Stop the iWorld…I Want to Get Off

I am so sick of little kids staring into their little hand-held screens, I could punch Steve Jobs in the face.

Okay, I know he’s dead. And he wears glasses. Both of which are no-no’s for punching. Also, I have never punched anything or anyone in my life.

But I’m telling you right now, I am growing seriously WEARY of the iWorld — and my kids don’t even officially live there yet.

Everyone my kids know — literally all 9-12 year olds in their circle of life — have phones or iTouches or Kindle Fires or tablets or all of the above. And every day I get an earful about it.


This is my crap phone. It’s like something out of a time capsule.

Mostly I hear about how my kids feel left out — because all anyone does anymore on the bus (instead of chit-chatting or mooning passers-by) is play video games or text friends other than the one they’re sitting beside. I hear about how much they need these gadgets to fit in, to do anything imaginable that’s cool, to basically breathe 21st century oxygen in and out.

I’ve been strong, I’ve stuck to my guns, but I am starting to feel cornered, like there’s no way out but through a maze of apps and porn and duck-face selfies. And I don’t like that feeling. It makes me scared and mad and want to fling myself off the grid.

Which I won’t do. I couldn’t make it a day. But still, sometimes I feel like I’m straddling the split-rail fence of time.


And I’m getting splinters.

Last weekend we went with friends to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, one of those Colonial re-enactment places where you walk the dusty village streets and watch an old guy in a funny hat make his own nails and some ladies in dingy full-length dresses and black orthopedic sneakers make candles out of lard. It was a salve to my tech-weary spirit.


Greetings from the future, little sheep.

It’s true that I have zero interest in butter-churning. (I happen to love butter that comes in wrapped sticks, four to a box.) I wouldn’t be overly jazzed about living in a house just one degree warmer than a New England winter. And I am not a fan of straw beds teeming with lice.

But something in me craves what that place in time represents — simplicity, innocence, diligent work for daily bread, family, faith. No entitlement. No screens. No Kardashians.


I have no idea what this is, but it’s surely something smart and crafty and super-useful. There’s not an app for that.

Something in me hungers to GO BACK. To make it all stop spinning so fast. To live a life that feels simpler and safer (despite big bummers like cholera and scarlet fever). To raise children in a world that doesn’t show them everything too soon and make them grow up before they’re ready.

A world where little girls wore bonnets.

Would you just look at this picture?


My friend bought BONNETS for her daughter and mine in the general store. And without the first thought of Instagram or a trace of self-consciousness, those 5th-grade girls ran through the village in them. They scooted down hiking trails in them. They were Half-Pint and Mary incarnate.

For one day, those girls took a break from growing up. It was so precious I could have cried.

As much as I long to linger in this land of bonnets and butter-churning, I know that going back isn’t an option.

But I have to believe that how we move forward is.

How many steps forward we allow as parents, how many doors we crack open and when, where we let it lead our kids and how quickly…we still have a say.

When and if I choose to let the horse out of the techno-barn, I can’t let that animal run wild for the hills. I have to be smart about it and watch where it goes and give it reasonable limits — without throwing up my hands or covering my eyes with my calico apron.

With every fiber of my old-fashioned being, I wish we didn’t have to worry about all this cyber-crap. But it’s not going away. Hopefully, neither am I.

So this slow-poke family is gonna take on the future in our own sweet time…in our own painstaking way…and hopefully for a little while longer at least…


What’s Under YOUR Couch Cushions?

I’ve just emerged from excavating my desk — a long-lost piece of furniture I’d like to start using again if I could somehow find it.

In my archaeological dig, I just unearthed this treasure.

Couch contents

“Couch History:” A Dusty Time Capsule of What Lies Beneath by Lucy Filiatreault.

My daughter likes to “research” stuff. This usually involves Googling weird animals like Tasmanian Tigers (which I wasn’t aware was a real thing) and typing up “facts” about them.

Apparently she also turns her scientific eye now and again to the mysteries of home — such as what mysteries lurk under our sofa cushions. As shown above, she has lovingly curated this array of items and TAPED THEM TO A PIECE OF PAPER.

Isn’t that just GRAND?

Plastic thingy

I’m just happy it’s something plastic and not something dead.

As Part II of her painstaking research, she also took time to document what littered the floor of our home. (At least by getting taped onto this piece of paper, that crap got picked up EVENTUALLY.)

Floor history

She appears to imply that said “piece of papper” had lain our carpet since 1964. I demand carbon dating.

Bandaid wrapper

And a BandAid from 1941?? It might have been there since the Bush administration, but FDR? P-shaw.

What a keen scientific mind! And what a lovely tribute to her mother’s unswerving devotion to homemaking!

May she long cherish these findings (a wrapper from her beloved root beer barrels, the remains of a bandage from a boo-boo once blessed with a kiss, a piece of hay from the box of that infernal rabbit we bought her) as mementos of a home full of crap, yes, but also full of lovvvve.

Just as importantly, may her inquisitive mind never lead her to the seedy underbelly of our station wagon’s backseat.

That mouse family just wants to eat our leftover Goldfish crackers in peace.

(Help a mother out. Report back to me on what weird stuff you’ve found under your sofa cushions…or if you dare, what smells are emanating from your minivan? We’re all in this together.)

Cracking the Teacher Conference Code


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.

Motherhood and tattoos are forever.

It’s hard not to stare at people on the train to New York City. I mean, it just IS.

It’s like a Play-Doh Fun factory on there. One after the other, they keep coming — frat boy, elderly arts patron, Asian hooker. Each one is wildly different from the person who passed before. God is nothing if not creative.

But of all the fascinating cases on our trek last weekend, I could NOT stop staring at the mother and newborn across from us. The mother was like some Caribbean goddess with raven locks, a billowing sundress, and this chocolate-eyed baby cradled in her arms. Almost as dramatic was her boyfriend in iridescent green skinny jeans. It’s quite possible he was one of the Black Eyed Peas.


Just your typical mother and child. POW.

But here’s what made me sneak this crappy snapshot on a moving train. She was nonchalantly shaking up her baby’s formula when I spotted the most mind-blowing tattoo on her left arm.

It read – and I’m not making this up:

MotherF—ingAwesome POW!”

This on the very arm that was feeding her newborn babe.

Her ginormous diaper bag is blocking the bicep in question, so you’re just going to have to trust me. But the swear was in an elegant cursive, the “POW!” was like a comic book graphic, and it hit me square between the eyes. POW.

That POW got me thinking. If one is going to launch into the lifelong commitments of both body art and the family way, there are certain pitfalls I’d think you’d want to avoid.

From the perspective of this middle-class mom from the Connecticut ‘burbs, here are some helpful hints that future candidates for motherhood and tattoos may wish to consider:

1. Your tattoo will be one of the first words your child ever reads. Keep it PG.

I want to cry when I picture that darling little girl a few years from now, dragging her tiny finger across her mom’s arm and sounding out the words like her preschool teacher taught her. “Fffff….uuuuu…..What’s this say, Mommy?” GROAN. You do not want this to happen. EVER.  So for the wise woman who’s thinking long-term, go with those Japanese characters that translate into something zen-like. Even if it is a swear, your future kids will never know. Do it for the children.

2. Future mothers must be strategic about tattoo placement. Let’s face facts: there are certain areas that lend themselves to spread over time and multiple children. Those angel wings splayed across your haunches? They could very well look like the work of the devil after love handles have their way with you.  So may I recommend the tops of feet – or better yet, toes? With age and diabetes, your toes may swell like Vienna sausages, but at least there is limited flesh spread.

3. For crying out loud, a tattoo is forever. Spell it right. How are you supposed to foster a love for learning in your children with something like “Sweet Pee” scrawled across your shoulders? Trust me, this is not aspirational. It might as well be a “Kick me” sign.

If I learned anything from the girl from the train, it’s that motherhood is a lifelong commitment, and so are tattoos. Neither should be entered into lightly.

So you may seriously want to rethink that Calvin-peeing-on-a-Chevy tat.

Save it for the back of the minivan. At least you can peel it off when you’re done with it.

And believe me, you will be. I already am.