Thursday, January 29, 2009

Val Day Giveaway! Yay!

*This giveaway is now closed. The winner of the cookies is Wendopolis! Well done, Wendopolis! I will be in touch and your cookies will soon be winging their way to you.*

It's been a schizo week. I was very crabby at first, moving to sweet (I had such fun being Guest Buyer of darling baby things for Etsy); and now it's 100% sweetness, my friends.

The lovely Thea of Gumdrop Cookie Shop is offering a pack of heavenly choco-chip cookies to a lucky Crabmommy reader this Val Day. Gumdrop Cookie Shop, you ask? C'est quoi? (Why, yes, I do take every opportunity to show off the fact that I majored in le francais...since I never have used that language since). What were we talking about? Ah! Cookies. And the Gumdrop Shop.

It's this super-awesome cookie shop online where you can order up all sorts of divine things, from uploading your own images and messages to be placed onto cookies in an edible format, to purchasing this scrumptious range called the Van Gogh: these are yummy sugar cookies that arrive frosted in white, with edible markers so your tots can scribble on them and give them away as treats. Clever, eh?

For the sweet and lovey-dovey season, the store is baking up seriously fancy Valentine's cookies, designed by a student at the Parsons School of Design. As my little one would say, they're de-scrumptious! Check it, y'all:

And for you, dear lucky winning reader we have a yummy bag of chocolate-chip cookies given to you, gratis:
Demz cookies is dang HUGE, peoples,
and the bag also includes a sugar cookie with the message of your choice.

So: please visit our gracious sponsor, order up her yummy treats if you can, or else pass her name onto someone with a special occasion coming up. Gumdrop also does swell custom cookies for weddings and such.

And now onto the rules of the giveaway: put your name and a contact in the comments. Please don't post as anonymous. You may choose the "anonymous" option in Blogger's ID field but then pop a contact email in your message! No need to write anything fancy. Just say "want 'em" or "need 'em" or "gimme" or whatever and you will be eligible. At 7 AM PST on Monday morning, Crabkid will randomly select a winner whom I will contact. Got it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crabby moms speak out!

Chums,

Crabmommy gets colicky this week, here, where I lob a few crabacious sentiments at the NY Times parenting blog, Motherlode. Motherlode recently ran a promising-sounding post about how losing it in a mommy-meltdown and yelling at the kids can actually be good for them—only their example of an "angry mommy" was so tame I had to retch. And kvetch. And I did.

Come check it, yo! And sound off in the spirited comments, however you feel. The Times has asked me to come and tantrum it out on their page too. Though I'm scared. Will I be crabby enough? Or too crabby for the readers? Will they pound me with hate mail? Hunt me down and impale me on a stick me on behalf of Positive Parenting?

On a sweeter note I'll be doing a Valentine giveaway courtesy of the very much awesome Gumdrop Cookie Shop later this week. Come and pop your name in the hat to win choccy-chip cookies for yerself. Yumz!

From sour to sweet—I feel schizo. Come to think of it, 'aint that what motherhood's all about?

Also this week I'm Guest Curator (doesn't that sound super-fancy?) at Etsy...picking sweet things for new moms and babes. (And yes, for those who followed that last link, that was helluva sneaky. I'm embarrassed. But apparently not embarrassed enough...)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barack Obama: Looks Matter

Barack Obama is a great man, but frankly I voted for him because he's hot.

Perfect face, perfect bod, great hands.

Whenever it comes to serious matters—such as choosing a president—my advice is to go shallow. And, people, Crabmommy knows what she's talking about. Just look at my voting record: every time I have voted for a president, said president has become a hero of international proportion. Witness the presidential elections that—through fate's strange hand—are the only two elections I have voted in:

1. 1994, South Africa: for Nelson Mandela
2. 2008, USA: for Barack Obama

Not to overly estimate the power that is Crabmommy, but I think the results above prove that I am onto something: whenever Crabmommy votes, great things happen. Because evidently I am able to see what makes a great leader.

Here, for the first time ever, I'm happy to lift the veil on the voting booth and share with you the oh-so-simple secret behind my spot-on picks! Friends, my one and only criterion for predicting great presidents: appearance. True, both of the above men exhibited impressive track records of service, humanitarianism, idealism, intellectual heft, and so forth, but when it comes to the actual voting process I set everything aside for simplicity's sake and go on looks alone. Physical-merits-based voting: it works every time.

Nelson Mandela: He may have been old when I voted him in as South Africa's first democratically elected president, but he was still hot. In South Africa this is a pretty widely accepted fact even for white people (except perhaps by those who still long for apartheid, and there are a few of those left). Mr. Mandela has a great physique: he is tall and well-built (as a young man he was a boxer). He has high cheekbones, and is basically all-around h-o-t. See, even here as an old chap, he remains beautiful:Not so P.W. Botha, another famous former president of my native country:Aside from the fact that the man above is a ghastly racist, he's plum not sexy—a superb, picture-perfect example of how NOT to vote in presidential elections.

Moving on to the USA, no one could fairly say that Bush is ugly. He has nice cheekbones and a decent nose. But the famously tiny too-close-together eyes seal the deal. And the mouth is loose (see left). I do understand that sometimes politicians are captured on film while talking, but one can still make hard aesthetic choices by analyzing motion shots. After all, here's Barack (at right) doing much the same as G.W. is doing, only he looks hot while the other does not. Who's going to go down in history as the better president? I don't think we need time to tell us: we have the photos, and the answer is clear.

I hope you've learned something today, dear reader. And that going forward, like me, you will continue to vote with your eyes. Imagine a world where we all picked leaders based on looks alone! A world where this guy— —and this guy—
...and similarly atrocious leaders would be vanquished from the pages of history! Let us dream of that beautiful possibility, my friends, even as we give thanks for the exquisite reality we are currently enjoying in the USA. p.s. New posts this week at the bloglet, as always. Please to visit the corporate sponsor of your Crabmommy?!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GOOP Off!

Newsflash! We interrupt yesterday's long and serious Crabmommy post on manners (but please read it! It took me bloody ages!) to bring you the latest bulletin from GOOPy Gwyn Paltrow. This week she salutes New York City, and gives us awesome tips for where to dine and stay when you have no money and no connections to Mario Batali! Here's my fave rec from the NYC newsletter:

The Bowery Hotel
The Bowery has been one of my homes-away-from-home in the last year. It is a very cool spot, with the people to match. As it is located on Bowery I wouldn't recommend it to the Park Avenue set, but my English rock star friends can’t get enough of it.
Good to know, Gwynnie-pops! Super-useful, as always. Now all the reader has to do is ask, Am I in "the Park Avenue set" or am I a rock star? Hmmmm...

Next week's GOOP: "Some of my closest friends and I will be sharing our favorite novels." I expect we'll be hearing Madonna discourse on Middlemarch. I can't wait!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Manners, please!

The Times has an interesting piece by a pediatrician who posits that manners are a key part of child development and that if they were referred to by a trendy new name ("social skills") more folks would be inclined to insist their tykes behave better.

The piece sent me off on a bit of a manners tangent at the bloglet today, and I found myself sounding off on something that concerns me as a parent: as a group, modern American parents (all adults, actually) tend not to present a united front to children when it comes to what manners we expect from them. Yes, many of us ask our kids to have basic table manners and ask for things with a "please" and a "thank you," but that's a cursory approach to courtesy, and often parental expectation stops right there when it needs to go deeper in my not-so-humble opinion. Yep, from what I can see, we don't all have the same expectations of children, and I'd say few adults really care about what an old teacher of mine once called "the line between familiarity and contempt."

I know it gets old to hear people crab on about bad manners and kids. I know many kids with plenty good manners. Of course. But there are plenty kids with poor manners 'cuz their parents either have poor manners too, or else their parents just don't think all the old-fashioned "frills" really matter anymore and are just that--frills rather than essential components of social interaction. I'm talking about a bigger picture that centers on respect for others, especially one's elders.

I've been criticized for the parent etiquette-related posts I do over at the Cookie bloglet. Sure, I like to be tart in my tone and poke fun at a Bragdaddy or a Multimedia Mommy, but there's a serious issue at stake: our kids. If adults don't know what really matters and are inclined to narcissistic ways of communicating with each other, what are they teaching their tots? And most important to me, what are they teaching mine?

It would be so dang excellent if all parents and teachers had the same basic expectations of kids! The same core code. Here's a wacky example of how it could be useful: As a former teacher for a semester at a private school, I had kids in my classroom who thought it was okay to chew gum in class (or when talking to an adults generally) because the school didn't have an official policy on gum-chewing. Gum-chewing! Like so many other PC moments in our culture, the school I taught at allowed gum-chewing at the teacher's discretion. Seriously. So you end up sending a kid off to a college interview and she arrives armed with swell grades but has a wad of Hubba Bubba in her cheek? Shweesh, man! Ri.di.cu.lous. Yet this is exactly what happens to a kid who has no idea of propriety, and who sees no big diffs between hanging with your buds and conducting yourself in the world at large.

Gum-chewing aside, there are many much more basic concepts of politeness that I wish to hell ALL GROWNUPS WOULD INSIST UPON so that all our kids would go out into the universe poised to be happy and successful adults, good co-workers, and overall thoughtful human beings who can absolutely rock the boat when it counts, but who also understand tact and the subtle arts of diplomacy that make people facile in society. There's nothing snobby or mysterious or overly stern about basic good manners, and it would be so much easier--much less work for all--if we could agree on them and stop sending mixed messages. How bloody magnificent would it be if we presented a uniform manners model to all our kids?

As I discuss in the bloglet post, I feel like there once was such a thing as a understanding among parents-- an "expected" way for kids to act towards parents and grownups in general--which the majority of adults automatically reinforced whenever kiddos didn't toe the line. But nowadays the whole parenting vibe is so diverse and complex, and you can't assume another mom (or teacher) or will agree with you on anything, from diet, to sleep, to conduct.

More's the pity. Anyhoo. I can dare to dream. Here's a rough draft of Manners Wish List (leaving aside obvious table manners and please/thank you stuff):

  • Teachers can't be called by their first names. Ever. Much less school principals.
  • Children should look adults in the eye when greeting them. From Kindergarten up, they should be encouraged to address adults by name when greeting them. (not just "hello/hi")
  • By, say, third grade (when it can stick!), kids should be taught to step aside for adults when entering buildings or walking down stairwells.
  • Children must always thank adults for having them at their homes.
  • As soon as they are old enough to call each other on the phone, children must be taught to introduce themselves if a parent answers, and greet the parent by name (whether first name or Mrs. So-and-So), before asking for their buddy.
If the above (or something like that) were something we all agreed on I bet we'd have a much healthier society and of course people would adore our kids even if they were impish little beasts who got up to all sorts of tricks! Having basic manners doesn't mean you have to be insipid or conforming or that you don't get to rebel against your elders. But kids need something to rebel against, and if your elders don't insist on a line between children and adults, then what the heck is growing up all about?

*p.s. A word about the Mr./Miss/Mrs. thing: Personally, I'm not bothered if kids call me by my first name. Traditions evolve and I don't think we need to force our kids to go into some needlessly old-fashioned mode that nobody around them participates in (I don't live in the South, y'all, so nobody around me does the Miss So-and-So thing). So long as a child is polite to me (as in the above list) I'm happy.*

And you? Are you a stickler for manners with your kid? Do you feel comfortable reprimanding others' kids for not displaying their manners ?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Atheist Moms Unite!

Are you out there, fellow atheist mommies?

I know there are lots of Christian moms in the blogosphere and in particular, Mo-moms (Mormon moms) who seem to run the media these days, dispensing domestic and decorating advice amid a sea of children to those of us who can barely manage one.

But where are the atheists among you? I ask. Not for any particular reason, really. This title isn't really a call to arms for atheist moms. Just wondering if you're out there, pondering those inevitable God-driven questions from the tots. Me, I was born to a Christian-born mother and Jewish-born father but both were non-believers. My father didn't possess a yarmulke and when called upon to wear one at some family event, he supposedly had to make do with a handkerchief. My mother wasn't very devoted to God either. She's become a bit Deepak Chopra-ish of late but when I was growing up there really wasn't much of a spiritual vibe in the fam. In fact, the only religious person in the family was me. For a time.

See, I went to a Christian school (a private school that happened to have a Christian affiliation). I first heard the call of God in the second grade when singing the song "Jesus wants Me for a Sunbeam" during music class. That song stirred something deep within. A love of the Lord!

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam
To brighten up his day
In every way try to please Him
With the things I say.
When I sang the words I believed that Jesus really did want me to be his personal ray of sunshine in heaven! I can still remember being amazed at this new feeling. I really loved God! As it turned out it wasn't God I loved so much as singing.

Either way my joyful pious warbling landed me a place in choir and I spent all my school career heaping blessings upon His name in both English and Latin, in both pop-Christian melodies ("If I was a teddy bear, I'd thank you, God, for my fuzzy-wuzzy hair") and in somber classical performances (Benjamin Brittens Requiem in D Minor).

For a while I also attended Sunday school at a local church. I went with another family who gazed sorrowfully at my heathen mother as she waved goodbye to me in her robe. I attended Sunday school because the girl I accompanied had shown me these awesome stickers they gave you for going. Stickers you could stick into your very own cute little Bible! The stickers were tiny and had cute weentsy little bees on them and inspirational messages: Bee kind. Bee nice. Bee good. I went to church so I could get the loot. Bee mine! But once I got them for myself I lost interest in Jesus. And once I realized you could be in the choir without praying, I no longer felt duty-bound to be anyone's sunbeam.

Thus began and ended my conversation with God unless you count the many, many Halleluias I have proffered in churches, standing in my choir girl's robe. I spent a fair bit of my schooling learning about other religions and I think they're all equally sensible in theory and dreadful in practice. So I don't plan to raise Crabkid with any of it. But I know I must also be careful not to be too contemptuous of religion, which is hard for me; yet we all know if we look down upon something, our kids—if they have any spine at all—are likely to revere it.

I'm all for the study of religion from a historical/literary/philosophical perspective. But I'm also with those people who think that atheism's message should be equally voiced in a tolerant society. Gotta love the Brits for coming up with the cash and gumption to run this plug for atheism on municipal buses!

As for Crabkid...God-moms, don't get your knickers in a knot: I'll do my best not to push my atheism onto her and I certainly plan to discuss anything she's interested in and expose her to sources other than her mom. But I can't help hoping she'll nix the God business and be a Buddhist type like her dad...I just think Buddhists are so much more civilized.

p.s. Hot off the presses: come read about my run-in with a Bragdaddy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Great Coat, Bernie Madoff!

After a delightful winter break of resting on a tiny deck chair in the Bahamian sunshine, my blogging finger has returned bronzed, buffed, and ready to get back to business here at Crabmommy, reporting on significant financial, cultural, emotional, maternal, and trivial events as I see them.

I should qualify that I refer to my "blogging finger" because I am still one of those people who can't type properly and who types with my right index finger dominating the keyboard. Regretfully, when I was at high school, typing was a skill taught only to those who were truly tanking academically. Amazing to think the one practical ability that would have helped me out in my chosen profession of writing is now lost to me forever. And I say "forever" because I am super-fast with my blogging finger but feel that my spastic bashing with blog finger is now such a part of me that I could never unlearn it in favor of dignified ten-finger typing.

Anyhoo. Hoping you and yours had a swell time at Christmas, and were successful at attempting to mask whatever feelings of envy, frustration, bitterness, martyrdom, and futility accompany most family gatherings.

Speaking of the hols and family, one has to wonder how Hanukkah went down for the Madoffs this year. Which leads me to my blog title: seriously, does Bernie Madoff not have the most awesome coats and jackets (in that Upper East Side patrician genre)? Even the black tie he dons for that somber "mea culpa" look is indisputably chic! Check it out:White-collar-criminal fabulous, I say! Fewking-A!

I am truly obsessed with Bernz Madoff. He's being so naughty this week! Did you hear he sent fancy mittens to friends and family, in addition to some jewelry whose value is being hotly debated? His lawyer said that sending mittens doesn't constitute a violation of Madoff's bail agreement. Indeed, the mittens are free to go to Montauk without any sort of tracking device whatsoever.

Okay, so I'm not making sense, but really, nothing about any of this makes sense, eh? For my money, I think it's wonderfully entertaining to read about. I am fascinated picturing Bernard, all handsome and silvery, sitting on a plush chair in Park Avenue eating kosher meals in frozen silence with his wife, Ruth, staring in defeat at the embers of a dying fire in the handsome Beaux Arts fireplace...or maybe they scream at each other and Ruth hurls bowls of her famous matzoh-ball soup at the wall (Ruth is a celebrated chef, FYI). Another scenario: maybe she really did know what beloved Bernie was up to all along and so for fear of being bugged they communicate in sign language or write furious notes to one another on miniature blackboards (like the one that Anthony Hopkins had when he played that ridiculous old man in Legends of the Fall) —communications regarding secret bank accounts and buried baubles...

Oh to be a fly on Madoff's wall! And to return to you able to repeat the dialogue between the Madoffs!

I will return to you soon, my friends, with if not a word-by-word recording of Madoff convos, then at least more GOOP reportage. Because I have been receiving wonderful newsletters and recipes from Gwyneth over the holidays and I have learned much that both Gwyneth and I wish to share with you. White sugar makes her "cringe," for example, and so she sweetens everything with something called agave syrup, which I imagine is very costly but I dunno...maybe you can substitute your bread, milk, meat, and coffee budget for agave syrup. It's definitely better for you than that crap you're eating now! Gwynnie also wants you to know that she calls soy sauce "shoyu" but she knows you don't know what that means, you pedestrian pleb, so she helpfully places an English translation into her shoyu-containing recipes so that they look like so:

1 tsp shoyu (soy sauce)
I love it. And I love her.

Oh, and this week at the bloglet: book recs. Please come and tell us what kiddo books you love and also, which ones you do not love. It's an equal-opportunity reccing and dissing forum over there so feel free to tell us which books drive you bonkers but you're forced to read them by your tots...