The Office

The final episode of “The Office” is on right now. Andy and I used to watch it religiously, every Thursday night. We stopped three years ago (Owen and James turn 3 Sunday). The show started soon after Andy and I were married. I was working at Popular Woodworking magazine at the time. One of my editors suggested we check out the British version—I gave it to Andy for Valentine’s Day (he gave me a book by David Sedaris).

I remember exactly where we sat on the couch in our house on Grant street, while watching it. The blanket I curled up under. Where Tucker slept. Thursday nights were our TV night. (We loved “ER,” too.)

Andy had this silly little dance that he used to do during the theme song—I loved it.

Before kids we routinely met friends at Arthur’s in Hyde Park on Thursday nights, for happy hour/dinner immediately after work. I always had a veggie burger, fries and a Blue Moon. I rarely drink beer and yet tonight I’m drinking a Blue Moon—I suppose my subconscious is being sentimental.

Much of the show I could relate to. Maybe it’s because my first job was writing for a business-to-business publication about, of all things, paper. Maybe it’s because cubicle work is cubicle work anywhere—so much of it resonates. Companies are companies, too. I remember watching an episode in which Michael hands out ice cream sandwiches to soften the blow of a new, expensive health care plan. If I remember correctly, the very next day the company I worked for handed out ice cream sandwiches to all the employees in an attempt to soften a different blow.

I watched episodes while pregnant. While sleep-deprived. Episodes interrupted 10 times while trying to persuade a little one to sleep. Episodes in full while thankful for routine and (mostly) guaranteed bedtimes.

And although there was the three-year-break, I’m watching now.

It’s not so much about the show. (When the last episode of Seinfeld aired I spent it sitting on top of a hill outside Ohio University, watching the sun set with a friend. And I love Seinfeld.) I think the sentimentality comes from the time that has passed. Eight years is a long time. All endings remind me of beginnings, and this is just another (small) one.

Sure, TV can be problematic. But it also allows these fictional stories to weave in and out of our lives for much longer than the length of a book or a play or a movie. I like that. Yes, there’s a lot of bad TV. But I’m also thankful to be able to disappear into these other lives and laugh, just laugh, for 20-some minutes once a week.

“When television is good, nothing is better. When it’s bad, nothing is worse.” —Newton N. Minow

Sophie Discovers Commercials

Sophie: “Mommy, did you know there’s something on TV called a PackIt?”

Me: “What’s that?”

Sophie: “It’s for when you go on picnics and if the PackIt is cold it keeps food that needs to be cold really, really cold.”

Me: “Oh?”

Sophie: “And guess where you keep it?”

Me: “Where?”

Sophie: “In your refrigerator.

Me: “Oh.”

Sophie: “And guess what?”

Me: “What?”

Sophie: “If you drop it, it won’t break. And it won’t spill! And there’s a bottle that comes with it. And a container.”

Me: “Oh.”

Sophie: “Do you know where I learned that?”

Me: “Where?”

Sophie: “On the TV. I learned that on the TV.”

Me: “Sophie, do you know what a commercial is?”

Sophie: “Uh-uh. I don’t.”

Me: “Do you think someone was trying to sell you that PackIt?”

Sophie: “I’m not sure.”

Me: “Is it something you want to buy?”

Sophie: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “Why?”

Sophie: “Because then we can take cold stuff that needs to be cold to a picnic!”

Me: “What about just getting ice from the freezer and using that?”

Sophie: “We won’t need ice for it!”

Me: “No, I mean, what about using ice from the freezer instead of the Packit?”

Sophie: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Me: “What if, we took ice from the freezer, put it in a plastic bag or cooler, and used that to keep our food cold? Then we wouldn’t have to buy a Packit. Do you think that’s a good idea?”

Sophie: “Mm-hmmm. Can I watch a movie now?”

“In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.” —Erma Bombeck

The Huffington Post Guest Post: Apologies to the Parents I Judged Four Years Ago

An essay I wrote, about parenting and judging, is featured on The Huffington Post. (I’m thrilled!) You can read it here. And while I’m always grateful for comments on this site, please feel free to comment and share this essay through The Huffington Post site (they encourage that sort of thing).

And the apology is sincere. To the parents I knew four years ago, I’m sorry. I had no idea.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” —Wayne Dyer



This morning Sophie told us that she and a friend are “sneaky” at preschool. “What do you mean, sneaky?” I asked. She said that some of the work they choose from the classroom bookshelves is meant to be done alone but she doesn’t like doing work alone—she likes doing it with her friend. So they find a place “that’s blocked so the teacher can’t see us.”

“Where did you learn the word ‘sneaky’?” I asked.

“From my teacher,” Sophie said.

I have a feeling my next parent-teacher conference is going to differ from the last one.

Sophie can be sneaky, though. I know this. Several weeks ago I left all three kids playing in the living room for just a few minutes. When I came back in the room, Sophie and Owen were snuggled on the couch together, under the blanket Linda knitted for us, watching Clifford on TV. The TV was off when I left the room. So somehow they managed to find the remote (which is always missing), turn the TV on and then find a child-appropriate show to watch. (It took me a good month to learn how to use that remote.)

But I loved how they were snuggled into one another. And I loved the look on Owen’s face—it’s a smirk he makes often, when he’s proud of himself. So I let them be, despite the fact they were over their TV limit for the day. Sometimes, I think, sneaky can be harmless. And can bring joy. And camaraderie.

I’m sure being sneaky will take on an entirely different meaning, however, when my children are 16.

“I was so naive as a kid I used to sneak behind the barn and do nothing.” —Johnny Carson