Happy Halloween! A Reading List for Candy Overload

One of Halloween's minor hazards can be candy overload. Should any of our well mannered readers find themselves fretting about all the candy their children will be gobbling up this weekend; should any readers experience or witness candy overload; should anyone actually find some time to do some reading, we offer a fun, candy-centric reading list.

(1) For anyone who missed this story in Wednesday's New York Times, Is Candy Evil or Just Misunderstood?

(2) For those readers who believe candy may be misunderstood, 5 Superpowers of Candy, from Strollerderby.

(3) For others who are fairly certain that candy is bad, if not actually evil, Halloween Candy: The Good, the Not So Bad, and the Stuff that Rots Teeth,  from the Mommy Files.

(4) For sheer hilarity, The 9 Grossest kinds of Candy No Adult Should Give Out On Halloween, from the Huffington Post.

(5) Finally, for some good ideas of what to do with all of it, 25 Things to do with Halloween Candy, from Parenting.com

*Image from This Mama Cooks 

It's Not About the Book

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a suburban mother, in possession of a young family, must be in want of a book club.* And to what end? Will they peruse Pride and Prejudice? Take on The Happiness Project ? Will they read David Foster Wallace or stick with Danielle Steele? The list of literary possibilities goes on. Luckily, the choice is hers and the variety of book clubs is endless, though most involve some drinking of wine, talking about schools, families, and husbands, as well as discussion of an actual book. Sometimes even a book about something besides schools, families, husbands.

Admittedly, there can sometimes be negatives: having to read yet another book about Afghanistan, the one member who vociferously hates every book or domineers discussions, or even the scheduling and organizational email mayhem involved with getting a group of 8 to 10 adults together these days. But the modern mother who finds herself, joining a group of intelligent, like-minded adults for dinner and conversation once a month can count herself lucky, even if she doesn’t always love the book.

Some modern mothers may choose to become conscientious objectors and eschew all book clubs. Perhaps they would rather curl up on front of The Millionaire Matchmaker. More likely, they don’t want to be obligated to spend precious time reading dubious books selected by committee. Whatever her reasons, the conscientious objector will doubtless find alternative reasons to get out of the house in the evening, mingle with her peers and satisfy her curiosity about the larger world: a lecture? a film festival? a gathering to learn about local non-profits? a consciousness raising? (Well, maybe not that last one.)

Like it or not, book clubs come with the territory of suburban motherhood, much like kitchen renovations, trunk shows, and summer house rentals. And since it's not really about the book, the well mannered mother can embrace her book club as an opportunity to stay current on topics fit for adult conversation, all while enjoying some camaraderie and a cocktail, if she is so inclined.

*with apologies to Jane Austen, the patron saint of women's book clubs, and author of Pride and Prejudice, which opens with the inimitable line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

The Child of my Friend is not my Child's Friend

Again?  The friend of my child is not my friend's child.  Semantics aside,  every well mannered mother has been there or will get there at some point.  There being the sometimes sticky situation where your child does not care for the company of your friend's child or vica versa.

Less successful approaches to this problem include: talking to your friend about what your child says is wrong with her child, 'making' your child be friends with your friend's child (very Mommy Dearest, that one), taking family vacations where the children are together as often as possible in the hopes your daughters will one day feel the same connection as you and your friend.

As most modern mothers will learn over time, but we are willing to print right here and save you years of anguish, it is best to accept the situation and work around it.  Planning adult dinners at home or out which do not include the children usually works best.  If your friend continues to suggest family outings you might want to say something like "Thank you but we would love to catch up with just the two of you," or "How about an adult outing this time?"  Hopefully she will catch on.  If not, you might need to be direct and simply say "Petunia is at an age where she has requested she be allowed to socialize with her own friends and opt out of family gatherings if she chooses."  If Petunia is five this might sound a bit silly.  In any event,  adults should have the maturity and social skills to navigate around the ever-changing social whims of their children and maintain friendships despite their children.

Your child will still need to interact with your friend's children occasionally and when she does she should be held to your usual high standard of mannerly conduct.  By allowing your child to choose her own friends and not having friends thrust upon her she might discover she wants to get to know her mother's friend's child.  Then again she might not.

Friday Frivolity: Lunchbox Love

Because ruining the planet just isn't polite!  For the well-mannered mother with dreams of reducing her carbon footprint, we suggest that the Goodbyn lunchbox can help her cause. With five compartments that hold everything from bagels and bananas to a handful of raisins (organic, of course), the modern mother can pack an entire lunch without disposable baggies, plastic wrap, or pre-packaged snacks. She then snaps on the lid and, voila! low-waste lunch complete. For at least one modern mother, it's lunchbox love.  

The Delicate Art of Costume Negotiation

For the modern mother, Halloween can be a mixed bag. Costumes, carving pumpkins, cider and candy:  its all so much fun! As October 31st approaches, she may envision her children trick-or-treating in home made costumes, flushed with excitement, felt totes dangling from their hands as they shuffle through fallen leaves on the sidewalks of their neighborhood.

But then, as costumes are discussed, reality sets in. Her pre-schooler rejects her offer to make him the hilarious chicken costume. He hates her idea of going as his favorite food: sushi. He doesn’t even want to talk about a hand-me-down shark costume. Instead, he insists on being Batman like every other boy in his preschool class. For a another modern mother, it might be a daughter insisting on Sleeping Beauty for the pink dress. For a mother of older children, it might be the rock star diva costume, or the bleeding scream costume. Different costumes, same problem: child craves commercial and tacky, mother envisions charming, original, home made.

Perhaps the conflict results from creeping expectations for the holiday now known as “the other Christmas” among retailers. Whatever the reason, the modern mother and her child must reach a detente. So, in the delicate art of costume negotiation, what is a mother to do?

She could wheedle, connive, convince her child that he really does want to dress as an egg salad sandwich, or whatever her choice would be. But she risks taking all the fun out of it by imposing her own taste. Not to mention stamping out the very independence and creativity she so craves.

Conversely, she could shrug it off and let her child choose, however much she may shudder at the thought of the over-priced and cheaply made costume. The well mannered mother should never consider herself defeated if she lets her child parade around in some chintzy piece of raw-edged rayon for which she overpaid.

Finally, she could collaborate with her child on a costume they both deem worthy. With luck, she and her child will create something fun and original and have a wonderful time doing it. This collaborative mother may even reach some state of maternal nirvana, or at the very least, achieve the status of apparently perfect mother.

Whatever the process (though we lean toward options 2 and 3), there's always next year. Without a doubt, costume negotiations will be different every year, and with each child.  She may even find her child's passion and enthusiasm for his costume (cheesy scrap of fabric, or not) more than adequate compensation for relaxing her standards of taste.

*image from www.forumgarden.com

Surprise! There is no such thing as Privacy on the Internet.

This weeks brouhaha over facebook's latest lack of privacy reminds one of something a very proper grandmother used to say,  "Don't ever put anything in writing that you do not want the whole world to read."  Of course, that was long before the age of Internet and no doubt grandmother's concerns were around explicit love letters or nasty comments about Aunt Edna falling into the wrong hands. Nowadays when the modern mother posts pictures/video of herself in less than flattering or possibly highly provocative poses on social networking sites she should not be surprised if there is some sort of fall out.  Whether those pictures end up being forwarded to millions or being seen by unintended observers, the modern mother really has no one to blame but herself.

We are in no way sanctioning the corporate sharing of user data without individuals' consent - but let's not be naive here.  Let's remind ourselves why facebook is valued at $33 Billion.  It's not because of FarmVille.  It's because they and Google and Yahoo and Amazon know everything about you.  Hopefully in the aggregate but apparently not, as this latest breech again illustrates.

Sadly, a user of social media sites can rant and rave all she wants about her 'privacy' on the world-wide web and her 'rights' as a non-paying user of a service no one is forcing her to use.  Unless she convince 6 million of her friends to vacate the site she is unlikely to effect much change any time soon.  Instead, dare we suggest a little discretion?  Risque photos aside, the only 100% effective way a well mannered modern mother can keep her personal information personal is to not put that information on the internet.   This being said, we do hope you continue to log on now and again to read this blog.  Thank you.

Dresses and Pears and Bears Oh My!

Our editorial board has decided to devote Fridays to the more frivolous side of manerly motherhood (as opposed to the serious and hard-hitting pieces you are used to reading here).    So, going forward Elizabeth and I will be featuring some of our favorite manerly mother accoutrement.  N.B.  We do not receive any kind of compensation from anyone (unfortunately) so anything featured herein has been chosen by us simply because we like it.

So, on with the frivolity! 

It would be hard not to be well mannered in theses fetching designs by Kayce Hughes.  Her children's line is called pears and bears and will hopefully inspire the youth among us to behave adorably.  The women's line is chic yet functional  -  like the well mannered modern mother herself. 

Time May Change Me...

There may come a time in a modern mother’s life where, in the space of a single year, she finds herself resigning from her job, taking up tennis, renovating a kitchen, fretting far too much about homework and children's activities, wearing ballet flats, doing some yoga, and turning 40. Am I turning into a stereotype? She may think. Do I look exactly like everyone else? (Because they’re looking kind of old, like 40ish.)

Then, on a night out, a “ladies night out for a cause,” she may meet another mother (a friend of a friend) who has also taken up tennis, resigned from a job, turned 40 and renovated a kitchen, also in the space of a single year. To the outside world, they may seem the same; their cares, their interests may seem narrow and boring.  But the modern mother can shrug, and enjoy the moment of making a new friend, knowing that though they may seem identical from a distance, we all have rich, varied, nuanced lives. Besides, in the classic phrasing of David Bowie, "Time may change me...." Or, everything may change again in the space of another year, and who knows how?

Everything I Know About Parenting - I learned from Zagazoo

George and Bella are exceptionally well mannered parents in the face of adversity - namely, their son, Zagazoo.  If you read only one book about life, children, and pelicans - this is THE ONE.  Zagazoo is by Quentin Blake the British author and illustrator.  If you love the book you can now also have the wallpaper.

Post-Corporate Mom Syndrome

Most modern mothers have all been there, in the volunteer committee meeting, where someone chimes in with, "The volunteer scheduling is an orthogonal issue here, let’s focus on truly impactful ways to communicate the book fair to our families." Or we've heard, "Net-net, auction profits are our best KPI (key performance indicator), so we should aim to grow profits by 50%." Maybe we’ve even heard something along the lines of, "Let’s circle back to the appetizer menu later and move on to the next action item: napkins. Cocktail size? Dinner size?"

But, why?  Why pepper a conversation about a small school fundraiser or community event with language from an aspiring MBA study group? Why let such atrocious corporate speak creep into everyday exchanges? Are we trying to invoke past achievements? Trying to pretend we’re all back at work? Are some of us suffering from some type of post-corporate mom syndrome? 

Yes, many of us might be guilty of tacking a “Please advise.” on the end of an email to a friend collaborating on a class potluck. (It's faster than tapping out "Let me know what you think" on an iphone, after all.) Yet, let us all attempt to be less affected, less focused in false indicators of accomplishment. Let us aim to be authentic, direct, more human. 

In the end, while the well mannered mother might wince at corporate speak in the school-volunteer setting, there are times when she may be grateful for the common sense underlying it; like when a post-corporate mother keeps the discussion moving by suggesting,  “Let’s take this discussion offline and move on to the next agenda item.” 

And what do you do?

From time to time the well mannered mother may find herself at dinner party seated next to a young woman.  This woman may be well educated, urban, well traveled and happy to talk about the differences between the vodka in Helsinki and Reykjavik through the entire soup course.  In fact, she may be happy to talk about just about any aspect of her colorful life and give you her opinion on an incredible range of topics.

At first, the well mannered modern mother is just happy to be sitting down for the first time all day.  But then it slowly begins to dawn on her that this Holly Golightly has failed to ask her a single question.  About anything.  At all.

 As she turns to the older gentleman on her right for the fish course she wonders "Do I seem so old and uninteresting that it has not occurred to this young woman that my opinions might be additive? Relevant? Should I start throwing in my own bio?  'Back when I lived in that walk up in Paris' or 'When my company went public...' (tacky)  Maybe I should torture her with stories of my adorable (ha!) children and school potlucks (painful).  Does she think she knows me because I have three children and live outside the city?  Or is this just an example of the over-praised, self-absorbed 'younger' generation?" 

 Perhaps at this point, the well mannered mother finds herself wondering which is worse: the sometimes sticky question of "What do you do?" or the presumption that you do nothing and have nothing to say? 

As the well mannered mother sits there conversing with the nice older man on her right she may begin think how far away his life seems from hers right now.  Retired, living by the water, going where he wants when he wants.  Wow.  Then it might hit her, to Miss Fancy Pants on her left the idea of being well, a well mannered modern mother probably seems about a billion zillion light years away.  Ah ha!  OK.  She gets it.  But in the meantime someone should really teach these kids some manners.

Boys, Books, and Bathroom Humor

The modern mother of a boy may occasionally worry that her son may never read anything other than Captain Underpants.  While this bathroom humor classic can be an excellent inducement to read, (and even a little bit funny) she may hope that her son will move on to books without flatulence, underwear, or intentional mis-spellings. The well mannered mother may also wonder how she is ever going to curb potty mouth dinner conversation, if her son is reading Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger at bedtime. Such a mother can find inspiration in a recent opinion piece, "How to Raise Boys who Read" in the Wall Street Journal.  Read it here and then head to John Scieszka's website, "Guys Read" for some book ideas.
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