Tag Archives: humor

Cold Weather, Heating Bills, and Why New Englanders Are Nuts

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“It’s freezing in here, but don’t you DARE touch that thermostat!”

There’s a game people in New England play this time of year. A game in which the stakes are high, the temperature is low, and financial situations as well as pride hang in the balance. The rest of the country thinks we’re absolutely nuts, yet every year households engage in wintry warfare when cold fronts hit and tempers heat up, as families battle over the most pressing issue of autumn — when to turn on the heat!

I know, I know. Sounds trivial right. Most of you are saying “turn the heat on if you’re cold.” Well you know what I say to that? This isn’t Texas, Florida, or parts of California where 65-degree temperatures cause you warm weather schmucks to don winter hats and gloves and look like assholes.

This is October in New England and the decisions we make now could have long-lasting repercussions.

First of all, this area was settled by Pilgrims (who “discovered” it after Native Americans had been living here for hundreds of years), and the puritanical presence can still be felt to this day. Bars close at 2 a.m. and up until a few years ago you couldn’t buy beer on Sunday. But more than that, we’re cheap. Some of us try to call it “thriftiness” but that’s just a fancy way of saying we’re cheap. And there’s nothing we complain about more than heating bills in the winter. Depending on whether you have oil, electric, propane, or what have you, a Massachusetts heating bill during a cold snap can easily cost upward of $600 a month. Not to mention the cost of snow removal (minimum $50 per plow visit) depending on the length of your driveway.

Which means frugality + stubbornness = an unwillingness to turn on the heat until it’s deemed absolutely necessary. And by absolutely necessary I mean someone loses a finger due to exposure.

It was 60 degrees in our house today. I’m writing this in slippers, wool socks, fleece pajamas, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. My wife and kids are dressed in a similar fashion. We have scarves, long johns, blankets, and electric blankets at the ready at all times. If people didn’t know we lived here, they’d think we were homeless. We sleep in self-made cocoons and we’re careful not to leave any body part uncovered, for fear of frostbite. We use each other’s body heat to survive and the kids sleep in thermals to avoid hypothermia during the night. That noise you hear isn’t an appliance on the fritz, it’s the sound of our teeth chattering.

So why? Why do we do it? Why not just turn on the heat and end the misery? Because fuck you, that’s why!

Being the last of your friends and family members to turn on the heat is a badge of honor. Every time you hang out with people and talk about the weather, someone says “you turn the heat on yet?” I smile at the ones who look away in shame as they mutter something about “Well the wife was freezing” or “we had to because of the newborn.” Suckers. These clowns are luxuriating in warmth and enjoying feeling in their extremities, but I’m saving $37 and proving my hardy New England mettle.

But more than that, I’m passing on a rich tradition of misery and sadomasochism to a new generation, who will one day tell their crying children “that’s what blankets are for” and “we don’t live on the west coast, Sally” when they tearfully ask to turn on the heat.

Sure my kids are growing weaker by the second and my wife is seriously considering cutting me open like a tauntaun and using my innards to keep warm, but seriously — where would you rather be during winter? New England winters feature blizzards that cripple the local economy and bankrupt municipal snow removal budgets as your power goes out causing you to buy a generator which you use to power your TV so you can watch the Patriots game instead of heating your house. Now compare that to the cloudless skies of southern California where perpetual temps in the mid-70s make Christmas on the beach a reality. No contest, baby!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need another pair of socks because I can’t feel my toes.

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6 Things from My Elementary School Days I Wish My Kids Could Experience

dodgeball

My oldest son Will just started the first grade. And the first thing you’ll say when your kids start school is “holy crap, things have changed!”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be one of those “things were so much better in my day” posts. Well, maybe a little. But while I fully realize many of the changes are positive and done for good reason, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic and, if we’re being honest, kind of sad my sons won’t have some of the same experiences I did.

6. The Oregon Trail
I never want to see harm come to my kids, unless it’s in the form of virtual dysentery via this classic Apple II game from the 1980s.

My kids will grow up with computers as the norm, but for me in grade school, computer class was UNBELIEVABLE! Unlike my 14-month-old who already knows his way around my smartphone, kids back then were just as amazed as adults as we all stumbled into the technological age together. But while businesses were using computers to work more efficiently, we were making our way along a 2,200-mile trail of incessant hardship to gain riches out west. Would we drown trying to ford the river? Would our oxen die? Could we hunt enough food to survive? The only way to find out was to insert that massive floppy disk and give it a whirl.

When I was six this game (and computers in general) was an otherworldly experience. My 6-year-old, however, has had a Kindle for more than a year and complains when the TV isn’t on an HD station.

5. Report Cards That Make Sense
I figured a lot had changed since I was in school, but getting my son’s first report card threw me for the biggest loop.

I was expecting what most people my age had – the old A, B, C, D, F system. Simple and reliable. An A meant I was getting $5, a B would earn me a buck and a “why couldn’t you get an A,” and a C meant I was grounded for a month. I assume D and F meant “find another place to live.” But when Will brought home his report card, it was some indecipherable chart with a color-coded bar graph that ultimately told me very little about my son’s progress. There was an ideal range to be in but it was OK if he wasn’t in the range in the first part of the year as long as he got into the purple section by the end of the year…frankly, I still don’t get it.

I’m sure it’s a much better system and I’m the problem, but in the end I had to keep asking the teacher “So…is that like an A? Or a B+?”

4. Peanut Butter
I tried really hard to remember any kids in my class with peanut butter allergies so severe they were life-threatening. I came up with nothing. But today, bringing peanut butter into a school is becoming a suspendable offense.

Look, I get it. Kids have allergies, allergies can be deadly, and precautions must be taken. I don’t want to see any harm come to innocent students. But at the same time, it boggles my mind that peanut butter is pretty much considered a Class D substance, considering how prevalent it was in the lunchtime repertoire of my classmates growing up. I’d eat that stuff by the spoonful! But now it’s not just straight peanut butter, but any food that might not even contain peanuts but was made on an assembly line that might’ve been subject to peanut products at some point dating back to the Industrial Revolution.

So while I understand the need for it, it’s too bad bringing peanut butter into school is right up there with bringing in a weapon.

3. Trading Lunches
This goes hand-in-hand with the peanut butter complaint.

Do you remember what would happen when the lunch bell rang and you got into the cafeteria? At my school it was like the opening bell on Wall Street had just sounded and the trading commenced fast and furious. On my best day I traded a PB&J sandwich, an orange, and a Yodel for three Fruit Roll-ups, a snack pack, and two Devil Dogs. But because of allergies, kids actually get in trouble when they trade lunches and it’s a punishable offense.

I was reading a survey that showed 41% of workers didn’t negotiate salary for the job they currently hold. I think this lack of lunchtime bartering means our nation’s youth is ill prepared to haggle later in life.

2. Gifted Programs
In the third grade, I was picked to go into the “Academically Talented Program.” I had no idea what this meant at the time, but I remember it was nice not being bored in class anymore and being challenged in a variety of ways. I wasn’t the smartest kid by a longshot, but I was an early reader and well ahead of the normal curriculum.

Now schools either can’t afford such programs, or reject them so no one is offended.

I’m all for inclusion, but not if it means holding stellar students back. In my own personal, non-expert opinion, I think we’ve stopped nurturing excellence in favor of promoting mediocrity. I get money is tight and gifted programs are first on the chopping block, but if kids excel it’s a shame they won’t have that avenue to pursue.

1. Dodgeball
Nothing brings up more controversy and emotions than this fantastic, oft-banned game.

Depending on where you landed on the dodgeball ladder, you either loved this game or dreaded it like the plague. I loved it despite not being great at it. Sure I took a bunch of balls to the head (giggity) and ended up with a red, swollen face and had to go sit on the sidelines in shame with those dreaded parquet markings implanted on my forehead. But on a few select occasions, I fended off three people by myself and basked in the glow of playground glory.

My son won’t have that opportunity because dodgeball has been banned everywhere in favor of youth sports that don’t keep score and hand everyone a trophy. I guess I’ll have to keep pelting him with red rubber balls on the weekends, as part of a dodgeball homeschooling program.

So good readers, what else did I miss?

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The 5 Stages of Spending Time Without Kids

nokids“Holy $*&%, I just need some time for myself and away from these kids!!”

How many parents have uttered some variation of that phrase at some point in time? I know I have. Hell, I just went through life with an infant again this past year. Between Sam’s multiple nightly awakenings, screaming fits, and teething, combined with Will’s adjustments to big brotherhood and the first year of school, I used to fantasize about a life of solitude in a quiet mountain cabin where no one could find me and I could pee alone.

But on the rare occasions we’re granted a parental sabbatical, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend — we miss our damn kids too much!

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s not too long after I’m sprung from the asylum that I start to — gulp — miss it a little. And then a lot. It’s like some sort of parental Stockholm Syndrome. I just spent 55 hours on my own, and here are the stages of kidlessness I experienced.

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Stage 1: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!
The first stage is characterized by an initial and intense feeling of release. Like I’m Andy Dufresne finally escaping Shawshank Prison through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness. Or like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only if I skipped the torture and got to sleep with Sophie Marceau again instead. Whether your childfree time is going to last for a night or a week, it seems the possibilities are endless and you can do anything. Road trip, baseball game, bar, expensive dinner, or even a movie at the theater that doesn’t have cartoons — the world is your oyster.

Stage 2: Whatever I Want!
Sure, you’re going to put your Vegas trip into action soon. But that can wait for a minute, while you enjoy the little things you can’t do when the family is around. You know, the simple things you used to do when you were single. As for me, I immediately strip down to my boxers, stretch out on the couch, and watch SportsCenter while scratching myself at will. Either that or all the movies no one else likes. Then I have a dinner that consists of Kraft mac & cheese, beer, and Doritos. Normally I’d be chastised for my post meal bodily functions, but only the dog was affected this time (and she was guilty of a few nasty ones too). And then — as the grand finale — I take up the entire king size bed by sleeping diagonally, as opposed to sleeping on the sliver of bed I have after the wife and dog are accounted for. Sure it might SEEM slightly pathetic that a grown man can enjoy farting in peace, leaving the toilet seat up without reproach, and using a plethora of bed space so much, but best not to dwell on such matters for long. There’s work to do.

Stage 3: Reality Sets In
After you’ve eaten like a pig and reveled in smelling like one as well, it’s time to get serious about this temporary kid hiatus. That’s when you start thinking of all your friends and get ready to call them up to have a good old fashioned rager of a party. You call Jim but his oldest has summer baseball and his youngest has a ballet recital. No worries. Skip right to Brian, only to find out he’s going to a concert. Awesome, right? Because you haven’t been to a live show in years. The only problem? It’s a “Wiggles” concert. Andy and Jake moved away, Ted doesn’t want to stay out past 10 pm because he’s coaching T-ball in the morning, and Bill already went out for a night this month so he’s used up his privileges. Suddenly you realize two things: 1) You’re old, and 2) Spontaneity is officially dead. Which makes you sad. Which leads to additional mac & cheese, Netflix, and gas.

Stage 4: This Kind of Sucks
This stage sees panic setting in. You’ve gorged yourself, farted at will, lounged around in your boxers, and realized all of your friends are now lame. You start calling your wife and kids more often just to hear what they’re doing. While you’re watching TV, you see “Jake and the NeverLand Pirates” and consider watching it because you know how much your oldest likes it. But you’re barely even watching TV now because you’re mostly looking at family pictures hanging in the hall, as you make one more call to the family to see what they’re doing now.

Stage 5: COME HOME!!!
This is when things get really desperate. Suddenly your faltering plans don’t even matter, because you’re too busy playing with Transformers and sitting in the kids’ empty rooms getting emotional. You’re not even watching TV because you’re combing through six years of YouTube home videos. You know they’re due home today so you up your calls to every hour on the hour just in case they get home early. In a fit of total desperation and longing, you flip on Frozen and sing “Let It Go” with tears streaming down your face as you promise never to take your family for granted ever again.

When they finally pull into the driveway you sprint out barefoot because you’re so damn happy to see them. You rip open the door of the minivan to see your precious little angels, only to have the youngest sneeze in your eye and simultaneously take a dump the likes of which makes landfills blush, while the oldest bitterly complains you woke him up from his nap.

I need a break…

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7 Little Things My Mom Did For Me That Made a Huge Impact

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All writers thank mom around Mother’s Day. Usually it’s a predictable list of qualities filled with all the usual platitudes about moms one would expect from a generic Mother’s Day piece.

However, my mom is anything but generic.

I won’t lie, her style is not the norm and it’s not for everyone. I could easily write a Top 7 Things My Mom Did That Drove Me Nuts column, but just about any kid could do that about their parents. Instead, I want to celebrate some of the stuff my mom did that made her cool. And different. And completely insane in some instances. But whatever the case, these things I’m listing today are small things that meant a great deal to me. Things for which I never thanked my mom. Things she probably doesn’t even think I remember.

So happy Mother’s Day (and birthday) mom. And don’t worry, this isn’t your only present.

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7. ALWAYS BEING AT MY GAMES
I played three sports a year, and my mom went to all my games. I’m not just saying that as hyperbole either. It’s a fact. My mom went to ALL my games. Didn’t matter if it was 7-year-old rec league basketball, my all-star baseball teams as an early teen, or cross-country matches in high school. She was there. Always. Guaranteed. Even when we traveled to competing high schools she was there. Wanna know how she swung that? She drove the bus. Yup, that’s right. My mom was a school bus driver when we were younger and so she used those contacts to secure the gigs driving to all our away games in high school. I won’t lie, sometimes it made talking about chicks with the guys on the bus a little awkward with mom at the wheel, but having her there rooting me on was something I always appreciated. Even if I never let on before now.

6. SIGNING ME UP FOR THINGS AGAINST MY WILL
I know you guys won’t believe this, but I was a whiny kid. A REALLY whiny kid. I cried about everything, especially sports. If I struck out it was the end of the world. If I only scored 6 points in basketball I was a failure. After the season ended I always swore I was never playing again and I told my mom not to ever sign me up. Even when registration rolled around I’d maintain my stance and tell her under no circumstances did I want to play. But then all my friends would get excited about the season and team assignments, and suddenly I’d freak out because I’d want to play but it was too late to register. Except it wasn’t too late, because my mom had already signed me up, knowing I’d come around. Because she knew me better than I knew myself.

5. HELPING ME MY FIRST DAY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
I don’t remember specifically why, but I was terrified of middle school. The thought of going to a new school and mixing in with kids from the other elementary school who I didn’t know, scared the bejesus out of me. I swore I wasn’t going to go. But my mom took me for a tour of the school beforehand, and since it was the same school she had gone to she showed me spots she liked as a kid and it made me feel a whole lot more at ease. Sometimes it’s the little things.

4. MAKING ME GO TO MY FIRST SCHOOL DANCE
At the end of 5th grade, we were able to attend a middle school dance. I was TERRIFIED (are you noticing a trend with me here?). In fact, when we pulled up to the school I started freaking out and refused to go inside. I didn’t know which of my friends were in there, who I could hang out with, where to walk in, where to stand, etc. My dad would’ve just kicked my ass out of the car, but my mom let me calm down while she walked in and performed some recon. She reported back to me which of my friends were there, where I was supposed to go, what the layout was, etc. It took me another 20 minutes but I eventually did it. Of course, her thanks was that I immediately waved her away because it’s uncool to have your parents dropping you off. But today I say thank you — even if it is 25 years late.

3. BEING COOL ABOUT MY FIRST KISS
My dad did not deal well when I started liking girls. When I told him I got my first french kiss at the age of 11, he nearly veered off the road and basically told me to stay away from girls. But it was my mom who came to me after everything calmed down. And while she gave me the talk and told me to be respectful and safe, she also congratulated me on my first kiss and told me she was proud of me. Mom has always been cool like that, and her attitude is the reason I felt I could communicate openly with my parents about almost anything. As a parent myself now, I see how valuable and important that is.

2. NEVER GOING THE SAME WAY TO AND FROM PLACES
Driving with my mother is — an adventure. She has very little sense of geography and routinely ignores or miscalculates the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. And one thing she does that drives many people batty is refuse to go back the same way she came. She ALWAYS takes a different route. It used to make me insane, but as I’ve gotten older, well, I find I do the same thing. I take back roads because she taught me to enjoy a little diversity and find the beauty in the scenic route. So what if it takes a few minutes longer? It’s better to enjoy life a little.

1. THE BEST/WORST SEX TALK EVER
Every parent worries about kids when they become sexually active. Most of them are hesitant when it comes to discussing it. But not my mom. On December 25, 1996, I unwrapped a present on Christmas morning and discovered — a 36-pack of Trojan condoms. They were from my mom — her way of making sure I was being safe. I wrote about it in full detail here, but it was an especially brilliant move because every time I needed a condom I was forced to think of my mother. Can you say “deterrent?” Interestingly enough, this also tops the “Things My Mother Did That Drove Me Nuts” list as well.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. Happy Mother’s Day, happy birthday, and thanks for always being there — even when I wished you weren’t. I love you, mom.

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The 11 Most Annoying Types of Facebook Parents

fbparentsYou know them. You’ve seen them. You might even be one. Well, not you of course. You’re cool. I’m totally talking about that annoying friend you have. Yeah…that’s the ticket.

So even though I am a parent and I love parents, the fact of the matter is we can be an infuriating bunch. The know-it-all mentality, the one-upsmanship, the showboating — it can all be a little much at times. Unfortunately, social media — and Facebook especially — serves as a virtual bullhorn that broadcasts that obnoxiousness across the Internet and beams all the bullshit directly to your laptop, tablet, or phone.

Well, it’s time to call these perpetrators out by shining the spotlight of truth on them.

I have used every bit of scientific methodology and cutting-edge research available to mankind (or simply looked in the mirror while also observing many of you) to put this list together. So read this list of annoying kinds of Facebook parents to find your friends, see a little bit of yourself, and tell me which ones I’ve missed.

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