Tuesday Open Thread

Good morning! How are y’all enjoying our new (temporary) digs so far?

Our baker baker posted this story on her facebook page and I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s Scary Mommy’s take on the whole “It gets easier” line of advice that new parents receive. She basically called bullsh*t:

It’s true: You won’t always be walking through life in a complete haze or sterilizing baby bottles for the rest of your life, but in my brief experience, parenting doesn’t get any easier. I look back on those days of schlepping around an infant carrier and complaining about spit-ups as the easiest I’ll ever have it. I’m sorry, new moms. Truly.

Some of her points are hilarious (“The bags under your eyes and the poochy stomach will go away. They will? Clearly I’m doing something wrong”) but overall, I found myself disagreeing. For me, it has gotten easier as my children have gotten older (and this is coming from someone who actually enjoys newborns and infants). I will say the sleep thing is probably 80% of it. But now that Maya is 7 and can entertain herself quietly without me worrying that she’s hurting herself or destroying our house, she seems way easy (check back when she becomes a teenager, I’m sure I’ll be eating my words!). Yes, I spend time schlepping her to lessons and practice, and supervising homework, and helping her navigate the social minefield that is 1st grade, but overall, it feels easy for the moment. Certainly easier than my 2-year-old who can’t sit through a meal, draws on the walls with crayons, naps when he damn well feels like it and can still throw a hell of a tantrum. Yesterday, he peed on the bathroom floor and when I looked over and realized what was happening, he had a shit-eating grin on his face. There’s really no other way to describe it. I was as appalled as I was amused!

What say you? Has it gotten easier as your kids have gotten older, or do you long for the days of the immobile, helpless infant who could be quieted with a boob or a bottle? Weigh in!

Also, this place in D.C. has created a cupcake in a cup, topped with frozen yogurt. I want to go to there. That is all.

What else is on your mind today? Chat away!


Are you stoned, or just multitasking?

It’s a much studied fact that too much multitasking has the same effect on our I.Q. as a bong hit. It makes us stupid. And yet, life with young children can require, at times, an absurd, stuntman level of multitasking.

I first noticed the stoner effect of multitasking after my first child was born. That’s when I started switching dates and times around in my head. I arrived an hour early for a dentist appointment. I showed for a meeting at her preschool on the wrong week. In my rush to get in the house with a crying baby, make dinner and simultaneously answer a urgent email, I left the keys in the front door lock and didn’t discover them until the next morning.

When my second child was born, it got much worse. I started losing my train of thought in mid-conversation and once, to my mortification, in the middle of a big presentation at work. (After that, I always made sure to have handwritten notes prepared in case it happened again.)

We all have these stories.

Our heads are crammed so full of details—the donation for the teacher gift, the overdue DVDs, the work file we need to resend, how to get our one kid to eat food that’s not white, how the other kid is starting to use the potty and doesn’t own any underwear, the meeting we need to reschedule, ordering new glasses for the pair we lost—that we miss our train stop, return the DVDs to library without a DVD in the case, leave our bank card in the ATM, burn the rice, and write cryptic notes on the calendar that we can’t read an hour later. We promptly lose our new pair of glasses, only to find them on top of our own head.

An informal poll of my friends confirms this is a pervasive problem. One says she showed up with her kids for an Easter egg hunt a week early. One says she finds herself driving in circles because she forgets to print the map. Another says that last week she started running a bath for the kids, then forgot about it until it started overflowing the tub.

My favorite is a friend who found her son’s pajamas in the freezer once, next to the ice cream. Right where she’d put them.

What about you? What was your best multitasking stoner moment?

Cross-posted from Working Moms Break


If I Were An Inventor…

I smiled at this doodad in Japan. From the CrunchGear blog:

A research laboratory at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University has developed a monitoring system for wet diapers that consists of a self-powered sensor/transmitter and a receiver and is supposed to assist staff in hospitals and nursing homes in performing diaper checks with elderly patients. The sensor kit has to be placed inside the diaper and sends signals to the receiver unit, which was co-developed in collaboration with Seiko Epson.

Both the sensor and the accompanying wireless transmitter are powered by a built-in battery that can generate electricity following a chemical reaction in the presence of urine. Once this happens, the sensor kit can transmit signals to a receiver located as far as 3 meters away.

This piece made me fantasize about a Jetsonesque Rosie-type robot that will potty-train my strong-willed 2.5-year-old. Yes, MotherTalkers, it is going badly. I tried to re-introduce the cloth diaper service, hoping that Eli would want more frequent diaper changes or to use the potty, but instead she would sit in her excrement until she got diaper rash. Sigh.

We are back to disposable diapers. You see, she knows when she has to go, but she tells me — only when she poops — after she has already done so. She will sit on the potty like it is a toy, but not do anything.

But I know she is able to reason as she specifically says (giggling), “No, mami, poo-poo va en el pañal!” Silly me. Ugh.

Offering to buy her shoes — one of her favorite past times — books or candy has not worked either. I have no idea where to start next. I am thinking of looking into a potty-training camp before school starts in the fall. I remember feeling enormous pressure with Ari right before he started preschool. Eli still has 8 or 9 months to go. Any suggestions?

Also, if you were an engineer, what would you invent to help parents or caregivers?


Late-Night Liberty: Random Factoids Edition

Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes recently released a poll with random, but fascinating poll results like how 1 in 10 people thought California should secede from the United States. In second place? Texas, with 8 percent of the vote.

Judging from this month’s 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll, we are a hygiene-conscious nation — made up of anything but tobacco farmers and journalists — that plays it close to the vest and enjoys, in its free time, not reading the memoirs of Republican political figures….

We said “plays it close to the vest.” By and large, Americans are a conservative bunch, in the philosophical if not the political sense. We found no panic about swine flu.

Here were some of the poll’s interesting findings:

It used to be that many parents wanted their children to become doctors, bankers, lawyers, or the president. If they had a choice, WHICH OF THESE PROFESSIONS do you think most parents would want their children to pursue now?

Everyone — both parents and non-parents — said 63 percent of parents want their children to become a doctor, banker, lawyer or president. Another 10 percent said parents wanted their children to become an Internet mogul while 9 percent said humanitarian-aid worker. At the bottom of the list were “athlete” (6 percent) and movie star or rock star (3 percent). Sadly, more parents wanted their children to become a doctor, lawyer, banker or president (65 percent), Internet mogul (13 percent) and athlete (9 percent). Less parents wanted their children to become a humanitarian-aid worker (6 percent) and movie star or athlete (2 percent). Yes, we are in a recession, folks.

Here is the secession question:

Some protesters against the administration’s health-care proposals have been seen carrying signs calling for their states to secede. If you could PICK ONE STATE TO REMOVE from the United States, which one would it be?

Like I mentioned above, 10 percent said California and 8 percent responded with Texas. Alaska and Hawaii garnered 3 percent of the vote each. “None/Not sure” got a whopping 60 percent of the vote.

Here is what we really think of Facebook. “How do you feel about becoming friends with business acquaintances on FACEBOOK?”

Sixty percent of respondents said they don’t use Facebook at all. Another 14 percent said, “Don’t mix business and Facebook,” while another 11 percent said, “Great way to network.” At the bottom of the list, only 4 percent responded with, “Only to avoid hurt feelings” and another 7 percent never even heard of Facebook. I was surprised that 67 percent of people don’t use Facebook or have not heard of it at all. It seems to be ubiquitous with its own vocabulary and even “townhall” type culture. Wow.

By the way, 40 percent of Vanity Fair readers said marijuana should be legalized, but not steroids in pro-sports (10 percent).

What interesting tidbits have you learned lately? This is an open thread so feel free to discuss what you’d like!


How To Get Kids To Clean Up

I think I am pretty good on keeping the kids on schedule. They eat at the same times every day, bathe at least every other day at 7:30 p.m., go to bed every day at 8 p.m..

Where I suck is cleanup. I hate, hate, hate picking up toys or even supervising cleanup. I let DH deal with it, although on days he is not home I simply deliver a stern lecture on cleanup and then create a passageway among the strewn toys. I refuse to get in a power struggle over messy rooms as I, too, hate picking up. Also, I figure the kids will outgrow this phase in 5 years, although I hear teenagers are much worse. How do you all deal with it? How do you get your kids to clean up?

A Parents magazine writer actually invented a “Pickup Fairy” to help her 3.5-year-old son pick up his toys in the evenings. Here is the cute article:

The Pickup Fairy is a sort of grouchy sprite who lives deep in the woods. Every night, she listens carefully to the world, and if she hears any small children saying things like, “I’m not picking up my toys” (or even worse, “You pick them up, Mommy!”), she telephones the mother of that child and asks if she can come over. If the mom says yes, she arrives with a big patchwork sack and takes all the toys to her house for a week. My thinking was that if he refused to pick up the toys, I would hide them for a week and then give them back.

Speaking of, my husband has been known on more than one occasion to blow a fuse at cleanup and dramatically throw away toys in the garbage. Perhaps I should suggest a phone call to the Pickup Fairy instead? LOL! More from the Parents story:

Liam was absolutely entranced when I told him about the Pickup Fairy. “What does she look like?” he asked. “Does she wear a dress?”

“Yes,” I said. “Every day but Tuesday. On Tuesdays she wears overalls.”

“Is she scary?” Liam wanted to know. He adores scary things.

“Yes,” I said.

“Does she like tights?” He also loves tights.

“She’s crazy for them!”

“What color are her teeth?”


“Oh. Maybe she doesn’t have a good toothbrush.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

I thought this was a cute story and very clever idea — especially for young children. But I have seen the bedrooms of some of my friends’ teenagers and I am even more worried. How do you get your child — regardless of age — to pick up?


Late-Night Liberty: When the Kids Are Out of the House…

I found this blurb from the August edition of Parents magazine and thought it was a fun exercise. Complete this sentence: “As soon as the kids are out of the house I…”

From Parents:

…wash the poop off my hands.

…fall into a really good book or a soft, cozy bed.

…catch up on my TiVo’d shows while thinking about all the things I should be doing!

That last one, almost describes me to a T, except my husband and I tag-team for a marathon cleaning, usually putting dishes and laundry away. Then we sink into the couch to watch our TiVo’d shows.

This definitely does not describe me, unless we are apart from the kids for at least a couple days:

…can’t wait until they return!

What about you? What do you do with a child-free evening?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Associated Press ran a trend story about young Americans bypassing Boston, New York and San Francisco to take jobs in China. Young professionals with strong English skills are in high demand there.

Also in the Associated Press: Sen. Max Baucus has helped launch an investigation into a mailer by private health insurance company Humana intended to scare senior citizens about proposed healthcare reform legislation.

In other political news: Sen. Chris Dodd plans to introduce legislation that would prevent banks from charging overdraft fees without giving the consumer the choice to continue with the transaction, according to the Washington Post. Considering that banks are projected to make a whopping $38.5 billion in overdraft fees this year on top of bailout money, why don’t these consumer protections already exist?

In heartwarming news: This is the kind of giving that makes me tick. Parents magazine just profiled and donated to an organization called Makers of Memories. Founded by Brian Martin who witnessed his own mother in a domestic violence situation, Makers of Memories gives a vacation to families living in domestic violence shelters.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Clueless teachers, clueless parents

I don’t usually write rant diaries, but yesterday was the first day of Sunday school for my kids, and I’m still shaking my head over a couple of things that happened.

My younger son is almost four and in Sunday school pre-school for the first time. My older son, now in first grade, was in the pre-school teacher’s class for two years.

So I walk in with little guy and the teacher says, “Who’s this?” I introduce little guy and she says loudly in front of all the kids and parents, “Welcome, [littleguy]! [Bigbrother] was a LEGEND in this class. He was always so smart. Are you going to be like your brother?” I think she said one other thing too, but I can’t remember because my brain was filling up with, “WTF?”

Hey, teacher–way to broadcast to my son that you won’t be seeing him as an individual–just as a little brother under pressure to measure up. After school I was venting to a friend whose son is in the same class, and she had already told her husband that she could not believe the way the teacher welcomed my son.

This is not some rookie–she’s been teaching Sunday school for at least 15-20 years. Isn’t it basic knowledge that you at least try not to compare kids to their siblings?

Fortunately, my little guy isn’t too sensitive and seemed to enjoy the activities during his first day (singing songs, learning a short prayer, dropping coins into the charity collection box, decorating his own yarmulke, playing with toys, eating animal crackers for a snack). Like most of the parents, I stayed for the first half-hour and then headed to the parent orientation meeting.

The orientation was uneventful, but I was stunned by one of the other parents who raised her hand during Q and A wanting to know what the school was going to do about sex offenders. There have been some news reports recently about sex offenders trying to get children in the Des Moines area to get into their cars.

I’m not saying parents should never be concerned about sex offenders, but you have to understand that at this Sunday school, almost all the parents walk in with their kids, taking them straight to the classrooms at 9 am. There is no outdoor recess or other outdoor activity. At pickup time (noon), children are not allowed to leave the classrooms until a parent or guardian arrives. A few parents might drop their kids off near the front entrance at 9, but kids aren’t even allowed in the hallway, let alone outside the school, to wait for their rides afterwards.

To her credit, the school director responded politely to this question instead of saying what I was thinking: “What more do you think we could be doing to protect the children from sex offenders? How exactly do you think sex offenders could gain access to the children during Sunday school? If you’re so paranoid maybe you should stay home with your kids all the time.”

This thread is for any relevant thoughts or comments about clueless teachers and parents.


Update on D.C. Teacher Union Negotiations

UPDATE: Sorry to be the purveyor of bad news, but the “on-time” graduate rate of D.C. public school students has dipped below 50 percent, according to the Washington Post.

I have been following negotiations between Washington D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and the teachers union, which may lead to a new direction for the district’s beleaguered schools and urban public education in general.

A point of contention in the negotiations, according to the Washington Post, is Rhee wants to offer more money to teachers who are effective and willing to forgo tenure.

Despite the seemingly endless talks, a money offer that would make D.C. teachers among the highest-paid in the country and intense mediation by a respected third party, an agreement has yet to be reached. It is a stalemate that threatens education reform in the District.

Kurt L. Schmoke, former Baltimore mayor and current dean of the Howard University law school, is mediating talks between school officials and the Washington Teachers Union. The first session was May 7 and, to date, there has been little sign that the two sides are any closer to agreement. They continue to meet, but if no progess is made, the possibility of an impasse looms, with the outcome likely to be decided by an outside arbitrator.

The key point of contention has been Ms. Rhee’s proposal to loosen seniority as the determining factor in how teachers are assigned, retained and rewarded. In her vision, no teachers would have had to give up the lifetime employment guarantee of tenure, but teachers who volunteered to do so and who demonstrated their effectiveness in the classroom could earn exceptional salaries. It’s telling that union officials refuse even to let rank-and-file members vote on such a proposal. Telling, also, is how national union leaders shouldered aside local union officials when it seemed a deal might be within reach. Ms. Rhee no longer contends with just local president George Parker, representing the interests of 4,400 D.C. teachers, but instead with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, her national agenda and the demands of 1.4 million members.

The Post called for more transparency in the negotiations. Why not let parents decide which of the proposals they prefer? What do you think?


Study: Teacher, Parental Involvement Trump Peer Pressure

Even if your eye-rolling, back-talking teenagers don’t seem to listen to you, keep communicating with them as your influence is more important than relationships with peers, according to a new study released by researchers in Australia.

From the Opposing Views blog:

A University of Sydney study has found that getting on well with parents and teachers has a strong positive influence on adolescents’ academic outcomes – and a bigger influence than getting on with peers. These findings provide new hope to parents and teachers who too often assume that they cannot compete with the power of the peer group….

The study looked at 3,450 Australian high school students in Years 7 to 12. Quality teacher-student relationships had the most significant impact on students’ academic outcomes, followed by parent-child relationships. Some of the key academic outcomes assessed were motivation, engagement, homework completion, enjoyment of school, attendance, and educational aspirations.

Interestingly, when the study looked at non-academic outcomes (for example physical self-concept, honesty, emotional stability) peers had a bigger influence than teachers and parents.