My Christmas “Do Not Want” List

I have no idea what I want for Christmas besides the mom trifecta of world peace, love and the eradication of disease and famine from our planet. I do thodfb611ed1d99e87277defbdda9836e41--birthday-cards-happy-birthdayugh know what I don’t want and what I will be ticked off if I get.

It’s not that I’m picky. In fact, I consider myself a low maintenance human (currently open to debate by my family) who has no need for anything flashy. No jewels or designer apparel appeals to me. The only exception I’ll make is designer cleaning appliances. Because without a doubt, one of my best Christmas presents in the history of me breathing has been my Dyson with some super over-the-top pet hair attachments.

It’s my chore bestie and I can’t imagine my life without it. Go ahead and make fun, but I’m telling you my vacuum has life changing properties. You don’t know true joy until you see its suction prowess in regard to kitty litter eradication.

In terms of what I don’t want, well I’ll stick to my top three staring with one of those DNA family tree deep probes. I just read that these kits are predicted to be one of the top gifts for Christmas. Ugh.

I get people wanting to find out that they’re half Scottish, so they can use that as an excuse to stuff themselves with Walker’s shortbread cookies to make up for lost time, but what I don’t want during the holiday is discovering I have a gene pool floating with every worst-case medical diagnosis known to 21stcentury medicine. And as a proud hypochondriac all that information would be like throwing lighter fluid on my already extensive list of ailments, I’m positive I have.

Another gift that I don’t want, or need is new freaking phone. I’ve tried in earnest to explain to my children that perhaps one shouldn’t get a new phone until the one you have is worn out or no longer compatible with current technology. I don’t think my iPhone 6 is obsolete. It’s not cracked, still holds a charge and I can text with wild abandon so why do I need an iPhone 10 that will up by cell phone bill by at least $25 a month? I’m still miffed I was shamed into parting with by precious iPhone 3 G.

But what will really trigger a conniption fit is if I, or anyone that resides in my home, gets another Alexa, Echo or other subversive spying device. I hate those things and know they’re ground zero for world-wide robot domination.

The other night I was home all alone, my husband was a thousand miles away in Washington D.C., and as I’m drifting off to sleep, I hear what sounds like a demented serial killer singing “Good night, Sherry” over and over.

At first, I thought maybe I was hearing something or one of my dogs had mastered the English language. But then I heard it again and again. I was now knocking at the Defcon 1 door of hysteria. My fist through was to flee the premises. But where was the killer? Was he or she waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs? I called my son for help who informed that was “probably Dad because he’s hooked up all the Echoes, so he can communicate remotely from his phone.” Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Yes, it was indeed my husband. Who, “didn’t mean to scare me” and “just wanted to say goodnight.” Whatever, because you not what I said goodnight and goodbye to – ever single Alexa/Echo in our home. Those spying robot overloads will no longer rule my domain and I’ll consider that the perfect Christmas present.

The Smoking Thanksgiving

Change is smokingturkehard especially when it comes to trying to “update” your holiday traditions.

Back in early October I made a momentous announcement to my family and like any announcement that would shake my husband and children to their very core I did it over Snapchat and text. Snapchat so they would actually read it, and text to date and time stamp it in case I ever needed to do the, “I told you this back in (insert date and time here) and here’s the text to prove it.”

As I feared my family took the “big news” like huge, whining babies. When I hit send on my proclamation that Thanksgiving would be “a-changing” there was a communal freak out. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have included my four-point plan for a Thanksgiving refresh with bullet points in the text, but I was proud of all the work I had put into it. Not to brag, but it was PowerPoint worthy.

The problem, of course, isn’t me. It’s my family. They are very averse to any change regarding the holidays. Good Lord, they still bring up, at least a couple of times a year, the horror of the Thanksgiving of 2005. The heinous act that was committed 13 years ago was that we went out to eat for Thanksgiving (first and last time) and it was – brace yourself for this unspeakable act – a buffet – deep breath – at a casino.

In my defense, we had just moved to Reno, Nevada and all the best restaurants were in the casinos and they advertised really scrumptious Thanksgiving menus. How was I, a recent transplant to the gambling state, to know that we would be seated in the overflow dining area situated amongst a valley of hundreds of slot machines.

This resulted in us being serenaded with the nonstop ping, ping, ping of the one arm bandits while being basted in cigarette smoke from the ardent casino patrons. The smoking was so ferocious that a nicotine cloud seemed to be lingering over the dessert section. The pumpkin pie tasted like it has been infused with tobacco juice.

I will confess it wasn’t very Martha Stewart-esque. It was more like how I would imagine Thanksgiving would be in hell, but I’m guessing there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving in hell because, you know, it’s hell. What would you even be thankful for?

This one-time misstep has resulted in my family being very anti any changes in their holiday ritual. A couple of years ago I wanted to eat Thanksgiving at 6 pm instead of our customary 2 p.m. and you would have thought I told my kids I didn’t love them anymore. The angst was real.

This year, though, I thought things might be different. After all, everyone is a whole lot older and should be able to roll with change better. I was, of course, wrong. And here’s the kicker; all I wanted to do was elevate our dining ritual. It was just a couple of tweaks like replacing the sweet potato casserole that’s more mini marshmallows than actual vegetable with a yam soufflé, and RIP’ing the canned cranberry because nothing says gracious entertaining like a burgundy tube of goo tatted with rings from the can it was birthed out of.

I also wanted to buy the pies. This was the one that really elicited a protest. Apparently I’m living with such devout food connoisseurs that a store-bought pie is verboten. It’s hard to explain that level of devotion to “everything should be homemade” when you know your daughter is on a first name basis with the Taco Bell drive thru employees and got “depressed” when the nacho fries were no longer on the menu.

In the end I had no choice but to totally cave to their tyranny. In the spirit of family harmony and holiday traditions I’m keeping everything status quo. It’s basically self-preservation, because I don’t want to hear for the rest of my life how the turkey day of 2018 was the worst ever. I’ll reserve that distinction solely for the “Smoking Casino Thanksgiving.”

 

 

Dear Snarky – My Sister-in-Law is Pocketing Money Meant for Our Parents Christmas Gifts

Dear Snarky,problem

 I think my sister-in-law is stealing from the family. For the past couple of years, she has volunteered to be the person who buys my mom and dad their Christmas gift from all of us kids. There are six of us and we each chip in $200. So, that’s $1,200. The first year the gifts were good, as in they looked like we spent $1,200 on them, but then for the past two years the gifts have been really cheap. So, cheap, everyone but my brother (her husband), thinks my sister-in-law is pocketing at least half of the $1,200. Our solution last weekend was to tell her that I wanted a turn buying the gifts this Christmas but she got livid.

 So, my big mouth sister told her that we know she’s stealing. This sent my sister-in-law to mom crying about how she’s bullied by the family. Now my mom is angry at all of us and I’m kind of already over spending the holidays with anyone I’m related too.

 Is there any way we can patch this up so Christmas isn’t ruined?

 Signed, Not feeling It

Dear Not Feeling It,

To be totally honest I’m in awe that you and your siblings pony up $1,200 to spend on gifts for your parents. It makes my Bath and Body Works Scented Lotion set from my kids look really, really lame. But putting that aside I feel that the best solution would be for all the kids to start a new tradition of getting your parents individual presents. That way everyone oversees their own money and expenditures.

As for your sister-in-law, you and your siblings are going to have to apologize for accusing her of stealing. She might have been but there were a million better ways to solve that problem than just blurting it out. So, give her an apology and remember extended family relationships require finesse. Wait a minute I’ve just thought of the perfect present – family therapy – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky “Advice with an Attitude” 😉 send an email to snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com.

Dear Snarky – My Mother-In-Law Thought Helping Out After I Just Had a Baby Was Supposed to Be a Vacation

Dear Snarky,xmjr57fd2hwy

 I can’t believe the latest stunt my mother-in-law pulled. I just had my second baby (my first is only 18 months old) and my mother-in- law literally begged to come stay with us and help. I was hesitant because she’s not exactly grandmother of the year, but my husband said we should give his mom a chance to redeem herself. The entire two weeks she was here she did nothing except complain that she was bored and ask when were we going to “finally” do something fun. 

 Then after she left she posted on Facebook that it was the “worst vacation ever.” WTH? Who thinks offering to help your daughter-in-law after she just had a baby is going to be a vacation?

 I told my husband we are done with his mom and he thinks I’m being “postpartum overly emotional” Who’s right here?

 Signed, Not Happy

Dear Not Happy,

You know who needs to take a vacation? You, from your mother-in-law. Perhaps, she doesn’t need to be shunned for life, but you deserve the mental break from having to deal with that hot mess because anyone with a functioning brain stem knows that a “visit” to a house with a new baby and an 18-month-old is not going to be cocktails on the beach. 

Also, it sounds like your husband has some mommy issues and feels like he needs to defend her behavior – so, my condolences to you. Hopefully, as he matures into, what’s that word, oh yeah, a man he’ll wise up to his mother’s head games.

As for now, let your angry go. Your mother-in-law isn’t worth the emotional investment. You need to focus on the positives – your babies.

Dear Snarky My Sister Doesn’t Give a Shit

Dear Snarky,

I’ve got a summer family feud brewing. My sister is doing some ridiculous thing called “free training” her bScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 1.21.07 PMaby. This is when your baby never wears a diaper and just does his business anywhere. It’s supposed to be a gentler form of potty training. To each his own, but my problem is when my sister’s family stayed at my house over Memorial Day weekend and my “free training” nephew used not only my entire home as his bathroom, but he also pooped in the pool resulting in us having to do a shock treatment and making the pool unusable for most of the long weekend.

All of this made me dis-invite my sister and her family for July 4th. My sister is now furious and is accusing me of not respecting her parenting style.

I need to shut this down now. Any advice?

Signed, What’s Wrong with a Diaper?

Dear Diaper,

The only way to shut this down is to give in to your sister and I strongly suggest you don’t do that. Because here’s the deal – just because someone has a preferred parenting style doesn’t mean they can subject the rest of the world to it.

It is totally your sister’s own business if she doesn’t want to put a diaper on her son and let him view his home and yard as one great big toilet. It’s whole other box of Pampers if she feels it’s okay for her off spring to soil property outside of their home. Beyond the disgusting factor, which is off the charts high, it’s also a public health issue.

The fact that your sister thought it was okay to let her child defecate all over your home makes me think she’s about 10 kinds of crazy. Do not cave on this issue. Just tell her that you respect your home more than her parenting style.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Parenting Advice With an Attitude – please email snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com

Hair Raising Issues

I consider myself an assertive person. Give me a family member with an issue and I’m all over it. The two areas, though, where my assertiveness evaporates is any kind of monetary salary negotiations and my hair.

I know this combo is totally non-sequitur. So, let’s first get the whole money thing out of the way. For some reason money, in regards to me getting some, is my kryptonite. I can’t explain why in almost all other arenas of my life I’m a bull-dog, but when comes to asking for a raise I lose all my boldness. It’s freaky.

I have talked about this issue with a friend who has a degree in psychology, but is currently a pharmaceutical rep, and she thinks it’s because I’m insulted that I even have to quantify my worth. It should be a given that I’m fabulous and should be compensated accordingly. Yes, yes and yes, to all of the above.  Another friend, also with a psychology degree, who is now a realtor, told me it could be a result of me being uncomfortable putting a price tag on myself.

This makes perfect sense especially when I think about my childhood. I was raised in a southern home where you didn’t talk about money. It was considered uncouth. So, perhaps that’s the problem – southern manners keep me from self-advocating. Note to self: Work on this issue – asap.

Now onto my hair. My whole adult life I’ve been a coward about telling any stylist that I don’t like what they’ve done to my hair. I will sit in the salon chair and bold face lie after I’ve dropped 100 plus dollars on my mane and say, “Yeah, it looks great. Thanks.”

In reality, it looks horrible. So, horrible, I’m already doing hair math and calculating how many times I have to wash it with Head and Shoulders to get the hideous color out. Yep, that’s right I’ve endured that many bad salon treatments that I have it down to a science how to remove color. Spoiler alert, it’s equal parts dandruff shampoo and baking soda with a vinegar rinse.

The fact that I will pay money to get my hair done and then wuss out infuriates me. Why can’t I share that my desire was, in fact, not to look like the Bride of Frankenstein? Instead of being assertive I’m persuading myself that it’s not that bad. That, it’s only hair. It’s no big deal and maybe I’m just being overly vain.

I’m ecstatic to report that recently I had a breakthrough. I finally got the gumption to stand up for myself and my follicles. During my last hair appointment, I knew things had gone terribly wrong when the stylist removed the towel and my hair looked like the dirty water that’s left over in your shampoo vacuum – murky and of indeterminate shades of ick.

I gave myself the usual pep talk of “Just wait till it’s dry. I’m sure it will be fine,” but then something happened. Something came of my mouth that I had never heard before while sitting with wet hair in a salon. I asserted myself and muttered, “This looks bad, like really bad.”

The stylist assured me all was well as she started blow drying my hair and, of course, it wasn’t. I remained strong and proclaimed, “We’re going to need to fix this because my hair is now making me sad.”

It was liberating. I felt beautiful, minus my hair of course, and I was so proud. I had done it. I had finally asserted myself all over that hair salon. Now, all I need to do is work on that money issue and I’ll be golden which, ironically, is what I was going for with my hair color.

Summer Mysteries

Summimages-1er is a time of year that you don’t usually associate the word mysterious with. It’s sunny and bright and just way too hot for anything that involves effort filled intrigue. But, there are some summer mysteries lurking under that cloak of perennial sunshine. Mysteries that I’ve tried for years to decipher with zero luck and I’m now thinking as classifying as unsolvable. To be sure my mysteries aren’t on the same level as where the aliens are stored in Area 51, but they are, nevertheless, still baffling.

Mystery Number 1

Why is that the more expensive the summer eye-wear the better chance it means that they will vanish into thin air? Sunglasses and swim goggles disappear at an alarming rate during the summer and if you paid more than the going rate at Target for said items they will become lost in a matter of a days.

Last year, I shelled out some big bucks for premium swim goggles and three days later they were gone. It was like they dematerialized. Meanwhile, the goggles I paid probably five bucks for more than a decade ago have survived two moves across the country (and many vacations) and can always be found in the bottom of the swim bag. These goggles must be telepathic. They always find me. I’ve even, on purpose, left them at the pool multiple times because they fog up horribly and there’s always someone running after me shouting, “Hey, you forgot your goggles.”

The scenario is the same with sunglasses. Some white snazzy sunglasses I got at a party super store for 99 cents as part of a goodie bag for my daughter’s swim party eight years ago I also still own. Meanwhile, the one and only time I upgraded to Ray Ban’s they vanished into thin air before the week was out.

Of course, the moral to the mystery is don’t buy sunglasses or goggles that cost more than $10, but still I crave the knowledge about why this happens. There has to be an explanation.

Mystery Number 2

Why is that no matter how much sunscreen you apply some part of your body always gets burned? I consider myself a sunscreen ambassador. I believe in sunscreen like I believe in the healing properties of chocolate and a “Real Housewives” marathon. Yet, I’m always getting a random burn and to further the mystery it’s always a bizarre shaped patch like I’ve gotten branded with solar blazed hieroglyphics. If I think about it too much it’s like some unseen force is tattooing me. (Maybe it’s those Area 51 aliens?)

 Mystery Number 3 

This is a personal mystery that might not apply to the amazingly coordinated, but why is it so hard to gracefully get on a pool float? One would think you would just plop and drop on a float with nary a moment of embarrassment. Yet, in my reality getting on a pool float is like trying to saddle up a greased pig.

I know the prodigious amounts of sunscreen I use are to partially blame for the slipping and sliding, but there has to be some other explanation for why I, along with millions of other pool float challenged people, have long-term summer self-esteem issues related to conquering a float. One of my children took a video of me trying to get on a raft and to this day it might be the single most embarrassing thing I have ever witnessed. If you play it in fast motion it looks like the raft is trying to kill me. Again, could it be an assassination attempt, by, um-hum, that’s right – aliens?

Binge Cleaning

There’s na21145a3450f1de069b92a002bf1bb30othing like the smell of Johnson’s paste wax. Is it a yummy smell? Oh, heck no. It’s pungent with a kick of industrial solvent, but when I get a whiff of it I know there’s some serious housecleaning going on.

Paste wax is an olfactory trigger for me. One sniff and I know what I need to do – grab two cotton dish towels reserved solely for the paste wax application process and get to work. This is all because I grew up as a child of a paste wax fiend. My mother didn’t think a house was really clean until all the wood surfaces glistened and you were basically getting high from the fumes.

Last weekend I had what my husband described as an attack of binge cleaning. I don’t like to brag about myself (that much) but I was like Wonder Woman if she was about 30 years older, wore bleach stained leggings and an old t-shirt and instead of a lasso of truth and those silver bracelet things she was finessing a Swiffer Wet Jet, a Dyson vacuum and a can of Johnson Paste Wax.

Nothing could stop me. Not dust bunnies hiding out in chandeliers that required me scaling a six-foot ladder, not crown molding that got the Magic Eraser treatment, not bathroom tile that was slapped around by a bleachy sponge. It was vicious cleaning spree that even extended to my linen closet. I purged that bad boy of about half its contents.

At first it was hard to let go of random pillow cases, fitted sheets that have lost their elastic integrity and towels that were one level above car wash rags, but I did it because I was – yeah, that’s right, Wonder Woman.

I never even asked my family to grab a mop and help out because, to be honest, they aren’t up to the task. This was a job for a mythical warrior not some humans that would haphazardly clean a floor with zero enthusiasm or muscle. Besides their vision, when it comes to seeing dirt, is significantly impaired to the point of being legally blind. (Interesting note – they also suffer from refrigerator blindness. If an item is not the size of a gallon of milk they can’t see it.)

The pinnacle of my cleaning binge euphoria was opening a fresh can of Johnson paste wax. Once you use a kitchen knife to pry the top off the metal container it’s the Defcon 1 of aromatherapy. The no-nonsense scent beckons you to go above and beyond and polish your home with a zeal you didn’t know you had.

I was in the zone until my children came home and started gagging and wheezing over the scent, calling the house “uninhabitable.” I was equal parts outraged, saddened and disappointed. How had I raised children who didn’t appreciate and savor the smell of Johnson paste wax?

In between their coughing both looked up the contents of the paste wax on their phone and in unison told me I was “killing them.”

Now I was really angry. How insulting that they thought I wasn’t well acquainted with the cleaning trifecta of mineral spirits, carnauba and microcrystalline wax.

I told them there was only one thing to do to cure them of their sensitivity. They needed to immerse themselves in the satisfying chore of polishing the dining room table and it’s eight chairs.

As I went to the kitchen to get more dish towels those fiends bolted from the house. My son sent me a text that said “let us know when it doesn’t smell like a chemical plant exploded.”

What a bunch of babies. I guess this means the paste wax legacy might be ending with me. Their loss, I promise you that.

I’ve Packed My Last School Lunch – Forever!

I have packed my very last school lunch. In fact, I estimate that I have Glad Ziplocked more than 6,916 meals for my kids to take to school. If that number looks high to you please be advised that not once, as in never ever, in both of my children’s K-12 experience did they buy lunch at school.

Of all the parenting journeys, I’ve had I can say with one hundred percent certainty that, nothing was more fraught with peril or open to scrutiny and judgement than what you put in your child’s lunchbox. When my son started school in 2002 the lunch as a bellwether of your parenting style hadn’t yet begun. You could still throw a nacho cheese Lunchable in an insulated Thomas the Tank Engine bag and call it a day.

By the time he started second grade if you sent your kid to school with a Lunchable you might as well have also included a cartoon of unfiltered Marlboro’s and a flask because the reaction from the mom squad would be exactly the same – abject horror, followed by a shunning.

When my son reached fourth grade the Smucker’s Uncrustable was still okay, but just a year later it the white bread PB&J cut into the shape of a circle was a satanic sign that whomever packed the lunch was an evil slacker lacking in education about the demonic nature of bleached flour.

All of this was minor league, a real amateur hour, when compared to my daughter starting school four years later. In second grade her elementary school began a “Lunch Nazi” program. Okay, it wasn’t technically called that, but some really “helpful and caring moms” started a nutrition committee and began volunteering during lunch and writing disparaging notes to parents whose children’s lunchboxes they found lacking in both fresh fruits, vegetables and low sodium choices.

This lasted for about a week until a mom organized a counter attack and left a note on the school marquee that one of the “lunch note” mom’s husbands was having an affair. That was the end of school notes written by non-school personnel for quite a while.

When my youngest hit third grade lunch had become a political statement. (Full disclosure she was attending a school on the West Coast.) If you weren’t packing a fair trade, non-GMO and organic lunch for your child than you were a hater who didn’t care about Mother Earth.

Fast forward to a year later and it’s no longer about the family origin of the carrot sticks in the snack size Ziploc instead lunches had transcended into works of art. Moms were packing “masterpieces” in Bento boxes. Sandwiches that looked like hedgehogs, fruit and cheese that resembled Cinderella’s castle and one kid actually had a mini charcuterie board. It was not a good year for a mom with a picky kid that only liked, yep, Smuckers Uncrustables with a Capri Sun chaser. Let the public flogging begin.

That was also the same year parents began the practice of sending kids on playdates with their own snacks and it wasn’t due to any food allergies. It was because, as one mother explained to me, “fear of food that hadn’t been vetted by the child’s parent.”

By the time middle school rolled around it was no longer about the food, but who packed it. Alerting other parents that your child makes his own lunch became a sign that you were raising a superior kid with, of course, superior parents. So, if anyone reading this was about to send me an email about how your children have been packing their own lunch since their seventh birthday – don’t.

Today I welcome the sweet freedom of being done with packing school lunches. In fact, I think I’ll celebrate with a Nacho Cheese Lunchable. Cheers!

Dear Snarky – Teacher Gift Drama

Dear Snarky,Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 10.12.57 AM

It’s time for the end of the year class gift for my son’s fourth grade teacher and the class mom is adamant about not buying the teacher a gift. This mom thinks she is Miss Manners and since the teacher has never acknowledged the birthday present, Christmas or teacher appreciation gifts that the kids gave her we should be quote “officially finished with gifts for this teacher.”

I agree that the fact that the teacher couldn’t even bother to send a mass thank you email to all the parents is kind of lame, but it just seems petty to me to not give her an end of the year present and I kind of think I need to cover my ass because what if my next kid gets this teacher. I don’t want to leave on a bad note. What do you think Snarky?

Signed, Conflicted

Dear Conflicted,

First, let me share that if the only problem you’ve had with this teacher is her lack of thank you note writing acumen than count your blessings. 

That said, there’s an easy fix for this problem. Instead of collecting money for a gift have each child write a thank you note to the teacher that shares what they liked best about her and the school year. Then take those notes, tie a big ribbon around them and present them to the teacher. The teacher will love reading them and bonus – nowhere in any etiquette book do you have to write a thank you note for receiving a thank you note. 

P.S. I also suggest that some of these moms get a life outside of their children’s elementary school. Yes, it’s gauche the teacher never did any kind of thank you for her gifts, but as I’ve said a million times your child’s K-12 journey is a marathon not a sprint. Pace yourself and carefully pick your battles.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky “21st Century Advice with an attitude”;). Email snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com.