Monday, November 30, 2009

What a Great Job I Did on This Post!

After a long day of a long weekend that had more tantrums than I could count, I appreciated this article, from an odd publication I never heard of (banners flash "USA" in red/white/blue but the publication itself appears to be from Timbuktu), about laying off the criticism.

It's all common-sense stuff, but after battling in the trenches all day, the advice seems fresh, most importantly, to realize your kid "didn't do it just to frustrate" you.

I often take very personally much of what my kids do. It's hard not to, of course, especially after you busted your chops to do something nice like let them watch an extra episode of SpongeBob or have a treat or take them to Chuck E. Cheese and then when you ask them to do something shortly thereafter they throw a fit, not to mention all your good deeds back in your face.

The hardest part of this, especially when you're at a point where you feel you actually don't like your kid very much right now, is to follow the rule to "look for ways to praise." And it can be hard when the only praise you feel like uttering is, "You did a good job not sending me to the hospital with a nervous breakdown" or "I appreciate that you didn't go that extra step that would have led me to throw you through my living room window."

"Criticism is like coarse sandpaper scraping away at your child's self esteem," the author writes. "Praise is the flowing of a gentle brook, beautiful to hear and nourishing to your child's self esteem."

I don't know if I'd ever put it that way, but I'd have to agree.

Also in the news...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shameless Plug

Our friends at Stet That recorded a song to commemorate the retail horror that is Black Friday. If you wish to punish your friends by sending around a link, use this catchy URL:

Also in the news....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That's What I Call Mother-Daughter Bonding

The mom and the daughter hired the girl's ex-boyfriend to commit the crime, but the ex-boyfriend wore a wire while meeting with the mom. I wonder whether this guy and the daughter were boyfriend and girlfriend while this was being planned, since foiling your girlfriend's murder-my-dad plot is likely grounds for a breakup.

Or, were they already broken up, and the girl was foolish to think that an ex- would actually go along with this?

Anyway, my favorite line is: "Ashley [the daughter] walked out of court Monday morning with her dad's arms wrapped around her after the probable cause hearing." Better that than the other way around — watch your back, Dad!

Also in the news....

Monday, November 23, 2009

When the Kids Get Out of Line, I'll Smack Them in the Nose With a Rolled-Up Newspaper

The New York Times ran a couple of articles this weekend regarding a more offbeat source of parenting advice: Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

One article, in the Times' Sunday Styles section (where you'll find the wedding announcements for people richer and more successful than you'll ever be) lists the growing number of parenting blogs and experts who are unafraid to admit that the suggestions Milan offers to control your canines can also apply to corralling your kids.

The article notes that Milan delivers a "philosophical holy trinity — exercise, discipline and affection equals happiness." Or, as one blogger sums it up, "how to be the pack leader in your own house."

The comments on the Times' Motherlode blog on this issue, as usual, run the gamut, but I see some validity in this kind of advice. This weekend we had numerous particularly rough moments with the kids, and more than one time Jenn and I looked at each other and asked ourselves, "We're in charge, right? Don't we make the rules around here?"

The main thing we strive for, though it's sometimes difficult, is to deliver consistency...and also not to yell (when yelling will exacerbate the situation). Overall, though, it seems (as I'm far from a dog lover so I'd only consider books by the "Dog Avoider") that it's about establishing your authority. I can't say I never misbehaved (nor can my parents or teachers), but I always, always knew who was in charge in my house.

My parents or my older brother.

Depends on How You Define "Passing" a DNA Test

Putting aside all the really abominable things that can happen to a dad and his kids, the cover story in this week's New York Times Magazine would make the top three of dad-nightmares.

Basically, Dad A was married to Mom B and they had a daughter. It turned out, thanks to the ever-more-accessible DNA test, that the child was not actually Dad A's. (Mom A admitted to an affair, and the test was done shortly before the daughter's birthday.)

Dad A and Mom B eventually divorced, but Dad A gladly paid child support because he helped raise the child and had a bond with her as any dad would have. (And because, according to Dad A, the biological dad wouldn't pay support.)

But then, Mom B got remarried. To Dad B, who is the biological father of the daughter. Dad A was still going to have to pay child support, but, understandably, he was a little pissed off:
"I pay child support to a biologically intact family.... A father and mother, married, who live with their own child. And I pay support for that child. How ridiculous is that?"
Ridiculous enough that Dad A went to court to renounce his fatherhood. He still loves his daughter (step-daughter?), even if he thought it was crazy to have to continue to pay child support now. (You'll have to read toward the end of the article to see how this all turns out. Do not expect a happy ending.)

In addition to a few more tales like this — they're all pretty heartbreaking and emotionally confusing — we learn of an organization called U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, which takes up the case for "duped dads."

My kids are only 5 and 3, and I couldn't imagine the emotions I'd be dealing with if I found out either wasn't my child — let alone what I'd think if I found out five or 10 years later.

The whole thing makes me take less pleasure in those Maury paternity shows, despite this:


Also in the news....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Waffling on My Parenting Choices

My kids pretty much eat Eggo waffles for breakfast every day. Every. Single. Day. I occasionally try to cheap out and buy the Stop 'N' Shop private-label version, but my young gourmands are already Kellogg's brand ambassadors, instantly calling me out on the syrupy switcheroo ("Mommy, these waffles barely have any chocolate chips -- are these real waffles?!").

I've also attempted to introduce new food items into the a.m. repertoire (oatmeal, cereal, fresh fruit, bagels, eggs and bacon) -- all of which they'll eat, but only if accompanied by the coveted Eggo waffle. Sometimes they'll even scarf down two or three in one sitting.

So the news of an Eggo shortage that's scheduled to last until the summer of 2010 (allegedly stemming from some serious issues at a couple of the Kellogg's factories) has set in motion (in my house, anyway) a frantic stockpiling of Aunt Jemima mini pancakes and French toast sticks in the hopes of substituting one high-carb breakfast boost for another. I'm also hoping to discover some sort of underground Eggo black market on Craigslist thanks to all the nutjobs who made a run on Costco the last time a hurricane warning swept through Long Island.

I guess this is some kind of dietary karma coming back to kick my ass for serving up processed frozen discs to my kids all these years when I should have been pureeing my own baby food from fresh fruits and veggies, shopping exclusively at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and always, without exception, refusing to serve high-sodium Kid Cuisine or Lunchables meals (gulp). I'll take my lumps.

Just please don't let there by a chicken nugget shortage anytime soon -- then we'll be really screwed.

This Probably Won't Happen If I Catch Jackson Wearing a Mets Jersey

So, some douchebag in Minnesota has been forced to take court-authorized parenting classes because he tore the shirt off his stepson's back because said shirt was a rival gang's color.

The stepson is...4 years old.

The stepfather is a member of the Bloods gang, and their "color" is red. The Crips, the Bloods' known enemies, wear blue. The article doesn't mention the Crips, only saying that the boy was wearing blue, "the color of a rival gang."

And, naturally, a 4-year-old would be wearing blue in order to both antagonize his gang-member stepdad and to pledge his allegiance to the Crips. I doubt this kid can even dress himself, so why didn't the stepfather go after the person who dressed him?

The person who called the cops was the stepfather's stepfather. I can't even imagine what that family tree looks like.

And...they have gangs in Minnesota?

Also in the news...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Those Crazy Kids, Part Deux

Meanwhile, en France, a 13-year-old planned to blow away several of his schoolteachers.

Here's a telling factoid: The kid's parents called the cops when they noticed that he had swiped "the family gun."

Which brings to mind a few questions.
First, we have the family kitchen table and a family room (actually, we don't, because our house is so damn small that every room is a "family" room, but I digress), and maybe one day when I need a more aggressive hobby than blogging I could conceivably buy my own gun, but I can't imagine having a "family gun," unless it was some old nonworking heirloom, like a musket.

(And the kid would get off only one shot with the musket before he's tackled, since reloading the thing is a long and laborious process.)

Also, how did the parents know that the gun was missing? Is it in such a high-trafficked area that it was easy to notice that it was gone (meaning that it was easily accessible to an unbalanced 13-year-old)?

Finally, for the parents to call the cops after noticing the gun was missing, they must have (accurately) expected the worst, meaning they probably knew their kid was probably in bad shape, meaning maybe they shouldn't have kept a gun so easily within reach.

The kid bailed when he saw all the cops in front of the school, assuming that there wasn't some other kid going off the rails that day, and did the next-worst thing: he went to a "cyber cafe," where he was arrested.

No word on the status of the family gun. We hope it's OK.

Those Crazy Kids, Part I

So, let's say that you're a teenager who, because of some transgression, had his Xbox taken away by his parents. What do you do? If you're like a particular 15-year-old pussy boy from a Chicago suburb, you call 911 and summon the police to your home, where you fill out a stolen-goods report.

It turns out, when your parents take away one of your luxuries, it's not considered theft. According to the article, the police never learned why the kid's Xbox was removed, but we think it might be because he tends to overreact and throw tantrums.

Also in the news...

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  • VIRAL VIDEO: The Ball FINALLY makes it into the National Toy Hall of Fame after beating out the Big Wheel and Game Boy. The Ball joins HOF veterans The Stick and The Cardboard Box. Jon Stewart reports on the newest inductee.

  • But do they have the Commack Motor Inn in Tinley Park, IL? And two (count 'em -- two) Targets within 3 miles of each other? I think not. BusinessWeek publishes top 50 places to raise kids.

  • Maybe Tom and Katie should have vetted "Suri" before committing. Sure, the name sounds exotic enough, but there's this: In Japanese, the moniker means "pickpocket"; in French, it roughly translates to "turned sour"; and in Italian, it means (bizarrely enough) "horse mackerels." Get your kid's name cleared by this new British baby-name translation service -- before it's too late.

  • Lame, Australia, simply lame: Yesterday we reported on how the Land Down Under issued a public apology to British migrant children who were sent over to the island continent only to be tragically abused and tortured. Showoff Canada now plans to put out a commemorative stamp to honor tragic "home children" shipped off to Canuckistan.

  • PRODUCT ALERT: Looking for a rousing new bedtime story to wile away the witching hour? How about this conservative fable that rips Nancy Pelosi a new you-know-what?

  • Well, they do have those unsightly rubber-band wrists, ugly outie belly buttons, and, on occasion, cradle cap: Babies airbrushed on covers of popular kids' and parenting magazines.

  • PRODUCT ALERT: I think I now know why we have an obesity problem in America: Pop the Pig being advertised as THE game to have this holiday season.

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: My 5-year-old now idolizes Wyclef Jean -- here's why.

  • What to do with that extra placenta...Don't want to eat it; don't feel like planting it. Hey -- how about a facial?

  • How many times do I have to tell you: Don't blow bubbles with your bacon at breakfast! Unless they're bacon-flavored gumballs. In which case, go to town.
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    I've Heard Reading to Kids Is Good for Them

    If you've sick of reading the same books to your kids every night (and you DO read to them every night, right?), or if you're at the bookstore and don't know which tomes are better than others (a Jeff Foxworthy-penned poetry book that Jackson has is particularly abysmal), then you should check out the lists from Parents magazine of the best books for babies and toddlers.

    The number-one books on each list: Pat the Bunny and The Very Hungry Category. Hard to disagree. There are a few books I've never heard of, though admittedly I'm not up-to-speed with the hottest books around.

    I like that two Leslie Patricelli books made the list, but I have to recommended the neglected The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, which is a large, colorful tale about a squid who thinks he's all that. Spoiler alert: he gets swallowed by a whale, but he takes it all in stride!

    Also in the news...

  • VIRAL VIDEO: My son recently discovered the joy of dominoes. Mind you, he mainly prefers for ME to complete all of the actual design work and construction, while he absorbs the task of toppling that first precarious piece. I don't think I can show him this record-breaking setup (which took an amazing 1.5 hours to collapse to completion), however -- mainly because I don't know how well playing with fire would go over with CPS.

  • "Gogola" is obviously not as generous as "Google": Internet behemoth bestows nearly $40,000 in prizes and cash on American kids who win its contests. Their little Indian counterparts: not so many rupees.

  • Pops, you're the tops: New dads in the U.K. to receive "Dad Card" (a handy pocket guide that includes everything from tips on how "to raise happy children" to making sure they get all the state benefits they're entitled to) after the birthing event.

  • Maybe this is why Obama's a little antsy to get the hell out of Kabul: 75 percent of teens "unfit" to serve in the American armed forces due to wide-scale ignorance, obesity, and criminality.

  • Not such a beautiful day in this Pittsburgh neighborhood: Critics slam "muddy" Mr. Rogers statue.

  • Blame it on the amygdala: Do your kids like to scale the armoire, jump off the bed, and race around with reckless abandon? Congratulations -- you just may be raising the world's future criminals.

  • Ho, ho, holy crap: Santa arrested for running sex-tourism ring.

  • And I was hoping that Fruit RollUps and Oreos would soon be receiving that handy green check to assuage my guilt over continually buying such products for my children: FDA suspends "Smart Choices" nutritional labeling program, claims it's "misleading."

  • Break out the Mountain Dew for breakfast: Juice contains more calories, just as much sugar as soda.

  • Better late than never: Library books returned a half-century late.
  • Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    What If I Stuffed a Beanie Baby Into a Matchbox Car Instead?

    What's the hot item this holiday season? According to a number of news outlets, it's the Zhu Zhu hamster, a realistic-looking furry creature that tools around in a funny car. It's no Cabbage Patch Doll or Tickle-Me Elmo, but apparently there's already been a run on these mechanized driving rodents.

    It looks like the kind of toy you'd find at one of those mall kiosks with all the "as seen on TV" stuff like the Snuggie and that baking tray that cuts the brownies into squares while they bake.

    As is the case with any hot commodity, starting with the Tulip Craze of 1637, you can find these now-rare toys on eBay and the like, and you can expect to get ripped off as the price gets jacked up.

    The blog Experimental Mommy offers a not-so-serious list of ways to get your Zhu Zhu on, and you'll see a photo of sad parents on line outside a Toys"R"Us waiting — probably in vain — to buy a Christmas gift that will probably get lost or be ignored before New Year's.

    Also in the news...

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Would It Help If My Wife Were, Like, Also Into Chicks?

    "Well, I'm sorry I'm not a lesbian!" That will be my reply to my kids when they complain, as teenagers or whenever, that I wasn't the best parent in the world. And that's because some British dude claims that "his research shows children from lesbian couples do better in life than the offspring of heterosexual couples."

    Part of the claim is based on the fact that lesbian couples who want kids must obviously really want kids, since they can't accidentally become pregnant. The study doesn't explain whether gay-men couples would be good at parenting for the same reason, considering it's even less likely for one of them to become pregnant.

    Another conclusion from this study is that, once again, dads mean shit. But if I can convince my wife to take an interest in women so that at least one-half of our parenting couple is optimized, it might all be worthwhile.

    This Is Why I Hate Childless People

    One time when I was at work, I was talking about the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, which I know I would enjoy because I had lots of fun playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on my PlayStation 2. There's no better release for an adult who would not be adversely affected by a video game's violence because he's well adjusted and clearly knows right from wrong than a game where you get to shoot people, commit countless criminal acts, and even cause mayhem in an army tank.

    So I was lamenting that I could not play the latest GTA game because I didn't own the PS3 or Xbox360 game systems, which were required to play IV. (Even if they were available for the PS2, I'd already sold that thing in order to pay some bills.)

    My co-worker replied, "Why don't you just go out and buy the system and the game?" She said this like she was speaking to a guy who said he was thirsty while standing next to a 7-Eleven Big Gulp dispenser.

    But what she, a woman in her 20s who lived at home with no kids or mortgage or, I'm guessing, major utility bills, didn't understand — and I don't blame her for not understanding — is that when you're saddled with a couple of kids, a large portion of your disposable income is quickly disposed of. Out West, according to an article, it costs some $266,698 to raise a child to the age of 18. And that doesn't count when they'll be asking for money long after they turn 18, which reminds me I should thank my father for helping me out with my recent brake job.

    So I never did get that Xbox or PS3. However, we did buy a Wii this weekend, but we used money we already had put aside. For the kids' last two birthdays, we suggested to relatives that, if they couldn't think of a proper gift, to put the money they were going to spend toward the "Wii fund." That way, no one person (or us) would be obligated to buy the $200 (at the time, $250) system. The kids receive enough smaller toys at their birthdays, most of which are soon buried in a toy box or forgotten; the Wii would provide plenty of long-term fun, especially since Jackson can already kick my ass in the sword-fighting part of Sports Resort when we play at my brother-in-law's house.

    They don't make GTA IV for the Wii, but I bought a used copy of Bully, a somewhat similar and less violent game from the same company, which I used to "test" the Wii. (We'll wrap the box for Christmas and it'll be ready to go.)

    And 2010 will begin our foray into the controlling-the-time-spent-on-the-Wii parenting, which will take up our energy until the kids are old enough to have a cell phone, which I think kids get at age 6, right?

    Also in the news...

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    So Yummy! So Yummy!

    Hell yeah! Yo Gabba Gabba! Live: There's a Party in My City is about to begin its nationwide tour!

    The good news is that it appears that DJ Lance will be part of the tour, and they won't need to find some other skinny tall African-American to don the glasses and orange paramilitary getup.

    Fortunately, we haven't been begged by the kids to take them to any live shows yet. Those shows featuring Diego or Dora on ice or doing whatever they're supposedly doing look awful, and I'm not dying to see the Rockettes and Santa at Radio City. Sitting at the Garden or Nassau Coliseum with a bunch of screaming kids and their soul-sucked parents is not my ideal way to kill an afternoon.

    However, I would definitely consider going to the Yo Gabba Gabba! show, even if I'd have to endure the hipster-parent element. The TV series probably translates better to live action than those other Nick cartoons because I'm sure the characters will look exactly the same as they do on TV, and there's no weirdness like have a human playing an animated talking backpack.

    Plus, on the Yo Gabba Gabba! show, the characters perform as if they're on a stage, anyway, so there's no need to fake swimming through a lake or swinging on vines. It'll probably feel like I'm watching the show, only live. (You can tell I have absolutely no imagination.)

    That being said, if they want to do a live Kim Possible or My Life as a Teenage Robot, I'd be all for it, as long as the female lead is old enough that I won't be (too much of) a creep for ogling her during the show.

    Also in the news...

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    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Now I Will Blame ALL of My Bad Behavior on My Frontal Lobe

    Some interesting ideas regarding child behavior in U.S. News & World Report. Apparently, it's natural that kids are "impulsive...don't follow rules, don't stay on task.

    Also, according to a psych and neurology professor, "young children act a lot like brain-damaged adults." Sometimes as a parent I feel like a brain-damaged adult, so I guess that puts me on equal footing with my kids.

    But the reason kids can't stop thinking about, say, that bowl of Halloween candy is also why kids are considered "such amazing learners and discoverers" — as well as occasional major pains in the ass, I'm guessing.

    A researcher and author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life says that dealing with kids is like handling adult frontal-lobe patients (examples are in the article).

    The problem we've had in the past, particularly with Jackson, was when he was in daycare and his behavior was judged by the standards of adults with fully functional frontal lobes. As the article suggests, "Don't expect a small child to be good at focused tasks," so expecting a 3-year-old to sit still for 20 minutes during something called "circle time" was probably a pretty tall order.

    Also in the news...

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: If you want my baby, and you think I'm sexy: Rod Stewart wants an eighth child -- and he just (TMI spoiler) tried again last night!

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: Bogus baby bump: Celine Dion not pregnant after all after in vitro fertilization failure.

  • Did your kid need just a few more paltry points on his last social studies exam to get a passing grade? If you live in the fine state of North Carolina, perhaps you should have simply donated a sawbuck or two.

  • PRODUCT ALERT: The glossy coffee-table book that's likely on John Mark Karr's Christmas wishlist: High Glitz documents child pageantry.

  • So you think your unemployment woes are only between you, God, and the Department of Labor? Well, turns out the kids aren't too keen on your missing paycheck, either.

  • Who's been keeping count? 12-year-old girl sneezes 12,000 times a day, drives her family nuts.
  • Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    I Feel Like I Can Touch the Ceiling From Here

    Sometimes it feels like the four of us are on top of each other, even when we're in separate rooms, so I can only imagine what it'd be like to share a 360-square-foot house with a wife, a 9-month-old, and a dog. (Day one: get rid of dog.)

    But that's what one California family is doing, and the LA Times has a photo essay that shows what can be done (as well as avoided) in tight quarters.

    The house, which is really just a garage with a garage-sized living space above, would barely fit all of Sasha's plastic produce and her two shopping carts, and by the time either of my kids learned how to walk, they'd probably be walking on the ceiling out of restlessness.

    You also have to understand that this is not just some family doing their best during tough times, and is a way to inspire belt-tightening families to "live smaller." A few things to note...

    First of all, one of the opening statements — "The space is arranged for maximum efficiency but maintains the vibe of an artist's loft with a carefully edited selection of contemporary art and midcentury Danish and Italian furniture" &mdash immediately tells you that we're not talking about your average suburban family. The essay mentions a number of lighting and furniture designers, and the only one I've heard of (as well as the cheapest, most likely) is IKEA.

    The parents and child share the queen bed. Not sure how long that's going to last, or how many folks would be into that.

    The couple are saving money by renting the place for only $1,000 a month, but they can make rent just by selling a couple of items from their minimalist but chichi and expensive men's clothing store, South Willard. Sample items: a $178 pair of "running sandals," a $48 blue T-shirt, and a $350 pair of black pants.

    Also in the news...

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Total Recall

    You'd think that if you were spending a hundred to 360 bucks on an item that you could get for a lot less via a cheaper brand, you'd expect that item to not do things like, say, cut off your kid's fingertips.

    But that's what's happened to a dozen children, causing Maclaren, which is British for "I have money," to recall a million of these high-end kid transporters known as the umbrella stroller. (We used a $10 no-name umbrella stroller from CVS with little incident beyond a sticky wheel, for what that's worth.)

    Maclaren, which for some reason I always pronounce mick-LAUREN, is offering consumers a "free repair kit," as if the people who buy these things would bother themselves with a repair kit. (Unless they made the butler use it.)

    Maclaren USA Chairman Bahman Kia, whose name makes him sound like a Jedi extra from The Clone Wars, actually blames the parents: "We warn our consumers to keep children away from the product when it's being unfolded and folded." YOU STUPID PARENTS!

    The repair kit includes pads for the hinges, which Kia says will make future incidents "impossible." The pads will be installed on all future strollers at a cost of $2, or a range of 2% down to .56% of the cost, had they considered installing them in the first place.

    One more thing: those fancy strollers with the snobby British name? Made in China.

    Also in the news...

  • Honestly, I'm surprised it took this long (does anyone else remember the slop that was disguised as "lunch" in the cafeteria?): Lawmaker wants probe of school lunches to determine E. coli risk.

  • Anyone who's ever aspired to be a teacher has harbored secret Dead Poets Society/Lean on Me fantasies of being that special, ultra-cool mentor who inspires his/her students to greatness while simultaneously pissing off the administration and parents. This guy's livin' the dream.

  • And you thought your delivery was bad: 28-inch-tall mom pregnant with her third child (who will be at least half her size when he's born).

  • Do you really want your kid to come home with a rap about loving his thalamus? NYC schools participating in "Power Brain Education" program alleged to be run by group with ties to a cult.

  • Important source of calcium and vitamin D, or yet another sugary evil that's making our kids fatties? Dairy industry pushes campaign that promotes the benefits of chocolate milk.
  • Monday, November 9, 2009

    Monday Morning Video Welcome/Toy Nostalgia: Micronauts Commercial

    Whenever I question Jackson's sanity concerning his love for certain toy series that don't seem to make any sense, I have to recall that my brother and I were briefly, but intensely, fans of the Micronauts toys. (Apparently, some fans can't let go.) They were really cheap (though the commercial's description of "die-cast metal" always sounded fancy) and had some Egyptian pharaoh theme that went over the head of the average 8-year-old.

    As a bonus, you could also pull them apart to create a collection of choking hazards!

    And, by sheer coincidence as I was looking for links for this post, I learned that JJ Abrams might plan a movie based on the toys. (I also learned even more that I cared to know about them, like they were foisted on kids again in 2002-2003, and were the subjects of comic books for 30 years. My fandom was rather limited, thank goodness.)

    Time to Polish My Whip

    A report by the British think-tank Demos making the news says that the best kind of parenting is good ol' tough love.

    Of course, "tough love" can be defined rather broadly. Both Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders would likely say each practices tough love, as would that asshole dad who thinks insulting his kid all the time is "toughening" him up. The think tank defines the parenting practice as "a balance of warmth and discipline," which is much better than a "laissez-faire, authoritarian or disengaged upbringing."

    Tough-love parenting develops high-character kids no matter what their parents' income, but the report also notes that if you're poor and divorced, you're gonna have a more difficult time. So what else is new?

    I'll admit that my own parenting runs the full gamut: warmth ("I love you, but you can't do this"), laissez-faire ("I'm making believe I didn't see you eat that 12th Oreo"), authoritarian ("You can't have the RED cup! You're having the BLUE cup, and that's FINAL!") to disengaged ("Why is he throwing up all those Oreos?").

    Proof That the Mayan 2012 Thing Will Arrive Early

    Also in the news...

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    And Maybe They Can Teach Jackson to Patch the Hole in My Ceiling

    Drop me in an Apple Store, and I'm in heaven, and not just because the place is so damn white. I know how to test drive the hardware, and even the stuff I don't know much about, I know the right questions to ask.

    But when I have to go to Home Depot to buy a paintbrush and some primer so I can finally apply a coat of color to the door moldings that have been the stale wood color since they were installed several years ago, and I'm like some clueless foreigner played by Roberto Benigni in a wacky fish-out-of-water comedy.

    That being said, I'm probably going to take the advice of the San Francisco Chronicle's "The Poop" blogger and bring Jackson to one of HD's kids workshops.

    I'll probably skip this Saturday's, during which the kids will make a trivet. A trivet, I learned from "The Poop," is "a piece of wood and tile that keeps hot pans from touching the kitchen table."

    I'll probably go in December, when the project is a primitive but cool-because-he'll-build-it-himself wagon.

    Now if they can only teach him how to put in replacement windows...

    Obviously There Are No Men on This So-Called "Parents Council"

    Also in the news...

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: Even worse than having two Scientology-obsessed parents: still drinking out of a baby bottle at age 3. At least we can take comfort in the fact that Suri Cruise is probably guzzling some cult-endorsed vitamin water, not Dr. Pepper.

  • Birth control that's criminal: New Zealand mayor wants to pay undesirables "not to breed."

  • PRODUCT ALERT: You mean Cocoa Krispies don't stave off H1N1?! Kellogg's forced to take immunity claim off of cereal boxes.

  • It's Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, so, naturally, the New York Times is allowing its readers to ask Big Bird what the hell's been going on over at PBS for the past four decades. I'll be turning 40 soon -- start the questions now, I have to begin my Wikipedia research.

  • Just in case anyone else has this bright idea brewing: Woman posts pregnant belly as Facebook profile pic, has account shut down.

  • Anyone who is reading this blog is surely within the 70 percent mentioned here: Study finds that most adults are not getting enough sleep.
  • Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Some People Call It "Black Thursday"

    Fortunately for me, Thanksgiving is always a low-drama event for my family. (Maintaining a strong-enough buzz also helps.)

    But if your own holiday dinner menu includes an appetizer of reopened old wounds, bitter sarcasm soup, and you-never-understood-me pie, you should take a look at the blog on Psychology Today for some perspective.

    Dr. Ana Nogales refreshingly notes that "it’s necessary to grieve for the family we wish we had but do not. It’s never beneficial to ignore problems and simply tell ourselves to 'appreciate what you have.'"

    Also in the news...

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    "Happy" Is Also a the name of a Character in Death of a Salesman

    NurtureShock co-author and Newsweek columnist and Richard Gere lookalike Po Bronson (left) blogged about a UK study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (how can I subscribe?), which noted (surprise!) that "life satisfaction and happiness do indeed go down for those with kids."

    BUT! Once you remove the divorced parents, the co-habiting parents, singles who are parents but never married, it turns out that "Kids do make married couples a little happier. And the more kids the better (up to three)."

    I'd have to agree. I have two kids, and we all stayed home sick today, and despite all the misery (still ongoing), I can say they make me happy. Take it from the Roots (click here if you want better audio, albeit with a still image):

    Not that I'm ready to max out and have that third child of happiness, though!

    Also in the news...

    Still dealing with the sick, so forgive today's short list: