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About the author  ⁄ Ask Sassy

Ask Sassy is not kidding around. Sure, she brings the funny when it's appropriate, but Sassy has been through everything you've suffered and more, and she knows the right answer to a dilemma isn't always the easy one. She's a writer with 15 years of experience for the internet, print, television, and multi-media. She's also a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a teacher, a student, a lover, a fighter, and an all around problem-solving ninja.

summer vacation inferiority syndrome

Dear Sassy:

I’m dreading summer. Did you ever think anyone would ever say that? Well, I am, because summer is coming soon and we have no plans. There’s no money for a big fancy vacation or summer camp or even day camp. I have no idea how we’re going to get through all those days before school starts again. Plus, my kids know their friends are going to summer camp and to Hawaii, and they want to go too. How will I survive?

Dear Summer Unlovin’:

Seems like you are well and truly screwed. The thought of a whole summer of nowhere to go and nothing to do with my kids brings a wintry chill into my heart. If I were to spend summer this way, the children would be climbing the walls and I would be going out of my mind. You should not suffer this fate. So what must you do?

Cue “Let It Go” from Frozen, of course. Minus the ice castle.

Let go (and encourage your kids to, also) of jealousy about other people’s plans. You’ll never be able to keep up with Joneses in summer activities or anything else. Best to let them have their awesome vacations/summer camps/swimming pools/life size bounce houses in the backyard, be happy for them, and move on.

Your solution is to think of this positively instead of negatively. Focus on what you CAN do!

First, count up how many days of summer vacation you truly have, and schedule them. My kids’ school is off for exactly 69 days. Count them up for your own kids.

Now figure out the events you already have planned, and weekends maybe when their other parent is home. You can subtract those days.

Now take each week and plan something new that is cheap or free. Consider that if you are going out, you have to take time to get the kids ready, get everyone in the car, drive to the thing, and reverse all of that when you get home. Lots of time and energy is consumed, and you don’t have to worry about the school schedule, so leave yourself plenty of padding. No rushing necessary. Bonus, right?!

Add a playdate every week. Identify all the kids and families you know who will be around at least for part of the summer. Call them up and plan a playdate – invite their kids to your house or the park or the beach, and gratefully accept if they offer to host. I have a friend who has triplets – triplets – and at the beginning of the summer she maps out what they’re going to do every day of every week and plans playdates far in advance. Her kids are 6 now and she still seems relatively sane.

Next add a chore for each child to complete every week. This can be a longer household project like cleaning out the garage or a weekly task like taking out the garbage. Make sure at least some of the kids’ time is filled productively.

I do recommend planning one big special event, maybe midway through the summer, for your family to look forward to. By now you must have one special destination or activity that you all love to do together. Berry picking? An amusement park visit? Have the kids help you out with earning a little extra money towards this adventure so it will have even more meaning when it arrives.

In fact, have the kids help you out with this whole plan. Invite their suggestions and feedback, and make the summer calendar together. Make a summer wish list (but not a “bucket list,” for the love of all things inappropriate) and post it on the fridge.

Before you know it, the number of “blank” days will be really small!

Your biggest goal is to avoid having your children draped all over your house like wilted flowers, doing nothing but playing video games, watching TV, eating all the food, and whining “I’m bored,” or fighting with each other, and driving you insane. To that end, you’d better make for damn sure you build some “me-time” in there for yourself.

Stay strong, friend. Summer’s always over just when you start to love it.

Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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canadian carpool sign

Dear Sassy:

I’ve been part of a three-family carpool for most of the school year. The moms and I all trade off picking the kids up from school. There are four kids involved. In the past few months one of the moms (the one who has two kids) has been bailing on carpool close to the last minute, leaving the other mom and I to scramble to cover pickup. This has happened at least three times. Plus, her kids can be kind of obnoxious and loud in the car. I wouldn’t mind dropping them out of carpool, but I don’t want to be rude. What should I do?

Dear Carpool Queen:

Uh, hello. Someone already won the rude title and it was not you! What do you have to lose by dropping that flake out of the mix? Not her respect, because not showing up to fulfill an obligation is the number one sign of disrespect for another person, in my opinion.

Okay, okay. I’ll simmer down a bit. The last thing you need is for me to go off about how much I hate it when people flake. If you commit to something, follow through. If you think you can’t, don’t commit. It’s all I ask. Well, I ask a lot, actually. My standards are high. It’s just that I see the potential inside all of you, and I want you to be the best person you can be. The world deserves the you that lives in there. YOU deserve that you.

I ask this of you from a place of love. Honest. And also I would like for people to show up on time for things.

Putting myself in Carpool Flake’s shoes though (we’d better not see a cereal named this in a few months – if we do, you’ll all know where the idea came from). I wonder if something weird is going on with her. You say you’ve been a part of this carpool for a while now, and I assume that up until now it has run smoothly. Did she get a new job? Have an illness? Maybe she’s pregnant and not ready to tell you? Another red flag is that the kids are acting up, too. Kids are so sensitive to changes in their families – they might be reacting to whatever is going on with the mom.

Whatever the reason, perhaps knowing it will help you and the third carpool mom adjust accordingly. It is not rude of you to inquire about the changes in her behavior, especially if you note that her actions are affecting two other families.

Sure, you could drop-kick the lady out of carpool, and if she can’t ever hold up her third of the pickup and dropoff duties, maybe she should be cut loose. But if it’s something beyond her control, and she needs that proverbial village to help out, this is a great opportunity to extend a helping hand. You never know when you’ll need one. Why not treat her the way you’d want to be treated if this were you? You’d want someone to speak up, right?

About those kids: if they’re acting obnoxious in the car, by all means, tell them to knock it off. I have no problem disciplining other people’s kids when they are under my supervision, especially when I am driving and their safety is literally in my hands. I fully expect other parents to act accordingly when they are watching my children, too.

When you are collaborating on parenting duties with other families like this, you do need a certain level of trust in the other adults. If Carpool Flake mom turns out to be unworthy of that trust, she shouldn’t be held responsible for the care and delivery of your kids, and vice versa. But start by giving her the benefit of the doubt. Your words of concern might turn out to be a lifesaver to a struggling mom.

Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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girls telling secrets

Dear Sassy,

My 9-year-old daughter has been having some trouble with her friends at school. The girls have gotten into this thing where they tell secrets and whisper in front of each other and exclude other girls from the circle. My daughter has been on the giving and receiving end of this and it hurts her feelings. I’m not sure what to tell her and it’s breaking my heart.

Dear Secret Keeper’s Mother,

You’re a woman, you know how this goes down. No matter how old you get, this kind of rude behavior still happens. I was at a dinner party just a few months ago, where 10 ladies were gathered around a table enjoying the evening. But two of them whispered into each other’s ears and giggled several times throughout the night. Call me paranoid, but I wondered what the heck they were whispering about. Was it me? Did I forget deodorant that day? Was there broccoli stuck in my teeth?

The difference between me and your daughter is that I know a true friend would come out and say “Hey Sassy, you’ve got broccoli stuck in your teeth.” She wouldn’t whisper into another woman’s ear and then laugh about it. I can blow off those secretive women as people I don’t want to hang out with again, or if they are good friends behaving badly, I have no problem calling them out on it. (In this case, I chose the former. My real friends don’t act like that.)

But that wisdom has been hard-won over decades (at least two) of social conflict trial and error. And that, my friend, is what you have to step back and allow your daughter to experience.

You cannot fix this for her.

Believe me, I’d be the first in line if it was okay to march down to the school to give those kids a piece of my mind for treating my kid badly. One of the hardest things about parenthood is letting your kids go through pain, and with the advent of snotty little girls’ social circles around your daughter’s age, you’re dealing with a most exquisite and tricky form of it. There’s not much you can do about it besides modeling the behavior you want to see in her, and reinforcing your love.

Without lecturing, here are some key topics you can work into your conversations when she comes home from school or social activities, sad because the other girls are keeping secrets from her, or feeling superior because she’s made it to the inner circle:

-Empathy. When she sees her friends being mean or hurtful to another child, how does it make her feel? What would she want someone to do if she was the one being picked on or whispered about? Remember, it’s not appropriate to counsel her to bitchslap the bully, but you can encourage her to take a stand.

-Standing up for herself. Instead of having your daughter report the incidents to you so you can get to the bottom of the story – “And then what happened? And who did what?” – remind her that the only person she is in charge of is herself. If a friend hurts her feelings, it’s up to her to say “It hurts my feelings when you whisper in front of me.” That can be hard, especially for a girl who feels shy, but your job, Mom, is to at least inform your daughter of the most important tool she has: her voice.

-Respect for others. She doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, but she should at least be respectful. Having been on both ends of hurtful behavior, she now knows what it’s like to be the excluded kid. You can make your own observations about what you see go down with the girls, like “That girl looked sad when nobody was playing with her,” versus telling your daughter how to behave, to stimulate conversations about treating others nicely.

Choosing friends wisely. Alas, while parents have influence over a child’s friends, we cannot force them to pick the ones we like. You can, however, point out that “mean girl” behavior is not the kind of thing a real friend would do. Encourage your daughter to hang out with the kids whose treatment and activities seem to make her happy and less involved in drama. And then stand back and let her make her own choices.

I know that advice seems so vague that now you want to bitchslap me, but you’ve got to face it here, lady. This is a personality-forming issue and a teaching moment. (Aren’t those the worst?) It’s not something that can be fixed with a secret-dissolving spell. As exhausting as it is to model positive, character-building behavior for your daughter, this is what you signed up for. She will get through this snotty-girl storm, and the best you can do is be the steady one she can hold onto while it’s happening.

Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

Read More → - Having kids is the first of many bad parenting choices.

Dear Sassy:

I am a new mom and I am about to lose it. It seems like everywhere I go with my baby, someone has something to say about her or what I’m doing and it’s driving me crazy. It’s okay when people tell me she’s cute or beautiful or whatever, but when they criticize me or tell me I should do something differently, I am shocked that they don’t keep their opinions to themselves. This happens with family, with friends, and even with complete strangers! What should I do to put these people in their places so they will leave me alone?

Dear Newbie:

I hate to tell you this, sister, but you will never be alone again. Oh sure, it’s true that being a new mother can feel like one of the loneliest jobs in the world, but you have just joined a club that is so old I expect it to show up in the next episode of Cosmos. Once you cart your baby around, you are inviting people to scrutinize, judge, pick apart, criticize, and speculate about your parenting methods, what you ate during your pregnancy, the worthiness of your baby, even the very air you are allowing her to breathe. And if you never take your baby out in public, those judgements will still be made, but in this case it will be behind your back. Basically, you’re screwed.

The good news is, who cares?

When it’s a stranger or casual acquaintance, the best possible thing you can do is ignore them or blow it off. Do NOT engage. That will only keep your blood boiling and that’s not good for the baby. Haha, I kid. It’s not good for YOU.

I remember being at a barbecue and chatting with a couple. We all had toddlers, and I had just taken a full time job and enrolled my son in daycare. The husband looked me straight in the eye and said “Oh, I could NEVER put my child in daycare. Why have kids if you’re going to have them raised by someone else? Blah blah and so on judgy blustery judgement.”

I blinked and looked at his wife. She just blinked back. We were both speechless. Instead of retorting, I simply let that conversation die and wandered off to mingle with someone else in the crowd.

Luckily I barely knew those people. I could let them just wander out of my life. But like you, I am also still shocked when a stranger is so obnoxious. Whether or not you think you are right or wrong, sometimes it is just plain rude to force your opinion on another person, and I say that is especially true when it comes to new mothers, who are struggling to find themselves now that their lives have changed.

But what about your friends? Your family? You need them around now more than ever to support you as you get used to this new life of yours. If you can’t let their comments roll off their back, you should indeed address them.

Ask for support. Try appealing to your judgmental mother-in-law’s sense of sympathy. Tell her “I’m really struggling here. I am exhausted, and doing the best I can. I really need your kindness right now as I learn how to be a good mother.”

Draw the line. If someone is continuously pushing your buttons, you may have to get firm with that person. Say “I appreciate your trying to help, but I have decided to do this my way. Of course nobody has my baby’s best interest at a higher priority than I do.”

Misery loves company

The ancient parent club is not all bad, of course. Sometimes the best comfort for what ails you is the company of other parents. To show you how not alone you truly are, I asked the Savvy Sassy Moms community to share their experiences. See? Strangers can be awesome too.

What is the rudest thing someone has said to you when you were out with your kids?

Once I had an older couple at a coffee shop keep asking my children if they were freezing. Over and over and over again. It was horribly condescending and I think I finally snapped at them a bit.

Someone asked if I was the nanny.

I don’t even hit 5’0” and my husband has a baby face (sans beard, haha) – we have gotten many a dirty look in public!

The security guard at my son’s school said, “it’s okay, my wife had trouble losing the baby weight too.” It was three weeks after I had my son. No joke.

“She’s so pretty! She looks nothing like you.”

File under offense is the best defense: I’m usually pretty quick on the loud pre-emptive strike to prevent commenting.

When my daughter was just a year old she was obsessed with the biggest, tallest, curviest slide at the park. Every day she’d climb up a bit, look down and then climb down. Each day she went a little higher. She reached the top, peered into the tunnel slide in front of her, looked down at me and climbed back down. The routine was the same the next day – with one exception. She climbed all the up and onto the slide and came shooting down. I ran around to catch her when she came sliding out – laughing. Another mom standing nearby told me I was irresponsible in letting my tiny girl take on that big slide. What was I thinking? I explained to her in very precise terms my daughter’s trajectory up the ladder and down the slide. Then I turned my back to her and walked away with my gleeful kid.

I would say more it’s what they do. Like cut in line or maybe not let us go ahead in the bathroom line. I believe there was a time or two when the woman would just ignore my plea that my kid was going to piss in her pants.

How about the 50,000 times I was asked “How old is he?” Really? She is dressed from head to toe like a pink court jester. I know she looks just like her Irish daddy, but it’s America, people – girls wear pink when they’re 2 months old!

One guy was particularly rude when he saw the triple stroller.
Man: How can you look so happy with 3? (He had 3 dogs.)
Me: You look happy with yours.
Man: Well I can lock mine in the yard.

When my daughter was born, she lacked a fold in the cartilage of both her ears so they didn’t just stick out, they also sort of scooped forward like Fritos chips. While we were at the park one day, someone actually looked right at her, laughed, and said, “Oh my GOD look at HIS EARS!” …being mistaken for a boy is no big deal – it was the ear thing that got me. This stranger was not TRYING to be mean – – but it was like she thought we were in on the same joke. But my baby girl wasn’t a joke to me.

“Why aren’t you breastfeeding? It’s so much better for them.” And of my c-section, “so sorry you didn’t get to experience birth.” Ummm, what???

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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pinterest t-shirtDear Sassy:

It was over a month ago, but I still have a Valentine’s Day craft hangover because of the Despicable Me 2 Twinkie Valentines I had to make for my twins’ preschool class. The girls saw the blog photo over my shoulder as I was looking on Pinterest and I was suckered into being that mom who staples little overalls to each Twinkie to make it perfect. I even bought a hot glue gun. This is so not me, and I hated it. But all those sweet crafts and perfect party decorations people post on Pinterest are starting to make me feel terrible for not wanting to do those things for my kids. Doesn’t anyone just buy stuff anymore?

Dear Anticraft Mom:

Yes. Yes they do. In fact, lots of moms do. Especially because they have busy lives and no time to sit hunched over with a pastry bag and a Cricut paper cutter getting everything just right.

But there are plenty of people who do these things, and instead of letting them make you feel inadequate as a mother – as a person – think of Pinterest as a stack of magazines. Millions and millions of them. When you flip through, say, Real Simple and you see a cute craft for kids’ lunchboxes, do you then scramble to your kitchen and start cutting hearts out of whole grain bread for an adorable PB&J?

No. No you don’t.

(Well, some of you do, but this post is not for you. It’s for you to link and send to your friends who often express jealousy and thinly-veiled rage.)

You might dog-ear that page, or rip it out and pin it on your bulletin board, or let it get lost in a pile of other magazine pages you’ve torn out to save recipes or gardening ideas or a picture of a celebrity hairstyle you might want to try. And then you forget all about it.

With Pinterest, these torn out magazine pages are IN YOUR FACE with relentless cheerful pressure. The bombardment of just-so images can be overwhelming and make you want to curl up in a ball in the corner of the room eating M&M’s (the store-bought kind, not lovingly individually-piped preservative-free homemade chocolate covered candies) or at least running to the drugstore at 9:30 the night before Valentine’s Day to purchase the last 2 boxes of lame cards with Spongebob on them.

But you know what? That’s okay, too.

Parenting is such a stressful job all around. There’s absolutely no reason for you to pile more pressure on top of what you already feel. When you start to feel like a shitty mom because someone posted an edible Bunny Food recipe and you can barely remember the date of Easter, click away, my friend. Click away.

bunny food

(Incidentally, clicking away is the best antidote for most of the ills caused by the internet.)

Pinterest will be there — and it will be billions of pins stronger, like a boil that has swelled during the night — when you’ve regained your sensibilities and you’re ready to poke around again for some ideas for how to decorate your child’s playroom.

Side rant: must we keep using the phrase “bucket list,” even with activities for young children?

summer bucket list

I mean, imagine that conversation.

“Look, kids, I printed out this colorful Summer Bucket List from a blog I found on Pinterest!”

“Mom, what’s a bucket list?”

“It’s a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.”

“What’s kick the bucket?”

“It means DIE.”

(Children are horrified, speechless for a moment.)

“Are we going to die at the end of the summer?”

“No, honey, it’s just an expression.”

(Kids walk away, not believing you, convinced they will die before Labor Day.)

The moral of the story? Be careful what you pin!

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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girl eating ice cream

Dear Sassy:

Okay, I have to confess. I love that my kids always have playmates because we are the “fun” house in the neighborhood. There are always a bunch of their friends from our street coming over and staying to play. But I am always running out of snacks! Every time I turn around they are asking for snacks or even helping themselves without asking. Their parents don’t send them here with food, it is always up to me to feed these hungry kids. What do I do?

Dear Lunch Lady:

I know it’s not lunch but it’s the image I have of you, wearing a hair net and doling out food as a line of children shuffles by. Meanwhile you’re also hemorrhaging money, because you have to keep buying food to replace the items the swarm of local kids are devouring.

But is it such a terrible price to pay? I mean, think about it. How many kids are we talking here, 2? Three? Ten? As they get older, I know they eat more, but they are also likely to get into more trouble. If your kids are playing at home because that’s where the fun (and snacks) can be found, then you are more able to keep an eye on them and find out what is going on in their lives. It won’t last forever, so if for now you need to keep your cabinets and drawers stocked with chips and cookies and freezer pops, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Just make sure to head to a big discount store and buy them in bulk for a reduced price!

Even though it might feel icky to ask, I’ll bet the other parents would be relieved that they can do something to contribute to your ad-hoc daycare.

It’s a tricky line to walk. If you yank the snacks and become the “mean mom” will the kids disappear? In that case, are they coming for your children’s company or just for the food you give them? Since when did you start running the local free snack shack? Try limiting the snacks to healthy or less expensive items, or just one snack per kid per visit, and see what happens.

What concerns me more is the kids who don’t ask first. If they are old enough to be hanging around at your house all the time with your children, they are old enough to ask politely for a snack. Rummaging around in your house for something to eat is not cool. I would give their parents the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t know this is happening, and maybe mention it to them when they come to pick up the little bugger. It’s worth letting them know so they can have a conversation at home about manners and being a gracious guest.

Speaking of these parents, why not invite them to share in the burden of feeding the children snacks? If one of the kids has a favorite, ask him to bring some to share next time he comes over. Let his parents know you’ll be rotating snack duty. If I was that kid’s mom, I’d be grateful he had a safe place to play and be out of my hair for a while, and I would happily pile snacks or reimbursement into your hands. In fact, even though it might feel icky to ask, I’ll bet the other parents would be relieved that they can do something to contribute to your ad-hoc daycare.

Another idea – why not institute Snack Time? At a set time, put out snacks for as many kids you have in-house at the moment, but no snacks before or after? You’ll still get some “I’m still hungry” whines, but this might minimize the amount of serving you feel compelled to do!

Bottom line: suck it up, honey, and remember that they won’t be young forever. Yes, I sound like one of those people who assures you that your baby will eventually sleep through the night. But this time I know I’m right.

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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kid with ipadLast week a new product prompted us to pose a question to you on Facebook: “Do we have to have an iPad strapped to everything, even a stroller?”

I want to take it a little bit farther.

How much is too much when it comes to kids and digital devices?

Many of us have allowed or encouraged the use of digital devices by our children, and not just for educational purposes. Raise your hands if your kids are under 5 and even have their own tablets or phones or other touch-screen gadgets that they play with when you need them to can it.

Listen, I didn’t want to do this, but I am going to use the “Back in my day…” argument because it’s a good place to start.

My kids aren’t babies anymore, but I remember all too well the incessant whining and attention-grabbing they would turn on just when I needed to have an adult conversation, or eat a meal at a table, or stand in line in an orderly fashion at Target. Back then I didn’t have a touch-screen cell phone, so I had to resort to more primitive methods of distracting the children so we could get through something. And every time I found an easier way, I used it.

Moms today get easier and easier tools dangled in front of them all the time. When you are sleep-deprived and on your last nerve, you’re sure as hell going to stick that phone or tablet in the baby’s hands so you can finish the phone call or read the label on a package of gluten-free cookies.

Ten years ago it was Baby Einstein. Now it’s Dumb Ways To Die. I mean, moms hear “you’re letting your child [insert guilty parenting cheat here] too much!” all the time, right? What difference does it make if it’s the TV or the tablet?

Mobility. You can pop a phone into a baby’s hands as soon as she is able to grasp objects with them. You can use it in the car, at the store, wherever, not just limited to home.

So beware. Children’s affinity for a digital device starts early, and you might find yourself relying on the electronic babysitter too often. The kids get older, develop the ability to talk, and with it, the ability to whine for the little screen. They see you using it all the time: while you’re making them dinner, as you’re talking a walk, and even when you’re retiring to your bedroom for the night.

So maybe you want to go easy on starting them off with a phone/tablet addiction too young. Be mindful of how much your children see you using one, and try to rely on it less for “babysitting.”

Here’s what some of our Savvy Sassy Facebook friends had to say:

Watch and rollWe asked: Do we have to have an iPad strapped to everything, even a stroller?

Laura Fransen That is ridiculous. Kids need to be unplugged and taught to enjoy life without electronic distractions.

Franki Arnold No. Absolutely not. Let your baby enjoy their surroundings — the grocery store, the park, wherever you are — they don’t have to be glued to a screen from the get go. It’s not healthy.

Valerya Rose Baker My kids don’t use my iPad. They play games on their LeapPads sometimes, and my oldest is starting to play the Wii U. But phones and iPads are off limits for them. Also, I agree with the other two ladies, when the kids are outside, they enjoy it by actually experiencing it. They don’t “endure” it because they have entertainment on a screen.

Carrie Ross  I think technology is wonderful. I know I couldn’t live without it. It’s an extremely useful tool for SO many things in life… Including learning. However, NO. Absolutely NOT. We don’t need iPads and tablets attached to everything. UNPLUG! You can’t experience life staring at a screen. It’s a wonderful thing to see my little one experiencing things in a store. Colors, people, noises, etc. I can’t wait for all this snow to be gone so I can get my little one outside to experience grass, trees, the squirrels, birds, dirt even! REAL life things.

Katie Young Lehuta Watching the world around around them is educational – we are gonna end up raising a generation of idiots that don’t know what to do with themselves.

Erin Stern Why even have a stroller where your child can face you if you aren’t going to engage with them?

Deanna Doherty Desarro No. In a stroller while outside for a walk is too much. I have let my kids use my phone while in a stroller at the store so I can actually shop without a bunch of whining.

Sherri Kuhn Seriously, this bugs me to no end! Saw a mom on a beautiful trail with so much to look at and an iPad in her 2-year-old’s lap.

The Beverly Hills Mom The ONLY reason I can see to have it would be in an airport or something where you’re held captive.

Like us on Facebook to see other comments or continue the discussion right here. What’s your family technology policy?

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.

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ask sassy 3rd baby shower

Dear Sassy:

I was asked to co-host a baby shower for a friend who is having her third baby. She has a boy and a girl already, so she already has all the gear. I feel funny about inviting people to give her more stuff, but I don’t want to look like I don’t care about her. What should I do?

Dear Awesome Auntie:

Because that’s the kind of friend you want to be, right? An awesome one?

Then host the party. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you have kids, too, since you’re reading this site. Remember how you felt when you were having your baby, even if you only had one? There was emotion, suspense, frenzy, and sometimes that weird gassy feeling. It was a heady time, full of expectation. Your life as you know it was about to end and make way for something amazing.

Well, news flash: that is how your friend is feeling. Doesn’t matter how many kids you have — two or four or seven. You might be exhausted after the first one has sucked out all your energy and now you’re going for another (or another…), but a new baby brings joy no matter what.

Some people think a baby shower for 2nd or subsequent baby is tacky. I say that depends. Here’s how to handle this situation with class.

First of all, make sure the mom-of-3-to-be actually wants the party.

She may be unaware of the plans, and unless you are quite sure that this gal loves surprises, it’s best to err on the side of caution and confirm that she won’t be horrified that you’re planning this! With 2 kids already and a bun in the oven, maybe she just wants to hunker down and get as much rest as she can before the new arrival. Or, maybe she’s just passive-aggressive, and really wants a party but refuses to say so. (I could write a whole book on how to deal with that kind of person, but it would be easy to summarize: don’t.)

Just remember: you are celebrating your friendship. You are celebrating a new life.

Select your guests wisely.

Only people who really care about this woman or family should be invited – they are the ones who would likely get a gift for the new baby anyway, and would welcome the chance to celebrate a little bit with the mom before the birth. Acquaintances, coworkers, friends of friends, or distant relatives might not be as thrilled to be asked to come to a gift-giving occasion for someone they don’t feel close with. Naturally, then, this will be a more intimate event. Cozy, even.

Be honest.

Everyone knows she has two kids already. Everyone knows she has all the gear…or does she? Maybe she gave away all of her son’s baby clothes, and needs new blue onesies for the next boy. Or maybe she could use a new bouncy seat, or a stylish diaper bag to help her feel not so frumpy when she leaves the house. Ask her for a short list of suggestions. If she does have all the clothes and gear, she’ll need diapers, of course. Why not limit gifts to diapers and wipes? You can make a theme out of it!

Call it what it is.

This isn’t really a shower. It’s an excuse to get together to heap love on the mama, and give her some diapers and maybe an I.O.U. for a home-cooked meal or a gift card for takeout to use during those first few weeks after the latest tot is born, when she’ll feel like she’s underwater. I’ve been a guest of honor and a guest at a baby “sprinkle,” which is a cute version of a baby shower, right? Go as cute, or not, as you think your friend will enjoy.

Only you can control how tacky or classy this occasion will be. Just remember: you are celebrating your friendship. You are celebrating a new life. If you keep that love in mind, you can’t go wrong.

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share pro tips on life every week.

 Photo by Debbie R. via flickr (CC)

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baseball little league coach with player

Dear Readers:

I’m stepping up on my soapbox for a moment. Nobody sent this question in, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while: The obnoxious sports parent. If your kids or your friends’ kids or your nephews/nieces/grandchildren are on a sports team (or even in a club, this might apply) and you ever watched from the sidelines either by choice or because your friend/sister/brother/adult child guilted you into coming with them, this one is for you.

How Not To Be an Obnoxious Sports Parent

Show up at practices. If you don’t know when the practices are, call or email the coach. How hard is it? If the coach is bad at communicating with parents because he is a MAN and is bad at that anyway, it’s not enough for you to shrug your shoulders and said “Whatever. I guess we’ll miss practice this week.” Your kid needs the practice. Even if she is a natural-born soccer star, she needs to be present with her teammates and learn how to work together with them.

If you want to do the coaching, you should have volunteered for the job yourself.

Call when your kid has to miss practices or games. In most community sports leagues, the coaches and assistant coaches are volunteers. That means the basketball coach for your son’s pee-wee team is giving up his or her time and patience to teach your child how to play basketball and how to improve. He or she may have had to leave work early, or get a babysitter, just to show up. So if you need to miss a practice, let him know – it’s a sign of respect. Also, your child is a part of team (have I mentioned that yet?) and if she is missing, the plays, the drills, the whole game plan might have to be adjusted. Alert your coach as soon as you know you’ll have to keep your child home sick or something else has come up.

Keep your heckling to yourself. Volunteer coaches might make some moves you do not support at all: play calls, personnel changes, bad choices on the field or court — but he’s the coach, not you. He is the one who stepped up and made it possible for your kid to play in the first place. It doesn’t help him at all to have you on the sidelines grousing about running a pass play instead of a running play when the team is down by three. Granted, he might actually need some help, especially if he doesn’t even know how to play the game — in that case, helpful suggestions given when you’re not pissed off after a loss, but feeling calm and actually helpful — might benefit him. But if you want to do the coaching, you could have volunteered for the job yourself.

Also, this should go without saying, but DON’T scream like a jerk or get in a fight with another parent, a coach, or an official. Bad example for your kids, and it just makes everyone uncomfortable. If you get fired up and pissed off, think of your happy place. The game will be over soon.

Bring extra snacks for siblings. Many kids’ sports teams ask parents to bring snacks after the games on a rotating basis to share the burden and cost. When it’s your turn, consider that your child’s teammates probably have sisters or brothers watching the game, and they might hover around the perimeter of the gaggle of kids diving for donuts, hoping there’s a scrap they can scavenge. Be generous and make that kid’s day with a snack for her, too.

Bring whatever snack you want, but don’t be preachy. Some parents get all holier-than-thou about bringing healthy snacks to sports games. I’ve heard them whine about pumping the kids up with sugar after they just had some great exercise. If this is you, bring a healthy, tasty snack when it’s your turn. But don’t send out an obnoxious email to all the team parents complaining about donuts or juice boxes and how they are the devil. The kids just worked hard — they’ll love a sweet or savory snack, especially if they lost. (But don’t bring soda. Soda is poison.)

Teach your child to behave appropriately. I mean, I shouldn’t even have to say this, but there are so many people who pet and coddle their children even in this situation that it makes me ragey. If your kid is the one on the field who mopes around, doesn’t listen to the coach, talks back, goofs around instead of standing in line during a drill, or even sits down in the middle of the field during a game — it’s not the coach’s responsibility to parent him. A good coach will reward kids who try hard and pay attention, and give others a chance, but not too many. A good parent will handle their misbehaving child or at least make it look like she’s dealing with it. But laughing it off or encouraging disrespect and bad behavior during sports is only setting this child up for bigger problems later.

Finally, relax. It’s Little League, not the Olympics. It’s a GAME, not life-saving brain surgery. The point is for your kids to have fun, get some exercise, socialize, and continue learning how to be human who interacts with other people. Look at it as a fun thing. If your kid misbehaves during basketball practice, it might be because she hates basketball. But that’s okay. She’ll find her thing, and you can help her do it.

Leaving soapbox, and inviting you onto yours: what’s one thing parents do at your kid’s sports games or practices that annoys the crap out of you? What would you do differently?

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share pro tips on life every week.

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Dear Sassy:

I am having a problem communicating with my spouse and sharing responsibilities. We have two children and have very busy careers. When we talk to one another I think we are listening but we are not.  We are so distracted by so many other things that we are not truly listening at all. I feel like we have started to just tune each other out, kinda like you tune the kids out after the 10th “MOM.”  I don’t want to tune my husband out and I don’t want him to tune me out. How can we really stop and listen to one another?

Dear Tuned Out:

Well, you picked the right person to ask for marital advice, because I’ve been married for a 100 years.To the same guy, even.

Okay, not really, but sometimes it feels like that, especially when he starts farting in his sleep while I am drinking my tea in bed next to him, reading my Nora Roberts novel and waiting for my hair to dry in curlers.

Fine. I’m exaggerating about that, too. At least about the curlers part. Nobody does that.

My point is, I totally get what you’re feeling, and I am willing to bet a new pair of Uggs that there are a few married people reading this who get it, too. When you’re together for a long time, sharing your lives, your cutlery, and childrearing duties, you can start to take each other for granted. Kids tend to be louder and all up in your business, while you expect a little more decency from your grown-up spouse, or at least for him not to be tugging on your shirt while repeating “Wife, wife, wifey, wife, WIFE…” until you finally scream “WHAT?!” in his face.

I often hear women complain that they’re always the ones making the effort in the relationship.

Since your husband has the burden of maturity, you have the burden of actually paying attention to him. He can’t afford to be the squeaky wheel, but he does have the right to fall back on the vows you took when you got married, that you’d listen to each other even when the kids are driving you crazy and taking all the energy that you don’t use for your career. (That was in your vows, right?)

The only person you can change in this situation is yourself.

Recommit your effort to pay attention to your husband. As impossible as it may seem, set aside time for him, even the tiniest bits. Bring him a cup of coffee in the morning, look into his eyes, and say “I love you.” After years of familiarity and a laundry list of things to do, that may seem silly, but try it.

Check in with him — really paying attention — every day. Set a daily alarm on your phone or your online calendar. When it goes off, wherever you are, drop everything and call him, or go sit down to have a little chat with him. (Agree in advance on a daily time that works for both of you.) Even if you just talk for a few minutes, make it obvious that you are interested in what he’s saying.

I often hear women complain that they’re always the ones making the effort in the relationship. Yes, that might be true. But you gotta suck it up, honey, and lead by example. We think about these things more than the men do, so it really is up to us.

So take a deep breath, and do what you need to do to muster up the energy to make yourself available for a chat, an extra long hug, or a rejuvenating roll in the hay after the kids go to sleep.

Hint: this might include taking better care of yourself. I KNOW — yet another thing to add to your already busy day. A little nap so you won’t be so sleepy, a shower to refresh you, or some exercise to keep your energy level up — these things are necessary for your own personal well-being. Without it, how can you have any energy left over to give?

You may feel frustrated or resentful at first, but trust me. Your efforts and actions will have an impact on your husband. He’ll feel important, and maybe without even realizing he’s doing it, he’ll start to do the same things for you.

Don’t keep living life tuned out of your marriage. Your worry is a code red alarm that you and your spouse are becoming disconnected, washed to separate shores by the stormy waves of a busy life. As exhausting as it seems to add one more thing to your to-do list (“Reconnect With Husband”) don’t lose sight of your priorities. He is your husband and the father of your kids. He’s got to be up at the top! Treat him with the same respect and love that you want him to show to you.

Before long, instead of tuning each other out, you’ll both be singing the same song. Together. And that’s how it should be.

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share pro tips on life every week.

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