Signs Your Toddler Might be Addicted to YouTube

It starts out simple enough. You pull up a clip of The Wiggles or maybe a little Elmo. It keeps your ever-moving toddler still for five whole minutes, so you can breathe.

Then those other videos start to creep in. Your child is suddenly mesmerized by a pair of hands opening a shiny new toy. The voice of a grown woman narrates all the wonderful attributes of said toy, as the hands creepily play along.

Before you know it, your YouTube recommendations include everything from Bad Babies to Spiderman and Elsa inexplicably playing pranks on each other. And your little one eats it all up.

Here are five signs it may be time to cut ties with the Tube:

1) He is disappointed every time you crack an egg.

2) He refers to all his toys as “surprises.”

3) He wants to change his name to Ryan.

4) He calls his thumb “daddy finger.”

5) At the end of every play date he tells his friends to “Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe!”

If this list makes no sense to you, consider yourself lucky. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of starting to miss Caillou.

Forty Days Without Facebook (More or Less)

A couple months ago, I dreamed I was walking down a sidewalk, and a parade of vaguely familiar faces blurred past me. The faces shouted things like, “Look at my kids!” and “Hey, remember me from high school?” Some of the faces were attached to bodies, some not. Many were holding up photos. I tried to slow down and chat with these people, but they kept moving and kept shouting. “Look what I had for dinner!” … “It’s my birthday!”

I woke up and thought, OMG, I just dreamed in Facebook. This is not a hackneyed comedy sketch. This actually happened.

That’s when I realized I could use a break from this weird version of condensed reality.

When I first joined Facebook, it was a fun way to stay in touch with people, but over the years, I’ve simply become addicted to the scroll. I was looking at pictures of children I’ve never met, becoming angry at political opinions of people I haven’t seen in more than 10 years, and clicking on all my notifications just to see that little number outlined in red disappear.

Being the good Catholic that I pretend to be, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Surely I would accomplish something more important than reading about slut shaming, mom shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming, snowflakes and sanctimommies.

So here is what I accomplished with all that extra time:

  • I watched five seasons of Blue Bloods on Netflix, so I now know how to order a bus forthwith before me and my partner get jammed up.
  • I read Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub, a book of book reviews, so I have now added approximately 324 books to my shopping list.
  • I started paying more attention to my son, which led me to discover that he may be addicted to YouTube. Relax, sanctimommies. I’m on it.
  • I obtained political news from C-SPAN instead of Internet memes.
  • This may just be coincidence, but I vacuumed my house twice in one week. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I did allow myself a sneak peak every now and then, only on Sundays, because as good Catholics know, Sundays don’t count as a day of Lent. But I must say, even most Sundays, I stayed strong, and I’m pretty proud of myself.

I’m guessing I didn’t miss much while I was away. Are there still a lot of people who love Donald Trump, and a lot of other people who don’t?

If not, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

A Southerner’s Guide to Snow

Having just survived my third snowfall* in Raleigh, I feel I’m now qualified to share some tips with my fellow southerners* who may be new to the experience.

1) Those sheets of cardboard you may have used to “sled” down grassy hills (or levees) do not make great sleds when there is actual snow on the ground, but a silver platter does. I suspect a crawfish tray might also work, but I have yet to try it.

2) You know all those cute and charming accessories like scarves, gloves, boots and earmuffs? They actually serve practical purposes. The most important accessory, however, is the one you’re already using: sunglasses. When the sun shines down on a fresh snowfall, do not look at the ground without protection unless you want to burn your corneas.

3) You don’t have to rush out and build a snowman right away. You can wait until the snow actually stops falling, because … get this … it sticks to the ground. It will even be there the next day, maybe even the day after that. In fact, second day snow is the best consitency for snowman building.

4) Speaking of snowmen, beach toys make great snowman building tools. Keep plastic rakes, hoes, buckets and shovels close by. If it can be used in the sand, it can be used in the snow.20170110_223416

5) Snow is crunchy. Ice is slippery. Invest in shoes with good traction, like hiking boots, or soccer cleats. To my Louisiana friends, this is not the time for your St. Bernard Reebocks. Save the shrimp boots for after the snow melts, as they might come in handy when your backyard goes from winter wonderland to wetland. Also, when people tell you to stay off the roads, for the love of God, please stay of the roads! Your car does not know how to ice skate.

 *In this context, the term snowfall means the kind of snow that falls in North Carolina, not necessarily the kind that falls in Ohio.
*In this context the term southerner means anyone who is from a state that has no other state below it, primarily the Gulf Coast states.

Loss and Christmas Music

The record player was kept in a wooden cupboard, which was adorned with family photos. It only came out for Christmas, not necessarily Christmas Day, but Christmas decorating.
Mario Lanza’s Christmas album was the perfect soundtrack to decorating my grandmother’s front room. I sat on the orange brown carpet and plugged in the ceramic light up Christmas tree, while Mario belted out, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
I opened the box that contained the nativity scene, and the tiny plastic Santa driving his sleigh with connected reindeer. That one was my favorite. Baba smiled as I placed the sleigh and reindeer on the roof of the manger so Santa could bring gifts to the baby Jesus.
She sat on the stiff floral couch and listened to her favorite crooner as she supervised the placement of painted pine cones around the nativity scene. I asked what she wanted for her upcoming birthday.
“Oh, you don’t have to get me anything, honey,” she said, and we both knew I would get her tealight candles.
“Are you going to make fruitcake cookies this year?” I asked.
“Well, if that’s what everybody wants,” she said, and we both knew that she would.
Whenever I think of Baba at this time of year, I think of those Christmas decorations. I think of tealight candles and fruitcake cookies, and all the while Mario Lanza is singing in the background.
There is such comfort in the familiar, and music will always take you back. So if you can’t be with your loved ones this holiday season, put on a record (or pull up a You Tube) and find something to enjoy.

My Christmas Wish for my Son

May you always give thanks as genuinly as you do now.

May you never hear the phrase “elf on the shelf.”

May you learn reverence for God and the Christmas story.

May you learn tolerance and acceptance of all faiths.

May you remain impressed by our four-foot tall, fake, Christmas tree.

May you never outgrow making holiday cookies with me.

May you never watch another internet video of strangers opening toys.

May you always find joy in looking at Christmas lights.

May you some day enjoy a Christmas movie that lasts more than 20 minutes.

May you always delight in gift-giving.

May you always make time for family even when they live far away.

What Not to Say to a New Orleans Native (and What to Say Instead)

It’s been about 11 years since I moved away from my home town, and when I tell people I’m originally from New Orleans, I still get certain reactions. So for my non- NOLA friends, here’s some advice on what not to say when you meet a New Orleanian:

1)You don’t sound like you’re from Orleans. Why don’t you have an accent?

Most of us don’t have accents, and those of us who do, sound more like we’re from New Jersey than from the South. (Although even that is not an apt description.)

What you should say instead: Where ya at? How’s ya mama an’ ’em?

Whatever accent we do have will come out in response to these questions. To my New Orleanian friends, yes, I can hear your collective eye roll. You’re thinking, Oh puleeze, nobody really talks like that. The truth is … some of us kind of do. You just don’t realize it until you don’t hear it anymore, and then you miss it.

2) Have you ever been to the Mardi Gras?

I know the concept of Mardi Gras may be foreign to you, so it’s OK if you have questions, but just know this one thing: Mardi Gras is not a destination. Would you ask, Have you ever been to the Halloween? Much like Halloween, Mardi Gras is a holiday that involves dressing in costumes and getting free stuff. It’s also the most fun when you’re a little kid. (Really!)

What to say instead: What’s your favorite thing about the city?

This may bring up a conversation about Mardi Gras, but it will likely bring up something much more interesting.

3) Is the city back?

New Orleans didn’t actually go anywhere, but I know what you mean by this question. You are dancing around the K-word. Yes, the city went through some very dark days and is forever changed because of it. We really don’t want to talk about that anymore. If you want to know how New Orleans is doing, then plan a trip and see for yourself.

What to say instead: What’s your favorite place to eat?  

This will put an instant smile on the face of any New Oleanian, and will get you some useful recommendations for that trip.

4) Oh, so you’re Cajun!

Nope. See earlier blog post, Dear Floridians, for more information on this topic.

What to say instead: Oh, so you’re awesome! Yep. Because we are.

5) I went there once and hated it. I could never live there.

Excuse me while I take this dagger out of my back. As a native New Orleanian, this comment pains me. I can’t help but take it personaly, because the city of New Orleans is like a family member – a big loud, loving family member who wants to feed you and give you gifts and show you a good time. So when you say you had a bad time, you might as well say that you hate my grandmother. If you truly had a bad experience, it hurts my soul to hear that. New Orleanians desperately want you to have a good time and to love the city as much as we do. We want to make it right. We want you to give us another chance. Please!

What to say instead: Teach me to peel crawfish. Or Where’d you go to high school? Or Tell me about sno-balls. Or Let’s go get a drink. Or Let’s go out to eat. Or Show me how to make a roux…

Because just about anything is better than telling us you hate our maw-maw.

Matters Not So Small

I’ve thought long and hard about this post, because I normally abhor writing about politics. My objective is not to change anyone’s mind. I am not arrogant enough to think that I can. My objective is not to offend anyone. As much as I don’t want to care what people think, I do prefer to be liked. As with all my writing, my main objective is simply to quiet my own mind. Secondarily, I hope that someone else reads this and gets some level of enjoyment out of it.

So here goes… With all the political rants on facebook, I feel like the left and the right are constantly questioning why. Why would anyone vote for him / her? They must be … racist / liars / stupid / criminal / hypocritical / ignorant / duped by the media etc.

Sometimes those assumptions are true, but most of the time, I don’t believe they are. You know why so many decent Christians voted for Donald Trump? It’s because he said he was pro-life. For so many people that alone was enough. That may have been combined with hatred, but it’s the hatred of Hillary Clinton’s alleged criminal activities, the hatred of higher taxes, Obamacare and the “liberal media.”

Do you know why so many loving and honest people voted for Hillary Clinton? It’s because they are truly fearful of the racist sects that have galvanized behind Trump. However marginal these groups may be, no one can deny they are there. For many people, that alone was enough to vote for Clinton, though it’s likely combined with the hatred of Donald Trump’s alleged criminal activities, inappropriate comments and lack of experience.

I realize I am oversimplifying things a bit, because this is the internet. Abortion, racism, and hatred are not small matters, so I will not delve into them here. These are complex issues that can’t be solved with a meme (or a blog). They likely can’t be solved by our president either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make your little corner of the world a better place whenever you can.

And because everything in my life relates back to television, I will leave you with something lighter.

There is an old Saturday Night Live sketch that aired the week after Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of the pope on the show. Adam Sandler plays an audience member who stands up and says to ‘Sinead O’Connor’ (played by Jan Hooks) “Don’t you understand, we don’t want you to hate, we want you to love!”

I think of this phrase every time I scroll through my facebook newsfeed and see something obnoxiously hateful. So come on America! Find something to love!

Or don’t. Just be cool. Whatevs.