A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

Read the full story »

Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

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Articles tagged with: rants

It’s not a lack of confidence – it’s an epidemic of common sense
Wednesday, 12 Nov, 2008 – 12:58 | Comments Off
It’s not a lack of confidence – it’s an epidemic of common sense

We’ve soothed Wall Street’s jangly nerves in recent weeks, and The New York Times says banks are letting loose of some of the bailout cash.
Next up: A “crisis” in consumer confidence that could send …

The demerits of teacher merit pay
Thursday, 9 Oct, 2008 – 11:14 | Comments Off
The demerits of teacher merit pay

In theory, merit pay for teachers has a lot going for it.
Reward the best. Truly inspiring classroom leaders such as Big Guy’s kindergarten teacher, who alternately inspires him with caterpillars and saves his life. Or …

9to5to9: Warning adds new meaning to nuke and puke
Monday, 6 Oct, 2008 – 23:38 | Comments Off
9to5to9: Warning adds new meaning to nuke and puke

Be sure to cook poultry thoroughly, the government tells us.
This urgent warning came Friday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture after 32 people in 12 states got sick from salmonella after eating frozen chicken.
The kicker: …

Forget about the book – there’s a video game
Monday, 6 Oct, 2008 – 10:59 | 2 Comments
Forget about the book – there’s a video game

Maybe it’s partly out of lingering bitterness at having my butt kicked at PacMan during freshman orientation — hand-eye coordination never has been my strong point.
Whatever the reason, this trend of tying children’s books to …

Evaluate teachers more on caterpillars, less on tests
Friday, 3 Oct, 2008 – 10:35 | Comments Off
Evaluate teachers more on caterpillars, less on tests

I suspect “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” isn’t included on the New York City Department of Education’s standardized tests.

In which case I’m very glad Big Guy’s kindergarten teacher doesn’t live in New York, which decided this week to make students’ standardized test scores a factor in “measuring teacher performance.”

Too bad for the Big Apple. The road to educational hell is paved with bubble tests, and this is another giant leap down the wrong path.

And too bad for kids like Big Guy, whose earliest exposure to education is built too much around memorization in preparation for the bubble tests they’ll learn to obsess about by the time they’re in second grade.

Baby Borrowers” reality show not really funny when you consider the kids
Sunday, 15 Jun, 2008 – 7:07 | Comments Off

If NBC still is looking for candidates for the cast of “Baby Borrowers,” I have two I’d be happy to loan them.

Come, teens, spend a few hours with my guys! Try to eat lunch as they clamor for more juice, more milk, more cheese. Attempt to bathe as they bang on the door. Plead with them to go sleep so your dead-dog tired self can speed through dishes and decluttering in hopes of snoozing more than four hours.

I’ll even let you have my house for the duration. It’s not as nice as that one NBC loaned you, but after a while, you get used to the chocolate-milk crunch as you walk across the carpet. You’ll have to pay the rent and bills, though.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, eh?

That’s what The

CDC should stop the drubbing and face the truth: Some women can’t breastfeed
Friday, 13 Jun, 2008 – 19:06 | Comments Off

A few things I think we all can agree on: Breastfeeding is healthful, inexpensive and natural.

My second point, though, has me swimming smack against the mainstream: Breastfeeding is not possible for everyone. Believe me, I know. I tried twice — made it for a few days with Big Guy, a whopping two and half months with Little Guy but only because I supplemented with formula at first.

Which means the Centers for Disease Control considers me an abject failure. They just issue a press release today about people like me and the wicked hospitals that encourage my unhealthy habits.

“New CDC study finds gaps in breastfeeding support in U.S. hospitals and birth centers,” its headline reads.

The government’s breast-feeding goals — 75 percent of mothers to try breastfeeding, 50 percent to continue for six

For families, lack of paid sick leave nothing to sneeze at
Saturday, 7 Jun, 2008 – 2:12 | Comments Off

Courtesy of momsrising. org comes this addictive little ditty called the “Don’t Get Sick Game.”

The object — aim tissues at the sneezing nose floating about your office and hope to block the wafting germs and avoid taking ill. If you make it until noon without calling it a day, you win!

I’m hoping they come up with another version: Keep the guys from getting sick so I can go to work. Little Guy nailed me yesterday for another sick day.

For many working parents, this is no game. I’m lucky enough to have 10 paid sick days a year plus vacation time I can use when those are exhausted. And I have run out of sick days every year since Big Guy was born, not because I misused them, but because little kids get sick. A lot. During his first two years alone, Big Guy earned lifelong membership in the Ear Infection of the Month Club.

Other parents aren’t as lucky as I. They have to take time off without pay, go to work sick or find somewhere to stash their kids when they can’t sneak them past the guards at day care or school.

One kid’s prank is this parent’s vandalism.
Thursday, 5 Jun, 2008 – 2:11 | Comments Off

Let’s start with some definitions courtesy of Cambridge Dictionaries, because there appears to be confusion about what’s been going on in high schools around these parts.

Prank: A trick that is intended to be amusing but not to cause harm or damage.

Vandalism: The crime of intentionally damaging property belonging to other people

Now we’ll move to three case studies:

Police in Ceres, Calif., issued five citations for vandalism after a two-minute nacho fling in the Central Valley High School cafeteria. School officials have suspended eight or nine students — some for throwing food, others for helping organize the fight via text messages.

Officials at Gustine High School punished the entire senior class after a pig had to be euthanized and the school suffered $4,500 damage. Police said the students covered their school in graffiti, destroyed textbooks, broke into buildings and let the agriculture program’s animals out of their pens. The Gustine rumor mill has it that some parents drove their kids to “”prank night.”"

About 40 Patterson High seniors blasted the building with paint balls and smeared lard on locks. Those who came forward had a choice: beautify the campus or face.

And yet some adults, such as this person who left a comment on the Ceres story at modbee.com, dismiss the incidents as “pranks.”

Free Treffly Coyne! Free Treffly Coyne!
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:12 | Comments Off

Notice to the police: I’m running low on gas and will have to refill in the morning. Depending on the pump-ATM-astronomical alignment, I might be a yard or so away from the guys for a split second. But I promise I won’t take my eyes off them, so please don’t cuff me.

Sound preposterous? Something very similar to that scenario happened to an Illinois mother around Christmas, after she left her 2-year-old sleeping in the car for mere moments on a cold, sleety day while her two older daughters dropped $8.29 in coins in a Salvation Army kettle at Wal-Mart.

A Crestwood police community service officer then proceeded to arrest Treffly Coyne. The suburban Chicago mother is scheduled to go to trial tomorrow on misdemeanor

Diaper free? Not for me!
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:54 | Comments Off

I guess I’m just too much of a self-absorbed, spend-thrift, non-environmentally aware mother to get the whole diaper-free movement.

Granted, it’s not without appeal – toilet mastery far earlier, some claim before the baby’s even 1.

But I cannot imagine hauling a butt-naked newborn to a sink or toilet on a set schedule so the baby can potty. Call me lazy, but I’d rather sleep. Or eat. Or do virtually anything in the world just to catch a break for a stinkin’ minute.

What an unsympathetic cad I am. Not at all like people who are practicing “elimination communication” – how’s that for an impressive buzz word?

“It is about slowing down and taking things day by day, moment by moment, learning to listen to your child and figure

My Sponge Bob epiphany
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:53 | Comments Off

I’m a strange person with a strange collection of interests – from baseball to cake decorating, computers to crafting. I even developed a passing appreciation for NASCAR while living in North Carolina. Not that you can help it there – you practically pick it up through osmosis.

There are a few things in life, though, that I’ve always hated no matter how hard I try. Tomato juice. Horror movies. And “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

Just my luck Big Guy would wind up a fan.

Dad started this by buying Big Guy a DVD back in January after Big Guy kept crawling in bed with him to watch the cartoon. Unfortunately, Dad’s now sick of the “absorbent and yellow and porous” cartoon character. I’d laugh, except his Sponge Bob fatigue means

The new Mommy Track doesn’t leave the station for many
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:44 | Comments Off

I resented Alpha Mom as I scraped neon toothpaste off my dress today. Alpha Mom is too carefully coiffed to go to work looking like that.

She taunted to me as I jetted to SaveMart between work and soccer practice. Alpha Mom never would have forgotten her kid’s water at home. Her nanny would have made sure it was packed.

I cursed her as I rushed dinner to the table – grilled cheese and applesauce. Alpha Mom serves pork loin.

Alpha Mom mouses placidly at her computer, infant in arms and toddler playing blissfully behind her. I tried that during my second maternity leave. Little Guy wailed on one side and Big Guy turned my other arm into steak tartar as I tried to hear my boss over

It’s gonna be a cornhusk Christmas
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:35 | Comments Off

It’s not even Halloween, but I know exactly what the guys will get for Christmas: corn-husk dolls and sock monkeys. That’s assuming I can find good-old American-made buttons for the monkeys. And non-genetically modified husks for the dolls.

It’s getting that ridiculous.I’ve always had a healthy dose of recall paranoia, dutifully registering major baby gear and steeling myself for the wave of nausea sure to come if some company announced a major flaw in something important, such as a car seat.

Never in my wildest nightmares, though, did I imagine the toy tsunami that’s slammed ashore again and again since early summer.Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site:

The tidal wave began in June, when 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine toys were recalled

Games people play — but not the guys
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:30 | Comments Off

What is it about video games that makes them kiddy crack cocaine?

We don’t have one in our house and, after our experience with Big Guy the other night, we never will.

Dad and I were visiting a neighbor, chatting with her in her kitchen as her teen-age daughter played The Simpsons Road Rage in the adjoining living room. Big Guy sat down with the daughter, and that was the last we saw of him for a good half hour.

Oh, we heard plenty: “Hey! I’m winning the race! Oooooohhh! I crashed again!”

We practically had to pry the controller out of his steely grip to get him away. Maybe he’d like to play her guitar instead? No dice. How about her sister’s drum set – something

Time to junk the junk food in schools
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:21 | Comments Off

I did a triple-take when I glanced at a school lunch menu hanging on the fridge at a friend’s house a few months back.

Monday, chicken nuggets and fries. Tuesday, pizza. Wednesday, grilled cheese and fries. Thursday, cheeseburger and fries. Friday, super nachos.

What the heck? Weren’t we at least two years down the road on the “healthy school lunches” kick? Obviously, some districts weren’t getting the message.

That’s why I’m glad the Legislature stepped in with fairly strict new guidelines that become law Sunday. Obviously, some districts needed help getting the message.

Call it micromanagement, call it the nanny state, call it whatever you want. The bottom line for me is, we have an obesity epidemic in this country, with adult-onset diabetes showing up in grade schools. Something

Sick kids and day care inspections
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:19 | Comments Off

Getting on a plane with four ounces of shampoo would have been easier than getting into day care today.

There’s been an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth virus – which sounds worse than it is, especially when I goof up and say my kid has hoof and mouth disease.

Little Guy came down with it Friday, so he had to be inspected at the border this morning. I watched nervously – for some reason, I flash back to spelling bees in these situations.

I didn’t want to face the humiliation of trudging back to my desk, head hung low, if she found spots on him that I’d missed. Except in this case, the humiliation would have been in being labeled Bad Parent Who Tries to Sneak Sick

No more toys. And I (mostly) mean it
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:15 | Comments Off

I wavered as I gazed into his pleading amber eyes. So young – he was just born in April. So soft, his fur supple beneath my fingers.

Then I snapped to and realized what I had to do. I tossed him into the garbage bag with his littermate, tied it shut and tossed it out the door.

This year’s Easter bunnies were history. So were last year’s, and Big Guy’s duck from the year before that. They joined a safari’s worth of critters – a gorilla, chickens, elephants and some neon green puffy thing of indeterminate genus.

We’re down to less than a dozen plush playmates, and if you think that sounds like a lot, you should see the pile that just got sent to the stuffed animal shelter. Four remained because they’re cute and expensive – Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Mickey Mouse. The rest will go in due time, and they will not be replaced.

I have declared a toycott.

Day care regulators fight the real menace: Sunscreen
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:10 | Comments Off

Here’s an opportunity for local meth manufacturers in a bind as production increasingly is outsourced to Mexico.


Seems it’s the new hidden menace. Recently, my day care’s licensing agency told the director that staff can’t apply sunscreen to the children. It’s a “medication.”

I’m sure glad the licensing agency nipped this one in the bud. Turns out, sunscreen is a dangerous, dangerous substance. I bet the FDA is even looking into reclassifying it as a narcotic.

From the hands of preschool teachers to the clutches of a corner drug dealer. No doubt, it’s a direct path, and I was willing to send my young innocents down it.

Bad, bad Mommy!

Halfwits on the highways
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:03 | Comments Off

Nominations for Idiot of the Week, Roadster Division:

The young man, 20 or so, zipping south on 99 about 5 p.m. yesterday. He was riding a red motorcycle – without a helmet – and zigzagging at at least 70 mph. And for a good half mile, he was doing it on one wheel. That makes him at least three kinds of stupid. Maybe more.
The older man, probably late 40s, driving a beaten-up van five blocks down Crowell Road in Turlock, in the left-hand lane. I’ll assume he grew up in England, and that’s why he smiled a Chester Cheetah grin and waved gleefully as he dang near took off my front fender.
Used to be, this stuff didn’t bother me. I’d shrug it off, think “some people are just insane” and go on with my life.

But that was in the day BC – before children.

Living with asthma
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:32 | Comments Off

My household budget is tight – whose isn’t with two kids in residence? – but the decision to spend an extra $41 a month was a no-brainer.

That’s the difference in cost between over-the-counter Claritin, at about $9, and prescription Zyrtec – the new antihistamine Big Guy’s doctor prescribed Monday. For almost three years, Claritin had worked to control his allergies, but not anymore. You could see it in the increased drippiness, the constant gunky cough.

My insurance company covers a whopping 19 cents of the cost of Zyrtec. Its Web site is nice enough to list a number of over-the-counter alternatives. All of which we’ve tried, none of which work for him.

If the issue were just a few sniffles, I would have let it go at the $9. For Big Guy, though, the situation is far more serious. He also has asthma, and allergy problems can trigger attacks.

So I swallowed hard and shelled out the $50. I’m lucky I can afford it. Many families can’t.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised at all to read an Associated Press story that very day that said only one in five asthmatic children has the disease under control.

Bad, bad day care kids!
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:27 | Comments Off

To children entering kindergarten in 2008, let me apologize now. Seems my heathen brat is going to disrupt your education for years to come.

Or so recent headlines would have you think.

“Poor behavior is linked to time in day care” screamed the New York Times. “Study: Day care can lead to bad behavior,” proclaimed the Salt Lake Tribune.

The chilling news makes me want to hang my head in abject shame for sending my children to a place that’s a cross between “The Jungle” and “Lord of the Flies.”

Problem: Once you look beyond the headline, the news isn’t chilling.