A Psychological Study of School Pick Up and Drop Off

There are many things in this world that perplex me like how did jackfruit become a culinary trend? Have you tried cutting open a jackfruit? I swear brain surgery is probably less labor intensive and gooey.

The mystery of the jackfruit, though intriguing because I believe it has an alien back story, is no match in the bewilderment department for the enigma that is school drop off and pick up. Why is it so hard for parents to grasp the fundamentals of delivering and retrieving their kids to and from school?

I, with much gratitude, have not had to endure a school drop off and pick up line in three years. But, for my friends with younger children lately the school drop off rage has been intense. Because I fancy myself a social scientist  (not a busy body thank you very much) I decided to observe three school drop off lines at three separate schools.

My mission was to gauge if the situation has gotten worse since my school driving days or were these parents just being drama queens. I’ll honestly tell you I was totally thinking drama queens because there’s no way school pick up and drop off parental stupidity could have descended even lower. It was in the caverns of  of hell during my tenure and I was adamant that it had nowhere to go but up.

I was wrong.

Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m still a little shaken by the whole experiment. I think my biggest take away is that people’s reading comprehension skills have taken a serious hit.

That’s the only polite explanation I can come up with for a large swath of adults not understanding signage that plainly states “no parking,” “beginning of drop off/pick up line,” and “pull forward.” These are not even sentences but three and four word directives at a first grade reading level. Surely parents should be able to understand their meaning.

But to blame the whole school pick up/drop off quagmire solely on reading skills would be a mistake because the real issue is psychological. To fully understand the issue you have to probe a parent’s brain. Why, for instance, are some parents adamant about not pulling forward in the line?

In the name of scientific research I asked one mother who was not pulling up this question and she made a face while stating in a very unpleasant tone that she was waiting for her kids.

I queried back with, “But couldn’t you wait for your kids pulled up a little further in the line?” This earned me a window being rolled up in my face.

I didn’t blame her because I knew I had hit a nerve. Her car was perched almost perfectly in front of the school’s front doors and there was no way she was going to let her babies (full disclosure this happened at a middle school) walk any further than they had to.

Which takes us to another layer of a parent’s psychological make up. Why do we get our kids fitness trackers, $300 Apple watches and sign them up for loads of sports activities and then swoon at the thought of them having to walk more than 20 yards to the family car?

Armed with my research I went home and tried to formulate a reasonable explanation for the seemingly growing number of parents who freelance with the established school pick up/drop off protocol. The only thing I could come up with is that for some parents the “rules never apply to me” must be a family motto.

The best suggestion I have is that they get those feelings emblazoned on a bumper sticker so the rest of the parents know who to avoid every morning and afternoon.

(For more education on this topic I urge you to read this highly formative guide for the school drop off and pick up procedure https://snarkyinthesuburbs.com/2011/03/25/10-steps-to-a-successful-school-drop-off/)

Dear Snarky – My Mom Needs to Quit Wearing Sexy Halloween Costumes

Dear Snarky,

 I need help with my mother. I swear she thinks she’s Jennifer Lopez and by that I mean at 55 she is very proud of her body and loves to show it off. Every Halloween she goes all out with the sexy costumes. This Halloween she is wearing a costume that is a replica of the iconic dress J.Lo wore where she’s almost naked.

 My problem is she’s planning on wearing it to a Halloween party hosted by my boyfriend’s parents. I told her that costume was not appropriate for this kind of party and she told me I was just “jealous.”

 Seriously, she can’t show up to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time in a costume where she’s that exposed. How do I get her to wear something that at least covers her chest?

 Signed, Distressed Daughter

Dear Distressed,

First, let me say I’m not into body shaming nor am I the Fashion Police. In fact, the only style crimes that get me really ticked off are adults wearing P.J’s on a plane or people who wear shorts and flip flops to church weddings.

 As for your mother I’m afraid you’re not going to get her to wear a nun costume. I think the more you beg her to cover up the more she’s going to want to take the girls out. That said if I had a body that resembled Jennifer Lopez’s I might be inclined to be queen of the crop top.

 I suggest that perhaps the first time your boyfriend’s parents meet your parents is not at this party. Maybe you can schedule a coffee get together so their initial “how do you do” is with your mom wearing clothing and not a costume.

 Remember you’re not responsible for your mom’s behavior or life choices. At 55 years old how she dresses is her business and her business alone. Maybe she’s living her best life.

 As for your boyfriend’s parents if they are going to judge you based on your mother’s Halloween costume than that is just messed up.

 Now as for that  jealous comment it sounds like your mother’s maternal instincts might need a refresh. Her quip was very unkind and leads me to believe that her entire self worth is tied up in her appearance and let me tell you as an aging female that totally sucks.

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

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.

Help Me! I’m a Halloween Hoarder

I consider myself an exemplary purger. Way before everyone hopped aboard the Marie Kondo declutter train I was the master (due to multiple moves) of “If I haven’t used or thought about an item in a year it’s bye-bye time.”

The one area though where I can be classified as having active hoarder tendencies is holiday decorations. And lest you think I’m writing this column way to earlier because Christmas is still 70 something days away let me be clear that when I say holiday I mean e-v-e-r-y holiday. From New Year’s Eve bling to a St. Patrick’s Day shamrock palooza I’ve got bins stuffed with holiday décor.

I have to admit that as I was dragging out multiple containers of Halloween decorations last week I was thinking that it might be time to perhaps talk to someone in the mental health profession. This thought intensified as I waited for my heart rate to return to normal after hefting eight large bins up my basement stairs. I knew then, without a doubt, it was time to do an inventory of what I was really using and what I was just saving.

It turns out I’m stockpiling a whole lot more decorations than I’m actually using. My bins are full of paper pumpkins drawn my kids when they were little and loads of Halloween cards they made. I tried to do what the declutter whisperers suggest and take pictures of items like this and then toss them but I rationalized that I would conquer that task later (as in probably never).

I also have saved every single trick-or-treat container my kids had ever used. I still have the monogrammed fabric Lillian Vernon treat bags I mailed ordered for them pre internet shopping.

This got me to wondering if Lillian Vernon is still around and surprise, surprise, not only is the website robust with items but on the landing page are the exact same bags (pumpkin and spider just in case you’re curious) that I ordered for my children at the beginning of the 21st century. I guess a classic never goes out of style.

Also, why would I want to part with these bags? I’m right now imagining my someday in the future beautiful grandchildren frolicking with them. In fact, my son’s Halloween bags are still in mint condition. This is because he never went trick-or-treating.

Trust me it wasn’t because the kid didn’t like candy. His decision was predicated on a math algorithm. At the age of four he told me that wearing a costume and handing out the candy was more fun. It took me years to discover that for every piece of candy my son gave out he kept two for himself. (I’m not surprised that he now works in the financial industry.)

Because the thought of departing with these items is so painful I decided to justify still keeping them by making these beauties a part of my Halloween decoration scheme. Let me just say there are times in everyone’s life when they will have moments of genius. My moment came when I turned old, no make that vintage, Halloween treat bags into holiday themed toilet paper holders.

I just wish you were in my house right now to behold the majesty of my bathrooms bearing monogrammed T.P. holders. I also think I’m on to something like something that could dethrone the queen of declutter. Ponder this thought for a moment – what if instead of savagely getting rid of your clutter you repurposed it?

Not only would it be good for the environment but every time you saw your repurposed gem it would make your heart happy because nothing says everlasting love like using your son’s vintage Halloween bag as a toilet paper container.

Dear Snarky – My Boss is Spying on Me With a Doggie Cam

Dear Snarky,

 I work for a very small company and my co-workers and I just discovered the owner is spying on us. She brings her dogs to work and has set up several treat dispensers around the office. The treat stations will throw out a dog biscuit from an app on her phone.

 Yesterday when the Xerox repair guy was there he told us that he has one of these treat dispensers and they have cameras where you can check in on your dog from – you guessed it – the app on your phone.

I always thought it was funny that a treat dispenser was in my cubicle and in another employee’s office that the boss doesn’t seem to like. There’s also one in the kitchen where people hang out. It now makes sense how our boss knows stuff that we didn’t tell her.

 Should we confront her about the spying or contact an attorney.

 Signed, Spy Cammed

Dear Spy Cammed,

 I’m not an attorney (Sadly watching hundreds of Law & Order episodes don’t count as a legal education.) so I don’t know what your rights are concerning office spying. I do know though that you need to confirm that you’re being spied on. I suggest saying something pretty random in front of the doggie cam and see if it gets a response.

 Next you need to have some fun with the doggie cams. I would randomly bark in the camera throughout the day or do an enthusiastic rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out” or “Secret Agent Man.” Basically do what you can to let your boss know that she’s been b-u-s-t-e-d.

Now onto less entertaining business – maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job. The whole spying on employees with doggie cams is super creepy. If this is what the office culture has disintegrated to I would be inclined to find an employer who wouldn’t stoop to this level of subterfuge.    

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

On Air and Scared

Never say never.

In my wildest dream there’s one thing I thought I would absolutely not be doing again and that’s co-hosting an hour-long live TV show. Back in the day, like way back in the day, being on morning television was my gig. As my kids grew older I gently segued to print journalism.

Three of my favorite things about working in print are that it’s primarily a Spanx, contour concealor and wrinkle filler foundation with space age polymers free environment. In other words I’m not sucking in my stomach or worried about smoothing out my crows feet while I type. It’s a lifestyle one can get used to.

So, when I was asked to do a brief vacation fill on KCTV’s Better Kansas City with Bill Hurrelbrink, who is one of my favorite people, I said a very enthusiastic yes please! I love the thrill of live TV and add in the amiable camaraderie of a morning show and I’m all in.

The reason I was scared is that doing live television is not easy. The challenging part is making it look effortless and it’s not like I’ve had a lot practice in that arena lately. Television can be unforgiving. It’s like your mother – it sees everything from your posture to your sincerity.

My initial challenge was making sure I was high definition TV ready. I was working in TV when high def cameras first debut and we would play a game called connect the pores. It was brutal. Now, I have more than pores to worry about. Today, I’m “stylin” some prominent wrinkles and no amount of make-up is going to camo those bad boys.

I was also a tad panicked about what to wear. Most of the females on TV favor the sleeveless dress. I, not blessed with arms of steel, (they’re more like arms of cookie dough) prefer to keep my upper limbs swathed in fabric. So, I decided to kick it old school and wear the most forgiving of clothing items ever – a blazer.

After I got passed the appearance conundrums it was time to open the floodgates on worrying about the twin terrors of the teleprompter and the IFB. The teleprompter masquerades as a very helpful friend but it can turn on you in a millisecond. One minute you’re besties. The next it’s having a tantrum, you’ve lost you place and don’t even know what you’re reading.

The teleprompter is why I started wearing clinical strength deodorant. There’s no sweat worse than the “I’m on live TV and I think the teleprompter is trying to tank my career” sweat.

The IFB (Interruptible Feedback) is another helper that takes some getting used to. It’s an earpiece where someone can talk to you while you’re on TV. I was excited to dig out mine yet worried. My last IFB was made twenty years ago. Basically, you have a mold taken of your ear so it fits securely.

My concerns were two-fold. I was dreading to find out if my ear had fatten up like the rest of my body in the last two decades and it wouldn’t fit. I was also worried that it would no longer be up to date. Thankfully, my ear was still in shape (I know that’s not really a thing but I enjoy telling myself that I have very svelte ears so let’s just leave it at that.) and it still worked. Yippee!

When it came time for me to go on TV I was surprisingly not nervous. It felt almost normal and was very akin to being a mother. You’ve got someone talking in your ear while you ask someone else a question. Then there’s someone else in front of you that also wants your attention and all you can do is hope for the best and pray nothing goes rogue.

So, yeah pretty much exactly like motherhood.

Dear Snarky – My Boyfriend is WAY Jealous of My Fantasy Football Skills

Dear Snarky,

 I have a problem with my boyfriend and it’s making me worry about our future together. He’s always been super competitive and now he’s angry with me because my fantasy football team is doing much better than his.

 Right now, I’m at the top of our league. I think he thought that I would be drafting players I thought were cute but I know a lot about football and don’t mess around.

 Now, he’s pouting and making rude comments about me and to me. The thing that really made me think about our relationship is that his mother pulled me aside and told me that if I want to keep her son happy I need to quit playing fantasy football.

 Is this just a weird thing my boyfriend has about football or do you think it goes deeper?

 Signed, Confused

 Dear Confused,

Every person has that one thing they’re a freak about. For example, I’m a little OCD about how the dishwasher is loaded. That said, I don’t mock family members for not doing it right. I just re-do when they’re not looking.

So maybe your boyfriend is a fantasy football freak but I think it goes deeper than that and you’re right for having warning bells going ding, ding, ding in your head.

First, you use the word angry to describe his feelings toward you and then you say he’s making rude comments and  – whoa – he ran to his mommy to make him feel better and to have her fix his hurt feelings. Are You Kidding Me?!!!

This guy sounds like a Mama’s boy with anger issues and I would run like the wind to get as far away from him as fast as you can. He’s bad news and trust me when I tell you can’t fix him, you can’t love him out of it and you’re not going to get him to change. All you can do is leave and not look back. You have to focus on the fundamentals in football and in relationships and this guy’s fundamentals are weak.

 

 

Dear Snarky – My Mom and Mother-In-Law Have Turned Grandparenting Into a Competitive Sport

Dear Snarky,

 My mom and mother-in-law are driving me crazy. They’re both very competitive and my kids are always in the middle of their tug-of-wars as they try to one up each other.

 For example, they both just had to buy my daughters’ first day of school outfits when I had already told them that my girls had picked out their own clothes. I then had to send separate photos with my daughters in the outfits each grandma had bought pretending that it’s what they wore to school.

 I knew I finally had to do something when my oldest daughter told her little sister we had to take all these pictures because mommy lies to grandma and nana. How do I put a stop to each grandmother wanting to be my kids’ favorite because juggling all of this is setting a bad example for my girls?

 Signed, Exhausted

Dear Exhausted,

 You’re not going to like this answer because the problem isn’t just the grandmothers fault you also are too blame. Girl you should have shut this down a long time ago like when your firstborn was an infant. The fact that you’ve enabled them and let this continue and escalate for years is not cool and is going to make stopping it even harder.

 I would begin by having a frank talk with your mother and telling her that all this competitive nonsense has to stop and that it’s having an adverse effect on her granddaughters and stressing you the hell out because of all the subterfuge required to keep both grandmothers happy. I would also include the very important fact that your own daughter called you a liar.

 Next up, is your mother-in-law and I would include your husband in that conversation for back up. This is because the last thing you want is your mother-in-law telling your husband that you criticized her grandparenting skills or called her a “bad Nana.”  You need to emphasize how the competitiveness is hurting her precious granddaughters and has the potential for harming the wonderful relationship she has with them.

 Of course, for any real change to happen you are going to have to put your big girl britches on and stand up to your mother and mother-in-law by having a zero tolerance policy for their competitive foolishness. And if you feel yourself wavering just remember the four letter word your daughter called you.

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

California Dreaming

I feel like I’ve wrestled a Sasquatch. I’m not kidding every bone in my body is sore and as for my mental state well, it’s questionable. The culprit for my misery is driving to California to move my daughter (and her car) back to school. This is something they don’t tell you when you wait till your almost 40 to have your last child – by the time you’re moving that kid to college your knees are angry and your back is so over the schlepping.

Because this is our daughter’s sophomore year I thought I had the whole move in down to a science. In fact, I was very proud, boastful even, that we weren’t taking that much stuff to California. I mean why would we? It’s not like they don’t have Targets in So Cal.

Let me now share with you what a colossal mistake that was because here’s what happens when you “wait till you get there” to buy apartment swag – you spend way too much money and the trips to Target start to enter the double digits. Not to mention that the Southern California Targets are simply not up to snuff.

Okay maybe that’s not 100% accurate. The Target’s are fine. A better way to put it is that I missed my  home Target. Also, my home Target believes in providing you with bags for your purchases.

Sure, in California you can buy a bag but when you do when get major attitude from not only the cashier but also the person behind you. By our seventh Target trip I had gotten over the public shaming and would just announce to everyone within a ten feet radius that I was from Kansas and we’re a free bag state.

Aggravating our already frayed nerves and lower back pain was the fact that my daughter did all the California driving since she knew where everything was. It was like being on the Disneyland Matterhorn bobsleds – a lot of fast starts and stops with whiplash as your reward. Making the excursions even worse was my husband growling every couple of minutes, “Someone tell me again why we let Bella go to school in California?”

Adding to the “we’re idiots” tally was our decision to reward ourselves for all the heavy lifting we did by going to the aforementioned Disneyland because nothing says rest and relaxation like walking 15 miles through a theme park.

After Disney I decided I needed to go to my real happy place – Fashion Island. It’s a swanky outdoor mall in Newport Beach full of shops that I can’t afford but I still like to enjoy the ambience. At one store I decided to treat myself to a fancy skin cream.

As the make up counter guru started testing creams on me she began aggressively feeling my face and then called the other consultants over where they also began poking my cheeks and forehead. At first I thought this was some kind of California face massage thing but it turns out that I was the only woman they had seen in a while who didn’t have fillers or Botox.

I played the Kansas card again and told them this was how we rolled in the sunflower state. It was better than the truth – that I was broke because my daughter goes to school in California and that I was afraid of needles.

Finally, after six days either on the road, at Target or moving stuff into an apartment we made it to the beach and that’s how California gets you. You sit there basking in the low humidity and sunshine watching the waves break and the palm trees sway and suddenly you think, “This is the life” and that thought lasts until you get back in your car and hit traffic.

Straws I Just Can’t Quit You

I’ve seen the future and it’s straw free. Well, to be accurate plastic straw free. I had this epiphany when I was on the West Coast and discovered that plastic straws were verboten. I was okay with this because I was given a perky paper straw with my beverage so I was thinking, “Yay for non plastic straws!”

This enthusiasm lasted until I used the paper straw and after about 30 seconds it disintegrated into my $5.00 iced blueberry black tea lemonade. Sadly, a paper straw isn’t a flavor enhancer and the chunks of paper floating in my ice tea didn’t exactly bellow, “Drink me!” My next beverage outing included a straw made from wheat stems. It held up better than a paper straw but the sipping process was still lackluster.

These experiences embolden me to go totally straw free the remainder of my West Coast sojourn. That’s right, I actually sipped my beverages straight from their containers be it a glass or a cup and it wasn’t easy. Straws have made us lazy.

My mother, always a woman ahead of her time, was the first person I knew that was anti-straw. True story – she didn’t allow straws in the house. The reason wasn’t that she was a crusading environmentalist. No, her straw ban was predicated on the fact that using a straw was the number one cause of lip wrinkles.

This beloved southern mama, who used Pond’s cold cream every night of her life and whose favorite words of wisdom were “moisturizer will never let you down” was a zealot against wrinkles and saw the straw as the enemy. (She also thought that you could judge a person’s I.Q. by their neck. Her theory was people with neck wrinkles showed a lack of intelligence and commitment to a task because they didn’t have the wherewithal to continue the moisturizing process post chin.)

The day I knew I had finally reached adulthood was when I had the backbone to sip on a straw in my mother’s presence. All she said was a very curt “Well, maybe wrinkles will suit you.”

I admit to loving straws and perhaps it’s born out of the straw deprivation of my youth. You also can’t discount that straws make drinking easier most especially in a car where Americans now average an hour a day on the road. In fact, upon doing an online “straw lifestyle inventory” (Yes, there is such a thing.) I discovered that almost all of my straw usage was on beverages I purchased via a drive up window.

This makes perfect sense because very few mortals have the skill to drink from a lidless cup and drive. My daughter suggested the easiest way to solve my “strawless while driving” issue was to invest in some reusable straws. I could even be “extra” and get silver straws that come in a monogrammed holder.

I was intrigued by this idea. A silver straw would certainly class up my morning McDonald’s Diet Coke experience. Maybe I could even extend my pinkie as I daintily clutch my 32-ounce beverage.

If we want to end American’s obsession to plastic straws this is how to do it – just make something perceived as “classy” and slap a logo on it. For instance if you want teenage girls to quit using straws have Lululemon make reusable ones. And if Louis Vuitton comes out with a reusable straw collection every mom currently not obeying the rules of the school drop off line will suddenly become ardent reusable straw fanatics.

Now excuse me while I select the monogram for my straw case. Do I want interlocking or a diamond?