Little House in the Big City

Don’t hate us for being Beyoncé and Blue Ivy.

I didn’t want to even write about this, because it felt so First World privileged and braggy (which it totally is).

But yes, Virginia, there is an American Girl Doll store (actually, there are 20).

And yes, my girl and I spent four+ hours in one last month, ringing in her 9th birthday.

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And ohhh yes, we dropped more coin on a silly doll and her bedazzled duds than I spend on my shabby chic wardrobe in a year (which is a sad sad commentary on the contents of my closet).

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Yes, we sipped pink lemonade with our pinky fingers in the air and nibbled tea sandwiches with “Isabelle” perched upon her tiny pink throne.

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(No, we did not experience the two-hour wait to get our doll’s hairs did. Lawd, lawwwd.)

But let me just own it right now: I loved every minute of it. And It was worth every red cent I could rub together.

Here’s why.

It was all so adorably INNOCENT. In a world of too-much-too-soon for girls where I’m constantly shielding Lucy’s eyes or clamping shut her ears, this place was a throw-back to when little girls could be little girls…not mini-Ke$sha’s-in-training.

In that girlie alternative universe, it was cool to clutch a doll in your arms and love it unabashedly. It was the thing to do to brush that doll’s hair til it gleamed, because it was precious to you. It was okay — better yet, it was enviable — to still be a little girl.

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Everywhere in the air was this old-fashioned Little House on the Prairie feel — ummmm, except everything was pink and overpriced and nothing was whittled. (Ok, maybe not such an apt parallel…)

But in that place in that moment, it felt like pushing “pause.”

“Pause” on growing up. On boys. On Katy Perry. On not believing in Santa. On knowing all the bad words and how to use them. On outgrowing dolls…and maybe, one day, me.

Heaven knows, I would happily open my wallet up wide if I could buy myself some extra time with this little girl as a little girl.

I’m not sure it works that way, but oh man, I gave it the college try.

After hours of dawdling and foot-dragging, it was time to move on. The world awaited outside — and pretty much everyone in that world was in Times Square.

There we felt the wind brace our faces and the lights dazzle our eyes — and there the sight of Naked Cowboy’s Fruit-of-the-Loomed haunches greeted us with a taut smile. Nearby, we spotted two Naked Cowgirl friends sporting their most immodest painted-on pasties.

Ah, I remember now….this is the world we’d escaped for a few hours. I’d forgotten. Ick.

I was ready to spin on my heel and hurl myself through those revolving doors again — back into a world of make-believe and $300 horse-drawn carriages for dolls — and spend the night in a doll teepee.

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Instead, we giggled and pretended not to look and kept on trucking. And like an OCD case study, Lucy kept brushing her doll’s hair to a high sheen.

I guess that’s the plan from here on. Keep laughing and keep moving past all that mess – to whatever the future holds – together.

Preferably in a very expensive horse-drawn carriage in matching ski outfits and hair extensions. You see, there’s a certain lifestyle to which we’ve grown accustomed…

Cracking the Teacher Conference Code

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It’s parent-teacher conference season — that hap-hap-happy time when we get slapped in the face with all our finest parental failings.

I’m a big fan of all my kids’ teachers. They seem to be smart, lovely people who aren’t paid enough for their troubles.

But I will say this about teachers. Whether they’re trying to spare our feelings or avoid coming off like a total jerk: they talk in code.

So I’m going to be your sassy, straight-talking friend here (picture Jackée) and translate “nice teacher” into “plain English” for you. Here’s my go-to glossary of Teacher Conference Code Words and exactly what I think they mean.

Teacher Code Word #1: “Energetic” – Will’s homeroom teacher laid this one on me last week, stammering, “Ohhhh, Will’s my ENERGETIC little one in the mornings!” Come on, people. I am not deceived. We all know this is doublespeak for “spastic,” “bouncing off the walls,” or maybe even, “Please, I beg of you, ask your doctor if Ritalin is right for you.”

Teacher Code Word #2: “Demonstrates unwanted leadership skills” – It’s the nicest way they’ve thought of yet to say, “Your daughter is bossy as all hell, and she better simmer down before the other kids start raining wedgies upon her.”

Teacher Code Word #3: “Exuberant” (also “highly inquisitive“) – Okay, here’s the deal. Your kid will not put her hand down for two consecutive seconds; sometimes there’s even straining and an audible “Ooh ooh!” When the teacher calls on her, your kid’s usually forgotten the question. This teacher covets a big-bottomed classroom aide to do nothing but sit on your child all day or – if such funds aren’t available – to just lock her in the coat closet. But that would be wrong?

Teacher Code Word #4: “Very social” – This means your kid never stops talking. Ever. And he probably touches people a lot. Sometimes with boogers.

Teacher Code Word #5: Disorganized” – I’ve learned the hard way that this is code for “blonde.” Your kid, like mine, lacks the wherewithal to turn in a signed permission slip or a check for the PTA pies or to bring home any one of her three lunch boxes. Your teacher secretly fears that your lost-in-space child may never survive the mean streets of middle school one day.

Teacher Code Word #6: Does not apply himself” – (also known as “not living up to his full potential”) — Sigh. This is the big one. This means your kid spaces out and thinks about ham sandwiches or Minecraft or ANYTHING ELSE BUT REGROUPING and is just doing the minimum he has to do ’til his sad 10-minute recess so he can be free.  This is pretty much every kid. And so often, it is me.

These conferences can send me into despair if I obsess over them too much, imagining that other parents are hearing glowing reports like, “Wow, Mrs. Do-Right! I’m blown away at how your kid is applying himself like a boss.” But I’m pretty sure nobody’s hearing that. And if they are hearing that, that kid is probably raising his hand way too much. And we’ve established that nobody likes that kid.

I know, I know, I know. We’re not whipping out the multiplication flash cards or doing the bonus questions or going to Kumon or “Typing to Learn” or practicing viola 20 minutes a day.

There is no limit to all the things we could do…if I had it in me to run that show.

All I know is that — honestly and truly — we are hitting it as hard as we can.

As a mom, I will never “live up to my full potential.” I may from time to time “demonstrate unwanted leadership skills.” And of course, I’m completely “disorganized.”

But at least no one could dare call me “energetic.”

I will cling to that.

Day 31 – Allow Me to Introduce…the Jack-o-Lantern

It’s Halloween, and I’ve got a spooky hot crafting tip you won’t read anywhere else.

I mean, this is going to blow Pinterest’s mind.

On this final day of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Families, get ready for a truly grand finale…the ultimate DIY upcycling idea of the millennium.

Okay, here goes:

Step 1: Get a pumpkin from the big cardboard box at Stop & Shop.

Step 2: Carve a hole in the top and scoop out the guts. (Don’t pout about it like my preteen son. Man up.)

Step 3: Carve eyes and a scary smile into it. Stick a lit candle in there.

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Voila. This is what’s called in certain cultures…a JACK-O-LANTERN. 

Have you ever?? Don’t you want one?

I could’ve kept this light hidden under a bushel, metaphorically speaking…but I’m a giver. And that’s what this 31 Day challenge has been all about – reaching out to you with awesome sauce ideas that will rock your family’s world.

And trust me, this jack-o-lantern thing is a big deal.

It’s particularly trending in big cities – like Providence, for example. That’s where I got the idea.

Maybe you’ve heard of it, but they’ve got this whole Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Zoo (there’s still time – it ends Nov. 2) with about a billion of these carved creations all over the place.

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It’s definitely worth the trip.

Now personally, I’d avoid weekends at this pumpkin-palooza, because people seem pretty amped about this new pumpkin sensation.

But we went mid-week, and the crowd wasn’t too nuts. (Except for those people taking pictures of all 5,000 pumpkins on their phones — including ones that said “Sponsored by: Cardi’s Furniture.” But that’s what phones do to people, I guess.)

Now that I’ve clued you in to this new pumpkin craze, you really should check out the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular if you’re within pumpkin seed spitting distance.

I mean, what a gold mine of ideas — just in case you decide to try your hand at carving a Jack-o-Lantern yourself one day.

After you’ve mastered those triangle eyes, you might even feel savvy enough to take it to the next level.

If so, might I suggest…a castle?

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I didn’t steal these pictures off the Interweb. Somebody actually carved these for that Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. For reals.

Or Elsa?

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Or even more exquisite — how about Tom Brady in pumpkin form?

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Just some ideas to ponder for next year.

It’s my gift to you this Halloween.

You’re welcome.

AND thank you — for reading and putting up with all my complete and utter nonsense all month long. I’m not sure you can say the same, but I’ve had fun.

Tonight, you might want to look into an activity I hear all the cool kids are doing. It’s called “Trick or Treating” or something like that…

(Finger on the pulse.)

A Happy Happy Halloween to you from Tales from the Crib!

May your pumpkin patch truly be the most sincere.

Day 29 – For a Good Time, Taunt a Furby… (actually, don’t)

I take it back.

Don’t do that. Never, ever do that.

Furbies are modern-day Annabelle dolls; they turn evil.

Did anyone ever tell you that? Because no one ever told me…until it was too late.

So consider yourself warned, dear unsuspecting parent who only wants to give your child the delights of her young heart. Hear this and hear this well.

Furbies are the devil’s spawn.

It seemed right to tell you this at Halloween — before you fall prey to the Christmas marketing machine and allow one of these battery-powered dementors into your home.

Here’s Lucy with her Furby one year ago.

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They seemed so happy then.

Okay, the Furby still looks freakish with eyes that glow death. But trust me. This thing giggled a lot. SO MUCH. To the point you wanted to hurl it across the room.

Which might actually have happened. I can’t be sure, but let’s just say there were rowdy boy cousins involved. There was much shaking of the Furby, a good bit of poking, maybe a smidge of mockery.

All I know is, one minute Furby was all hearts and flowers. The next minute Lucy is running to me in terror, crying, “Why is Furby talking like that?? You need to take it back and get me a new one!”

A deep voice was emanating from the Furby now, its eyes slitty and angry. “Stop doing that,” road-rage truck-stop Furby was saying over and over, all cranky and hung-over and skeevy.

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It was oddly terrifying, as if we were looking straight into the murderous eyes of Chuckie.

Please forgive my French (as if the French even say this), but WHAT. THE. HELL.

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This is a toy. For little kids. That I paid actual money for. And it was quite literally possessed.

Quick as a flash, I googled “weird voice Furby.” And all these discussions popped up about the secret life of Furby that I never knew.

Furby apparently has MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES – everything from Valley girl to country cowboy to evil entity.

One Amazon reviewer shared that her only way out of this torment was to coo and pet and talk sweet to the Furby (all while it hurled insults at her) until the mechanical demon was exorcised.

So there I sat. Stroking a weird furry machine on my lap and begging it in my sweetest voice to”get behind me, Satan.” The grandparents stared at me, agape.

After the longest, most ridiculous ten minutes of my life, a full-body shudder wracked our little demon-possessed furball.

It had been released.

I’m pretty sure Lucy never played with it again.

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So here Furby sits on Lucy’s shelf.

This is all it does ever.

(And believe me, it’s only still here because of Lucy’s extreme hoarding tendencies.)

There are books behind Furby that we sometimes try to reach. But we are careful to nudge Furby only ever so slightly in the process.

We do not want to rouse the beast.

So on Day 29 of my 31 Days of Fun Stuff for Families, might I suggest never, ever getting a Furby? Not having an evil toy that talks to your child like a creep with lollipops in a conversion van is lots more fun than having a toy that does. Trust me on this.

Just get Tickle-Me-Elmo and call it a day. Your ears -and your child’s tender psyche- will thank me for it.

P.S. I’d love to hear your weirdo Furby stories! I know I’m not alone in this. Maybe we could form a Furby support group…

Day 23 – SNL Starter Skits for Kids

It takes commitment – I mean, DIGGING DEEP – to spend literally all morning watching Saturday Night Live videos online.

But I’m willing to make that kind of sacrifice for your children.

I think it’s that important.

Saturday Night Live comes on at 11:30 at night for a reason. Young kids shouldn’t be watching this stuff. Most of it, anyway.

But there are some G-rated gems out there that can introduce your brood to vast realms of comedic genius — one robotic driving cat at a time.

So on Day 23 of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Kids, I happily present to you my 10 Favorite Saturday Night Live Starter Skits (for Kids) — not necessarily in order of awesomeness. These are the gateways to a whole new world of ridiculousness.

1. Behind the Music: (More Cowbell) with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken

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This is the ultimate. Previous knowledge of Blue Oyster Cult not required; it is all about a hairy paunchy belly poking out of a too-tight sweater. I hope I’m preaching to the choir here, and your kids already have already seen the need for more cowbell. But this is (not to understate it) required viewing for life in the 21st century.

2. King Tut with Steve Martin

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My older brother showed this to me when I was a kid, and it seared a place in my heart. There are crazy Egyptian costumes, goofball dance moves, and a gold-painted guy playing a saxophone in a sarcophagus. This is a ’70s-era gold-embossed feast for the eyes. Just be prepared to explain the phrase, “my favorite honkey.”

3. Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals – with Andy Samberg

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Your kids may not be hip to the Marky Mark scene — or his Funky Bunch. But what kid doesn’t love animals? Or better yet, what kid wouldn’t love Andy Samberg’s inane Mark Wahlberg impression as he tries to chat up a chicken? “Say ‘Hi’ to your mother for me” could become a thing at your house.

4. Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet with Tracy Morgan

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More animals and a weird delusional man-child who loves them. Or wants to make a coat out of them. Tracy Morgan is just odd and silly and buffoonish — all the things that kids love most. And oh yeah, did I mention there are animals?

5. Matt Foley on Halloween with Chris Farley

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You do NOT want your kids to end up in a van down by the river. So they need to get a few pointers from this guy — and to laugh hysterically as he flattens a perfectly good coffee table.

6. Toonces the Cat with a robo-cat, Steve Martin, and Victoria Jackson

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A cat who drives a car and careens wildly off cliffs? This is the stuff kids LIVE FOR.

7. Laser Cats with Andy Samberg and Bill Heder

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The other thing kids live for is cats that shoot lasers out of their mouths.

8. MacGruber with Will Forte

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You have to be careful with these. Oh mama, you can get on a tear with some addictive bite-size MacGruber skits and end up in R territory quick. But this one has been mom-approved (if you trust my judgment, and I’m not sure you should…). Kids won’t get the MacGyver joke, but whatevs. There’s funny hair-dos and stuff blows up.

9. Super Showcase with Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig

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I’d want to have this skit with me on a desert island. Maybe I’m just a product of my Price is Right rearing, but game show hostesses “Shonda” and “Vonda” posing with frozen chickens and talking in those weird made-up accents — it’s fall-down funny to me. Your kids don’t need to know who Bob Barker or Vanna White is to laugh at a couple of big-haired lunatics crashing through walls in a golf cart.

10. Taste Test with Melissa McCarthy

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Y’all. I saved this for last because it just might be MY FAVORITE EVER. And because you’ve probably never seen it. Melissa McCarthy is a scream every single second she’s on screen. She is a total case study in how to milk something for laughs — either with a subtle look or a gesture…or by pouring an entire bottle of Ranch dressing down her front. There’s something for everybody, and my kids know this crazy thing backwards and forwards. As they should.

BONUS PRIZE: Compulsion with Jan Hooks and Phil Hartman

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When I recently posted a list of my favorite Jan Hooks skits, I looked high and low for this commercial. Hallelujah, it has been FOUND. I personally cannot relate to its clean-freak protagonist, but this goes down as one of the smartest and most side-splitting ads ever made on SNL, featuring two of its greatest talents. Plus, your kids can watch it. They won’t really get it, but maybe it will encourage them to clean the bathroom.

So that’s my SHORT list.

Now I’m waiting. What are your SNL favorites that just might pass the family-friendly smell test?

And by the way, this may have been the best way to fritter away a morning ever.

All images property of NBC

Day 20 – Game on

It’s only October, but I’ve already racked up my first Christmas Miracle.

Look what we spotted at Toys R Us yesterday. (Go ahead and get your pens out. You’re gonna need to start writing to Santa for this pronto…)

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This thing of beauty can be yours (again) for $40 at Toys R Us. I am still marveling.

Yes, Virginia. It is an Atari. With JOYSTICKS. And (count ’em) NINETY-TWO built-in games.

(And yes, one of them is Space Invaders.)

Tell XBox 360 (or whatever the cool kids are playing this week) to step off. There’s a new, really old, game in town.

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92 games. That means some of them are weird useless stuff like Yars’ Revenge. But that also means there’s Centipede. And PONG.

I wish I had some heart-warming Tiny Tim-esque story of my favorite Christmas past. But I don’t. My favorite Christmas EVER was the year Santa cracked under societal pressure and placed an Atari beneath our tree.

Consider my world ROCKED.

I cannot tell you (or dare admit to my children) the number of lost hours of my youth that were spent fighting intergalactic battles with digitized blobs called “asteroids.”

Too many. So so many.

But eventually I perfected how to swing from a “Pitfall” vine like a tiny pixillated Indiana Jones, landing on that crocodile’s eyeball with razor-sharp accuracy time after time after time. Oh, it took hours of commitment, but I saw it through, people. I saw it through.

Atari taught me that.

This is the stuff ’80s-era childhood memories are made of — and that family game nights should now have to endure.

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So on Day 20 of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Families, might I suggest stuffing those stockings a little early? Just get ’em all chock full of ’80s joy and rapture.

Your kids will rise up and call you LAME.

But listen. We fought too hard to rid the world of marauding super-sized caterpillars. And now they’re back. It’s our duty as children of the ’80s to grab a joystick and equip a new generation for the battle.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

Day 18 – Get Tricked Out for Halloween

On a lazy Saturday morning, the kids have cartoons (really loud skater-punk turtles who munch pizza and fight crime.) I have Etsy.

If you don’t already know and love this crafty/vintage website, it’s just the sweetest little oasis of homespun commerce. And you can find anything. I mean, seriously, ANYTHING.

I’ve sent off for everything from lovingly home-stitched Easter dresses to, well…Cousin Eddie earrings lovingly crafted from bottle caps.

BOOM.

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These beauties are – SOMEHOW – still available! Check out the Goldylyon Shop on Etsy.

So for Day 18 of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Families, I have curated a fall fabulous list of Halloween Not-Necessarily-Must-Haves for the Home — straight from the Etsy files. You will love deeply, occasionally laugh loudly, and quite possibly drain your PayPal account.

Let’s get you started.

Okay, for those who hate yielding machetes and scooping pumpkin guts every October, I say slap a mustache on your gourd and call it a DAY.

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 Handlebar facial hair is what all the cool pumpkins are wearing this fall. Just $5 for this handsome mustachioed set of 4 decals. These are coming to you straight from SaraLukeCreations in Spring Arbor, MI.

No Southern pumpkin with any decency would be caught dead without a monogram. (Yankee pumpkins, just stick with the mustaches. This is a language you do not speak.)

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These lovely golden ‘gram decals are $4 each from the well-heeled “Monogram Collection” Etsy shop out of (gasp!) Chicago, IL. Um, duh, the pumpkin is NOT included.

This spoon makes the perfect companion for your child’s morning CountChocula.

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This hand-stamped slverplate spoon can rattle around your silverware drawer for $16 from MilkandHoneyLuxuries in Richmond, VA. Other funny/scary phrases: “Let’s Spoon” and “Call Your Mother.”

Nothing is scarier – or makes you feel better about your parenting — than Mommie Dearest. Now she’s scary.

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Share freaky greetings with your kids with this hand-made Joan Crawford card for $4 from DebbieDrawsFunny in Cleveland, OH. If Mommie’s not scary enough, check out the cards with Hall & Oates or the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. 

For the cat-loving (or hating) family, this might be my very favorite find. If we only had a cat to torment…

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This hand-crocheted Rapunzel hat FOR YOUR CAT is $30 from the IHeartNeedlework shop in Florence, SC. Be sure not to miss the ridiculous pilgrim hats and Frankenstein foreheads. FOR ANIMALS. 

Now let us bring our journey full-circle, beginning and ending this spooky trail of stupidity with bottle caps.

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Bottle-cap earrings scream “class” in every season. Just $5.99. 

Etsy is a world of weird and wonderful wonders that begs to be explored.

It takes a whole lot less energy than a stupid corn maze. And you can busily burn through your stash of Twix trick-or-treat bars at the same time.

Now that’s good holiday fun.

Day 17 – Hightail it to Harry’s

Yesterday’s blog took it out of me. Alllll those horrifying pictures and alllll that bad hair.  (If you missed my ode to ’80s yearbooks, click here for a good laugh.)

So yada yada yada…

I’m really tired today. And I need a snack.

Preferably cheeseburgers, thank you very much.

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On Day 17 of My 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Families, I hereby channel my inner Wimpy from Popeye and heartily suggest that you take the kids for cheeseburgers. Preferably from Harry’s Place in Colchester (if you live around these Connecticut Shoreline parts.)

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Who is this adolescent pre-teenage person who stowed away in our car and is eating our cheeseburgers??

Harry’s is our favorite little roadside stand — with crazy good burgers, those fries that are all crispy on the outside the way I like, gigantic onion rings, and an ice cream stand to boot. (We hit it hard on our recent jaunt to Pumpkintown.)

This place is actually on the National Register of Historic Places; it’s been around since 1920. (I’m not good at math, but I think that’s close to 100 years). It’s safe to say that Harry knows his way around a burger.

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She’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.

Harry’s closes for the season on Sunday, October 19. So that gives you exactly two days.

Stop wasting time salivating over this picture and RUN.

Oh, who are we kidding? After all that greasy goodness hits your gut, there’s no way you’ll be able to run back.

So DRIVE.

Then ride home fat and happy with the top button of your jeans unsnapped.

Leave the spinach to Popeye. We’re with Wimpy on this one.

Day 16 – Show the Kids your Yearbook

Prepare yourself. This is gonna be a feast for the eyes.

I took the day off yesterday from my 31 Day Blogging Challenge (eh, we all knew I’d never make it).

But that has given you a full 24 hours to cleanse your system in preparation for this day.

Welcome to ThrowBack Thursday: ’80s Yearbook Edition.

Here’s your first free sample:

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I’m the slope-shouldered dork with the Forenza V-neck and painfully short haircut. One word: WHY?

For Day 16 of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny/Funtastic Stuff for Kids, I say let’s dust off our old yearbooks. And let’s collectively horrify our children with our mullet hair/gold chains/Jordache jeans of yesteryear. They need to know – nay, SEE – what we went through with their own eyes so they won’t make the same mistakes we did.

And oh yeah, so they can mock us.

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Bill’s senior pictures from Western Tennessee are mind-blowingly awesome. I cannot get enough of the red feathery things and matching bow ties. (In case you need help spotting my c.1988 husband, he’s the mullet-free white guy. There’s only one.) 

Let’s show them what passed for “Best Dressed” in our day.

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 I’m sure these are dear precious people. But how did Bill’s senior class collectively agree that a plaid-on-plaid suit (with sock tie) and matching Gunne Sax dresses represented their most fashion-forward? It was a different time. One with much more fabric. Not all of it matching.

Make your children look at you in that band uniform and know: This is my heritage. This awesomeness is where I come from.

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Nothing screams “COOL” like being a 6 ft. tall girl in a toy soldier uniform. Topped with a 2 ft. tall fuzzy hat. In 6 inch thick Hushpuppy shoes. Banging together very large and very loud CYMBALS. I was a LOT to take in.

Let your children enter that world with you…back to Ye Olde 20th Century, where we churned our own margarine and communicated with the outside world by CB radio and wore leg-warmers to survive the harsh prairie winters.

You may need to translate and/or screen some of the 1980s yearbook lingo. (Apparently “Raising Hell” was very much encouraged at my junior high.)

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There are many many versions to choose from. This one means, “Raise Hell All Summer.” I’m sure I failed utterly to do so.

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Okay, so here I’m supposed to “Raise Hell OVER Summer.” So maybe just one episode of hell-raising would suffice?

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Hmmm…this one suggests that I “Raise Hell THIS Summer.” I guess that got me off the hook for any future summers. That’s a relief.

There’s also higher math that may need to be explained. (This is not the way they do things in the Common Core.)

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This math is confusing. I’m apparently really sweet (like, to a memorable degree) but I still have more hell-raising to do?

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Even with all the hell-raising, there are apparently limits. And I was in the Students Against Drunk Driving Club, so there’s that. (That was an actual thing in 1989).

Be sure to introduce your kids to the teachers and staff who shaped the person you would become.

Like our Lunch Room Ladies.

LunchLadies

Especially the giant one with the mustache.

Your yearbook is a teaching tool, my friends, for giving the next generation a window into the past.

To see what the ancients wore (mostly puffy sleeves).

To better understand how they communicated with one another (by corded phone and mix tape).

To catch a glimpse of what daily life was like (we were very big on balloon arches).

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Sharing our yearbooks with our children is a vital tool for passing along the proud oral tradition of our family histories – as we tell tales of courage and perseverance (like how Bill survived having his sweater set on fire by some girl playing with matches in class). These are the stories they will one day tell their children.

May we all reflect on our yearbooks of days gone by, learn from the past, and guide our children into a better tomorrow.

A tomorrow where there is no more hate.

No more fear.

And (please Lord), no more perms.

Day 14 – Cook like Betty Draper

Throw your kale chips in the air like you just don’t care.

This post is all about making old-school cuisine just like our moms used to make — a turn of events that will free up your busy day, lighten the grocery budget, and completely freak out your children.

(This is my idea of a good time on Day 14 of my 31 Days of Fun/Funny Stuff for Families).

I ran across the most darling and disturbing cookbook, circa 1956, put out by the National Dairy Council — presumably because they wanted to promote good wholesome cooking with America’s finest dairy products.

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If you know anything about cookbooks of the ’50s and ’60s, you know the sun rises and sets on one thing:  cottage cheese. Usually on an iceberg lettuce leaf. Maybe with a maraschino cherry or canned pineapple ring on top, if you wanted to act rich.

With all of our modern-mom emphasis on sneaking broccoli puree into lasagne, roasting kale and calling it “chips,” and sending hummus and red peppers in a bento box to school, I say let’s throw these 21st century kids for a LOOP.

Let’s greet the brood after soccer practice with a warm bowl of vitamin-packed soup like our moms used to do. From a can.

(Again, THIS WAS IN A COOKBOOK.)

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Would you just LOOK at the detailed instructions for heating up canned soup? There’s even a variation in case you dig on Green Pea instead. (Which essentially boils down to opening a different can.)

But there’s MILK. So yeah, it’s pretty delish and nutrish.

Or if you dig on triglycerides, how ’bout the haute hot dog cuisine of sliced dogs doused in cheese? This heaven on a plate is also known in ’50s parlance as Saturday’s Dream.

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Sadly, I distinctly remember this hot dog invention being part of our regular family repertoire. And on a side note: do you know a single solitary kid in 2014 whose name is Bill?

If you really want to shake things up, how about greeting your kids with an afternoon snack of PRUNE WHIP?

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Can you even imagine? Seriously. YOUR CHILDREN WOULD DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS.

It’s amazing what terrors, I mean – WONDERS, you can create with a little mayo, instant pudding, and condensed soup.

Oh sure, our kids may recoil at these foodstuffs of the 1950s, but here’s one thing for ’em: they sure do whip up quick.

This easy-breezy, totally non-nutritional approach to the kitchen frees up lots of extra time for chain smoking and playing canasta with the other wives on the cul-de-sac.

So what’s the grossest concoction of the Harvest Gold-hued kitchen era that your mom made you eat? Do tell.

And oh please, DO serve it to your kids. It builds character. And probably clogged arteries.

But there’s plenty of kale for that later.