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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.

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.

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.

I DUNNO

According to language experts, English includes approximately 250,000 words, which means that if a person were to answer any given question using only three of them, there would be 15,624,812,500,500,000 possibilities.

So why is it kids always seem to ignore the other 15,624,812,500,499,999 and just say “I don’t know?”

PARENT: What are you doing?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Have you seen your brother?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Why is your lip bleeding?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Did he hit you?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Are you even listening to me?
KID: I don’t know.

True, there are occasions when they really, truly don’t know, but these are rare. Which means as parents, we usually have to spend anywhere from five minutes to five hours prodding and probing them for an actual answer – a course of action that results in them being ticked at us for interrogating them like a Guantanamo Bay-detainee, and us being ticked at them for making us interrogate them like some Guantanamo Bay-detainee when they could just as easily have told us what we needed to know in the first place.

But before we attribute “I don’t know” to their being lazy, lethargic, unfocused, inattentive, flip, passive-aggressive, malnourished, narcissistic, ego-centric, spoiled or brain-damaged from spending too much time playing video games and watching TV, keep in mind that developmental psychologists say the adolescent mind is far from fully developed.

So when kids say “I don’t know,” in practical terms, they don’t — because the part of their brain that’s trying to answer our question (a part that’s got to be tucked away somewhere in some insignificant corner of some underused lobe) isn’t communicating with the part of their brain that knows what the answer is, and probably won’t be able to with any kind of speed or reliability until they’re in their 20s.

Which means that just about the time they stop answering every question with “I don’t know,” we’ll be starting to thanks to the debilitating effects of aging and all that extra wear and tear our brains have been subjected to over the years thanks to our kids.

WHY GIVE DIRECTIONS IF KIDS DON'T FOLLOW THEM?

Check out “The Gigglesnort Test” at undercaffeinated mom for a fun approach to dealing with this problem.

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.

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.

A NOTE TO NON-PARENTS ABOUT SELECTING AGE-APPROPRIATE GIFTS

While it may seem helpful that every toy in the toy store is labeled with a “recommended for ages X to Y” or “suitable for ages X and up,” it’s not.

In fact, in many ways it makes gift-giving much more complicated.

Let’s start with infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers: there isn’t a 21st Century parent who doesn’t believe the one running around his or her house isn’t clearly more developmentally advanced than most others.

Not convinced?

Just think about any conversation you’ve had with the parents since they became parents: doesn’t it always include at least one funny/touching anecdote about how their little angel accomplished something a merely “average” child wouldn’t be expected to do until he or she was much, much older?

Given this, it would seem logical to assume the child’s functional age would be much greater than the child’s actual age, to the point where, for example, a toy designed to help pre-schoolers improve small muscle control would be well-suited for their little toddler.

But no.

Because even if the kid is advanced, there’s no way he or she is that advanced, which means not only won’t the kid be able to use the toy (not for its intended purpose, anyway), the resulting failure, frustration and over-stimulation will lead to a massive meltdown the child’s parents will blame on you and the idiotic gift you bought that traumatized their offspring.

You might as well have given the child a dunce cap and the parents a t-shirt that read “We’re the proud parents of a moron.”

It doesn’t get any easier buying gifts for older kids, either.

Let’s say you have an 11-year-old nephew who loves to play video games. Having spent some time with him, you realize his favorite games are ultra-violent first-person shooters and elaborate, adult-oriented fantasy role-playing games.

So you buy him one.

And then come Christmas Day, when you call over to the house to say “Season’s Greetings,” you’re shocked when nobody will speak to you.

What happened?

The game you got was rated “M for Mature,” just like the dozen other “M for Mature” games he has in his room and plays regularly.

Except his parents didn’t realize this (either because they never set foot in his room because it’s too messy, or because they’re parents and they’re so overwhelmed with everyday demands they filter out everything that isn’t homework or a fight).

PARENTS: What did Uncle Scott get you?
KID: A video game, see?
PARENTS: I don’t think that’s appropriate – it says on the box it’s rated “M for Mature.”
KID: No, it’s fine – I have tons of other “M for Mature” games.
PARENTS: You do?

The result is your nephew hates you because you got all his games taken away and his parents hate you because you’re probably the one who corrupted him in the first place.

As if that’s not enough of an argument against age-appropriate guidelines, there’s also this problem: where do they come from?

Obviously not from parents, because if they did there would be some kind of board or council or non-profit organization responsible for determining them that would have splintered years ago into Liberal, Conservative and Centrist factions that parents would be pressured to support or denounce.

Guidelines clearly aren’t determined by toy manufacturers, either, as they would never open themselves up to such and easy-to-win lawsuit:

ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Did you or did you not state that this toy was appropriate for children ages 8 and up?
CEO: We did.
ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: And where did you state that?
CEO: On the label.
ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: But the four-year-olds I’m representing can’t read, can they?
CEO: No, they can’t. Which is why we agree to pay whatever settlement you want.

So who is responsible?

Unfortunately, the only group that’s left is the same group of child development experts who make up all the other guidelines for children — which might seem fine, except that for every parent who agrees with their advice (and quotes it freely, and condemns anyone who doesn’t believe it) there’s another parent who thinks everything they say is just stupid.

So unless you know exactly where the parents of the child you’re buying a gift for stand, you’re better off avoiding toys and their age-appropriate guidelines completely and doing what generations of non-parents have been doing for decades: giving U.S. Savings Bonds.

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.”

YOU BETTER WATCH OUT

It’s easy to forget that kids have to be taught pretty much everything, and that just because something seems as if it would be self-evident to even the littlest of minds, it probably isn’t.

While this is true at all times of the year, it seems especially important to keep in mind over the holidays.

  1. Even though Play-doh is a lot like cookie dough, and can easily be cut into holiday shapes that look exactly like the sugar cookies Grandma makes, you can’t bake it. And if you do, it smells really, really bad for days.
  2. Magic Marker shouldn’t be used to decorate Christmas cookies. Or mommy’s new Christmas dress.
  3. Taking a bite of raw dough is probably not going to make you sick, but eating all the raw dough in the bowl probably will. (Although probably not until 3 am.)
  4. Santa is not fat because he’s so completely stressed out at the thought of losing his job he’s eating too much. (Though he will be cutting back a little this year, so you might not get absolutely everything you put on your list.)
  5. Just because you like egg nog doesn’t mean you can have as much as you want. This also goes for the dog.

    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).

    WASHING THEIR MOUTHS OUT WITH VIRTUAL SOAP

    PARENT: Hey… why’s your computer off? I thought you were on that internet kid’s club?
    KID: I was. But I got kicked out.
    PARENT: What?!?!?! Why?
    KID: Well… you know how you tell me I shouldn’t say bad words?
    PARENT: Yeah.
    KID: You never told me I shouldn’t type them, either.
    PARENT: Oh.
    KID: You’re not gonna wash my mouth out with soap like your mom did, are you?
    PARENT: No, that only happened when we saida bad word.
    KID: Good, ‘cause that sounds gross.
    PARENT: It was. But I am gonna make you get some soap and scrub under your fingernails.
    KID: Why? Because I used them to type a bad word?
    PARENT: No, because I can see they’re dirty.

    WHY KIDS NEED TO BE SUPERVISED AT ALL TIMES (AND WHY THIS WEEK WILL BE TOUGH)

    KID: Look at me. I have a beard!
    PARENT: Wow. You do have a beard. You look like Grizzly Adams.
    KID: I made it myself.
    PARENT: I can see that. It looks like… Hold on… Come closer so I can get a better look.
    KID: I did a good job, didn’t I?
    PARENT: You didn’t use the permanent markers from my drawer, did you?
    KID: I did — but it’s okay because when I was done I didn’t leave them out, I put them right back where I found them.

    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.

    SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 5

    HUSBAND: Hey.
    WIFE: Back already?
    HUSBAND: Yeah, traffic wasn’t too bad.
    WIFE: Did you get eggs?
    HUSBAND: Yup.
    WIFE: Toilet paper?
    HUSBAND: I knew there was something I forgot.
    WIFE: That’s okay, I’ll just get it when I take the kids to piano.
    HUSBAND: Or I can get it when I take ‘em to karate?
    WIFE: Or I can… er… uh… I was gonna say I can get it when I take ‘em to swimming, but I have to stop at the drug store.
    HUSBAND: If you do, will you pick me up some shaving cream?
    WIFE: Sure, but I thought you used an electric… Hey! When did you grow a beard?
    HUSBAND: June.
    WIFE: Really?
    HUSBAND: Yeah, when we were finally getting around to making our New Year’s Resolutions. You said “I’m gonna change my hair color to red!”
    WIFE: I did.
    HUSBAND: And I said “I’m gonna grow a beard.” Wait. You did?
    WIFE: Like it?
    HUSBAND: How could I have missed something like that?
    BOTH: We’ve got to make time for each other.
    WIFE: Let’s check our schedules. December is bad. How’s January look for you?
    HUSBAND: Crazy. February?
    WIFE: No, we’ll be getting ready for Spring Break. April?
    HUSBAND: How about Thursday the 8th?
    WIFE: Monday the 12th would be better.
    HUSBAND: How about 7:00 to 8:15?
    WIFE: AM or PM?

    OBSERVATIONS ON THE DMV

    • Even if you are the first person in line, first thing in the morning, you will end up waiting an hour and a half.
    • Anything that can be screwed up will be screwed up.
    • Just because you are half-blind, senile, psychotic or drunk doesn’t mean you can’t renew your license — though if you’re half-blind you’ll have to take the vision test.
    • The fact that you’re supposed to take a number when you walk in only confuses the people in front of you who never learned to count.
    • Instructions are in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai and Vietnamese, but stupidity seems to be the same in any language.
    • If your car gets stolen, it is likely the person who stole it is waiting in line in front of you.
    • Saying you “work at the DMV” is kind of misleading – a more accurate description would be to say you “do as little work as you possibly can so you don’t get fired from the DMV.”
    • No matter how fat you are, there will be a woman ahead of you who weighs at least 100 pounds more than you do. (This may be the one positive thing about the DMV.)
    • One couple waiting in line will get into a huge, screaming argument.
    • One couple waiting in line will dry hump each other until a DMV employee asks them to stop.
    • Somebody will video this couple and post it on Youtube.
    • If you think a set of instructions are so simple even a moron could follow them, the moron in line in front of you will prove you wrong, and require up to 25 minutes of redundant, repetitive picture-based explanation before he or she realizes you can’t just take the driver’s test and get a license, you must actually pass it first.
    • If you accidentally marked “A” even though you know the answer is “None of the above,” you still have to re-take the test.
    • If the fee is $25 and you only have $23, you are $2 short no matter how many times you say “Please” or “Couldn’t you just cut me a little slack?”
    • Even if there are 50 open seats, somebody will sit down right next to you.
    • The person who sits down next to you will make you consider leaving and coming back tomorrow, even if you have already waited two hours and are next in line.

    DIRTY SECRETS

    If it’s the cleaning lady’s job to clean the house, why do we always pick up before she comes?

    (Usually just before she comes, too, with one of the kids stalling her in the foyer as we scramble to de-clutter the upstairs.)

    It would be one thing if we were motivated by conscience, believing it unfair to have her clean everything, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Are we worried she’ll realize we’re really just a family of slobs?

    She can probably tell that already, thanks to dishes that occasionally end up under the bed and the collection of crumbs, coins and God-knows-what-it-is she regularly unearths from beneath the sofa cushions.

    Do we think she’ll tell the H.O.A. how much more disgusting our house is than, say, the neighbor’s down the street?

    (It is, but only because they have no kids.)

    Or do we just not want anyone — even the cleaning lady — to find out how much of our lifestyle is an illusion, and that the only parts we have the energy to maintain week in, week out, are the ones that other people see?

    (And if this is the case, is it a valid reason to switch to a cleaning service that relies on a small, anonymous army that moves too quickly for any one that’s a part of it to form any kind of impression of what a stye the house usually is?)

    POLL: FACEBOOK ANXIETY

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    THHE ABC(DC)'S OF H1N1

    • More people are worried about H1N1 than will ever contract H1N1.
    • No matter how often you wash your hands, avoid public places and keep six feet from anyone who looks sick, somebody you know won’t, and that’s who you’ll catch it from.
    • The same health experts who remind us that H1N1 isn’t really that much worse than the regular seasonal flu remind us that the regular seasonal flu kills 36,000 every year, so we should still get vaccinated.
    • None of which matters since there’s no vaccine right now anyway.
    • That said, if you’re one of those people who won’t get the vaccine when it’s available because you think it will give you the flu, you won’t get the shot and you won’t get the flu.
    • If you’re one of those people who thinks that people who won’t get the shot because they think it will give them the flu are stupid, you’ll get the shot and you’ll get the flu, confirming their suspicions. (Though you won’t have contracted H1N1 from the vaccine, you’ll have gotten it from the person in front of you at the flu shot line.)
    • This is an actual recommendation for preventing the spread of H1N1: “If you do have swine flu, do your best to stay out of the emergency room, doctor’s office or urgent-care center.” So where are sick people supposed to go? (Besides — depending on their politics — their Congressperson’s office or the lobby of their health insurance provider.)
    • There is one benefit to H1N1: employers are actually encouraging employees to stay home if they’re not feeling well, which is particularly good to know given the fact that the symptoms of H1N1 are exactly the same as a bad hangover, and the holidays are coming up.
    • Given how freaked out people are about H1N1, you’d think you could get infected just by reading about it.
    • On the other hand, nobody has said you can’t.

    The end.

    LAST-MINUTE COSTUME IDEAS

    • If you’re a parent, just accentuate the bags under your eyes and go as a zombie.
    • Stick your head in the sand and tell everyone you’re an optimist.
    • Put on white pants, a white shirt, and white shoes, then jump in the shower and go as the melting polar ice caps.
    • Grab your resume, put on a suit and tie and be one of the millions looking for work. (And if you actually are one of the millions looking for work, do all of the above, but also smile and tell everyone you’re the 1 in 500 who applied for a job and actually got hired.)
    • Grab a coin, a ouija board, an astrology chart and some of those bones mystics in movies throw to predict the future and tell everyone you’re an economist.
    • Write “Healthcare Debate” on your shirt, then stab yourself with a fork and say you’re done. (But first make sure the nearest emergency room is on your list of approved providers, you have plenty of money to make your co-pay, and that your health insurance company won’t decline coverage because your stab wound is a pre-existing condition.)
    • Stay home and hide in the attic, then when people ask you what you did for Halloween you can tell them you went as the balloon boy.
    • Smile, breath a deep sigh of relief, and be the parent of a kid who’s going to a Halloween party at somebody else’s house.

    CNN HATES HALLOWEEN

    Halloween is supposed to be the one night of the year you can let your kids eat too much candy without feeling guilty about it, which makes an in-depth article like this one on CNN.com not only depressing, but irresponsible, mean-spirited and wholly inappropriate.

    Boo-hiss, CNN.

    Next time have the courtesy to run this after Halloween is over.

    Calories