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THINGS ONLY PARENTS UNDERSTAND

“Why do my kids always need to tell me things when I’m going to the bathroom?”

- from 140characterparenting.com

WHO'S THE FOOL NOW?

KID: Dad! Dad! You gotta come quick!
DAD: Why? What is it?
KID: Just come with me.
DAD: Wait… is this an April Fools’ prank?
KID: A what?
DAD: An April Fools’ prank — you know, where you play a practical joke on somebody and then when they realized it, you yell “April Fools!”
KID: I’ve never heard of that. Is it new?
DAD: No, April Fools’ Day has been around forever. In fact, it used to be one of my favorite holidays. One time when I was a kid, your uncle and I put black food coloring in the milk, and then when your grandpa poured it on his cereal he screamed. Another time we let the air out of one of his tires and told him he had a flat. And then there was this time we switched the morning newspaper and tricked him into thinking it was still yesterday, so he got dressed and went into work.
KID: Didn’t you get in trouble?
DAD: No way. That’s what’s so great about April Fools’ Day: it’s the one time of year you get to play practical joke on people and not get in trouble.
KID: Not even a little bit?
DAD: Anybody who gets mad at you for an April Fools’ prank is a bad sport.
KID: Cool.
DAD: Hey… where are you going?
KID: To the garage: I need to get a bucket, some duct tape and the hose.
DAD: Why?
KID: If I told you it wouldn’t be an April Fools’ Day prank, would it?

WHEN YOU'RE EXHAUSTED

…the answer is “NO!,” regardless of whether the question was “Are you up- set?” or “Can I go to the potty?”

…you call your kids by the wrong names. Or worse – by the dog’s.

…simple things become infinitely complicated, to the point where microwaving chicken nuggets takes an hour.

…you can’t remember if it’s your day to do the pick-up, and if you think it is, it isn’t, and if you think it isn’t, it is.

…you try to play hide ‘n’ seek but fall asleep in the upstairs hall closet.

…your spouse is “in the mood” and doesn’t understand why you’re not.

…somebody throws up, bleeds on something, or has “an accident.”

…non-parents suggest you just put the kids to bed early and get some sleep, but you’re too tired to tell them what a massively stupid and unrealistic idea that is.

…telemarketers call every few minutes asking you to donate.

…helping your kids with their homework proves so stressful and challenging, it makes you cry, even though it’s just addition.

…you don’t realize you’re yelling at your kids until everybody else in the supermarket aisle starts to stare.

…you push on, because you’re a parent and that’s what parents do.

COFFEE SCRIBBLES

COFFEE SCRIBBLES: THE THREE P'S OF PARENTING

CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MOVIE

A SHORT, INCOMPLETE LIST OF DUMB PLACES TO STAND WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR CHILD TO GET OUT OF SCHOOL

  • Immediately in front of the main doors.
  • Immediately in front of the side doors everybody uses because some idiot is standing immediately in front of the main doors.
  • In the middle of the hallway.
  • In the middle of the hallway with a double-wide baby stroller, dog, or large box of school supplies (even though they are appreciated).
  • In the middle of the hallway with three or four other parents who don’t seem to realize they are blocking the main hallway.
  • At the bottom of the stairs.
  • At the top of the stairs.
  • Anywhere on the stairs, even to the side because everybody still has to go around you.
  • In a semi-circle of other parents directly in front of your child’s classroom door.
  • Just behind the semi-circle of other parents standing directly in front of your child’s classroom door, but in front of some other parent’s child’s classroom door.
  • On the playground next to a bunch of kids playing kickball (especially if your head is down because you’re angrily typing a list of dumb places to stand, because then you don’t see the ball that’s arcing toward your head until it’s too late).

WHAT DOES DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ACTUALLY SAVE?

GET UP! GET UP! WE OVERSLEPT!

For most families, Daylight Saving Time turns what’s typically a frantic, time-crunched mess of morning activity into a domestic version of roller derby, with everyone throwing elbows and accusations as they scramble to get dressed and get out the door:

RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: You said you were gonna change the clock.
IDIOT: I did.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Then why does it still say 7:40 when it’s really 8:40?
IDIOT: I guess I forgot.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Right — you forgot, so I’m late.
IDIOT: You could have changed it, too.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I changed all the other clocks!
IDIOT: That’s my point: why didn’t you remind me to change this one while you were changing all the others?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I did!
IDIOT: Well… I guess I didn’t hear you.

According to wikipedia, Daylight Saving Time, which was standardized across most of the United States in 1967, was primarily intended to reduce energy consumption — the “extra” hour of daylight in the afternoon was supposed to mean fewer lights would have to be on at offices, retailers, restaurants etc.

But when you consider how most people react when the Daylight Saving Time-bomb goes off, it’s more likely that any energy savings will be more than off-set by the increased consumption caused by all the stupid things people do when their sleeping patterns get disrupted.

What’s the net-effect of having to make two extra trips to the grocery store — the first because you accidentally left your list at home, and the second because you accidentally left your kid there?

Or what about having to replace a freezer full of food because just after you opened the door to sneak some ice cream for breakfast, you realized the soccer game you thought was next weekend, wasn’t, but that if you left RIGHT NOW! you might still make it?

Or what about having to run an electric air pump off and on all night because otherwise the slightly-leaky inflatable mattress in the den you’ve been banished to because you said one-too-many mean things to your spouse will deflate?

IDIOT: If you reminded me to change the clock, then why didn’t I change it?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Because you’re an idiot!
IDIOT: Me? If anyone’s an idiot, you are — and not just because of the clock.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Oh, really?
IDIOT: Yes, really. Do you have any idea how many stupid things you do around here on a daily basis?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: No, but why don’t you tell me.

Net energy savings: probably zero

And what happens when you factor in the cost of dealing with all that stress, ill-will and negativity? Therapists — whether for marriage or anger-management — don’t make house calls (and if they do, they don’t make them on bikes).

There are bars for sulking/hiding/venting, of course, but they generally don’t have windows, meaning light (but not illumination) comes only from energy-sucking neon signs.

The gym? Maybe in the old days when free weights and stationary bikes were the norm, but now it seems like every piece of exercise equipment has to be plugged in or it won’t work.

Net energy savings: definitely zero

All of which raises the question: if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything, what’s the point?

Perhaps the one good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that between all the extra caffeine it takes to get through the day and the fact that no matter how late the clock says it is, it’s impossible to sleep, everyone affected by it can spend half the night staring at the ceiling trying to figure that out.

ANOTHER REASON TO HATE H1N1

PARENT: C’mon.
KID: Where are we going?
PARENT: I’ll tell you when we get there.
KID: Uh-oh – you’re taking me to the doctor, aren’t you?
PARENT: Why do you say that?
KID: Because that’s what you always say when you take me to the doctor.
PARENT: I do?
KID: Either that or the dentist.
PARENT: It’s not the dentist.
KID: I knew it! But I’m not even sick!
PARENT: I know, but it’ll be over before you know it. And then we’ll go for cupcakes.
KID: CUPCAKES!
PARENT: I thought you liked cupcakes?
KID: I do like cupcakes, but cupcakes after the doctor mean I have to get a shot.
PARENT: Not always.
KID: Yes always.
PARENT: No, sometimes we go for cupcakes even when you don’t have to get a shot.
KID: So does that mean I don’t have to get a shot?
PARENT: Unfortunately, no – it turns out the H1N1 vaccine you got last year takes two shots.
KID: Two shots!
PARENT: Two shots.
KID: That’s so unfair.
PARENT: I know. But I tell you what – after cupcakes, I’ll let you get one small toy at the toy store.
KID: NOOOOOOOOOOO!
PARENT: What’s wrong with getting a toy!?!?!?!
KID: Getting a toy after the doctor means they’re gonna use a big, huge needle. AHHHHHHHHHHH!

HOW TO EXPLAIN THE ECONOMIC CRISIS TO YOUR KIDS

KID: Are you sick?
PARENT: No.
KID: Then why do you look like you’re gonna throw-up?
PARENT: The President is talking about the economic crisis again.
KID: What’s an economic crisis?
PARENT: Well… Basically, it’s when everybody in the country suddenly realizes they’re fucked.
KID: GASP! You said a bad word.
PARENT: I’m sorry.
KID: You’re not supposed to say bad words.
PARENT: You’re right. Even with a situation as bad as this, I shouldn’t swear.
KID: Why is the situation so bad, anyway?
PARENT: The cost of living is going up. Real wages are going down. People’s houses are worth less than they owe on them. Nobody can get credit any more. We can’t seem to find a way to use less energy. And now the experts are saying the very foundation upon which our entire economy is based is cracked at best, and may actually be broken beyond repair.
KID: Wow. We are fucked.
PARENT: Now you said a bad word.
KID: Sorry. Do I have to wash my mouth out with soap now?
PARENT: No, but only because we can’t afford any.

PEE, POOP OR PUKE? PICK ONE.

As every parent knows, that’s actually a trick question because when it comes to being peed on, pooped on or puked on, you don’t have a choice: it’s not a question of if it will happen or even when it will happen – though probably in the middle of the night, right after you’ve put on your last clean shirt, or just as you’re rushing off to an important meeting that you’re already 20 minutes late for, etc. – but how often it will happen.

(Not to mention whether or not all three will happen at the same time, which is the parenting equivalent of hitting the “Trifecta,” even though – sadly – it isn’t nearly as rare.)

While the idea of being splattered in your own child’s pee, poop or puke makes non-parents squirm (and probably resolve to remain non-parents), most of us eventually come to accept it – even welcome it – because no matter how disgusting that is, it’s not nearly as gross as being splattered with some other kid’s pee, poop or puke – something that’s also not a question of if, or when, but how often.

From “Why Chicken Nuggets Are Better Than Prozac,” page. 83

MY BARISTA, MY FRIEND?

On most days, even when I get up too early, I’m already running late. So that by the time I get showered, get dressed, get the kids ready, get in the car, get the kids to school and get to Starbucks, I have used up what little energy I began the day with and what I really want is my venti extra-shot Americano.

Now.

IIn the old days, this was easy because vain, arrogant, intimidating baristas would glare so angrily at anyone who ordered wrong – a “vanilla sugar-free grande triple latte” instead of a “triple grande sugar-free vanilla latte,” for example – the poor soul would have no choice but to take his or her drink and slink away in shame, silently vowing to avoid such humiliation tomorrow by going somewhere else and leaving Starbucks to the caffeine addicts.

Baristaphobia = shorter lines.

But now that McDonald’s has McLattes, Dunkin’ Donuts touts the dunkin’ as much as the donuts, and break rooms everywhere include at least one vending machine that can automatically make any one of a dozen coffee-drinks, Starbucks seems to have realized they have to do more than just serve coffee if they want to make money, they have to serve customers.

Who can blame them? It worked for Burger King back in the ‘70s, so why not?

(Except instead of “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us,” it might be:
“Make it no foam
or sugar free
whatever you want
we’ll serve with glee
our growth has slowed
so we can’t be
snobs anymore.”)

Obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being nice, but the result of this customer-friendly attitude is that all the people who used to stay away from Starbucks because they were afraid of being yelled at are now standing in line right in front of me, asking what the difference between a “misto” and a “macchiato” is or trying to decide if they’d like to try a breakfast sandwich.

Worse, the baristas are not just being polite to them, they’re being chatty, too. Which means that in addition to wanting to know exactly how they can make the customer’s drink exactly the way they’d like it made, they want to know how their day is, what kind of plans they have, how their family is, etc.

And when I finally get to the front of the line, they want to know that about me, too.

Except at 7:43 in the morning, after having been up all night with a vomiting toddler and a dog who wants me to get up every couple of hours and go to the window to look at the neighbor’s cat, I don’t want to be friendly to anyone – not my kids, not my spouse, not my neighbors and certainly not my barista.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to respond to the question “How’s your day going so far?” by saying “It would be a lot better if I didn’t have to wait in line for 25 minutes to get a cup of coffee,” I don’t.

Because whether it’s crack cocaine or caffeine, addicts like me will do anything to get their fix – even smile and pretend to be friendly.

(And while there are still any number of alternatives to Starbucks, places where the lines are short and somber, and the baristas still act like divas, they’re a few blocks out of the way, and the only thing worse than waiting a few extra minutes in line is waiting a few extra minutes in traffic.)

FAT CHANCE

WIFE: Where you going?
HUSBAND: I thought I’d run out and get some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
WIFE: What about our post-holiday diet?
HUSBAND: We finished it.
WIFE: Yeah — yesterday.
HUSBAND: Which means today I can finally eat what I want to.

DON’T MANAGE YOUR ANGER, EXPLOIT IT

When characters in cartoons get angry, smoke comes out of their ears, their heads explode or they undergo instantaneous genetic mutations that turn them into aliens, gigantic, green-skinned freaks, uncontrollable ninja-war- riors, ghost-demons, magical giants, etc.

While young kids believe this kind of thing is possible in real life, older kids eventually learn it’s not.

Or is it?

As bad as it can be for a parent to have a massive, screaming, meltdown – something that happens to everyone eventually, thanks to too little sleep, too much caffeine and a child with bad timing – allowing your offspring to glimpse “the monster inside you” can ultimately be good, because if you play it right they’ll wonder if maybe, just maybe, you might turn into some kind of mutant humanoid if they really, really piss you off.

All you have to do – and this is probably harder than it seems – is let your rage build almost to the breaking-point but then suddenly stop, turn, and walk briskly to the kitchen, hall closet, laundry room, etc. and grab the unlabelled bottle of vodka you keep hidden in there “just in case.” Pour yourself a shot, and then just before you knock it back, check to make sure your kids are close enough to “accidentally” overhear you as you say something like “That was close. Too close. I was able to stop the transformation this time, thanks to the antidote, but if something like that happens again, who knows. When the kids are older I’ll tell them the truth, but for now, it’s got to be my secret.”

If you’re lucky, the next time they decide to have an indoor water fight or shave the dog, they’ll maybe – just maybe – think twice.

(Although probably not.)

SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 7

WIFE: Never mind.
HUSBAND: What?
WIFE: Forget it. It’s not important.
HUSBAND: What’s not important?
WIFE: Nothing.
HUSBAND: Now you’re confusing me: how can I forget about the “nothing” that’s not important if I don’t know what it is?
WIFE: I don’t want to talk about it.
HUSBAND: Then why did you bring it up?
WIFE: Because right after I did I saw our entire argument play out in my head.
HUSBAND: And?
WIFE: You won.
HUSBAND: YES!
WIFE: And then you reacted the same way you’re reacting now: like you couldn’t care less what the argument was all about as long as you won.

THINGS NOT WORTH SWEARING AT

  • Rain.
  • Zippers.
  • Things that won’t fit in suitcases.
  • Politicians
  • Scotch tape.
  • The person in front of you at Starbucks who can’t decide between a mocha frappuccino and a cinnamon dolce latte.
  • A computer – because even though it seems like it knows when you’re having a bad day and chooses that exact moment to crash, it’s just a glorified toaster. (Why doesn’t somebody develop some kind of curse-recognition software to replace online help? – i.e. the way you say “Damn it!” determines what kind of help you get.)
  • Traffic.
  • Stop lights.
  • Delivery vehicles that double-park.
  • Tire jacks.
  • Bus drivers – aside from the fact that they’re encased in a sound-proof – and seemingly sight-proof – cocoon, they don’t care.
  • Maps.
  • Speed bumps.
  • Street signs.
  • Stairs (both the invisible one at the top of the landing and the non-existent one at the bottom).
  • Pants that won’t button.
  • Toys that get left in the driveway.
  • Rakes.
  • Pets (especially hamsters, who are too stupid to understand, dogs, who get their feelings hurt and cats, who get revenge).
  • TV remotes.
  • Automated telephone helplines – the only thing that happens is you get stuck in a loop where you say “Screw you!” and the computer says “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you repeat that please?” and no matter how angry you are you can’t outlast the computer, so you’re the only one who suffers.
  • God (even if you sometimes feel justified).
  • People on TV.
  • Coaches, refs and players on Monday Night Football.
  • Little League Umpires.
  • The cable guy.
  • Anyone who messes up your order at the drive-thru.
  • Anyone in customer service.
  • Anyone with a name tag that says “Asst. Manager.”
  • Tour guides.
  • A fetus that won’t stop kicking in the middle of the night.
  • A spouse that won’t stop kicking in the middle of the night.
  • The Post Office.
  • The DMV.
  • Pre-schoolers – because if they don’t cry, they gasp and say “You said a bad word!” and then repeat it the next day at school.
  • Teachers – imagine having to tell your kid he or she has to repeat 3rd grade because the parent-teacher conference you had last week got really, really ugly?
  • The other cable guy who comes to fix the problem the first cable guy couldn’t fix
  • Anything you stub your toe on.
  • Congress – because unless you’re making a major campaign contribution or have a radio show that reaches 20 million people they can’t hear you.
  • Your boss.
  • Your spouse’s boss – because if you yell at your boss and get fired, you have only yourself to blame, but if you yell at your spouse’s boss and he or she gets fired, you not only have yourself to blame but your spouse has you to blame, too, and if you think it took a long time to be forgiven for, say, denting the car, imagine how long you’ll suffer for this!
  • Your parents.
  • Your irons, putter and sand wedge. (But not, oddly enough, your woods because swearing at them does actually seem to help.)
  • Bills.
  • Yourself.
  • Fate/providence/karma.
  • Life.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good when you do.

STAYING NEUTRAL

It seems like there are two kinds of divorces: the ones where the split is amicable, or at least free from a restraining order, and the ones you get caught in the middle of – where the pain, hatred, contempt, frustration, mistrust and loathing go on long after the marriage ends.

Staying neutral can be a challenge for even the most savvy and diplomatic, but usually – eventually – you’re sucked in:

BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Can you believe my ex-wife! She’s such a selfish, spoiled, careless, mean, stupid, cow. Don’t you think?
YOU: Uh… I couldn’t say.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Trust me, she is. I’m sure you’ve seen her act that way. You can admit it, she’s a heartless, bossy, mean-spirited, nitpicking, ego-centric, man-hating shrew.
YOU: I.. uh… I guess I haven’t really seen that side of her, but.. uh… I’m sure you know here better than I do.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: ‘course I know her: I was married to her. And trust me: she’s a first class bitc-
YOU: Hey! Will you look at the time? I really have to go.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: What’s your problem? You’re on her side, aren’t you?
YOU: I’m not on anyone’s side.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: My God, she’s turned you against me, too.
YOU: I barely even know her.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Yeah, right – you think she’s a saint and I’m an abusive, controlling, foul-mouthed jerk.
YOU: Uh…
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: That’s the exactly the same thing she’s done to our friends, that clueless therapist she dragged us to go see, her lawyer, the neighbors, even my kids. Well you know what? Screw you.

As ugly as these conversations can be, at least they don’t require you to anything more than walk away. What can be worse is when you’re pressed into service:

BITTER EX-WIFE: Say, I’ve been meaning to ask you: you see my ex-husband when he picks up the kids, right?
YOU: Yeah, at the playground after school.
BITTER EX-WIFE:: Interesting.
YOU: Uh-oh.
BITTER EX-WIFE:: I say “interesting” because I’m hearing some things that are just a little troubling.
YOU: I’m sorry to hear that.
BITTER EX-WIFE: Not troubling because I still secretly want him back, or blame him for ruining my life and am looking for ways to exact revenge, but because I’m concerned the children might be exposed to something inappropriate.
YOU: Uh…
BITTER EX-WIFE: Have you ever seen him with a girl that’s much too young for him?
YOU: I can’t say.
BITTER EX-WIFE: If you did, would you let me know?
YOU: I don’t think it would be right for me to spy on your ex-husband.
BITTER EX-WIFE: Oh, heaven’s no – I’m not asking you to spy: just keep on eye on him and his whore for me. And if you can get video or a picture, that would be even better.

Fortunately, there is one benefit to being caught in the middle of this kind of animosity: it reminds you to treat your own spouse with a little more kindness and compassion, if for no other reason the last thing you want is to put your friends, neighbors or even acquaintances in the position of being the “you” in any of the exchanges above.

THE SCALE DOESN’T LIE, BUT IT SHOULD DO A BETTER JOB EXPLAINING ITSELF

ME: So… how much did I gain?
MY SCALE: You don’t want to know.
ME: C’mon, it can’t be that bad.
MY SCALE: Not if you’re sumo wrestler.
ME: What?!?!?
MY SCALE: Just think of yourself as being “fat but fit.”
ME: I think I’m gonna cry.
MY SCALE: Well… each ounce of tears weigh .0652 pounds, so that’s one way to lose weight.
ME: You make it sound like I’m obese.
MY SCALE: See that mirror?
ME: You mean the one I covered with a towel so I wouldn’t have to look at myself?
MY SCALE: If that’s not a cry for help, what is?
ME: You try losing weight at my age!
MY SCALE: Your age has nothing to do with it — besides the fact that whenever you think about it you get depressed and eat a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s.
ME: I do not.
MY SCALE: You think I’m lying?
ME: It wouldn’t be the first time.
MY SCALE: Please… Scales don’t lie.
ME: How else can you explain my weight?
MY SCALE: Uh… maybe the fact that you’ve been taking in more calories than you burn?
ME: I know for a fact that’s not true. Just look at what I eat? Fruit. Vegetables. Chicken. Fish. Whole grains.
MY SCALE: Plus ice cream and cookies when nobody is looking, half of whatever food you make for your kids but they don’t finish, a piece of cheese before bedtime, wine…
ME: Wine is good for you.
MY SCALE: A glass is good, not a bottle.
ME: Sometimes I just need something to help me relax at night.
MY SCALE: Or on weekends.
ME: That only happens every once in a while. And that doesn’t…
MY SCALE: You were gonna say “count,” weren’t you?
ME: No.
MY SCALE: I’m not judging. I get it. Sometimes you just need a double- chocolate brownie before you go to bed… Or a mocha frappuccino… Or some of that spinach dip from Whole Foods. My point is that all those calories count, even if you don’t count them.
ME: Says you.
MY SCALE: Do you really think that every time you step on the scale I’m secretly adding 20 pounds?
ME: No, not 20 pounds… more like 30 pounds.
MY SCALE: You’re hopeless.
ME: And you’re a liar. So you know what I’m going to do?
MY SCALE: Let me guess: stick me back in the closet until I learn to be more accurate.
ME: Exactly.
MY SCALE: That’s what you said last month.
ME: Right, and clearly you haven’t learned your lesson — because last month you were only off by 20 pounds.

RULES FOR FUTURE HOUSEGUESTS

  1. Don’t make yourself at home.
  2. If you stay longer than invited, you will not be asked to come back.
  3. Ever.
  4. There is no maid.
  5. Seriously — NO MAID, which means whichever host you are related to, or knew first, will end up cleaning up after you (though probably not until after a long, ugly argument).
  6. If you bring a pet, make sure your pet is housebroken.
  7. On second thought, no pets.
  8. When we say “if you need anything, just ask,” we don’t expect you to take us up on it.
  9. But if you really do need something, we’d prefer if you would let us find it for you rather than snooping looking for it in our drawers, closets, cabinets, etc. yourself.
  10. Pottery Barn rules apply: you break it, you buy it.
  11. This rule applies to kids, too.
  12. If you forget your toothbrush, razor, underwear or prescription anti-depressants, please don’t borrow ours.
  13. Just because you walk around naked at home doesn’t mean you should do that here, if for no other reason than seeing you naked will forever change our impression of you, and probably not for the better.
  14. Please refrain from discussing politics, religion or anything else unless you are certain your views are in line with ours, or that we like to argue.
  15. You know that ugly piece of art we have on the wall in the living room? We don’t think it’s ugly.
  16. On a related note, you know the voice you use when you don’t want anyone to hear you? We can still hear you.
  17. Please keep in mind that we invited you, not members of your extended family.
  18. Flush.
  19. And knock.
  20. If you don’t think you can abide by these rules, stay home.
  21. Unless you are family.
  22. And then only come during the holidays, when we are more likely to be forgiving.
  23. And which only come once a year.

REALISTIC NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

  • To go to the gym three days a week for two weeks, then once a week for the next three to five weeks, then three time a week for a week or two, then twice a week for one week before stopping entirely and resolving to resolve to go to the gym more next year.
  • To go on a diet until something happens to necessitate a massive intake of comfort food that will lead to the slow, steady return of the bad eating habits that become entrenched in 2009.
  • To talk about going on vacation someplace new and different, but then go to the same place as last year and the year before and the year before that because it’s easy and cheap and who needs the stress and uncertainty of a big trip anyway?
  • To buy a lot of books about getting organized, but never have time to read them, let alone utilize any of their tips and suggestions.
  • To spend more quality time with the kids, but only when its convenient and/or they’re not being needy, loud, destructive, insolent or pouty, which is probably never.
  • To be greener, but only in ways that don’t involve hardship, self-sacrifice or extra work because, let’s face it, the environment is important but there’s just too much going on right now.
  • To try to cope with the stress of modern life in a productive way, but eventually give up and just over-eat, drink an extra glass of wine or two each night, and take a variety of prescription medications.
  • To save more and spend less, unless there’s a really great sale.
  • To be anxious about the economy, health and well-being, work, family, marriage, saving for college and the future, but hopefully not all at once unless there’s a bottle of wine handy.
  • To come home after a difficult day at work and yell at the kids for no apparent reason, but then feel more guilty about it than normal.
  • To tell the kids again and again to “be careful” and then not be completely surprised when they aren’t and must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches and/or a cast.
  • To worry less about what other people think, unless those other people are the neighbors, selected co-workers or somebody we want to impress.
  • To find meaning and purpose in life, but then forget what it is thanks to chronic sleep deprivation, the never-ending demands of work and our household’s perpetual state of chaos.
  • To maintain a positive mental state, even though it still looks like we’re all screwed.

PAGING DR. GOOGLE

Google is great for things like finding answers to obscure homework questions and getting directions to distant soccer fields, but it’s terrible for checking health symptoms.

Search: bloody nose
See 1 to 10 of about 1,234,784, 987 results for “horrible wasting diseases that parents often overlook because they think ‘Hey, it’s just a bloody nose.’.”

You’d think something that’s sophisticated enough to be able to figure out what you really want to search for even when you type in the wrong word or phrase would be smart enough to filter out (or at least de-prioritize) the rare, deadly, one-in-a-million afflictions that always seem to pop up when you search for something minor.

Search: headache
See 1 to 10 of about 1,831,187,321 results for “things you shouldn’t worry about at all, not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever.”

But no.

Instead, you’re faced with page after page of terrifying results.

(Exactly how many pages is unknown, since what you read on the first page alone is usually enough to make even the most anxiety-proof parent pass out from a panic attack.)

All of which would be fine – even amusing – if a visit to the doctor’s office or emergency room offered relief.

But it doesn’t because even if you catch your M.D. muffling a scoff when you admit you googled the symptoms and freaked out when you read the results, he or she will run a bunch of test anyway, “just to be sure.”

Why?

Because doctors use Google, too.

Search: malpractice
See 1 to 10 of about 4,876,876,987,382,876 results for “multi-million dollar settlements against doctors who fail to spot rare, deadly, one-in-a-million diseases in anxious patients.”

LITTLE IRRITATIONS: THE PAPER CUTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE

  • Door dings.
  • Trash bins that are supposed to be animal-proof but aren’t.
  • Dropped calls.
  • FEDEX drivers who double-park.
  • Stores that post the wrong hours online.
  • Meter maids.
  • Parents who bring their kids to daycare when they’re sick.
  • Traffic.
  • Drivers who make phone calls instead of turning.
  • Construction delays.
  • Drivers who don’t wait their turn at 4-way stops.
  • Tele-marketers who claim they don’t have to heed the “Do Not Call” registry because you’re a customer of their subsidiaries’ off-shore cousin’s shell company.
  • SUVs parked in compact spaces.
  • Chatty baristas who don’t seem to care/realize there are now 37 people in line.
  • The drive-thru (especially McDonald’s).
  • Golf.
  • People who don’t pick up after their pets.
  • News promos that use the words “deadly,” “outbreak,” and “protect yourself” when all they’re actually talking about is the flu.
  • Parents who call before 8:30 am.
  • Activities that are canceled or postponed by e-mail a few hours before they’re supposed to start.
  • Radio stations that have 25 minutes of commercials every hour.
  • Things at the supermarket that are still on the shelves days, weeks or months after their expiration date.
  • Cable-company DVRs.
  • Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi.
  • Universal remotes.
  • Spellcheck.
  • When your kids hide your keys.
  • Saran Wrap.

If Eskimos have a thousand words for snow, shouldn’t we have a thousand words for life’s little irritations?

For most of us, a day doesn’t go by that God, the universe, fate, karma, quantum physics or all-of-the-above don’t needle our emotional well-being, usually when we’re running late, just had an argument with our spouse or suddenly realized we forgot to get a babysitter for tomorrow night so we could go to dinner and a movie and finally get a break from all this crap.

It doesn’t help that these cosmic paper cuts never seem to be isolated one- offs, either, but instead come in sets, like celebrity deaths and unsolicited parenting suggestions from opinionated strangers – it’s not just the long line at Starbucks, it’s having them mess up your order twice and then spilling your extra-hot, half-caf hazelnut mocha down the front of your shirt as you pull out of the parking lot.

The impact of these little irritations – and they are little, even if we can’t figure out how not to sweat them – increases exponentially as the day progresses, to the point where we find ourselves cursing some 82-year-old women with a walker because she’s not crossing the street fast enough, or threatening to ground our kids for the rest of their natural lives if they EVER give the dog another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again, or contemplating divorce because our spouse forgot (again) to fill up the car when it got close to empty, leaving us in the position of having to coast down the hill to the Shell.

Psychologists say the only reason any of this stuff annoys us the way it does is because it reminds us that we’re not really in control (no matter how thoroughly we’ve managed to convince ourselves otherwise) and that ultimately mastering the moment isn’t nearly as important as just being in it, regardless of whether that moment is good, bad, satisfying, awful, rewarding, stressful, happy, sad, amusing, aggravating, etc.

But as nice as that sounds (in a zen-like, higher-consciousness kind of way), who has the time to learn how to do that? Or the energy? Or the patience?

If learning to live in the moment can’t be accomplished in one 30-minute session two times a week, in the car on the drive home from work, or during one of those rare moments when every kid in the house is quietly pre-occupied, then it just becomes one more thing we don’t have time to squeeze in but try to do anyway – or would try to do if we didn’t have to wait for the knucklehead in the car ahead of us to get off the phone and go.

Note: It’s easy to complain about life’s little irritations, but it’s also important to point out that we could probably eliminate entire categories of irritation if we really, really wanted to – just moving to a remote cabin in Montana and living off the land, for example, would instantly rid us of driving-, shopping-, neighbor-, school- and work-related annoyances (though it would probably more than make up for that by adding starvation-, bear attack-, hypothermia-, and isolation-related irritations, so maybe that’s not such a good trade-off. Plus, let’s not forget that Unabomber Ted Kaczynski moved to a remote cabin in Montana so he could get away from it all and look what happened to him).

HOW TO NOT OVEREAT ON THANKSGIVING

With a single Thanksgiving meal packing a full day-and-half’s worth of calories, it’s easy to see why so many of us find ourselves slumped on the sofa in front of the TV after everyone has gone home, groaning, bloated, unable to move and wondering why we feel so bad.

Fortunately, there is a simple way to prevent this kind of excess on Thanksgiving: go vegan.

While many can’t imagine Thanksgiving without turkey, gravy and sausage-based stuffing, that’s the whole point: if you fill your table with stuff you don’t like and normally wouldn’t ever eat, you can’t possibly eat too much.

True, nut roll, tempeh and all-the-vegetables-you-can-eat might not sound very appealing to some, but keep in mind that you can still booze it up.

(And while that, too, may leave you slumped on the sofa in front of the TV after everyone has gone home, you won’t be groaning, bloated, unable to move and wondering why you feel so bad, you’ll just be passed out).

Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.

Editor’s note: What if you’re already vegan? Do just the opposite: go un-vegan. Not only will the shock of all that animal flesh make you instantly sick — and therefore unable to overeat — throwing up at the table will also help your friends and family because the sight, sound and smell of your vomit will likely cause them to vomit, too, and then nobody will be able to eat, let alone overeat.

CAMERA SHY AT THE DMV

Everybody makes fun of Driver’s License photographs, but how good could anyone look after spending three hours and 19 minutes at a place like the DMV?

The walls are painted a government-approved shade of beige that seems to have been chosen for its ability to induce nausea. God only knows what kind of deadly germs and pathogens are breeding freely on the furniture (which looks like it was bought on the cheap at a Nixon Administration yard sale and then left in a basement storage room for three decades). And if you think tinnitus is irritating, it’s a lullaby compared to the hum given off by row after row of cheap fluorescent lights.

Still, that would all be tolerable if you could just take a number and wait by yourself.

But you can’t.

If you’ve ever wondered what the people on “Cops” do when they’re not getting arrested, or what somebody who considers personal hygiene to be optional looks like, all you have to do is turn to either side of you and say “hello.”

Clearly, somebody has been peeing in the gene pool.

How else can you explain the toothless, tattooed biker chick/meth addict taking the motorcycle test who doesn’t see the problem with asking the proctor if he can give her a hint? Or the old lady renewing her license who insists she doesn’t need a vision test, but then can’t even find the line she’s supposed to stand behind to take it? Or the guy at the center of a booze-cloud you can smell from 20 feet away who gets upset because they won’t let him re-take his driver’s test right now?

As bad as it is to be near people like this, however, it’s a whole lot worse when you realize you’re no different than people like this – because when you get up to the window and the clerk says you need two additional pieces of ID, not one like you thought, you protest…

And say nobody told you…

And say you’ve been waiting all morning already…

And say that they should make an exception…

And say the rules are stupid…

And say they are stupid for enforcing them…

And say just about every idiotic thing you can think of, until you finally realize you are saying every idiotic thing you can think of.

At which point you go home, get another ID, and wait in line all over again.

And then they take your picture.

Click.

SIMPLE THINGS TODDLERS MAKE DIFFICULT

  • Showering.
  • Getting dressed in the morning.
  • Punctuality.
  • Watching a TV show all the way through in one sitting.
  • Airport security checkpoints.
  • Walking through the house without tripping over a toy (or a toddler).
  • Talking on the phone.
  • Going to the toilet by yourself.
  • Peace and quiet.
  • Driving anywhere more than 15 minutes away.
  • Scheduling.
  • Maintaining order.
  • Arguing with your spouse. (Especially because swear words tend to get re- peated over and over by the little ears that hear them.)
  • Dinner (because they want to help make it and/or because they hate every- thing you suggest).
  • Administering oral medications.
  • Keeping your shoes in order on the floor of your walk-in closet.
  • Logic and reason.
  • Staying in bed all day when you’re sick.
  • Keeping food off your clothes.
  • Keeping make-up in the top drawer of the vanity.
  • Vacuuming.
  • Sex. (Which you’re probably too tired to want, anyway.)
  • Talking to other adults like they’re adults.
  • Working from home.
  • Writing anything longer than a list.

5 SIGNS YOUR PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE WON'T GO WELL

1.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents. You must be… Hey, you don’t look so good!
TEACHER: I just need to sit down.
PARENTS: Are you alright? Should we call the school nurse or something?
TEACHER: No, I just get nauseous whenever I hear your child’s name.

2.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Who?
PARENTS: X?!?!?!
TEACHER: Are you sure he’s in my class?
PARENTS: He sits right here, right in front of you.
TEACHER: I guess he hasn’t made much of an impression on me, but why don’t you have a seat anyway.

3.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Glad you could make it. Now, if you’ll just follow me, the principal wants to talk with you as well.

4.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Nice to meet you.
PARENTS: And this is our lawyer, Gloria Allred.

5.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X‘s parents.
TEACHER: Yes, he talks about you a lot.
PARENTS: That’s good.
TEACHER: …with the school psychologist.
PARENTS: Oh.