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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.

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.

POP CULTURE/CELEBRITY DISHES 2010

Celebrity Dish Comments
Jay Leno Humble Pie cook in one kitchen, move to another, then move back to the first kitchen as if nothing happened
Conan O’Brien Cake not just to have, but eat, too
The Democrats Crow
Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie Anything as long as it’s served “family style”
Sarah Palin Half-baked Alaska if it burns, just blame the liberal media
Lindsay Lohan Fruit Cake just bake well
Bethenny Frankel & Jill Zarin Sour Grapes
Kim Kardashin Twinkie
Snooki Deep-fried Twinkie
David Hasselhoff Wendy’s Cheeseburger it may be three years old, but it’s still satisfying
Jesse James Cherry Pie with pretty much anything on the side
Barack Obama Pound Cake i.e. “just desserts”
Levi Johnston Leftovers
Twilight Jello which isn’t to say it’s not satisfying for those who like jello
The Tea Party White Bread
Justin Bieber Bubble Gum Ice Cream
Katy Perry Vanilla Tart
Lady Gaga it doesn’t matter because it’s all about the presentation
Wall Street Pigs in a blanket courtesy of the Fed’s $3.3 trillion in loans
Main Street Toast

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.

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.

DO NOT CALL

7:21 am.
Awakened by phone.
Son’s friend’s mother calling to ask about afternoon playdate despite being told many times before do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency, especially on a Saturday because that’s the only day I ever get to sleep in.
Tell her to call back after 8:30 am.
Irritated.
Climb back in bed.

7:37 am.
Still awake.
Reluctantly accept fact that chance to sleep-in ruined.
Even more irritated.

7:43 am.
Think of other ways to get the do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency point across because, clearly, plain English is not working.
Also think a playdate is not an emergency, and sure as Hell isn’t going to happen today.

7:46 am.
Realize this is harsh/unfairly punishes kids for mother’s behavior.

7:54 am.
Fantasize about retaliation/payback.
Wonder if I could live with myself if I called every night for a week at 12:01 to remind her do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency.

7:56 am.
Accept fact that I could not.

8:01 am.
Try to think of other alternatives.

8:02 am.
Have one idea.

8:08 am.
Post this.

8:09 am.
Go out for extra-large coffee.
Hear phone ring just as door is closing.
Know instantly who it is.

8:10 am.
Think disconnecting phone line may be only option.

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.

BABIES IN BARS

Is there anything worse than bringing a baby to a bar?

Judging by all the anger that’s being vented online, this seems to be among the most grievous sins any parent can commit.

But why?

To begin with, it’s more than likely the lonely, bitter, child-hating singles who seem to be so put out by this are in the minority, and that the majority of bar-patrons either don’t care, or accept the fact that there’s really no getting around the situation because babies need to be with their parents and their parents need to relax and have a few drinks before they completely lose their minds.

(Though I might be more than a little biased about that.)

On the other hand, if the baby-haters are in the majority, then… well… at least they’re in a bar where they can just order another round to numb their senses, right?

But forget that for the moment.

It seems like the primary objection to babies in bars is that they do a lot of things that ruin it for everyone else.

Maybe that’s true, but is a suckling newborn any more off-putting or “obscene” than two semi-intoxicated singles groping each other in a back corner of the bar that’s not nearly as dim as they think it is?

If spit-up is the problem, it’s important to keep in mind that when babies do that — whether in the car, or in a bar, or in a country called Myanmar  (sorry, too much Dr. Seuss) — they usually do it on themselves, their mom or their mom’s childless, single friend who suggested they meet for a drink in the first place.

The same can’t be said for the just-turned-21 winner of the “Let’s see how many shots of Jack Daniels I can do” contest.

(Though he, too, may spit up on mom’s single, childless friend:

JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: You ever watch “Cougar Town?”
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: I do, actually.
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: Me, too. I… I…
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: You want to come over and watch it with me some time?
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: No, I think I’m gonna be sick. BLA-AAAAA-A-A-TCH.

Think baby spit-up smells bad? It’s nothing compared to the stench of half-digested bar nuts and bourbon.)

So what about drool?

Any two geezers who’ve spent the entire day knocking back $2 PBRs produce a lot more than an infant.

Ditto for diapers, and the whole Huggies vs. Depends thing, too.

Which leaves what? Crying?

Sure, that can be loud, grating and unstoppable, but even a 5-month-old with a bad case of colic can’t compete with the sobs and wails that ring out when those same two semi-intoxicated singles run into each other a few nights later and one claims to have absolutely no memory of the other, let alone the passionate night they spent together where they pledged their mutual love and promised to be soul mates forever.

Conclusion: Baby-haters 0, Babies 1

In fact, maybe more than “1″ when you consider that to singles, a baby in a bar might not just be a reminder that they should enjoy themselves while they can still get out of the house without hiring a sitter, but that they should be careful, too, lest some intoxicated encounter take an intimate turn and they find themselves having to do that way too soon.

Now… if there’s anywhere babies should be banned, it’s coffee houses, because nothing makes every coo, burp, squeal, shriek or sob more irritating than a whole lot of caffeine.

(Note: to be fair, of course, if we ban babies from coffee houses, we should also ban loud talkers, people who yell into their cell phones like they’re stuck in a hurricane, anyone with an iPod who sings along to whatever’s playing through their earbuds, people who push three or four tables together to have a staff meeting, teenagers who spread their textbooks out across all the tables but then sit there and text their friends instead of studying, anyone trying to sell anything, promote anything, or affect any kind of social change, anyone coming from, or going to yoga, because who needs that kind of guilt, politicians, dog walkers who leave their dogs outside, nannies who leave their strollers outside, and, of course, anyone trying to write anything on a laptop — especially if it’s a post like this.)

Links to the many online articles and rants:

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times Blog

“Babies in Bars”/CNN

“Babies in Bars”/Luke Constantino

“Babies in Bars”/Brownstoner

“Babies in Bars”/New York Blips

“Babies in Bars”/The Nervous Breakdown

“Babies in Bars”/Parent Dish

“Babies in Bars”/Gothamist

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times

EARTH DAY GUILT

For a lot of parents, Earth Day is a time to feel guilt and shame for driving an SUV and having too many flat-screen TVs. For kids, it’s a time to learn that the psychological problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and treat them are nothing compared to the environmental problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and dad treat the planet.

(Assuming, of course, life is still around later.)

KID: Thanks for ruining the earth.
PARENT: It’s not my fault. Blame grandma and grandpa, too — they started it.

The good news is that thanks to most Americans grudging acceptance of climate change, a renewed government-focus on conserving natural resources and developing alternate energy sources, and the fact that it’s cool to drive a Prius, there’s hope for the future.

The bad news is that kids are still kids, which means they can turn just about anything to their advantage, especially environmental tips they come home and claim to have been taught in school:

PARENT: How was school today?
KID: We learned how to help the planet for Earth Day.
PARENT: Great.
KID: They said we should all conserve water and turn off lights when we don’t need them so we don’t waste electricity.
PARENT: That’s right.
KID: Which means I shouldn’t take a bath tonight, or probably even this week.
PARENT: Huh?
KID: And you know how you always bug me about reading in the dark?
PARENT: Yes.
KID: That’s actually good because reading in the dark doesn’t waste electricity.
PARENT: Uh…
KID: We’re supposed to recycle everything, too, so wearing the same shirt, pants and underwear all week isn’t gross, it’s green.
PARENT: I think you’re taking these tips the wrong way.
KID: How could I take them the wrong way?
PARENT: I don’t know but I guess we’ll find out: what else did you learn?
KID: Eat local.
PARENT: And?
KID: Just that: eat local.
PARENT: That seems pretty straight forward.
KID: It is — and since that McDonald’s is just down the street, I was thinking we should go there as much as possible.
PARENT: Are you serious?
KID: We don’t even have to drive. We could walk!
PARENT: I don’t even know how to respond.
KID: I know eating local like that isn’t always practical, so we learned that when we can’t eat local, we should at least eat less.
PARENT: Let me guess: starting with vegetables?
KID: Especially carrots.
PARENT: Right.
KID: We should also try to use less.
PARENT: Which means?
KID: No more boring, stupid trips to Target! Hurray!
PARENT: Anything else?
KID: Americans waste 5.8 billion gallons of water each year flushing their toilets.
PARENT: No.
KID: But you don’t even know what the tip is.
PARENT: I can guess. And I don’t care how good it is for the planet, you have to flush.
KID: Wow. You know, when they said some people didn’t want to help the environment, I never thought they meant you.

Happy Earth Day.

INVITATION DECISION-MAKING TREE

Do you need to go? NO decline
YES
Do you want to go? NO decline
YES
Can you think of anything bad that will happen if you don’t go? NO decline
YES
If you lie and say you can’t go because you already have plans, will anybody find out? NO decline
YES
Will you really care if that happens? NO decline
YES
Will there be an open bar? NO decline
YES
Can you leave early if you are having a terrible time? NO decline
YES
accept

YOU CAN'T SPELL SHIH TZU WITHOUT S- H- I- AND T

HOUSEGUEST: Mind if I bring my dog?
HOMEOWNER: To our house?
HOUSEGUEST: He’s not any trouble. You won’t even know he’s there.
HOMEOWNER: Is he housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: Of course.

When it comes to pets, there seem to be two kinds of people: those who believe being housebroken is an either/or proposition — either a dog goes outside when he needs to do his business, or he’s not housebroken — and those who favor a more Zen-like interpretation, where “housebroken” is more journey than destination, a path to potty enlightenment that every dog must travel at its own speed, peeing and pooping along the way as the need arises.

As you would expect, the latter position is most often adopted by those who think of their dogs as their children, and they are usually as unapologetic when their “baby” has “an accident” as a real parent is when the same thing happens to their child.

The problem is that when a child poops or pees, it’s in his pants; when a dog poops or pees, it’s on the bedspread in the bedroom.

HOUSEGUEST: Sorry.
HOMEOWNER: I thought you said he was housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: He is.
HOMEOWNER: Then why didn’t he go outside?
HOUSEGUEST: Everybody has accidents. He probably just got excited.

How do you react to this kind of situation?

There seem to be two kinds of people in this case, too: those who understand that “shit happens,” and when it does the only thing you can do is grab some paper towels and clean it up, and those who want to know who’s gonna pay for the new mattress.

(And, unfortunately, you won’t know which camp you fall into until it happens to you.)

TIME DOESN'T FLY WHEN YOU'RE FLYING WITH KIDS

How can a two hour and 20 minute flight take five hours?

Electronic check in:

17 17 minutes

Manual check-in after electronic check-in can’t find everyone’s name:

34 34 minutes

Airport security:

37 37 minutes

Pat down, additional questioning after dad was randomly flagged as a potential terrorist (which the kids thought was funny, but the parents couldn’t believe):

11 11 minutes

Flight Delay (cause unknown, but “kid in control tower” incident suspected):

40 40 minutes

Actual flight:

140 2 hours 20 minutes

Wait on tarmac (after pilot announces “We’ll be taxing to the gate in just a few minutes”):

17 17 minutes

Wait at gate:

7 7 minutes

Wait at baggage claim:

34 34 minutes

Wait at baggage claim “lost luggage” department:

19 19 minutes

Time-out for deep, calming breaths:

6 6 minutes

Finding car in long-term parking after losing slip of paper with level and section number:

22 22 minutes

Explaining why there won’t be any more family trips until the memory of this last one has faded away completely:

Forever Weeks

WANT A LATTE TO GO WITH THAT SIX-SHOOTER?

Advocates of open-carry gun laws are targeting Starbucks, but how will the coffee giant respond?

It’s likely a team of lawyers will spend a few hundred billable hours developing a 100% defensible non-position, but what if Starbucks decides to embrace the situation instead and use it as an opportunity to put its customers first – even the ones who are packing heat?

Pairing Suggestions

Beverage Weapon
  • Plain black coffee
  • Classic Wild West six-shooter
  • Chai
  • AK-47 (because it’s what the rest of the world uses)
  • Single shot of espresso
  • Derringer
  • Red Eye
  • .357
  • Red Eye with an extra shot
  • .44 Magnum
  • Caramel Macchiato, Mocha Frappuccino
  • Anything with pearl handles or engraving
  • Cappuccino
  • .22 with a silencer
  • .96 oz. coffee traveler
  • Assault rifle
  • Clover
  • Antique, gold-plated flint-lock musket originally owned by the 17th Earl of Cornwall
  • Double Shot
  • Decaf
  • Any of the above, but w/out bullets

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

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).

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN ST. PATRICK'S DAY TO A KID?

KID: Why’s Dad throwing up in the bathroom?
MOM: Um… he’s not feeling well.
KID: Is it because of St. Patrick’s Day?
MOM: What do you mean?
KID: Well, when I walked into the kitchen last night, I saw him putting green food coloring in his beer and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
MOM: Um… uh… that’s right – sometimes adults drink green beer to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
KID: And wear green clothes.
MOM: Yes, and they wear green clothes. When I was a little girl, we used to drink green milk, too.
KID: Yuck. You’re kidding right?
MOM: No. Why?
KID: Duh – because obviously green food coloring makes you sick. Why else would Dad be throwing up?

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.

OUT-OF-CONTROL TOWER

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding kids in the control tower, but what’s the big deal? What would really happen if the FAA decided to let kids land planes?

Five consequences:

1. New pre-flight procedures:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, Alaska 827 requesting permission to take off.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Permission granted, Alaska 827, just as soon as everyone on board goes potty.

2. Pilots who didn’t follow directions wouldn’t just be grounded, they’d be sent to bed without dinner:

KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Northwest 104, where have you been? Do you know what time it is?
PILOT: Sorry Air Traffic Control, we hit turbulence over Denver and got delayed.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Sorry? It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?
PILOT: But it wasn’t our fault.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I don’t want to hear it.
PILOT: It was the jet stream!
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Then you should have called and told us that. But you didn’t, did you?
PILOT: No.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: You come straight to the gate after you land, no detours or delays.

3. Pilots would be expected to use good manners:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is United 817, request permission to drop to 10,000 feet.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry United 817, request denied – you didn’t say please.

4. No more foreign flights:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202, over… Come in Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202… Air Traffic Control? Hello? Is anybody there?
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry, Ukrainian 202, I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.

5. All planes would have to land by 8 pm on a school night, 10 pm on weekends:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Alaska 111, requesting assistance.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry Alaska 111, it’s past my bed time.

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.)