Friday, February 26, 2010

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

NameVoyager Analysis: Irene

Popularity of names starting with IRENE


Here's another name from which one can infer the person thus named is, well, of a certain age.

I had expected it to rank much higher in the 1940s and 1950s, since I knew one or two Irenes my parents' age, but it apparently enjoyed its popularity during the turn of the century, and it only went down from there.

If you check out Wikipedia's disambiguation page for Irene, which is Greek in origin, I doubt you'll recognize any of the Irenes except for (maybe) Irene Cara and one of the Hurricane Irenes that kicked ass in 1999 and 2005.

If you happen to know a man named Irene, chances are his parents either really wanted a girl...

Popularity of names starting with IRENE


...or he's about 110 years old.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"If You Don't Pass the Bangers and Mash, I'll Throw You Under a Lorry!"

Those crazy British people love to fight. According to the Daily Mail, British families love to fight.

And they fight about many things that your family might fight about — but this being Britain, not everything. From the list of the top 30 things Brit families fight about:

14. What to have for tea.

I don't even know what that means. Is it what to have with tea? "I WANT CRUMPETS!" "SCREW YOU, I WANT BISCUITS!"

Or is it what kind of tea to have? "I WANT ENGLISH BREAKFAST!" "WE WILL HAVE EARL GREY OR I'LL KILL YOU!"

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Monday, February 22, 2010

When They Ask What Sex Is, I'll Say It's the Number Between Five and Seven

I don't know how things will be when it's time to deliver "The Talk." I expect that I will be handling the discussion at least for Jackson. I'm not especially looking forward to it, but I won't be shying away from it like the dads mentioned in this article that notes how moms are usually the ones talking about birds, bees, and the like.

(I'll even talk The Talk with Sasha, as long as I don't have to have that other Talk, the one that Jackson won't ever need, with her.)

So far I haven't been asked about the subject, though I'm waiting for the day when Jackson listens more carefully to one of his favorite songs, "Troublemaker" by Weezer. There's a particular line during the bridge:
I'm gonna be a star
And people will crane necks
To get a glimpse of me
And see if I am having sex
He hasn't yet asked me what "sex" is, though to be fair I don't think he knows what a "glimpse" is, either. I've considered saying that it's just "boys and girls kissing," which would lead to an incident where Jackson sees two people kissing and yells THEY'RE HAVING SEX!

I'm sure that when it's time to have The Talk with Jackson, it'll be more than one conversation. This bit from the article raised my brow:
When his wife put a bucket of condoms on a table near the door for their teenage sons and their friends to help themselves, [some financial adviser] was initially shocked, but he went along with it, realizing that it's better to be safe than be a grandparent at 46.
I hope Jackson's sex ed involves more than a bucket of rubbers. Condoms for "their teenage sons and their friends"? Were they expecting them to have sex with each other that night?

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Friday, February 19, 2010

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Want to Be Friends With This Hip Couple Even Though They Are Only Actors

I caught a shorter version of the above commercial during one of the shows I have to DVR because my parenting responsibilities do not let me watch TV shows at their normal time.

These commercials strike a chord with me because (a) I'd like to think I'm a cool parent, (b) I have grown to understand the value of a minivan (despite not owning one and never having grown up with one), and (c) those Toyota Siennas look really awesome.

When the '95 Saturn broke down (i.e., I totaled it ramming some lady's Acura under the Long Island Expressway bridge WHEN I CLEARLY HAD THE LIGHT) we had to quickly buy a new "station car" and we settled on a used 2003 Toyota Echo, which, to my surprise, I very much enjoy. We had to fill out paperwork to buy the little car in the new-car showroom, and there was a brand new Sienna with all its doors tantalizingly open like a spread-eagled porn star.

We ogled that minivan, Jenn and I, and despite "Toyota" becoming more synonymous with "Ford Pinto" each day, we would still consider buying it. These commercials really ice the cake.

Look at this cool couple! The dad appeared in commercials for Sonic, a chain that advertises in the Northeast despite having no actual restaurants in the area. He's got that sweet beard and has no shame about his baldness! The mom resembles a somewhat MILF-y Marsha Brady, and both of them would appreciate and understand my references to hip movies and literature! Their kids would be friends with our kids! We'd go on vacation together, have them over for wine and cheese, and leave the kids with a babysitter so we could go to an artsy cinema!

But that whole family is fake. Oh well. At least, if Jenn and I decide to place a Craigslist ad for "activity partners," we can include "Must resemble couple in the Toyota Sienna commercial."

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Officially Coin the Term "Hammock Parent"

Some dude on posted a number of ways to determine whether you're a laid-back parent. (By laid-back he means lazy and out of touch, not a mom or dad who doesn't fly off the handle every five minutes.) My kids are too young for most of the stuff on the checklist — "You don't know what time your child went to bed last night" — to apply yet, but sometimes I wonder if I am in fact too laid back.

(Worse, I fear I might be too laid-back when I should be tough, and vice versa.)

My biggest problem, as far as I can guess, is how wishy-washy I can be when it comes to discipline. When Jackson engages in bad behavior, sometimes I count to three, sometimes to five, sometimes to 10, and no matter what I count to, I often stretch out the second-to-last number to give him extra time to comply. (Sasha doesn't yet understand this system — or she shrewdly acts as if that's the case.)

A few months ago, when Jackson and I hung out at Barnes & Noble, a woman complemented me on my parenting skills: when he ran out of my sight, I stayed calm and did a consistent count-to-five policy. I discovered you really have to be in a special kind of zone to pull it off, and most of the time I don't have the mental capacity to keep it up. Either I snap too soon, or I just give up and step in only when the boy threatens massive embarrassment or expensive damage.

At home I let them have way too many pretzel sticks, too many treats, and too much Wii time, but I'm just too tired. Sometimes, they win, and I wonder whether my kids are going to turn out spoiled and incapable of any moderation.

But then, there was today. As part of my time with Jackson on a day we both had off, I killed a little time at Chuck E. Cheese using a handful of tokens left over from our last trip. A couple of times, before the tokens ran out, he asked if I could buy another batch, but I told him that that wasn't part of the plan. I expected a real fight when the machines finally ate his last rat-faced doubloon, but he gave me no resistance, even when I refused, as I always do, to buy him a sugar-packed "fruit" punch.

Small victory for Dad.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

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Friday, February 12, 2010

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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Monday, February 8, 2010

The Arrow of Light Is Rather Dim

The Boy Scouts in America turned 100 years old yesterday! Did you forget to buy it a card?

Wired ran an article — about as long as a scouting handbook — on the organization's centennial and wonders whether it's still relevant, despite the popularity of great-outdoors shows like Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. These days it seems being an Eagle Scout means little unless you commit a heinous crime, and "former Eagle Scout" fills the role or observational irony in the news story — that is, if "former altar boy" doesn't apply.

Though I was a Cub Scout and a member of a Webelos troop, I can't say I'd push Jackson into it. (I can't speak for Sasha becoming a Brownie, either.) When I was a scout, however, I was a proud member. For a couple of class pictures, I wore my uniform, which I felt was the dressiest thing I owned, and I took pride in the badges and beads and patches on my dark blue shirt. One day each week my troop or whatever it was called would gather at our den mother's house and do some kind of craft, usually involving papier-mâché, and one Friday night each month we'd hook up with the other troops in our "pack" for a ceremony in the elementary school cafeteria.

(The night would conclude by returning home to watch The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazzard. Friday nights would get no better than this until I was 17 years old.)

Eventually, after receiving my Bear badge, I became one of the Webelos, whose troop was run by the dad of one of my brother's friends. Webelos meetings meant Wiffle ball in the gym, a short break to discuss badges and pins, followed by more Wiffle ball. Once my brother and his contemporaries outgrew Webelos, the dads of two of my classmates took over. Instead of meeting in the gym, we reported to the cafeteria and for the entire session we were lectured to about actual scouting stuff, and I quit soon afterward. At this point, the uniform started to feel kinda lame, anyway.

If Jackson wants to join, and some of his friends are scouts, I'd probably consider it — maybe I'd be a "den dad" or something, even — but I'm not going to push him into it.

Wired mentions the one president who was an Eagle Scout. Considering it was Gerald Ford, I guess that means an Eagle Scout can do just about anything.

Monday Morning Video Welcome: Half Baked Alaska

Back in the day, there were only a few ways to watch cartoons in the New York metro area. Before school or after school, cartoons ran on channels 5 and 11, and most cartoons were reruns that were 25 years old or older.

Because of the limits of cartoon availability, nearly every kid in your class watched the same cartoons as you, and some cartoon quotes were universally quotable.

Few cartoons were as quotable as the Chilly Willy cartoon Half Baked Alaska, which features Daws Butler, who voiced both Chilly Willy and his nemesis, Smedley. There's not a whole lot going on in this cartoon, except for the memorable parts at around 1:15 and toward the end, when Willy, who's usually mute, orders a stack of hotcakes (advertised on the window of Smedley's Snack Bar for $10 each! In 1965!)

To this day, Jenn and I re-enact the "Nice?" "Nice!" "More butter?" "Uh-huh!" back-and-forth between Smedley and Chilly Willy, so I figured Jackson would really enjoy the video.

He didn't. And after watching the cartoon for the first time in at least 25 years, I noticed that it's actually kind of boring. Oh well, we still love Billy Boy!

Also in the news...

  • Who cares if it's trying to take over the world (along with those dudes from Facebook): Google is recruiting your kids to design its next logo.

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: See, if you have enough kids, odds are that one (or, perchance, two) of them will eventually do something heroic: Duggar duo helps save 6-year-old in car accident.

  • WTF, MOM AND DAD! Just a little more, sweet pea -- juuuust a little more....

  • This headline from our hometown paper caught our eye (and since said hometown paper has implemented a moronic pay-for-Web-access model and you likely won't be able to link to it, we've included the first paragraph as well): "Helen Moritz expected a lot of things out of her children -- and no excuses. She'd supervise her three sons and three daughters as they did homework, correct their Long Island accents with gentle -- or not so gentle -- teasing and once criticized a guidance counselor for going too easy on her kids." If only all of our parents had been like the feisty Mrs. Moritz, the world would be a much better, Lawn-Guyland-accentless place.

  • CELEBRITY ALERT: OK, I had no intention of going back to the Duggars, but I have to address the fact that Michelle and Jim Bob claim they're still "open to having more" children. At the risk of infuriating all of Inside Voice's Full Quiver followers, we think they should focus less on opening, more on closing. Just sayin'.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Win a Free Kids' Cookbook -- Yeah, You

CONTEST -- yeah, baby!

Already an Inside Voice Facebook fan? Help us ascend the 200-fan hump: Recruit your friends to become an Inside Voice fan on Facebook. If we see you're a mutual friend of our 200th fan, you and your pal will both receive a copy of The Everything Kids' Gross Cookbook.

Screw Jessica Seinfeld and her sneaking-vegetables-into-everything BS: With this fine piece of kitchen literature, you and the kiddies will be making grilled sneeze sandwiches and bloody bug juice before you know it.

Also in the news...

  • Hey, dummy: Principal suspended for mistakenly sending home "sarcastic" letter to parents. (Note: The CareerBuilder commercial above has nothing to do with this post, save for the "hey, dummy" in the middle, but it's one of my favorites, so I'm reposting it just for laughs.)

  • Last stop -- till Brooklyn! Teachers chaperoning prom turn it into booze cruise for themselves.

  • What recession? Exclusive Disney club has 14-year waiting list.

  • PRODUCT ALERT: Put your bid in now! Mattel intros Designer Barbie collection.

  • The number one rule about Teen Girl Fight Club -- post all Teen Girl Fight Clubs on YouTube: Girl-on-girl fight videos sweeping the Internets.

  • The new Miss America's answer to today's child woes? Lay off the video games -- go back to playing with sticks.

  • Sorry, kids, we can't open late because Mommy and Daddy are hugging the porcelain god: School refuses two-hour delay on Monday after Super Bowl.

  • The diapers, they are a'changin': Bob Dylan song to be made into children's book.

  • Just don't poke the other moms too much -- they get mad: Using Facebook as a parenting tool.
  • Thursday, February 4, 2010

    And, While We're on the Subject, Who's Your Daddy?'s Working Mom's blog has a post today titled "The Best Jobs for Moms and Dads." The title is a bit misleading because it doesn't actually list any specific jobs. But the page did lead me to a number of comments about another blog post, "Does My Child Love the Babysitter More Than Me?"

    For our kids and the woman who watched them from early infancy through about age 2, the answer was definitely yes.

    We lucked into meeting the sister-in-law of one of Jenn's friends who'd been watching small children for a few years. We starting bringing Jackson to her when he was only a couple of months old, and though the woman was very loving, we worried about not seeing him for most of the day. It didn't help that we had had as much baby-raising experience as Jackson's lifespan, so in his mind, he was spending wonderful days with an experienced mom and then in the evening was forced to hang out with a couple of retard-parents.

    Jenn was worried, as were some of the women who commented on the article, that Jackson would consider the sitter "Mommy," but at least his first word wasn't the sitter's name, which apparently happened to some of the commenters' kids.

    Neither of us had a job that paid enough for the other one to be a stay-at-home parent, so sending Jackson (and then Sasha) to a sitter was something that we had to do. We were fortunate that the sitter was very loving (Jackson often didn't want to leave when it was time), and we felt that he really enjoyed the change of pace. I recall that when he and I had to spend a day together, I was so worn out from the feedings and lack of sleep and the day-to-day stuff that it was hard for me to get jazzed up for the actual "fun" part of hanging out. (Or, I'm just a lazy dad.)

    For us (and the kids) the hard part wasn't sending them to the sitter—it was bringing them to daycare once they turned 2. We were worried that they'd be so used to the extra attention (the sitter watched maybe three or four kids at most, while in daycare the class sizes were larger) that they'd have a hard time adjusting.

    (In fact, they did, at least initially. When they began staying with the sitter, they were so young they got used to the idea very quickly, while dropping them off at daycare was quite a mess the first week or so.)

    But somehow, and I don't know how, our kids seemed to figure out who Mommy and Daddy were, even if sometimes I tried to forget myself.

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    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

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    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

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    Monday, February 1, 2010

    If They Jump Off a Bridge Once, They Likely Won't Want to Try It Again

    The co-author of Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), which could be subtitled Or, How to Get Protective Services Banging Down Your Door by Friday, was interviewed by The Daily Mail.

    The co-author suggests having your kids superglue their fingers together and put CDs in the microwave as "a response to the trend of fear-based parenting, where parents stop their offspring from trying new things for fear they may get hurt."

    But should I let — or rather, insist — my kids lick a 9-volt battery? I did that once and, sure, it prevented me from ever doing that again. (If you're thinking about licking one yourself, trust me: DO NOT DO THAT.)

    I understand that we're overprotecting our kids these days, and we're afraid to let them get dirty, and we modern parents would prefer them leave the house wearing helmets and bubble wrap with an umbilical cord tethered to the house. But frankly, my kids get into enough dangerous trouble already.

    Which brings me to an incident that happened this weekend. Jackson and I were killing time early Saturday afternoon, so after a rather successful run at Chuck E. Cheese (Daddy won 100 tickets on one spin of some stupid game), we went to Barnes & Noble. We grabbed a few books and headed to the cafe.

    Jackson grabbed a big glass bottle of lemonade from the refrigerated display that is unfortunately accessible to children. For reasons that are common to kids his age, he was insisting on paying for it himself. I didn't want him to do that, because I wanted to tell the cashier my phone number, because that was connected to my membership, and I'd get 10% off my purchase. I didn't trust Jackson would pull off the transaction correctly.

    He was holding the bottle and pulling on my arm so that he was standing at a 45-degree angle while I stood fast. I kept telling him to stop yanking on me, but I was too worn out to do much about it (I'd just spent an hour at Chuck E. Cheese, after all). The bottle slipped out of his hand and *POP* it broke into a sad pale-yellow mess of shards on the hard floor.

    As someone came around to clean it up, Jackson braced himself for a yellin', but I didn't get mad or anything. I grabbed another bottle, apologized to the cashier, didn't feel like giving her my number since I was thankful I didn't have to pay for the broken beverage, so I didn't save the 21 cents.

    We sat down with our books and new lemonade, and Jackson said, "Next time, you can hold the bottle."

    Lesson learned! Or is it...?

    Happy Birthday to Who?!

    We're all aware the economy sucks right about now, but no one's feeling the pinch more than the beleaguered kids' party planner. According to ABC News, today's hard times are causing a ginormous scaling-back of celebratory soirees for the younger set.

    I'm intrigued to see how this birthday-bash-backlash is going to affect parents' plans here on Long Island, where the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality is definitely alive, kicking, and stuffing its gaping maw with Fudgie the Whale cakes.

    It's a trickle-down policy we've seen evolve over the years: Wedding celebrations on Lawn Guyland were the first to succumb, with lavish affairs that featured oxymoronic three-hour-long cocktail hours, DJ/band combo packages (because you couldn't have just one), and ice sculptures carved in the shape of Daddy's checkbook scattered throughout the reception hall. Friends from other parts of the country who attended the events we tri-state-area epicureans hosted seemed simultaneously fascinated and horrified at our gluttony.

    Next to fall victim to the vices of excess was the Sweet 16. When I was in high school in the '80s, the trendy thing to do for this special coming-of-age was to shellac your hair with three gallons of Aqua Net, squeeze into your Spandex leggings and jelly shoes, and spend four hours humiliating yourself to Expose, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, and Company B on the dance floor of some nightclub that was trying to make a little extra cash before the college kids came in after sundown. I bucked this trend by having my Sweet 16 on a fishing boat that circumnavigated the Great South Bay in the middle of April, but even that must have cost my parents a pretty penny at the time.

    13-year-olds must have felt they were getting a bum rap, because, suddenly, bar/bat mitzvahs were being held at catering venues normally reserved for weddings (and, subsequently, for Sweet 16s), complete with DJs, on-site photographers churning out instant photo mementos for the guests, and the occasional celebrity musical guest -- what signifies puberty more than 50 Cent sneering "In Da Club" while guests dine on kippered salmon and Manischewitz? Fast-forward 10 years or so, and it's easy to see why 5-year-olds here on the Island were having hissy fits if their moms dared to throw a backyard barbecue with Skittles-stuffed paper bags as party favors -- God, who could blame them?!

    I admit, I fell prey to the hype in the beginning. My son's first birthday was a "compromise"—we had it in the backyard, but we invited close to 75 people, had it catered, and even featured a bounce tent in case the kids got bored. Yes, all this for a 1-year-old who spent the day trying to eat his binky and break into the house to watch Yo Gabba Gabba.

    The next few birthdays veered down a similar superfluous path: the package deal at Wood Kingdom for his entire preschool class; the professional cooking class at a local chef's academy, where 25-plus kids threw flour at each other, heckled the Rachael Ray wannabe-teacher, and complained that the pizzas they so lovingly handcrafted themselves were too hot to eat. This in addition to the birthday party my son got in class at preschool, plus the "small" home party we had just for relatives who happened to live nearby.

    I've since wised up somewhat, partly as a result of my long-term unemployment, but also because I started to feel too stressed out and insane from the whole process. I could feel it was becoming too much (the rolling of the eyes and shaking of heads from all four of our parents also expedited my change of heart). For Jackson's fifth birthday, I cut back, though not cold turkey: He still ended up having three parties (hey, I can't control what they do at school), but his "friends" party was held at the local bowling alley, I only invited 10 of his close friends/neighbors' kids (not every kid in his class), and we snuck in enormous cupcakes from Costco instead of ponying up cash for whatever overpriced, mediocre bakery treat the bowling alley would have come up with.

    My daughter has gotten gypped even more since our epiphany of excesses: She's never even had a "friends" party, just quiet celebrations at home with immediate family that she seemed to enjoy thoroughly. When we went to Baskin-Robbins to order a birthday cake for her third birthday last year and discovered it was $45 for a character ice-cream cake, we were so flustered that we ordered the cake, went home in shock, then came to our senses and called back to cancel the order. Of course, Baskin-Robbins wouldn't refund our money by that point, but they did give us a store credit. The entire family enjoyed multiple hot-fudge sundaes on our Baskin-Robbins tab all summer long—a much better use of our funds.

    Obviously, some other parents are having a hard time cutting back, even in the face of their dwindling checking accounts and IRAs. One of the moms in the ABC article boasts that she eliminated the "full Italian buffet" for her 1-year-old's birthday party, replacing the chicken parm and penne ala vodka with pizza, but in the next breath she confesses to personalized, laminated placemats for partygoers, custom crayon holders in the goodie bags, and a monogrammed bib for the guest of honor.

    Spring for the Skittles-filled paper bags, mi'lady -- use the money to buy yourself a nice bottle of wine instead.

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