Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Widelawns Guide to Nick Jr. Programming

Before I had kids I swore that when and if I ever had kids that they would never watch TV. I'm not sure where I got this. Clearly I was insane with smugness when I made this declaration, and I still really hate the idea of my daughter glued to the TV set, partly because I'm jealous that it takes me three weeks just to finish one recorded episode of Modern Family, but you know what? Sometimes I need to make dinner. So sometimes she watches TV.

This makes me feel oppressively guilty. I'm a terrible mother. Her brain is going to rot. She's going to end up a stripper in 16 years and it will be Dora's fault and she will point the finger at me and say "None of this would OF ever happened if my mother hadn't let me watch Wonder Pets."

Note that my daughter's grammar is going to be terrible. That breaks my heart more than her stripping. I think I might rather my child dance naked for money than think "would HAVE" is actually "Would OF." And see, it's my fault because I let her watch TV. I bet she won't know the difference between your and you're either.

I watched an embarrassing shit load of television as a child. Some people might say that the cartoons I watched were better than the ones on now. I beg to differ. I watched some violent ass shit. Maybe that's why I cuss so much now. I watched Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry and all the old, racist Loony Toons, plus a bunch of weird Japanese crap that was nothing but violence. I lived for Scooby Doo and I'm not even going to get into the ridiculous number of sit coms I watched at night with my grandparents, plus the old Brady Bunches, Gilligan's Islands and I Dream of Jeannie's that came on after school. I don't know how I found time for all these shows while still managing to actually play outside, which I did every day. Clearly the TV didn't damage me all that much because I became a writer for God's sakes. I have an advanced degree and I read a few books a week. I may have attention problems and anxiety issues but TV is innocent. Those came from genetics and a shitty childhood. TV, if anything, was a respite from those things. In some ways I almost credit my TV watching for my deep and profound love of stories and storytelling. After all, much of what we watch is stories. But who knows. It's a chicken and egg thing. Maybe I liked TV because I was born loving stories. Or not. I don't know.

So yeah, sometimes my little one watches TV and she seems to love it as much as I did, and no, the programs of today are not as bad as what I watched, and yes, I highly monitor everything she sees.

That means I have to watch children's programming too. It makes me want to rip out chunks of my hair and swallow them. I do not like cartoons, puppets, talking animals, people who make a living singing songs to children or anything that is supposed to be educational to children. I find it all very strange and irritating. But my daughter loves it and since I am trying to be a somewhat vigilant parent, I have watched every show on Nick Jr.

I'd like to share some of my findings with you so you don't have to go through the same agonies as I did. 

A Guide to Nick Jr. Programming for Concerned Parents

1. Dino Dan - I don't know what's up with this show, but a disturbed little boy hallucinates technicolor dinosaurs roaming what appears to be suburban Canada. Dino Dan needs an evaluation. I'm pretty sure he has Aspergers. All he does is talk about his extensive knowledge of large, extinct reptiles while the adults in his life nod and smile. Looks like they're in denial, but as an outsider, I think it's clear that Dino Dan needs some help.

2. The Wonder Pets - Now this show is sweet, has pretty animation and is cute and shows some imagination ( I particularly enjoyed the Fiddler Crab on the Roof). HOWEVER. How many baby animals can really get into that much trouble on a regular basis? And while we're at it, can someone please send Ming Ming Duckling a speech pathologist ASAP? This is Sewious, people. 

3. Go, Diego, Go - I really can't stand this show. Again with the animals in trouble. My god, animals. Please show some self control and exercise caution so you don't keep getting yourself caught in things. Diego is also a sad reminder of the demise of Rosie Perez's career (Do the Right Thing was great!). Where once she showed promise, now she is the voice of a camera that finds animals who've gotten themselves stuck in things. It's depressing. The other day I was watching Diego and he was saving, and I shit you not, a bird called an Oxpecker. An OX PECKER. Do you hear me? I can't even write Ox Pecker without laughing. It's as if the writers were bored and thumbing through an atlas of animals wondering what dumb shit animal Diego could save next and they found Oxpecker and just knew and with a name like that, how could they not? When my child starts screaming OXPECKER in the grocery store and stunned strangers look at me in horror, like what kind of language is this terrible mother teaching her two year old, I will thank Nick Jr.

4.Yo Gabba Gabba - This is definitely the weirdest show on TV. You've got a DJ who looks like something out of a Tarantino movie, the guy from Devo and Biz Markie, and a bunch of high pitched creatures that all resemble sex toys with occasional appearances by hipster comedians and Indie Bands. It's all too much for me. It's beyond bad acid trip. The first time my mother saw this show she took one look at Muno, a studded, phallic, red cyclops thing, and said "What the fuck is a french tickler doing singing to children?" And I said that I had no idea, but The Shins were on, so I could overlook it.

5.Oswald - Another bad acid trip. This show is about a doormat of an Octopus, who lives in a city and is best friends with a ditsy dingbat of a flower, occasionally babysits a caterpillar and has a pet dachshund who wears a bun, as in bread and not a hair style. Oswald is also involved in a toxic, possibly co-dependent relationship with a real asshole of a penguin named Henry. Henry is effete, nasal and completely OCD. The bird needs Zoloft. He's a prick but Oswald won't stand up to him. Drives me nuts. I just want to be like "OSWALD! Tell that fucker off! Don't let him treat you like that!"

6.Oswald brings up another issue. I'm going to digress for a moment here. I'm totally confused by children's shows where the main characters are talking animals who have other animals as pets but the animals that are pets don't talk. The rules of these worlds are too confusing. An Octopus with a Dachshund? Olivia, a pig, with a pet cat? Whatever kind of animal Jack from Jack's Big Music Show is, with his dog Mel? WTF is going on here? 

7.Blues Clues - Blue jumped the shark back when Steve decided he was going to "college" and his younger brother Joe came along with a bunch of new characters created by desperate writers who had long since run out of material. Everyone knows that when shows lose their main actors and new characters get introduced that it's time to cancel. And really, bless Steve's heart, but how am I supposed to believe that a grown man, who looks to be about 30, and who has a hard time figuring out mysteries devised by an illiterate cartoon dog who says nothing but "doot dee doo" has been accepted at a University? I think maybe his parents told him that and that Steve is actually at a group home learning some much needed life skills. His younger brother Joe doesn't seem to be faring much better and God bless him too, but he actually sings a song about pooping and wiping your butt. Watch it here DOO DOO DOO. That poor dude must have really needed to pay his rent when he took over that job. Luckily he's doing better now because Nick Jr. promoted him to be the voice of Bot on Team Umizoomi. Which brings me to....

8.Team Umizoomi - There's not much I can find wrong with this show. I have a bit of a soft spot for it because its main character shares a name with my daughter and the animation is particularly pretty and nothing scary or untoward ever happens except on one episode an asshole squid kidnapped Jordin Sparks because his underwater castle was too dark and she could, apparently, light it up for him. Other than that, and I don't really have a problem with squids trapping American Idol winners in undersea prisons, this is probably the best show on Nick Jr. And the worst?

9.Dora the Explorer - I hate Dora. Someone needs to call CPS on her parents for letting their young child roam the countryside with a monkey and while we're at it, why has law enforcement failed to contain Swiper? That fox should have been arrested years ago and what happened to the Three Strikes law? Swiper is a menace to society and should be behind bars. Clearly he is a sociopath who will not be rehabilitated. Jesus Christ, even Santa Claus couldn't stop him from leading a life of crime.  Some people think Dora is educational. "My kid speaks Spanish!" they brag. Ok, if you call yelling out random, unintelligible Spanish words out of context speaking Spanish then fine. Salta Caballita, Salta! Because my two year old has so many occasions to tell ponies to jump. In Spanish. 

10.Ni Hao Kai Lan - Nick Jr. can also teach your child to shout out random words in Chinese, although I have to tell you that it wasn't my toddler, but ME who actually used her Nick Jr. acquired Chinese skills while in EPCOT China, so take that Xie Xie, Ye Ye. The waiter was pretty insulted. "Why you call me grandfather?? I look old to you?? I'm only 30!!" "Hai Twan," I replied apologetically. That's the Chinese word for dolphin, which is the only other word I could remember from Kai Lan because it sounds like you're greeting your cool friend 'Toine. The waiter wasn't amused. "Now you call me a dolphin??" Yeah, so next time I go to EPCOT, I think I'll eat in France. Thanks Nick Jr.

11.Max and Ruby - Can we please give the award for the most smug and sanctimonious cartoon rabbit to Ruby, sister of the waddling, one word speaking Max? I despise Ruby. She's just like every know it all priss I hated in school. Screw her and her Bunny Scouts. This show gets on my nerves.

Fellow parents and parents-to-be, I hope this guide has proved useful. Now excuse me while I cook dinner. Diego's on. There's a macaroni penguin trying to get back to its parents.
Friday, January 25, 2013

No Cures For What Ails Ya But A Couple Ideas to Help You Feel Better Anyway

On the topic of being sick...you know what drives me nuts? People who confuse Influenza and Norovirus. As an advanced hypochondriac and proud sufferer of OCD, I know a lot about all the different kinds of things that can make you sick and how the symptoms manifest and it peeves me to no end when people say they have the "stomach flu." 

There is no such thing as a "stomach flu." Got it? Stop calling it that. Call it a 24 Hour Virus, A stomach bug, Norovirus, Rotavirus or puking and crapping your digestive system out, but do not call it the flu.

The flu is a respiratory virus. It makes you cough. A lot. It is not a cold. If you have the flu you do not feel like you have a cold, not even a bad one. When you have the flu, like actually have it, you completely understand how people can die from it because you feel that bad. You will have a fever, chills, sore throat, congestion and body aches so bad that you won't want to move. The bad part of the flu lasts about a week but can take a month to fully recover from.

Also, there is a vaccine for it.

Now, there are all sorts of nonsense controversies surrounding the flu vaccine and tons of people swear that it doesn't work. I think this is because people don't know what the actual flu is. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say that they were mad that they had the vaccine and got the flu anyway and they were throwing up all night long. The vaccine worked. Just not against Norovirus, which is what they had and were not vaccinated for. I swear if people would stop calling Norovirus stomach flu there'd be a lot less controversy about the flu vaccine. Drives me crazy.

The confusion between stomach viruses and influenza really tends to cause chaos in my life because of my lovely OCD which is triggered by the mere mention of stomach viruses. They are my worst fear because to me, there is just no greater misery, short lived though it is. I will do anything to avoid coming into contact with one so when someone says they have the flu, I never know for certain what they mean. If they have the real flu we're all clear because I get my shot every year and I'm safe, but there is no vaccine for stomach viruses (jeez, I wish there were) so I have to go into OCD Code Red Emergency Status. The hand washing, sanitizing, bleaching and freaking out begins and usually lasts about a week.

So lately it seems like everyone is sick with something. This has been a hard winter for illness. We've had a few bad colds already and Baby Lawns had a stomach virus in October, so I pray we are done for a great long while and that we can all enjoy a long period of good health.

When you get sick, everyone will tell you a bunch of ridiculous remedies that they swear will make you better. They won't. The only cure is time. Sorry. There are, however, a lot of remedies that will provide some comfort, and I'd like to share my favorites in case you too are under the weather.

Lemon Honey Tea - people believe this cures everything from strep to tuberculosis. It doesn't cure shit but it tastes good and soothes a sore throat. I sometimes add a slice of ginger, especially if my stomach is acting up.

Elderberry Syrup - I saw this on Dr. Oz. I know, shut up. Dr. Oz says it can shorten a cold or the flu but he is totally full of it. It doesn't. I tried it. However, it also tastes good and makes a decent cough syrup if you have that dry kind of cough where it feels like someone is sticking pins in your throat. If you've got a hacking chest cough then this doesn't do jack. You need some codeine.

Cough Drops - Ludens, people. Cherry. They are delicious. I could eat a whole box in one sitting just for fun.

Epsom Salts Baths - I'm unclear on the actual science behind this, but Epsom salts really seem to make me feel better. You have to add a pretty large amount to your bathwater though, like at least a full cup, and you should stay in for a while. I like my baths to be very hot and I like to add a few drops of essential oils so it smells good and I can pretend I'm in a spa.

Stick a Heating Pad in Your Bed - Under you, on your stomach, whatever. It feels nice when you don't. I like to rest my head on the heating pad when I get bad headaches and it really helps. Just don't fall asleep and burn your face and then blame me.

Jamba Juice - smoothies make everything better.

Orange Sherbet mixed with Sprite - I used to drink this concoction when I was sick growing up. It's not the healthiest thing, but it's really yummy.

Asian Soups - Everyone likes chicken soup but when I'm sick I like thai soups, pho and miso soup the best. I think the garlic, ginger and hot peppers really help to ease congestion and warm you up.

Netflix - You're sick. This is the perfect excuse to sit around and do nothing but watch movies. Alas, I have a two year old so I don't get to do this much, but I can dream. One day she'll be old enough to appreciate Wes Anderson with Mommy.

Burning Eucalyptus Oil - When someone in my house is sick I like to put a bunch of eucalyptus or peppermint or lavender oil in my oil burner and light it up. 

Eucalyptus Spray - I use this kind. I'm addicted to it. I spray it on myself, in the air, in the shower, over my bath when I'm soaking, in the car. I love it.

Zofran- This is the greatest drug known to mankind.  A powerful, non-sedative, perfectly safe, anti-nausea drug, it melts on your tongue so you can't puke it up. Ask your doctor for some so you can keep it on hand for emergencies. It's so safe they even give it to kids and since it came around, the rate of children hospitalized for dehydration has dropped dramatically. Also used extensively in pregnant women. I know. I couldn't go to work without it during my first trimester. Baby Lawns' pediatrician gave it to her for her virus last fall. MIRACLE DRUG. Also good to take with you on trips. Yay Zofran. Seriously, I think I need a Zofran tee shirt or something.

That's about all I've got. If you're feeling ill, I wish you well. Let me know some of your favorite remedies in the comments. 

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