New life philosophy: Don’t be a dick

Well, I like to think that’s always been my life philosophy, but I know I’ve committed my fair share of dick moves in my life, intentionally or not.

But motherhood has made me soft, and the current shittiness of the world makes me feel powerless.

But there is one thing I can do, every day, that makes a difference, even if it’s small. And that’s to be kind. Or — if you have a propensity for crude language, like myself — to not be a dick.

No matter a person’s perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, intelligence, socioeconomic status, education level, physical ability, mental state, age, upbringing, attractiveness, weight, occupation, hometown, lifestyle, current mood, hygiene, relationship status, parenting style, annoying tendencies, apparent inability to use a turn signal, or recent history of screwing up your lunch order — we are not actually capable of knowing what it’s like to live their life, despite whatever preconceived notions we might have.

But we are all capable of not being a total dick to them. Even if they were just a total dick to us.

Is this oversimplying things? Of course. I might just be a privileged white girl in Montana, but I’m not naive enough to think that if we all just sing kumbaya and be nice to each other, it will magically erase the deeply ingrained prejudices in our country and the excruciatingly real pain so many people suffer because of them.

But is it going make things worse? In a world much too full of hate and indifference, is going out of your way to show kindness to a fellow human being going to make it worse?

Show compassion. Have empathy. Choose love. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. However it resonates with you, make a concious effort to do it, especially to those in our society who need it the most. Don’t be just another person spewing negative energy into the world.

Is it always that simple? No.

But sometimes, it is.

So when it is, make the choice to be kind. Or at least, don’t be a dick.

Dear Sesame Street: Please stop teaching kids it’s OK to feed wild animals

Not even the squirrels. That's how serious this is, folks.

Not even the squirrels. That’s how serious this is, folks.

Though I know I’m not “supposed to,” every once in a while I break down and let my toddler watch a limited amount of TV, because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps my sanity intact on a day that involves multiple meltdowns and outfit changes.

I make myself feel OK about this by putting on Sesame Street, since hey, at least it’s educational! Or so I thought.

Recently we watched an episode in which Elmo and Friend go on a camping trip. Elmo’s incessant need to piercingly narrate every damn thing they do apparently attracts all the woodland creatures within a 12-mile radius, and soon Elmo is inviting them to stay for dinner. Before you know it, a beaver, some turtles, a few raccoons and an entire flock of ducks are on their second helping of dandelion soup in what is clearly the start of their never-ending dependence on humans to provide basic sustenance.

All right. I know some of you might think I’m blowing this out of proportion. They’re not even real animals, for chrissakes. They’re puppets. PUPPETS. And it’s not like every toddler who watched the episode immediately started using Goldfish crackers to coax some new fluffy friends to live in their garage, dooming them to a life of human-fed captivity.

But hear me out. Less than 24 hours after watching this episode, I saw this unfortunate news:

Yellowstone

Think this is mere coincidence? Think again. It’s quite clear Sesame Street is at fault for each and every stupid tourist-wildlife encounter in recorded history.

OK, that’s a mild exaggeration. But sadly, it’s not unusual to hear a lot stories like this in Montana and other Western states, where it seems residents and wildlife intersect more regularly than in other parts of the country. Most of us grew up learning it’s not OK to try to feed or touch the wildlife.

Apparently, some idiot tourists don’t understand that Yellowstone National Park, et al., is not a goddamn petting zoo, and the animals don’t need you to feed them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order to survive. And that by doing these things, you’re actually risking both your and the animals’ lives.

Obviously, Sesame Street is not solely at fault for people thinking it’s OK to feed and/or touch wild animals. (And I admit, I’m making quite the cognitive leap by even trying to connect these two specific incidents.)

The thing is though, you also can’t only blame the idiots, either. When it comes down to it, most of them just don’t know any better. Where many of these tourists are from, close encounters with actual wildlife happen next to never, and when they do, they actually are in a goddamn petting zoo.

It’s kind of like when a tourist from Montana, who may or may not write a blog that rhymes with “Thuirrel Proughts,” stops in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City to stare up and take a photo of a skyscraper, because it’s something she doesn’t see every day at home. Doing so is apparently Extremely Annoying to resident New Yorkers (albeit slightly less Life Threatening than sharing a s’more with a wolverine, but I digress.)

Ya know what though? At the time, she just didn’t know any better.

You know what could’ve helped her know better? An episode of Sesame Street in which Big Bird’s country-born cousin Pudgy Pigeon comes for a visit, and someone with a thick Bronx accent yells “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” after she abruptly stops to take a selfie in front of the restaurant from Seinfeld. Then she would’ve known better.

(Or a quick Google search. That probably would’ve done the trick, too.)

Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that while the premise of this Sesame Street bit seems innocuous, who knows what seeds it’s already planted in the heads of tiny city-born tots who might try to hug a grizzly bear in Alaska a decade from now. Because according to a beloved children’s program, befriending wild animals and inviting them over for pizza and a sleepover is just a normal part of experiencing the Great Outdoors.

So, in a feeble attempt to counter the damage already done — and with that air of smug self-righteousness you’ve come to expect on Squirrel Thoughts — I’m offering some tips for any potential tourists who still might not know any better:

  1. DO NOT TOUCH THE WILDLIFE.
  2. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE.
  3. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BEFRIEND THE WILDLIFE. NO MATTER HOW CUTE AND FLUFFY IT LOOKS. YOU ARE NOT MOTHERFUCKING SNOW WHITE. THE ANIMALS DO NOT WANT TO BE YOUR FRIENDS. THEY WILL MAUL YOU AT THE DROP OF A HAT. OR CHEETO. ESPECIALLY A CHEETO.
  4. ENJOY THE MAJESTIC CREATION THAT IS NATURE FROM A SAFE VIEWING DISTANCE.

I apologize for the stilted Internet yelling, but it’s the only chance I have at drowning out the children’s media behemoth that is Sesame Street.

Also, if you prefer information from legitimate resources, here are few:

Four reasons not to feed wildlife

Wildlife safety in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone visitors place bison calf in SUV; newborn euthanized

(FOR THE RECORD: I realize that other states, even on the East Coast, have wildlife, and that not everyone who visits from those locales are completely oblivous about how to interact with wild animals. I also realize that many of the tourists who commit these transgressions are from other countries, and who knows what kind of access they have to Sesame Street. In turn, I hope anyone offended by this — including but not limited to Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and, especially, Snuffy — realizes that it’s all in good fun. Unless you have tried to caress a mountain goat. Then you should read that shit a few more times.)

 

Three very good reasons NOT to get your kids a bunny for Easter

 

Easter rabbit

Bunnies are family, too.

 

One Easter when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to walk down the stairs to our living room and find a real, live bunny wabbit lounging in my basket. I found a stuffed rabbit instead, because my parents thought they were so flippin’ hilarious, and that I would think so, too. I did not.

Fast-forward 15 years, and — in my most rebellious act of adult independence to date — I got MY OWN DAMN RABBIT, thankyouverymuch.

Fwuffy-wuffy wufferton

Pancake!

br

However, we only brought Pancake home after doing extensive research on what’s required to care for a pet bunny. And now I know — though it pains me so to admit — my parents were right. Rabbits are not necessarily great pets for children.

I don’t know the exact statistics, but somewhere around a shit-ton of bunnies bought as Easter gifts end up abandoned in animal shelters only a few weeks later, because parents don’t realize what they’re getting into when they buy their little darlings a rabbit.

So, with Easter right around the corner, I am here to help you parents who find yourselves in this very predicament. Though I could ramble off dozens of others, here are three very good reasons NOT to get your kids a bunny for Easter, no matter how much they beg.

br

1. Bunnies are not like other house pets. At all.

A bunny is not just a dog or cat with longer ears and a fwuffy-wuffy tail. If you and your kids think a pet rabbit is going to play fetch or purr when you scratch its ears, you will be sorely disappointed. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits are prey animals, meaning it takes them a while to trust that you are not going to eat them.

How long is “a while”? Well, we have had Pancake for six years, and until last year, she would not let us pet her without running away. It literally took FIVE YEARS to earn her trust. She still won’t let us pick her up without using the Bunny Burrito technique. And she certainly doesn’t care for our 1-year-old’s ham-fisted attempts at “petting” her.

So look. I’m sure your kids are perfect and deserve everything their little hearts desire. They are brilliant and talented and will probably discover the cure for alektorophobia some day. But I’d be willing to bet no less than a triplequadrillion dollars they don’t have an attention span of five minutes, let alone five years.

 

 

2. Rabbits live longer than you think. A lot longer.

Contrary to popular belief, when properly cared for, rabbits can live 10 to 12 years. They require the love and attention of responsible caregivers, which could — but probably doesn’t — include your precious offspring.

Bunnies are not just some pet you can buy for your kids that will die in a few months that you can use as a “circle of life” teaching moment. I mean, I guess you could purposely not properly care for a bunny so you can get that uncomfortable conversation out of the way. But that would be kind of a dick move.

br

3. Rabbits chew. Everything.

Yeah, I know dogs chew up stuff, too. But rabbits aren’t just going to chew your favorite slippers that you can easily replace via Amazon. Left to its own devices, a rabbit could literally chew you out of house and home.

See this stylish combination of rugs and sheets here?

br

Rugs and sheets

br

The only reason these exist in our home is because we need something to cover the edge where the living room carpet meets the kitchen tile. Otherwise, Pancake would chew the carpet there into oblivion. We also have a giant cardboard box that covers the various cords behind our TV stand, because she will chew those — and possibly shock herself — if we don’t.

And this is just the beginning of what it would take to bunny-proof your home. If you’re not convinced, you can read more about what it’s like to live in a house with a bunny in it here.

Now, we love our fwuffy-wuffy Pancake to the ends of the earth, and we are willing to put up with these lifestyle adjustments for her. But are you willing to do this? For a pet that will likely bore your children in a few weeks because it doesn’t act the way they want it to? One that you will probably abandon at a shelter, where it could have an even more unfortunate fate?

If, after reading this, you are ready to make the commitment of owning a rabbit, then please consider adopting one from a shelter instead of buying one at a pet store. (Full disclosure: We got Pancake from a pet store, because we didn’t know any better. We do now, and so do you.)

If you’re not ready to make this commitment, please don’t buy your kids a rabbit. I promise they will forgive you, eventually. Or, they’ll hold it against you until they’re old enough to buy their own damn bunny. But at least by then, they’ll be more likely to accept the responsibility that comes with it.

The day I lost my Fitbit and my legs stopped working

Fitbit meme

 

When I got to work the other day, I looked down at my wrist. To my dismay, my Fitbit was no longer on it. I frantically searched every inch of my office, hoping it had merely fallen off upon my arrival.

When that proved unsuccessful, I started backtracking my steps, all 1,200 of them that it takes me to walk the five blocks from my car to my office. I scoured the sidewalks, hoping to spot my slate blue wristband against the white of fresh snow. No dice.

So I tore apart my car while refreshing the Fitbit app on my phone, longing to see the magic word — “synching…” — pop up. Negative.

I walked back to work, head down, my eyes flitting across my path, just in case I’d missed it on the way out. Nothing.

If you are a fellow Fitbitter, you know how perfectly rational this reaction is. Because if you’re not obsessively quantifying every single step you take every single day, what’s the point of even walking at all?

I got back to my office and posted a pithy Facebook status about it.

Fitbit status

 

Then my husband commented.

Fitbit comment.png

 

As you can tell, my husband does NOT have a Fitbit. Because if he did, his takeaway from all this would not be “Good news – it’s slobber-proof.”

I replied with a comment that properly conveyed the gravity of the situation.

Fitbig reply

 

Then I hardly got up the rest of the day.

 

Let’s be mom-guilt free in 2016

Mom guilt

I’ve only been a mom for about a year, but I’ve managed to pack a decades’ worth of guilt into those 12 months. I’m just talented like that.

If you’re also a mom — or dad, for that matter — I suspect you possess this special talent as well. We’re hardwired for it; we all just want the best for our kiddos, and worry the choices we make now could be slowly turning them into the next Kardashian or Pharma Bro.

Well, in 2016, instead of feeling guilty, let’s put our time and energy toward our many other talents. There are plenty of parents who should feel guilty about the choices they make. (Like this one. And these ones. And definitely the parents of this guy.) But you’re probably not one of them.

Here are the things I’m going to stop feeling guilty about in 2016. Or less guilty about, at least.

Working. I work full time. So does my husband. We like our jobs, and our daughter has never complained about her daycare, which we thoroughly vetted. This is most likely because she can’t talk, but still.

When we go to work, we do not leave her in a cardboard box on the porch, with only a bottle and a package of Pop-Tarts to get her through the day. When you go to work, do you leave your children in a cardboard box on the porch, with only a bottle and a package of Pop-Tarts to get them through the day? No? Well OK, then. I’d say you’re doing a pretty great job at this parenting thing.

(Hey, I never said I set the bar high.)

But seriously, if you feel guilty for not being home with your bambinos all the time, remind yourself of all the things they’re getting exposed to that they might not otherwise: other experiences, people, toys, books, kiddos. And germs. Lots of other germs. But hey, those germs are strengthening their immune system so they’ll get sick less when they start school in a few years. Or so they say.

(Of course, in the midst of working on this post, my sweet girl came down with hand, foot and mouth disease, which she contracted at daycare. So mom guilt might still win out on this one. Again.)

Exercising. Working full-time means I get to spend only a few hours with my little bug on the weekdays, so it’s hard for me to justify doing any additional activities that take away from that time.

But I need to run. Not to lose weight or fit into my jeans — those are just bonuses. I need to run so my crazy doesn’t catch up with me. I suffer from severe bouts of anxiety, and if I don’t take care of myself, it rears its ugly head and takes me down with it.

So, sometimes I let Lily stay at daycare later so I can get my run in right after work, before I get home where I’ll talk myself out of it. Or I leave her with her dad early on a Sunday morning so I can spend a few extra miles earning those endorphins that help keep my anxiety at bay.

Is there something in your life that keeps the crazy from catching up with you? Then make time for it. As long as it’s not something along the lines of, say, juggling knives. We both know that won’t end well.

Knife juggling child

Well, apparently some parents let their kids juggle knives. They should probably feel a little guilty about that.

Supplementing. And straight-up bottle-feeding, for that matter. I’m definitely a proponent of breastfeeding (when circumstances allow) and plan to continue nursing my kiddo until she’s ready to wean.

But we moms sure can get a bit shamey about this topic, can’t we? Millions of babies who didn’t drink a drop of breast milk have grown up to be well-adjusted, productive members of society. In fact, many of them even have jobs, donate to charity and let people with only a few items cut in front of them in line at the grocery store. Some of them also grew up to be Internet trolls. But it had nothing to do with whether they were breast- or formula-fed.

My milk production dipped severely around six months, and despite increasing the frequency of pumping sessions, drinking some nasty tea that tasted like rotten licorice and eating oatmeal until it came out my ears, my supply never increased much. So you know what? We started supplementing with formula. And you know what? Our daughter is happy, healthy and gets enough to eat. Otherwise, she wouldn’t.

And, while I don’t mean to brag … at only 11 months, our kiddo was already playing peek-a-boo at a 12-month-old level.

br

Formula baby

br

NOT. PUMPING. I have pumped, at least twice, if not three times, daily, five days a week, since March. Since I work two half-time positions in different offices at a university, I have to haul the stupid pump back and forth to work each day (if I don’t forget to bring it entirely), and schlep it across campus when I switch jobs at lunch. Half the time, I forget some parts or milk in one office and have to rush back to get them once I realize it. All this for a measly five ounces a day, at this point.

So, at the end of the year, I am done. DONE. And if you see a pump floating down the river, it’s definitely because I threw mine in it.

Sleeping in. JK haha lolz! That doesn’t happen. But if it ever does, you can sure as hell bet I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

br

What else should be on this list? I’m positive I’ve left out some major mom-guilt triggers, possibly because they’re buried so deep in my subconscious, I don’t even know I feel guilty about them. Yet.

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Even during the holidays, there sure is a lot of nastiness on the Internet. So when I saw a post by Emily of The  Waiting titled “50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of  Gratitude,” I knew I wanted to join in this collective effort, if only to drown out a tiny bit of the cacophony online.

The challenge is simple, per its creator, Dawn of Tales from the Motherland: Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down 50 things you were grateful for or that made you happy in 2015.

So, uh, you may notice my list is approximately 41 items short of the stated goal. This is because there is nothing so small that I won’t over-think it. So the 10 minutes went fast. But, I hit all the important things.

My 2015 Gratitude-Givers/Happy-Makers

1. This little starfish, who I can’t believe is almost a year old already. There’s nothing better than starting my morning with snuggles from her.

Starfish

She’s my favorite.

br
2. My partner in parenting: my husband. Lily is a lucky girl, and so am I.
br
3. My family. They live two hours away, but I know they would drop everything at a moment’s notice if we needed their help. I know this because they have.
br
4. My husband’s family. Though we’re in Montana and they’re in Illinois, they’d do the same, too.
br
5. My crew/squad/besties/whatever the hip term for friends is these days. We’re scattered all over the place now, but with the help of technology, we never feel that far apart.
br
6. Social media. Despite its obvious downfalls. Because SPOILER ALERT: I’m actually kind of awkward in real life. But online, my awkwardness comes off as mildly charming.
br
7. Pancake. And the fact that our fwuffy bunny finally lets us pet her. Only took five years to gain her trust.

 br

Fwuffy-wuffy wufferton

Miss Pancake T. Bunsen

br

8. Blogging. As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I even remember checking out a book at my elementary school library that was about “how to be a writer,” because, — shocker — I was a nerd. It might not be my day job (though I still get to write and edit for that), but blogging allows me to do what I love and share it with the world. Thank you for reading!
br
Now comes the part where I silently freak out that I might have left off someone or something really, really important. If that’s the case, I’M SO SORRY HOW CAN I MAKE IT UP TO YOU PLEASE DON’T HATE ME I LOVE YOU I’LL GIVE YOU A COOKIE.
br
***
br
Want to join in the gratitude magic?  Here’s how it works: Set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 things you feel grateful for. (Or, see if you can beat my all-time low of eight.) The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s OK. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! To join other bloggers from the project, head to Tales from the Motherland for complete instructions on sharing your post. 

Important questions I’ve pondered while reading classic children’s books to my infant daughter

“The Cat in the Hat”

Is the Cat and the Hat holding Thing 1 and Thing 2 against their will? Are they getting enough clean food and water while he peddles them across the country in a crate with no air holes? Is PETA aware of the situation? Wait, are Things 1 and 2 even animals? Do they dye their hair blue or is it naturally that color? If I wore footy pajamas like theirs to work, would I get fired?

b

Things 1 and 2

b

“Guess How Much I Love You”

Why does Big Nutbrown Hare have to constantly one-up Little Nutbrown Hare? Can’t he just let him win at the Guess How Much I Love You game, even once? When Little Nutbrown Hare says he loves him to the flippin’ moon, can’t he just be like “Whoa, the moon? That’s so far — no way I can top that! I’d never say anything like ‘well hey, I’m pretty impressed you love me all the way to the moon, but guess what — I love you to the moon … and back! Suck it, Little Nutbrown Hare!’ No, I’d never say anything super douchey like that”?
 b
 To moon and back
b
 b
Does Big Nutbrown Hare also never let Little Nutbrown Hare win when they play Candy Land? Does he show off with fancy hook shots and dunks when playing a friendly game of HORSE with the neighborhood kiddos? Is he overcompensating for something? Does he also drive an obnoxiously large truck?
b

“Where the Wild Things Are”

Why does this one Wild Thing have human feet? Is he the mutant result of some sort of unethical science experiment gone horribly wrong? What in the actual fuck, Maurice Sendak? Why would you do this to me my sweet baby girl? How many years of therapy am I is my child going to need to stop having nightmares about the human-footed Wild Thing??
 b
Where-the-wild-things-are
b

“Goodnight, Moon”

Is the mush gluten-free?
b
Goodnight Moon
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,128 other followers

%d bloggers like this: