Things You *Really* Shouldn’t Say To Your Kids

I just read this blog post over at Abandoning Pretense in which Kristen Mae gives the thumbs down to all those “Things You Should Never Say to Your Kids” lists floating about, and I was like, “Whew! Thank God someone is letting me off the hook.” I’m all for people pursuing positive parenting with patience and aplomb (sorry, got a little carried away with the alliteration there), but never? NEVER?

“Never” reinforces this sort of oops-you-did-this-BUZZ!-now-you’re-a-terrible-parent vibe that I’m basically totally sick of. Like, I’m barfing guilt already, people. Let’s take it easy. Kristen sums up my feelings at the end:

Most of us are working really hard at being the best parents we can be, and we’re doing a pretty bang-up job of it, too. We are good parents.

Yeah. So take that, internet jerks.

That said, there really ARE some things you probably shouldn’t say to your kids. I’ll list them out, in case you’re just about to say any of this. It takes a village, after all.

Word Graphic - Things You Really Shouldn't Say to Your Kids

Things You *Really* Shouldn’t Say to Your Kids

1. Finish your cocaine or I’ll feed you to my shark.

2. I regret letting the aliens drink your blood every night. Tuesdays? Yes. Every night? Too much.

3. Sometimes I watch you sleeping at night and just cry. Oh, no…not in the good way.

4. Heads up: I’m gonna be real drunk at this parent/teacher conference.

5. Wanna take the cinnamon challenge?

6. Take the cinnamon challenge or I’ll feed you to my shark.

7. Hold this land mine real quick.

8. I wish you were more like your sister, if your sister was like someone else’s kid.

9. Hey! That stove is hot! Ehhh…go ahead. We have insurance.

10. Feed my shark or I’ll feed you to my shark.

If you’re saying any of those things, you probably are a terrible parent. Take your internet shame, you! Take it and like it!

p.s. you’re subscribed to Abandoning Pretense, right? Because you should NEVER tell your kid not to subscribe to Abandoning Pretense.

Admit You’re a Feminist for International Women’s Day

Back in 2012 I realized I am a feminist—albeit with a little hesitation. Claiming to be a feminist, after all, can carry a lot of pressure, and a good deal of judgement. People see feminists as shrill, bossy, angry hordes of women coming to rip men apart with their pointy feminist teeth. Snap!

I am a feminist graphic with empowered fist

So I thought, “I’m not shrill or angry. I don’t want to chew on the souls of men…maybe I’m not a feminist.”

We’re also in a really interesting time in history. It’s like the smelling salts have been snapped, and we’re all getting a jarring new look around. Organizations like Miss Representation, Feminist Frequency, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are doing the painstaking work of really inspecting what we see and hear in TV, film, and advertising. Through that process a lot of really normal and accepted stuff is being called out as sexist. Misogyny lurks under so many things we really dig (Blurred Lines, anyone?), and one of the roles of feminism is to really look at our world, and call creepy, sexist BS for what it is. But if you’re in the shower singing Blurred Lines and thinking, “This is my jam!” and then you read about how it’s a bunch of creepy, sexist, BS that normalizes rape, suddenly you feel like a creepy sexist who normalizes rape culture. Hmm…(It’s okay. You probably aren’t.)

Feminism also tackles a whole host of topics, some of which might make you uncomfortable. Like the roles of women (and men) in the workplace. The roles of women (and men) in the home. And reproductive rights, which necessitates the use of the word vagina. (Why is vagina such a scary word, you all? 7th graders say it in health class.)

And that stuff? That makes feminism feel like a club that you’re not in.

But unless you’re the mayor of Crapville, you’re probably a feminist. Here’s a test to find out:

  1. Do you think women are just as important as men?
  2. Do you think it’s wrong and bad for women to be beat, groped, harassed, or raped?
  3. Do you think that babies need parents, and that women and men should be allowed to take time off from work when said babies are born or adopted?
  4. Do you think men can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be strong, or violent, or void of emotion?
  5. Do you think women can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be subservient, or demure, or “pretty”?
  6. Do you believe that all people are valuable and we should treat them that way?

Did you answer “yes” to most of those? Well, friend…you’re a feminist.

We’re not going to agree on everything. We feminists—we’re going to have differences and diversity just like anyone else. We’re going to muddle through all of these topics, push back on norms, and bumble around quite a bit. And you’re not going to feel like you’re doing it right.

But you don’t stop being a parent because you don’t know all the answers. You don’t stop voting just because the issues are complicated. You don’t stop shopping until you straighten out your economic theory. You dive in. You work it out. You take it easy on yourself and your fellow humans. You know there’s room to grow.

It is actually important to use the F word

The more people freely say, “I’m a feminist,” the less people will associate feminism with harpy witch women who hate men. The more men say, “I’m a feminist,” the more we can use feminism to improve men’s lives too. (Want to see a man doing some badass work for feminism? Look no further than your favorite Star Trek captain.) The more people throw their weight behind feminism, the faster we’ll progress.

And you know what? We need feminism in a bad way. Click that link and check out aaaaaall those reasons.

I promise once women get equal pay, I won’t care if you call yourself a feminist or not. When women and girls stop getting raped, then executed for it, I’ll leave you alone. When girls don’t get shot in the head for wanting education, when parenthood and earning a living can co-exist, when johns are prosecuted more than the underage prostitutes they rape, when women earn the same pay for the same work—WHEN I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A LIST OF THIS CRAPPY STUFF, we can abandon the word feminist on the side of the road. It will have served it’s purpose. Until then—and it’s gonna be a while—pretty pretty please use that F word.

So, congratulations! You’re a feminist!

Go celebrate International Women’s Day by claiming feminism as your own. Tell your friends and family to join in on the fun. Let’s make a ruckus and do some good work. I’ll raise a fist in the air for you.

WordPress.com Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

I love putting pictures in my posts. Because pictures are pretty. And sometimes you can find a picture of a red panda cracking up at your jokes.

So imagine my delight when the WordPress.com News blog made this little announcement:

Earlier today, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes. We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks and are excited to bring this feature to WordPress.com!

I was like this:

And this:

There are so many images at my fingertips! The whole attribution thing is SOOO much easier! Plus, you never know when you’ll need a picture of a robot, getting ready to have a great time with a beach ball.

Not all of the images are available to embed in this super fancy way (getting a little greedy if we want that, no?), so every now and again you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of not being able to embed a picture of a cat raising it’s arms like it’s saying Hallelujah in a Pentecostal church…but pfft, you’ll get over it. Because there’s kitty with a tiny hat on:

And a kitty whose super power is being cute:

And, if you’re feeling a little crazy, this kitty:

There’s also a lot of non-kitty images (but seriously, there are so many kitties).

In fact, the other day Getty Images announced the Lean In collection, “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.” I commented on Facebook that I wanted to start a business, just so I could use all those badass images of women being awesome and showing normal signs of aging, and girls doing stuff other than wearing dresses. Like so:

Now I don’t need to start a hair-combing karate machinery business. I can just use the images in a meandering blog post. Total win.

So be on the look out for more awesome images here. I promise to slightly scale down my use of cat images (a little). If you’re a blogger you should definitely go check out the full Getty Images catalog. That’s a whole lot of fun right there. A whole lot of it.

Happy Friday, friendsies.

I’m Getting Over a Brold

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Image by Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Depression is stupid.

And it has a weird rep that makes already crap-feeling people feel more isolated and alienated. Which is dumb.

So, I have an idea. Depression needs to be a thing that you can say you have without any sort of weirdness attached to it. Like when you have a cold, no body gives you that weird I-hope-I-don’t-send-you-over-the-edge-with-my-response-to-you vibe when you mention that you need to stay in that night. Because a cold is a cold. It’s a thing that a lot of people deal with, and it sucks, and you work through it. And depression is not entirely unlike that. It’s a cold for your brain.

Thus, periodic bouts of depression will henceforth be known as brolds.

Next time you’re feeling crappy and you had a dinner date planned but really you can’t do anything other than cry and watch old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy—no big deal. Text your pals that you came down with a nasty brold and you’ll catch up with them next time. Or if you have a mound of work to do, but depression is sucking the gumption straight out of your head, send an email to HR explaining you’ll need a sick day or two as you deal with your brold.

Once the idea catches on, we’ll see over-the-counter brold treatments popping up all over the place. They’ll mostly contain caffeine pills and pictures of baby animals. It’s not meant to be a cure, just a little something to help you weather it.

The truth is sometimes brolds just come; there’s nothing you did to get in it, and not much you can do to get out of it other than wait with a cup of coffee and an internet full of baby ducks. But sometimes you need go see a doctor and get some more serious meds. But either way, it’s just a brold. Don’t freak out, people. It’s just a brold.

So there’s my idea, you all. I’m full of them. Got another problem that needs to be solved? Send it my way. Though it might take me a bit to get to it—I’m getting over a brold.

Oh, also…go watch this TED talk by Kevin Breel for some more awesome thoughts about normalizing depression.

The Parent Olympics Storified (& Stanley Broke the Internet)

First things first; The Parent Olympics were awesome. I think most of you were out having Pho and planning your gubernatorial campaigns, so live viewing was a touch on the skim side. Not to worry though, folks; I storified it. Now that you have a full belly and a clear campaign strategy, hop over to Storify.com and check it out.

ParentOlympicsStorifiedScreenCap

My favorite moment? This one:

FavoritePOMoment

Plus all of this awesome stuff:

Seriously, go see the whole shebang. Good times. Jerrod was an amazing co-host, and made the event that much better. Really that’s a compliment for me—I make awesome decisions. High five, me.

Less awesome were the antics of Stanley, the horribly obnoxious internet drunk. Oh, Stanley, I could just punch you in the mouth.

See, what happened readers—and you may have noticed this last night—is that Stanley hopped on my computer while I was participating in my own Parent Olympics. And wow—can that dumb guy screw stuff up. In the process of posting and unposting the Storify version, posts were pushed to the blog, and then pushed to Facebook, AND Twitter, AND LinkedIn, AND (I assume) Barack Obama got copies of them. Because the internet is tricky, drunken Stanley published a couple of posts with just a link, some with some jibberish-looking code, and one with a selfie of him after he abandoned his pants. (Gross, Stanley.)

The lesson? Don’t let a drunk/angry/possibly imaginary old man get his hands on the internet. You know he’s just gonna break it.

So sorry for that, you all. Stanley is terrible and we should ALL punch him in the mouth. I may have bore the tiniest bit of responsibility in the whole debacle, so please accept my apologies as well. But mostly let’s get really angry at Stanley.

p.s. When I was all stressed about the social media cacophony emanating from my blog, I did what any reasonable person would do: watched internet videos of cats. It was almost worth the stress and frustration to come across these gems. (ht Cute Overload)

The Parent Olympics

Two weeks ago the winter Olympics opened with great fanfare, and athletes from all over the globe gathered to have their skills tested and their hard work put on display. They squinted their eyes as their grit and determination pushed them toward medal podium. They held their breath, wondering if it was worth sacrificing so much for the love of the games.

Simultaneously, another Olympics carried on, the opening ceremonies for which are held daily as tiny feet march down the hall, ready to break even the strongest competitor. The competitions are held in living rooms, bedrooms, family vans, and playgrounds. These games have no end, and no real winner—only survivors. They are…

The Parent Olympics

Tonight at 5 PST/7 Central, Jerrod from Never Had One Lesson (@jerrodkc) and I (@HelloMelanieC) will bring you live coverage of the games on Twitter. So stay tuned for such events as:

• The Bedtime Sneak-and-Crawl

• The Get Anywhere on Time, and

• The 30-minute Clean Shirt Event

Are you a parent warming up for your next event? A relative watching a brutal tumble? An innocent bystander now covered in ice cream after a mini mall meltdown? Join us: #ParentOlympics

See you in the arena.

background image in graphic by John Keogn via Flickr licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Good Morning, Snuggles

I have about eight—drat, no, seven—minutes to pound this out. Seven minutes to cobble some words together and jam them onto this screen here, and hope they make some kind of sense. Tick tock. No pressure.

It’s been a while. Things in my life are basically freaking bananas all the time. I had another kid last year, (hence the pregnancy post) and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t just suck all time and energy right out of your life. I mean, sucking like a vacuum in a cartoon where all the forest animals and leaves and pine needles and newspapers and old people get sucked into it. Like that.

When this new lil’ babe was born, beneath the torrential avalanche of need, I extended myself a little rope, tied to the boat of sanity. That rope was this: you can’t do much more than this, Melanie. You just can’t. You’ve got two people that need you all the freaking time, the idea of “me time” is laughable, and parenting is about as easy as threading a needle with an invisible worm. So to make it I had to let go of my dream to-do list, and pare it down to something simpler. It turned out about like this:

• Get out of bed

• Survive 10 hours until Stephen comes home

• Do not slap strangers as a result of exhaustion and anxiety

• Hug the girls really and truly at least once a day

• Don’t stress-eat all the food in San Diego

It’s a pretty limited list, but I know it’s within my capabilities, though just barely.

(Crap, I’m out of time, you all.)

So, good morning, Snuggles. I’m still here and alive and I still want to write and I want to hug your blessed little faces with my thought pukes. Even if it’s only seven minutes at a time.

The Loser’s Guide to Screenwriting

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Become Impregnated by The Idea

The Idea comes to you like a mythical creature. It creeps through your window at 2 AM. It rushes straight into your bosom, carried by a warm, southeasterly wind. When it comes to you, it’s fully formed, for it has been made by the hands of tiny green gods from another realm; they know more about storytelling than we ever will.

Yes, they’ve crafted The Idea, the green gods have, and now they’ve sent it to you. It’s so good it’s sexy. And you’re sexy too, now that you have The Idea. You cuddle it, coddle it, coo at it in your mind. You’d kiss it straight on the mouth if you could. Heck, you’d kiss yourself on the mouth.

Obsession. Development.

You write a few things down—not too many, just the broad strokes, really—afraid that delving straight into details will scare The Idea away. And it really is a fantastic idea. So good you can’t believe no one has come up with it before. How is it that a story like this has never been told? Not in this way. Not with this twist. You can’t believe your luck. You speak of The Idea to no one as you flesh it out in your mind, and even in your mind you speak in hushed tones.

The Idea is to be revered. Respected. Protected. You caress its head like it’s the prettiest kitty of all time.

Share Just a Little

Aflame with the exhilaration of having an actual writing project in the coffer, you find yourself unable to resist sharing a little with your writer friends—juuuuust a little.

But lo, when you open your mouth some kind of sentence fragment sputters out, and falls directly in your coffee. You have made a mockery of The Idea. You must stop speaking immediately.

Immediately.

Backtrack Paired with—What’s That? Oh, Yes—Panic

Back in your apartment, you pull out your notes, searching for The Idea. It must be here somewhere; intact, gorgeous, purring.

You read through one page. Then the next. And the third. The last? Wait…wasn’t there more than this? What about the opening images that gave you chills? Or the B story that brought just the right blend of levity and intrigue? This is not The Idea! This is something else, something lesser, something—God help you—pedestrian.

Excavate. Hyperventilate. Repeat.

Okay, just calm down. The golden Idea crafted by the tiny green gods could not have disappeared this quickly. (Unless you angered the tiny green gods. What did you do!?) You just need to think a moment. Just think. THINK.

So you need more than a moment. That’s okay. What’s that 99% perspiration thing? That’s fine. You can do that. Stop worrying. Go to the shelf. Pull out a few screenwriting books as reference, and you’ll have the bones all nice and laid out before you in no time. Sexy bones. The bones of The Idea. It will be fine.

Reinvent All Wheels

Whatever crap they’re selling in screenwriting books isn’t going to help you now. What were you thinking? What, were you hoping to write formulaic drivel that will make a bunch of money for some studio fat cats out there but will leave you dry and listless in your soul? Starved to the core of your creative being? (Wait, what was that about money? Creative famine might be fine with money…)

No! No formulas will work for you. No “structure” or “journey” or “beat sheet” will do The Idea justice. Instead, you must cull the collective knowledge and craft your own system. A system, a structure, a theory worthy of The Idea. The Idea needs a warm, fresh, bohemian yet ruthlessly genius home in which to appear once again. Yes. Yessssss. This will work. Just give it time. Tease out the structure with your hybrid, game-changing ideas and all will be well. The Idea will be well. And you will kiss it on the mouth.

Beer

And a little whiskey.

Vomit

In the alley. Defeated, you deposit both your stomach contents and your hopes for The Idea neatly between a dumpster and a family of rats. Even the rats pity you. A baby rat averts her eyes. You don’t disagree with her choice.

Interlude

Hello, Old Friend

Months later, you find a folder on your computer holding a vaguely named file. You open it out of curiosity. “Now that was a good Idea,” you think. “Just a little work and…”

Another ride around the carousel, please.

Five and a Half Tips for Surviving Your New Baby

So you’re having a baby! Huzzah! Soon you will have the minor task of being solely responsible for the health and well-being of an entirely helpless, dependent human. Don’t freak! I’ve got five and a half top-shelf tips to get you on your way. Like so:

Clean That Thing Off

If you’ve grown your baby in your very own uterus, have someone clean it off before they thrust it on you for the first time. Newly minted babies are gross (truth), and your affection for them is what keeps you from abandoning them in the forest like a spooked mama fox. Don’t let your first remark about your little rascal be, “Ick.” Give yourself the upper hand and have someone give that kid a good once-over with a towel.

The Puke Luge™

Baby Puke on the Couch

The night before this happened we were like, “Hey, should we scotch guard the couch?” and then we were like, “Nah, that’s a lot of work and the can says we’ll probably blow up our house.” Then I didn’t use the Puke Luge™.

Babies like to puke up a lot of the food you so carefully funnel into their little gullets. Prime targets for said puke are the third shirt you’ve put on that day, and your newly cleaned couch.

To avoid both scenarios, use my patented 2-step Puke Luge™ solution. First, don’t burp the baby over your shoulder rather, hold the baby upright on your lap, holding a burp cloth beneath her little chinny-chin-chin (fig. A). Then, place the other end of the burp cloth on a pillow next to you (fig. B). This creates the luge track on which your baby’s puke will be safely corralled, shirts and furniture left unsoiled.Puke Luge

The Baby Straightjacket

Babies like to claw the crap out of their faces, making you look like the Freddy Kruger of parents. Not great. Your options for resolving this are: those baby mittens that stay on for roughly the amount of time it takes a mouse to sneeze; cutting your baby’s nails, which will definitely result in lopping off some of your baby’s finger; or the baby straightjacket (also known as swaddling).

The baby straightjacket is the clear winner, in my opinion. If you can get a nurse to teach you, that’s best (those people do not mess), if not, the Mayo Clinic has some pretty pictures to show you.

Hold on to Those Maternity Clothes

Again, if your baby is grown in your very own body, immediately following birth you’ll be like, “Ohmigosh I’m so skinny!” Then you’ll see a mirror and you’ll be like, “Sixth month of pregnancy redux? What the heck?”

Yes, that’s the dill, Pickle. You’re just gonna have to be okay with it.

If It Seems Weird, Maybe it IS Weird

Babies do all kinds of weird crap, but some of it is normal weird, and some is weird weird. As a new parent, you totally won’t know the difference. (Awesome!)

If something seems weird, check it out. Don’t worry about seeming like an ignorant, overprotective wacko of a parent. You probably are, but don’t worry about it. Most doctor’s offices have a nurse that you can talk to on the phone before racing to the emergency room. Also, Google is pretty good at giving you a little pre-info.

Embracing the I-don’t-know-but-it-seems-weird mantra probably saved my kid’s life, so I’m a fan. (All the credit for that goes to my husband. He’s a better person than I am. (Why am I left alone with the kids again?))

Sub-point: Watch out for Internet Weirdos

Google is great for doing a quick WTF check on lots of stuff. The Mayo Clinic and WebMD are pretty solid resources. However, the internet is chock-full of weirdos because there’s no test you have to pass to spew opinions all over our shared info web. So when you search for “gassy baby,” you’ll inevitably find the person that says, “I gave my baby an enema with a straw and a diet coke.” No thanks, moonbeamdaddy43. We’re gonna pass on that.

Have I left something unaddressed? Well ask away! I’m an internet weirdo with an entire website all to myself, so clearly I’m qualified.

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?

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Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr

Yesterday I reached a pinnacle—a difficult and craggy height the likes of which could only be dreamt of when I first pressed “Publish” on WordPress.

Yes, it is true: I now have one thousand WordPress subscribers. (That’s you! Hooray!)

The first few hundred accumulated quietly. Like dust in a corner, or receipts in a wallet, or kittens in a house where the mama cat never gets fixed and is very friendly. It was calm, and nice, and only a little hairy. Then some big, partly exciting, partly terrifying jumps came with the two times I got on Freshly Pressed (Thanks FP editors!). And then?

Then, things got a little weird.

I started getting a bunch of subscribers every day. Like five. Or ten. And some of them, well…I kinda wonder what they’re doing here. (Not you, of course. You’re here on purpose, right?) Like all the people whose blogs are in a different language. My humor’s a little bumpy in English; I can only imagine what kind of a loon I sound like in translation. And then there are the fashion blogs (did you not see this, people? You will find no fashion here.). And, I dunno…just a bunch of randos. Perhaps I have charmed all one thousand of you with my wit and made-up words. It’s possible. Or perhaps there’s some sort of internet scam in which you charm me with your subscription, and then I end up being a drug mule for you or something. (Please know I’d make a terrible drug mule—breaking rules makes me very, very nervous. I use my signal every single time. Even when no cars are around. That type o’ gal is not cut out for the drug muling life.)

So, to quell my curiosity, while also seizing the opportunity to press a new button I found in my WordPress post editor, I thought I’d do a poll! It’ll be enlightening and entertaining for all involved. Plus…more buttons!

Here we go:

 

A million snuggles to all of you for making me feel like I’m not sending my words into the abyss. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal? Deal.

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