Friday Frivolity: Zen for the family

What is the sound of one hand clapping?  If a tree falls in the forest with on one to hear it, does it make a sound?  Why is it so hard to get children out the door in the morning? All deep philosophical questions.

Should you and your child feel contemplative this weekend, may we recommend Zen Shorts by John Muth? It is a beautifully illustrated picture book that is both approachable and profound, silly and serene. Maybe just what a mother needs at the end of winter.

Mother of the Year Award

Even the most well mannered modern mother can't, on occasion, help but notice a nearby contestant for the coveted Mother of the Year Award.  She is often to be observed in high-end coffee shops, parks and organic food stores.  How, you may ask, does one identify a contender?  She is typically a young(ish) mother with a single child between one and three-years-old.  The child will be doing age-appropriate things while the mother audibly makes remarks such as "Yes, that's right, those are police sirens darling, no, not Sirens like in the story of Odysseus we read yesterday..."  or "Remember when we were at the symphony last weekend and you just loved the piece by Rachmaninoff...?"   One supposes, the kindest thing the modern mother might do the next time this happens, is to wander over to the young mother and say something along the lines of, "Excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing.  You sound like a wonderful mother.  You are doing a great thing exposing your adorable child to so much at this impressionable age.  Keep up the good work."  Handing out ribbons might be a bit over the top. 

Not so Frivolous Friday - Apparently, you can put a price on Love

According to the National Retail Federation the average American spent  $116.21 on traditional Valentine's Day merchandise this year - bringing total Valentine's Day spending in the US to $15.7 Billion.   Goodness, the well mannered mother might be thinking, $15.7 Billion dollars on conversation hearts, flowers, cards, doilies and glue sticks.  How is this possible?  Don't forget the jewelry, clothes, and expensive dinners.  And yet, how can all of this add up to such an enormous amount?  We are well aware that in some households this holiday has long been considered nothing but a "phony-greeting-card-industry-holiday."  In such cases you might find  spouses rummaging around the house looking for pink and red construction paper the night before and hoping no one was going to do anything 'crazy' involving actual gifts or Winstons flowers.  But obviously in many, many other houses this is big business.  The modern mother wonders, is this yet another example of  how out of control consumerism has become in America?   Are we, as nation, incapable of ignoring the signals retailers begin sending the day after the last holiday?  When Christmas pops up the day after Halloween and Valentine's Day kicks in December 26th is it any wonder Americans have a hard time resisting the urge to consume? No doubt there is also a correlation between consumer holiday spending and the fact that one can now purchase Marshmallow Peeps for every major holiday.  While it would hardly be mannerly to suggest how the modern mother spends her time or money, it is interesting to consider what might happen if the modern mother were (en mass)  to 'just say no' to whatever festive cheer the retailers throw her way next.

Are Youth Sports for the Young?

Most modern mothers recognize that the world of youth sports has gotten out of control. Nine year-olds play hockey year round. Or soccer. Or swim team. Eleven year olds suffer stress fractures, tendinitis, and repetitive stress injuries.  And, the parents? The parents make themselves crazy shuttling children to practices all week and trekking to distant tournaments on weekends; they give up on a family dinner hour when faced with the demands of multiple youth sports schedules; and, we won't even begin with those rare, but notoriously ill-mannered parents known for their appalling parenting strategies,shouting expletives, and fighting.

What is the goal of youth sports? To instill a life-long love of exercise? To allow children to experience the camaraderie of a team? Clearly, those goals could be accomplished in less intensive programs. Is the goal to help them attain admission to an elite college, i.e., get them" recruited" to Harvard? There are ample statistics to demonstrate the slim chances of post-high school athletic glory, though this might be a motivation for some.

Why do we sign on for these punishing schedules? Are we doing it because everyone else is doing it?  We just can’t stop ourselves? A child wants to play basketball, even likes to play basketball. We sign him up. The team practices twice a week and his team loses every game to teams that practice 4 times a week, and it's no fun to lose every game. What is the solution? Practice more! Thus, the vicious cycle begins, the arms race of youth sports programs.  Well, its time to de-escalate.

So, when her 10 year old, who has been playing ice hockey three to five times a week since October, says, “I'm kind of tired can I skip practice tonight?” this modern mother might surprise herself by saying yes. She agrees, despite the fact that she believes strongly in honoring one's commitments.  She will not worry about raising someone to think its acceptable to renege, she will remember she is raising someone who can recognize when he has reached his limit. She will instead feel satisfied with taking one small step towards fighting the exponential intensification of youth sports. Her next step should be to seek out a team with a lighter practice schedule. She should find that about the same time she discovers a unicorn or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Friday Frivolity -NYTPicker

The NYTPicker is an entire website devoted to taking The New York Times less seriously than the paper takes itself.  We recently discovered this hoot of a blog and recommend you also watch this youtube video discussed therein.

                                                                                     photo from The New York Times

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Husbands

Many modern mothers might enjoy a good rant about spousal domestic ineptitude, but when a husband travels for work, his absence is felt. For him, travel might be tedious and unpleasant, but for a mother staying at home with a houseful of children it can be exhausting. 

With one less adult in the house, family chaos looms closer on the horizon. Life becomes a whirlwind of routines: school, dinner, laundry, sports, homework, more laundry, pack lunches, bath time, bedtime. The same routines, yes, but different without Daddy.

Sometimes, different in a good way.  Family life is streamlined, pared down to essentials. Everyone cleans up when supposed to, brushes teeth without being asked, the spelling test is postponed until next week!

Other times, well.... The family dog inexplicably vomits on the carpet. Someone forgets homework but there’s no time to go get it. A sibling squabble at dinner ends with a plateful of food falling to the floor. Someone loses a tooth and then loses the lost tooth. (Frantic search for lost tooth follows.)  The smoke detector malfunctions at 3 am. And someone always seems to get sick. Any or all of these things can happen in a given week, but why do they so often seem to happen when husbands are away? 

When friend mentions, “John’s travelling all week.” We nod knowingly.  We’ve been there. We understand. We’re part of the sisterhood of the traveling husbands. We can carpool more, offer to host a play date, provide a sympathetic ear, or just have a good laugh about the absurdity of it all. We do what we can to stay connected and supportive, even if there is no set of magical pants for mothers to pass around. 

The "I"s Have It

By the time you read this, it may already be too late.  It is possible that there is nothing any of us can do at this point.  No, this is not about political turmoil in Egypt or the fact that China now controls more than 90% of the worlds  current supply of rare-earth metals.  This is about the near universal acceptance of the nominative case "I" for the objective case "me".  Who knows why many people are fine in the singular but throw in a compound subject and supposedly literate people begin to flounder around like, well, flounder.  No ear for language?  Too much texting?  The death of William Safire?   Whatever the explanation, this misuse has reached epidemic proportions in recent years.

A couple of examples of incorrect usage of the nominative I with compound subjects: "Thank you so much for having Lulu and I down for the weekend," should be "...Lulu and me down for the weekend."  "Here is a picture of Lulu and I in St. Kitts," should be "...Lulu and me in St. Kitts."

While we know, that our readers are both mannerly and scholarly, possibly, if you know of anyone who knows anyone for whom the following tip might prove useful, please pass it along.  Before it's too late.

The tip is this, dear friend of a friend of our reader:  just pretend you are making a singular statement then stick your friend, partner, roommate, relation, or nemesis right in front.

For example: "I went to St. Barths,"  becomes "Lulu and I went to St. Barths."  Or "Thank you for inviting me to St. Barths." becomes "Thank you for inviting Lulu and me to St. Barths." Not, not, not "Thank you for inviting Lulu and I to St. Barths."  One more, "Granny took me to the theater"  becomes "Granny took Lulu and me to the theater"  not "Granny took Lulu and I to the theater."  

Good luck out there.  Be strong in the face of bad grammar.  Elizabeth and I thank you.  Please let Elizabeth and me know how you get on.

Friday Frivolity: Snow Day Sanity

From the looks of this NOAA image, about 95% of readers experienced the epic snowstorm this past week. And quite possibly a "snow day." If you feel you've run through your list of snow day activities, writer Anna Rubin offers a few more ideas of how to keep your children busy.  Considering more snow is in the forecast, it might be worth a look and it might just help you maintain your sanity.
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