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The Top Three TLC Shows for Families

Family Portrait - Montreal 1963

(Photo credit: Mikey G Ottawa, Flickr Creative Commons)

True, I’ve spent some time panning TLC reality shows. But who can blame me? With shows like Welcome to Myrtle Manor (how is that even still on?) and Gypsy Sisters, coming up with snide remarks is like shooting fish in a barrel. And that new show? My Five Wives? Yawn. Plural marriage is such a snooze.

There really can be no sugar without spice, though, so I’m calling these the ‘spice’ and moving on.

I feel three TLC shows are great assets to the American family, and, if you’ll do me the honor, I’d like to explain why.


So, without further ado, here are my top three TLC picks for families:


The Little Couple

My husband and I have been watching The Little Couple since before we were husband and wife. The show chronicles the journey of Jennifer Arnold, MD and Bill Klein, who married, moved, built a (might I add, adorable) home, and have recently completed the process of adopting two children from overseas, complicated by both fertility woes and cancer. I enjoy this show for many reasons, but the main reason I continue to watch is that it stays positive. I am consistently impressed by the direction of the show, and I do believe that it is because the couple is involved in its production. There’s no yelling or screaming, no catfights, and nary a bad word spoken. Jen, Bill, and their families approach the tribulations of life, the highs and lows, with a constancy and humor that are infrequently seen. The show is packed with themes that can be applied universally to families, and the concepts of perseverance, unconditional love, loyalty, and respect are always but an arm’s length away. I call it Reality TV with Heart.  


Long Island Medium

Maybe I like Long Island Medium because I’m from a loudmouthed, meatball-rolling, stiflingly-close Italian family. Maybe I like it because, I, like much of the rest of the world, am waiting with bated breath to see if Theresa will ever change that hair. Maybe it’s because I, like many of us, really do wonder if there’s life after death. Perhaps it’s all of those reasons. Are the readings real? I don’t know. And how about the everyday conflicts? Not sure. Whether you believe in Theresa’s gift or not, you are left with a feeling that the Caputos could be kind and welcoming friends, or even relatives. What I enjoy most about this show is the warmth, openness, and compassion between the family and families featured on the show. At the end of the day, it’s one of those shows that can (and should) be enjoyed by viewers of all ages, renewing our hope and faith in this world, our loved ones, and the world beyond.


Something Borrowed, Something New

Something Borrowed, Something New is fairly new to the TLC lineup, premiering in 2013. Now, I’m not a fan, in general, of bride/wedding/wedding competition shows, firstly, because I don’t feel weddings need be large, crazy, or expensive, and secondly, because these shows tend to highlight the worst (greediest, or most vain) sides of brides and bridal parties. What Something Borrowed offers the viewer, however, by way of remaking a vintage wedding dress – a family heirloom – into something modern, unique, and, essentially, wearable today, is a connection with family. The bride chooses a ‘something new’ while the heirloom dress is redesigned, she presents herself in both the heirloom and the new pick, and finally, with great anticipation of her family, chooses her gown. There are few things more special for a bride than incorporating an heirloom into the most important day of her life, and this show has shown the ties that bind, even at the beckon of amazing designers, can be stronger than we’ve ever imagined.


These are my favorites. Have you found yours?

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Greener Grass

Cover of "World War Z: An Oral History of...

Cover via Amazon

My husband and I were watching World War Z the other night. You know, Zombie Apocalypse Movie #997-B, with Brad Pitt.

In a world where a lot of things, quite frankly, suck, where people die for little or no reason, planes disappear into thin air, and thousands die from starvation every day, human beings just can’t seem to get their fill of carnage.

We fantasize about asteroids, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, zombie apocalypses, nuclear apocalypses, alien invasions, epidemics, futuristic dystopias, and homicidal ghost children. And we never seem to run out of ideas.

It’s bad enough to live on a planet where, if you only look, you can find every type of corruption imaginable, torture, famine, disease, drought, and death, but it’s worse that, whenever we get the hankerin’, we just make up some more.

What is it about the human mind that leads us to these dark places? What part of our primitive brain needs to watch Hannibal, or watch a cruise ship crack in half, throwing its unwitting passengers into frigid seas, or see cities fall to their knees at the hands of evildoers from other dimensions? Pretty weird, right? Throw in the worry about being attacked by a pal and becoming a vampire or zombie, or coming down with a raging case of rabies, and you’ve pretty much covered the spectrum of human fear.

Logic says we should run, screaming, from all this horse malarkey (and the spiders), and draw sunshine and rainbows wherever we step. We should be singing kumbaya with our fellow man at our local Rotary Club’s next Roast Beef Dinner. But we don’t. We keep shelling out the clams to watch chaos and destruction – in 3D, at the drive-in, and at home. Logic should tell you that since negative scenarios essentially exist in a continuous loop, we might be a little nicer to one another. We might help each other out more. But we’re not. And we don’t. In fact, we’re pretty mean.

Today (and stay with me here, because this is going to seem to veer way off track), as I headed into the grocery store, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a tall man in a mini skirt and a bunch of makeup, heading towards the entrance. Did I care about his appearance? No. Not particularly. I’ve always been a little left of center in the ‘acceptance of diverse populations’ department. I sort of prefer diversity to a Stepford environment. What I did care about was how this man would be received once in the store.

What I witnessed was expected – giggling, pointing, jokes, an almost-giddiness from the staff and patrons that, for a moment, led me to the belief that more men should cross-dress more often.

I lost track of him once I got to the deli counter, but these reactions made me wonder: If aliens descended on the supermarket while we were inside, we’d save this guy, right? Would we save the a*hole who took our parking spot or cut us off on the way in?

Why are we so tolerant of flesh-eating monsters from other planets and not our own people? And why are we so much more likely to pay money to watch the torture or mistreatment of another human being on a screen (Hello, Seven and Saw) instead of facing these issues in real life? We’d literally step over people in the street to go see a movie about people getting stepped over on the street.

We’ve staged wars on plants, spiders, witches, and apes, but can’t seem to figure out how to get Chex into kids’ mouths in the morning.

And how is it we can cheer while watching peoples’ faces be blown clean off, but we’re scared of a guy in a skirt, buying tomatoes?

I guess my point here is twofold. Here’s the first: The fact that we can create entire worlds, diseases, and monsters that do not exist, and have them eat, disembowel, skin, or otherwise violate us, while simultaneously turning a collective blind eye to the realities of our own world, simply blows my mind.

The second? We could be attacked by zombies at any time. Be nice to the guy in the skirt. He might be the one who saves your life. 

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Burtontown Press Release

Momma Be Thy Name:

Last night, in bed, with my head covered, I heard the sound of a twisted calliope, an all-too-familiar score. Without moving a thing, I whispered, “Is that Tim Burton I hear?”
“Yes,” my husband responded, “Batman.”
“He’s like the McDonald’s logo,” I said, still tucked in tight, “You can spot him miles away…”

This is one of my all-time favorite posts. I just thought I’d let it out for a bit, give it a little air.

Originally posted on Momma Be Thy Name:

After years of research, development, and lost limbs, acclaimed writer, director, and producer Tim Burton is delighted to announce the Grand Opening of Burtontown. Situated just miles south of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Burtontown is certain to become your family’s premiere theme park destination.

Modeled after Tim Burton’s varied and diverse body of work, the entire park is presented in brilliant black and white. Burtontown cast has been hand-chosen to exude that not-so-dead feeling.  The gift shops have been stocked with make-your-own-stuffed-animal stations (think Build-a-Bear, but with dead eyes and stitches). The lights have been turned off, souls have been removed, and the cast is just dying to meet you.

From the Hall of Johnny Depps to Mrs. Lovett’s  Meat Pies, Burtontown provides a continuity of milieu unlike any other theme park. Take a dip in Barnabas’ Pool of Blood or…

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The Five Stages of Driving Home at Bedtime with Children

We’ve all been at this place before. We had a little too much fun at Grammy’s, or the park, had a late dinner, and are now watching, in fear, as the clock winds down to Code Red, the point at which your children turn into sniveling, screaming, overtired little monsters.  You must get them home, but you know it won’t be pretty.

I’m here to walk you through the chaos, and provide some (questionably) helpful suggestions* to get you and your family home as safely as possible.

*This is not real advice. Duh.

Sleeping Soundly Behind the Shades

Sleeping Soundly Behind the Shades


Stage One: The Incitement 

You’ve fought them into their car seats, and things appear to be moving smoothly. You begin your departure from X relative’s house, when one of them begins screaming at the top of her lungs that she DIDN’T KISS PAPA!!! You can’t turn back now. In fact, you distinctly remember all the children kissing Papa, but the only thing that matters is your preschooler’s perception, and you scramble for a solution. You’re on the highway now, and the …DIDN’T KISS PAPAAAAAAA!!!!! is boring a hole through your skull. Hubby is kind enough to call Grammy and Papa and put them on speaker, you know, so they can at least say goodnight. The child settles into a cry-giggle and quiets down.


Stage Two: The Provocation

All’s quiet in the backseat. By the clock, it’s just about bedtime. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a wayward foot entering the personal space of normally-sedate brother. A crescendo rises rapidly from his seat. MAGGIE’S FOOT IS ON MY SEEEEEAAAAATTTTTT!!!! WAAAAHHHHHH!! You plead with the offender just to back off, that it’s late, everyone’s tired, and, frankly, it’s hard to drive with someone performing a barely-audible Mariah Carey octave in an enclosed space. The offender does not relent. The foot remains. You beg, you plead, you turn around in your seat. You point. Still, the Dora-beshoed foot bobs and taunts, blinking red with every tap.


Stage Three: The Bargaining

By now, both the offender and the offended are lowing, sobbing, screaming, and they have no idea why. You try the radio. Music does soothe even the most savage beast, after all. You play one of their favorites. She wants a GIRL SOOONNGG!! You try to explain that, if she’d simply listen, she could hear a woman singing the song. The flailing continues. GIRL SONG! GEEIIIIRRRRLLLL SOOOOOOONG!! You turn the radio off and stare ahead, attempting to remain focused on the road. You offer each a piece of chocolate, because there’s truly little more appropriate fuel for a tantrum of exhaustion than sugar and caffeine. That plan, surprisingly, does not work. You try the radio again, abandoning the idea completely after you realize that even the velvety harmony of You’ve Got a Friend just isn’t doing it for anyone. Your husband’s slumped forward in the passenger seat, snoring, as is one of your sons. You shake your head in disgust and drive on.


Stage Four: The Threatening

You’re straight fed up. You tell the kids, in no particular order, to a) close their eyes, b) knock it off, c) shut up, please, and explain how hard it is for Mommy to pay attention to the road with all the screaming. You explain that they are merely tired, and if they simply relented and succumbed to sleep, they would feel much better. This only seems to make them scream louder. You then threaten to a) pull over the car, b) let one out, c) let them both out, and d) have them walk home, alone, in the cold, by the side of the highway, then decide you should just pull over and walk away from the vehicle altogether. You open and close a window, hoping the change in sensory input stuns them into silence. You round a few turns and then, finally, praise Sweet Baby Jesus, they fall asleep.


Stage Five: The Revenge

You’ve just spent an hour in no uncertain hell, trying to navigate a 4,500-pound vehicle, filled with unstable toddlers, into your garage. The door descends, and no sound remains but the trill of your rapidly beating heart and the hum of your engine. You turn off the key, open the sliding doors wide, jump out of your seat and yell, “Okay! Time to get up! Time to get up! Come on! We have to get inside and go to bed! Out of your chairs! Out of your chairs! Come on! It’s late! We have to get our shoes and coats off and get into bed! Come on! Come on, Daddy! Come on, everyone! Let’s go!” You think briefly about buying a cowbell, or leaving a few old pans and a wooden spoon in the garage for next time. Children are stumbling, bleary-eyed, out of their seats. One’s fallen asleep standing up. “Come on! Come on!” you shout, banging on a folded-down seat, creating an entertaining, yet unnecessary, sense of urgency. The kids stumble, one by one, like seasick Navymen, out of your van. None can walk a straight line. They are shielding their eyes from the harsh light of the garage door opener. You pull off their shoes, take off their coats, and tuck them into bed.


You vow to head home earlier next time, and restock the vehicle with chocolate.


All is quiet now.

Until next time…

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