An Open Letter to the Ladies of My Son’s Fourth Grade Class


Your Valentines explicitly mention an Anna and Elsa tattoo that you will quickly discover is nonexistent. Bear with me while I explain.

What started out as a simple combination of procrastination (and a sincere but ultimately disproven belief we had leftover Valentines in the junk drawer) on my part and overall disinterest on Olly’s part (he only cared about making a Valentines box that looked like a spaceship) ballooned into a full-grown crisis when Olly let me know about the dearth of tattoos last night.

Olly decided to tape (on-brand) Frozen pencils on the Valentines. He completed all the cards himself. Please feel free to use the pencils to draft blog posts complaining about the oversight. If it consoles you, I bought my husband three loaves of gluten-free bread and a card for Valentine’s Day. A high-five is under consideration.

Enjoy the upcoming President’s Day weekend that was cut short because the school district doesn’t build snow days into the calendar and now has to make up time.

All my best,

Online Offal

An Open Letter to the Ladies of My Son’s Fourth Grade Class

Happy Valentine’s Day

I get maybe one out of every 10 papers my son brings home from school. Yesterday, right off the bus, he brought me a handout about decorating a box for Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure he carried it the whole way home so he wouldn’t lose it. (A more appropriate name for his “communication folder” is the Bermuda Triangle.)

All by himself, he came up with a very elaborate and creative plan to decorate his box. He found an empty shoebox all by himself last night.

I thought for sure he’d drop his original idea and then just cobble something together at the last minute. After all, that’s how his Halloween costumes come together.

But tonight, he drank seven large glasses of apple juice so he could empty the bottle, cut it up and use it to create a rocket ship box to collect all his Valentines.

He hasn’t gotten around to making/asking about Valentines he wants to give to friends.

Happy Valentine’s Day

A Day in the Life of Snow

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region so we have four seasons and Winter Is Cold.

I used to work full-time so I remember the sheer terror of hunting through the closure lists, trying to determine if both the school and the daycare were closed, if I had calls or meetings that could be rescheduled, if moving those work-related appointments around would reflect poorly on me, if I would be able to get any work done with two small people who only pay attention to me when I’m on the phone or computer, both of which I needed to do my job.

I’ve been at home for five years. (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but being a stay-at-home parent is a job too. People assume I haven’t heard because they keep telling me.) I don’t have that particular kind of snow-day stress anymore. If parents need me to watch their kids during a two-hour delay or a closure, my door is always open. (I don’t do crafts unless my daughter comes up with an idea and the supplies are easily accessible.)

This winter doesn’t seem particularly bad, but we had a rough stretch of cold weather that led to an early dismissal, two-hour delay and a closure last week alone. My nerves started to fray yesterday when I got a text while I was at the bus stop, alerting me my kids (fresh off a three-day weekend) would be sent home because a storm was due to arrive around 3.

The storm came at 9.

This morning, we woke up to two inches of snow and a two-hour delay. OK, that made sense, the roads hadn’t been plowed and the buses making their rounds after rush hour meant a lower risk for accidents. Then, 30 minutes later, a text announcing that schools were closed.

For two inches of snow.

This is how the day went:

7 am: Wake up daughter, tell her there’s a delay and she should go back to sleep.

7:05 am: Instantly alert, she gets her brother up.

7:30 am: Inform offspring they have the day off.

7:45 am: Husband leaves for work.

8:00 am: Trainer from the gym texts me that roads are bad, he’ll see me on Friday.

8:30 am: Neighbor texts me about sledding. We agree going to a huge hill 15 miles away may not be the best option, settle on the hill behind my house at 10:30.

8:30-10:15 am: Research meteorology programs, settle Minecraft disputes (I don’t play the game; they’re fighting over IMAGINARY THINGS IN MAKE-BELIEVE WORLDS; even Mr. Rogers would have reached his limit), ensure everyone has breakfast that is not Pepperidge farm goldfish.

10:15 am: Shower.

10:20 am: Daughter flies into the bathroom during my shower to inform me SLEDS CANNOT BE FOUND. I suggest looking in the garage, maybe using cardboard boxes would be a good alternative.

10:23 am: Son flies into the bathroom during my shower to inform me he has shoveled and salted everywhere without having to be told, a medal and/or a parade would be great.

10:25 am: Daughter returns to the bathroom during my shower to reassure me the sleds have been found.

10:30 am: Friends arrive.

10:40 am: My son has two different gloves on, and one is not snow-proof. He lost the other snow-proof one at school.

10:45 am: My son calls it a day. Other parent graciously keeps an eye on my daughter and his kid.

11:00 am-12:30 pm: Everyone returns inside, we have hot chocolate, kids play a game and adults chat.

12:30-3:00 pm: Kids rotate between television, Minecraft and the computer. I finish Book Four of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. (I will write more when I finish the whole thing, but Books Three and Four were great. Four stars on Goodreads.)

3:00-4:00 pm: I start Book Five and it’s an Hour of No Electronics while kids do their own reading.

4:00-5:00 pm: I debate asking my husband to bring home dinner, and decide to scan Pinterest for ideas instead. I settle on one and both kids ask what we are having, I respond “chicken, rice and salad,” and they say OK. If I tell them Honey Dijon Garlic chicken, their faces may permanently stay scrunched up in disgust.

5:00-6:00 pm: I eat the Honey Dijon Garlic chicken, rice and salad. My daughter helpfully reminds me this is the third day in a row we’ve had chicken (slow cooker chicken fajitas, roasted chicken with veggies and tonight’s offering). I count to 10 six times. She and my son decide to make bagel pizzas. I call my husband to let him know I made dinner, could he bring me home some soup. 

6:00-7:00 pm: Husband texts me at 6:05 and tells me he’s home with soup, dinner is yummy. The kids and I are at piano lessons. As we are leaving piano lessons, son hits daughter with two snow balls. Rainbow Connection is playing in the car on the way home and I turn it up HIGH to drown out the litany of complaints daughter has about son.

7:10 pm: Come home to garage door open, garage lights on, husband has not cleaned up his meal. He proudly declares he has soup AND has started the dishwasher without having to be told, a medal and/or parade would be great.

7:15 pm: BREAKING: Online Offal’s shaky grip on the last tendrils of her patience.

7:30-8:00 pm: “Kids, let’s leave Mom alone for awhile.”

8:00-8:30 pm: Bath and bedtime edicts.

It’s supposed to be 50 degrees by Saturday.


A Day in the Life of Snow

Happy New Year! Here Are the Latest Headlines From the Online Offal Observer

Area Woman’s Brilliant Friends Are Planning to Call Their Google Home “KITT” And She Is Secretly Upset She Didn’t Think of That First (She Doesn’t Own or Plan to Own a Google Home)

Child Who Loudly Complained About Dinner for a Good Thirty Minutes Is Puzzled His Mother Is Ignoring Him and Drinking a Beer

Child Who Was Disappointed She Had to Go to School Yet Had an Early Dismissal Due to Inclement Weather Is Now Bored

UPDATE: Bored Child Who Procrastinated on Schoolwork Is Now Miserable

Child Who Threw a Fit Last Night at Dinner Because Vegetables Are Gross Eats All Kinds of Ice En Route to Bus Stop

SAFETY CORNER: It’s Been 0 Days Since I’ve Stepped on a LEGO

Happy New Year! Here Are the Latest Headlines From the Online Offal Observer

We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

We all are overdue for a break. School has ended and everyone passed. The kids performed valiantly at their piano recital. Baseball is over and softball should mercifully end this week. (I love softball, I do. I just have no motivation for sports after school ends. Playoffs are this week and the coach recommends no more than 45 minutes outdoors so I won’t overtire my daughter, and for an added bonus, they’re calling for severe thunderstorms during the game.)

We will miss the end of playoffs because we are going on a 10-day roadtrip, and everyone is so excited they’re starting to pack even though we are not leaving for three more days. I don’t know about you and yours, but this is how my husband and children prepare for a trip:

1. The kids just packed all their electronics that they will immediately unearth tomorrow morning and then forget to bring on the trip itself.

2. My husband wants to load the GPS with all the addresses we will need but forgets I need to get to the (away) softball game first. 

3. We had a 30-minute discussion about the bike rack.

4. The kids decided to pack all their underwear and even though I’ll do laundry right before I leave and we won’t need that much time to pack clothes I will still need to undo what they just did.

(Side note: I won’t be able to do laundry for nearly 10 days and that is harshing my mellow. I am trying to deal.)

5. They already picked out movies to watch and they’ll change their minds 57 times before we actually get in the car.

On the bright side: we all are looking forward to cooler weather and not having to deal with air travel.

We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

On Leggings and Michael Pence

My 11-year-old daughter, on the cusp of puberty, is rapidly transforming into Lady Longlegs. She is uncomfortable in denim and wears dresses maybe twice a year, mainly because she can’t stand tights.

What does that leave her? Cotton pants, jeggings and leggings. (A post for another time: girls’ clothes aren’t nearly as sturdy and well made as boys’ clothes.) 

Her school has a dress code and since my daughter is a conscientious person it’s always at the back of her mind. Like most dress codes, it’s mainly written for girls and/or women. I imagine it’s similar to the dress code United Airlines has for people flying on buddy passes. 

My point here is not to argue about the dress codes in and of themselves, but how they perpetuate the assumption that girls and women need to be modest and cover themselves up. Otherwise, they become wanton temptations for boys and men. This argument not only does a disservice to girls and boys, reducing them to objects and urges, but also reinforces rape culture, a term I hate but is the most accurate in a society’s way of blithely assuming that women and girls are “asking for it” when they are sexually assaulted.

When other parents tell me they’re teaching their daughters to be modest, I immediately ask them what they’re instructing their sons. That girls have brains and feelings? That they should be respected and be considered persons in their own right, regardless of how many piercings they have or how their clothes fit? That they’re not objects of temptations, but the sum of more than their body parts, and future colleagues and bosses? 

When my son tells me he has a crush on a girl, he usually tells me it’s because the girl is cute, but I try to make him understand, even though he’s only 8, that girls can be attractive because they’re smart and funny, too. After all, those qualities have nothing to do with what clothes the girls are wearing.

There’s still a lot of work to do, because women (including me) have been harassed while fully clothed and wearing a winter coat. But I think it’s an important first step, to teach and reinforce these ideas in boys starting when they’re young and as they become teens.

To illustrate my point, we have Vice President Mike Pence, who considers women other than his wife to be such a distraction he won’t eat alone with them or attend functions alone with them where alcohol is served. Again, I don’t want to criticize his marriage. You do you, Mike and Karen! But I am concerned about how this affects Pence’s view of women in government and in places of power? Will Pence dine with Angela Merkel or Theresa May to discuss sensitive political matters without his wife? Nancy Pelosi? Elizabeth Warren? Does this policy mean he won’t hire women as high-level staffers in his own office, because there’s a chance he might have to dine with them alone? I mean, according to Pence, women are such distractions and objects of temptation there’s no way men can have platonic relationships with them. They’re not more than the sum of their parts. They’re solely objects.

On Leggings and Michael Pence

The Biggest Scam: Arcades

My sister and I took the kids to a mammoth sports complex for some rock climbing. (I don’t use the term “mammoth” lightly. Just yesterday, the complex hosted a softball tournament, a home show, baseball tryouts, soccer games and more. Parking was so much fun.)

My daughter had been invited to a birthday party at the complex last year (of course they do parties) and we’d gone rock climbing there before. But all our kids were interested in was the Hall of Overstimulation, or the arcade. 

I don’t have a problem with skee ball, air hockey, the cathartic whack-a-mole, or other games that combine dexterity and endurance. But simply pressing a button and hoping a ball lands in the right spot for eleventy thousand tickets, I’d argue, is a waste of time. 

We had some time to kill and I relented against my better judgement and allowed the kids to have $10 each, and it lasted approximately 15 minutes. Then the kids progressed to the exalted Room o’ Prizes, to carefully select cheap crap, Subject of a Million Fights, that’s either immediately broken or has such strong staying power it never leaves my house despite Herculean attempts on my part to throw it out.

Arcades are popping up in more places, at least in my town. Usually solely the bastion of shore towns, arcades now appear in our local movie theater and mall. Miniature arcade games show up in orthodontist and dentist’s offices. Miniature slinkies have had NO effect on my kids brushing their teeth. I feel I have to gear up for a fight (beyond arguing that a 15-minute errand does not mandate an iPod) everywhere we go. It’s so exhausting.

The Biggest Scam: Arcades