Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Baby Shower Wars

Last week I received an invitation to a baby shower in honor of someone's second child. The invite asked me to bring a dessert item and included a link to a registry involving organic cotton bibs. Or, if one did not wish to buy from the registry, one could consult an attached wish list for gift pointers. There is so much wrong with this picture that I hardly know where to begin. But I do know that this makes an excellent topic for this my new monthly mini-column, Rude Mommy!
Read it allllllll here.

And just to say I brought up this topic in "The Playground" at Offsprung, my new fave spot, and HOOOOO did I ever get some lip back. Maybe they're right--I'm too crabby for my socks. Then again, I never promised anyone a rose garden...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Okay, Offsprung it's about time you linked to the Crabmommy already...

...because she is linking to you, like, totally-all-the-time-this-week, dude?!
First, there was the piece about the fancy furniture over at Offsprung. And now, a hilarious vid up there: Who doesn't leave their kid at the airport from time to time?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lord, Posting Twice in One Weekend?!

Anyone read that thing in the NY Times about how schmantzy parents in stylish hoods are freaking out because their kids are climbing all over their George Nakashima coffee tables and shooting darts at the George Nelson paper lanterns? Alternadad Neil Pollack read it, and posted a hilarious retake on his witty website Offsprung.

Two new posts this week, Monday and Wednesday, chez bloglet.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Judith Warner, will you rock my world? (Yes, Crabmommy. I will.)

Okay the title has nothing to do with the piece. But I did, you know, recently get to see TV in a hotel room and by God that show Rock of Love was ever phenomenal. My South African and Commonwealth readers, it's a surreality show about this ageing rocker, Brett Michaels of Poison, trying to pick a new (play)mate. Hi.La.Ri.Ous.

But Judith Warner, of The New York Times. She always tells me things that make me think this woman is just loaded with common sense! And no I am not being sarcastic, for once. (Boy, it feels odd not to be sarcastic! It's weird for me. Like running around naked in the driveway or something.)

OK for the third time, let's get back to the point. Judith Warner, the parenting voice of reason over the NYT, is talking today about medicating kids and our generation's current culture of parenting in which we are all drowning in a giant vat of neurosis. Read it. Here's a particularly juicy bit, in which JW asks some clever guy why it is we are so freaked out all the time about our spawn:

“Tremendous fears about downward mobility,” he quickly answered. “We believe we’re living in a new world where the avenues of success are harder to get into and there’s no guarantee that things will work out. There’s tremendous worry that our kids won’t be able to recreate our class status. This creates an adversarial relationship between our kids and other kids.” And, he added, “displaced guilt.”
And how about this bit:
We know that our current lifestyle of 24/7 work, constant competition, chronic stress and compensatory consumerism is toxic. But we also know – or feel – that there’s not much we can do about it. We feel guilty about the world we’ve created for our kids, one of lots of work and not much free play. But we’re also wedded to that world, invested in it, utterly complicit with its values and demands.
Some dang juicy stuff in there and for my part it's striking a nerve, people. Make that several nerves. Because, you know, I have quite a lot of them. And just reading about and thinking about neurotic parenting and the world we've created for our kids makes me go into a neuronal amplification of maternal hysteria.

But much more important than all of that is the following question: I am wondering if JW would hang out with me if she could (i.e., if I let her) and if so, whether she would find me to be a giant wad of neurotic somatic cells or if she would find me bubbly and fun! Sort of beside the point, but then this is my blog and it's always slightly sort of beside the point, innit?

This week at Crabmommy's bloglet: predicting your mommy horoscopes (momoscopes), the Astromommy way. What do I see in the stars for you? For goodness' sake head over there and find out, you silly bird!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Random Observations 1: Let's Talk About Toast

Welcome to my new series, Random Observations. I find being a p/t housewife to be an occupation in which many curious but random observations come my way. To most of the world these might not be newsworthy. But to other housewives or housepeople or unemployed people or people who simply spend a lot of time in their houses looking at the way the light comes in through the blinds and lights up the dust particles, these will not only resonate as extraordinarily fascinating observations but perhaps—I hope—they will resonate as deeply familiar experiences. Perhaps you will read what I'm writing and realize that even in our most ordinary solo lives, we share moments of common humanity that unite us all! And so I aim for this series to recount the sort of anecdotes in which you will react with "Ah! Me too!" as well as "But this is so utterly trivial that I can't believe you're blogging about it! My God, woman, don't you have laundry to do?"

Cataloguing random Household Experiences (incidental) to reach out to random Housewifely People (transcendental) thereby also amusing myself (monumental). It's a two-pronged goal.

Random Observation #1, without further ado:

I am always on a quest to find a good healthful* bread for my family, so I tried a new bread today. It looked to be nutty and nutritious. But by God was it ever WEIRD.

The bread was so damn chewy I could not chew it.
On examining the label it appears the loaf contained flax seed.
I have heard that flax seed promotes chewiness but my jaw now aches.
It was just SO SPRINGY!
I have never had such a bouncy piece of toast.
It was like a spring-loaded mini-mattress in my mouth.
The bread is called California Lifestyle.

*For those of you questioning my use of "healthful" over "healthy" remember that I am a grammarmama. It isn't for nothing that I taught the high school grammar course "Dude Where's My Comma?" last year (okay, that was for nothing)! Back to healthy vs. healthful: "Healthful" means the thing you're describing is good for YOU. But "healthy" bread? That would be bread that has just had a physical and told it has nothing wrong with its organs. That would be bread that is unlikely to have a heart attack anytime soon. Got it? Good.

Do you have a Random Observation to share? If so, please do! And remember you can also always email me at: crabmommy at gmail dot com (spelled out to send away the spam robots! GO AWAY, ROBOTS!)

This week at Crabmommy's bloglet: In my mini-column Rude Mommy I will be attacking those moms who have second-baby baby showers held in their honor. Complete with registries.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Bloody Valentine... the name of a great mournful band from the '90s. And the Heartless Bastards are also on my iPod today.

Yes, I'm feeling particularly crabby b/c it is Val Day. Come on, you didn't come here expecting me of all people to be in a good mood today?

What really bugs me, in a nutshell:

--involving children in the VD celebrations
--having them exchange cards when they haven't the faintest clue what the heck they are doing
--having to go and make said cards for school
--having stupid arguments with Crabhub over why he has decided to go to Crabtot's class VD party bearing lollipops
--feeling that, somehow, this holiday is rotten to the core
--feeling the cheeseball factor of a million declarations of utterly false love fluttering through mailboxes everywhere
--feeling that even the loathing of VD is cheesy and obvious and that I am stereotyping my Crabmommy self even as I type this
--but really, what a crock.

For a slightly more extended version of this conversation you can go here. For a protracted one, you can go back here, to the second-ever post on this blog, exactly a year ago. I feel the same way this year that I felt then. Thankfully I have learned to edit my posts a tad since then.

What about you? Digging or loathing VD?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Far-Too-Frequent Flyers: Or, Things to Do in Denver When You're Half Dead

When you travel 60 hours with your Crabtot from one country to another, you think of all the refugess in the world...moms carrying children from North to South Korea, children hiding on boats from Cuba, families walking from Zimbabwe to South Africa...and you think to yourself: MY STORY IS WORSE.

Because you are a narcissist. And Crabmommy be your name.

Okay, so my story is not worse. But it is bad. I challenge you not to think it is one of the baddest tot-in-transit stories you have ever read. It is, in fact, so bad, that I have decided to blog about it twice. One version appears here. And the other version appears here. And yes the posts are long. Because it was a long, long trek home from South Africa to the US and many, many things went madly, badly wrong. And if you read what I have to say, you will see how ghastly and ruinous this trek was for the Crabmommy. And even the reading experience itself will likely be ghastly and ruinous. Which is why I have put incentives in, encouraging you to read on. Finish my tale, leave me your response and two lucky readers will receive:

a) a gently used red travel pillow
or b) an egg of Silly Putty. Because that stuff is the best child-amusement object you could possibly pack into your carry-on.

As I sit here n my purple robe, still recovering from the ordeal weeks after it has happened (it has taken me this long to even think about re-experiencing this hellacious trip online), I ask you to refill your cup, steel yourself, and relive my journey with me. Will it be hard going? Oh yes indeedy it will. But remember: there's a travel pillow in it for you! And an egg of Silly Putty with your name on it!

Saturday: After a three hour trip to Johannesburg and a 2 hour wait, Crabtot and I take a 19-hour flight to DC. But no, this is not the hell whereof of I speak. This is a piece of cake. This is easy peasy putty putts. Crabtot and I spend hours with Silly Putty. We bead our pants off. We color with invisible ink. We paint with water onto magic paper books that turn pink and blue and orange. We play with remote controls. And while Crabtot did, loudly, in the silent darkness of the cabin ask me how babies got into stomachs, the leg of the journey I most dreaded went without a hitch.

Sunday: Arrive in DC. Problems begin. Where is my door-checked stroller? "Ma'am, just wait here" (how is it Americans pronounce Ma'am like a foul four-letter word instead of a polite form of address?). Ma'am waits. 30, 40minutes pass and no stroller. I am about to miss my connection to Denver so I leave, Crabtot arcing in my arms. Luckily, an angel from customs finds me and brings me my stroller. We make the flight with minutes to spare.

Denver: I don't mean to insult my Denver readers, but what is that joke of a new airport? Those white cones that shoot up into the sky and look like a series of futuristic bras belonging to Madonna. But more important, where are the airport hotels? Oh, that would be a good half hour away by bus. But why do I need a hotel? The answer starts with what should have been the final leg, from Denver to Crabtown. Crabtot and I are flying solo and Crabhubby will be meeting us, a fact that is sending Crabtot into apoplectic delight as we approach the Crab valley. This is the promised reward for being such a good travlet—this and a bag of jellybeans.

Except that touchdown doesn't happen. What should be a 1-hour flight turns into a 5-hour flight that never makes its destination. Weather diverts our plane through uber-macro-turbulence (GAH! REVOLTING!) to a small Mormony town in Idaho where we proceed to sit on the airport tarmac and wait out some arctic winds. We ascend once more into turbulence, attempt Crabtown touchdown one more time, and are told that we must return to Denver.

Denver again: this is hour 48. I have had 4 hours of sleep. I beg the flight crew to help me as I foresee an airport full of disgruntled passengers all waiting to rebook tickets in what now has become clear is the blizzard ot the season. Crabtot begins a most justifiable meltdown. And I am told that, while there is a half-mile long long of angry people awaiting ticketing agents, no one will advance me to the front of the line.

Denver, still: I wait in the line. For 5 minutes. Crabtot is hungry and delirious with exhaustion. I ask a ticketing agent if she could let me in the line on account of the 48 hours for Crabtot, and the 4 hours of sleep for Crabmommy. No pity. This Denverian trollop tells me if I want to jump the line I must ask people personally. So I do. A compassionate gentleman lets me in the line. Another begins to shout: "If I have a small kid can I also jump the line?" I try to explain the length of the trip and the circumstances attending. He tells me he doesn't give a rat's bum. And then the Crabmommy starts to snuffle. Women swarm around me. Mothers bearing snacks. "That little thing called a penis, it just gets in the way of compassion sometimes," says a woman fiercely.

I'm sorry, readers At this point I find it too taxing to complete my story. And since I did complete it over at Cookie magazine, might I redirect you—in the spirit of diversion (a theme neatly encapsulated by the preceding paragraph) —to another zone?

If you can't bear to finish the story (who can blame you? the narrative arc is so tedious—no actual movement from a to b, in fact nothing but circuitous re-routings back to dang Denver) then I can't blame you. "Denver Airport Again" does not fascinating reading make, especially when you and your offspring are half-dead and hence entirely unable to partake of the Denverian delights that I am quite certain await in the city proper. Okay, so maybe I am not certain. Anyhoo. Skipping ahead, yes, we made it out of there. We did manage to escape, barely, from the Madonna Bra Airport the following day, but only after much tribulation.

And we never made it to Crabtown. But we did make it to Utah. Where we took refuge from a great big wanker of a blizzard at my mother-in-law's. Many days passed before Crabhubby could drive the 5 hours from Crabtown and fetch us. But drive down he eventually did. And he managed to do this only *just* before I almost converted to Mormonism.

As many of you know, I like to make fun of Mormons. But one thing the people of the Angel Moroni know how to do is run a good airport. Want your plane to land in hardcore snow? Go to Salt Lake City. Do not go to Denver. I might add that on this my very last flight into Salt Lake City, I was so tired and delirious and excited to imagine getting out of planes after 60 hours of travel, that I actually made friends some Mormon fellow passengers. One, an ob-gyn gave me a spiel about the US having a declining population. And briefly, I thought, in my half-crazed state that maybe I should listen to this highly pleasant and as always, always good-looking disciple of Joseph Smith and have another child to serve my adopted country.

And then, dear God, I thought about traveling with two of them. And while the tabernacle of Nephi might say unto ye, come forth and multiply and polygamize, and while landing in Utah seemed suddenly the finest thing that had ever happened to me, I resisted the call of the mighty Mo-mo religion.

It was close. But I escaped, my atheism and one-child-only religions intact. Ish.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"War on Terror" Coloring Book

Crabmommy has found the new perfect preschooler birthday present: a new coloring book called "I Don't Want to Blow You Up." Check it out:

" ...A book for kids and adults to counter the terrifying messages transmitted in the name of the “War on Terror.” In an age of yellow, orange, and red terror alerts, let's draw attention to the myriad people of different colors and cultures who are living peaceful and meaningful lives. 32 pages, softcover, illustrated. $9"

As NYMag expains it, this is "a didactic coloring book that presents thirteen people with names like Sarah Takesh and Omar Ahmad and explains that, despite their names, they have no intention of detonating an explosive near the reader." The book is by Ricardo Cortes and MY FRIEND, the venerable F. Bowman Hastie III,also knows as the assistant to famous dog artist Tillamook Cheddar, who has appeared on many national TV programs and whose artwork fetches many greenbacks.

For more on the coloring book or if you want your child to help create a rainbow of tolerance, go here and place your order.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Silence is Golden: The Wisdom of African Momming

I'm trying to figure out how African women get their kids to be seen and not heard. Now that's parenting!

Seriously, go to South Africa and see how the little ones are popped on Mama's back where they perch happily through the terrible twos and even beyond, watchful, but oh so quiet. How do they get the wee ones to zip it?

I recall, during Crabtot's colicky first trimester of life, reading Harvey Karp's book The Happiest baby on the Block, in which he talks about his own personal voyages to Southern Africa to divine exactly how moms manage to pull this silent contented baby thing off. Not sure I can recall the answer –those Karp-reading days are a fog, godlike as that elfin-ish baby-genius pediatrican was to me at the time – but I remain impressed all the same. I know it's not PC to want a silent child, but when your mite's having a tantrum or asking the same question fifty times, who wouldn't prefer her to be on your back for several years where you can't see her with her mouth firmly sealed? I think it's brilliant. I only wish I could tether squirmy-tot to my back and get that tiny mouth to clamp shut, but both tasks are woefully beyond my physical powers. And since I'm in a culture that, perhaps misguidedly, encourages expression at the youngest of ages, I'm doomed to Crabbytot chitchat, now and forever.

We've seen lot of the aforementioned silent, charming, dorsally-stashed babies on our last stop in South Africa—a remote beachtown called Haga Haga, in the magically simple and rural Eastern Cape, where my mother's family comes from.

Crabtot is the fifth generation of my family to make a childhood foray to this humble resort. I was last here 30 years ago. We stayed in a clapped out shack with no electricity. We bathed my baby sister in a plastic tub by the light of a paraffin lamp. Since having Crabtot, I always swore I would bring her here at least once to experience the same sort of bare-bones loveliness I did. And, inspired, by that memory I have instituted something in our family: the Crabfamily Annual "No Electricity" Weekend. This concept received a less-than-enthusiastic response from Crabhub, but after our first powerless weekend last year, he has since warmed to the idea, at least tepidly so.

Back to this beach vacation, we had electricity in our house rental, but we also had power cuts (the whole of S. Africa is experiencing this in a serious way), so I got a whiff of my past holidays and enjoyed the blackouts (even as the rest of the country experienced mayhem on account of power problems…but let's face it, Crabmommy is the only one who counts here). So yes, I've had my moments of candlelight in this tiny little spot of perfection far, far away from everything. Naturally all has not been peachy at the beachy, though. Crabtot did a serious spot of whining on arrival at this coastal sliver of heaven. Nothing was quite to her liking. Not the sea. Not the shells. Not the lagoon. Not the rock pools.

She eventually did zip it and started to enjoy herself. Right before leaving. Honestly, this kid is such a crabacious sort! Why is this, I wonder? I just don't know who she gets it from!

Luckily there were delightfully silent moments. They were brief. But they occurred.
Contentment, you are so fleeting, but so sweet nonetheless!

And, new post today at the bloglet, musing on whether we are too kind to our kids:

Many of my friends and fellow moms in the US consider me a tough, strict, perhaps too-old fashioned mom who frequently seeks "mommy time." On the other hand, my mother in South Africa thinks I'm indulgent and over-focused on my child. So which am I?
Read it alllll, right here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Parenting lessons? Don't bother.

This in the news today:

Parenting lessons do not stop toddler tantrums, study finds:
A new study shows that parent training programmes fail to reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, suggesting that coaching on how to rear children may be a waste of time and money...
Yeah, toldja.
Talking nice lessons don't help.
Plum don't work, people.
Kids is what they is.
Why am I talking like this?
I don't know.

Anyhoo. That headline just caught my eye. Bwa-ha-ha!