When Your Kids Are Obnoxious in Restaurants

Whoever came up with the idea of offering play structures at McDonalds and Chick-fil-a’s was a marketing genius, let me tell you. It’s an absolute godsend for parents of toddlers to finally eat a meal in peace.

Problem is, I don’t want to spend the next several years only eating at McDonalds every time we go out to dinner. Really seems like someone would’ve caught on  to the screaming market need for reasonably healthy restaurants with kid play structures by now…

Because every time my husband and I try to eat at a “normal” restaurant, it’s just a matter of time before our kids turn into drunken soccer hooligans. They kick, they squirm, they take turns melting under the table, and when our scrambling to control them finally frustrates them enough, they start screaming at the top of their lungs.

The  crayons restaurants give you are a great idea, but they only work on our kids for a few minutes (plus, Bridget eats them). Bringing toys hasn’t worked. Stern lectures in the bathroom haven’t worked. And since our society currently frowns on paddling the crap out of your kids, my husband and I can think up few solutions beyond one of us marching our kids outside, around the building, while the other one eats by themselves.

Threatening to leave is pointless, because kids DON’T CARE. They don’t understand what it means to work long hours to earn the money for a nice meal at a restaurant and they think leaving is a fine idea. Who wants to sit still?

Recently, my husband and I decided we HAVE GOT to put a stop to these shenanigans, because 1) we don’t want to live under house arrest for the next five years, and 2) we’ve been to Europe and seen little kids sitting patiently at dinner many times. So, we know it’s possible.

We just don’t understand how.

We’re assuming the best course is practicing proper mealtime behavior at home, which means teaching our kids to sit still in their chairs at the dinner table. We used to excuse them when they were finished eating, which usually meant they took two bites before running off to build Lego ships and make Barbies yell at each other.

Now, they’re supposed to sit still until EVERYONE is finished eating, which is going something like this:

Our kids are firmly convinced they’re suffering under an oppressive and torturous dictatorship. The new policy changes have prompted rioting and vocal dissent, as well as the constant flickering on-and-off of nearby light switches:

 

 

But to no avail. Their butts keep getting placed firmly back onto chairs and the timeouts just keep on coming.

The whole process has about shredded our every last nerve, but as time wears on, the tantrums are getting shorter and the sitting is getting longer. Dare we even say it?

We may,

One day,

Actually be able to take our time when eating at a normal restaurant.

(Whew, don’t jinx it!)

Any other parents have this problem? Did you manage to fix it, or did you end up hiding out for years until your kids came of age? We think we may be on the right track here, but only time will tell.

 

 

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The Monkeys Put Toyotas in Our Pasta

I used to be astounded by how parents could always make sense of the incomprehensible word garbage coming out of their toddlers’ mouths. Some kid would scream “PTHWAAAAAAAACK,” his mom would hand him a glass of water and my mind would be blown by her translating superpowers. How did she DO that!?

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“manas”

But now that I’m a parent, I understand that: 1)  When your kid screams “MAN-UH!” in the vicinity of bananas enough times, you eventually put two and two together, and 2) you DON’T always understand what your kid is saying.

And not understanding can be extremely frustrating for both parties. Kind of like when you try saying something in a foreign language and think you’ve said it correctly but the person listening to you has this baffled look on their face as well as the pained look of trying to understand you, which is just embarrassing.

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“mingos”

Except kids have a really low tolerance for frustration in general, so when you don’t get it, they tend to scream the exact same thing louder several times before having a complete meltdown. Sometimes I like to pretend we live in a world where adults had meltdowns too (Safeway doesn’t carry rice crackers!? NOOO!!! Rolling on the floor, kicking the shelves...) but mostly, I’m just embarrassed by my kids screaming in public.

My husband and I can usually understand our four-year-old now, but there are still  moments of confusion. Like the other day in the car, when she was telling us all about needing a “bell door.”

Brontë: I need a bell door. Grandma and poppa have a bell door at their house.

Me: A what? A “bell door”?

Brontë: YES.

Me: A doorbell? We have a door bell.

Brontë: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

John: Calm down! What’s a bell door?

Brontë (flailing her arms): A BELL DOE! BELL DOE!

Me: Describe a “bell doe.” Tell me about bell doe’s.

Brontë: Has a yellow dress and a crown.

John:

Me: A… Belle doll? Like in Beauty and the Beast?

Brontë: YES! A BELL DOOR!

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BELL DOOR!

Whew, alright. Brontë’s English is pretty good these days, but her two-year-old sister Bridget is still deep in the heart of baby mumble-speak. She was throwing fits all over town yesterday while we were running errands, angry about stuff I just couldn’t grasp.

When we went to the gym, we had to leave because Bidgie wouldn’t quit screaming, and as I was piling everyone into the car, she grabbed my leg, thrust one baby-finger skyward, and looked me square in the eyes as she made her demands:

Bridget: MAN… KEY!

Me (having just about had it): What!?

Bridget (jumping up and down): MAN-KEY!

Me: Blankie?

Bridget: NOOOOOOOOOO! MAN-KEY! MAN-KEY!

Brontë: Why is she mad?

Me (sighing): I don’t know. Apparently, she’s ticked off about monkeys.

Brontë laughs while I strap her screaming sister into a carseat. Bridget keeps on yelling “MAN KEY!”

Me: See? She’s angry about all the monkeys.

Brontë (giggling hysterically): There’s MONKEYS all over the car, you see them? NO… monkeys come to our house while we’re gone. They watch our Belle and the Beast movie and eat all the chocolate pudding.

Me (giggling): Bad monkeys! No wonder she’s mad.

Brontë: Bridge-jit! You can’t have pudding anyway until you eat your dinner! And for dinner, we’re having pasta with cars in it.

Bridget looks perplexed.

Me: Toy cars or big cars?

Brontë (slapping her thigh): BIG cars. Wait, no… we are having rice with FEET in it. Little feet with little shoes and socks on them.

evilmonkey.pngBridget starts giggling.

Brontë: And if you want chocolate pudding, you’ve got to EAT YOUR FEET!

Bridget (laughing herself silly): FEET! FEET! FEET!

Sometimes, when your kid is babbling something incomprehensible at you, it’s helpful to ask them to “show me.” Many a crisis has been averted by my kids walking up and pointing to whatever they were talking about.

And at other times, lightening the mood could be your best option. Toddlers are innately silly, so it can defuse tension pretty well.

Or maybe someone has an even better idea? I don’t know. I’m just trying to ride out the explosive world of bell doors and mankeys the best I can.

 

 

 

Do Bubbles Really Cause Obesity?

Every once in a while, we long-suffering bloggers check our WordPress stats and are thrilled by a sudden explosion of new views or followers.

That’s probably the most awesome thing that can happen to bloggers when checking out our stats,  but a close second has got to be finding out the search terms people used to find our blogs.

Because those can be downright hilarious.

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Don’t do it, kid! Save yourself!

Like tonight, when someone inadvertently navigated to my site after asking the internet whether bubbles cause obesity.

I just… can’t make heads or tails of this idea.

I mean, I get the logistics of the search results (my blog has “bubbles” in the title and I guess I’ve talked about dieting and obesity a couple of times), but what’s really throwing me is the idea that someone, somewhere, is genuinely wondering whether bubbles may be responsible for their weight problem.

What kind of bubbles are they even envisioning? Spit bubbles? Soap bubbles? The kind of bubbles you played with as a kid?

Is there some kind of granola-hippie nut job  out there suggesting that chemicals in children’s bubble formulas are responsible for the obesity epidemic in America today?

Have you tried losing weight only to watch each diet fail, time and time again? Well, stop torturing yourself, my friend! There’s no need to feel guilty…  you’ve been a victim of the Great Bubble Conspiracy. Once released from the nefarious bubbesphere, you’ll see pounds melt off effortlessly, without changing your lifestyle or spending countless hours at the gym!

I seriously doubt bubbles have anything to do with gaining weight, unless the bubbles in question are the bubbles in bubble tea. Because those have a startling number of calories.

Sheesh, these weight-loss gimmicks are getting weird.

 

 

 

My Ghostbuster Confession

As many of you probably know, there’s a large number of disgruntled guys on the internet who have their panties in a bunch about the new Ghostbusters movie, due to its female cast.

These guys seem convinced that letting women play ghostbusters would mean nothing is left in the masculine toolbox: Open your eyes to the Feminazi conspiracy, folks! If people start thinking pretend women can defeat pretend ghosts as well as any pretend man, this place will be ripe for Ovarian takeover! 

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How renegade paranormal vigilantes are supposed to look

At first, I couldn’t help wondering if a huge publicity stunt was behind all this drama. It’s just so over-the-top ridiculous.

But checking out the comment section following  this news article talking about the controversy  (and others like it) shows how ticked off some people really are. Not only are Social Justice Warriors devastating male identities everywhere, they’re ruining everyone’s childhood too! Oh, the humanity…

Whether or not it’s a bunch of made-up media hype, it worked on me. My husband was shocked when I told him I wanted to see it, especially after he’d suggested an artsy Indie flick.

But I was more in the mood for a light, fun movie. Plus, I was dying to see these women be hilarious, proving once and for all how we could all be Ghostbusters too.

And after we’d watched it, my husband asked me what I’d thought of it.

My brain scrambled to think up some cinematic saving grace. But I just couldn’t.

Well…

It wasn’t very good. 

I hated having to say that. I really, really wanted it to be good.

And my bar was pretty low. I wasn’t expecting creative genius. The original Ghostbusters wasn’t exactly life-changing itself, just a quirky original film mixed with heaping doses of nostalgia.

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McCarthy, actually being funny

No, I just wanted something that would make me laugh and expected this cast to deliver. I love Kirstin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy can be hysterical (like in Bridesmaids), but this film was boring and dumb. I only chuckled a few times, mostly when Leslie Jones was talking.

Everything felt artificial, yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized how common many of its silly elements are. Maybe changing the formula just made said silliness more obvious?

I’m talking about stuff like:

  • The renegade member of “the system” who ticks off the boss by thinking outside the box (Kirstin Wiig’s character) but is ultimately right all along
  • Scientists who constantly bring unnecessarily-complicated scientific explanations into normal conversations
  • Regular people, with no athletic or weapons training, who are suddenly capable of incredible marksmanship and acts of superhuman physical prowess when faced with an outside threat

When you think about it, this crap happens in action movies all the time, but we’re so used to seeing it that we’re blind to it. Maybe changing up the script by using female characters only reveals the ridiculousness that was always there.  We suddenly notice the vast suspension of disbelief we normally offer up without question.

Either way, I don’t think the new Ghostbusters was dumb because the ghostbusters were women. I just think it was a bad movie: a blockbuster designed to milk our nostalgia dollars without coming up with anything original. Its constant and ultimately pointless cameo appearances should’ve maybe tipped us off.

And I hated having to admit that, but it’s true.

 

 

Don’t You Dare Bring Up The Mermaids

One of the best parts of parenting is how accomplished your kids make you feel. My kids are blown away by me tying my shoes all by myself and think I’m one of the greatest comediennes in the world.

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Brontë, trying her hand at our diaper gag.

Course, it doesn’t take much. When they were babies, all I had to do was put a random object on my head and my kids were pissing themselves laughing about it. Our diaper-on-the-head routine never seemed to get old.

Babies are definitely slapstick comedy fans, but toddlers are a bit more sophisticated. Your jokes need to be more absurdist, centering on topics like cats who wear glasses while playing the piano or what it’s like to pee in a bathroom in China.

And their reactions are increasingly unpredictable. Like yesterday, when I unwittingly pissed my four-year-old daughter off…

Brontë and I have a quirky routine where we tell each other “secrets.”

It goes like this:

  1. Brontë dramatically looks left and right before leaning in and whispering in my ear, “Momma, I have a secret to tell you!”
  2. She tells me something about a Disney princess then asks for a secret in return.
  3. I lean in and whisper something about another Disney princess.
  4. She giggles, squeezes my hand, and nods knowingly.

This was how it worked for the past two years, at least, but yesterday was a different story.

Yesterday went like this:

Brontë (whispering): I have a princess secret to tell you.

Me (leaning in): Okay, let’s hear it…

Brontë (looking left and right before whispering): Jasmine rode on a magic carpet with Aladdin and they were… singing!

Me (feigning shock): Wow!

Brontë: Now you tell me a secret.

Me (leaning in): Okay. Well, sometimes, Ariel misses her mermaid tail because she doesn’t swim as fast anymore…

Brontë (turning white): HEY! I don’t EVER want to hear about that AGAIN… EVER!

And then she stomped into her room and slammed the door, leaving me wondering how I’d offended her.

 

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Before someone crapped all over their mermaid dreams

Ariel is probably Brontë’s favorite princess, so maybe she didn’t care for any suggestion that she’s inadequate in any way.

Or, maybe Brontë considers the loss of Ariel’s mermaid tail quite tragic and thought I was making light of a troubling situation.

Or, maybe it had something to do with how Brontë sometimes fantasizes about being a mermaid. If a former mermaid can’t even get her tail back, what chance would she have? Maybe I just wrecked the whole fantasy.

Any other ideas?  The intricate rules of toddler etiquette can be so perplexing.

 

 

 

 

My Daughter’s Fixation on Bathroom Identity

Toddler obsessions can be strange and mysterious. Like lately, Brontë has been consumed by the significance of the bathroom in which you choose to pee.

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How DARE you suggest I pee where boys pee??

So, for example, if Brontë is out somewhere with her dad, she will absolutely flip out about him taking her to the bathroom. Because that would mean peeing in a boy’s bathroom, which is NOT OKAY.

If he won’t take her to the girl’s room, she won’t want to go at all… no matter how many times we’ve explained that she’s allowed in the men’s room with her dad, while grown men aren’t allowed in the women’s bathroom.

Well, she’s not buying it and furthermore, she’s not happy about the whole unisex deal we have going on at home. She’s taken ownership of the bathroom closest to her room and keeps piling dresses and princess toys in there like some kind of feminine territorial display.

She’s okay with baby sister Bridget using it and actually seems flattered when I do. She’ll wander in after me, asking if I like her bathroom, checking to make sure there’s still toilet paper and pointing out her fancy-smelling soap. She seems to take pride in the place.

catbathroom.jpgAnd every single time, she’ll make pleasant small talk with me before requesting I put a girl’s bathroom sign on the door–one of those public restroom stick figures with a dress on–so daddy will quit going in there. Because it’s a GIRL bathroom.

Her peeing obsessions have worked their way into her humor lately too, what with her asking me last week if I wanted to go to China with her someday. I told her I’d love to and asked what she wanted to do there. She plans to eat rice with chopsticks, drink tea, and “PEE IN A CHINESE BATHROOM IF THE POLICE WOULD LET US,” she told me while wiping tears from her eyes and breaking into uncontrollable laughter.

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MOMMY’S bathroom has flower-smelly stuff and proper girl accouterments 

“Pee in a Chinese bathroom,” she kept saying again and again, laughing harder every time. I have no idea what kinds of hilarious shenanigans she envisions taking place in Chinese bathrooms, or why she would imagine the Chinese police wouldn’t prefer people peeing inside the bathroom, but she found the idea hysterical, just the same.

This weekend, we were driving through Sacramento when we went past the coffee shop where John and I first met. John pointed it out to Brontë, telling her how we had cafe lattes and a seven-hour conversation at that table, right over there…

Brontë was fascinated. She loves to hear about her parents’ early relationship and likes to talk about what our wedding was like. She found a picture of us on our wedding day at her grandparents’ house which she stared at for ages before begging for a copy in her room. “You wore a white dress,” she reminds me sometimes, “And had white earrings and pink flowers. Can I see your ring?”

We decided to stop there for coffee. Brontë begged us to drink it there and found a nice table on the patio. Chewing on some lemon pound cake, she pointed out the men with strange beards playing chess in the corners before saying she needed to use the bathroom. I got up to take her.

We grabbed the long key next to the coffee bar and went into the single, unisex bathroom with long open windows. Brontë crawled up onto the toilet and relaxed, her little feet dangling over the bowl.

Suddenly she froze, her eyes enormous. “WAIT,” she said, staring me hard. “Wait wait wait… Hold on: Did you PEE IN THIS VERY SAME BATHROOM on the day you met my dad?”

“Umm… I don’t remember, but maybe… I probably did.”

Brontë stared in amazement for a few moments before heaving a deep sigh.

“Whoa, ” she said. “Just… wow.”

 

5 Weird Kid Shows That Won’t Bore You to Tears

As a parent, I really appreciate well-written shows for kids.

Because it expands my kids’ minds and provides them quality entertainment?

Well… sure. But if I can be brutally honest for a moment, I also care about having to also watch whatever my kids are watching.

Which is why my kids have never, ever seen an episode of the Teletubbies. It may be great for development, but I find its glassy-eyed, brightly-colored characters so grating that the mere idea of regularly seeing them makes my teeth hurt.

Or Caillou. I can’t tell you how many parents have warned me about the perils of Caillou…

“I HATE CAILLOU!” they say. “But my kids are addicted to it.”

And I chuckle, right before they grip my arm…

“NO, you DON’T UNDERSTAND,” they say with a thousand-yard stare. “Caillou is a complete a**hole, a whiny little brat who always gets what he wants. Don’t do it, Erin! Don’t ever let them see that little jerk!”

And being spared the apparent hell of the endless Caillou loop, I figured I should pay their kindness forward. Here are five kids’ TV shows I think are entertaining enough to keep parents happy too.

Or even non-parents. They’re just that good.

  1. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010)

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Plus, they’ve added a strange Velma/Shaggy/Scooby love triangle

Many of us grew up watching the original series (at least in re-runs) and already feel nostalgic about the characters. This is the updated version, faithful to the original (Fred Welker still does Freddy’s voice) while adding more sophisticated humor. The kind that adults will get, but will go right over your kids’ heads.

There’s also a great cast, including Lewis Black and Patrick Warburton. Natalie from The Facts of Life does Velma’s voice, which adds to the childhood nostalgia.

2.  Gravity Falls (2012)

This is a trippy, cerebral show about a brother and sister who spend a summer with their

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Possibly a “Stranger Things” forerunner

great uncle in Oregon and find themselves battling paranormal forces. Dipper Pines, the brother, finds a supernatural journal to help sort out the town’s dark mysteries and he’s voiced by Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter AKA Jack Tripper).

His sister, Mabel Pines, is obsessed with parties, sweaters and Waddles, her pet pig. She’s voiced by Kristin Schaal, who is always an instant crack-up.

This is a weird, weird show. It even includes secret codes and messages. I was thrilled that my kids loved it too, because I was hooked after one episode.

3.  Ruby Gloom (2006)

My four-year-old daughter is still afraid of the dark, yet bizarrely fascinated by vampires

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Raggedy-Ann in her Goth phase

and ghosts. She even wants a pet bat, named “Lola,” to sleep upside-down in her closet.

I always figured it had something to do with conquering her fears, but maybe it’s more about kids getting tired of happy, chipper, perfect-land too. Maybe because its forbidden, some kids like peering into the  dark side once in a while.

If you also have a kid like that, this is the perfect show to satisfy those urges. It’s creepy (involving vampires and conjoined twins) while never crossing the line into truly frightening or inappropriate themes.

There’s Scaredy Bat, for example, a wimpy bat character who is afraid of everything.

4.  Regular Show (2010)

Another odd show that centers on the lives of two friends, a blue jay named Mordecai

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The glasses are my favorite part

and a raccoon named Rigby. They’re employed as groundskeepers at a local park, but are also slackers whose misadventures sometimes veer into the surreal or supernatural.

Though it sometimes seems random, the show has been nominated for several awards. Each episode is packed with hidden jokes and risqué innuendo that is, again, skillful enough for only adults to catch.  Sometimes the jokes are in song lyrics, to give you a better idea.

It’s off-the-wall comedy that sometimes jumps into outer space. Still, my kids love it. My daughter will drop her Legos whenever it comes on TV.

5.  Over the Garden Wall (2014)

I wrote an entire post praising this multi-layered miniseries and having now seen it a

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Vintage creepiness in all its glory

dozen more times, I still think it’s great.

It follows the journey of two lost brothers in a strange land of singing animals, with echoes of Dante’s Inferno. It feels like the colorful LSD trip of a bunch of brilliant Early American Literature professors.

Old-timey music, 1920’s style cartoons, beasts in the forest that feel straight out of a Nathaniel Hawthorne nightmare… it all comes across like an American history classic, packed with the peculiarly American demons that haunted our Puritan forefathers centuries ago. There’s enough creepiness to captivate your kids, but enough heart to not make you feel like an irresponsible parent while they’re watching it.

 

I hope you enjoy these suggestions, but I’m not finished yet. Stay tuned for five kid’s movies that I’m sure even adults will love.

 

Funny Things My Kids Said This Week

Parenting is full of surprises. Some aren’t happy (like finding out you’ll never, ever get to pee by yourself again), whereas others are the hidden gems that make all the late-night wake-ups and surprise wall art worth the hassle.

My kids, for example, are incredibly entertaining. Afraid I’d forget, I started writing down the hilarious things they said and did. But there are just… so many. Maybe enough for a weekly roundup.

On Keeping the Light On

IMG_3230My four-year-old daughter Brontë is brave in so many ways. She loves riding the Tower of Terror at Disneyland, even though she’s too short to show up in the picture, and watching spooky movies about ghosts and vampires.

But she’s still afraid of the dark. She needs the light in her room to be not only on, but angled right at her bed. The other night, she was pitching a fit because her light was angled wrong when my husband tried to talk her out of it…

John: You don’t need the light on, anyway. BABIES sleep with the light on.

Brontë: Yes, babies. And Brontë.

John: Just babies.

Brontë: Aaaaaand Brontës.

After Discovering a Broken Plate

Me: WHO BROKE THIS FISH PLATE?

Brontë: Psh… That was BRIDGET, mommy. I only use my powers for good.

 

On Foreign Travel

piratehatBrontë: Momma, you want to go with me to China someday?

Me: I’d love to. What do you want to do there?

Brontë: Umm… Well, it’s a f a r a w a y land. Maybe we could eat Chinese food with chopsticks.

Me: That would be fun. We could also drink tea.

Brontë: Yes! And go on scary roller coasters.

Me: I guess we could…

Brontë: AND GO PEE IN A CHINESE BATHROOM IF THE POLICE WILL LET US!

Brontë walks away down the hall, slapping her thigh, laughing, and repeating “pee in a Chinese bathroom” in hysterical giggling fits until tears are running down her cheeks. I wonder how she pictures this playing out.

Hearing Google Directions in the Car

Siri: Take the next right to merge onto I-80 West

Brontë: Silly says, “TAKE THE NEXT RIGHT TO BRING THE BABY WEST!”

Bridget (laughing maniacally): WEST!

Brontë: Attention! We are “DRIVING THE BABY WEST.”

In a Restaurant

Me: I have to go to the bathroom.

Brontë (loudly): HAPPY POOPING, MOMMA!

 

After Hearing the Kids Scream for Ages When They’re Supposed to be Napping

Me: BRIDGET! Lay down and TAKE A NAP. You guys are falling-over tired!

Brontë: We’re not looking for any trouble, here…

 

Bridget’s Revenge

IMG_1794 (1)Brontë gets a lot of glory for saying hilarious stuff, but baby sister Bridget shouldn’t be underestimated.

Brontë has two extra years of language development,  which she fully exploits, but Bidgie has impressive mechanical skills that she uses to even the score.

Like the other day, when Brontë was watching a Madeline cartoon.She LOVES Madeline.

So, Brontë was freaking out because her Madeline cartoon kept pausing and starting… Sometimes rewinding, then playing: “IT KEEPS STOPPING AND STARTING!” she screamed.

I looked over and saw Bidgie holding the remote under her blankie, completely poker-faced.

The movie starts again, long enough for Brontë to get really into it. Then it suddenly stops and begins to rewind…

Brontë starts flailing around the living room, baffled, saying, “AM I MOVING IT WITH MY ARMS AND LEGS?”

Bidgie smirks, then quietly keeps on pressing buttons…

Well done, Bidgie Bear. Well done.