Cheez-It Parenting in an Extreme Parenting World

Help, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and I can’t get out. Worse, I don’t even know if I want to get out which is quite frankly embarrassing because I feel like I’m in the  ”Real Housewives” of rabbit holes. By that I mean I’m staying in it because on some level it makes me feel a smidge superior.

You know just like when you watch an episode of the “Real Housewives of New York” and you think to yourself, “Well, here I am sitting on my sofa stuffing my face with handfuls of Toasty Cheez-Its while trying not to get orange Cheez-It residue on the seven loads of laundry I’m folding and also hoping that I can soon garner the strength to investigate an iffy smell in my  basement. But hey, at least I’ve never done something as vulgar as throw a drink in someone’s face while riding in a limo.”

Drawing me in deeper is that this rabbit hole has some stellar parental humble bragging. Go ahead and judge but I love to witness a good humble brag in all its audacity, shamelessness, and over the top glory.

The rabbit hole also features another one of my favorite things – the know it all parent. This fusion of pomposity teamed with humble bragging is like a value size box of Toasty Cheez-It – I can’t not partake.

Please note this hole I find myself unable/unwilling to extricate myself from I didn’t even seek out. A friend, without my permission mind you, added me to a Facebook group and down, down I went. I’m currently daily gobsmacked by the postings on the “Unofficial University Parent Collective” for my daughter’s college.

To confuse you further I’m a late bloomer to this group. My daughter will be a junior in college and I’ve just been introduced to this gem. I don’t know whether to be sad or glad about that. A part of me is a bit bereft that I spent the last two years without being able to wallow in the wonder of this forum.

The current hot topic is parents asking other parents about what classes and professors their kids should take. The parents in the know are responding with in-depth missives combined with assorted humble brags on their child’s genius by stating that the information that is being offered is based on their kid’s “need for exceptional academic rigor.”

This leaves me with so many questions. Topping the list is are these parents going to class with their adult children because how else could they know so much about the inner workings of a certain professor’s teaching style, homework, grading scale and exam schedule?

To be honest I didn’t know that much about my children’s middle school classes. At some point you have to let the micromanaging go. But the bigger head scratcher is what kid at 18 plus years old would allow his parents that much access into the inner workings of his or her college existence?

Should I be jealous, impressed or mystified? I’m choosing to be mystified because I don’t think I want to live in a world where I know my 20 year old’s homework schedule.

Scenarios like this are what’s keeping me firmly entrenched in the Facebook group. I can’t stop reading the posts. It’s a journey to a land of extreme uber parenting. Meanwhile, I’m the Cheez-It parent just along for the spectacle of it all.

I know I need to stop but someone just posted asking what professors are open to communicating directly with parents and sorry but I’m going back in. I have a feeling some epic humble brag bombs about to be dropped.

Dear Snarky – I Feel Like My Friends Are Gaslighting Me

Dear Snarky,

 I think I have flushed some longstanding friendships down the toilet. One of my friends was driving me absolutely crazy by whining nonstop on social media, group texts etc about how hurt and devastated she was that her 11-year-old son didn’t have his 5th grade graduation.

 She literally wouldn’t shut up about it. A couple of days ago I couldn’t take it anymore, so I told her in a group text that no one really cares about a 5th grade graduation that lasts 30 minutes and takes place in the cafeteria. I also said she needs to get woke to the fact that she was doing more whining than seniors in high school and college who were really missing out on graduation.

 I knew she would get mad at me for pointing out the obvious but what really angered me is that after I sent that text friends in the group text called me and were thanking me for “finally saying what needed to be said” BUT then they didn’t have my back and in another group text were calling me out for “being mean.”

 I felt like I was being gaslighted and right now I’m confused. Are any of these women my actual friends? Why all this playing both sides B.S.?

 Signed, Defriended

Dear Defriended,

 These women suck. All of them. To begin with they knew exactly what they were doing by calling you on the phone and not texting you. The phone call doesn’t exactly leave the evidence trail a text does. If you say, “But on the phone you told me that you agreed with me.” They can respond with, “I never said that” or “You got what I said mixed up.”

 This proves that the phone calls were calculated and that their plan all along was to play both sides which is super lame.

 As for the whiny mom going on and on about her kid missing out on a 5th grade graduation well at best she was tone deaf and at worst she’s a moron. You need to be very careful what you complain about right now. If in the middle of a pandemic your family is healthy and you’re able to pay your bills you should count yourself very, very, lucky.

 I don’t want to dismiss this mom’s sadness about a 5th grade milestone but if that’s the worst thing that has happened to you these last few months then gratitude is in order.

 In fact, I applaud you for telling your friend to get some perspective. Perhaps, you might have not done it in a group text and been a tad more diplomatic, but what’s done is done and the woman sounds annoying as hell so hey, maybe delivering some unfiltered honesty was what was needed.

 Right now, I advise taking a break from all these women for a little while and really think about if you want friends that have problems taking a stand and more importantly being honest. I personally think you can do better.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

 

Dear Snarky – Something Smells About My Dad’s New Wife

Dear Snarky,

I smell a rat and it’s my dad’s new wife. Apparently, she has a “severe scent allergy.” She says she is hypersensitive to certain smells that can cause a reaction that could send her to the hospital.

Before the Christmas holidays she group texted the entire family about how we would need to clear our houses of any scents that would quote “trigger” her. It was a pretty long list that included no air fresheners, no plug-in room fresheners, no scented candles or soap including even dish soap. We also couldn’t wear any scented body lotions, perfume or hair care products around her.

My sister and I thought her list was ludicrous. If you’re that sensitive to smells how do you leave the house because everywhere you go there’s someone wearing something scented.

But because we didn’t want to upset our dad we followed her list which was a huge pain in the ass and yet his wife still had a reaction at my sister’s house on Christmas and she had to leave because she said she could “smell balsam and it felt like her throat was closing.” Talk about drama.

Imagine my surprise when I saw her at a Bath and Bodyworks store on New Year’s Day shopping their big sale with a bag loaded up with scented products from candles to body lotion. I didn’t confront her, but I took a video of her shopping and texted it in the family group message.

Now, my dad is angry at me and his lying new wife is saying she just put a gel in her nose that allowed her to go into the store and my dad is totally buying this.

Is there any way to get him to acknowledge that his wife is a huge liar? And if she’s lying about this imagine what else she is making up?

Signed, Something Smells Off

Dear Off,

Let’s examine the facts. One, your new stepmother is indeed a liar. I’m no doctor but I am a fan of Bath and Body Works and I know if you had a severe scent sensitivity this emporium of smells from wild lime and gardenia to Jasmine and Frankincense would not be a nasal safe space.

I also consulted an allergist and there is no nose gel that would enable a person with such an allergy to plunge themselves into that level of scent utopia and not have a reaction.

This means that your father’s wife is seeking to control the family dynamics and draw attention to herself with these alleged scent issues. Sadly, there is nothing you can do to get your dad to wake up and smell the crazy.

If this ever does happen and it might not, he’s going to have to have his own awakening. No amount of family pressure will make him change his mind. In fact, it could cause him to cleave to this woman longer. You know the whole us against the world dynamic.

I would strive to keep an amicable relationship with your dad while telling his wife that you will no longer be purging your home of scents for her visits. (#UseThatNoseGel)

I also suggest that the fact that you would like to purge her from your family should be kept on the down low – at least for now.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

 

 

 

 

Happy 2020!

It’s New Year’s Day and this just isn’t any New Year it’s the start of a new decade. So cue all the stories and lists about how to make this next decade “the best ever.”

If you’re a journalist assigned to do a story on New Year’s resolutions your first wish for 2020 is not to get this assignment. The reason is because there’s really no inventive way to do a “refresh” or update this topic. It’s more recycling than any actual reporting.

This is mainly because the top resolutions never change. Coming in at number one is always weight loss and health. Number two is usually money – making more and spending less. Next up is de-stressing and getting more enjoyment from life and rounding out the resolution parade is looking younger which is now politely called anti-aging or “being the best you.”

This one always makes me roll my eyes to the back of my head. Isn’t aging a good thing? It means you’re still here. I’m also very discouraged about how almost every magazine that caters to a female audience has pounced on the anti-aging bandwagon.

The day Southern Living, the magazine I was raised on, started doing stories on hair styles that take 10 years off your face I felt betrayed. This is a magazine that is supposed to share recipes with a focus on pecans and genteel home décor.

It was my safe space where I didn’t have to read articles that either scared me or made my feel bad about my body from head to toe with features on diminishing hair follicles to the bunion crisis.

Southern Living is where I learned the proper way to monogram my table linens so imagine my sense of deception when they started doings stories on retinol based face creams. It was blasphemy plain and simple.

Trust me, if you’re bringing a stellar King Ranch casserole from a Southern Living recipe to a party no one cares how young you look. Primarily because everybody’s going to love you and no one’s going to be looking at your face because all eyes are on that casserole.

Worse than feeling like your magazine bestie has let you down is being interrupted while writing a New Year’s resolution story by people asking you what your resolutions are. I hate asking that questions and I hate answering it.

Besides my list is lame. Don’t believe me? Well, then here it is.

 My favorite resolution is to intensify my love affair with my pets. There’s nothing like being an almost empty nest to make your pets the center of your world.

True story – during the last snowstorm my husband and I lovingly stared out our French doors and got all the warm and fuzzy feels watching our dogs play in the snow. I turned to my husband and confessed, “These dogs might be better than our kids.”

My husband, always the gentle diplomat, didn’t readily agree with me but I know he probably was thinking the same thing. Come on, it’s all the love and none of the drama. That’s hard to compete with.

Another resolution is to continue my Goldilocks like pursuit of finding the perfect red lipstick. Don’t scoff. This has been a 30 year mission that has to date alluded me. Red lipsticks either have too much blue or orange undertones thus making even the whitest teeth look like canned corn niblets.

My final 2020 pledge is to touch my toes. Yep, you read that right. In my entire life I have never been able to touch my toes. This is finally going to be the year.

I hope your 2020 resolution list is just as profound.

Dear Snarky – I Was Left Out of the Family Holiday Photo

Dear Snarky,

My feelings are really hurt by my boyfriend’s family and it has me wondering how my boyfriend can be so nice and his family so mean. Last weekend his family had professional holiday photos taken for their Christmas card and I wasn’t invited to be in the photos.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost six months and it’s getting pretty serious. I’m even hoping for an engagement ring for Christmas. It feels like his family, especially his mom, went out of their way to exclude me and hurt my feelings.

I even showed up for the photos with my boyfriend as a way to offer moral support and in hopes that because I was there someone would say go ahead and get in the photos but that didn’t happen.

I feel like I deserve an apology from his family but my boyfriend says he’s not going to start an argument about this. Now, I’m wondering if I should just flat out ask his mom why she has a problem with me?

Do you think this is a good idea because I’d rather know up front what her issues are before we get married?

Signed,

Pre-Mother-in-Law Problems

Dear Problems,

Girlfriend you need so slow your roll WAY DOWN  because you’re the problem not your boyfriend’s family. First up, there should be zero, and I mean zero expectations, that a girlfriend of six months should be included in a f-a-m-i-l-y holiday card photo.

Also, you showing up for the photo to give your boyfriend “moral” support is ridiculous. Trust me every single family member saw through that ploy to get yourself included in the holiday card. I’m sure the side eye you were getting that day was epic.

I urge you to forget about demanding an apology or confronting your boyfriend’s mother. You do not want to go there primarily because you’re the one at fault.

If you want any chance for this relationship to make it to the new year you need to lower your expectations and that includes what I think is very wishful thinking that you’re getting an engagement ring for Christmas. My vast experience in personal relationships is telling me that’s not going to happen and you need to right now start adjusting to this reality so you don’t ruin Christmas for his family and yours.

 

The Yuck Factor of Flying is Getting Worse

When did we become a society devoid of being cognizant of our surroundings? And what has happened in the past decade to give people the mistaken belief that they possess a super power and are cloaked in a shroud of invisibility?

Nothing brings out these let’s call them personality foibles like sitting at the Southwest gate at the airport. Oh yes, you’re right I’m going to go off on airports – again. Sorry not sorry because the issues I’m about to delve into need to be discussed so corrective behavior can begin.

Let’s tackle the whole being cognizant of your surroundings first because this seems to be getting worse at such an alarming rate I fear I’m going to become some sort of rogue airport manners sheriff and end up in an altercation that might lead to me being arrested.

Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic I’ll give you a brief synopsis of what I saw earlier this month while seated in the gate area of three different airports. Behold the woman who took what looked to be every article of clothing out of her suitcase, laid these clothes out on the less than hygienic airport carpet and then began to use a battery operated sweater shaver on her clothes up to and including a bra.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what a sweater shaver is let me share that it defuzzes your clothes. I’m on team sweater shaver. I have one and love it. What I’m not on is team sweater shaver at the airport.

Besides the yuck factor of having your clothes mating with the floor of the Southwest gate area there’s the inappropriate nature of doing personal laundry care in a public venue.

While this was unsettling it had nothing on the woman gleefully plucking her companion’s ear hairs while seated at a restaurant inside LAX or another woman pumicing her heels because nothing says, “I value public health” like jettisoning your hoof detritus into the atmosphere.

Because I’m now a little nauseous let’s move on to the truly disturbed masses that believe they’re invisible thus enabling them to Facetime their loved ones, a doctor, co-workers and perhaps even a telemarketer while waiting for their plane.

I know the whole talking on speakerphone in an airport is nothing new but this assault on the ears on the traveling public has reached an epidemic.

What must have happened to someone to make them believe that putting their phone on speaker and shouting into while corralled in a public space is okay? My theory is these speaker shouters are narcissists.

This behavior fits the classic narcissist profile where the person has an expectation of special treatment and an insatiable appetite to be the center of attention. There’s nothing that says “look at me” like having a “yellversation” on speakerphone at Gate 35 at KCI.

You know how some people have a travel bucket list? Well I also have one and it’s not to walk the Great Wall of China or to scale Everest (hard pass). On my bucket list is to start telling people to rein in their desire to do laundry remediation, eradicate wayward hair follicles and purge their foot funk while at the airport.

I also would love, really love, to tell the speaker phone aficionados to turn down their phone volume and comport themselves in a manner that doesn’t scream, “I might need counseling.”

I’ve never seen the Great Wall but I’m thinking to be able to be the “Manners Sheriff” at the airport just might top that experience.

Writing Can Get Pretty Ugly

*Note:  I write a weekly opinion column for the Kansas City Star. Some of the stuff I muse about is a little more political in nature than I what share on this blog and by that I mean in the past I have written about education reform, health care etc. Because of this I get emails where people disagree with me, which is totally appropriate and welcome. This recent column was in regards to people who feel free to write to me about my looks – because that’s how you disagree with a woman right – by disparaging her appearance? Ugh. I’m sharing this column on my blog because I believe it has a message that will resonate with a lot of you.

 

I don’t get a ton of emails from readers of my Kansas City Star column hating on me but I get enough that I’ve been able to classify them into categories.

There’s the people that can’t grasp the concept of self-deprecating humor and therefore think I’m an idiot. There are the people that like to write me six paragraph emails on an almost weekly basis with the theme of, yep you guessed it, that I’m an idiot. There’s the people who disagree with me on a topic and use this as an excuse to take out all their life frustrations on me and then there’s my favorite – the people (all male based on their email signatures) that like to tell me an idiot AND that I’m unattractive.

These brings me a special joy because I’m in awe of how any man could have the hubris to believe that I care about their opinion in regards to my looks. As an advanced middle-aged female giving a hoot and holler about what any man thinks about my appearance ended about four decades ago.

How some dudes could conceive that telling me I’m unattractive or fat is going to be the coup de grace of my existence makes me laugh. Also, what makes these men presume womankind cares about their opinion on our looks?

Haven’t we as a society gotten past that just a wee bit? Sure, based on social media you could think that that answer to that question is a great big NO.

But don’t be fooled by all those filters and sexy posts by women on Instagram who are living the “like my post and link in bio” lifestyle. Most females today care more about than own judgment way more than what any guy thinks. Plus I think we’re raising girls today to have what I call self esteem swagger.

I’d like to believe that my father was a pioneer in this trend. Almost every day of my life he told me I was smart, beautiful and strong.

When I was in high school he drove me to school in the mornings and the entire seven-minute drive consisted of my dad telling me how amazing I was. It became a running joke between us. I called it “Dad’s morning pep talk.” He called it “telling it like it is.”

I would greet his soliloquy with rolled eyes and share that he was “full of it” but the man knew what he was doing. To this day if I’m having a crisis, large or small, I go back to what he told me on those drives to school.

This is why when men send me disparaging emails I feel sorrow and it’s not because they think I’m a “fatty” or “could use some work” but because based on my father and role model they’re failures as human beings.

I worry about any man who could write me, an aging female with no illusions about becoming an AARP super model, to call me out on my looks. What kind of man, husband, father are you that you can email a woman and attempt to tear her down by commenting on her appearance?

If you’re doing this to me, a total stranger, than how must you treat the women in your lives and what kind of damage are you doing to their mental health?

My dad’s name was Bob. I’d like to suggest that before you hit send on that next hate filled email you think about your legacy or as my husband likes to say during any big family decision ask yourself, “What would Bob do?”

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – I’m Being Shunned For Bringing Cupcakes to a School Party

Dear Snarky,

 I’m being shunned at my son’s elementary school due to having the “audacity” to bring mini chocolate cupcakes to the first grade Halloween party. I never received the link to the online sign up sheet for food and didn’t know that sweets were not allowed at the party. I only brought cupcakes because I didn’t want to show up empty handed.

 Now, the anti sugar Nazis are furious and suggesting that I’m a bad mother because I dared to bring a dessert to a Halloween party. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Halloween all about the sugar? Now, I’ve been told by the two room moms that I’m not allowed to volunteer or sign up for any party duties for the reminder of the school year.

 I cannot express how angry this makes me. What course of action do you think I should take because this is total bull shit?

 Signed, Cupcake Mom

Dear Cupcake,

You have to pick your battles. Ask yourself are cupcakes the hill you want to die on? If your child is only in the first grade you have a L-O-N-G time to spend with these mothers.

This means you can do two things. One, not volunteer at the rest of the parties but absolutely show up for your son or two take a stand so these moms know not to mess with you for the next 12 years and lord help me but I’m leaning towards this one because these moms need to simmer the hell down and learn to reign in their control issues. Their kid’s elementary school is not their personal fiefdom. #getalife.

Admittedly you should make sure moving forward that you’re up-to-date on your emails, apps, etc related to school events but you shouldn’t have to cower in fear around these mothers or kiss up to them because you dared to walk into the school bearing cupcakes. This means one thing – go over their heads. Yep, talk to the teacher the real boss of the classroom.

Explain what happened, express your desire to help out and ask if there is anything the teacher needs assistance with. Then resist the urge to tell the two room moms where they can shove their “no volunteer” edict and focus on making your child’s first grade year wonderful.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

Dear Snarky – How Do I Tell a Friend She Has an Instagram Filter Addiction?

Dear Snarky,

 Is there anyway to tell a really cute friend that she is over editing all her photos on social media? I get it we all edit our photos for Instagram but the goal is to look better not like a completely different person.

 She’s not been very successful dating and I’m totally sure it’s because once people see her in person they’re like “Who are you?” People have trouble getting past her image on social media compared to reality.

 My boyfriend has a cousin who I think would be perfect for her but I would like for him to see the real her not the layers of filters she is on Instagram. What is the nicest way to tell her that she needs to be herself more and lay off on all the fakeness?

 Signed, Insta Addict

 Dear Insta,

 You’ve come to the right place for advice. As the mother of a 19- year-old I know all about what I call “filter abuse.” I’ll see my daughter’s friends on Instagram and not even recognize them. That said, filter abuse is not limited to the young and already beautiful a lot of women my age seem to be going full Benjamin Button and by that I mean aging backwards on social media.

 Now, here’s a surprise for you – I think there is no shame in the filter game. Come on it’s social media. If people are too goofy to realize that a whole lot of photo editing is going on then I worry about their cognitive brain function. Seriously, if a guy is surprised someone looks a little different than their social media photos than consider him way too dumb to date.

Using myself as Exhibit A – please note this business photo that was taken of me. My skin hasn’t looked this smooth since I was five. I barely recognize myself with my wrinkles and my constant companion – “Lady Jowls – vanquished. Now, compare that to the real me and you have a case of filters gone mad. Do I apologize for this photo? No, because I’m assuming people are intelligent enough in 2019 to know that I’ve been attacked by a “healing brush.”

As for you – stay out of your friend’s business. How she wants to look on social media is none and I mean none of your concern. You are just going to stir up a whole lot of drama and hurt feelings and I’m hoping that wasn’t your intention all along.

 

Hybrid Hysteria

I understand the beauty of a hybrid. When you take the best characteristics from one group and blend them with another, often incongruous, category you sometimes achieve genius. But more often than not these mismatches can be tragic fails.

This is because there are things that are so stellar in their own right that they don’t need to be conjoined with anything else. Barbecue is one of these categories that needs to be left alone. I almost cancelled by subscription to one of my favorite magazines when I saw a recipe for Italian style burnt end barbecue. Mon Dieu!

Hold on to your brisket sandwich because it gets worse. The recipe called for mixing chunky marinara sauce with barbecue sauce. Could anything be more wrong? The only thing these two sauces have in common is a tomato base after that they dramatically part company and need not to be reunited.

The whole thing is an affront to burnt ends. These juicy, yet crispy nuggets of beef don’t need to be insulted with any sauce. They stand alone and on their own merit. To even think about camouflaging their flavor profile with a canned sauce of marinara makes me weepy.

The worst offender in the hybrid game has to be in interior design where one of the latest buzzwords is “modern farmhouse.” The results I’ve seen on TV and in print make me wonder if any of these designers have ever been tractor adjacent or ventured through the front door of a farmhouse.

I say this because in real life a farm house doesn’t usually feature floor to ceiling glass windows that create a retractable wall, cathedral ceilings and stainless steel kitchen appliances big rough to hide multiple bodies or a steer that just won first place at the 4-H livestock competition.

In all these “modern farmhouses” I see nothing that resembles a home based in rural America unless you count the grapevine cotton wreath on the front door. How did the term even come into the descriptive palette?

A better name would be “Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal.” This immediately tells you that every wall of this large home will be covered in white shiplap and feature black accent colors in all of the home’s fixtures.

Can we take a moment now and discuss shiplap? Isn’t it closely related to paneling? The much hated paneling that you always see getting cursed at and mocked in design re-do’s just set at a different angle?

I guess it’s vertical paneling – bad, horizontal paneling – good. Some casino in Las Vegas needs to set the over-under on when shiplap will become just another bad paneling job.

Fashion is just as ridiculous with their mishmashes. Last week I was told that “ladies my age” (Please, can we not with this phrase?) look wonderful in “refined boho chic” ensembles.

I felt compelled to say something to the much younger human who proffered this statement. (It could be because I enjoy educating the youth or might have been because I was still steaming over the “my age” comment.) I began by explaining that boho is short for bohemian and nothing about the word lends itself to refinement. I also added that “ladies my age” don’t want to look like their mothers who were at Woodstock. Nor do we want to pay hundreds of dollars for that flashback to style crimes and egregious grooming choices.

I’m all for the joining of forces (and adjectives) to create something new or improved. But, sometimes we need to let quality stand alone in its majesty and sometimes we need to realize that mishmash is just a mistake with a trendy name.