare centers.

Call me crazy, but I can’t for the life of me, figure WHY a man would WANT to run a daycare center! I’m pretty sure that I lack several a gene that I consider prerequisites to caring for children over extended periods of time, such as:

– the “sit on the floor and endure hours of monotony” gene
– the “don’t react violently every time one of the kids swings something at crotch level” gene
– the “fix three different really good things for lunch/dinner only to have them go and try to eat the dog food” tolerant gene

…and there are others I’m sure.

So here I am, finding myself railing against my kids going to a daycare run by a man, when some of the most well-adjusted men I know, are stay-at-home dads. Admittedly, running a daycare is probably more about project management than it is hands-on with the kids, but still…I can’t shake the bad feeling. I can’t shake the feeling that a man is more likely to cut corners if it’ll save a buck than a woman would.

See…hypocrite. That’s me.

What do you folks think?

I’m so gonna catch flack for this…

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cycle For as long as I can remember, men have been complaining about a lack of sex from their mates (and I use “mates” in the usual sense and not in the Australian sense, because that would be kind of weird to think about). It’s bad enough when a couple is single, but when you add kids into the mix, finding time, much less the right time, to have sex becomes a near impossibility!

Granted, there are times when even us men couldn’t care less about sex. I know this might come as a surprise to some, but it’s true. We have our moments just like women do and they are as unpredictable as earthquakes (and probably just as rare). Of course, with women, there are several days each month when the lack of sex IS a predictable thing, but you show me a guy who knows which days these are before they occur and I’ll show you a guy with way too much time on his hands.

It occurred to me the other day though, that there might be a way to help my brethren deal with this problem. And by doing so, men could plan accordingly, and rather than looking like inconsiderate, selfish boobs when we sidle up next to our beloved during these times, we could instead come off appearing sympathetic and perhaps even (gasp!) sensitive.

I propose a new Web site, just for men, called: Don’t Forget!

Now bear with me here! Here’s how it works:
Don’t Forget! lets a man track his lady’s cycle by inputting either the beginning or end of its calendar date, as near as he can figure it. To come up with the beginning date, some men can use the day in which he found her crying over the latest ejection from American Idol. Other men might determine the start date by inconspicuously providing a bowl of chocolate kisses and monitoring it for increased activity.

This may be too inexact a science for some guys and for them, including the last day of his lady’s cycle might work better. This might be the day before she “lets” him have sex again, or when he notices she’s stopped wearing sweat pants to bed.

I want to explain at this point that this will not be an exact science. We’re going for a “window” of time here, not specific dates, since each woman is different.

Now where this all pays off, is by allowing men to input their cell phone number, blackberry and/or e-mail addresses so that approximately three days before the estimated start of her cycle, he’ll get a reminder notification. Three days should be ample time for a guy to plan a few hours away from the house with the kids, a surprise bouquet of flowers, or to ensure that he’s returned all of the kid’s cartoon Netflix movies and has therefore, lots of chick-flicks on hand. And tissues…lots of tissues.

The brains behind Don’t Forget! are carefully crafted mathematical algorithms based on years of medical science to help calculate an average beginning and end time each month. For the man who is more in-tune with his lover, a short questionnaire can be filled out and factored into the equation for even greater accuracy. This, coupled with an online “Tips” page that will help men recognize “the signs,” should come pretty close to guessing the beginning, end and total duration throughout the year.

There would be a small subscription fee of course, because after all, genius must get paid; but, I think most men would gladly pay a small fee if it meant he stayed on his sweetheart’s good side each month.

The more I think about it, the creepier it sounds more viable it seems.

And with that little social problem solved, I think I’ll move onto my next one: Male Mid-Life Crisis–Verified Medical Phenomena, or Just an Excuse?

The non-southerner’s guide to the south

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dollywood Though I was born in Monterey, CA, thanks to my father being in the Army, I’ve lived almost my entire life in the deep south–mostly Alabama–the place Leonard Skynard immortalized back in 1974, the year after I was born. My best friends growing up listened to country music, though I probably hunted and fished more than most of them, and I’ve driven a pickup truck pretty much since I purchased my first house and realized that you can’t tote sheetrock in a sports car (I had a 240SX).

Despite all that, I’ve never really fit the redneck profile that so many non-southerners hold so dear, thanks in no small part, to the media. And truth be told, most of the people I know from the south, aren’t like that either (that includes you DN!)

But those people do exist, as I found out on my recent trip to Dollywood.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge TN, which is touted as the most visited tourist attraction in the country. Pigeon Forge is also right smack dab in the middle of the Great Smokey Mountains, in the middle of Tennessee, in the middle of the south…

Do you see where I’m going here?

My mom and her husband moved to a town just outside Knoxville, TN about 14 years ago. This year, for whatever reason, they purchased season tickets to Dollywood and with those tickets came some 1/2 off tickets for guests. When we went up this past weekend, they  suggested we all head on over to Dollywood for an afternoon of fun and frivolity.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me, knows that I abhor crowds. I’m that really good looking guy standing just outside the crowd (holding a beer) at parties. I don’t do large concerts. I don’t like to sit next to people I don’t know at church. Heck, I don’t even like answering the door at home if it’s someone I don’t know. People just make me uncomfortable! Despite all this, I’ll do just about anything for my kids, and so we all drove over the mountain (literally) and went to Dollywood on Saturday.

I can now report, with great certainty, that the people that Jeff Foxworthy jokes about, do actually exist, in a-plenty and they apparently love them some Dolly Parton!

When I wasn’t squirming in shame for the aged Wal-mart rejects working the kiddie rides and saying things like, “We’d like to thank you for riding the “Lucky Ducky” and please enjoy your visit to Dollywood,” I was dodging sweaty, plus-sized, halter-top models and doing my best to stare down bubbas determined not to deviate from their path while walking five across and taking up the whole avenue!

Don’t get me wrong, on the whole, these people are the salt of the earth. When aliens finally figure out we’re more tasty than we are smart, I’m robbing the closest gun store and heading for the hills, where I’ll slip into my best southern drawl and where me and my family will hunker down until it’s all over. But I gotta admit, the stereotype isn’t completely without merit!

So if you’re planning a trip to Dollywood anytime soon, gimme a holler. I’ll be happy to give you the lowdown on the 1/32% of the park that we saw before the kids got too hot and tired, forcing us to beat an early retreat back to our oasis on the Little River.

Oh, and for all you Tennessee fans out there: ROLL TIDE!