Friday Frivolity - Goodnight Nanny Cam

This latest spoof on that old favorite Goodnight Moon found in The New Yorker is rife with social commentary.

Image from The New Yorker


We seem to be reaching MAXIMUM CHRISTMAS EXCITEMENT around here - can only imagine how EXCITING next week will be!!!!!


 If you are searching for any last minute gifts we are loving the gift guide Joanna is running over at Cup of Jo.

Have a wonderful wintery weekend! 

Tis the Season to be Fabulous

We have written about holiday cards before.  And while most of us are scrambling to simply find a picture in which all parties are a) in the frame and b) bonus - looking at the camera; we have heard that some modern mothers view Holiday Greetings as a competitive event.   Lucky for this type of modern mother there is a new invention that may soon make the Holiday Letter obsolete.  Now she can brattle away without superfluous words or pleasantries.  Now she can say it with metrics.  This particular option from beloved site Minted may be placed on the back or front of the card.

 Image from Minted.com

 The not so organized/competitive modern mother may wonder, does the world really need to know about your new kitchen or how many brownies you baked?  Perhaps it is more subtle than saying "I am an exceptional mother and will do anything for my very talented children.  Speaking of my children,  James hit 7 home runs and Natalie starred in the school musical. Oh and btw Ted has a fancy new job."

So where do we go from here?  Will next year's model say: $450 base plus $1.6 Bonus? 14 deals closed in 2013 propelling Sally to Senior Managing Director?  45MM in Amex points earned on our 4 exotic global vacations? 

How about:  2 Turkeys bought for the Greater Boston Food Bank;  1 day spent at the Women's Lunch Place;  6 old toys given to Cradles to Crayons?  Not quite as catchy is it?

Sometimes in these days of constant sharing, less is still more.







An Audible Diversion


Why does the typical stay-at-home mother spend so much of her day in the car? An age old question, to be sure, but one which we will not attempt to address, though we have an inkling it might be related to the “busy contest.”

Instead, we present a diversion, a salve, a treat for the mother who finds herself constantly driving to and fro, on her way to pick up, to drop off, to bring someone forgotten shoes.  We present the audio book, in it’s 21st century form: audible.com. It’s like net flix for books: you pay a monthly fee to download an audio book (or 2) a month. Download it to your phone and then you are never without your book (assuming you, like I, are never without your phone.) Listen when you walk, run, or clean out the attic, but most of all listen during all those boring hours in the car.

Having plowed through all 500+ “pages” of Cloud Atlas last month, I am clearly an enthusiast, though I did not receive any freebies or compensation from Audible for this post.  I’m just thrilled to find my driving time has become literary, and I'm feeling ever so slightly more erudite.

Holiday hosting, family style

As a blog focusing on the intersection between parenting, manners, and modern mores, we have posted on many topics related to mealtime manners. We’ve taken on table manners, table talk, and the hazards of restaurant dining. We've also explored the perils and pleasures of dinner parties and being a hostess onself. However, we have not yet considered teaching one’s children to becomes well mannered hosts and hostesses of a family dinner gathering.

K.J. Dell’Antonia does just that in her recent post “The Youngest Thanksgiving Hosts” on the Motherlode blog. She shows how delegating small tasks can lead to a greater sense of ownership for a family social event, helping children evolve into competent hosts and hostesses. Hosts in the truest sense of the word, attuned more to the comfort of their guests, than making sure everyone uses the correct fork for their dessert.

Though Ms.Dell’Antonia's post reflects on the already past Thanksgiving meal, its worth reading and thought, especially for all those modern mothers who will host a holiday meal, dinner with family friends, or any number of December family social events. Whatever’s on your family dance card in the coming month, here's to helping our children learn to be gracious hosts and hostesses.

Run like a Turkey

This year I am spending the week leading up to Thanksgiving neither overseeing the assemblage of paper mache turkeys (what was I thinking?!) nor worrying about the menu
 Image from Ask the Birds

Instead, I am busy training for Wellesley's very first 5k Turkey Trot.  Those in the know, know that I generally choose pursuits other than exercise.  Which makes my participation a testament to the great causes the race is benefitting and to my friend Carol's persuasive personality.  She is also the hostess/organizer  of said trot.


Image from the foodie bugle

So, if you are looking for a fun run on a beautiful course (around scenic Wellesley College) in the Boston Area on Thanksgiving morning, I encourage you to sign up.  Relations and house guests welcome.  Hope to see you out there!



                                                                           

Image courtesy of our friends at TheSwellesleyReport



Bad Romance

Recently, a friend finally managed to extricate herself from a bad relationship.  This relationship made her feel unattractive and inadequate.  It made her feel like a bad parent.  She felt she was not accomplishing enough in her life.  She felt like everyone else in the world had more friends and more fun.

Image from The Nutrition Post


The good news is: since leaving Facebook she again feels like the capable, confident, attractive, social, happy person and good parent she is. 

Facebook - it's not for everyone... Do you ever think about going dark on Facebook? 




Foodie Friday

Perhaps it is the cooling weather or all the togetherness from hurricane Sandy (sending good wishes to our family and friends in NY and NJ), but whatever the reason, this modern mother has been on a cooking spree of late.  It may also be thanks to these new books enthusiastically recommended by friends.

The first,  Dinner a Love Story is a memoir, a primer,  a how-to and choc-a-bloc full of great time/life saving ideas.



Just when the modern mother had decided to avoid the below book, mostly because she did not think she could possibly stomach another book about how le French are better at food/child related anything, her friend called to tell her how  French Kids Eat Everything, has changed their dinner life.  How can one not recommend a life changing book?



Finally Deb Perelman, over at our beloved  Smitten Kitchen, has just come out with her book, titled, appropriately, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  I haven't read it but, Christmas is coming...






Enjoy the weekend and if you can find the time, happy cooking. 

Destination Trick or Treating



Traditionally, trick or treating involves unattended children dragging a treat bag along leaf-covered sidewalks and knocking on the doors of their neighbors. The first change to this iconic, Its-the-great-pumpkin-Charlie-Brown-style institution came when parents began accompanying their children, hanging back in the shadows, as children rang the doorbell and collected some type of individually wrapped candy. Now, there is another, rapidly growing yet mildly disturbing trend: destination trick or treating

Families pile into their cars, leaving their own houses darkened, possibly with a forlorn basket of candy on the doorstep, and head to a “good” Halloween neighborhood, with a reputation for elaborate decorations, dressed up hosts, and supersize candy handouts. A trick-or-treat destination with buzz, hype, and cachet, where their offspring will be sure to score a lot of loot, probably more than they could possibly eat, and win bragging rights on the playground. 

Halloween in Beacon Hill, MA. Image from flicker.com
Why? Why do families feel the need to seek bigger and better? Why isn’t one’s own neighborhood enough? Is candy so ubiquitous now, especially around Halloween, that visiting a few houses and scoring a few “party size” candy bars and lollipops just isn’t enough or perhaps parents can’t trust that it might be. Perhaps suburban sprawl has pushed neighbors so far apart to make walking house to house onerous, and forcing families to seek out older, denser communities. Or, possibly, people invest so little in their own neighborhoods, they seek to become part of a thriving vibrant local community, even if only for one night. 

Yes, there are families who live in locales isolated or rural enough to require a Halloween car trip. But I like to imagine they seek a good-enough Halloween neighborhood - no elaborate displays, no full-sized candy bar hand outs, just a place they can walk house to house. So perhaps I am just lucky, lucky enough to live in a such good-enough Halloween neighborhood. No hype and certainly no crowds arriving by car, but the neighbors are usually home, with a bowl of candy at the ready. Neighborhood children rattle bags full of candy as they walk along, glow sticks swinging, and usually (but not always) remember to say, “Thank you Mrs. Brigham. Happy Halloween!” 

Friday Frivolity: Questions for the really useful engine.


Thomas the Tank Engine, along with Dora the Explorer and Elmo, remains one of our culture’s inescapable children’s television characters. If some experience with the Thomas and Friends is unavoidable, perhaps questions about the nature of life on the Island of Sodor are too. Who hasn’t wondered how a train can be part human, part machine? Or what is Sir Topham Hat’s relationship to Thomas? Parent? Boss? Owner? None has probed these questions so humorously as J.J.Keith, who applied her skills as an anthropology major in this open letter to Thomas.  Seriously sidesplitting humor here. Who says you can’t use an anthropology major?

Many thanks to Lisa for sending this along. Have a wonderful weekend!


The lonely shopping cart


Mothers often talk of tears in their eyes as they send their youngest child off to pre-school, or kindergarten, but I never felt particularly vulnerable to such sentiments. Earlier this fall, as my youngest child (age 3.5) finally headed off to a 5 day preschool, I never stopped to wonder if I would feel a pang. I was ready to have time to myself, to go for a run, meet someone for coffee, and most of all, I was ready to move on to the next stage.

The days are long, but the years are short, yadda, yadda, yadda. I didn’t think I would be lamenting the change. Until now. Surprisingly, I find myself uneasy with the quiet mornings, the silence in the car, and most of all, I feel lonesome on companionless trips to the grocery store. I miss the child in the cart, sometimes grabbing, wiggling, screaming, but more often chatty, lovable, and genuine good company.

I know: It’s only preschool. I have years of milestones to come: kindergarten, sleep away camp, first mobile phone, the list goes on. But I also know it feels like only a year or two has passed since my 7th grader started pre-school. So yes, those years are short, no matter how long the days seem.

*photo taken my me, this very morning, as I shopped behind a mother with 3 children in tow and actually found myself feeling nostalgic.

Interruptis Totalus


Photo by Doug Mills/New York Times

 After last night's debate (a word that is too civilized to be applied to the sound-bite-ridden, accusation and interruption fest we saw) the well mannered modern mother may be forgiven for not wanting anything to do with either presidential candidate.  Or she might be thinking "If I want to see people being uncouth, impolite and accusatory I'll just watch Jersey Shore thank you very much." 

While we are aware that many supporters wanted the candidates to be "more aggressive" in this second debate - apparently last week's Vice Presidential talk-over, face-contortion event wasn't enough for the truly argumentative - we can't help but think both presidential candidates came off looking rude, belligerent and undignified.

 Given how one must (apparently) behave and the things he/she must do to be elected to the office, is it any wonder so few people want the job?




Weekend Happiness

As the dust settles from a whirlwind of soccer, epic playmobil battles, Sunday school, and failed attempts to purchase a shelving system for the heap of sports equipment in our basement, I was relived to find myself sitting in a quiet house this Monday morning. As much as I love weekends for family time, I am also frequently stunned at the sheer exhaustion I feel on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, statistics suggest I am not alone: parents report less happiness on weekends than non-parents. Go figure. The good news is that we can all attempt to change this dynamic, and Dr. Christine Carter, of the Raising Happiness blog, offers 3 ways to make weekends happier in this post. Read it now, and start planning now for your new, relaxed weekends. Oh, and maybe you’ll also want to cross your fingers for rain cancellations for all those sports commitments, just for good measure.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...

Of course we all know the rest of this old adage.   If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 

There is also, sadly, the tacky, snarky version to be found on someecards and needle point pillows. 



The thing the mannerly mother finds difficult to understand about the pillow is - is this something one would purchase for herself?

image from Google images

 Because, how on earth could one ever give - or worse - receive such a gift?  "Dear Sally, I saw this pillow and thought of you - you back-talking, gossipy, so and so. xoxo Bunny"  As the receiver of such a gift would one say "Oh thank you Bunny, you know how much I love being unkind and catty.  This is just perfect!"  Perhaps one just needs to be in the right mood.

In our case, it isn't that we don't have anything nice to say these days, we just don't seem to have time to say much of anything.  So, please know, we are thinking of our blog and hope to find more time and topics in the near future.

In the meantime, if your house is anything like our house, the delicate (and not so delicate) art of costume negotiation is in full swing.  Hope this vintage M4MM piece helps.

Quote of the Week

A mannerly friend forwarded this wonderful quote to us last week.  Where did she get it?  From her own mannerly mother of course!

image courtesy of WallyHood.org

Emily Post wrote in 1922 that “One who possesses truly fine manners has more than mere beauty; she has infinite charm. She is so well born that she is charming to everyone. Her manner to a Duke who happens to be staying in the house is not a bit more courteous than her manner to the kitchen maid who she chances to meet in the gardens” 

Manners are merely tools to help us live a code (of kindness and consideration). Beneath its myriad rules, the fundamental purpose of etiquette is to make the world a pleasanter place and you a more pleasant person. First, they smooth the paths between us and other people, to establish a pleasant relationship from the first – that’s why introductions, “pleases” and “Thank yous” are so important. Second, knowing the guidelines of good manners gives us self- confidence. We are more comfortable if we know what to do. And Third, manners make us more attractive people. A dinner guest who engages in animated conversation with asparagus spears protruding from his mouth isn’t very attractive. And who doesn’t want to look better in the eyes of others? 

“The purpose of manners is to make the other person comfortable with you, to establish rapport so the person is happy about being with you. ”As Professor Henry Higgins put it in Pygmalion, “The great secret is not having bad manners or good manners, but having the same manners for all human souls” 

Authors Unknown

Friday Frivolity - Parent Rap

First there was the Swagger Wagon, and now there's The Parent Rap, a more recent viral video of parents rapping about life with "the shorties." The Parent Rap makes saying things like, "don't make me count to 1, 2, 3..."or "Keep your hands to yourself!" or "Don't make me stop this car!" sound maybe, a tiny bit cool. Or maybe not. Either way, its fun to watch. Many thanks ot Amy for sending it along to us.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Will "character training" be the next parenting trend?

The discussion of developing children’s non-cognitive skills, also known as character, seems to be cropping up everywhere these days, not just as an antidote to the Rug Rat Race. Last week's episode of This American Life covered exactly this topic: the role of resilience, adaptability, persistence, self control in acheivement, and featured much of the work behind Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed. Find the pod cast here.

While the This American Life coverage focuses on economic and policy implications of developing children's character, I wonder how it will alter the parenting landscape in the suburbs where I live. Will it lead to a rebellion against the drilling and coaching and pushing and prepping, inciting parents to wantonly unschool their children? Will it drive parents to incorporate adversity into their children's lives, having their children walk to school in the snow, sit through long, boring meals, or (gasp!) make their own beds? Of course, the most likely scenario is that it will spawn a new generation of books, seminars, and classes on how to build character in your children. This change would probably be a positive development, all around, assuming families don't pursure "character building" with the myopic intensity typically applied to math drills, early reading and youth sports. I shudder to imagine strip mall franchises designed to teach our children "character" in 45 minutes classes. So convenient, if you can manage to squeeze it in between gymnastics and math tutoring. Kumon for character, anyone? 

Resisting the Rug Rat Race


The phrase "Rug Rat Race" has to be one of the more alliterative labels for the hyper-parenting we all recognize, bemoan, and debate. When I first heard it, thanks to the recent Wall Street Journal piece,  "Opting out of the Rug Rat Race" I was taken with the cleverness of the term - even a tad jealous not to have coined it myself - and of course immediately hooked into reading the article. 

In the story, author Paul Tough lays out something glaringly obvious yet rarely delineated so scientifically: building strong cognitive skills, through early reading, math, or academic drills does not necessarily lead to lifetime success and hapiness, but qualities like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and self-control do. Having some freedom and autonomy builds life skills. Helicopter parenting does not. The author even goes so far to say, "... it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills—which is to say, to develop their character—may be to do nothing." Yes! We've said it before: sometimes it's best to do absolutely nothing. Yet, we could not be more gratified to see it espoused publicly.

With a 7th grader in a new school, with a new mobile phone, and 45 minute bus ride each way, I find myself newly tempted to engage in hyper-parenting. At 2:45pm on a week day, I might find my fingers twitching to text a reminder: "don't forget your gym bag!" but I pause, hear those chopper blades thrumming, and think to myself: put the phone down, you helicopter parent, you. Seems like I'll need to excercise a little self control if I want to foster all those life skills like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and, oh, yes, self-control.





P.S. For the record, the term "Rug Rat Race" was coined in 2009 by economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey in a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research - not that I'm ambitious enough to have actually read such an academic paper on parenting. I just like to give credit where credit is due.



With Abercrombie and Justice for all...

It was bound to happen eventually.  Some day, the modern daughter who had never noticed her clothing in her life (unless it itched), was going to wake up and listen when her peers started talking about Abercrombie, Justice and the mall.  The modern mother knew that one day the modern daughter would want to visit those places and wear clothes from there.  The modern mother just didn't know it would be last week.

The good news is: the music was so LOUD in Abercrombie Kids that neither mother nor daughter could stand it.  Now, one assumes, the brilliant marketing minds at Abercrombie Kids know what they are doing and despite how repelling the music is to one demographic (people with ears) there is presumably a swath of the credit card carrying population that does not mind this incredible noise.  Indeed, a quick search on the Google revealed a number of intelligible answers to the question "Why is the music so loud in Abercrombie Kids?" Our favorite response was: "There have been scientific studies showing that loud music makes you make rash decisions, mainly because you are not thinking as clearly as you would be if there was no loud music."  Other hypothesis included "The loud music will distract you from the prices." and "It's tragically hip."  

Then came the store Justice.  In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted, that many a mother had warned the modern mother about how awful Justice was.  So much like The Blair Witch Project it appeared less scary than it might have.  But it was sparkly, it was neon and there was just so, so much of it.  Lots of it was too skimpy.  Some was just not age appropriate. 


You can go with this... Party Dress from Justice 




None of it seemed well made.  But there were a couple of pairs of shorts long enough for some and short enough for others and two tops that provided coverage where coverage should be.  So, a detente was reached and they proceeded to the register.  At this point the modern mother nearly had a heart attack.  Even with the first time shopper 40% discount the total for four items came in at more than twice what the modern mother had been expecting.  Never mind what she could have done with that kind of cash at Pears and Bears or some trunk show. After all, there is no point dwelling in the past.  


Or you can go with that... Kayce Hughes/Pears and Bears
 
 
 
N.B. Perhaps a certain type of modern mother might have nixed the whole outing to the mall in the bud.  However,  it is our limited experience that "You gotta know when to hold 'em.  Know when to fold 'em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run..." and it is our hope that by exposing the modern daughter to the options available in conjuncture with our own example she will find her own path which we personally hope will be be more boho chic and less hoochie mama.

Back to school, back to school involvement?

Labor day is past. The seasons are changing. School is here. Shall we all breathe a sigh of relief? Or shall we shudder with dread considering the coming onslaught of curriculum nights, school fundraisers and other opportunities for parental involvement?

The prospect of selling raffle tickets, bringing in 40 sliced apples for “healthy snack” or even baking for the archetypal bake sale might seem like a good way to “get involved” as your first child enters kindergarten, but it is a universal truth that parents become weary with too much volunteering.  Some parents have careers that keep them tied up for most of their waking hours, others have passed one too many afternoons as cashier at the book fair, others might be training for their next triathalon. Whatever the reason, a seasoned parent might begin to dread the onset of the school year and the concomitant calls to “get involved” through extensive volunteering.

Conveniently, the New York Times recently published a story addressing the forever angst-ridden topic of school involvement.  While we encourage you to read the whole story, we applaud the astonishing simplicity of the closing recommendations for parental involvement. They are: (1) Meet the teacher (i.e., introduce yourself, show your support for their educational mission and open the lines for communication); (2) Ask good questions (i.e., really talk with your child about his or her experiences at school); and (3) Put your children to bed (i.e., don’t let them stay up to all hours because you’re too lazy to turn off Glee or stop blogging and enforce bedtime.) These recommendations are sensible, sane, and above all, polite. Since they focus on treating others (child and teacher) with respect, setting appropriate limits, and civil interactions, these recomendations no doubt come naturally to all our well-mannered readers, but are refreshing to read, nonetheless.

Wishing you all a smooth transition back to school. Happy September!



Manners for Modern Mothers in the news

We are thrilled to be featured in the most recent issue of Wellesley Weston magazine. Many thanks to author Cheryl Scaparrotta and the magazine staff for the thoughtful profile.


Wishing you all a wonderful Labor Day weekend and we look forward to getting back to the blog in September!

This is what we're talking about!

 image from Livaudais

 Thanks to friend Deirdre for drawing this article to our attention.  It is now official - you can have too much of a good thing, i.e. parenting.  This NY Times opinion piece by Madeline Levine supports our position that sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your child's way.  And on that note, we will be out of your way and out of the office for the rest of August.  We look forward to catching up in September.

Best,
Elizabeth & Elizabeth

Friday Frivolity - Cheap and Cheerful Wall Decor

This modern mother is always on the look out for economical ways to spruce up the old abode.  So one can imagine her delight when she stumbled upon the site Cafe Press (sounds like a coffee maker but isn't).  At first glance Cafe Press looks like a site for people who want to put pictures of family reunions on t-shirts and coffee mugs, BUT it also offers a wonderful collection of vintage art posters at reasonable prices.


 
Cafe Press found here


 
 Cafe Press click here


Cafe Press from here

Combine with the Ikea NYTTJA wall frames and viola! instant grandeur for under $30. 


Picture from IKEA 


Happy weekend and happy decorating.

Bag It

A well turned out friend recently mentioned the term "statement bag" to me.  She was talking about some advice she gave a lady who had been asked to do some substantial fundraising for a worthy cause.  My friend suggested that the lady invest in a couple of business chic outfits and a "statement bag."

Rosalie by Jimmy Choo $3,995

This struck me as interesting in a few ways.

First, although I usually have a general sense of what's going on, I had never heard of a statement bag.   A snappy search on the Google revealed that a statement bag is the new It Bag.  This term strikes me as just a little ridiculous in the sense that, what statement exactly is your bag making?  A couple that come to mind are:  "I am so loaded, I think it makes great sense to carry my wallet and lipstick around in a bag that cost more than your mortgage"  or "I wouldn't want anyone to think that my boho top and ripped jeans were really from the Good Will so I'll just stick a $3,000 bag on my arm to be sure you know who you're dealing with."



Second, and I believe my friend is correct, isn't it funny that large donors would be more inclined to make a gift to a charity when approached by an affluent looking woman than by those benefiting from their donation?  Is this because people have a harder time saying no to "one of their own"?  Or is it that being well dressed opens doors and purses?




Finally, with global meat consumption at an all time high, shouldn't the cost of leather be declining?   Yet, despite the sub-prime mortgage debacle, Euro crisis and ongoing global recession these bags continue to go up, up, up in price.  Of course luxury brands argue that it is the hand crafting by their skilled European artisans that make these bags so valuable expensive.  However, these claims are sometimes discredited by journalists visiting factories in China who have seen these luxury bags being put together by women making about $100 per week.



The statement of all statements The Birkin by Hermes. If you have to ask...

Now, much like religion, I believe if it helps someone get through their day and isn't hurting anyone else,  by all means embrace the new statement bags.  Perhaps like bangles or guard rings some fancy folks may even begin stacking them before long.  To find the right bag and statement for you, you might want to begin here.  If your caviar taste does not mesh with your tuna fish budget you could try renting a statement bag at the Netflix of handbags Bag Borrow or Steel.

Friday Frivolity: Judging Books by their Covers

We've been thinking and writing a lot about books this summer, perhaps because we've been influenced by our friend Kate at book nook or perhaps we've happily had more leisure for reading during the these summer months.


Either way, thanks to Brain, Child magazine on facebook, we've found another fun and book related item to share with you: Judging a Book by its Cover: A Six Year Old Guesses what classic novels are all about, from Babble. Some of her guesses are comical; others are astute; and the whole post is a fun read. 


Here's to lots of reading this weekend, that is, if you don't find yourself too busy watching Olympic Badminton, Canoe Slalom, or Rythmic Gymnastics.



* image of girl reading from Babble.com, image of olympic flag in London from The Telegraph

Help Wanted


When a friend passed long a link to this recent New Yorker article, dear readers, we knew it was right up our alley. In Spoiled Rotten: why do kids rule the roost? Elizabeth Kolbert makes a case that today’s parents are bringing up the most spoiled bunch of children in history and the experience is leaving parents frustrated and overworked, spawning a new genre of “tough parenting” books, like Mean Moms Rule, or The Price of Privilege. 

Sadly, the story was not unfamiliar to this modern mother. Kolbert describes children who cannot and will not tie their own shoes at age 8, children who do not know how to turn on a washing machine, children who are completely incapable of setting the table for dinner. While some of her examples are extreme, she does have a point: most children today have few domestic duties, leaving their parents to clean up, pick up, tidy up, in addition to actual parenting. And feeling more like a maid than a parent is deeply frustrating.

Kolbert contrasts these typical American children with anthropological studies of indigenous cultures in which children make meaningful contributions to their own care and the economy of their family unit by age 5 or 6. Nevermind that those children might be considered adults at age 13, married with their own children by 20 and have a life expectancy of 45. The point is that even young children can contribute meaningfully to a household, and most of us are doing a miserable job of teaching them that.

How did this happen? Kolbert does not offer much on that front. Nor can I, except to say it clearly wasn’t always so. Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy with my 6 year old left me with a new respect for hard work. After cajoling my son through bedroom tidying, clothes changing, tooth brushing, I read to him about how Almanzo Wilder, age 8, cleans barn stalls with a pitchfork, fills mangers with hay, milks cows, plants seeds, trains a pair of young oxen, weeds a field of carrots, and repeatedly says “I mustn’t contradict mother/father.” Sigh.  


Time to re-double the efforts to teach household chores and self-sufficiency. No, unloading the dishwasher, cleaning out backpacks, and putting away laundry is no longer enough. After all, if this were the 1870's in upstate New York, they'd be putting in 12 hour days in the fields right now. Twelve additional minutes at dinner time is not too much to require. 

Friday Frivolity: Everybody loves a lemonade stand


Earlier this week, as temperatures hovered in the 90’s, my children started a lemonade stand, papering the neighborhood with flyers, chatting with customers, selling just enough lemonade to feel successful and most gratifyingly, working cooperatively and independently. This got me thinking about lemonade stands and what exactly makes them so appealing, fun, and universally loved.

Sadly, my quick google search did not come even close to answering those questions, but it did reveal that: (1) my children were unwittingly participating in a dubious political movement; (2) propping lemonade stands may be more popular than actual lemonade stands; and (3) if I were to someday help my children make a super-cute crafty lemonade stand, I could only hope it would be as adorable and apparently fun to make as this one, posted by Rachel on Accessorize and Organize.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!





Friday Frivolity - A Few Summery Thoughts

We recently found ourselves at a fantastic summer party.  It was one of those "will it rain won't it days?" and our hosts managed the uncertainty with aplomb and elegance.  It all began in the kitchen with watermelon mojitos and ended in the garden on a perfect summer evening.  Here is one secret to summer party success.

Image from Barefoot Contessa


Another secret to summer success:  pack light.  We all know it - the problem (at lest for this modern family) seems to lie in the execution.  In addition if you know of a way to prevent grandmothers from giving grandchildren all your old junk each time they visit your old home please let us know. 

Image from Meet the Hilfigers


We loved this piece in the NY Times on the summer and life value found in being a camp counselor versus a summer spent getting people coffee and donuts at Google:  The Camp Counselor vs. The Intern.

 Image from Martha Stewart


Last but not least in the we all know it category: when enjoying the sand between your toes, don't forget the sunscreen, hat and beach umbrella.


Happy Weekend!

Friday Frivolity: Brainy Booklist



Summer is a time for reading, and so when a friend sent us this eclectic list of favorite children’s books, we delved right in. More than a list, 121 Books is an e-book containing quirky reviews written by the family behind Dinner: A Love Story, and featuring recommendations from George Saunders, Lemony Snicket, David Sedaris, and others.

Brainy and fun, the list is unapologetically subjective. I was happy to find favorites by William Steig and Richard Scarry, and delighted with new finds, like the Olympians series by George O’Connor. Mostly, I was thrilled with the very idea of  important books, books that are so beloved they become part of your family history. My picks would include I am a Bunny (on their list) and The Cricket in Times Square - not on their list, but the Garth Williams illustrations alone earn it a permanent place in my personal universe. You will likely have your own to add and that's one of the things that makes this list so fun.

121 Books is free for download, but only through this weekend.

Happy reading and have a wonderful weekend!

Is it the Event or the Photo?




We hope you had a splendid 4th of July.   Based on most of the social media postings we saw this morning it looks like the majority of Americans were enjoying idyllic days filled with sand, parades and picnics capped off with fireworks and ice cream.  Which, like many holidays in the digital age, may cause the modern mother to wonder: is it about the event or the photo op?  The article in this morning's WSJ,  Don't Forget to Pack a Photographer  elevates this query to new heights.  The author tells us:

Travelers want to record memorable moments without ruining them stressing about focus and flash. They want more sophisticated shots to share on social media. And vacationers realize that an iPhone may not catch that perfect surfing or skiing triumph.

The kind, tolerant modern mother might think that, with quality time at such a premium, this is a wonderful way to be able to remember one's vacation.  The more cynical modern mother might call it narcissism.

There is no doubt that social media is a wonderful way for families who are apart to stay in touch and share special moments.  But the concern is: are we, as a people, living in the moment or for the photo op?  How can a family really be connecting in any meaningful way with a third party photographer tagging along?  Would one not end up feeling like a cast member on the The Truman Show?

One can of course understand the need for high-quality, "sophisticated" photos for social media when one is sharing them with 500+ "friends."  Because really, if someone is spending time crafting communiques and photos for thousands isn't that Public Relations rather than keeping up with friends?  In any event, should the photographer and videographer fail them people may want to resort to Clive Beacon, Facebook Image Consultant

Finally, let us end with  this delightfully honest piece about Facebook  by good old clear-thinking, straight-talking Stanley Bing who can be found weekly on the last page of Fortune Magazine.



photo courtesy of Google images

The Busy Parent Trap

In earlier posts, we’ve written about the busy contest and hyper-scheduling one-upmanship, but its now front and center in people’s minds (or at least their facebook feeds) thanks toThe ‘Busy’ Trap by Tim Kreider which appeared in Sunday's New York Times.  Mr. Kreider makes a strong argument for the merits of idleness, and successfully skewers the busy culture (e.g., busy people “schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications.”) and he holds no punches when he argues that people over-schedule themselves as a “hedge against emptiness.”

We heartily applaud Mr. Kreider's efforts to fight hyper-busy culture, but we do note it will be some years before most modern mothers can attempt his solution, which appears to be something along the lines of “move to an undisclosed location, read, write, go for long bicycle rides.” Even without encouraging (enforcing?) all manner of extra-curricular activities for her children, a modern mother must do laundry, wipe faces, cook dinner, bathe small children, and generally tame the chaos. Of course, all the extra busy-ness of being a parent is temporary, and in the mean time, we can all dream about 5 solid hours devoted to nothing but writing, followed by leisurely bicycle rides through the French countryside, baguette in basket.

Skirts, not just for tennis anymore



Some love them. Some hate them. And some are still scratching their heads about this perplexing article of clothing – the running skirt. Can one be a ‘serious’ runner and athlete wearing something intentionally cute?

Admittedly, I initially found the running skirt to be silly, despite my low athletic ambition. The skirts just seemed so... cute-sy… until I tried one. I loved it walking my kids to school; I loved it while I was rolling the trash bins to the curb; I loved it stopping by the supermarket; and most importantly I loved it running. So cute. So comfortable. So functional. So presentable.

Yes, that’s the best part: the modern mother in a running skirt can go for a run and then hold her head high as she rushes about her errands with out the risk of looking like she’s wearing a swim suit, undergarments or even the dreaded spandex.

So, in celebration of this brilliant invention and just in time for our Friday Frivolity, we bring you this short history of running skirts, from Runner’s World. Have a wonderful weekend!





*runner in running skirt photo from Title Nine 
* racing in running skirt via Runner's World

A Feminist Call to Arms? Or a Big Fat Eye Roll?

Last week, when we brought you The Good, the Bag, and the Ugly, we mentioned the incendiary essay by Elizabeth Wurtzel, 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible. But we can’t just leave it at that.

We suspect, dear readers, that more than a handful of you are the well-educated, well off stay-at-home-mothers who are the subject of Ms. Wurtzel’s scornful essay. And, like us, you might feel besieged upon reading, “…when I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton -- one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better -- but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed” because according to Ms. Wurtzel, well off non-working women “go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches.” And Ms. Wurtzel's anger is palpable: “I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice.”

Thankfully, I’ve never claimed to make a “feminist” choice, have no idea what Jivamukti is, and was employed outside the home for the first 8 years of motherhood, so I hopefully won’t get smacked.

What is clear, though, is that Wurtzel’s depiction of well-heeled, well-educated stay-at-home mothers is an offensive caricature. One is tempted to think she did her research by watching “Real Housewives” television and following Manhattan society pages. Most insulting is her claim that upon exiting the work force, women “forget all but the lotus position” leaving their husbands to believe that their wives and therefore, all women are “dumb.” Really? At this point, her chacterization become so outlandish we can forget about indignation and just go with a big fat eye roll. What's the point of arguing with someone utterly detached from reality?

Ms. Wurtzel clearly has a penchant for provocative topics, having published a memoir of addiction, Bitch Rules, and most famously Prozac Nation. Perhaps the working mothers debate was irresistible; perhaps her offensiveness was meant to break up the ennui; perhaps she really feels feminism can be helped by authoritarian proclamations.

The one thing she is right about is that not earning a paycheck of one’s own is, in fact, an uncomfortable position. While I have been acutely aware of this in my time at home, I am also certain that my choice to stay home is the best possible choice for me, for my children, and for now. But hopefully not forever. And that is exactly where Ms. Wurtzel's essay is most wrong: the line between working and at-home mothers is fuzzy and impermanent, and we can only address any "war on women" by recognizing that we are all in this together, working or not.

The Good, the Bag and the Ugly

Ah summer.  Easy, breezy.  Hot and homework free.  We won't keep you because you probably want to get back to the beach, book or Mexican Fiesta.  But before you go, here are a few things we thought you might enjoy.



The Good
We are looking forward to seeing Wes Andreson's new movie Moonrise Kingdom.   It is a love story about two 12-year-olds who run away on an island in New England.  But really we will watch almost anything with Bill Murray especially if it is by the man who brought us The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  BTW doesn't Tommy Hilfiger's whole preppy family campaign remind you of the Tenenbaums?  Is it just the headbands?

 Picture from COPIOUS FASHION

We are fascinated by the blog Never Seconds written by a school age child in England.  Let us know if you agree.


The Bag
As much as we enjoy feeling good about remembering our reusable grocery bags, they are a bit bulky at times.  Not anymore.  Enter BAGGU, stylish and petite these bags can live in your glove compartment, bike basket or purse. 


The Ugly
While it isn't new news it is very sad news that Brain Child, the thinking mother's magazine, will cease to exist in its current print form.

Perhaps, like darling decor magazine Domino, Brain Child will live to fight another day.  Good luck and thanks. 

Speaking of brains, thankfully, The Atlantic, continues to arrive on paper and electronically so we can read interesting incendiary pieces like 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible and Why Women Still Can't Have it All

 Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

Right, so back to that beach book.


The Art of Correspondence

I had been hoping to write a post about various scintillating topics today but instead find my writing time absorbed by correspondence with the Office of the Parking Clerk in The City of Lynn, a charming hamlet to the north of us.  So, since I have run out of time I give you my parking letter:



Office of the Parking Clerk
City of Lynn
Lynn City Hall – Room 102
Lynn, MA 01902

Dear Sir/Madam:

You will see from the attached document and copy of check # 3027 that I had attempted to pay this parking fine on March 24, 2012. I received the ticket on March 12, 2012 as I was in Lynn shopping at Zimman’s, which I am sorry to say, does not seem to have the same selection it used to.

 I left Zimman’s and discovered that my meter had run out and that I had received a parking ticket.  I put the ticket in my purse and have never seen it since.  Once I realized I had lost the original ticket, I called your office twice to find out the amount that I owed.  Both times I was told that there was no record of my ticket.  The lady I spoke with on the second occasion gave me your address and said I could send a check if I wanted.  As you will see that check was returned to me by your office on March 27, 2012.

The letter I received two days ago dated 6/12/2012 headed **Drivers License and Registration Non-renewal Action Pending** inviting me to appear before the hearing officer on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 if I do not send $20 before then says “Final Notice” on it.  To be clear, this is the first I have heard from the Office of the Parking Clerk, City of Lynn since my original check was returned on March 27, 2012.   Additionally it says that my ticket V59737 was issued 04/02/12 at 12:39 PM.  As mentioned above, I was not in Lynn that day but an enclosing $20 for my violation of March 12, 2012.

Sincerely,

Refreshing Graduation Speech


Ah, graduation.  A seminal milestone filled with pomp and circumstance and typically a lot of words signifying, not much.  As someone who prefers to "go gentle into that good night" and does not like a lot of closure,  I have never gone in much for graduations.  A friend tells me graduation it is really for the parents.  That seems about right - I certainly hope my minions do some graduating some day. 

So I was pleasantly surprised last week when, from our very own sleepy little town comes a graduation speech worth listening to.  A speech right up there with the not really by Kurt Vonnegut MIT commencement speech in 1997.  From that point until last week,  I had not noticed a graduation speech.  Apparently,  now that I think of it, this includes one of my own graduations at which I was in attendance but can't tell you a single thing about who said what on that auspicious day. 

Then suddenly, shockingly,  from the public high school in our little town comes a graduation speech with a real message.  A message so timely overdue, so refreshing you can't help but love it.  The speaker was not a politician, mogul or celebrity.  He is David McCullough Jr.,  high school English teacher, father and a guy who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is.  The title of his address, if it has one is "You are not Special."  You can read it at our friend site The Swellesley Report.  Since then it has gone viral and can be watched on, among other sites, the Huffington Post, YouTube and Yahoo.  He was on CBS This Morning this morning.

Why on earth has the world found this speech so compelling?  Maybe because people are tired of the child-centric world we have created.  Maybe people realize that when these children who have been given every advantage ask "What's in it for me?" instead of "How can I help?" or as McCullough says
"building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans" the world is out of balance.

McCullough finishes strong with the message:

"Selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special - because everyone is. Congratulations, good luck. Make for yourselves, please for your sake and ours, extraordinary lives." 

Here's hoping this is the beginning of a brave new world for us all.



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