The Best Guide to Being a Good Parent

The Best Guide to Being a Good Parent

I hear or read a version of these every day:  mothers who say things like “I don’t feel like I’m doing this right”, “I’m sure I’m not doing this as well as [insert random person/group]”, and “I’m afraid I’ll ruin him/her by [insert random parenting decision]”

Ruin? How do you ruin a child?

You ruin a child by not loving them, not giving them compassion and support. You ruin them by ignoring them when they need you, or treating them badly.  You ruin them by neglecting their physical and mental health.

Note:  This article is not referring to diseases, vaccines, car seat usage, or anything that is potentially life-or-death.  I am talking specifically about the mundane everyday parenting decisions that do not require stress, guilt, or a village’s opinion.

You do not ruin a child by letting them sleep a half hour longer/shorter than other kids their age. You do not ruin a child by letting them use the iPad while you clean up after dinner. You do not ruin a child by giving them an 8:00 bedtime instead of 7:30. Giving your child Infant/Children’s Tylenol to relieve their teething pain instead of using an amber teething necklace does not negate your “good parent” status.

I know exactly how it feels though, I really do. I won’t even bother listing the innumerable sources that lectured me about all those things (and more!) For the first few years of K’s life, I researched, read, discussed, second-guessed, and generally fretted my way through motherhood. All the countless articles and studies and American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations did nothing except create the illusion that stuff like that actually MATTERS.

So do you know what I have found to be the absolute best guide for being a good parent?

Are you ready?

There isn’t one.

Seriously, there really is not.  There is not a book, or a study, or an “authority” on how to be a good parent.

But but….

How much screen time should my baby/toddler/kid have per day?

How long should my baby nap?

Good Parent

Kids? Playing marbles? Unsupervised? *gasp* I must research immediately to see if this is okay for a good parent to allow!

How old should my kid be before I stop them from taking a nap?

Should I stop my kid from taking a nap?

How much tummy time does the baby need?

What time of day is the best for us to have dinner?

Should I let my child have a night light?

How soon before/after a meal should I give my child a snack?

How often should I bathe my child?

What is the right number of gifts to give my child for their birthday?

Take. A. Breath.

None of this stuff is necessary to research. None of it is a big deal enough to make you second-guess your mothering skills or feel like you’re being judged. All of these types of things can be winged, learned-as-you-go, tweaked for your specific child/family/schedule. If people are judging you because you let your six-year-old take a 2-hour nap on weekends, well, that’s their problem, not yours.

It all comes down to this:  Are you a human being?  Do you know how to keep a human being alive?  Do you know how to love another human being?  Are you willing to do your absolute best to make sure that little human being you created is safe, healthy, and happy?

If you said yes to all of those things, then congratulations – you have all the tools you need to be a good parent.

There is nothing wrong with seeking advice on dealing with certain everyday situations, like tips for stopping your toddler from biting. There is nothing wrong with a discussion about what children’s books are favorites, or comparing notes on how to hide vegetables in foods. But the parenting information world has strayed ridiculously far beyond just a chat between moms.

I mean, let’s take a deeper look at a few of the studies I have read recently.

Put That Baby on Her Belly or You Are Not a Good Parent!

Let’s begin with “tummy time”. Try searching for that term and you will find hundreds of studies, doctor recommendations, anecdotal data, opinions, criticism…you name it, it is out there. Oh, yes. For tummy time. For how much time per day, per month of age, you should put your baby on their tummy.  Studies, folks.

Listen, you cannot ruin your baby by not giving them a certain daily allotment of ‘tummy time’. My daughter hated being on her tummy, just hated it. She didn’t crawl until almost 11 months because she refused to be on her tummy long enough to learn to scoot around. So she did a lot of just sitting there and rolling to get where she wanted to go. Is she ruined? Not in the least. She crawled at 11 months and walked less than 2 months later.  She runs and jumps and climbs and does gymnastics.

Think of it this way:  for centuries, babies have never had scheduled tummy time and somehow they still managed to develop normal spines and muscles and even walk around just fine. They are not still sitting in place or rolling around at age 35, cursing their mother for never putting them on their tummy when she had the chance.

A Good Parent Must Only Allow X Amount of Screen Time!

Okay, how about the controversial “screen time”? My daughter’s screen time is monitored by us, her parents, and that is all anyone should need to know. We decide how much is appropriate, if it’s affecting her learning/personality, and we are the ones who choose how much time she gets. It varies by day/week/month/year. Novel idea, huh?  Well, the same goes for your own children. Only you can decide if their social interaction, ability to learn or focus, temperament, etc. are being affected by their screen time, and only you are the one who should decide what is too much.

It is ridiculous to perform a “study” on a random sampling of kids and blame screen time for any issues they have. I don’t believe for a second that there are behavioral issues or learning deficiencies that are caused by nothing other than how early the kid watched TV.  I have yet to hear of a kid-gone-criminal who attributes their law-breaking to watching that extra hour of Caillou before bed when they were in kindergarten. There will always be other contributing factors (disposition, character, parenting styles, lifestyles, physical/mental challenges) that skew those “studies”; one simple thing like “too much screen time” cannot be held solely responsible.

A Good Parent Feeds Their Child Only Healthy Foods!

This last example is just awesome.

“A new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents and schools to consider a child’s whole diet pattern … rather than the nutrients in specific foods.… it’s OK for kids to dip fresh vegetables in ranch dressing — or have a sprinkle of brown sugar on their oatmeal …” (source)

Does that finding just shatter your earth?  Yeah, mine either.

I mean, was it really necessary to fund a special study just to tell parents that it is completely fine to put whipped cream on little Suzy’s organic gluten-free pancakes or let small Johnny have a powdered doughnut hole along with his cage-free eggs and fresh fruit?

“The statement also recommends providing kids a variety of foods from the five food groups, offering appropriate portions, and avoiding highly processed foods.” (source)

Wow. Brilliant.

To be fair, I suppose this could be very useful information if I suddenly drew a blank and did an Internet search for “what should I feed my child?”  So, thank you, scientists and doctors. I feel so much better knowing that information has been officially published to confirm that feeding my child a logical, well-balanced diet is backed up by the researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In Conclusion…

Free yourself. Throw away the books. Delete the bookmarks in your browser. Unsubscribe from those emailing lists.

Don’t spend so much time worrying.  Stop all the endless research and second-guessing.

All of the time you spend stressing out, Internet advice-hunting, and second-guessing the “trick” to being a good parent is time that you are missing out on just being one.


Time to Celebrate the 100th Day of School! Yes…Really!

Time to Celebrate the 100th Day of School! Yes…Really!

This week my daughter’s school is celebrating the “100th Day of School.”

I remember vaguely seeing that special day mentioned once on some of the school’s event calendars and newsletters, but it never clicked that this was something more than just acknowledgement that “hey, we have hit 100 days!” Apparently it is way more than that. It is something to celebrate!

I have always been a “count-down” versus a “count-up” person, maybe that’s why I don’t quite get why this is a big deal. I always had a “There are only X days to go” calendar that I created on the first day of school; sometimes it even had days, weeks, and months to cross off. Even now, I secretly have little countdown charts here and there, but that’s really a story for a different day…

Anyway, I started doing some research* and sure enough, this 100th day thing is a very big deal. Almost all of my friends have kids who are hitting this milestone right about now, and all of their schools have something planned. Activities range from classroom events focused around the number 100, to scavenger hunts and trivia contests, to entire parties with the 100 theme. Yes…a party. Because 100 school days have passed.

It appears that the higher the grade, the more complex their 100th day hoopla tends to be.  Since K is just in kindergarten, it’s a bit more simple. For kindergarten/first grade, most schools seem to be doing a “decorate an item of clothing/T-shirt with 100 of something” or they just ask that the child bring in 100 of some object. In my mind’s eye, I see Super-Mom somewhere, at this very moment, painstakingly drawing faces and hot-gluing little bows/top hats onto 100 Ping-Pong balls, or hand-embroidering numbers 1 through 100 onto an organic cotton T-shirt.

Luckily for me, K brought home a Ziploc bag for her 100 things. It is nice to have boundaries set right off the bat, otherwise I would be lying awake at night wondering what all the other kids were going to bring. In fact, when I heard that this activity was on the horizon, the first thing that popped into my head was “Oooh – 100 stuffed animals! Fun!” And then I pictured K dragging a giant cardboard box into the classroom, while all her classmates sat primly with a string of 100 wooden beads, or a bowl of 100 baby carrots, or a sheet of notebook paper on which they have listed 100 reasons their mom is so great.

A Ziploc bag pretty much evens the field.

But the big question is:  what are they going to do with this stuff at school?  Leave it in the bag?  Do counting exercises?  Should I send something non-perishable?  Will I ever get those objects back?

Brainstorming creative ideas can be fun; actually doing the project is a bit harder.  I decided that I was going to get through this new “holiday” without stress. I really really did not want to have to sew, glue, or otherwise construct 100 of something. I just survived putting together all those tiny Valentine’s Day cards last week, for crying out loud. No more crafts! I always seem to forget about the 100th Day project every time I am at the store and unfortunately I don’t have the time to go tonight. So now, here I am, with tomorrow’s due date looming over us. An empty Ziploc bag sits on the counter, waiting anxiously for me to finally settle on something.

Here are some of the ideas that wandered through my head, danced around a bit, then immediately dissolved:

“Oh, how I wish it was summer so that we could…”

  • …collect 100 snail shells from the lake.
  • …pick 100 small wildflowers.
  • …find 100 shiny pebbles.

Sigh…well, it’s about -10 and snowing outside, so I moved on to more realistic brainstorming.  Maybe we can celebrate 147th day sometime at the end of April.

My Brilliant Ideas for 100th Day

Use items that I already have on hand. Yes! That is the easiest by far. All I have to do is look through all my cupboards and drawers.

  • 100 toothpicks. 100 sharp objects in a bag, with a roomful of 6-year olds?
  • 100 goldfish / animal crackers or pretzel sticks. Great idea, until I discover that I don’t have 100 left of any of these things, and the goldfish cracker bag is actually empty.
  • 100 pieces of shredded cheese. I don’t want to waste my cheese. I love cheese.
100th Day: Will 100 goldfish fit into a Ziploc bag?

100th Day: No goldfish crackers? Maybe the real thing…?

Use something I can just grab at the store.  (These ideas came before I knew about the Ziploc bag size limit.)

  • A 100-piece puzzle, all nicely sealed in a box.
  • A bottle of laundry detergent that does 100 loads
  • 100-count box of plastic silverware

Would 100 goldfish fit in a Ziploc bag?

100 Cotton-Ball Sheep for 100th Day

100 Cotton-Ball Sheep for 100th Day

Carve out an hour or two for a fun and easy craft.

  • 100 Cheerios on a string. Except I have no Cheerios. Or string.
  • 100 cotton-ball sheep. Take 50 cotton balls and rip in half (100 won’t fit in the bag), then draw eyes with a Sharpie.  Have you ever tried to draw on a cotton ball with a Sharpie?  And the feel of tearing a cotton ball in half.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard.  *shiver*

Okay, I am so bad at trying to think up a fun and easy craft that I could not come up with a third option in this category. I feel like Chandler Bing in that Friends episode where he and Monica have to make each other Valentine’s Day presents and he clumsily twists a wire hanger into a strange shape because he can’t think of anything to make.

For a brief, insane moment, I consider trying to keep up with Super-Mom and do a Super-Craft.

100th Day Origami.  Not a chance...

100th Day Origami. Not a chance…

  • 100 hand-folded origami animals. Hand-folding anything is not fun, and just leafing through the “simple, easy-to-follow” origami instruction book makes me want to crawl into a dark corner and never come out.  After I throw the book out the window.
  • 100 paper snowflakes. Marginally less stressful than origami, but it produces hundreds of teeny paper scraps.  (Hmmm…100 teeny paper scraps would fit nicely in a Ziploc bag.)
  • 100 hand puppets made of socks. I laugh out loud just picturing my attempts to do that, plus have you seen the price of socks?!

Final result?

My daughter is taking 100 pieces of breakfast cereal to school for 100th Day. Yes, breakfast cereal. And that is only because our coffee beans are too oily (and expensive!) and a string of 100 Christmas lights won’t fit in the bag.

She’s excited about it.  I have no headache.  Mission accomplished.

If anyone has any great, simple ideas for 100th Day, please share!  I am guessing I have at least five more years of 100th Day activities ahead of me.

*Note:  I’ve found articles dated back to at least the mid- to late-90s about this 100th Day milestone, so yes, I am showing my age when I say we never celebrated it back when I was in elementary school.
Valentine’s Day:  Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

Valentine’s Day: Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

It’s the night before Valentine’s Day.  Since it’s a Friday, I’m at the grocery store doing our weekly stock-up.  The supermarket is clogged with people, partly with people stocking up before the bitter cold strikes later tonight, but overwhelmingly with stressed-out guys scouring the store for the obligatory gift to take home to their lady.

Valentine's Day: Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

Valentine’s Day: Gifts Do Not Equal Romance

One man pushes a cart containing a sad little plant through the women’s fitness accessories aisle, probably hoping to spot something — anything — his wife might like. Hopefully she is into fitness, because otherwise…that’s just a landmine.  Several men stare at the racks of Valentine’s Day candy (40% off!), searching for the one that will not only make their partner happy, but that they will enjoy eating after she politely eats just one piece.  Because seriously…Valentine’s Day Industry?  How many women think they’re fat? Ponder the logic for a second.

On my drive home, I see men emerging from gas stations…gas stations!…into the cold darkness, clutching bouquets of those random flowers that always look a little bit like a spring funeral arrangement.

It hits me — These men are not standing in long lines at 6:30 on the night before Valentine’s Day, grocery-store roses in hand, because they want to.  They’re doing it because they feel they have to.  They don’t dare let tonight turn into tomorrow without something to show they remembered.  If they were bestowing something wonderful and romantic upon their special someone, they would have had it planned and in hand long before tonight, and it definitely would not have included a trip to the gas station.

In the many, many years I have worked in the tech industry, and therefore around a lot of guys, I can honestly say I have heard very few that look forward to Valentine’s Day with any degree of excitement.  Many of them don’t dread it, because they’ve got a mutual understanding with their wife/girlfriend of what that day means to them and how they will celebrate it (or not).  But most of them find it more of a pain than anything.  They’re not really into the “holiday” and the only reason they’re doing anything at all is because their lady will make their lives miserable if they don’t.  These guys have this passive-aggressive pressure put on them to “don’t you dare forget” and “it better be something romantic.”  Those words sometimes are spoken, most of the time implied. There is always a half-hearted laugh, followed by “I better get her something, or else!”

Come on, girls!  Valentine’s Day is not a love-me, love-me-not situation.

What are you really looking for from these obligatory gifts?  Bragging rights?  The ability to save face when all your friends compare notes the next day?  Because, let me repeat…gas station flowers. Need I say more?

Please, let’s take a step back and look at this logically.  Is it really reasonable and fair to expect, to demand, that our significant other scrape together a romantic gift simply to avoid us being mad at them?  Christmas was less than 2 months ago!  We don’t need more stuff.  We don’t need or want candy.  We definitely do not need jewelry every time the Hallmark calendar says we should have it. We need to turn off the diamond commercials, tell our husband/boyfriend to forego the Walmart flowers, and come up with something that we both can enjoy.  Requiring a special gift — that is not romance.

It really is okay to make Valentine’s Day not that big of a deal.

Valentine's Day:  Spending time together — that is romance.

Valentine’s Day: Spending time together — that is romance.

Cook heart-shaped eggs; laugh together when they don’t turn out quite heart-shaped.  Snuggle up with a bottle of nice wine and a movie.  Put the kids to bed early and throw together a special meal that you can eat together in peace.  Crack some beers and play video games together.  Whatever you enjoy.  Spending time together — that is romance.

At the supermarket, I did see a few couples who were shopping together for Valentine’s weekend meals.  Steaks, strawberries, bubbly – no flowers, candy or jewelry in sight.  They looked relaxed and happy, very much unlike the guys waiting 15 minutes to buy a dozen roses because they were out of time and options.  I had lamb, cheesecake, and a nice bottle of red wine in my cart, along with my regular groceries.  Easy as you please.  K will get popcorn and a movie in her room; my husband and I will have dinner and queue up Netflix. It will be our time of togetherness, which is really what is truly at the heart of romance.

The point is, if you want to Valentine’s Day to be special, partner with your partner and come up with a plan where you can just enjoy each other’s company and celebrate your love.

It is possible to make Valentine’s Day something you can both look forward to.  Just stop making it an obligation.  Then your poor guy can get out of the grocery store and I can check out a lot more quickly.


The Hamster: Not a Long-Term Investment

The Hamster: Not a Long-Term Investment

The Tale of Two Elsas

My daughter had been begging for a pet hamster for a long time.  She wanted a little white dwarf hamster that she could name Elsa.  I brought home Elsa I on a Thursday evening.  There were no females available, but it’s not like you can really tell them apart anyway, so we just pretended.  He was so sweet and docile and K loved him.  He would curl right up in her hand and go to sleep. Awww … sweet little fuzzy white hamster.

By Sunday morning he was dead.

K was absolutely devastated.  At only five years old, this was her first encounter with anything dying other than her goldfish and she sat there holding the little corpse, tears running down her cheeks.

We put Elsa I in a box and went back to the pet store to take advantage of the ‘if your hamster dies within a week’ return policy. The pet store folks inspected him and they found that basically, he was a sick hamster to begin with. K chose a specific replacement hamster after holding about 7 of them, all identical white dwarf hamsters with creepy red eyes. Oh, and again, all male. He was christened Elsa II.

Want to know a little interesting tidbit about hamsters? They are not meant to curl up in your hand and go to sleep. That is not normal. I remember even talking about it at the time, reasoning that he was so calm during the day because hamsters are nocturnal. We were so pleasantly surprised – wow, hamsters are calm and cuddly! Yes, they are…when they’re sick and dying. [facepalm]  Every time I think back on it, all I can picture is that scene in Dumb & Dumber where the little blind boy is petting the dead parakeet that has its head duct-taped on. “Pretty bird. Can you say pretty bird? Pretty bird…”

Elsa II was a normal hamster. He ran away – fast – and he was wiggly and squirmy. He took teamwork sometimes to even catch him in his cage. He bit our fingers.

Despite being a normal hamster, he still was able to be petted and played with, and for almost a year, he was a pretty decent family pet.  He was very entertaining to watch, and the intricate network of tunnels he dug in his bedding were quite amazing.

This past Sunday afternoon, we found Elsa II curled up in a little ball sleeping. The reason it caught our attention was that he never slept aboveground. He was always in his tunnels or under his little half-log. We picked him up and immediately knew the worst. He was lethargic and barely opened his eyes, exactly as Elsa I had been like when he breathed his last. We couldn’t believe it. Just the night before, he had been zipping around his cage, running in his wheel, drinking water, munching food. Now, less than 24 hours later, he felt like a skeleton covered in hamster-fur. I could feel the little bones in his back and rib cage.

K was away at a birthday party, so we had a bit of time to try to figure out how to break the news. I wrapped Elsa II gently in some soft tissues and cradled him in my hand. I couldn’t bear to just leave him alone while he was dying.  I held him for an hour or so, watching him slowly slipping away. He would occasionally have what appeared to be a seizure, then would gasp a few times, then curl back up with his eyes closed.

Saying goodbye is never easy, even if it is just a hamster.

Saying goodbye is never easy, even if it is just a hamster.

When K got home, Elsa II was still hanging on. She wanted to cuddle him, so I set her up on the couch with him. I started preparing her, telling her that he was very sick and he might not make it. Her worry over his sickness turned to grief that he may die. In a sweet, heartbreaking moment, K leaned over, gently kissed him, and whispered goodbye.

Less than 5 minutes later, Elsa II seized again, which freaked K out a little, and I took him back. His eyes were wide open, and I held him as he finally took 3 last gasping breaths. I have to say, I know that it was just a hamster, but there is just something so awful and sad when you are watching something small and helpless that is sick and dying and there is nothing you can do about it.

I looked at my husband, gestured at the hamster, and shook my head. He took Elsa II from me and I pulled K into my lap.  “I’m sorry, baby.  Elsa died.”

K burst out crying, and I may or may not have had a few tears myself.

It is mid-winter and the ground is frozen. My husband and I texted each other about burial options so that K couldn’t overhear until we knew what to do. The flower bed near the foundation seemed the best option to be the least frozen and we asked K if she wanted to help find a little box to put Elsa II in. She did not, and when we told her where we would bury him, she cried harder.

“I want her to be buried under my favorite oak tree!”

We have no oak trees. We only have one tree, a small red maple in the front yard. The very frozen front yard.

I texted my husband that we could just put a marker up and dispose of the body some other way. He wanted to make sure that K was part of all this if she wanted to be. He asked her if she wanted to bury something with him, like maybe a little picture she could draw or a note.

“But she is in heaven!” K wailed, tears streaming down her face. “If she’s up there and my picture is buried down here, she won’t ever get to see it.”

It was at that point we realized that she really did not want or need to be part of the burial process. That was confirmed when, as my husband gamely went out the front door with a shovel, she buried her face in her hands and cried harder, sobbing that she didn’t even want to see him outside.

I led her to her playroom with her eyes covered, and I settled her in on a cozy sheepskin rug with her Kindle Fire and a blanket. By that time, my husband had discovered that there wasn’t a chance of digging even a hamster-sized grave in the frozen ground under that tree. He was able to hollow out enough dirt in the flower beds near the foundation of the house to insert Elsa II and call it good.

I took down the hamster cage, washed it, and packed it all away. By the time we had finished erasing the house of hamster-related paraphernalia, K had settled down considerably.  By bedtime, with no reminders around, she hadn’t even mentioned it again.

Two hamsters down in barely a year. For some reason I was under the impression that dwarf hamsters can live up to 10-15 years. Do you want to know how long they really are supposed to live? (Those of you who already know this are laughing at me right now.)  On average, a dwarf hamster lives about a year; if you’re lucky, maybe two.  So, unless you want to subject your child to the annual death of their pet, get a guinea pig.

I informed the dog and cat that due to the shocking pet mortality rate in our house, they might want to watch their step.

As for getting a new hamster?  If there is to be an Elsa III, she will have to come in the form of something like this:


Why Aren’t You Outraged?  Everyone Else Is!

Why Aren’t You Outraged? Everyone Else Is!

Not outraged about something?  Then you must be an apathetic clod.  How can you not care about the frail sensibilities of apparently every single person in the general public these days?

Every day I read the news, I read blogs, and I read comments.  The comments are seriously the best part.  I see people SMH-ing* so much that I’m surprised they haven’t waggled their outraged heads right off.

I get that things are happening in the world today that we should be outraged about. We should be downright angry and causing a ruckus.  But there are so many things that are not only benign, but they are none of anyone’s business.  Every little thing that happens should not cause a thousand Facebook comments to spring up and express outrage at the situation.  It’s no wonder people are so stressed out and angry all the time these days.  They somehow manage to take everything personally.

Outrage at McDonald's Ad

Outrage at McDonald’s Ad

Let’s start with the McDonald’s ad that aired a week or so ago.  I saw it again last night.  I watched the commercial and read all those signs.  I found it touching.  Not a single one of those signs said anything offensive.  Not a single one said or implied anything close to what the critics were claiming – “People suffered. Buy our food.”  None of them claimed to be heroes.  Not a single one.

Even McDonalds’ corporate office was baffled by the public outcry, basically stating that they never anticipated backlash over this of all things.  A commercial that shows their branded retaurants showing support for what is happening in their areas?  Here is just a sampling of what was on the signs, in case you haven’t seen the commercial and don’t feeling like watching it now:

  • Boston Strong
  • Keep jobs in Toldo
  • All of us weep for the Columbia families

Wow…those things…are just outrageous?

“I thought the ad was awesome. It’s clear that all the billboards were real. It was demonstrating that McDonald’s is Americana,” said Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork + Company Advertising, an ad agency based in Albuquerque.

A vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants are franchises owned by small business owners.  They, and their employees all live nearby.  They are local people.  Community members.  You know…support your local small business and all that?  Are they not allowed to show support, solidarity, opinion?  Are they not affected personally by disasters, by unrest, or by economic struggles?  Our local McDonald’s not only provides employment for folks in my town, but they also donate a lot to our schools and local charities.  I know this is not a rarity.  McDonald’s may be a global brand, but those little restaurants sprinkled around towns are owned, operated, and staffed by local citizens.

“The McDonalds commercial that wants us to thank them for changing their signs during national tragedies is more tasteless than the McRib…”

Do people not realize that the McDonald’s signs are personalized by each individual store?  The corporate office doesn’t send out a memo every day instructing franchise owners as to what their sign should say.  There have been complaints that McDonald’s should focus more on paying a living wage instead of on community PR.  Individual McDonald’s are also responsible for their own wage structure.  Every state has different minimum wage laws; McDonald’s doesn’t get to bypass that.  Don’t like the minimum wage in your state?  Complain to the legislature and make things change.  Hating on this commercial because you’re mad at the corporate beast McDonald’s and the paycheck-discontent of a small but highly publicized group of protesters is really just stupid.

There are things in the world right now that are actually outrageous.  Save your stress and energy and head-shaking for those things and quit getting outraged about things that don’t even matter.

*(SMH is Internet-speak for “shaking my head”)
I Have Already Updated my New Year’s Resolution List

I Have Already Updated my New Year’s Resolution List

Let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions.

It might seem a little late to be discussing this, being the fifth day of January already, but most people I know never technically start their New Year’s Resolutions until the Monday that everyone is back to work and school.

Almost everyone makes a resolution to some degree. Even those who claim they don’t make resolutions are more than likely at least thinking something along the lines of “I sure would like to improve x this year” or “I hope I can keep up with new hobby y.”

Did you know there is actually a US government web site that tracks the top resolutions and provides helpful links to find more information about how to achieve them?

What do you think is the most popular New Year’s Resolution?  Lose weight. Are you shocked?

Here’s the whole list:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Volunteer to Help Others
  3. Quit Smoking
  4. Get a Better Education
  5. Get a Better Job
  6. Save Money
  7. Get Fit
  8. Eat Healthy Food
  9. Manage Stress
  10. Manage Debt
  11. Take a Trip
  12. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  13. Drink Less Alcohol

Based on this list, nearly 50% of New Year’s Resolutions center around improving one’s physical self, if you include Manage Stress in that category. It really wasn’t hard to guess. People with the “improve my body” resolutions are the fastest out of the gate and usually the most vocal about what their plans are. Promptly, on January 2nd (because who can diet on New Year’s Day with all the bowl games and leftover snacks from the night before?!?), the body-improvers slash the junk from their diet, invade the gyms and fitness classes in droves, ornament themselves with a wide variety of fitness gear and paraphernalia, and set up complicated tracking logs and charts so they can track every calorie, carb, fat gram, step walked, mile run, kilogram bench-pressed, muscle gained, fat lost, and scale victory.  They…track…everything. I know – I am one of those people.

My New Year’s Resolution?  To lose weight by strict dieting, frequent exercising, and tracking everything!

What is on Your New Year's Resolution List?

What is on Your New Year’s Resolution List?

The first weigh-in always kick-starts my motivation. 9 days of binge-eating and drinking (because I started on Christmas Eve) has taken its toll. The scale is laughing at me, pointing at that 5 pound gain and mocking me for my lack of willpower. I hang my head in shame, dress in whatever clothes I still have that won’t cut off my blood circulation, and I head out to start the day. I am back to reality now, back to work, back to the morning school drop-off routine, back to focusing on my health!


I get to work and hit my first roadblock:  snacks.

Hilariously, everyone in the office seems to be trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolution Diet by bringing in all the junk food from home and sabotaging everyone else’s New Year’s Resolution Diet. This is very clever and very evil. I hunch low in my cube, trying to focus on work and ignore the pie, cookies, and homemade biscotti that are being circulated. I sip my plain black coffee and try not to imagine how tasty that chocolate chip cookie would be with my morning brew. I drink my plain sparkling mineral water, take my vitamins, and pretend that none of that food exists.

Lunchtime rolls around. I crave sushi, garlic bread, lamb chops…all the foods I have shamelessly enjoyed for almost two weeks. I spread a teaspoon of unsalted butter on my whole-grain-packed-with-protein-and-fiber bread, and imagine my sandwich is really a burger and fries. I do not succeed.

By 1:30 I am on ounce 40 of water, but my stomach is shrieking that it is not satisfied. Whoever claims that drinking water fills you up and kills hunger probably has something like amphetamines in theirs. Because seriously? Water? Does Not Satisfy!

I am grumpy and hungry and feeling anxious about all the pressure I have put on myself. All those red (current values) and green (goals) cells in my spreadsheet are suddenly no longer encouraging, but instead they are just exhausting to think about. A long vista of days spent sipping plain water and obsessing over food stretches before me. I want to throw something.

At 1:45 I make a decision. Obsessively tracking every diet and fitness stat imaginable and scheduling hours of fitness classes and gym time do not help with the Manage Stress subcategory of my New Year’s Resolution. So, just like that, I decide not to and I abruptly alter my game plan.

I WILL log what I eat and drink on a daily basis to ensure that I am within my calorie goals. I WILL NOT obsess over making sure I measured out exactly 1 teaspoon of mustard or 137 grams of uncooked chicken (without skin!).

I WILL do 30 minutes of physical exercise at least 3-4 days per week.  I WILL NOT beat myself up if I miss a day here and there, nor will I worry about my exact calories in/calories out ratio.

I WILL be conscious of moving more, using stairs instead of elevators, and getting a good night’s sleep. I WILL NOT try to find room in my budget for a FitBit Surge Fitness Superwatch from, despite how incredibly awesome that thing looks, despite the fact that it is hanging out in my Wish List and in my Cart. For a stat-tracking maniac like  me, that FitBit would propel my obsessive charting to a whole other level. Track my heart rate, calories burned, even floors climbed? Monitor my sleep and report back to me on how it went? Follow my little dot around on a GPS map so I can always see exactly where I have been and how fast I got there? Oh my…like a kid in a candy store.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was working on Managing my Stress.

I delete my formerly exciting 2015 Fitness and Food Tracking spreadsheet.

My new plan is to eat right, work out as much as I can, and get plenty of sleep. That’s it…nothing more complicated than that. I lost around 12 pounds in the three months leading up to Christmas without obsessing, so I know that sticking with my pre-holiday plan will keep the weight loss coming off. This is sustainable, for me.

And now I am going to eat my tiny little Clementine orange and not worry about how many grams of carbs are in it.

Spoiler: there are 9. 

There is also a seed.

Meow Parlour:  Food, Drink, & Kitties!

Meow Parlour: Food, Drink, & Kitties!

Attention all cat lovers!

Have you longed for a kitty companion but you’re unable to have a pet?  Have you been looking all over for the perfect cat to adopt?  Do you love cats but prefer a limited-time relationship?  Look no further!  Meow Parlor in New York City is the answer to your prayers.

Meow Parlour is New York City’s first cat café, a place that combines sweet cats and delicious sweets!

Okay, how can anyone resist that?

Before you ask, yes, apparently cat cafés are a real thing and they are enormously popular in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. But finally, at long last, rentable kitty-time has come to the United States.

At the Meow Parlour, you get to hang out, with snacks and beverages, in a room full of free-roaming felines.  You can come alone, with a friend, with your children (see FAQ for details), or even rent the place for a private party!  I tried to convince my department at work to make this our next team outing, but apparently we are not all cat lovers here.

Lest you fear that the kitties are at risk for maltreatment, check out the pretty strict rules at this place. I’m a little disappointed to see that you can’t pick up a kitty without supervision, and woe to you if you try to wake a sleeping cat.  I had envisioned a room where I could be literally covered in fuzzy, purring cats. Instead, I now picture a room with cats lining the floors while I tempt them with a toy or pat them sedately on the head. (In my head, I am also sipping tea with my pinkie sticking out and my ankles primly crossed.)  In other words, my visions of fun kitty hilarity have been replaced in my mind by more sterile observe-only images. That said, I do honestly think that the next time I’m in NYC I am going to have to spring for a half-hour visit just to satisfy my curiosity.

*Actual cats may vary.

*Actual cats may vary.

All of the cats at Meow Parlour are adoptable. They are partnered with the no-kill shelter KittyKind to take care of rescue cats until they are adopted. If you look at this as a unique way to interact for a while with a kitty you might want to adopt, the idea is pretty cool. After all, it’s much more personable than the cold metal cages of a shelter, and the kitties themselves are well-socialized while they wait for their forever home.


If you see this as a luxury, the feline equivalent of a spa treatment, then…well I’m not sure what to say to you.  You pay money to pet cats.  And people say the economy is bad?  I’d say that if you have cat-petting money, you are probably pretty well set financially.

Prices start at $4/half-hour and you can stay up to five hours. $40 for 5 hours of bonding with a rent-a-kitty! While eating snacks!

You really can’t put a price on that.

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