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“There’s plenty of funny and relatable stories inside this little book, for both moms and dads and will give you that extra boost of cheer for the day.”

- Parent Magazine

Click  here to download a free PDF that (if wikipedia is to be believed) should be compatible with iPAD, Kindle, that goofy Motorola tablet and just about anything else with a screen. Feel free to forward to as many friends as you want to, too.

HONEST RSVPs

When it comes to RSVPs, there are typically two choices:

I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend.

Unfortunately, those don’t account for the true range of likely responses, and could easily be expanded:

I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will attend under protest.
I/we ___ will attend but only for a few minutes before going to the party I/we really want to go to.
I/we ___ will attend but be too exhausted to socialize.
I/we ___ will attend if anyone else I/we like will attend.
I/we ___ will attend, but on the wrong night.
I/we ___ wasn’t invited, but will attend anyway.
I/we ___ will not attend.
I/we ___ will not attend unless the two other parties I/we want to go to that night get cancelled.
I/we ___ will not attend unless I/we run into the host at the store and he/she says “Did you get the invitation? So many people have backed out this year I’m really, really counting on you to attend,” in which case I/we will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend ever, so stop inviting us. I/we mean, seriously, WE NEVER ATTEND. Don’t you get the picture?
I/we ___ will not decide to attend or not attend until just after you’ve firmed up your guest list, nor will I/we be the least bit bothered by how much trouble this causes the host.

UH-OH HO HO

PARENT: What do you want for Christmas?
CHILD: I dunno. Maybe a bike.
PARENT: A bike? We just got you a bike last year.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: What do you mean? Of course we got you a bike.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: I know for a fact we got you a bike because I’m the one who went to three different stores and then spent two hours assembling it in our unheated garage after everyone went to bed.
CHILD: No… you didn’t get me a bike: Santa did.
PARENT: Oh… uh… I must have been thinking of… of… something else.

STOCKING STUFFERS

KID: Santa brings toys to all the good girls and boys, right?
PARENT: Right.
KID: What about bad kids?
PARENT They get coal.
KID: What about kids who are a bad, but not quite as bad as they could be?
PARENT They get clean coal.

AL GORE’S REVENGE: HOW TO PUT UP GREEN CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN 14 SIMPLE STEPS.

Step 1. Look for lights.
Step 2. Find lights in last place you’d ever think they’d be.
Step 3. Spend 45 minutes trying to untangle them.
Step 4. Briefly stop to consider how much energy lights waste each season, but then continue.
Step 5. Climb up on roof.
Step 6. Roll eyes and say “Geez, it’s not like I haven’t climbed a roof before” when spouse/significant other/neighbor says “Be careful!”
Step 7. Almost slip and fall.
Step 8. Hope spouse/significant other/neighbor didn’t notice.
Step 9. Put up lights and revel in sense of satisfaction at how easy it was.
Step 10. Climb down ladder.
Step 11. Plug in cord and check lights.
Step 12. Pour stiff drink.
Step 13. Spend balance of afternoon replacing bulbs, splicing wires, and doing everything you can think of to get the lights to come on before ultimately giving up and deciding to skip the stupid lights this year and go green.
Step 14. Curse Al Gore.

FIVE THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE SENATE’S FOOD SAFETY BILL BUT WEREN’T

1. THE COSTCO AMENDMENT

What do you do with eight gallons of stewed tomatoes? A 4-pack of 120 oz. mustard jars? 50 lbs. of rice?

If you’re like most households, you stick them on a shelf in the back of the pantry and try to ignore the fact that the giddy joy you felt because you saved so much money can’t possibly last long enough to counteract the guilt you’ll feel when you end up throwing half of it out.

This amendment would have legally prohibited club stores from selling bulk items that:

(a) the average consumer can’t possibly consume before the expiration date
(b) the average consumer doesn’t need – i.e. cashew butter, creamed spinach, dried parsley, tapioca pudding, etc.
(c) or that taste so good when sampled in the store nobody can resist their multi-ounce siren call.

2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FOOD HYPOCRISY

This amendment would have made it illegal for anyone to cop a militant attitude about food – holier-than-thou vegans, organic-only food-nazis, food processing plant owners and/or executives who roll their eyes (and mobilize their lawyers) if anyone questions their quality or commitment to cleanliness, etc.

3. SPECIAL PROVISION FOR SPOKESPEOPLE AND OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVES

When it comes to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other types of foodborne illnesses, it takes a special kind of flak to stand at a podium in front of a bunch of reporters and claim the company’s products are “perfectly safe” and that the media is making the situation out to be a lot worse than it really is, or that it’s not really company’s fault but the work of disgruntled employees and/or unscrupulous food activists, and that in either case, the company is “cooperating fully” with authorities to resolve the situation in a safe and timely fashion.

Since spokespeople can’t be sued for lying, this amendment would have made it mandatory for them all to attend a special private banquet where the only food they got would have been the very food they claimed everyone could “trust and continue to consume without any health and safety concerns.”

4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET – OR ELSE

Ever order anything online, or from the back of a magazine because the photos looked so good?

This amendment would have not only banned the use of Photoshop and other means of digital enhancement, but made it illegal for anyone selling direct-to-the-consumer food to hire a photo stylist to, for example, sort through 10,000 bushels of pears to find the one – and only one – in the lot that looked like you’d want to eat it.

It would also have made it illegal to embellish descriptions, meaning that if a wine-of-the-month club promised “world-class” bottles, they had better come from a part of the world that’s actually known for its vineyards and taste really, really good.

5. VEGETABLE JAIL

This amendment would have authorized the FDA to work with state and local law enforcement officials to create “vegetable jail,” so that instead of threatening kids who won’t eat their broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. with no dessert or having to sit at the table until everything – “And I mean everything!” – is finished, parents could just say “Look… it’s either spinach or 18 months hard time.”

(Not that some kids wouldn’t choose jail over spinach, of course, but at least it would have helped.)

FIRST “CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS” MISSION FOR KIDS: CONVINCING PARENTS TO LET THEM BUY IT

TWEEN: Do you think I’m mature for my age?
DAD: I don’t know. Why do you ask?
TWEEN: Because I was just thinking about the way I help take out the trash, put my clothes in the hamper, brush my teeth at night, wash behind my ears when I shower, do my homework most nights without being told, and sometimes even go to bed early the night before I have a big test, and I wanted to know if you thought that was a reflection of how mature I am.
DAD: Uh… well… I guess if you put it that way, then “Yes.”
TWEEN: “Yes” I’m mature?
DAD: Yes, you’re mature.
TWEEN: Great.

5 minutes later:

TWEEN: Can you take me to the video game store?
MOM: Why?
TWEEN: I need to get “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”
MOM: You mean that ultra-violent first-person shooter a lot of parents have been concerned about?
TWEEN: Yes.
MOM: But isn’t it rated “M” for “Mature?”
TWEEN: It is rated “M,” but Dad just said I’m mature, so it’s okay.
MOM: Uh… No.

DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200, DO NOT EVEN ROLL THE DICE

6:23 pm

Mom and Dad decide to play a game with the kids.

6:58 pm

They decide on Monopoly, even though it’s not their first, second or even third choice.

6:59 pm

They look for the game.

7:05 pm

They find the game hidden away in back of closet and wonder what it’s doing there.

7:08 pm

They look for the dice.

7:19 pm

They find the dice.

7:22 pm

They realize the $5 bills are missing, too, but agree to just round up to the nearest 10.

7:24 pm

They roll to see who goes first.

7:28 pm

They decide rolling to see who goes first leaves too much to chance and choose to go from youngest to oldest instead.

7:29 pm

Dad tells oldest not to pout.

7:30 pm

Mom tells youngest not to gloat.

7:31 pm

Everybody starts playing.

7:55 pm

Mom reminds everyone it’s just a game and the point is to have fun.

8:07 pm

Dad remind everyone it’s just a game and the point is to have fun, but he uses “the angry voice.”

8:17 pm

Mom starts getting competitive.

8:18 pm

Dad starts getting competitive, too, but claims it’s Mom’s fault because she started getting competitive first.

8:19 pm.

The kids remind Mom and Dad it’s just a game and the point is to have fun.

8:20 pm

Mom and Dad tell kids they can quit any time they want to, otherwise shut up and roll.

8:26 pm

Mom puts hotels on the yellows.

8:34 pm

Dad puts hotels on the purples and the reds.

8:35 pm – 8:43 pm

One after another, the kids land on Mom’s and Dad’s properties, lose all their money, all their property, and are forced out of the game despite their please for compassion, pity, help, another chance, etc.

Mom and Dad ignore them keep playing.

10:49 pm

Mom and Dad finally remember why the Monopoly game was hidden away in back of closet.

Texting + _______ = ?

Teens, tweens, twentysomethings and everybody else with a blackberry, iPhone or Android seems to have a slang term for the specific type of texting they’re doing, so how about parents?

TERM DEFINITION
“Correxting” Pointing out typos and misspelled words in your kids’ texts.
“Incorrexting” Pointing out typos and misspelled words in your kids’ texts without realizing they’re SMS slang.
“Complexting” Trying to explain something in under 140 characters that’s impossible to explain in under 140 characters, usually out of anger, rage or frustration.
“Deflexting” Telling your kids to text their father/mother instead.
“Rejexting” Saying “No.”
“Disrespexting” Texting when you’re supposed to be listening to your spouse, children, in-laws, etc.
“Perplexting” Asking your kids to repeat what they just said in plain English because you don’t understand SMS slang.
“Tex-mexting” Asking your kids if they want tacos or burritos for dinner.
“Megaplexting” Telling your kids to text you when the movie is over so you can come and pick them up.
“Nexting” Trying to avoid unnecessary drama by promising to do something “next time.”
“Expexting” Repeatedly texting your teenage son or daughter to ask them where they Hell they are!
“Chexting” Randomly checking in with your kids to make sure they’re okay.
“Suspexting” Randomly checking in with your kids to make sure they’re okay because you suddenly have the feeling they’re up to something.

CHARLIE SHEEN: ROLE MODEL

KID: Are we gonna watch “Two and a Half Men?
PARENT: No.
KID: Why not?
PARENT: Because we never watch “Two and a Half Men.”
KID: But I want to see Charlie Sheen.
PARENT: Why? Because he supposedly trashed a hotel room with a hooker?
KID: What’s a hooker?
PARENT: Never mind. The point is: bad behavior should have consequences.
KID: It does: higher ratings.*

*If half of parenting is threatening kids when they’re about to act inappropriately and the other half is punishing them when they do anyway, what’s a parent to do when the specter of public shame and humiliation not only stops being a deterrent, but is a legitimate pathway to fame and fortune?

IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO TEACH KIDS TACT

4-YEAR-OLD: Is that women fat?
DAD: What woman?
4-YEAR-OLD: That woman over there.
DAD: No, she’s fine. And don’t say that kind of thing so loudly.
4-YEAR-OLD: She looks fat to me.
DAD: She’s not.
4-YEAR-OLD: She’s bigger than Mommy, isn’t she?
DAD: Yes.
4-YEAR-OLD: When Mommy looks in the mirror, she says “I’m fat!” So if that woman is bigger than Mommy, then she’s fat, right?
DAD: Look… nobody is fat. Mommy isn’t fat. That woman isn’t fat.
Nobody is fat. Now… LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS LATER!
4-YEAR-OLD: Why?
DAD: Because.
4-YEAR-OLD: Because why?
DAD: Because it’s not nice to say that about people in public.
4-YEAR-OLD: Why? Don’t they know they’re fat?
DAD: I’m sure they know, but sometimes people are self-conscious about their weight because they think other people will look down on them.
4-YEAR-OLD: I won’t look down on them. I don’t care if they’re fat.
DAD: That’s good.
4-YEAR-OLD: Do you think I should go over and tell that woman I don’t care if she’s fat?
DAD: No!
4-YEAR-OLD: But then she won’t be self-conscious!
DAD: Too late.
4-YEAR-OLD: Why?
DAD: See the way she’s staring at us? I think she heard everything we just said.
4-YEAR-OLD: Hey! Doesn’t she know it’s not polite to stare?

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO WOULD-BE PARENTS?

“So… what’s it like having kids?” the would-be parent asks.

“It’s great,” you say, “Having kids is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. They’re a lot of work, but when you see the way they smile and laugh and take in the world, it’s definitely worth it.”

And then maybe you chuckle and offer to let them stay over and take your kids for a weekend “test drive,” knowing they probably won’t but hoping they will so you and your spouse can get away for that “romantic weekend” you’ve been talking about since pretty much your kids were born (with the term “romantic” being parent-code for “getting some sleep and being able to watch pay-per-view movies all the way through, in one sitting, without being interrupted a dozen times because ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I had an accident’ or ‘I spilled jam on the carpet,’ etc.”).

You may suggest these would-be parents pick up a movie or two, too. But while many recommend something like “Parenthood”1 for its funny and touching insights into the ups and downs of, well, parenthood, there’s another movie that gives a fuller and more complete picture: 1970s horror classic “The Exorcist.” Here’s why:

Demonic possession is just another name for a weekday morning.

As every parent knows, at random and unpredictable intervals, your little angel will wake up snarling and nasty like a beast from Hell. Foul-mouthed? Before you even get through the door to say “Good morning, I made you breakfast,” you find yourself assaulted with “GET OUT! Can’t you see I’m sleeping? You always wake me up like this. I hate you. I hate you. I HATE YOU.”

And their appearance? Definitely something unholy (though, to be fair, not because they’re suddenly sporting horns, scales and some grotesque demon pig-nose, but because nobody looks good when they don’t shower for three days – why is personal hygiene such a difficult concept for kids to get, anyway?).

As for being able to crawl across the ceiling? Well… maybe not the ceiling, but when you consider the gravity-defying ways kids flip around in their beds while they sleep, it’s not such a stretch to think they might some- how end up on the ceiling.

Green puke? How about orange puke, yellow puke and blue puke, too?

It’s not called “The Technicolor Yawn” for nothing, something parents usually find out fast. Often, these multi-colored hues can be traced back to two types of foods: foods consumed in excess, like artificially-flavored fruit punch, Halloween candy and birthday cake; and foods consumed under protest such as salad, non-breaded fish, and brussels sprouts (with the eventual volume of puke increasing exponentially if you happen to say something like “I don’t care if you don’t like it. Nobody ever threw up eating brussels sprouts, so finish your plate!” first).

You know a child’s head can’t spin completely around… but a 5-year-old doesn’t.

And no matter how quickly the parent dashes into the other room to get the phone or answer the door or shut the oven off before dinner burns, it’s five seconds more than the 5-year-old needs to twist the 2-year-old’s head around to the point where it’s about to snap. “But we were just playing owl,” the child protests.

You don’t need an exorcist, but a child psychologist might be a good idea.

What parent hasn’t thrown up their hands at some point and said “I can’t do this anymore!” before turning to an expert for help?

Whether it’s the therapist, the math tutor, the reading coach, the college placement counselor or even the pitching specialist, all these experts are trying to do is exactly what Father Merrin was trying to do to Linda Blair’s Regan: make the kid “normal” again.

There can always be a sequel because evil – like parenting – goes on forever.

Which means the moment parents think they’re done and their kids are on their own, they move back home. Or go into therapy. Or just stop calling. This can happen at any time, for any reason (though it’s often financial), and it’s generally a lot worse than the original, just like “Exorcist 2 – The Heretic,” “The Exorcist 3,” and both versions of “Exorcist – The Beginning.”

And if that isn’t scary, nothing is.

From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”

1Is the TV version of this movie a reasonable substitute? Clearly the show has plenty of fans –  here, here, here and here, for example – but what if it gets cancelled? Imagine devoting hour after hour to something, getting attached and becoming emotionally invested in its well-being, only to have it suddenly just grow up and move go away? On second thought… maybe that’s even more like parenthood than the movie “Parenthood.”

FAMILY GAMES FOR THE GREAT RECESSION

The bad times may be over, but the good times aren’t going to return any time soon.

For many of us, that’s troubling. But it can also be inspiring – especially when it comes to finding appropriate ways to spend quality time with family.

Kick The Can(didate)

Family members divide up into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Democrats try to prevent Republicans from kicking the can, just like in the classic childhood game, but have to put on blinders and argue among themselves, making it very easy for a lone Republican to come out of nowhere and kick the can.

Alternately, family members don’t divide up into Democrats and Republicans at all, but just play as a single group of Democrats who work against each other to both kick the can and prevent the can from being kicked, turning the whole game into an ugly, shameless, ultimately un-winnable waste of time.

Liar’s Dice, The Wall Street Edition

In the traditional game, players roll a handful of dice and then try to lie about how many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s they have. If one player doesn’t believe another, he or she says “liar.” If the accused is actually lying, he or she loses a die; if the accused is telling the truth, the accuser loses a die.

The game continues until there’s only one player left.

This version is played the exact same way, except that whenever a player lies and loses a die, he or she gets to replace it with one provided by the Treasury Department for as long as the government has adequate dice reserves, or can borrow dice from China.

Tea Party

The point of this game is to pretend to spontaneously gather around an imaginary table drinking imaginary tea from imaginary cups until the media believes it’s real, and then form a grassroots special interest group to force everybody to move to the right.

Duck Duck Goose

Each player pretends to be a homeowner and sits in a circle with the other homeowners. One player – representing a soon-to-reset adjustable rate mortgage, crushing equity line, further decline in housing prices, prolonged period of unemployment or other form of bad luck – walks around and taps each of them on the head, saying “Duck… Duck… Duck…”

This goes on for an inordinately long time, with all the anxious homeowners hoping the bad luck will just go away.

It doesn’t.

When bad luck finally says “goose,” the player he or she just tapped sits there quietly in a complete state of denial, then wanders off leaving an empty spot in the circle.

This goes on for an inordinately long time, too, until even the remaining homeowners are too depressed to continue.

What’s my party line?

Throw a blanket over your TV set and then randomly tune it to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC and see if you can tell what party’s talking points the supposedly non-partisan/independent/”fair and balanced” experts are secretly touting.

I Spy

Just like regular “I Spy,” only with the more apropos subjects: “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with F… a foreclosed house.” Or “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with O… a one-term president.”

The Telephony Game

Start with any of the promises Banks made when they needed to be bailed out – to take fewer risks, not put profits first, learn from their mistakes, help homeowners modify bad loans, etc. – and play the telephone game to see if any of these phrases end up making any sense at all.

Pin The Tail (Of Blame) On The Donkey

Much like ‘08s most popular game, “Pin The Tail on The Elephant,” this one substitutes a donkey and uses a much, much bigger tail.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Big, Bad Wolf

Players divide into three teams, and then each team builds a house.

The first uses straw, which represents a “no-doc” loan, the second uses wood, which represents a zero-down, adjustable-rate mortgage, and the third uses brick, which represents a 30-year fixed-mortgage with 20% down that will never, ever cause problems.

They then wait for the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and try to blow their houses down.

Obama Limbo

How low can President Obama’s approval rating go? Put on “The Limbo Song” and see.

Republican Hokey Pokey

You put your right foot in, and then instead of putting your left foot in, you put your right foot in even farther unless you want the Tea Baggers to knock you over.

Ghost in The Graveyard Shift

Similar to the classic childhood game, except when word gets out you’re playing, 10,000 people show up.

(To see family games from last year, click here.)

WHEN KIDS ASK UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS

What’s sex? Did you take drugs in college? Why did you vote for George W. Bush* the second time?

Kids ask questions all the time, but there’s a difference between the ones parents can’t answer — “Does God need to shower?” — and the ones (some) parents don’t want to. The solution? Perhaps we can take a cue from politicians, their press secretaries and the so-called “bipartisan” pundits we see on TV and use the same simple strategies for answering without answering.

1. Give a detailed, thoughtful response, just not to the question they ask.

Campaigning politicians are particularly good at this, and the trick is to remember that your answer can be anything, just as long as you can loosely relate it to the original question.

For example, if asked about drugs, begin by saying “I’m glad you asked me about smoking pot in college…,” which makes it sound like you’re going to admit that for most of your sophomore year your best friend was your bong, but then say “…because I think it’s important that we be open and honest with each other, especially now that you’re older and starting to ask hard questions. It seems like only yesterday when the most important thing on your mind was which Power Ranger you wanted to dress up as, or if a certain Pokemon could beat a certain other kind of Pokemon. I have to admit that watching you grow up has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and I look forward to helping you continue on that journey towards adult- hood by providing you with the information and insight I myself have gained over the years…”

If you haven’t lost them by then, just keep talking.

2. Focus on “the larger issue.”

Which can be pretty much anything you want it to be.

3. Ask your kids what they think the answer is.

Also known as the therapist approach.

This works well for things you don’t really know how to explain, but not-so- well for things you’re just not comfortable talking about.

4. Lie.

Time was that people who didn’t tell the truth were called liars and they were looked down upon, but thanks to all the CEO’s, athletes, politicians and ce- lebrities who’ve been caught with their pants down (or off, or filled with drugs, etc.) those days seem to be over.

The best thing about this approach is that if your lie is later exposed, you can claim you just “misspoke.” As in “Yes, I can see how my response to the ques- tion ‘Did I vote for George W. Bush?’ might have been confusing, because when I said ‘No,’ I actually misspoke. In point of fact – and because it’s im- portant to me that the record accurately reflect my views – I didn’t mean ‘No’ in the traditional sense of the word, and I can see now how my incorrect use of that word might have been somewhat misleading, because what I, in fact, meant was that I felt that in light of the specific challenges facing the Presi- dent at that time, it was important for me – and really, all of us as a nation – to remain united and strong, and because of that, I did my duty as an American by going to the polls and casting a ballot so my voice could be heard, and even though that ballot was nominally in the affirmative, it was really more a show of support for the country as a whole than a specific endorsement of any one candidate. I voted because it’s the duty of every citizen to vote, and for that I will never apologize.”

5. Use a spokesperson.

Either a hired professional or your spouse, if he or she has the BS skills required.

This has the added benefit of distancing you from your answer, whatever that might be.

Plus, if you are later confronted about the answer your spokesperson gave on your behalf, you can say you didn’t actually mean whatever it was they said and that you must have been “quoted out of context.”

*Or, increasingly for many, Barack Obama the first time.

MEMO TO SCHOOL PARENTS

TO: PARENTS

FROM: YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT

RE: 2009/2010

Greetings.

As we kick off the new school year, we thought it necessary to take a few moments to discuss some of the challenges we’re facing this year. As many of you know, the economy is still struggling and we have been hit particularly hard by state budget cuts.

Again — wasn’t Obama supposed to have fixed everything by now?

As a result, we have undertaken a series of steps to deal with this unfortunate situation, and ask for your understanding in this difficult time.

The first and most obvious change is a slight reduction in the total number of days school will be in session this year. In addition to usual holidays, we will also be observing Halloween, All Saints’ Day (in a non-denominational way), Dia De Los Muertos, Guy Fawkes Day, the Winter Solstice, The Great American Smoke Out, Pearl Harbor Day, World Religion Day (again, in a non-denominational way), The Day The Music Died Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Good Samaritan Day, The Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools’ and Arbor Day.

We had planned to observe Cinco De Mayo as well, but since the last day of class will now be April 15th, school will already be closed.

Our vacation schedule is undergoing some adjustments as well: Thanksgiving Break will now go through the end of the November, Winter Break will last until the day after Martin Luther Kind Day, and Spring Break will be March.

We will also be closing the school February 16-20 to give all parents a chance to take part in — depending on your situation — either a “Take Your Child to Work Week” or a series of field trips to The Unemployment Office, Health & Human Services, and various shelters and soup-kitchens.

We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but would like to point out that because these additional closure days will be unpaid, all teachers and administrators will be available for babysitting at the standard rate of $9/hr if your child is well-behaved, $25/hr. if he or she is not.

(If you’re not sure which category your kid falls into, ask the principal or one of the teachers to check the secret “trouble-maker” list in the office, or ask your child directly — though if talking to your child is not something you normally do, just go ahead and assume you’ll be paying the higher rate.)

In addition to schedule changes, we have also been forced to make adjustments to what we call “non-core classes,” or what most students refer to as “fun.”

Where we used to offer music class and after-school guitar, violin, flute and coronet lessons, we will now just have an iPod filled with classical music in the library that students can check out.

Art class will continue, thanks to the generous corporate support of Exxon, but will consist solely of students painting pictures of happy animals frolicking among oil derricks and pipelines in a global-warming-free world. And not with pastels or water-colors, either, but only oils.

The biggest change will be to shop class, which will be mandatory for all students, and will focus exclusively on offering them practical, hands-on experience, beginning with re-tarring the gymnasium roof, which was supposed to be paid for with federal stimulus funds, except the governor rejected them.

In light of all this, we are also revising our official “Back to School” supplies list to include the following:

  • Work gloves
  • Hard hat
  • Safety goggles
  • Notarized liability waiver

We have also changed the required quantities of the selected items.

Instead of:

  • 1 roll of tape

Students will now be required to bring:

  • 10 rolls of tape so the old torn-up text books that were pulled from the incinerator just before they were scheduled to be burned can be taped up and used for one more year

Instead of:

  • 2 oz. bottle of Whiteout

Students will now be required to bring:

  • 120 oz. bottle of Whiteout to correct any outdated information in the above-mentioned text books such as references to the 48 states, the U.S.S.R., American economic dominance or The Great Depression — not because this type of information is incorrect, but because we don’t want students reading about it and freaking out that it still might happen again

Given increasing concern about Swine Flu, we also recommend each student bring:

  • Medical-grade hand sanitizer
  • Rubber gloves
  • A hospital mask or filtered respirator

And where in past years we have discouraged students from brining an apple for their teacher out of food-safety concerns, we now not only encourage it, but suggest canned goods, cereal, grains and shelf-stable dairy products as well, as their pay has recently been involuntarily de-raised by 20%.

We appreciate your understanding and ask that any parents who are able should join us next Tuesday for a bake sale, where we’ll be offering a wide variety of donated cookies, cakes and pies all starting at $172.50 each.

Signed,

Your School District

P.S. We are also looking for unpaid volunteers, specifically five parents who just happen to have teaching certificates and can commit to spending five days a week from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm with between 20 and 30 students for the rest of the year.

STRESS

KID: Can I ask you something?
MOM: Sure.
DAD: What is it?
KID: Promise you won’t get mad?
MOM: What makes you think we’d get mad?
KID: Just promise.
DAD: Fine.
MOM: What’s your question?
KID: What’s “stress?”
MOM: Stress?
DAD: It’s a prolonged state of mental and emotional strain.
MOM: It’s like you’re being pulled in two different directions.
DAD: At the exact same time.
MOM: You’re stuck.
DAD: But you can’t get unstuck.
MOM: Until you feel totally and completely overwhelmed.
DAD: And irritable.
MOM: And short-tempered.
DAD: And impatient.
MOM: And you can’t sleep.
DAD: Or focus.
KID: But it’s not contagious, is it?
PARENT: No.
KID: Good — ’cause obviously the only thing you can do about it is drink, and I’m not old enough.

WHEN PRE-SCHOOLERS LEARN TO RHYME

PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit. Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
DAD: What?
MOM: Did he just say what I think he said?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
MOM: Sweetie, you shouldn’t say that.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Say what?
DAD: That word.
MOM: Especially around Grandma – God knows she thinks I’m a bad enough parent as it is.
PRE-SCHOOLER: What word? Hit? Bit? Fit? Shit?
DAD: That’s enough.
MOM: How are we gonna tell him not to say S-H-I-T without saying S-H-I-T?
DAD: Why don’t you make a different rhyme?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Mass. Class. Bass. Ass.
MOM: I have a better idea. Have a seat and let’s talk about this. See, there are some words you can’t say out loud.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why?
MOM: Because they’re bad words.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are they bad? Did they do something to get in trou- ble, like leave their toys in the hallway?
MOM: No, the words didn’t do anything, they’re just bad.
DAD: And if you say them you’ll get in trouble.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are you using your angry voice?
MOM: Daddy’s not using his angry voice. He’s just trying to tell you there are some words that are bad and good boys don’t say them.
PRE-SCHOOLER: But Daddy says them when he drives us to school, and sometimes after he talks to Grandma.
MOM: Look… Let’s just take a break from rhyming and you and I will go play with your fire truck.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Okay – Truck. Duck. Muck. F –
MOM & DAD: NOOOOO!

THE FAMILY ROAD TRIP: THEN VS. NOW

  • Nobody wore seatbelts.
  • Babies, infants and toddlers sat on mom’s lap in the front seat; the older kids argued over who got to lie on a sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon.
  • If you were good, you got to stop at A&W. Otherwise, you ate bologna sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
  • Dad spent most of the trip trying to tune in an AM station that was carrying the game. The signal would come in strong for a while then fade. Sometimes there was no signal at all.
  • If you were too loud, your mom would say you were distracting your father, and then eventually he would just reach back and smack whoever was closest in the head, even if they were the one kid being quiet.
  • This was one of the reasons the middle seat was the worst place to sit.
  • Your station wagon got eight miles to the gallon, but you probably didn’t know that because nobody cared.
  • If you were lucky enough to have air conditioning, you couldn’t use it on long trips because your dad said the car would overheat.
  • If you felt car sick, you were supposed to stick your head out the window.
  • “He who smelt it, dealt it.”
  • Dad would only stop for gas or Stuckey’s, so mom kept a pee jar under the front seat just in case you couldn’t hold it.
  • When you passed a truck, you would raise your fist and gesture for the driver to blow his air horn.
  • If your dad had a CB radio, he would listen to it to find out where the speed traps were. If not, he would try to follow a truck.
  • When another car passed you, a kid in the back seat would sometimes pull down his pants and stick his butt out at you. When this happened, you would say “Looks like the moon’s out early tonight.”
  • Sometimes it was a full-moon, other times it was just a half-moon.
  • After driving for six or eight hours, mom and dad would stop at a bar for a drink. They would leave you in the car in the parking lot to wait. After 45 minutes or so, they would come back out, get in the car and then drive for two or three more hours to a Holiday Inn.
  • You drove because flying was a luxury.
  • You spent 1/3 of your vacation going to your destination, 1/3 at your destination, and 1/3 driving back from the destination.
  • If it was Spring Break, the destination was Florida or Arizona. If it was summer, you would go to a cabin in the mountains or by a lake or on the river.

BBQ Tips

  • Beef + flame = BBQ.
  • Beef + flame + lots of beer = 2nd degree burns and a clip for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
  • A grill is the second best way to cook asparagus. But a blast furnace is the best way because it completely incinerates those terrible little stalks.
  • Don’t wear a “Kiss the cook” apron while you BBQ unless you want a drunken friend or neighbor to try to.
  • If a cup of hot coffee has to carry a warning label, why doesn’t a grill? And since it doesn’t, how long before somebody files a class action lawsuit claiming they were burned because they didn’t realize grills get so hot?
  • Not everything can be grilled — like pasta, for example. And although this may seem obvious, to 4-year-olds and drunken neighbors it’s not.
  • If a dog is man’s best friend, a grill runs a close second.
  • There is a difference between well-done and burnt, but only to people who like their steaks well-done. To everyone else — especially lovers of blood and pink — they are both the same: a waste of a perfectly good cut of meat.
  • If you’re cooking with gas, it’s important to the light the grill immediately after turning on the gas instead of running inside to get another drink first.
  • It’s also important not to use lighter fluid.
  • Anyone who says “everything tastes better when it’s grilled” clearly hasn’t eaten at my neighbors.
  • Men like to BBQ for the same reason they like to see stuff blow up.
  • There should be a mathematical formula for calculating the increase in LDL given a steak’s price per pound so that anyone with high cholesterol can ignore their doctor’s advice in an informed manner.
  • George Stephen, creator of the Weber Grill, should be sainted.
  • If there is ever another Civil War, it will most likely have something to do with Texas, Alabama and Missouri claiming to have the best BBQ in the America, and all the other states either taking sides or taking offense, except for Wisconsin, which will remain neutral because they have fish boils instead of BBQ.

KIDS, TV AND THE S-WORD: TIME TO BRING BACK THE NETWORK CENSOR?

One of the most popular feeds on twitter is “$#*! My Dad Says,” which is a collection of the irreverent, biting, very-funny comments 29-year-old Justin’s 74-year-old dad makes. It has close to 1.4 million followers and is being turned into a sitcom by CBS starring William Shatner.

Maybe.

A national family-advocacy group called the Parents Television Council is threatening an “unrelenting campaign” against the show’s advertisers and CBS’s affiliates if the show airs because they don’t like the idea of a show named “$#*! My Dad Says” being on at 8:30 pm.

(They probably don’t like the idea of the show being on at all, as well — these are the same gate-keepers of morality who don’t recommend the new Shrek movie for kids under seven because it includes “toilet humor, with Shrek’s children belching, farting, pooping their pants and urinating on Shrek,” which, as even the most conservative parents know, is exactly what kids under age seven think is funny1.)

It’s not like CBS is actually going to use the s-word in the title, of course; instead, they plan to substitute the all-purpose curse-word stand-in “$#*!”

Which means the problem is… what exactly?

Because CBS broadcasts its programing over the public airwaves, the FCC insists (more or less, depending on who’s in charge) that it and other broadcasters adhere to a higher standard of decency than, say, every other media outlet in the known universe, because there’s a reasonable (though infinitely small) chance some unsuspecting innocent will accidentally turn on the TV and be offended:

CHILD: I just saw something on TV I don’t understand.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: What was it?
CHILD: It was a promo for a new show called “$#*! My Dad Says.”
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: You saw that on TV!?!?
CHILD: Why? Is that bad?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Of course it’s bad: “$#*!” is a swear word.
CHILD: Really? I’ve never heard of that one before.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Well… technically “$#*” isn’t a swear word, it’s a substitute for a swear word, but it’s still offensive.
CHILD: Which swear word is it a substitute for?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:That’s just it: it could be any one of ‘em — though usually if you think about it you can figure it out.
CHILD: Oh.. now I know.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:Exactly. Now you go wash your mouth out with soap while I write a letter to FCC to complain about the way the liberal media is corrupting our youth.

There’s nothing wrong with parents protecting their kids from what they feel are bad influences, but isn’t it kind of silly to make such a big deal out of something like this? If for no other reason than the fact that there probably isn’t a kid left in this country who doesn’t already know the s-word, the a-word and probably the f-word, too.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know my kids know them because (a) they are sometimes in the car with me when I drive and (b) I think it’s important they have a full and complete grasp of the English language, including words that are inappropriate, which is why I sat them down one night and taught them.2)

Besides, when you think about it, television doesn’t need to be censored because televisions come with a remote control and a power button.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Isn’t that easier than a national boycott?

(That said, remotes can be so confusing and complicated it is possible somebody somewhere can’t turn their TV off, change the channel, lower the volume or remove the annoying on-screen overlay because they haven’t managed to crack the secret combination of input/source buttons even this most basic level of functionality can sometimes require. But that’s the fault of the manufacturer, not the media.)

Rather than being bad, in fact, a situation like “$#*! My Dad Says” is actually good because it’s a potential springboard for a family discussion about the the way personal beliefs shape behavior, and how these truths help us decide appropriate from inappropriate, right from wrong and good from bad.

(Though, admittedly, given the time and effort that kind of thing would involve, a national boycott would probably be easier and less time-consuming.)

So what do concerned parents do about “$#*! My Dad Says”?

Just explain in clear and graphic terms exactly “$#*!” is:  punctuation — because if the fear is that exposed kids will suddenly start slinging obscenities willy nilly, nothing will kill that impulse more quickly than a long, drawn-out lesson in grammar:

PARENT: Have you ever wondered why they use “$,: “#,” “*,” “@” and “!” to denote obscenities instead of, say, a semi-colon?
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: No more, please!
PARENT: Sorry, we can’t stop now: we haven’t discussed your reading assignments from The Elements of Style,  Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and The Mother Tongue yet.
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

And as for the show itself, the only reason to ban, condemn or make it the focus on an “unrelenting campaign” is if it isn’t funny.3

Stay tuned.

__________________________________________

1 If anyone should be offended by this it’s parents, because they know from first-hand experience there’s nothing funny about pee, poop or puke, especially when it’s just been splattered all over you.

2 Given the current political climate, I’d venture that liberal households aren’t the only ones where kids are getting an education in vulgarities, either:

CHILD: Where are you going?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: There’s a Tea Party Rally at the park.
CHILD: What’s a Tea Party?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: The Tea Party movement is a grass-roots effort whereby patriotic Americans join together to save our country from Obama, Pelosi and the rest of those f-ing liberals.
CHILD: GASP! You said “f-ing.”
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I know, but it’s not my fault — liberals make me so mad I just can’t control myself.
CHILD: You still have to wash your mouth out with soap though, right?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I’ll be glad to, too, ’cause everything that’s happening to our country right now leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, soap would be an improvement.

3 If anything should be banned, condemned, or made the focus of an “unrelenting campaign,” it should be ads for erectile dysfunction that air during shows kids probably shouldn’t be watching with their parents but do, because trying to explain that is really, really uncomfortable.

TEENAGER VS. POLITICIAN

Teenager? Or politician? Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell.

  • Both want your money.
  • Both will do anything to get it.
  • Both say you can trust them completely.
  • Neither understands why you won’t.
  • When caught in a lie, both initially deny the accusation, then claim they “misspoke,” and finally try to blame you, saying it’s really your fault because of something you did.
  • Both give out your phone number to fundraisers — with teenagers, it’s to the PTA; with politicians, it’s to the NRA.
  • Both can be lobbied.
  • Both trade favors.
  • Both have ulterior motives.
  • Both need you more than you need them.
  • Neither sees it that way.
  • Neither is very good at keeping a promise, but both always have what they think is a perfectly good excuse for why not.
  • When it comes to priorities, both believe the same thing: party first.
  • Both would do anything to be more popular.
  • No matter how innocent they seem, both are guilty of something that you won’t find out about until later.

OOPS

MY SON: What’s that sign say?
ME: Leinenkugel’s.
MY SON: What’s Leinenkugel’s?
ME: It’s a kind of beer.
MY SON: Is it new?
ME: No, Leinenkugels has been around forever — that’s the beer we used to drink in high school.
MY SON: Wait… you drank beer in high school? I thought it was against the law to drink beer in high school?
ME: Uh… It is.
MY SON: But you just said “that’s the beer we drank in high school.”
ME: Yes, but what I meant was… uh… um… what I meant was that Leinenkugel’s was popular when I was in high school.
MY SON: You mean that’s what other kids drank?
ME: No, because there was absolutely no beer-drinking in high school. By anyone. Ever. What I meant was that at the time I was in high school, Leinenkugel’s was a popular beer that legally-aged adults consumed in limited quantities in a responsible fashion.
MY SON: Oh. What a funny name for a beer.
ME: Yes.

BLAME MOM

Now that Mother’s Day is over, it’s time to get back to blaming mom.

While this might seem harsh, research indicates it may actually be justified: according to experts, “the way mothers talk to their children at a young age influences their social skills later in childhood.”

In other words, children of mothers who explain things – specifically other people’s feelings, beliefs, wants and intentions – are better off socially than those whose mothers dismiss their budding curiosity with “Because,” “Because I said so!” or “Because if you ask me again you’re going to bed for the rest of the day!”

Not that being more socially advanced is the key to a trouble-free childhood – researchers pointed out that kids who are more comfortable and confident expressing their emotions and opinions are much more likely to actually express their emotions and opinions, usually in complex and sophisticated ways, especially when they are contrary to yours.

But while some authority figures might consider this “bad,” “inappropriate” or a reason for detention and/or counseling, researchers downplayed this implication and pointed out that, in a perverse way, these bile-filled diatribes are actually a good sign. And that when a teenager erupts in rage and frustration and screams “You disgust me!” “You’re the worst parent ever!” or “I have complete and utter contempt for everything you stand for,” it’s not proof he or she is possessed, it’s proof mom created exactly the kind of positive, loving, supportive environment her child needed to feel comfortable acting like an ungrateful little shit.

FATHER: Why are you crying?
MOTHER: Because Junior just told me he hates me.
FATHER: What!
MOTHER: No, it’s fine. I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because now I know I’ve raised him right.
FATHER: Huh?
MOTHER: According to experts, his ability to express himself with confidence and authority proves I’m a good mother.
FATHER: Was there something on Oprah I should know about?
MOTHER: Just hold me.

If mom gets the credit, however, she also gets the blame. Which means that when a child is sullen, moody and silent, it’s probably because mom messed up years or even decades ago, and can now add that to the long list of things she feels guilty about but can never make up for, no matter how hard she tries.

MOTHER: My kids are grown, so what am I supposed to do now? Go back in time and try to explain everything to them more thoroughly?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Is that something you can do?
MOTHER: What?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Go back in time?
MOTHER: Of course not.
PSYCHOLOGIST: So that’s the problem: you need to go back in time to save your children but you can’t.
MOTHER: Exactly.
PSYCHOLOGIST: And who do you need to save them from? A terminator?
MOTHER: Huh?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Or maybe aliens?
MOTHER: I can’t talk to you.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Why? Are the aliens monitoring us?

Before us Dads get all superior and start pointing fingers, we should keep in mind that researches were only able to study the relationship between mothers and their offspring because fathers and their offspring didn’t spend enough time together to make enough of an impact, leading many to conclude that if we’re going to blame anyone because Junior is socially inept, we should probably blame dad, too.

Though not until after Father’s Day.

LOAD OF CRAP?

Rumors are swirling around that Pampers new, reformulated Swaddlers and Cruisers lines of diapers are causing rashes and chemical burns. But is this true? Has anyone come forward with conclusive proof that this is actually happening? Has anyone come forward with conclusive proof it’s not?

According to P&G, these allegations are “completely false.”

This response makes sense because we live in an age where misinformation gets passed off as gospel, and large, multi-national corporations like P&G have to act decisively.

On the other hand, we also live in an age where large, multi-national corporations spin just about everything, so who’s to say that 25 years from now, after some kind of “Jane Doe v. Pampers” class action lawsuit has been filed, all appeals have been exhausted and 150,000+ boxes of research, focus-group results and internal memos have been subpoenaed, cataloged and read in search of a smoking gun, P&G won’t pay a nominal fine and admit that while they didn’t lie, intentionally ignore some data, or make a critical error in judgement, they are sorry their long-since-reformulated product might have caused a limited number of cases of diaper rash all those years ago.

What strikes me as really silly is that P&G didn’t stop at denying the rumors were true, but went on to claim they were actually part of some giant conspiracy.

“These [diaper rash] rumors are being perpetuated by a small number of parents, some of whom are unhappy that we replaced our older Cruisers and Swaddlers products while others support competitive products and the use of cloth diapers,” said Pampers Vice President Jodi Allen in a statement.

A cabal of disgruntled former customers, Huggies families and the cloth diaper mafia?

Seriously?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that we are Huggies family and have been for 10 years.1 That said, I don’t personally have anything against Pampers, and can’t honestly remember why we chose Huggies over Pampers in the first place, though I suspect it was because the supply of newborn diapers the hospital gave us ran out at 2:40 am some night, and when I went to the nearest all-night drug store to find more, I grabbed the first box of diapers I could find, which happened to be Huggies.)

While it’s possible that P&G is right, and eventually some hidden camera footage of the secret meeting where the plot was first hatched between the aforementioned groups will emerge, but until then, do they really want to handle the concern parents have for the health and well-being of their offspring this way?

CONCERNED PARENT: Your diapers gave my pride and joy a rash.
FICTIONAL P&G SPOKESPERSON: That’s a lie.
CONCERNED PARENT: Then why was my little angel, whose life I care more about than even my own, crying in pain?
FICTIONAL P&G SPOKESPERSON: We don’t know. But let us ask you a question: Are you now, or have you ever been a member of an anti-Pampers organization?
CONCERNED PARENT: No — but I guarantee that I will be in the future.

However this all shakes out, one thing seems clear clear: just because Pampers is in the diaper business doesn’t mean they can handle a big mess.

1Yes, we should be using green diapers, or at least cloth diapers, but we don’t and to the extent we are ruining the planet, we are sorry.

XBOX VS. DIGITAL THERMOMETER

Just because kids say they’re sick doesn’t mean they actually are sick.

Which means for parents, trying to decide if a child should stay home or go to school can be quite a challenge.

(And even though teachers and principals almost always say keep kids home if there’s any question about how well they feel, that isn’t either practical or fair – for many of us, the fact that our kids learn something at school isn’t nearly as important as the fact that somebody else has to put up with watch them for a few hours each weekday so we can catch our breathes.)

So how do parents figure out if their kids are nauseas because they have the flu or because they have to turn in a 10-page report they completely forget to even start?

While medical electronics can be helpful, they’re not nearly as accurate as consumer electronics: all parents have to do is ask the child who complains about not feeling well “If you stay home sick, what are you going to do all day?”

ACTIVITY % CHANCE SICK
  • nothing

    99%

  • watch TV1, listen to iPod

    80%

  • play Nintendo DS, Gameboy, PSP, games on cell phones, check e-mail2

    50%

  • play XBOX 360, Playstation 3

    25%

  • play Wii, text friends3, play online multi-player game

    5%

  • Do any of the above while electronically linked with a friend (or friends) who just happen to be home “sick,” too

    0%

1This mostly depends on what they watch — a Cartoon Network Marathon would raise suspicions, CNN’s The Situation Room would not.

2Though given the rate at which most kids check their e-mail, actually checking e-mail might be a sign of some kind of fever-induced delusion.

3With the chance they’re sick dropping one percent for every 5 texts they send and/or receive.