Tag: parenting

Baltimore Fishbowl Top Stories of 2013


We don’t always know what will do well on the Baltimore Fishbowl. Sure, real estate and Ravens and Orioles news are sure winners, but other than that, it’s a surprise. Sometimes the stories we spend the most time and money on get little traffic. Other times, a quick, funny story  gets all the eyeballs. It’s unpredictable.

Below, see our top stories this year, a mix of creative non-fiction, real estate coverage, local transportation news, humor, bad behavior and more. Some surprises are in the mix and some favorites, too. See if your favorites made the list, below, and thanks for reading the Baltimore Fishbowl.


About a Girl – In this Bohemian Rhapsody column published last spring, writer Marion Winik introduces Jane, her daughter and constant companion. Marion embraces the togetherness, explaining:  “If you enjoy egregious doting, if you thrive on being needed, if you are comfortable with the burden of being right all the time, motherhood is a dream job.”

DC Baltimore Rivalry

“DC is So Much Better Than Baltimore” – Oh Really? After Thrillist boasted about the superiority of our neighbor to the south, writer Rachel Monroe  took umbrage and created a list of her own, extolling Baltimore’s virtues, and putting DC in its place with nuggets like this one: “I know that not every DC resident is a sport coat-wearing, briefcase-carrying, politics-obsessed snooze, but I would estimate that 87 percent of them are. Having one industry (government) dominate a city can result in dull dinner parties and an insular world view. Plus, as John Waters has pointed out, all the cutest boys live in Baltimore!”

1981 john waters

John Waters Gives a Tour of  Hip 1981 Baltimore  – This video clip, produced by San Francisco company Videowest to promote the 1981 movie Polyester, shows an very young Waters giving a tour of Baltimore 30 years ago, telling viewers he wants to be “a negative role model for a whole new generation.” A classic.

“There are glimpses of Edith Massey‘s store in Fells Point, Arabbers trotting down the street, and a very young John Waters looking too cool for school.” writes Rachel Monroe.

ray rice house

Ray Rice’s Starter Home Goes on the Market  – Combining our readers’ love of real estate with their passion for all things Ravens, Hot House columnist Cynthia McIntyre’s post about football super star Ray Rice’s  former house, “a surprisingly modest, (but classy, definitely classy) townhouse in Grey Rock,” going on the market became an instant hit.

The house sold last August for $299,990, about $20,000 under its $319,000 asking price.


I Seriously Can’t Believe the New Foods That Camden Yards is Selling A post about the Guy Fieri-esque offerings at Camden Yards by Robert O’Brien described some “culinary monster(s)” on the menu: “What sounds the wildest to me, is the Walk Off, which places an Old Bay Roma sausage in a pretzel roll and tops it with crab dip. Crab dip waffle fries will also be available, as will a chocolate stout cupcake.” A far cry from peanuts and Cracker Jack…

That Nature Show: Tufted Titmice


The Tufted Titmouse is not a rodent. It's a bird, above.
The Tufted Titmouse is not a rodent, dummy. It’s a bird, above.
Welcome to That Nature Show, a weekly column about life in your front yard. Not that front yard. Get your mind out of the gutter and go see your doctor about that.  I’m talking the grass-covered one outside your front door, in city parks, and around Baltimore County’s suburban sprawl. 

In the landscaped shrubbery of  your yard, around medical office parks, and mini malls there’s an unseen and unacknowledged fabulous technicolor nature show going on. 

I’m not just talking about squirrels. But, seriously, answer the question: What do you know about them?
Or pigeons. Or the barbarian-like pillaging of the Baltimore County deer that ate all my expensive garden center hostas. I, a novice gardener, shook my fist at the universe.  Why, god, why?
A few weeks ago I overheard what I believed to be “owls” calling to each other from what I believed to be “spruce trees,” but I was just guessing. I realized I didn’t know these plants and animals at all. My own habitat was a mystery to me.
I was suffering from the environmental illiteracy/nature deficit syndrome we worry  about so much in our children with  their organized sports on manicured fields, and indoor classes that deprive them of Vitamin D.
So let’s go outside, or at least look out the window at the bird feeder. Safari on the cheap with me and my kids, 6 and 8, as we explore the life and times of the animals and plants that truly are our closest neighbors. 

Let’s start with tufted titmice.

Step one in our nature-defecit rectification program was to put up a bird feeder. One shaped like an orb was on sale at the Irvine Nature Center gift shop and Husb. installed it in the front yard. (This in itself was like watching a nature show, but I’ll save The Habits of The Suburban Male for another column. Stay tuned.)
The kids and I sat by the bay window, our noses pressed to the glass.  My son, 8, asked, “When will the parade of birds start, Mom?”   (To drum up interest I may have oversold the experience as a parade. What mother doesn’t manufacture enthusiasm?  To get my kids to eat broccoli I tell them they are T. rexes eating trees… and it works.)
I said, “Well, it might not be a ‘parade’ pe se…but we should see some tufted titmice. They’re abundant in eastern deciduous forests,” I said, nerdily reading aloud from the Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds and forgetting my audience. “Also, maybe, the yellow bellied sap sucker.”
If you want to be taken seriously it is a big mistake to say “tit” and “sucker” in front of an 8 year old boy.
I was talking about birds, but still. The words floated out and there was no way I could get them back.
My son went limp with hysteria. He fell against the couch cushions. His laughter sounded like a bull moose trying to hold in a sneeze. (I don’t  know what that sounds like since I am new to Nature, but one can imagine, right?)
“Be serious,” I said. “We’re birders.”

Parents’ Weekend: All Major Credit Cards Accepted


Parents’ Weekend.  A trip to the grocery store for healthy snacks to keep in the dorm room.  A trip to the local Mall for new fall clothes.  Nice meals out with roommates and new friends.  A pitch from the university to join the “Parents’ Committee” or “Parents’ Club” or whatever your child’s school calls its volunteer fundraisers (which they charge you to join).  We’ve just finished two parents’ weekends, back to back, and we’re broke!

I mean, it was so great to see the girls.  Emily is making the transition to her “new” school as a sophomore transfer, and Grace has hit the ground running, facing all the freshman thrills.  Seeing them doing well, growing where they are planted — that part is priceless.  But the rest of it has a slightly insidious feel, like we are not even conscious of the up-sell.  Their friends all seem more sophisticated, and better dressed, with better hair care products.  It’s so tempting to change to make new friends.  Alas, it never worked for me, and my guess is, wouldn’t work for them, either.

The Dark Side of Youth Sports

Photo credit: blog.timesunion.com.

By now, you’ve probably seen the ugly email thread from the coach of a D.C.-area middle school summer lacrosse team. In case you’ve missed it,  the guy unleashes a ridiculous diatribe on a player’s father when he learns of the player’s decision to quit the team. Here are some of the highlights—or rather, lowlights—of the desperate lashing, posted on Deadspin:

“What? Is this a joke? This will be a decision that Ryan regrets for a long time. I doubt it is his decision though. I know it is you trying but failing to control the situation. I will speak to coach Bordley and college coaches immediately and make sure they know they are getting a quitter who is ungrateful and soft who can’t take criticism. You have taken advantage of me and madlax and now you are doing a huge disservice to your son…” 

While the email reveals the coach’s desperation, it also shows how manipulative he is. Clearly, he knows how to hurt the player’s parent. Going right for the jugular, he threatens to derail the future lacrosse career of the parent’s adolescent son.

For scores of today’s youth sports players, their parents, and their coaches, that pie-in-the-sky goal is what it all boils down to. Never mind that fewer than two percent of high school varsity athletes gets an athletic college scholarship, and that less than five percent of high school athletes plays an intercollegiate sport in college, reports Mark Hyman, a Baltimore-based journalist and educator who’s written three books about kids and sports, including Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids.

“Many of us are chasing that dream. It’s absurd,” Hyman said.

To Grace, From Mom – A Love Letter


Dear Grace,

I miss you.  I know it hasn’t been a whole week yet, but I do.  I miss you like the sun would miss the moon, or the waves would miss the shore.  For 18 years, we have been companion forces of the universe, rising and falling in time, coming and going together.  But now, you are moving in your own direction, in your own time, as you should; and I miss you.

This morning, the house is quiet.  I passed your empty room, and my heart got heavy.  It will be months before you sleep here again.  You will be so busy making friends, navigating roommate issues, adjusting to college classes, learning how to eat from a cafeteria every day (and possibly learning how to drink shots).  I know you will do great – we have watched you conquer obstacles your whole life, and there is nothing you can’t do.

I will miss your beautiful face, and the radiance that surrounds you wherever you are.  I will miss your sparkling eyes, wide open to the world of possibilities that lie in your future.  I will miss your laughter – crazy, loud, quirky, and totally joy-filled.

Monitoring School Work: How Much Is Too Much?


Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Today we introduce Whit’s End, a new advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker.  Each week Al will address readers’ questions about anything ranging from school issues, coaching problems, relationship quandaries and more!  His experience is vast, and he holds a degree in psychology, too. To submit a question, email [email protected]. – The Eds.

My son will be entering the 9th grade at an excellent independent school. He is a good student, but does not always assert himself.  For example, he will not tell his teacher if the homework took him two hours when he was told that it should take an hour.  If he is having a difficult time with an assignment, he won’t ask for help or tell the teacher that he needed extra time.

Since I know what he is like, how much should I help him?  If I monitor whether he is working or on-line, he tells me to stop treating him like a criminal.  If I know that he is weak in certain areas or doesn’t check his work carefully, shouldn’t I offer to look it over first? Isn’t my job to see that he gets the most out of his school experience and does as well as possible?

Also, how often should I communicate with his teachers? Would asking for a weekly report from his teachers be reasonable? I’d like to make sure sooner rather than later that he doesn’t get behind or unnecessarily struggle at a school that has a reputation for being rigorous academically.

I just feel if I don’t get involved, something will go wrong, and he will miss a valuable opportunity.

Concerned Mom in Baltimore

Dear Concerned Mom:

Knowing how much to help is a tricky balancing-act for both of you.  You don’t want him to slip, especially without a safety net. But the only way for him to gain confidence is to believe that he doesn’t need the net, even though you know that people are there to “spot” or catch him if he does fall. However, you should not be one of those catchers.

Proof of a Happy Childhood


Happy child with red paper heart. Image shot 03/2012. Exact date unknown.

How is it over?  I don’t think I looked away, but somehow I didn’t see it happening right now.  Her childhood is over.  Grace has grown up.  And Monday, she leaves.  I am stunned by the truth I have always known, and at this minute it is raw, and painful.  I will miss my little girl.

I spent the evening putting together a collage of Grace’s childhood – proof for her future roommates that it was a happy one, and that she comes from a loving family.  I dug through boxes of old photos – remember when we had boxes and envelopes of photos?  Duplicates of everything so we could send them to grandparents?  Well, all the old photos are in the basement, in dusty under-the-bed storage containers.  I sat on the floor, sifting through the years, staggered by the speed of life.

There are almost two decades of sheer beauty in there.  A life time, our life times.  Birthday parties with homemade Barbie cakes, pony rides, Halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, so many summers at the beach and lake, years when she lived in dress ups.  Pictures of family trips, and of the everyday – baking cookies with big-girl aprons and baker’s hats, and flour all over the kitchen.  How is that all in our past?

When the Kids are Away, Moms Get to Play

Photo courtesy of Oprah.com.
Photo courtesy of Oprah.com.

You’ve said your goodbyes, maybe wiped away a few tears and pushed down the lump in your throat–especially if it’s your child’s first time at sleep-away summer camp. But now, with the hard part over, it’s time for some fun. Your own.

Few moms enjoy, on any regular basis, the luxury of a good long breather from the daily grind of motherhood: Shuttling kids back and forth to school and activities, doing endless loads of laundry, whipping up a few solid meals every day (and wiping away the crumbs). You know the drill.

Needless to say, sleep-away camp can be as liberating for moms as it is for their kids who are spending a week, a month or more sleeping in cabins with their new BFFs, taking to the woods and the water for days on end, and singing Kumbayah around the campfire. In fact, I spoke to some local women whose summertime hiatus from mommy duty made them feel like they were the ones at camp.

But for some, guilt and worry come first. A friend of mine whom I’ll call Jane recalled to me the scenario a few weeks ago, as she dropped off her little guy for a two-week stint at sleep-away camp for the first time: “Because he’s my youngest, I was so nervous for him,” she said.

That quickly changed when her little guy scrambled up on to his bunk bed, plunked down with his favorite stuffed animal, and asked her in blasé fashion when she was leaving. That gave her the green light she was waiting for.

Once Jane got the mounds of laundry out of the way, the expert gardener got to work in her yard—clearing out weeds, beautifying her flower beds, even building in a little time away with the hubby (Note: this woman wisely signed up her other son for sleep-away camp during the same time). With both kids away, the couple enjoyed a romantic weekend getaway without the highly orchestrated, detailed and complex schedule shuffling of children typically required to make even a short ‘adult-only’ trip happen.

Jane seemed to accomplish just about everything a gal could want to do in her free time. In addition to alone time with hubby and getting the house and garden in order, she caught up with old friends and stopped at historic monuments when she was on the road because there was no one in the back seat protesting. But she still wanted to squeeze in more. “You get real idealistic about all the things you want to do when they’re away, but there’s never enough time,” she said.

Spring Trends for Kids: Advice from Wee Chic

Wee Chic 6
Children’s clothing from Tea Collection, T-Shirt $20

Well, winter storm or no, spring break is just around the corner. Which means that spring proper should be following soon (we hope). With the kids home from school for a week and the seasons beginning to change, spring break means spring shopping for many parents. It’s like back-to-school’s half birthday (if that make sense to anyone else).

So, who better to give us the scoop on trends for the younger set (or youngest, as the case may be) than Bridget Quinn Stickline? The owner of Wee Chic Boutique — Baltimore’s fab place for children’s clothing– answered all of our burning questions (and more) about children’s fashion, spring trends, and why you should take your child with you when you shop for them (gasp–we, know).

Wee Chic 2
Dress available exclusively at Wee Chic in Baltimore, $96

The Parents of Maryland’s Smartest Kids Have Some Advice for You

Follow these simple steps and your child will become smart enough to be invited to the White House, too.
Follow these simple steps and your child will become smart enough to be invited to the White House, too.

When Jack Andraka was a freshman (in high school!) last year, he invented a method for identifying pancreatic cancer that was cheaper, faster, and more accurate than the one most doctors were using. That invention won him the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — an award that his older brother had twice been a finalist for. Yep, these kids are smart. So what’s the family secret? Herbal supplements? No TV? Lots of yelling and guilt?