S*it My Kids Gave Me and Won’t Let Me Throw Out

I have three preschoolers, and when you have three preschoolers, you collect a lot of junk – uh, gifts. I meant gifts. Given with wide eyes and open hearts, I acknowledge, but we’re not really expected to keep these tokens of affection, are we?

Children are truly hoarders of the worst variety. Anyway, here’s a(n unfortunately) partial list of things that have been quietly making their way towards the trashcan, but haven’t quite reached it yet. Shhhh!


A ripped brown maple leaf


A dime


A cherry my son picked and then scraped a sad face into with his fingernail


Seventy-five to ninety pieces of original artwork


A ceramic bat, painted green, with both wings broken off


A wallet-size portrait of myself from the day I graduated with my Master’s degree


A small bloom of fake purple flowers


A coupon for 20% off at Kohl’s (not even the coupon part)


A broken barrette


Three more cherries 


A cat collar that was stuck inside our couch for over a year


A rubber banana


A “Nice Work!” sticker that no longer sticks



Quick! What do you do with this stuff? They’re not looking.

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American Horror Story Freakshow: Making Fear Fun


(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

American Horror Story Season Four, Freakshow, has been very eagerly anticipated (by me, at least), and, during its premiere last night, the franchise failed to disappoint. Featuring a revolving ensemble of actors and the inclusion of artists such as Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, AHS continually reinvents itself, much to its audience’s delight.

A few aspects I enjoyed most about last season’s installment, Coven, was the campiness, humor, phenomenal acting, and intelligent dialogue the show consistently delivered. Despite the plot, the gore, and the magic, the show turned out memorable characters and quotable quotes. I’m actually ashamed to admit that I miss those characters just a little.

As always with AHS, they like to bring you somewhere, drop you off, then kick you two steps beyond your comfort zone. I watched this season’s premiere with my shirt pulled halfway up over my head, covering one eye – sometimes both – and I’ll tell you why: clowns. It wasn’t enough to feature a traveling freak show, of course, so the stakes were raised by a murderous pair of Siamese twins, a bearded lady harboring palpable sexual tension for her mistress, a man with ‘flippers’, who has, let’s say, flipped a few switches, and oh – how could I forget? An evil clown. An evil clown who shows up in your bedroom at night and slices the life right out of you.

If that’s not the stuff of nightmares, I don’t know what is.

There’s always a transition period with this series, the time you sit back with your hand partially covering your face, determining that, this, in fact, is the way it’s going to be. You have to forget the previous season, wipe away the names, the stories, and get in that moment.

And, boy, did I get in that moment, double checking the locks and taking a few quick peeks at my kids before going to bed. AHS truly takes uncomfortable to a most uncomfortable level.

What I love most is how seamlessly the show transitions from adrenaline-secreting to laugh-out-loud funny, and that no matter what’s going on (See: Sarah Paulson, with two heads, conversing with herself), you believe it. Siamese twins? Sure. A tiny dude who bites the heads off live animals? Absolutely. A three-breasted hermaphrodite? Well, why the hell not?

I’ve tried to find the moral fibers that bind the stories, the seasons, together, the lessons to be learned, but the beauty of this show is there are none. The story is always just what it is, the characters who they are, for better or worse, and the scenes, however disturbing, are created simply to be consumed, much like cocktail shrimp on a buffet table.

The best thing about this buffet, though, is that it truly has something for everyone. There’s poison enough for all. Siamese twins not your speed? Try clowns with knives. Clowns with knives don’t do it for you? How about horny carnies? Demons? Witches? Ghost musicians? Deviant psychiatrists? AHS has got it all, all the time. If one thing doesn’t trigger your sympathetic nervous system, another surely will, with breaks to rest, and laugh, of course, in between.

It’s too early to tell how this season’s plot will shake out, but you can bet your fluffy beard I’ll be watching.

Which Came First: Technology or Helicopter Parenting, a Guest Post by Jennifer Cowart

Jen Cowart Bio picture 1Jennifer Cowart is a 40-something wife and mother of three daughters. A former elementary educator, she is a freelance journalist, photographer and blogger. She is the winner of three New England Newspaper and Press Association Awards and a Rhode Island Press Association Award. She was a member of the 2014 Listen To Your Mother cast in Providence, RI. In 2012 she, along with her daughter, was the Rhode Island winner of the White House Kids’ State Dinner/Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. Her work can be found at www.cranstononline.com and www.thewholebagofchips.com .

Follow her on Facebook.


As a new parent, and through the years that have followed, I have found myself feeling cautious about earning a reputation for being a certain type of parent. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe not everyone worries much about being stereotyped, but when you read parenting magazines and blogs, it seems that there is a name and a stigma for every parenting choice and style.

There are people who breastfeed or don’t, people who work or don’t, people who co-sleep or don’t, people who practice attachment parenting (is un-attachment parenting a “thing?”) people who are ‘free-range’ parents, and people who are deemed helicopter parents. I even recently read a criticism of parenting where the writer deemed parenting a “new religion,” and not in a good way. That was a new one for me.

As parents, if we don’t walk a perfect line of balance, we’re either too laid back or too conservative, too nice and wishy-washy, or too strict and mean. You could go crazy reading about them and choosing your stance on each type, but I think ultimately every parent must make choices as to what works for them, their kids, their beliefs, and just go with it.

I’m a particular fan of the saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” and although it makes me smile when I hear it, I really do believe it. You make choices, you live with those choices, and if you’re not happy, or they’re not going the way you imagined, then you adjust and make changes as you see fit. We all have our own monkeys and circuses to worry about, we don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing. I can worry about trying not to screw up my own kids with my parenting practices, but I can’t worry about whether others will be sending their own kids to therapy down the line with theirs.

That said, I sometimes lose sleep over the helicopter parenting thing. That’s the one I worry about the most. Why? I don’t know, but I do.

Search and rescueLately,I’ve been considering the whole helicopter parenting stigma. I’ve begun to wonder if it’s something that’s been created by the amazing technology we now have, or whether it’s a parenting style that forces technology to keep up with parents’ needs.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

From baby monitors that allow parents to watch their babies sleep, to preschool webcams that allow you to see your children in their classes, to college “Hi Mom!” cams that let you to watch a live web cam of particular spots on college campuses – just in case your child walks by – we can see or be connected to our children anywhere, anytime, by technology, no matter how old they are.

When I think about these advances in technology, I wonder:

Would I have wanted to have that kind of baby monitor for peace of mind? Probably.

Would it have had the potential to make me crazy, watching for anything to happen to my baby through the night? Very possibly.

Would I have wanted to spend my precious 2.5 hours of preschool time sitting at home with my coffee, glued to my computer screen, watching my kids playing at school? Probably not.

Will I be glued to the college webcam screen, hoping for a glimpse of my 18-year-old walking on the quad? I kind of hope not.

Are we able to, or even encouraged to, keep such tabs on our kids beyond our empty nests because of technology? Or, is technology answering what they see as being our needs as over-protective parents?

Which is it?

Monitor, Keyboard, and MouseWe attended a middle school Back to School Night last year, and a similar high school open house this year where we were shown how to access the online parent portal to view our child’s records (absences, grades),  but also to log on and view their assignments – upcoming tests, quizzes, essays, projects. We were strongly encouraged to log on daily to stay abreast of their work and keep on top of that work.

Is it me, or is technology fostering too much helicopter parenting? Is that technology pushing us to do more than we should for our kids? Last year, I was shocked to be so strongly encouraged to check the website daily, and I remember thinking, “Isn’t that the student’s job? I have a job. This isn’t it.” By their second year of middle school, I just assumed we’d put this sort of responsibility on the students – not the parents – and most definitely so by their first year of high school.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I’m not?

I never logged onto that parent portal during middle school. I actually lost my login information. Twice.

But here’s the thing: I knew when my child was absent, because she was here with me and I was taking care of her. That’s my job as her mother. I knew her grades, because she logged on to the student portal herself constantly to check and share them with me. And if she didn’t, I asked her how things were going and had a conversation. I got a progress report mid-quarter and a report card at the end of the quarter from the school, and saw the grades she’d earned.


When she stayed on top of the work.


That’s her job as a student.

This technology, some may say, allows us to support them along their educational paths. I could agree, but I wonder, does this technology allow us to override the conversation part of it? Are we able to parent and support our kids better from the screen than in person?

I don’t know the answer. I haven’t decided what I think about all this, but it’s definitely got me wondering.

I love technology; it allows me to work remotely and do a job I love, and stay in touch with people I love, but it also may not give our kids the tools to be responsible for themselves. It might also foster the problems colleges experience with parents unable to cut the apron springs. It might cause parents to get used to being over-connected.

I don’t know.

Do you?

A Definitive Guide to the Holidays: The Only One You’ll Ever Need

I know. I know. It’s the first week of October. It’s barely Halloween. You may or may not have costumes picked out, and you probably haven’t yet taken down the ‘Welcome, Spring!’ flag in your front yard.

But, since I have already received two Pottery Barn holiday catalogs (The personalized Santa sacks are already on sale. Seriously.), I figured it must be time.

So, without further ado, the only holiday guide you’ll ever need:


Am I supposed to buy my pets gifts?

Well, you do love them, don’t you? Like, enough not to feed them chicken by-product meal? Then buy them a few gifts. And a Santa hat with a chinstrap. And have some portraits taken, won’t you, you heartless fool?


Which end of the candy cane should I tackle first?

I guess it depends what kind of mood you’re in. If you’re feeling playful, I’d start with the hook. Your fellow employees, I’m sure, always get a kick out of your trout impression.


What color Christmas lights should I set up in my yard?

Here’s the rule of thumb: If there’s only one dealership in your state for the car you drive, use white only. More than one? Colored. But never mix them. And don’t use both blinking and non-blinking. That shit’s just ghetto.


Should we get an Elf on the Shelf? 

Well, let me put it to you this way: If you, say, work out at 6am for a week and then quit, no.


English: Christmas cookies (Left to right, top...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

I enjoy making Christmas cookies. When should I start?

Honestly? Last month. Get on that.


Christmas Tree: Real or Artificial?

If you have kids, dogs, cats, rabbits, or any other type of fauna (invited or otherwise), go for artificial. If you’re a masochist who enjoys cleaning up pine needles until July, a real one.


Ooh! But I want a REAL tree. Should we tag one at the tree farm?

What are you, a freak? Go buy one at Home Depot.


When should I start listening to Christmas music?

On the car ride home from your Thanksgiving dinner. Not one moment sooner.


Will I *finally* get that Lexus with the giant red bow on it this year from Santa?

Probably not. Chances are, you’ll end up with a hangover and five pounds of leftover ham.


Gift Cards: Tacky or Terrific?

Tough question. If you like finding them on the floor of your car six months after the store has gone out of business (true story), terrific. Otherwise, tacky. Unless it’s an office gift exchange. Then it’s terrific. Especially if it’s for Chipotle.

And since we’re on the subject, should I have my Christmas shopping done already?

You’re one of those container people, aren’t you? With the containers? Lined up? On shelves? Labeled, with dates and contents written on the outside? Whatever, Overachiever. Just go away.

Nutcrackers: A legitimate component of Christmas pageantry or a way to rile up Uncle Randy after a few beers?

I can’t answer this one. To find the answer, you’ll have to look deep inside.


Should we open *just one gift* on Christmas Eve?

Why, that’s impossible! Santa doesn’t come until we’re all asleep! There shouldn’t even be one gift out there to open. Shame on you.


Christmas Caroling: Yay or Nay?

I don’t know. Do you find it awkward to be standing at your doorway, in your pajamas, in the cold, watching boogers drip down strangers’ faces as they sing Silent Night off-key? You tell me.

When should I take down my Christmas decorations?

About a month after your neighborhood association sends you that nasty email.

Life Lessons Learned by 35

Are you thirty-five? Approaching thirty-five? Looking back at thirty-five and laughing hysterically?

I’ve definitely learned a few things since I hit my 30’s, and I’m eager to share them with you.

Please visit me at Redbook, where I’m exposing a few of the raw truths of the universe, and let me know if I covered everything!

35 (number)

35 (number) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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