Friday, February 27, 2009

Recess Redux

Damn that last post of mine was somber! I think Crabmommy is officially LOSING HER MIND, my peeps. Maybe it's the endless chill of the Pac-NW; maybe it's the stress of our almost-about-to-be-maybe-probably-lost incomes-that-are-already-paltry to begin with...but the Crabmom clearly needs some major time on the tire swing. Seriously, when did I get to be so serious?

Don't know. Let's hope it doesn't last.

Thanks those of you who commented on the play deprivation/role of recess post. Elsewhere on the web where the thoughts of the Crabmom appear, I had a teacher remind me that the No Child Left Behind Act has put loads of pressure on teachers to get kids performing their little tushies off...and in many cases this has forced a shortening of recess. So sad, so counterproductive. Another teacher also mentioned that it can be hard to come up with alternative punishments that work to get troublesome kids to behave. In her experience nothing was more effective than depriving kids of recess because she said she had tried everything she could think of, and plum nothing else worked.

And I thought about this teacher and tried to put myself in her shoes. I imagine it must be quite tricky to discipline kids in the classroom these days, especially as even when kids' parents ARE involved and interested, few of these kids are properly disciplined by their indulgent "pussyfoot-around-my-darling's-self-esteem" parents. Really, how do you run a classroom effectively when few kids are taught any sort of real respect for their elders? So let's just say you're presented with a naughty, impish grade-school tyke who is really hampering your ability to teach. I guess if you're going to be PC and fit into our culture in mainstream America, you as the teacher must beg the child to behave (using lots of pleases and thank yous, as we do to kids nowadays) and offer positive incentives for every negative behavior. But what if the little troll is still awful and rude and won't listen even after you've dangled prizes and packs of smiley face stickers in his face? What then?

Really, what are teachers to do to effectively discipline kids who don't behave properly? Add more homework? Keep kids after school? (Most stay after school anyway, don't they?) I think we need to put our heads together and figure out alternative punishment systems for kids who would otherwise be denied recess.

Here are mine:

  • force girls to wear an Amish bonnet during recess (thereby humiliating them around their friends while still preserving all-important playtime)
  • force boys to play clapping games with the girls during recess (see above)
  • force macho boys to build a Waldorf-y fairy nest using twigs and acorns (ditto)
  • force girly girls to engage in extensive pirate battles complete with rambunctious stabbing noises and duels with sticks (you get it)
  • force boys and girls to do hard, manual, outside work during recess--weeding of school garden, scrubbing of walls, mowing of school lawn (that's if the free play punishments don't work)
That's all I could come up with so far. But I'm quite pleased with my list. It includes what I think are primary and effective tactics for disciplining children: the use of humiliation and child labor. And recess with its all-important outdoor, rambunctious, free-range possibilities remains intact! Somebody just hire me already.

What do you think teachers should do to punish kids for bad behavior? Any teachers out there? What really works for you? Positive reinforcement stuff or punitive stuff?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Play Deprivation: it's wigging me out!

I know it's low to constantly point you to the bloglet, but today I wrote such a long essay over there that my blogging finger has gone into spasm. Warning: the piece is Crabmommy at her most grave, gabbing on about stuff we are seeing an awful lot of in the media these days: about play-deprived children, about the value of recess for our school-age children, and how the scientific community accords an ever-growing health-related significance to recess, in direct contrast to the diminishing attention educators place upon it. Playtime is serious stuff, all right.

I touched on this a while back on this blog, when interviewing Nation of Wimps author and Psychology Today editor Hara Marano, who talked to us about play-deprived kids. And last month Scientific American also published an article stressing that when kiddies aren't given time to goof off, their brains and bodies wig out. Then they either become serial killers, too-compliant drones of society who can't do or think anything on their own, or at the very least, "socially maladjusted adults."

"Play deprivation" is clearly the latest buzzword(s). I hesitate to add fuel to the alarmist fires out there, which blaze brightly whenever it comes to matters of parenting and how we aren't doing it right--and how we need to freak out over something new, even if it's freaking out over freaking out, or hyper-parenting through educating ourselves on the latest research on hyper-parenting, in true hyper-parenting fashion.

Certainly there's something ironic that happens when you get super-serious about kiddie playtime. But this is a subject that, like vaccinations (see my new pro-vax button on this blog!) I feel strongly about and which I think concerns all of us, as a society of parents not just as individual parents. And it's not always so easy to access the simple things of childhood--like time and space to chill out and play like a kid should. Numerous factors conspire to make it hard for kids to get enough of it. I know. I've been there. It's not always as easy to access a simple an unstructured childhood for your children. Especially if you work. And if your kids go to traditional public schools.

Yesterday's piece in the NY Times brings the subject of free play to the forefront with the question of recess, and what it means to children's development. We whose kids are at public schools must be vigilant and take action to prevent recess from ever being denied our children for any reason whatsoever. It's up to us to stay on it with regard to our rather strangely backward education system, which somehow still has in place the sorts of teachers who think that denying recess to kids as a punishment is going to achieve some good. Seriously, I never thought I'd say this, but the longer I'm a parent the more I get why people opt to take their kids out of conventional schools. There's just so much turgid, stodgy thinking still going on in the education system.

I think I'm going to homeschool Crabkid from now on.

Bwa-ha-ha! Ri-ight. Like either of us would survive a single day in such a scenario.

Please do check out my essay or skip it and tell me if you've ever found yourself concerned about the amount of free play time your kids have in their days, both at childcare/school facilities and at home. For me it's the number one battle of my mom-life right now: finding time/space for Crabkid to play for a decent chunk of time, preferably outside, on a regular basis.

Seriously, after 4 years of daycare and school (both very structured as they tend to be), 4 years of apartment building living with no yard space and tricky climates preventing us from getting out much anyway, I'm almost ready to pull a full-on steamy Southern eternal sunshine suburban move, trade my fabby Crabhubby for an unattractive dullard with a pile of cash so I wouldn't need to work and could instead look fondly on Crabkid roams freely around our capacious garden, engaging friends real and imaginary, finding squirrels' nests in hollow trees and tended to by lovely Nanny who happily makes snacks and cleans the mud tracks when Tot comes back in. Ohhhh, life is golden and free, blissful and creative for little Crabkid, tranquil and serene for her erstwhile Crabmommy...but wait. What's that I hear? Oh, the sound of the door! Yucky new Hubby is home for the evening and I have to converse with him and look at his portly physique. So much for my fantasy. Feh!

Yowzer, Crabmommy! Another essay just came out of that poor blogging finger! And it's pretty much a paraphrase of the first. Yeesh! Enough!

Right. Over to you: What's your feeling on "play deprivation"? Sound silly or are you taking it seriously too?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Goop OFF! African Wisdom from Gwynnie

I know I promised regular GOOP analyses but I'm behind by several GOOPy bulletins. Alas, it's hard to keep up with Gwyneth! She's got such a work ethic with those newsletters of hers.

Since talking about her favorite rock-star hotels to not recommend to you and her fave NYC restaurants that you won't get into, she's been super-busy in the kitchen cooking things you can't afford, like oysters in champagne sauce and things drowning in something called agave syrup (I haven't a clue what that is but I suspect it's heaps pricier than good old refined sugar, which makes Gwyn "cringe").

But in all fairness Gwyn's latest newsletters have been a bit more useful. Maybe one of her chums told her she needs to get plebbier and less condescending if she wants to become a lifestyle guru. So she's working harder to reach the lower echelons and to help us uplift ourselves. And uplifted I definitely feel after tucking into some Gwynnie prose!

When not devouring Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, Gwyn is either cooking or scrutinizing her inner aspect in compelling new ways. Indeed, this past month she's taught me how to eat an artichoke, how to make a bowl of peas (that's the rustic plebby part; they go with meatballs) and she's also taught me, via one of her gurus, that one's sense of well-being is enhanced when one practices the African art of "ubuntu," a word denoting a heightened sense of our shared humanity.

As one born and raised in South Africa where ubuntu was invented, I feel pleased knowing that Gwynnie is herself tapping into her inner township mama and getting into the vibe of community consciousness. I assume I can now camp out on the lawn of her Hamptons estate this summer and I look forward to it with every inch of my inner aspect. Enkosi gakulu, sisi! (That's "thanks, sister!" in Xhosa!)

Meantime, the Crabfam has expanded our own sense of community consciousness: we're sharing our home with three new friends! Yay!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Magnetic Poetry for Blogs

I was never big into magnetic poetry. I liked it well enough when it first came out in the 80s but after I had it sitting on my fridge for a year, making pretentious undergraduate whiffle about clouds and other ephemera, it plum got on my tits and I got rid of it.

But I rather dig this silly site called Feed it your url and it turns your site into a sort of instant magnetic poetry. Check it:I love how this represents the Crabmommy in mostly accurate ways, though I definitely think "diss" should be bigger than "domestic" in my word picture. I do enjoy how "bloody" and "piggy" sit next to each other and I like that some of my fave words/most pronounced personal traits have indeed made it into the wordmap of my head; i.e., "appalling and "cheapo." I also like the placement of "disgusted" adjacent to "chirpier"(though "disgusted" is bigger and RIGHTLY SO)! Ditto "born astonishing." Why thank you very much, wordle, my friend. Perhaps my most favorite is the random "Amy" that appeared every time I did versions of this picture.

Go check it out:

What does yours say about you?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


If there's one thing I feel really awesome about during a recession it's the fact that both Crabhubby and I went to graduate school. Because when you're picking up that unemployment check at least you can say to yourself, "I went to graduate school." And then you get a little hit of superiority in spite of the paltry check. Because you learned a bunch of things at graduate school. Including some very big words. Polysyllabic configurations, as it happens. And no one can take that away from you.

Okay, so I'm not making a whole big heap of sense up there. Let's just say the Crabfam is getting jumpier than a Mexican jumping bean on crack about our various jobs. And sadly our rainy day fund (Crabtot's piggy bank) already got raided by me when she was a newborn. Our darling NYC landlords gave Crabtot a piggy bank when she was born and put money in it. I stole $20 of the $40 dollars in there for pizza. I intended to pay it back. Never did. I'm an appalling mother, I know. Bite me.

On a chirpier note, let's talk about cupcakes. Shall we talk about cupcakes? I WANT TO TALK ABOUT CUPCAKES. Or, specifically, cupcake apparel. I mean, cupcake ornamentation. Accessories. Indeed, it's a cuptastic extravaganza over here. Do you see these ridiculously cute tulip cupcake liners? Are they not fewking excellent? I found these and other vintage cheapo fantabulous party treasures at my fave site. You know the one. More on that if you go to this place. Get 'em and get some cutely re-usable recession-fabulous toppers too. I found some very Amy Sedaris-y examples for your delectation, and they truly are perf for both your kiddie party and your grownie Oscar bashes.

Speak to me. About cupcakes. About recessions. About your dream last night. I need to hear about someone else's life today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Please keep the Domestic Diss suggestions coming, friends.

And for pithier news...yes, I have an opinion on the octuplet mom. I think we should totally support her. After all, every in vitro egg is still a human life on this, God's planet, and she doesn't need our judgment; she needs our compassion. Pus, why shouldn't she as a single mom have the same child-bearing rights we couples do?

Yeah, riiiiii-ight.

Lady is a freak, a menace, a disgrace. her kids should be taken away by Child Services. She is an unfit mother. I yak about it here and also point you to a most astonishing photo of her preggy balloon-belly. YEESH!

But you have to click on those sneaky links, my peoples, 'cuz I needs yo' traffique. AREN'T WE ALL SO DANG SICK OF HEARING ME SAY THAT? Ooosh! I am so disgusted by my own self. (But, apparently, as always, not disgusted enough...)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Domestic Diss! Results Are In

The results of my first ever Crabmommy Domestic Diss poll are in. It was a tight contest with "cleaning the microwave ceiling" and "searching for the right Tupperware lid" going neck and neck to be ranked as most annoying domestic chore.

In a winning bid, 27% of you chose "looking for the right bloody Tupps lid" as the thing that bugs you most in my list of choices, while 20% of you chose "cleaning the ceiling of the micro." My personal bĂȘte noire, "removing a hair from the kitchen sponge" came in close to the bottom, taking in a lower but still noble 15% of your votes.

I'm so digging this poll format and thrilled with myself that I managed to crack the technology to get such a thing onto my blog. Just call me a tech genius because clearly I am.

I plan to make a regular thing out of Domestic Diss, but I need your input people. What things bug you most around the house? What tiny domestic details send you round the twist when it comes to cleaning/cooking/child-rearing/errand-running and so forth?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lovey-Dovey Overdrive

Note: my Domestic Diss poll is still open. Closing end of week. Vote, por favor!


Some of you have seen it. Some—not yet. Some of you will think it's sweet. Some of you will sour on me on account of the sweetness. Some of you will say to yourselves, "Finally, that Crabmommy has stopped complaining for one second to count her blessings!" Some of you will say, "I thought Crabmommy swore she'd never count her blessings! Frack this! Outta here!"

Because all week long I've been engaged in a online Crabmommy love festival. Over at the bloglet and elsewhere, I have written up my personal happiness for all the world to see:

1. How I met Crabhubby
2. My wedding

To those of you who wish to witness me happy and thrilled with life, these posts will bring joy and gladness! You will even see a photo of me looking (if I do say so myself) good on my wedding day (and let me assure you that was the very last time I looked so uncrabby and it is the single shot of me in which I managed to tuck my double chin). I needed to post a pic of me dolled up, since the post is at Glamour magazine, and as we all know, Glamour is so filled with Euro-style glamour it has a "u" in its name.

Indeed, I have revealed a sparkly side of the Crabmommy this week. And I'm not entirely happy about it, for it goes against my mission: to complain, whine, and reveal my under-performing, underwhelmed nature in blogging. And if you see me up there, with my delightful husband, looking all fancy, and if you read of chance meetings on subways and all manner of happiness, you might think I'm a sham. You might think I'm bogus. You might wonder what I could possibly have to complain about. So much for lazy, shabby, crabby mommies, eh?

But, dear readers, please realize that on account of having a professional blog gig during a time when, shall we say, incomes are challenged, I believe I must do all that I can to appeal to everyone from teenagers to octogenarians! From my research into other modes of employment available to me, it has become abundantly clear that when the bloglet gig ends, I have one option: sex worker.

Even at that, I don't think I would do very well as a sex worker. For starters I haven't been doing my mom-flap exercises so I'm not in great shape. I tend to wear my hair in a bulbish lid, and I favor plastic track pants lined with tee shirt material. My skin is, as always, deeply chapped because I haven't been drinking those 5 glasses of water a day, and none of the PRs will send me lotions to vivify my carapace, no matter how I plead with them.

In short, I am now on a blogging survival mission and have let go of all principles: I will blog however, whichever and whatever, reaching out to to one and all, young peeps and old, witchy and glammy, chipper and crabby, diversifying my portfolio, myself, my life, my voice, my ethics. And if they want to see me happy, I will show them happy. I CAN DO IT! YES, I CAN!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Domestic Diss!

Let's take a poll, shall we, for those of us who find ourselves frequently mired in housework.
And if you're looking for something sweeter today, see me confess to my OUTRAGEOUSLY EMBARRASSING AND SCHLOCKY crush here. I know, I know.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grace in Small Things

Since I write so much about the crabby side of life, I decided to take on this challenge as a counterpoint: Grace in Small Things came to me via the lovely blogger Whoorl, who directed me to Schmutzie and in turn to this: for 365 days I will post a list of 5 things that make me happy and grateful to be on this earth, either on the day of posting or just generally.

Almost had you there, didn't I? Crabmommy listing loveliness every single day of the year?! She's got to be joking! And she is. Sort of.

I can't keep a list like that for a year, peoples. For starters it goes against my blogging manifesto: if I am going to take readers away from work, parenting, cleaning, watching porn, picking your noses or doing whatever-all else essential activities of a given day, then it best not be to blab about the things that make me feel peachy. Nay, as a blogger—and a momblogger at that—I have always aimed to characterize my blog with stories of failure, irritation, doom, ill humor and other assorted negativity, the better to comfort you in your own trials and make you look up to your own selves by looking down on me. Good writing needs conflict, or so they taught me at writing school.

ALL THAT SAID. I do think it a worthy challenge for Crabmommy to reflect on life's bounty in public on this here blog, if not daily then at least today. Can I come up with 5 things that make me happy, today and always? I absolutely can. Can I do it without irony? Just watch me.

Note: I will leave out of the list the very obvious objects of my gratitude and adoration, for the sake of making my list un-obvious and hopefully un-cheesy. Of daughter and husband I can be very cheesy and sentimental but I think we'd all prefer I do that with and to them rather than you. Truly, I can't speak of the things about my family that are so dear to me I could literally eat them on a roll with mustard. Because if I start saying some of these things it offends my eyes, for I imagine my eyes to be your eyes, and I imagine the gagging, because it would be my gagging if I were you. Because other people's insanely happy, precious moments are precious for being their own, for being deeply personal. When shared they take on some serious cheese. In my hands at least. I mean, yesterday I caught a glance of Crabkid in profile and oh my GAWD it was so absurdly delicious I had to reach out and tweak a cheek! But it was a "you had to be there" moment; or, as with most parenting joys, a "you had to be her parent" moment.

On to my list. Yes, I can and do feel heartfelt thanks on this day for there being really swell events, thoughts, humans, and objects that appear twixt the mundane chores and woes, for my delectation. Here goes:

Grace in Small Things

1. my cactus table (plus one geranium). This makes me happy every day, whenever I look at it, which is often as it is right next to my desk, and yes I know the lighting sucks on this pic but still...
As the only plants I have not yet murdered —and as the recipient of the bulk of the sunlight in this chilly room—this tableau makes me feel warm and sunny, particularly today as we have a single Narcissus bulb that has just started to shoot out in earnest (Crabkid calls it the "balb"). can you see the decorative sticks Crabkid makes for my plants. Aren't they fancy? For those of you snickering at my pride in this fairly paltry offering, just remember that I have two blogs to weed, grow, and nurture and hence my somewhat modest efforts in other arenas. Yes, that cactus on the left looks feeble but it has babies; you just can't see them. Theyz newborns.
2. hedgehogs: I am really grateful that, somehow, through the lines of evolution hedgehogs came to be. Hedgehogs are it. Especially baby ones. Does this little fellow not look exactly like Rod Stewart? I once found a hedgehog in my garden. It made this unbelievably cute snuffling sound that was so cute I almost had to squash it out of love.
3. Patrick Swayze: Patrick Swayze is by no means a "small thing" but I am very definitely grateful that he is around and so I put him in this list today. If there is one thing you need to know about Crabmommy that you don't already know, it's that I heart Patrick Swayze. Then, now, always. Now obviously I am not happy that Patrick Swayze has pancreatic cancer, but I am happy that he is so brave and lovely and that he is here. Patrick is the best. Nobody puts Baby in the corner!
4. random joy in my inbox: Thanks be to my friend Tamara who this very morning sent me this picture of a baby bunny rabbit that is so astonishingly, edibly cute I am almost MENTAL with love for it. I might have to check myself into an institution out of adoration.
5. you: Thank you for coming to my blog and for being a friend of the Crabmommy. You're a chum!

Okay, your turn. 5 things to share if you dare, below in the comments, or leave us an url. If you make us gag and scoff, SO WHAT, right? Sometimes it does a body good to be glad. Oh, and please, if you feel like yet more Crabmom, go to the bloglet today for a chat about Roald Dahl's revoltingly swell book The Twits.