Lifestyles of the Educated and Animated


I love PBS. I really do. If it weren’t for PBS kids’ programming, I wouldn’t get to spend the first hour of my day drinking coffee and reading celebrity gossip on the internet instead of parenting my child. I may be only halfway paying attention, but I am flummoxed by the lives of these characters. Does anyone out there have this world figured out? Because I’m too tired to make sense of it.


What is the Man in the Yellow Hat’s Job?

Curious George is our favorite show. But this character confuses us. Andy and I mulled this one over for a few mornings. The Man has an apartment in the City, a house in the country, and the resources to take on the kind of adventures that would lead to the acquisition of a monkey. He has some kind of association with the museum, but we wouldn’t call it a job. We can’t tell if he has any real skill or knowledge, or just dabbles in whatever interests his rich self at the moment. He is totally dating Professor Wiseman, but it’s obvious she’s too smart for him and sees him only as a boy toy.

“Trust Fund Baby,” says Andy. “Oh, wait – he’s Buster!”


“Buster! He’s Buster from Arrested Development. He’s got, like, eight degrees, but is completely useless.”


What Kind of School does Sid Attend?

Sid the Science Kid is in a class with a 4:1 student/teacher ratio. Think of all the amazing, individualized attention and customized learning for those kids! Oh, wait, no. Just Sid. One kid dictates the entire curriculum. “I want to learn about germs today!” Okay, Sid, screw everything else, we’ll study what you want AND your teacher will sing an original song on the topic. Come on, how awesome would it be if they had to study whatever Gerald wanted one day? That kid’s hilarious.


Super Why, with the Power to Change the Author’s Original Intent!

Let’s just leave aside the terrible versions of classic stories on this show. (Rumplestiltskin is employed by a busy, party-throwing princess? It’s so washed clean of anything interesting it might as well be my high school years.) Super Why solves problems by completely rewriting parts of the story. Oh, no, he di’n’t. This reminds me of an edition of The Secret Garden I saw after it its copyright entered the public domain. It had been altered to replace all talk of Magic with references to God and Jesus. The worst is that the editors claimed they were reflecting “the original intent.” No. Just no. Just…no.*


Is it Martin Short’s Voice that Makes the Cat in the Hat Freakier? Or is He Just Freaky?

Nick and Sally’s moms, I’m begging you…stop giving permission for your kids to go weird places with a creepy cat that tells your children to flip his thingamajigger. Stop.


Won’t somebody think of the children?


Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger, we cool.

We don’t watch any of the other shows. Any deep thoughts about Martha, Dinosaur Train, Word World…dare I mention Barney and Caillou???


P.S. Totally sorry I watermarked Ed Grimley. I don’t know how not to. But note: that photo AIN’T MINE.


*says the girl who adulterated the entire thing when she wrote a children’s play called The Secret Garden…of Zombies.


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Parent-Teacher Conferences


We went to Parent-Teacher Conferences last night. For our baby. Who goes to preschool two mornings a week. I know, right? But, awesome, because if there’s anything I like, it’s listening to someone talk about my kid for 15 minutes. Here’s what we learned:


Audrey says nothing at school. Just nothing. As the morning wears on, she will say, “Mommy?” and her teacher will say, “Mommy work,” and Aud will say, “Daddy?” and her teacher will say, “Daddy work,” and that’s it. Oh, and she says, “NO” to diaper changes. And that’s her school vocab.


However, since she’s started there, she now says new things at home every day, including:


“One, two, wee,” and “Shining, eight, nine.”

“I-Dow!” (“Upside-down”)

“I no wa’t to!”

And various letter names.


Ca-razy. We just sent her there to play in the dirt.


Oh! Which she loves! Dirt and sand. She spends her time outside at school immersing herself in those sensory wonders. She and another kid spent one morning filling a 5-gallon bucket with dirt but not physically being able to dump it all over themselves as hoped.


While she is quiet in general, don’t cheese her off. Apparently when someone inflicts injury upon her, she chews the kid out. She doesn’t hit back, she doesn’t crumple into despair – she yells. I laughed so hard when I heard this. I don’t know if I should, but I love it. I love it. Tell it, sister.


Aud started a couple of weeks after the school year began, and she’s there only two mornings each week. She’s attached herself to the kids that have spent all day, every day there since they were babies. She must get that they know the ropes. She’s gotten into the groove of things just fine. So marvelous – and strange – to hear about this world that does not involve us. It’s only hers.

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How to Make Parenting Harder


In 17 Complicated Steps

(Conception to Age 2 Edition)


1. Start by waiting until you are 33 to have your first child. You will have had more time to think about the Right Way to Do Things by then.


2. Don’t leave your child’s conception to chance! Carefree sex is for 20-somethings. There are thermometers and cervical mucus and charts you can involve in the process. You can use them – and this is the important thing – whether you need them or not.


3. Read every book about childbirth you can, so that by the time you actually birth the child, you are too burnt out on reading to learn anything about the actual care of babies.


Super wary of mother’s skills.


4. When she is born, never let her leave the hospital room without you. Other mothers might take a nap, or let the nurses take their babies away for a doctor’s once-over. You, however, have seen enough Lifetime TV movies to know that if you leave your baby in the nursery, a woman who has been faking a pregnancy to keep her man will come in and kidnap her.


5. Make sure you buy a beautifully coordinated bedding set for a crib she’ll almost never sleep in. It should be expensive – so you know it’s good – but only use the fitted sheet because everything else is Dangerous! Don’t put any of that in her crib! When you put the cute bumper in her crib anyway, it should have a high-contrast pattern. That’s good for babies. You know, in the dark at night.


6. Do not leave your baby in the care of anyone with less than a PhD. Grandparents may be exempt on a case-by-case basis.


7. Make sure you correct your husband whenever he dresses the child. It’s how he learns.


8. Read every book ever published on the subject of sleep. If you obsess long enough, you will certainly find the Exact Right Thing to do to ensure good sleep, despite anecdotal evidence of the entire world to the contrary. Make sure you discuss all your newfound knowledge at length with your husband.


Wildly appreciative husband.


9. Develop a pathological aversion to people feeding your baby crackers. Practice statements like, “Yes, ‘just one’ will hurt her! It’s nothing but white flour, salt, and hydrogenated vegetable oil!”


10. Keep up with news on the internet. If not, you may not learn that going down slides with your child can break their legs, hide and seek promotes dangerously secretive behavior, and fruit will maim your baby’s beautiful face.


11. Instruct your pediatrician – the one with about a billion years more schooling that you – on the proper schedule to vaccinate your child. Remind her your child will not be engaging in unprotected sex and recreational drug use in the first couple of months of life, so you can put off the Hep B. Spread out the other vaccinations so her body has less to deal with at one time, and you get to come in twice as often!


12. Buy a book full of really boring activities with needlessly complex preparations to do with your baby every week to help her develop skills she would have picked up on her own anyway.


No instructions necessary.


13. You’re doing sleep wrong. Read every book again. Take copious notes. Don’t forget to judge any parent who’s had success as “too cruel” or “too coddling.”


14. Put things up high so the baby can’t reach them. When she gets taller, find a higher place. Remodel the house as needed. Anything to avoid figuring out how to teach your child appropriate behavior.


15. Cluck your tongue at every parent who hasn’t taught their child “appropriate behavior.”


16. Spend several hours a day thinking of graphically specific dangers that could threaten your child. Bonus if they are complex enough to be plotlines for Criminal Minds.


17. Do all the things you were Never Going to Do Because You Don’t Believe in Them but take a lot of time to feel guilty about it.


Congratulations! You must be a success! After all, you worked awfully hard, didn’t you?



I haaaaaate driving. I forget that, because I love road trips. Road trips where my husband drives almost the whole way. He’s forced to sit there and talk to me. Or listen to me talk. Mostly that one. Either way, he can’t be on his laptop, fixing the house, or at Menards. It’s awesome.


Yesterday, while the husband fixed the house, the baby and I went to do fun things with relatives. I spent a little too much time driving with a toddler. Oy, the focus it takes to not die all the time. It’s so much work. And I have to make a much bigger effort because precious baby. And while I’m working on not dying – and some other people on the road are just not on board with that – I have to weigh some options, like, should I try to fix her shade from here so she doesn’t burn up or scream from the light in her face, is the trade-off worth it, there’s nobody on this stretch of road with me, I can just reach back, right, and then what happens if we do die, how would Andy get on, this one friend of mine is a solid girl, he should totally marry her, get OUT OF MY LANE, where is the nearest Starbucks?


I’m burnt out. But who really cares? Because BUTTERFLY GARDEN, Y’ALL.



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The Great Dairy Caper


Okay, folks, this is where I ask you if I’m making sense or trying to complicate a life that’s just going too well.


We’ve gone dairy-free with Audrey. She has been eating cheese and yogurt since…I can’t remember, way before she turned one. We didn’t do milk, because she had breastmilk until three months ago (Only three? That is so weird. It feels like a lifetime.) and I never saw a ton of benefit to pasteurized milk anyway. Every now and then she’d eat a few bites of my cereal with milk, or I’d give her a few hits off my chocolate milk. She loved it. Then when I saw a good-looking local, grass-fed brand of pasteurized milk in the store a month ago, I thought, why not? I started giving her a half a sippy cup each day and she went nuts for it. “Muk! Muk!”


A few days later we saw her poop had gone all weird and mucusy and her butt was super irritated. “Signs of a food insensitivity!” trumpeted the baby books. Oh, shoooot. So we quit the milk. I figured cheese and yogurt were still on the table because they had the happy cultures and bacteria that can help digestion. And…yeah….yet…every now and then still a red butt. In fact, a lot of the time. Nothing crazy. Just obviously irritated. And I’m seeing all this external stuff and it makes me realize that what I can’t see might really suck for her. She might being having stomachaches, but she’s so good-natured she doesn’t really show it. It might be the reason she’s sometimes testy or not sleeping well, because, you know, it can’t be because SHE’S ALMOST TWO.


And then – oh, no – what if she would have been happier and more comfortable and a better sleeper the LAST 22 MONTHS and she’s not because of me? What if every red butt she’s ever had was telling me she was SUFFERING? All because of me! That red butt is my scarlet letter.


Well, we did a little experiment. We took her off dairy on Thursday. No more red butt. She was already doing a lot more sleeping through the night because we pushed back her bedtime, so that was awesome. Happy weekend. Monday evening (sure, I should have run the test longer) I gave her a half cup of yogurt. She woke up twice that night and started the next day with an irritated poop. Both not usual.


So we feel ready to demonize dairy at our house. You know, maybe? Like, mostly? I mean, we’re not going to deny her the occasional treat because dairy’s not a death sentence or anything. I know that as a kid, I drank two little cartons of chocolate milk every day at school and followed it hunched over in pain at recess. Every day. (P.S. Totally worth it.) I know most of us are a bit lactose intolerant. I know kids under two have less of the ol’ lactase in them to digest lactose. I know we can get used to it. I know that in the history of the world no one ever ingested dairy like we have done this last century – pasteurized, uncultured – and maybe our bodies just aren’t meant to. What I don’t know is how much to really obsess about this.


(I’m guessing a lot? So I feel I have something interesting to do? Oy.)


I tell you, though, if dairy actually contributes to any sleep disruption for her, I will personally kill every cow in a 75-mile radius just to be safe.


So, does anyone out there has some experience with this, or advice? Good dairy-free casserole or crock-pot recipes? I need some of those too.



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