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?

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. 

Can You Still Be Considered A Southerner If You Hate Grits?

Southern-Style-Grits-e017b085-1When your grandmother is the “Grits Queen” not liking “Southern Porridge isn’t an option.

As a Texas girl with a southern mama and grandmother, I was raised with a keen and enthusiastic appreciation of brunch, although we called it Sunday dinner. It was the meal you ate at noon right after you got back from church. In its purest form, it was a salute to carbohydrates. Nothing was safe from being battered or deep-fried. Even bacon got coated in a mix of brown sugar, eggs and flour and then was plunged into a pool of hot, bubbling Crisco.

The final flourish was rolling the bacon, which now resembled a hybrid of chicken tender and fritter, in cinnamon sugar and then dipping it in honey. I’m surprised no one had a cardiac episode at the table while they were eating. But then again, it was the late 70s and my grandpa’s preferred dining style was a forkful of food and then a drag on a Lucky Strike cigarette. Suffice it to say; the health movement had not permeated my grandparent’s house yet.

The one brunch food I had no appetite for was grits. I thought they were horrible — like, pretend to eat it and spit it out in your napkin, horrible. This devastated my grandmother. She had a reputation for being the “Grits Queen,” and she was proud of that moniker. In her mind, every southern woman had to be the master of three things in the kitchen: biscuits, gravy and grits. Not only could I not stand to eat grits, but there was also no way I wanted to learn to make them.

This lead to my grandmother staging what I would today call an intervention. She had the female family members gathered in her kitchen and each one shared with me how my shunning of grits hurt them deeply. (Did I mention I was still in elementary school?) The result of this exercise was me vowing to learn the art of making grits at my grandmother’s side.

It was a cooking lesson I wasn’t looking forward to because, in my opinion, grits were gross. They’re the equivalent of eating raw cornbread batter – tasteless and grainy. Seriously, blech. Even as a child my food theory was that if you have to work that hard to make something edible, then it’s the lord’s way of saying don’t bother. It’s the same reason no one should eat Cream of Wheat — it takes a pound of sugar and butter to even make it palatable. Grits are even worse.

First, hominy grits (the OG in the grits category) are just plain old corn kernels (my grandmother was all about the Boone County White) that have been tortured with some sinister substance like lye. (Do you know what lye is? It’s what our ancestors used for soap. I’m just going to throw it out there that if we moved on to lathering up with Irish Spring, why are we still using lye for food prep?) Once the lye bloats the corn kernels to three times their original size (kind of like my family after eating deep-fried bacon) and they look a little like teeth ripped out of someone’s mouth by a serial killer with a dental fetish, you then haphazardly grind up the teeth (oh sorry, I mean corn). After that, you have to soak the mixture in water and then add half of the stuff in your pantry and refrigerator to make it appear to be something a human should consume.

Based on all of this, was it wrong for me to just want to be left alone to savor the caloric splendor of bacon dipped in a brown sugar batter? Of course not, but I loved my grandmother, so I faked it. I put on an apron and vowed that I could conquer my fear of grits. Ugh, I embraced the creepy corn and went through the motions of grinding, soaking and making a “porridge” that looked like jaundiced papier-Mâché goo that had been left out on the sidewalk in mid-July. That was the easy part. The hard part was sitting down with my grandma to enjoy the “fruits of our labor.”

I took the smallest spoonful I could get away with and realized that, with my grandmother and two great aunts staring at me, I wouldn’t be able to pull the old spit out in the napkin routine. I was going to have to actually eat my grits. Then something magical happened – yuck turned into a very relieved me thinking, “Praise God, I don’t think I’ll die from eating this.” These grits tasted almost decent. My female relatives cheered when I smiled and took another very, very small bite.

I felt euphoric like I had passed some sort of generational test — and I had. I was now part of the sisterhood of grits.

Dear Snarky – The Case of the Lifestyle Stalker

 Dear Snarky,de40a8f35bfc8cbe84601905da22c982

I have a friend I’m seriously considering sending a bill to for interior design. It’s either that or I’m never going to talk to her ever again. For three years, I have been planning my dream kitchen. I have the cabinets, flooring, fixtures and even the art picked out which are paintings of a beach in Maine where my family took vacations when I was a child.

 Imagine my disbelief when I go to my friend’s house to see her new kitchen and discover she copied everything I had posted on Pinterest down to the beach paintings. I literally started crying. I asked her why she stole my kitchen and at first she acted all innocent and then said that if it was a secret I shouldn’t have put it on social media.

A week later I’m still angry and hurt. Do you think I should send her a bill to get the point across that she ripped off my kitchen?

 Signed, Devastated

Dear Devastated,

Sure, I could go all imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and tell you to take the kitchen copy catting as a compliment, but when I got to the part in the letter where this “friend” bought the beach paintings from your beloved childhood vacation destination I was like, “Oh no, she didn’t.”

The whole thing, quite frankly, is creeping me out, like Lifetime movie of the week creeping me out where the woman first copies your kitchen and then frames you for murder so she can steal your husband and take over your life.

That rant aside, I wouldn’t waste my energy sending this loon a bill for services rendered for kitchen design. Instead I would distance myself – pronto- from this lifestyle stalker. And in the future, I would go old school and keep my home remodeling plans private – just because you never know who’s watching.

 

Dear Snarky – It’s My Birthday Cake and I’ll Whine If I Want To

Dear Snarky,

 Everyone at my office now hates me. I’m the executive assistant to the president of a very small company and one of my jobs is being the party planner for special events like the holiday party. I also used to do the  cakes when an employee had a birthday.

I say used to beacause a couple of weeks I sent out a memo saying that we would no longer be doing birthday cakes because all the different dietary requirements in the office was making it a challenge.

 I’m not kidding about this. We’ve got Atkins and Paleo people. Then there’s the gluten and lactose free group and on and on. It was a huge time suck getting cakes that worked with everyone’s diet so I just decided, and my boss agreed, that the whole cake on your birthday thing was over.

 Oh my God, the backlash has been intense. How do I make it stop? It’s really hurting my feelings.

 Signed, I’m Not a Party Pooper

Dear Not a Party Pooper,

 Okay, I’m a little confused here. Do you work in a pre-school or an office with adults? Good Lord, who gets that upset about cakes? I happen to be in a long term relationship with cakes (and cobblers) and not even I would care if I didn’t get a cake on my birthday at my place of work. 

 I’m thinking there’s more going on here than a lack of buttercream frosting in the break room. Perhaps, the cakes gave everyone a chance to step away from their desk and blow off work for a good 30 minutes. So maybe you can still have a cake free “hey it’s your b’day” get together with something that hits all the office dietary restrictions. (I’m guessing that would be water and a veggie tray.)

I also want to add that if the one thing that gets people ticked off at your company is no birthday cakes than everyone needs to count their blessings because in terms of office gripes that’s going to come in pretty low on the list.