The Pup Invasion: A Parent’s Lament

Only Paw Patrol

To be honest, I’m not even sure how it happened.

There was life before “PAW Patrol,” and now we’re stuck in the painful after. A place in which time has no meaning, because all that exists in my 3-year-old’s world are Chase, Zuma, Skye, Rubble … and rice with butter, his primary food group.

Up in the morning? “PAW Patrol.” Last request at night? “PAW Patrol.” Bedtime stories feature even more tales about “the pups.” While I’ll admit to feeling my heart melt at Ollie’s request for “Good Morning, Adventure Bay,” which he says in a distinctly Ollie-like way that would be impossible to type out, I’m generally annoyed by the whole Nickelodeon-funded mess.

Oliver has had plenty of obsessions before. There were tractors, of course, and the ongoing love of farming equipment. Back when his vocabulary was limited to things like “up” and “milk,” “tractor” somehow worked its way in there.

And then we had “The Muppets,” all we watched for the first year of his life, followed by “Big Hero 6” and “The Lorax.” Now he’s especially into Blippi, a true icon amongst the Pull-Up set.

And those? I’ve been fine with those. See, unlike those programs, which have some vague humor that lets adults tolerate — or even enjoy — them,  “PAW Patrol” is just mind-melting. Boring. Colorful, but in an “assault on the senses” kind of way. 

I love the pro-“PAW Patrol” message that pops up before every episode, too. Going on missions with the pups helps children think critically! Encourages teamwork! Builds character! We’re basically curing cancer over here!

Look, Nick: you don’t have to try to make us feel good about this. I know my kids spend far too much time in front of a screen already. I put “PAW Patrol” on because it encourages my toddler to sit in one place long enough for me to mop up the milk he spilled or comfort the sister he pushed. I know it ain’t about the teamwork, OK?

I’ve tried placing limits on how much we’re tagging along with Ryder et. al., but the truth is that Oliver just really loves this show. Hadley tolerates it, so we alternate with episodes of “Sesame Street” because we’re learning all about “taking turns.”

When the kids fall asleep, Spence passes out on the couch and I finally have the remote all to myself, I usually … turn the TV off. I have a DVR full of shows I’ve stockpiled, but I rarely have the energy or focus to enjoy any of them. I’m trying to start reading again (slow process), and I give that preference.

But mostly? I crave silence. Space. My sister makes fun of how low we keep the volume on our TV, but all the noise — so much noise — coming at us all day just gets to be too much. By 10 p.m., I’m done. I want the darkness and nothingness. I might even need it.

I’ve even found myself turning off my car radio and driving in silence. The quiet helps me scrape some thoughts together. I actually do my best thinking on my morning commute.

Probably because that’s the only time my husband and I don’t have furry problem-solving guests in our home.

“PAW Patrol” is annoying, but I know it’s just a phase. Oliver will soon move on to the next toddler fever dream. Hadley will advance from Elmo to “Doc McStuffins” or something similar, and pretty soon we’ll have a rumble going on in the living room.

Or maybe we’ll actually … go outside. Just for a little bit. Blow some bubbles. Take a walk. Decorate the driveway with my mediocre chalk designs and Ollie’s scribbles.

It’s almost summer. Even with my husband and I working full-time and the kids in day care, it still feels like a lighter, freer season.

The perfect time to step back from the screens.

I promise I’ll try.




Getting to be so done with ‘The Bachelor.’ Or am I?

I’ve been watching “The Bachelor” and its female variant “The Bachelorette” faithfully, with my mom and sister, for years. I guess the first time I really got hooked was when the British Bachelor, Matt, vowed in a show preview to come to America “and steal all your women.” (Right.) Things with prissy, vapid Shayne didn’t quite work out — who could see that coming?! — and Matt has since faded into obscurity. Like so many of the former Bachelor contestants.

Jason MesnickBut Jason? Sweet, single dad Jason Mesnick from Seattle? I wasn’t ready to let go of him — I couldn’t watch my Jason fade into oblivion! Tonight will be my first evening without some sort of “Bachelor” hysteria! And I’ll be serious and say I’m totally over this whole Jason thing. Prior to this season, I thought he was just ideally the “perfect man” (if there could ever be such a thing, which — of course — there isn’t). I still think he’s a nice guy, but this whole D-R-A-M-A with Molly and Melissa has just given me a serious OD on the whole situation. I’m (almost) losing interest!

Melissa from The BachelorI mean, really? It comes down to Melissa and Molly in the show’s dramatic finish, and Jason kisses Molly goodbye while dropping to one knee to propose to Melissa. Six weeks later, Jason breaks things off with fiancee Melissa — and asks Molly for another chance, telling her he just can’t let go of her. Molly basically says they can see how things go. And Melissa is left broken-hearted somewhere, back on the path to attempting to find true love. Again.

Whoa! I know love makes you do some crazy lunatic things, but I’ve really come out of this just feeling sorry for Melissa. Jason goes on the “After the Rose” finale to break things off with Mel and then immediately beseeches Molly to go get “coffee or something”? I know this was a reality show and, as Jason explained on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” he was contractually obligated to let his relationship play out with the cameras rolling. But it just feels sad and contrived to me. If I were in Molly’s shoes, I can’t promise I wouldn’t want to take that guy back, too — but I would at least give it some thought before putting my hand on the man’s thigh on national television! Did y’all see that? Oh, I saw it. Girl, isn’t your grandma watching this show?!

Molly from The BachelorI know he’s trying to live in the “real world” (whatever that is) and that we’re supposed to believe these are “real” relationships. Do I think you could meet and fall in love on a TV show? Sure. I do. I believe in love at first sight and all that sappy stuff, and I definitely love me some good television! But I find it a bit implausible that you could be ready, after six or seven weeks, to completely commit yourself to marrying someone whose name you didn’t even know two months before. If you take even a casual glance at the situation, a series like “The Bachelor” just doesn’t seem to work. Only one of the couples actually got married after becoming “engaged” at the conclusion of the program, so that gives me a pretty unsettling feeling about the whole situation! Though an impending marriage certainly adds a sense of drama to each season’s finale, it would seem much more realistic to just say, “Hey, here’s the final rose. Let’s, you know, agree to see each other exclusively and see how this thing plays out.”

And far fewer tears would be shed, too! Although would that make for interesting television — and help sell advertising during the show’s coveted time slot? Probably not.

Jillian from The BachelorThe next “Bachelorette” will be Jason’s cast-off Jillian, a Canadian woman ousted after she stated firmly she’s looking to marry her “best friend.” After letting her go, he justified his actions by telling her he needs “a best friend and more” — he needs passion. Um, yes? I think we all pretty much understand that we’re not marrying just a best friend. Hey, if that’s the case, my life would be a whole lot easier! Jillian argued that when you’re ninety years old, you’re going to want to be sitting in the rocker with your best friend at your side. I couldn’t agree more. And what he probably meant to say when giving her the run-around was that he was “just not that into her.” Isn’t it just easier to tell the truth? He was worried there wasn’t enough chemistry there, and obviously there wasn’t. He thought they were on the “best friend” path, which was good and great with Jillian! Though Jason thought otherwise. Ah, well. Better she didn’t have to deal with all that final drama!

Fair thee well, Jillian! Perhaps she’ll be the next one to get “lucky” in love. Depending on your definition.

And yes, I’ll be watching!

Food Network is like crack

Food Network is like crack . . . except way healthier, and far less expensive! Seriously — it’s just addictive. All-day, all-night programming featuring funny, mostly likeable people, delicious food, scintillating conversation and ideas for making your own life better? Check, please!

I’ve developed a somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things cooking over the past year. You would think this would translate into all sorts of tasty treats passing in and out of my kitchen, but that’s not exactly the case. Or, well, not the case at all. I have made chicken, pasta, cottage cheese noodles, tacos and a variety of cookies, but I’ve yet to really delve into an entire meal successfully.

No, my cooking obsession mostly centers around . . . watching other people cook. I’m pretty into “Iron Chef America,” particularly when Cat Cora is on board. Of all the TV chefs, Cat is probably my favorite: she’s no-nonsense and creates some pretty mouth-watering dishes. I like Bobby Flay, too, but sometimes his scratchy voice annoys me! As does Rachael Ray’s, though I like many of her cooking ideas and have tried a few. She seems to be mocked everywhere in popular culture these days . . . and I even stumbled across a pretty hilarious book at Borders the other night:

Every Freaking! Day with Rachell Ray: An Unauthorized Parody

Anybody who has ever ducked and covered when Ms. Ray assaulted your unassuming ears will appreciate this one. While I’m definitely tired of hearing quips like “YUM-O!” and “EVOO,” I still find myself pausing the Tivo scroll when “30 Minute Meals” is on. I guess we all have our love/hate relationships.

In the meantime, I’ll go back to vegging out in the middle of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — and dreaming about all of the fabulous greasy spoons I could visit, if I only had a red convertible and Guy Fieri on my arm.

Meredith better make a choice already

May contain spoilers!

My sister and I have been dedicated “Grey’s Anatomy” fans from episode one — and I’ve kept up with the show through thick and thin. Now in its fifth season, I’m beginning to see some of the signs of wear on the plotlines, characters and themes, but hey — we’re dedicated! I’m willing to wait this one out and see the sunshine again.

Last night was the two-hour season premiere and, to my disappointment, it aired alongside the premiere of “The Office” (don’t tell me any spoilers, I have it Tivoed!). Kate and I opted for “Grey’s” to help us launch back into the storylines.

I don’t know if it’s like this for anyone else (I’m assuming it is), but I’m beginning to really get tired of Meredith’s emotional unavailability. Yeah, she says she’s trying to grow and change and be more willing to accept Derek’s love in her life, but I’m checking the vitals of their relationship — it ain’t lookin’ good. Last night she asks him to move in with her, only to temporarily rethink and rescind the invitation, and then asks again — and apparently, he’s accepted. They’re packing up boxes at the end of the two hours, but the look on her face says everything. She looks like she’s in pain.

How much longer can we stretch this out?

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he certainly doesn’t hurt my interest

This is the first year I can actually remember really sitting down to watch the Olympics — to the point where I’ve stayed up past midnight every night this week to tune into what’s going on.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not the biggest fan of sports. And by “biggest fan,” I mean I could generally care less. I do cheer on the Nats with my dad and love to go to baseball games, especially since the Blue Crabs came to town. And I supported my Terps in college, of course. But other than that? I lose interest after the first few innings or quarters or whatever. Yeah, I don’t know much about sports, either. This is all quite shameful considering my dad is an accomplished sportswriter and columnist. But my sports enthusiasm generally doesn’t extend beyond cheering for Teddy to win.

There’s something about the Olympics, though. It’s inspiring. It’s contagious. And, being fiercely patriotic, I love cheering for the U.S. and hearing our anthem played after events. The “Star-Spangled Banner” always makes me tear up a little! I didn’t process how much I love America until we went to England and Italy last year. As absolutely life-changing and incredible as it was, flying back into New York City, then D.C., was like climbing into the warmest, comfiest bed ever — just relaxing and safe.

Oh, and this gentleman doesn’t hurt my interest in the Olympics, either:

whew, boy!

whew, boy!

Michael Phelps is pretty amazing. And he makes it all look so effortless! I get a little freaked out watching them all in the pool — I’m pretty afraid of deep water — but I figure they know what they’re doing. And watching his muscles flexing all over the place is a little distracting… needless to say, I don’t get my writing done at night!

* Photo courtesy Getty Images