I Don’t Think Babies Know They Are Cute

One of Brontë’s many unsuccessful attempts to be intimidating.

I found this post in my drafts, nearly forgotten, and decided I didn’t want to forget the epic tale of Brontë’s first heist. So I’m throwing it in now,  even though it’s out of sequence:

If babies had any idea how cute they are, they would work that angle for all it’s worth. With a face like that, a well-timed smile could get people to sign over their cars or houses. Ever seen someone accidentally make a baby laugh by ripping paper or doing some other random thing? It thrills people so much that they will repeat that same action over and over  and over again until it quits working with no less enthusiasm than a laboratory chimp banging a lever for cocaine hits.

Yet babies seem oblivious to their Incredible Powers of Cuteness. You can tell by the look on Bronte’s face as she sits in my lap in the photo. She is defiant, even territorial. Her face says, “Don’t even THINK of trifling with me. I will MESS YOU UP.” Clearly, she not only means to intimidate but also has utterly no idea how tiny she is.

“I’m making new friends and learning how to socialize. I’m so NOT ripping off this other kid.”
Huggies commercials would have us believe that babies lead a simple life of babbling, crawling, and blue-peeing, but there is so much more going on in those cherubic little heads. Take the photo at the right, for example. This scene is not what it appears. Little babies making friends, you might think… babbling, socializing, mirroring one other. But this is actually a rare snapshot of Brontë’s first heist. See the plastic keys between them? Plastic keys are a very high-value item in baby currency, and the ones in the photo belong to that other kid.

I watched this entire scene unfold while working out in one of those mother-and-baby exercise classes. Brontë, on the left, was given a bunch of fun stuffed animals to play with, but apparently some plastic keys caught her eye. So, she cozies up to the little baby key-owner (let’s call her “Betty”) and starts making cute faces. Brontë takes her right hand and starts wiggling her fingers in Betty’s face while her left hand reaches over to the keys, grabs them, and smoothly slides them under her own blanket. She then continues to play with Betty until Betty gets distracted and turns away, at which point Brontë returns to her blanket, pulls out the stolen keys, and starts playing with them.

Really?? If Brontë had just grabbed the keys, right off the bat, I would’ve assumed she is too young to understand the concept of ownership and was just happily responding to primary colors, but this was clearly deliberate.  She saw something she wanted and cooked up a plan to steal it, using sleight-of-hand with her finger distraction, and had the wherewithal to put the keys away for later use, only digging into them once the owner had left. This was a multi-step plan. Aren’t babies supposed to have an attention span of about 30 seconds?

Watching this play out, I was equal parts impressed and frightened. On the one hand, Brontë’s problem-solving abilities must show great intelligence, but on the other… well, she pulled off a multi-step robbery and is not even six months old. Holy crap! What kind of shenanigans am I in for when she gets older and more cunning??

I guess I will have to tackle that as it happens, and in the meantime, try to raise her well enough that she channels her talents into positive endeavors instead of ending up a mafia godmother. Or drug empire kingpin (queen pin?).

I will leave you with this adorable photo of Brontë’s aunt reveling in the cuteness of a baby with mouse ears. Brontë, on the other hand, felt the overalls and mouse ears were not doing much to bolster her “street-smart” image.

Bronte is certain she would be far more intimidating without the ridiculous hat.
“I am certain I would be far more intimidating without the ridiculous hat.”

Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and fun three-day weekend.

We sure did. My crazy, high-energy toddlers can be challenging (aren’t they all?), but they really crack me up. The entertainment value alone makes it all worth it, so I thought I’d share some of the highlight reel:

Dad Makes a Mockery of Purple Princess Clothes

IMG_3602John: Can I wear your dress today?


John: No, I look awesome.

Brontë: NO, you’re too big. That’s for GIRLS. MOMMA, DADDY’S TRYING TO WEAR MY PRINCESS DRESS!

Notice my daughter’s look of unbridled toddler outrage. Not only is her dad taking her dresses without asking, he’s  getting boy cooties all over them.


Battles for Violet the Lizard

We went to a cousin’s birthday party at John’s Incredible pizza. I told my husband he should demand free entrance because the sign says it’s his place, but no one else thought the idea was funny. And rightly so.

Violet the lizard
Turns out my husband has mad skee ball powers that gave us a cheap toy return on our entrance fees. As if by magic, he dropped a ball straight into the 300 ticket slot. He claims it was pure luck, but I think he’s just being modest.

After playing a variety of arcade games and collecting tickets, we went with the kids to the ticket redemption center so they could pick out some stuff. They selected two miniature Army guys with tiny parachutes, two kazoos, and one plastic lizard.

Brontë named the lizard Violet (after my cat) and she quickly became the most sought-after toy in the house. Brontë and Bridget fight over turns with Violet, pretending to brush her hair, read her books, carrying her around in a plastic cat carrier, and wearing her on their shoulder while they eat dinner.

Lizard castle
They even built her a lizard castle, which also functioned as a sister fort.

Finally one evening, I caught Brontë quietly staring at Violet. Brontë lightly poked her a couple of times then looked at me, concerned.

“Mom? I think there may be something wrong with this lizard.” Brontë told me as she kept poking her. “She isn’t moving. We may need to take her to a doctor.”



Profanity At The Zoo

IMG_3611We also had a terrific time at the zoo, checking out all the different animals and running around like mad.

I even learned something new. We were standing next to some zebras when one of them got worked up about something and started yelling. It sounded A LOT like a donkey.

I’ve never heard a zebra make noise before, but I didn’t expect to hear donkey calls. I thought zebras would sound more like warbling deer. Now I can’t help but see zebras as nothing but donkeys wearing elaborate striped outfits.

The kids were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice the time flying by. And right as an employee finally walked up to us to politely tell us the zoo was closing, Brontë stopped suddenly, looked at me with enormous eyes, and said, “MOM, I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”

We immediately rushed over to the nearby restrooms because when a four-year-old tells you they need the bathroom, it’s urgent. John and I were negotiating who would look after which kid when the zoo employee told us to all just go in together since everyone else had left anyway.

So, we all walked into the bathroom together as Brontë beelined to a stall. She scrambled onto the toilet seat while dropping her drawers… and two baseball-sized turds rolled across the floor.

Brontë looked down, threw both her arms in the air, and shouted:

“Well SH*T, looks like I just crapped my pants!”

I pressed my lips together hard while my brain screamed dontlaughdontlaughdontlaugh, but I just COULDN’T HELP IT.

John, sensing I was about to break, heroically rushed over to help as I quietly left the bathroom to go into hysterics. You don’t want to encourage your children to have potty mouths by laughing when they swear, but it was just…

IMG_3610SO FUNNY. I don’t know how my husband held it together. Her enunciation was perfect. Her arms gestures added just the right emphasis and if crapping your pants isn’t the perfect situation for using the S-word, then I don’t know what is.

I walked back in after collecting myself and helped get everyone out of the zoo. John and I told Brontë she shouldn’t be using the S word but tried not to make a big deal out of it, because flipping out seemed like handing our kids detailed instructions on how to really get a rise out of adults.

My cousin related this little gem to our grandmother, who called the toddler use of the S word an “abomination.” That seemed like a strong word to me.

Fortunately, no one saw or heard any of this: neither the toddler S bomb, nor the rolling turds. I’m not entirely sure whether we just spared humanity from this scene or if everyone else was robbed of the joke.

But I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too. Happy Memorial Day!





Why the Angry Birds Movie is Like The Walking Dead (Spoilers)

So, today I’m going to explain why the new Angry Birds movie is like The Walking Dead series.

Why? Because its fun to try making up legitimate arguments for weird positions, even ones you disagree with (Sometimes you make even better arguments for positions you don’t believe in, because you have to logically think through your ideas rather than ramble off pure instinct, assuming anyone sane would have the same perspective as you).

But that isn’t the case here. I actually think there’s a legitimate link between the Angry Birds movie and our society’s current zombie fixation. And I’d like to talk about it.

Yesterday, my husband and I took our kids to see Angry Birds. We picked Angry Birds because there aren’t many kid movies playing around town. We weren’t sure if a two-year-old was up for The Jungle Book yet and we’d already seen Kung Fu Panda 3.

Mostly, we were just hoping to shove enough popcorn and M&M’s in our two-year-old’s face to keep her from freaking out and forcing us to leave. We thought giant cartoon birds could maybe help.

Please don’t scream, please don’t scream, please don’t scream…

They did. The kids were pretty good and the movie was entertaining. It had funny moments and a good cast. It wasn’t spectacular, not exactly gripping, but better than you’d expect a movie based off an iPad app to be.

I don’t want to write a movie review, though. I’d rather analyze its social relevance, because that’s what I found myself doing in the theater. I don’t know if that’s because it’s what ex-liberal arts majors like to do (having spent our college years writing twenty page papers about the Nietzschean implications of The Simpsons) or if it’s just how grown-ass minds entertain themselves when fed an exclusive diet of primary-colored kid fare.

Either way, I’m starting to believe this surreal universe of chirpy animation is altering my consciousness enough to give me incredible insights. Like why it’s no coincidence that the Angry Birds movie hit at the same time zombie shows are wildly popular.

Let me summarize the parts of the movie that make my argument relevant…

To transform the Angry Birds app into an interesting movie, they needed to find the birds’ motivation. WHY are the birds so angry? Why should we CARE?

You’ve got a Red Bird with angry eyebrows, voiced by Jason Sudekeis. Because of his angry eyebrows, he’s been made fun of by all of the other birds. He’s been isolated and rejected, pushing him further and further from mainstream bird society. He lives in a house on the beach outside of the main bird city.

Angry Red Bird blows up at a customer so hard he’s forced to take anger management classes. These are taught by the kind of yoga- and mediation- loving type of crunchy granola bird you would expect to teach anger management classes, which Red Bird finds irritating as heck.

One day, a bunch of green pigs show up on Bird Island. They are charismatic and helpful,  bringing a bunch of new technology (like trampolines and slingshots) to the birds.

Bird conspiracy theorist

All of the birds love the Green Pigs except Angry Red Bird. He is suspicious of their motives. Where do they come from? What do they want? Why are there so many pigs and what’s REALLY going on?

Angry Red Bird keeps cynically questioning the Green Pigs until he’s finally 86’ed from a party they threw for the birds. He figures out, during his exile, that the pigs want to steal all the birds’ eggs and eat them.

Once he convinces his fellow birds, Red concocts a heroic plan to defeat the Green Pigs, who want to EAT THE BIRDS’ CHILDREN. Once Red and his buddies finally steal back the eggs, he becomes the town’s savior. They rebuild his once-isolated house in the city’s center and all the little hatched bird babies arrive to sing about how he saved him in a moving, kid-voiced song. Red’s new buddies move in with him, he has friends, he is a hero, and… credits.

SO… the ultimate moral of the story is that Red Bird was RIGHT to be cynical and angry, to be wildly suspicious of seemingly-friendly outsiders.

This flies in the face of what our society preaches. We don’t like sarcasm. We don’t like introverts. We consider mistrustful types to be psychologically damaged… why are they so suspicious? Are they dangerous? Why do they have so little faith in their fellow man?

These are the types we believe need therapy to figure out what messed them up enough to carry around so much anger and suspicion.

Yet, Red Bird was right all along. His rampant cynicism and suspicion of outsiders ultimately keep all the children from being eaten.

And this is a KIDS’ movie!

So… zombies. Stick with me here.

The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead indoctrinates its viewers into an entirely new value system when it comes to evaluating new situations and new people. The world is different after a zombie apocalypse: viewers have to picture a world where eventually OTHER PEOPLE become the biggest threat.

You just HAD to save the pregnant lady. Happy now?

Everything we understand about human civility and fair behavior is thrown out the window. For example, in the past season of Fear the Walking Dead, a troubled pregnant woman wants to board the boat carrying all the main characters.

Normal people in a normal society would let her board without question. But zombie fans know that any and all strangers can leave you vulnerable. Anyone letting the pregnant woman board is immediately considered  “still unprepared for the world of the zombie apocalypse.”

Because anyone who retains our society’s current standard of moral decency in the wake of  the zombie invasion is a threat to the larger group, someone who will endanger everyone by naively allowing villains access.

Zombie chow

Like Dale of The Walking Dead. He’s a decent man who is nonetheless a naive idiot by zombie fan standards. Even though he could be considered the most morally consistent, fair-minded character by the practices we typically preach, zombie fans know it’s just a matter of time before he’s gonna get eaten.

It’s the same with Red Bird. He’s reviled for his anger and cynicism. He’s rejected for his  antisocial suspicions. Yet, he was right all along. His fellow birds’ misplaced trust nearly allowed all their children to be boiled and eaten.

Like Red Bird, how do you think a good survivor of the zombie apocalypse would fare in modern-day therapy? To admit to suspecting everyone of potentially atrocious behavior?

The Walking Dead shows may be something only adults watch after the kids go to bed, but their message is not completely unlike that of the bird cartoon: they both question our tendency to see suspicion and anger itself as a sign of abnormal pathology… to ignore thousands of years of evolving to constant threat, a species-wide race for survival, by assuming anyone not facing their daily existence with irrational optimism is psychologically whacked.

I think these stories represent a backlash against the current strain of irrational optimism, the Pollyanna brainwashing that makes us suspect anyone direct. The kind of overwhelming political correctness that is suffocating enough to make a Trump presidency possible.

The wages of unbridled sensitivity. What too much anger management hath wrought

And I say that as an extreme liberal (who does NOT want Trump in office, by the way, but can’t help wondering how we got here).

I think this Angry Birds movie, as well as our fascination with the post-Apocalyptic landscape, represents our backlash against the wholesale rejection of anger. Of suspicion. Cynicism. Fighting back.

In a zombie apocalypse, does human nature change? Or are we just forced to confront its realities in a different equation?

And when the same people who are considered pathologically damaged, under different circumstances, become the well-equipped survivors… what does it mean? Especially when this bizarre landscape represents what human reality has been for most of our existence all along?

I have no idea, but it’s an interesting question.

This is what happens to you, by the way, when you watch too many G-rated films.











Friday Sibling Face-off: Baby Sister Wins

So, as I talked about here and here, my four-year-old daughter Brontë is a force to be reckoned with. She’s sharp, melodramatic, and loves to be in control. She can also pinpoint your psychological weaknesses within seconds and mercilessly exploit them with  her endless talking powers.

Her baby sister Bridget is only two, which is a massive difference in terms of child development. Bridget still can’t say much and doesn’t understand most of the world’s rules yet, which Brontë hasn’t failed to notice.

Gave my kids flashlights and let them explore the backyard at night. They claimed they saw ghosts

Brontë loves her baby sister to pieces, but she likes to boss Bridget around. A lot.

And since Bridget is still so young, her own powers hadn’t fully blossomed…

Until last night.

Brontë is in for a real challenge, folks. We may have a Dark Horse in Bridget, after all. Here we were, thinking we had this cute little cherubic baby girl with pink cheeks and giant eyes and it turns out we’ve had an iron-willed Titan all along…

Just wait until you hear what happened last night.

John and I were planning to make pork chops, corn and spinach, but we were both tired and didn’t want to face it. The kids had been crazy all day and John got a promotion at work (yay!), which is awesome, but he’s scrambling to take on a bigger workload and coming home ten shades of drained every night.

So we decided to order a pizza from Round Table instead. John wanted to get a Wombo Combo. I said we should get half of it with just pineapple because Brontë is incredibly picky and hates meat, mushrooms, olives, and anything that isn’t cheese or fruit. I just wasn’t in the mood to watch her pick everything off her pizza again while screaming for a fork then getting angry about how hard it is to eat pizza with a fork, again.

John tried to talk Brontë into adding some salami by asking what she wanted on her pizza. She said “cheese.”

“What else?” he asked.

“Sauce,” she said.

He rolled his eyes and ordered a pineapple pizza half. We all watched Hotel Transylvania before it arrived. Brontë  is picky about her food but likes her movies spooky.

We watched the movie until the doorbell rang and then set up the table. Brontë reminded us where everyone is supposed to sit.

We’re in Minnie Mouse’s House, one of Brontë’s “Happy Places”

John gave her a plate with a slice of pineapple pizza. She demanded a fork then set about picking off all the pineapple. Once Brontë received her fork, Bridget jumped up and ran over to the silverware drawer, screaming “TOO! TOO!”

John looked baffled.

“She wants a fork too,” I told him. John grabbed her a fork and her face broke into an enormous smile.

John plopped some parmesan cheese and red pepper packets into the table as I distributed brown, recycled-paper napkins and glasses of water.  I tore open a parmesan cheese packet and sprinkled some on Brontë’s naked cheese slice, hoping to tempt her into actually eating it.

“TOO! TOO!” Bridget yelled. I sprinkled some cheese on her slice as well before discarding the cheese envelope onto the table.

Brontë picked up the discarded packet and stuck her tongue in it. When she was finished, she grabbed another and shook the parmesan into her mouth.

Seeing this, Bridget stopped mid pizza-stream and grabbed a packet herself.

Except it was a packet of red peppers.

“NO, BIDGIE!’ Brontë screamed. “YOU CAN’T EAT THAT!”

Sometimes I want to paint this baby’s face with woad and hand her a spear

Bridget stopped, balled her red pepper clutching hand into a fist, and gave her big sister a cold, defiant stare. She doesn’t have a large vocabulary, but that stare was the  toddler equivalent of “F- you, I do what I want!”if anything is.

Without breaking gaze, she ripped open the packet, dipped her tiny finger in some peppers, then stuck it in her mouth.

We watched.

Bridget still didn’t break her gaze. Her eyes started watering and she coughed a little bit, but she stuck her finger back into the packet without flinching and shoved another finger-load of pepper flakes into her mouth.

Everyone was quiet, including Brontë.

Bridget kept on dipping her finger in and eating more peppers while staring down her sister. Her little face grew pinker and pinker until her nose started running hard. I grabbed a napkin to wipe it, but was too transfixed to interfere.

Bridget face turned bright red and she coughed again, but just kept dipping her finger in and eating peppers until she finally put the envelope up to her mouth and finished them off.

Then she she chugged her glass of water, broke into a sweat, and pretended everything was fine. I kept wiping her nose and refilling her water, but she never cried.

Don’t let the pink tutu fool you. This baby will DESTROY you

We ate the rest of the meal in silence, completely mesmerized. Brontë quietly ate her pile of discarded pineapple. Bridget drank about five glasses of water in a row before jumping up from the table and smiling huge.

That kid is iron-willed. I don’t know if I could eat a packet of red peppers and I have an enormous  tolerance for spice. I definitely couldn’t have done it at age two.

I’m still not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, that was AWESOME. I can’t tell you how proud I am to have made people with ovaries like those… a two-year-old who will finish off a packet of red peppers straight, out of sheer spite. If this girl were on your team, she would NEVER sell you out. Not even after being captured by the enemy.

On the other hand, am I equipped to handle wills this strong? What if my girls start having Sister Boss battles someday? It will be another Clash of the Titans, played out right here in middle-class America.

“Look, it’s gonna go down like this… act natural”

On the other hand, what if they get along and start to conspire? Like this photo here, where they are clearly scheming…

Between Brontë’s psychological mastery and Bridget’s raw physical endurance, I don’t know what that future holds. Right now, I’m envisioning Brontë as the Mastermind and Bridget as the Enforcer, but only time will tell.

Epic Battle #1:

Brontë= 0. Bridget=1













Where I discover Bloglovin’and try to hook it up

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14936655/?claim=jgf2bzmb8ty”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

itcrowd.gifHey guys, I just found out about the Bloglovin’ site. Considering there are approximately 25 million blogs started every second (I completely made that statistic up), I figure nearly anything that gets your blog out there is worth a try.

So I’m trying to hook myself up, but have barely passable technological skills (despite working at an IT Help desk before having kids, HA! At least I was nice).

pluggedinWe’re supposed to paste this code into a new post to link our blog. If I’m doing it wrong, please don’t laugh.

Or go ahead and laugh but then tell me how to fix it 🙂

If any of my blogging buddies is already on Bloglovin’ or is interested in linking up, leave me a comment and we can follow each other. Gotta get these parties started somehow, right?

Happy blogging! 🙂

Female WWII Pilots Can Finally Rest in Peace

WASPsBookbyWilliamsYesterday, I was cleaning out my inbox when I saw this Smithsonian article fly by:

Female WWII Pilots Can Now Be Buried At Arlington National Cemetery

“Yay!” was by first thought, followed almost immediately by… Wait, you mean female WWII pilots weren’t allowed at Arlington National Cemetery until now? What the hell!?

So I clicked on it and you can too (I put in a link above).

But I’ll also summarize it for you:

In 1942, the Air Force started training over 1000 women to fly military aircraft during WWII. They were called WASPs (Women Air Force Service Pilots) and they completed military training, wore uniforms, and were stationed at Army air bases across the US.

They also very nearly fought the Nazis directly. The military planned to send the WASPs in a mass offensive against Nazi Germany as commissioned second lieutenants, but the media and public threw a fit, considering it “unnatural” for women to fly for their country.

WASPs also faced enormous opposition from a lobby of angry male pilots who were afraid of losing their jobs to women.  So the female pilots were always considered “unofficial,” a paramilitary operation.

waspww2So despite the fact that WASPs were subject to military discipline and flew in top-secret missions, they had to pay for their own uniforms and lodging, and their families had to pay to bring their bodies home.

Which happened, because 38 of these women died for their country. Their families received nothing. Not even a flag.

WASPs were finally recognized as veterans in 1977 and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2009. They started being buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors in 2002…

Until March 2016, when Secretary of the Army John McHugh ruled that WASPs never should have been allowed in the military in the first place.

How infuriating is that?

Imagine we’re in the middle of WWIII and conditions get desperate enough to start drafting men over age fifty, even though we normally don’t. But we do, a bunch of men over age fifty die for their country, and afterwards are barred from military honors because  they “shouldn’t have been in the military in the first place.”

That would be ludicrous, right? What if it were children under the age of fifteen?

Another argument was that Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room. They may as well have said they couldn’t afford to humor women pilots anymore because we need space for real heroes now.

I’m surprised we’re still fighting these battles in 2016.


But thanks in part to this petition that gathered over 178,000 signatures, McHugh’s decision has been reversed. WASPs will finally be allowed to rest in peace along with their fellow soldiers.

And it only took 75 years.






My Cat Warns Me About Bridget’s Incessant Screaming

Cat concern

Zoë the Cat: Hey, is this a good time to talk?

Me: Yeah, I guess so.

Zoë the Cat (clearing her throat): Okay good, because there’s something really important we need to address…

Me: Go on

Zoë the Cat: Well, you know I’ve always been supportive of your mothering efforts. I mean, bringing up kittens is awesome even though it can be challenging. The bigger our pack gets, the stronger we will be.

Me: You’ve put a lot of thought into this.

Zoë the Cat: Of course, you’re a very special monkey. Now the thing is, your kitten has been making a LOT of noise lately and you have GOT to shut her up…

Me: Well, she’s two.

Zoë the Cat: Uh huh. By the time I was two, I was raising five kittens of my own.

Me: People are different.

IMG_3343Zoë the Cat: That may be, but you still need to quiet her down. She’s going to draw predators. It’s just a matter of time.

Me: No, we’re safe.

Zoë the Cat: We’ve gotten lucky so far and now you’re getting cocky. Look, we have a good thing here: it’s warm, it’s hidden, there’s lots of food…

But if that kitten keeps screaming like that, sooner or later a mountain lion is gonna show up and we’ll have to sneak away. You don’t want to raise kittens on the road, believe me.

Me: Mountain lions?

Zoë the Cat: Yes, or musk deer. Musk deer are a real threat around here, believe it or not. I’ve smelled them lots of times.

The stuff of Zoë’s nightmares

Me: Don’t worry, that’s just my perfume.

Zoë the Cat: Your WHAT!? Why would you…

OH, you’re trying to blend in with the musk deer! Smart. It seems to be working.

But you still need to shut that kitten up before she gets us all killed.

Me: How am I supposed to do that?

Zoë the Cat: You bite her firmly, but gently, on the back of the neck. Not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to let her know you mean business.

And if that doesn’t work, you may be forced to hold her down and rabbit-kick her in the face for a while.

Me: Umm, thanks. I’ll take that under advisement.

Zoë the Cat: No problem. Safety first.




I Play With Judgey Apps (So You Don’t Have To)

Sometimes, in rare moments of clarity, I realize that free time is completely wasted on me.

Because as much as I daydream about meditating and getting to all those fabulous books I’ve been meaning to read, my actual free time usually involves a lot of Netflix and internet rabbit holes.

Like yesterday evening, when I spent half the night uploading selfies to figure out whether or not I’m cute.

You mean, people will have all the world’s knowledge available for free and they’ll use it to find out what friends ate for lunch?
That’s right, all of humankind’s collected wisdom at my fingertips…  and I choose to watch people injure themselves hilariously or ask robots if they think I’m hot.


Hey, don’t judge me. You know you’re curious too, or you wouldn’t still be reading this. Our society puts a premium on youth and beauty, but it can be hard to figure out where you stand. There’s just so much paranoia and social sugarcoating confusing things.

So if you’re wanting a more objective opinion, I’ve found some websites offering fresh, ingenious ways to help you obsess:

This Microsoft app won’t tell you how cute you are, but it will tell you how old you look. They use virtual intelligence to measure whatever factors signal age in your face.

You can either use random photos or upload your own, which is what you’ll obviously do because why would you care how old a computer thinks a random stranger is?

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 3.48.56 PM.png
In case those passive-aggressive birthday cards weren’t enough

My take:

This app is interesting, but its answers varied quite a bit. Depending on the angle, it rated me anywhere from 20 to 39. That’s a big spread, just enough to tell me I won’t be talking my way into child or senior citizen discounts anytime soon.

On the one hand, I liked that it usually shaved off some years, but on the other, I now have a weird paranoia about looking ten years older if I hold my head wrong.

For fun, I also ran a photo of my daughter when she was three. It thought she was five.

I figure I’ll be keeping that to myself so she won’t get a complex about her age. I mean, that’s like telling a 21-year-old they look 35.

This soul-crushing nightmare was unleashed by the Swiss researchers of Blinq. It tells you how attractive you are and they created it by infusing an enormous amount of celebrity photos with the personal preferences of their dating site’s members.

I mostly could only pull off a “nice” rating on this thing, which sounds reassuring except there are three levels higher than that. Suddenly, “nice” seems like a kinder way of saying my face won’t instantly make Swiss people throw up.

Maybe it depends on whether the ratings are based on an even-spacing of all of humanity’s cuteness possibilities (where “nice” becomes the midpoint between being gorgeous and vomit-inducing), or whether attractiveness is based more on a pyramid with only a select few at the top (like wealth).

At any rate, the only photo of me to receive a coveted “stunning” rating was from three years ago when my hair was bleached super-blonde. So being the fair-minded, objective person I am,  I instantly declared the application racist and wrote off the rest of the results.

Just let me believe the app is racist, guys. I need this.

My take:

Since ratings are based on user preferences, I figure they measure what’s currently trendy.

After all, preferences change over time as different looks become fashionable. For example,  Mary Pickford was the cat’s pajamas of the 1920’s and while she’d still be considered cute today, she couldn’t work as a supermodel.

For fun, I ran a picture of Mary Pickford and she received the underwhelming “nice” rating too. So there.

Not impressing the Swiss

This is a photo retouching site that rates your attractiveness before and after they work their Photoshop magic. They even give you in-depth, feature-by-feature ratings to let you know how your individual parts stack up.

Since they kept telling me what a goddess I am, I absolutely loved it. It’s just what I needed after Switzerland called me average, at best.

Despite lengthening my chin in the “after “photos, they kept heaping so much praise on me that I finally started wondering what was up.

I decided to establish a control.  I started uploading photos of weird-looking people off the web…. I mean truly weird-looking people, the kind whose photos go viral for running around Walmart looking inbred.

And they were ALL considered cute, confirming my suspicions. Dang it.

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Even Emperor Palpatine gets an eight

My take:

This is a great website to help you feel better about yourself, but it’s awfully generous.

This site has you upload your photo then drag markers to various locations around your face. It essentially uses the Golden Ratio to measure their proportions and symmetry, then tells you where you fall on a one-to-ten scale.

It also breaks down what ratios are good and bad, so you can pinpoint exactly what’s jacking up your face. What could go wrong?

I scored solid 8 point somethings across various photos, which I found reassuring. One confounding factor, though, is that ear length is used in many of the measurements and I had a hard time taking a front-facing photo where you could see both the tops and bottoms of my ears.

So my ears are unusually flat against my head. Who knew? I had to keep estimating where my ears ended, which might have thrown off the results.

I also found out my eyes are widely set. Out of all the petty flaws I obsess about, this one was a complete revelation. If it weren’t for Anaface, I might’ve gone the rest of my life without a clue about my eyes being too far apart.

My face would make a passable Parthenon

My take:

Since the Golden Ratio has been used to determine beauty in everything from human bodies to architecture for thousands of years, I figure Anaface measures what we call “classic” beauty, the type that stands the test of time but isn’t particularly trendy.

And since Anaface liked me better than Blinq, I’m guessing I would’ve been more popular in Ancient Greece than modern-day Switzerland. At least there are no Ancient Greeks still around to argue with me on this point.

In the end:

There are so many definitions of beauty that it’s impossible to really nail it down. Some experts think it’s all about looking very average, for example, whereas others think it’s about looking like an exaggerated boy or girl.

We don’t even all agree on how cute celebrities are, and those folks make millions off their looks. For every heartthrob out there, there’s a bunch of people who don’t get all the fuss.

Plus, our definitions change over time. Angelina Jolie is considered gorgeous now, but would’ve probably been too “exotic-looking” back in the 1950’s. On the other hand, actresses from the fifties would be considered chunky today.

So while these sites are fun to play with, don’t lose any sleep over them. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I wholeheartedly agree… even if I did waste half a night trying to find out.

My Daughter Confronts Her Dad About His Terrible Voice

Finally past the “NO!” and “MINE!” phase of toddler communication

A lot of parents are sad when their babies start walking and talking because, well, babies are so easy and portable. They just sleep and eat and sit on your lap and don’t tear up your house they way toddlers do.


But let’s face it… babies don’t say much. It’s kind of a one-way conversation.

Toddlers, on the other hand, are hilarious.

They’re brutally honest. They string words together in unusual ways while trying to figure out the vast, confusing world around them.

For example, my four-year-old daughter Brontë HATES it when her daddy sings and isn’t shy about telling him so.

My husband John, who sings made-up songs and NEVER EVER makes two trips to bring in groceries

He likes to sing, however, so he keeps it up.


Brontë figures she just hasn’t gotten through to him yet. She believes he would halt his mind-numbing sonic torture if he only understood how much it bothers her, so she keeps making up new and creative ways to explain it to him.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what the fuss is all about. John just sounds like a typical dad singing silly dad songs. Maybe it’s his voice or maybe it’s the irritating whimsy of his lyrics.

Or maybe it’s just another toddler control trip, but when John first started singing, she would stop whatever she was doing, throw her arms in the air, and scream, “NO DADDY! DO… NOT… SING!”

You’d think he’d understand this, right?

But he just kept on going. Bronte looked baffled. She couldn’t figure out how she failed to get her message across.

John actually thinks it’s funny to work Brontë into a frenzy. He’s that kind of guy. If you say you don’t want him leaving water glasses on the coffee table, you can bet he’ll be leaving water glasses on the table for months on end, just waiting for you to freak out. So I kind of know how Brontë feels.

Predictably, John kept singing until Brontë started running out of the room every time, screaming with her arms out in front of her like a tomb raider escaping a rampaging mummy in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

This never worked either, of course. John would keep walking around the house singing made-up songs, from time to time, until Brontë ran away shrieking. I suspect he actually began using this technique to make her leave the room whenever he wanted a parenting break.

So one day, John begins singing about how he needs to feed the cat and Brontë says, “Daddy… daddy… DADDY!!!!!!!!”

John stops. “What?”

Brontë puts her little hand on his arm and looks at him very seriously. “You’re breaking my heart, daddy.”

“How am I breaking your heart?”

“I no like you singing, daddy. You CAN’T SING.”

John starts singing again.

Brontë throws back her head and shouts open-mouthed, like a screaming muppet: “DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!!!!”


“Your singing MAKES MY EARS CRY. It HURTS me.”

“Well, I like to sing.”

“That hurts my heart, daddy. Your singing makes my heart cry.”

John chuckles.

“NO LAUGH AT ME, DADDY!” Brontë shouted while running out of the room.

Well, at least she’s honest. And has a surprisingly good vocabulary for a four-year-old. The other day she called her little sister a “terrorist” while she was throwing a fit.

Worn out from back-and-forth rounds of torturous musical improv and toddler burns




Toddlers Are Dramatic and Literal

Brontë walked up to me this morning looking very serious.

“Momma, we need to talk.”

“Of course we can talk.”

Looking deep into my eyes, she said “I need to ask you a question.”

I nodded.

“Can I count on you?”

I grabbed her hand: “Of COURSE you can count on me! I will ALWAYS be here for you.”

She smiled, crawled up into my lap, and began:

“One… Two… Three…”