Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Do! Not! Doubt!

On this Halloween, I have a spooooooky story to tell you!  And what's more, IT'S TRUE!!

Once upon a time . . .

There was a girl who loved to dig in the dirt.  And she decided to spend one whole summer digging in the deserts of Utah.  Having made this decision, she telephoned her mother and said, "Yo Ma, I need some sweet shirts to dig in."  So her mother, being a woman of vast resources and knowledge, sought far and wide for just the right collection of epicness.  And illumination came to her mind!  She knew which shirt her daughter needed for to diggeth in the soil.

The Three Wolf Moon T-shirt.

If you have never gone to the Amazon site and looked up the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt, do so now.  We'll wait.  The key is you need to read the customer reviews.  Things like this are what give me hope in America's future, for a country without a healthy sense of humor is a country on the rapid downhill slide. 

One of my favorite reviews:  "The Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt gave me a +10 resistance to energy attacks, +8 Strength, and added 30 feet to my normal leap. I cannot list the specific effects involving the opposite sex as I am still discovering these. And they are many.

Since owning the Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt, I have successfully solved 7 crimes in my city, including 4 cold case murders. The local police force is currently wishing to retain my services."

This is only one of over 2,000 reviews describing the full, awesome power of the Three Wolf Moon shirt.

And yet, you think I and the 2,000 reviewers jest. 

Just wait.

I ordered my daughter The Three Wolf Moon shirt, along with a high quality cotton t-shirt featuring over 10 (TEN!) cat pictures, and a third artistic t-shirt depicting the legendary combination of a unicorn AND a rainbow.  She was prepared to dig and to dig successfully.

Into the desert she went, day after day, digging among the dead from a thousand years ago, bringing to life the long-abandoned and ruined settlements and homes.  With her went the power of the Three Wolf Moon shirt.

Success she did find.  And it's called 75 BEANS!!! (reference Junie B. Jones) The less erudite among us might scoff at this discovery, but that would be unwise.  Less than a scant handful of these small legumes have been found in the Utah area of a several-century age.  That is to say, beans don't last.  But they did for the wearer of the Three Wolf Moon shirt!

Now, we had been warned by many that she was underestimating the power of the shirt and that she would need to be on her guard.  I was confident, though, that being so far removed from major population bases, she would not need to use her highly trained jumping and running skills to fend off would-be admirers.

Little did we know that she had no preparation for what was to come.

Near the end of the appointed digging time, some people came to the site one day.  They asked some questions, took some pictures, and shot some video.  Then they went away.  They were not thought of again.

And then, a few weeks later, this appeared:

That's right.  The Three Wolf Moon shirt (and my girl) debuted on the BYU Homepage, having been donned by my daughter, for all to see.

And the gifts of the shirt kept coming.  She scored 3 (that's THREE) dates just from this one picture!  75 beans AND 3 dates!  What more could one girl ask for? 

We were yet to find out.

Unbeknownst to us, on the other side of the kingdom, a dude named "Travis" was scrolling the web, as we all like to do.  His internet surveying took him to many sites that day, among them the BYU Homepage.  He took note.

More time passed.  It was time for school to start again.  I went to her school financial account page to take care of her tuition payment.  But what did my wondering eyes behold?!  A scholarship notification message was sitting there unopened in her inbox.  Did she want to accept a half tuition scholarship? YES! YES, SHE DID!

I texted my daughter, did she know she had a scholarship waiting for her?  I got a phone call in return!!  "What?  Scholarship?  What?!"  But YES! It was a scholarship!  She hurried to accept, in case it was a mistake!

But it was NOT!  She was invited to a lunch for scholarship recipients.  There she met "Travis," who happened to be a member of BYU's admissions and scholarship committee.  He had nominated her for the scholarship.  But how?  She had never met Travis, had no idea who he was, or that such committee could grant scholarships?!  How had this happened?!

He had seen the homepage.  He had seen the Three Wolf Moon shirt.  And he gave her a scholarship.


So, my friends, judge for yourself.  Myth?  Mystery? Magic?  But 75 beans, 3 dates, and a SCHOLARSHIP don't lie!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Studies In Ethical Considerations 2.0: Church with Children

Humans are not human by nature.  That is to say, we are not humane from the moment of birth.  Indeed, there is nothing so completely self-focused and instinctual as a baby.  Left completely to our own devices, without the benefit of society, rules, manners, blah blah blah, Homo sapiens remain creatures much more fitted to a scientific classification rather than emotive phrases like "philanthropist" or "mankind."  No, we truly are the ultimate Uber Ape without the benefit of moral training of some kind.

Thus it is that I drag my boys to church.  Every.  Week.  Complete with the uniform of white shirt, tie, dress pants, black socks, and shoes.  And if I'm really on my game, combed hair and brushed teeth.  Many, many Sabbath days pass, however, when I wonder why on earth I bother.

My considerations over the past 22 years:

1.  As I stand in the church halls bird-dogging my hyperactive 17 month-old (they don't really come in any other variety), who has been able to walk/run since 9 months-old, for no less that THREE hours, I ponder, yet again, "Wouldn't this be a lot easier at home in my pjs and with a cup of cocoa?"

2.  But if I take the easy path and ditch church to let my miniature nuclear power plant roam free at home, will I be setting up a dangerous path for the future?  Is this, in fact, the first step on the road to giving up every time the going gets hard?  Am I courting disaster by allowing my child's natural behavior to overpower my personal discipline?  Am I, in short, creating a burden on society?!  WILL MY CHILD BECOME A SERIAL MURDERER IF I GO HOME THIS ONE DAY?!

3.  But at what point has exhaustion maybe, possibly, overwhelmed my common sense?  Where, in fact, is the light? What was my middle name again? Ooommm . . . chhhoooooccccoooolllaaatttteee . . . oooommmmm . . .

4.  As my children partake in the time-honored ritual of beating each other below the general vision line of the congregation (ie: punching each other in the hip and side -- below the top of the pew -- so that no one else can see) are we actually accomplishing anything?  Other than honing their stealth attack abilities . . .

5.  But it is here, among the tightly controlled, first 75 minutes of worship that my primary weapon of behavioral modification is perfected -- the Death Glare.  Here it is my children learn the full power of my wrath should their actions so much as draw one nanosecond of attention to them and away from the speaker.  In that 1/168th of the hours of the week, the most stringent behavior correction happens.  At no other time will my power be so formidable.  For to anger Mother during the absolute silence of the sacrament is to bring down the wrath of generations of Mothers.  Do Not Mortify Me This Day.

6.  And thus we have the ultimate tool in learning public behavior.  Long before I turn my young adult offspring loose on the world, he will have learned that not only is it unacceptable to claim your territory as a male human by walking into someone else's house, beating up the current dominate male and kicking him out the front door, claiming the female as your mate, and eating all the food in the fridge, (think about it -- what if people acted exactly like the majestic lions of the savannah?  We generally call that "Crime.") not only is it unacceptable to do any of this, it is unacceptable, nay punishable by Death Glare, to even think about belching, spitting, or farting out loud in public, let alone running into other people's houses and stealing all their stuff.  Including wives.  And chicken nuggets.  

7.  At what point, however, are we too ruled by rules?  Do we risk reverting to the constipation-inducing rigidity of the 1950s if we fret over every possible slight of public expectation?  Who determines public expectation anyway?  Why on earth did anyone ever think up such random notions such as "wearing white clothing after Labor Day is unacceptable."  WHAT?! Who cares! And why on earth should they have any right to tell me and my beautiful children with all their creative expression of their natural soul what to do?  Why should I tether their boundless emotional freedom with the bands of current idiosyncratic dogma?!

8.  Because they'll be thrown in jail, that's why.  (Not for wearing white after Labor Day.  For the stuff in #6.  Unless this is 1952 and the Hamptons.  Ahem.)

9.  But the fact remains that my teen boy is actually SNORING during the service.  There is an art to the sabbath day observance of the 15-18 year old boy.  They sit, elbows resting on knees, and hang their heads down in such a manner that it looks like the chapel is partially occupied by headless bodies.  No other demographic group can do this.  Oh sure, every man over 40 is snoring too, but they use the sitting-up-straight-eyes-mostly-closed-mouth-agape posture, developed by years of corporate meetings.  But only the elastic ligaments and tendons of a teen boy can produce quite the ability to appear headless AND snore at the same time.  Think about that.  And it brings me back, yet again, to the thought -- why am I bothering if he's sound asleep anyway?

10.  Because in the next moment, his younger brothers' sub-pew squabbling awakes him with snort.  He reaches out one long arm and administers two carefully gauged smacks and a Death Glare of his own variety, the kind that says "I'm going to pound you to hamburger when we get home -- and you know I can do it with one eye closed and both legs tied together -- if you don't knock it off right now."  Peace, or rather silence (which is an acceptable alternative), ensues and he goes back to snoring.  Hmm.  Method may not be my first choice, but I'll take it.  Older kid has learned the lesson and is now helping to teach the younger kid.  Public behavior matters.  Private behavior matters.  BEHAVIOR matters.

11.  And as I stand in the hallways, watching my boundlessly bouncing boy child run amok (who would later grow up to be the snoring pew-enforcer), thinking these deep philosophical thoughts, created and developed by higher education and the intellectual freedom of the 20th & 21st centuries, brought on by years of effort by my parents and women's rights advocates to ensure I had every opportunity available to me, as a modern woman, I hear a sound next to me.  It is coming from the car seat by my feet.  My infant sits there, smiling with all the pure happiness a 4 month-old can radiate -- which is a lot.  His little face contorts, turns a bit red, and then he smiles again.  And then I notice that the seat of his carrier is filling with liquid yellow poo.  Literally, he is sitting in at least a quart of runny, cottage cheese-ish poo.  And he is grinning at me as though he were the brightest star in the sky. (Which he is, of course!)

Time and place, young grasshopper.  Time and place.  And now we're going home. 

Monday, October 15, 2012



For some time now, I have seriously debated the question as whether or not I am actually ADD rather than an overworked mom, which is a question many moms ponder from time to time as they are folding their 473rd load of laundry only to realize they have left the water running in the kitchen sink, although they're pretty sure that the drain was open and free so nothing should have run over on to the floor like what happened last week when *someone* peeled an apple into the sink, not realizing that apple peels will clog a disposal almost as well as potato peels, though to be fair, one apple shouldn't have done it, oh but that's right, there was also an old dish rag down there, which had to be thrown away not because it was shredded but because it turned out to be the source of the mystery smell that triggered a full scrub down of the fridge and that never really goes amiss so it can't be seen as a full loss, especially since it turned out the kindergartener's reading folder was underneath the vegetable drawer, although the orange juice that had spilled down the back hadn't done it any good, but it did lead to a delightful pan of orange rolls being made -- not from the spilled OJ, of course -- and any time baked goods are involved it's a good day, which reminds me that I promised to make 8 dozen brownies for the 9th grade football team tomorrow even though they really shouldn't be eating brownies, although if any one can afford a brownie calorie-wise, it's a 15 year-old boy since most of the football players I know can barely walk under those shoulder pads, but truly, that they don't simply pass out from the the sheer smell of generations upon generations of teen boys wearing those pads without ever having the benefit of some soap and water is anyone's guess, meaning they probably deserve a brownie or two simply by not passing out from olfactory poisoning, but given the way most teen boys radiate stink on a daily basis, it's not that surprising given that their smell receptors probably just shut down for half a decade, sensing the need to protect their own survival from the onslaught headed their way whilst their young male owner makes the wild ride from boy to man, although I'm not sure anyone really realized how accurate that metaphor would be way  back at the dawn of time when the first neanderthal -- incidentally, did you know that that word is properly pronounced nee-and-der-tall, and not nee-and-der-thall, although when one does pronounce words like that correctly, like saying ahm-peer instead of em-pie-er to describe the style of dress worn by Josephine Bonaparte, everyone else looks at one as though one was arrogant and snotty to a degree only reached by people who say "one" instead of "you" or "me" in a sentence, and use them properly, including the required smirk indicating that this "one" knows enough grammar to stuff an armadillo, which brings up new and interesting imagery, not all entirely pleasant, not the least of which is that armadillos are natural carriers of leprosy, although we're supposed to call it Hansen's disease now, especially since there are still leper colonies, although Hansen's disease colonies doesn't sound quite as dramatic or historic, however the last one in the US, which happens to be on one of the smaller Hawaiian islands, may not actually be an isolated facility anymore, although there are several islands that are off-limits to anyone who is not a native islander -- the first neanderthal picked up a roundish-looking rock and rolled it down a hill and said "hey that looks promising" and proceeded to invent the first go-cart ala Fred Flinstone, grabbing a couple of his buddies and heading to the tallest hill they could find, thus creating the most accurate piece of performance art in history, depicting the journey each boy child makes from the top of the hill 'o adolescence with an intact go-cart full of friends and exuberant anticipation of immediate fun, to the bottom of the hill as young adult with an incomplete collection of go-cart wheels, battered bits and pieces of friends, and a whale of a headache, although that comparison would not occur to our newly minted go-cart racer because he would have had no idea what a whale was, although I would pay good money to see the moment the first humanoid came across a whale because that would be amazing to watch his or her face as they realized "holy cow, (well they probably didn't know about cows either) that's a skull . . . and it's bigger than all of me . . . " and I could well relate to that feeling, thinking back to when I first saw a whale skull at Marsh's Free Museum in Long Beach, where they had one on display in front of the store, although I don't think it's there anymore, when I was 5 or 6 and we would always try to imagine how big its eyeball was or its brain and then get completely grossed out at the thought and then we'd get sad because someone had killed it and Grandpa would say "No, it beached itself and rotted on the beach until the birds picked its bones clean" so we would feel more sad and slightly sick about that and Grandpa would give up and offer to buy us a candy stick (I like the apple green ones) inside the Museum so we would all race in to see Jake the Alligatorman, the epitome of all that is good and great in Americana, and the stuffed two-headed goat and the blue and green glass ball floats that Grandpa promised us had floated clear across the Pacific from Japan, and they probably did, but I always had to point that they were glass so why didn't they break because every time I even touched my "5 years old" figurine dolly, which was made of glass, I broke it, well I broke the same part, namely the gold ribbon from her hat, and I always glued it back on with good 'ol Elmers, so it's probably not much of a mystery why that broke, but to my mind it was clear proof that no blue glass globe from Japan could float that far and not break, which I now know as an adult, did happen and those are increasingly rare and valuable since no country uses those any more, given the cheaper and oh-so lovely alternative of poly-styro-whatever that can be squirted out into zillions of molds for pennies and CAN float the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, and Indian oceans until the end of time without breaking, which I hear is actually happening with the creation "garbage islands" out in the ocean now . . . and I think I may have wandered off topic . . .

but it did give me time to unload the dishwasher . . .

She's baaaaaaack!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Letter of Concern

Celestial Design Department
247365 Enlightenment Blvd
Nirvana, the Cosmos 77777-7777

To the Head of the Celestial Design Department:

Let me first express my complete satisfaction and gratitude for your products Breathing 1.0 and Free Thought 20.12.  These have always worked perfectly for me and I have been delighted with them.  I have also been quick to recommend them to all my friends.  It is unfortunate that not everyone has read the owner manuals for both of these programs, but such is the way of the world.  The times these have not functioned properly clearly have been user-error.

Having said that, I do have some problems with the Mom Model c1990 I received upon the birth of my first child.  Clearly, this model was designed by a man.  A woman designer would have been aware that this product should come with at least 4 arms.  Two measly arms are completely inadequate for any fully functional Mom.  Clever design could possibly make a 5th and 6th arm accessory pack available.  These could be auxilliary arms that could be added when needed, and then removed and stored when not needed.  You would make millions with this product, I am certain.

I believe there is also a flaw in the Umbilical Separation unit (serial numbers UT, TX, NY, and WA) that came with all of my children.  While it is obvious that the Physical Matter Separation Function works fine, I believe the Essential Energy Flow Device does not shut off as advertised upon birth.  For example, I find whenever my children are particularly energetic (which, unfortunately, is all the time), I become increasingly exhausted.  Alarmingly, this only becomes worse as my children grow older and larger, finding new and terrifying ways to expend their energy.  Clearly, this is the fault of a badly designed flow shut off valve.

I think one solution to this problem could be a modification to your basic 24HR Day model (beta).  If you were to offer and 28/20HR model, with a flexible 4 hour swing option that could either be added to the basic 24 for days when there wasn't enough time or removed for days that needed to end sooner, this could help compensate for the energy drain.  An attractive option would be the ability to add the extra 4 hours in sleep time.  Since math wasn't my college major, I'm not certain how this would work out.  But I understand you have a decent assortment of physicists and math geniuses on staff who could work this out.  Possibly you could assign this to the department that figured out the speed of light and sound?

Finally, and I know I've complained about this before, you must do something about the faulty controls on most Do-It-Yourself Boy Kits.  I hear from my friends that most Do-It-Yourself Girl Kits have these same problems.  I have looked EVERYWHERE but I cannot find either an OFF switch or a Volume Control knob.  This is a problem.  Possibly you have an Adapter Kit available? Please let me know if and when you make the upgrade available.

Again, thanking You in all your Eternalness and praying for your continued omniscienceness, may your vast wisdom cure all my woefullnesses, (but pleasepleaseplease fix the missing Off Switch),


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rabid squirrels on speed v. Gray blobs of goo

So it's been a little while since I've posted for a couple reasons:

1. Life has been about 3 steps past bonkers busy -- which on MY scale of busy is about 900 steps past what normal people consider busy.

2.  My boys have not been funny.  They've been wretched brats.  Not the "oh we'll look back and laugh at this" kind of twerpiness, but more in the "I am amazed I allowed them to live and it's really too bad we don't still have the (really evil and barbaric) practice of leaving unwanted children 'out in the night' to perish" kind of horribleness.

WHICH makes today's post all the more appropriate.  We've recently launched our oldest son on a two-year mission for our church.  He's going to Australia, about as far away from home (Pacific Northwest, USA) as you can get on our planet.  Maybe Antarctica would be farther, but frankly, penguins don't care much about their mortality and life choices. (Although they do apparently care about dancing and singing in large, well-harmonized, groups?)  At any rate, it's so far away, there is really, really nothing I can do, as a parent, to fix, solve, or rescue in any way.  He is on his own.  And I am not worried one bit.  Truly.

First, I'm going to tell you about the past 18 months with Will.  His senior year of HS, he was team captain of every team he was on that had a captain.  He won the Inspirational or Coaches award for every team he was on.  He made a conscious effort to be kind and pleasant at home (when he was there -- see below for how HUGE this was).  He was accepted to BYU (average incoming freshman gpa 3.9, ACT average 29.  This is a TOUGH school to get in to.  We were frankly SHOCKED, Will most of all.  He still thinks the Admissions Office made a mistake, but he's not about to point it out!).  He suffered some heart-breaking set backs at the state tournaments in BOTH wrestling and track, but handled them with class and foresighted maturity, recognizing his own mistakes and shortcomings rather than ever blaming anyone else or declaring the world "unfair." (But his mom might have . . . ) He started college one week after graduating from high school and immediately began taking his classes seriously.  He hoped to make the BYU Track team, even though it's one of the top track teams in the nation.  He worked out with the track team all year, knowing his chances of making the team were very small.  And he did not make the team.  He was just that close, but not quite enough.  But he talks about how glad he was that he did that, about the discipline he learned and the friendships he made.

He earned an academic scholarship after Fall semester, with a better gpa than he ever had in high school.  He chose to take 2 years off of school and life to be a missionary.  He is not paid to do this.  In fact, he has to PAY $400 a month to be a missionary.  Missionaries do not do anything other than be missionaries during this time.  They can call home twice a year -- Mother's Day and Christmas -- and write home once a week.  No girls, no tv, no movies, no swimming or water sports (bigger than you might think as Will is a surfer and he's going to the Gold Coast).  He is doing this because he really does believe the principles of our beliefs can help people have happier lives.  He didn't choose to go to Australia, that's simply where he was assigned.  If he had been assigned to go to Boise, he would have gone just as happily and willingly.  Within the first week of his mission, he was chosen as a District Leader (meaning he's in charge of a group of fellow missionaries, to make sure they are being good missionaries, as well as all the work of actually doing the missionary work).  He loves what he is doing and we are so proud of him.

NOW I'm going to tell you about the 18 years BEFORE the last 18 months.

1992 -- Born on the day Bill Clinton was elected to his first term.  No, we did not name him after Bill Clinton.  We named him after my brother, my uncle, my great grandfather, and my great-great grandfather.  When OUR William arrived, he immediately wrapped both arms and legs around the doctor's arm.  The doc was crouching there, with this wet, screeching baby wrapped around his arm like a limpet.  "Well, he's definitely passing the APGAR test."

So they took him away to clean him up and sew me up (9 pounds and 15" heads are tough to pass, no matter how to do it.  5 out of 6 of them.  Not kidding.)  A little while later, I could hear this baby crying. Well, it's a maternity ward.  There's always a baby crying somewhere.  But this baby was LOUD.  You could hear it across the whole maternity ward.  You could probably hear it across all of Houston. And it got louder, and louder, and then it came into my room.  It was my son.  And he only got louder.

Blood makes a lovely accessory.
Before he was 1 year old, he chipped both front teeth and cut the end of one finger off (we got it sewed back on).  He started walking at 8 1/2 months and was banished from the high chair before 1 year because he would scramble out of his buckle and stand (and jump) on the tray.

At age 2, he discovered he had an opinion.  He exercised it on EVERYTHING.  He would scream and his eyes would roll in the back of head over things like wearing pants.  I had to sit on him to get his clothes on so we could go grocery shopping or to the park or anywhere.   I had to sit on him to change his diaper.  This is a trick to do without getting poo EVERYWHERE.  I hope you never have to do this.

It took me far too long to learn not to put my face anywhere near his (I was trying to be a good mom and get down on his level, rather than make him look way up at me) because he would thrash his head around and smack me in the mouth.  I've had more bloody lips than you can imagine. He would stand by the wall and smack his head against it for fun.  He would laugh while doing it.  This is when I really began to worry.

He was kicked out of the church nursery for biting.  Twice.

By age 3, I learned time outs were only marginally effective.  Mostly he would laugh at me, kick me in the shins, and run away.  This is why we have more direct discipline options.  Ahem.

We torture our children with Halloween Costumes
By age 4, I was tired of not understanding ANYTHING he said.  He started speech therapy.  After the third visit, the Therapist had a word with me because she was concerned with the "violent" way he played with the zoo animals in one of her therapy tools.  He would have the lion go around eating all the other animals.  With sound effects and visceral descriptions. (Hey, our kids watch documentaries instead of Disney.  Animals don't sing and dance.  Unless they're penguins.)

At age 5, he started sports.  Soccer, specifically.  Every time someone stole the ball away, he would cry and run off the field. Every time.  I had to drag him back and get him back in the game/practice.  Every time.  And keep coaching at the same time.  Uuuuugggghhhh.

Ages 6-11 was a pretty good stretch.  He was still surly and competitive and super active, but elementary age kids are my favorite age for a reason -- they're independent enough to do most things by themselves but still little kid enough to like mom and dad and seek adult approval.  But he still tried to do things like bury a chipmunk alive to "see if it could dig through dirt like a mole."

5 man sled. Put a hole in the wall 3 seconds after this pic.
Then the long, dark, night of 12-17 set in. (Insert omnious "dum-dum-dum" sound track) I do not like Testosterone.  It is an angry, roaring monster that climbs into boys' brains and turns them into smelly, grumbling, angry, hairy monsters.  Pretty much, William was angry from 2004-2010.  He argued about everything.  He was grouchy about everything.  Everything was "unfair" or "stupid" or "mbmgrmskls."  Every teacher "hated" him.  Every coach was "leaving him out on purpose."  Blah blah blah.

He put his foot through the wall twice out of anger.  He had to apologize to three different neighbors on three separate occasions for various bits of stupidity involving airsoft guns.  He learned how to replace and repair wheels/tires after a prank on a neighbor went "wrong." He had to do some service time/repair work at the high school after he and his buddies spent a day throwing ninja stars made in metal shop into the cafeteria wall.

He continued to scream and cry whenever a sports event did not go his way -- but he did stop running off the field.  He fouled out of every basketball game in 8th grade.  Then we switched to wrestling because it's ok to take down opponents in that sport.  Ahem.

You just wanna slap him, dontcha.
From age 15-16, he broke his leg, his wrist, and dislocated his elbow. 

His freshman year of high school, one teacher pulled Lauren (big sister) aside and asked if there was some big crisis going on at home to explain William's abysmal behavior/performance in school work.  "Nope," she said.  "He's just a slacker."  And that describes the bulk of his high school academic effort: least effort possible to get an acceptable grade.

From ages 13-18, he was given the option 3 times to quit Scouting.  He chose to stay all three times but then wouldn't do anything and complained the whole time.  He nearly started a forest fire on one camp out by trying to create a bonfire with tree branches he chopped off a tree.  He got in trouble multiple times for hiking 5 miles ahead of everyone else. Actually, I think this happened on every single hike he was ever on.  They finally just assigned one leader (in really good shape) to stay with Will and Morgen.  He got in trouble on one Klondike outing for climbing out on to the cabin roof and jumping off in to snow drifts.  To earn an Eagle Scout rank, they have to complete 20 merit badges, a huge service project, several leadership positions, and a ream of paperwork before they turn 18.  Will turned in his paperwork 3 hours before he turned 18.

The fist fighting with his sister stopped when he was 13 and she was 15 and they literally rolled down the stairs squabbling.  They were both crying and bleeding.  But he was just too strong and people were going to get actually hurt.  But hey, the fighting stopped.  Well, the physical fighting, anyway.

Honestly, looking back on William's childhood often seems like one long string of crying, angry, fighting, struggle of getting the kid to do what he was supposed to do.

A real smile.  Rarer than you'd think :D
And guess what.  He did.  When he gets home in 2014, he'll get back to school and his goal to major in genetics and attend medical school.  On academic scholarship.  It took 19 tough years, but I can say I'm happy with the result.  He's certainly got a whopping lot of life left and many challenges to face in his future.  But he's on his own now and I'm not worried.  He can handle it.

So.  When your child, of whatever age, is driving you insane and you are genuinely considering sending them to a "Reprogramming Camp" in Siberia, hang in there.  You have a GIANT of a soul, brimming with incredible talent, crammed into a little body that is a little on the crazy side, with all that growing and developing and whatnot going on.  Of course they're going to act like rabid squirrels on speed a lot of the time.  They kind of are rabid squirrels on speed.  But you WANT this.  Really, you do.

It's like that episode of Sponge Bob where he decides to be "normal" and slowly changes himself until he's a smooth, shiny employee who sits in a cubicle at a computer and does everything "normally."  And the computer-generated burgers he creates are gray blobs of goo.  Sure, he sits and behaves perfectly.  But he's a gray blob of goo.

Who wants kids who are blobs of goo?  Unfortunately, sometimes that's what the school and the teacher and we want.  But who wants to be an adult gray blob of goo?   You don't get a vibrant, intelligent, positive leader of the community from a glob of gray goo.  You just don't.  But that means you have to take the rabid squirrel child.  Just hang on with both hands and don't let go.  Oh, and stock pile whatever minor vice gives you comfort and wear good shoes.  For me, it's Moonstruck chocolates and green Birkenstocks.  And I have 4 more to go. Yeehaw!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Trip to the Store

Hey, c'mon along for the ride.  We're headed to the store!

Scene: Davis home, a sunny Saturday, mid-morning.

Me: "29," A mom of many boys
Matthew: 7, the Youngest Child
Jonathan: 9, the Misunderstood Artist
Jacob: 13, the Budding Evil Genius
Alex: 15, the Perpetually Sleepy and Hungry Teen

Me: K, everybody get in the car.
Matthew: My shoes are lost forever.  I get to stay home.
Jonathan (breaking into sobs): DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT ME!  WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!"
Jacob: Look at me, I'm Jonathan, Boo-hoo-hoo
Alex: . . . . 
Me: Jonathan, it's fine, everyone is still finding their shoes. Matthew, find them.  Jacob, knock it off NOW.  Alex, wake up.
Jonathan: (still shuddering): OK BUT DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT ME!! JACOB'S TEASING ME!!!
Matthew: Nope.  They're gone.
Jacob: (very quietly) Boo hoo hoo, I'm baby Jonathan.
Alex:  . . .
Me: Jonathan, I promise. Matthew, find your shoes or you go barefoot.  Jacob, that's one load of dishes. Once more and you have dishes for the day.  Alex, WAKE UP.
Jonathan: (sob, cough, sniff, sniff) Ok, wait I need to get my stuff.  (Runs upstairs)
Matthew: Good.  I hate shoes.
Jacob: WHAT?! No fair!! I'm not doing them.
Alex: . . .
Me: Jonathan, you don't need to bring your entire art backpack just to go to the store! Matthew, your shoes are on the back deck.  I can see them.  Go put them on now or you will help Jacob with the dishes.  Jacob, that's a full day of dishes.  Keep it up and you'll clean the whole downstairs.  ALEX WAKE UP WE ARE LEAVING!!
Jonathan: But I NEED my backpack!  I won't bring it in the store, I'll just leave it in the car!  I promise!"
Matthew: FINE, woman! (stomp stomp stomp)
Jacob: Uuuuuuugggggghhhhhhh.
Alex: snrflshgh?
Me: Then, why bring it at all?  You will be fine for 15 minutes in the car without your entire backpack. EVERYBODY GET IN THE CAR! NOW!
Matthew: I wanna get a Skylander.  Can I get 3 Skylanders?  Cameron has ALL of them.
Jacob: grumblegrumblegrumble (car door slams)
Alex: . . .
Me: Alex, I am getting in the car right now.  If you aren't in the car in 45 seconds, you don't get to go.
Jonathan: (sniffling) I just wanna bring my backpack (sniffle, shudder), all I wanna do (whimperwhimperwhimper, sniffle)
Matthew: Cameron has StumpSmash and SnorkleBlast AND ToxicFairy!  I want (begbegbeg)
Jacob: So.  Mom.  I was thinking, I've figured out how to pay for my mission.  I can take video of Jonathan acting stupid and I can post it on YouTube.  It will go viral and then I can get all kinds of sponsors and ads and stuff.  Whaddya think?
Alex: (shuffling like a comatose zombie to the car) I'm hungry.

-- car doors close, I start the engine --

Me: (at Jacob, employing full Death-Glare, as Jonathan has turned on the full, wailing cry) You do realize that a mission is spiritual endeavor.  You know, where you're supposed to be Christ-like and help other people learn to be NICE to each other?  Jonathan, I won't let him.  But you need to stop crying.  Now.  You've been crying all morning.  Matthew, no.  We're not going to buy toys for you.  We're going to get Father's Day gifts for Dad.  Alex, not my problem, you had all morning to eat.
Jonathan: waaaaaaaaahhhhaaaaahhhh (sniffle sniffle, gulp, sniffle) waaaaaaahhhhhaaaaahhhh!
Matthew: NO FAIR! (kicks Jonathan)
Jacob: Hey, I can be a good missionary.  And I can make a lot of money video taping him being weird.  Seriously.  Why can't I?
Alex: (kicks seat in front of him) MBMLSHFGHSMS!
Me: Jonathan, stop now.  You know I won't let Jacob do that.  Matthew, I will show you what "no fair" really is, if you don't stop it.  Jacob, seriously?  Stop it. 
Jonathan: (retaliating to Matthew's kick -- scream of rage, full attack on Matthew)

---- scrrrrreeeeecccchhhh!  (I pull over) ------


---- silence for the next 9 minutes ---

Jonathan: (sniffle sniffle) He pulled my ha . . .
Alex: (muttering) Jonathan, shut up!  Mom said no talking!
Jonathan: (sniffle sniffle)
Matthew: (grrrrrr) 

---- silence for remaining 4 minute drive to store --

Me: Do not get out yet.  Listen up.  There will be no begging for toys, snacks, or treats.  There will be no fighting.  We are here to buy gifts for DAD, not for you.  Understand?
(everyone exits vehicle)
Jonathan: I love my Daddy sooo much!  I want to get lots of gifts for him!
Jacob: (cough) Kiss-up (cough)
Matthew: Can I get Daddy a Skylander?  I know Daddy wants a Skylander so he can play with me.
Alex: Can I get a bag of chips?  I'm hungry.
Me: Watch it, Jacob.  We're going to the tools section since you guys have buried most of Dad's tools in the backyard.  No Skylanders, no chips.
Jonathan: (Singing and dancing like a puppet on strings) Boo-bee doop-eee, love my da-dee!
Jacob: Seriously, Mom.  Look at that.  I would make a million dollars.
Matthew: Can I pick out the tools?
Alex: Jacob, shut up. (punch)
Me: Alex, please don't.  Jacob, please don't.  Matthew, yes, let's see if we can find a really nice set for Dad.  What do you think he'd like?
Jonathan: (still dancing, but now sticking his bum out and swinging it from side to side) Bap pa doo!  Bum ba dee! Look at my butt, Look at my butt, whoop a dee!
Jacob: (stares at me)
Matthew: Ok, let's get Dad this (huge, expensive) saw, and this (even more expensive) drill, and . . .
Alex: Can we get lunch after this?
Me: Matthew, we're looking for smaller tools.  Like hammers and screwdrivers, those are the things you guys lose.  Jonathan, what you're doing is not ok.  Please stop your body.  (Ignores Jacob) Alex, we'll see. 
Jonathan: (still dancing) Boop-bee, boop-bee . . .
Matthew: (tossing tools into the cart) Ok, this one and this one and this one . . .
Jacob: (Still stares at me)
Alex: Can I get Taco Bell and Burgerville?
Me: Jonathan, stop.  Matthew, whoa, too many.  Pick your favorites.  (Still ignores Jacob).  Alex, you'll be lucky to get a PB & J on stale bread.
Jonathan: (looking at me with wide, round eyes) Boop?
Matthew: (reviews selections and tosses unwanted items all over the aisle)
Jacob:  Mom.  Alex punched me and you DID NOTHING.  And Jonathan is WEIRD.
Alex: mrgmbsuehgrmbl
Me: (picking up discarded tools and returning them to shelves) Jonathan, stop.  Matthew, you have to put them back where they belong.  Jacob, you deserved it.  Alex, you will get food, I promise.
Jonathan: Boop? Beep-Boop?
Matthew: Ok, I think this looks like the right amounts of tools for Dad.  Let's go.
Jacob: MOM!
Alex: Jacob, stop it. (punches Jacob)
Me: (Ignoring ALL of it) Ok, let's go buy these.

--- to the check out line ---

Me: Where did Alex go?  Jacob, go find him.
Jonathan: Can I get a Push-Pop?  Look they have my favorite, Asteroid Blue.
Matthew: I want a Push-Pop too!
Jacob: (grrrrr, goes to find Alex)
Alex: ???
Me: No Push-Pops.  If you keep begging, no treats for the next week.
Jonathan: Starts singing again.
Matthew: I'm hungry
Jacob: (returning without Alex) Can't find him. 
Alex: (shows up eating a bag of chips) I'm starving!
Me: Ok, if everyone will just behave long enough to get to the car, we will go get lunch.

--- perfect behavior for 3.2 minutes, to get through the check out line and back to the car ---

--- we pull in to the fast-food drive-thru ---

All Boys: i want and no mustard but extra onion i hate lettuce but french fries for me with lemonade and 2 burgers but don't they have tacos with ketchup but add the pickles i hate pickles can i have a milkshake . . .
Me: Whoa!  One at a time!  Matthew, first.
Matthew: I want 20 chicken nuggets and a bucket of ketchup.
Jonathan: I want a cheeseburger with no ketchup, cheese, or meat.
Jacob: I want the super deluxe burger with extra bacon, lettuce on the side, four dabs of ketchup in equal placement, three concentric slices of onion, and NO Mayonnaise or tomato.
Alex: I want 6 hamburgers, 4 orders of fries, 2 milkshakes.  And another hamburger.
Me: uuuuuggggghhhhh. (into the drive-thru speaker) Do you sell Excedrin?

---- food is ordered, mouths are full, silence ensues on the drive home ----

And this, my friends, is why I do not take my children ANYWHERE they do not have to go.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Screaming Bag of Doom

Discipline.  It's the big chunk of parenting we don't really want to deal with, but if we don't deal with it, we end up knowing, with beautiful clarity, words like "Parole Officer" and "Early Release for Good Behavior."  Kids create new and fantastic ways to drive us nuts and do wretched things to each other, so it's only fair that we create new and fantastic (and often wretched) ways to stop them.  Then there's the whole cursed element of "what works for one kid, may not work for the next kid."  And what worked for that kid today, won't work for them in 5 years.  You need a boatload of creative ideas to get your kids to NOT fight constantly, break windows with "new ninja skills", duct tape the cat to the wall, bring the garden hose (turned on) into the house, or let the bucket of newts from the swamp loose in the house.

Having said thus, here are 9 creative discipline ideas I have gathered over the years.  All are tried and tested, and come from seasoned Moms!  Results may vary, based on your child and the severity of the naughtiness!

1.  Door Slamming.  There are many, many reasons why I hate door slamming.  Every time I hear a slam, I can see in my mind little fingers being chopped off, little toes being crunched, or, well, worse stuff.  I have a good imagination.  Additionally, every slam is like an ax to the tree of my nerves.  Then there's the whole "angry" element of door slamming, generally because they just got sent to their room for some infraction.  This grates on me as well.  I never really did too much about it, though, (other than yelling at the kid to not slam the door) until my friend Nelean told me about their family's consequence for door slamming.  It seems simple but it's a doozy.  The perpetrator of the slam must stand and close the door 10 times in a row absolutely silently.  If Mom can hear even one closing, the kid gets to start over.  This is waaaaay harder than it seems, especially if the kid is ticked.  And by the time they actually manage 10 silent shuttings, everyone has calmed down.  Bonuses abound!

2.  The Bag of Doom.  One of the better ideas I have gleaned in my parenting experience is letting kids pick their own punishment.  No, I'm not saying they get to make up whatever they want.  That would just be, well, completely idiotic. "Yes, I punched my brother in the nose.  I think I will have a bowl of ice cream for my punishment.  And since I don't think I will have gotten the message, I better have a second bowl."  Rather, they are given a range of options and can chose whichever one they hate the least.  Our neighbors implemented this with the Bag of Doom.  In this bag was a whole range of punishments -- various household chores, silly stunts, or fines.  The kids knew ahead of time what was in the bag.  Then, when an infraction happened and punishment had to be assigned, the Bag came out.  The family would generally also sing along with the Dodo's chant from Ice Age, "Doom on you, doom on you," whilst the prisoner reached blindly into the bag to find out his fate.  Nice part about this, whatever the punishment was, the Bag did it, not you.

3.  Hold a Trial.  Once in a while (eg: every 17 minutes), two siblings may have a difference of opinion about who threw the ball/ate the last popsicle/dropped the water balloon, etc.  Generally, this is not difficult to sort out.  Most kids are not very good liars and most Moms are fantastic at considering forensic evidence.  (The kid with sticky goo on his face probably did eat the last popsicle.  And if they all have sticky goo on their faces, then they've all had enough popsicle anyway.  Case solved.)  Every now and then, though, a more major incident will happen and Mom won't have any real evidence to work with.

Thus it was maybe 30 years ago my mother was faced with such a situation.  My brother was accused of throwing rocks at a sibling.  My brother was actually a fairly mellow kid, for a boy, and didn't generally do things like this.  My sibling was insistent, however.  So my mother held a court.  She appointed jury members, a prosecution lawyer, and a defense lawyer.  Evidence and witnesses were called.  Everyone, and this was the real key to the success of this, everyone was allowed to testify to their recollection of what happened without anyone else being able to interrupt. Even the 2 year-old who had a 19 word vocabulary.

The case proceeded and after everyone had their say and the verdict was returned (it was probably a rock thrown up from his bicycle tire), my mom made cookies and everyone was satisfied, including the sibling, who just needed someone to listen for a minute.  Don't we all? 

Incidentally, my brother is now an attorney . . .

4.  Scream Along.  This also comes from the Library of Sarah's Wacky Parenting Ideas.  When you have a kid who is screaming and wailing and falling to bits over something silly, scream along.  Do exactly whatever they are doing.  If they lay on the floor, you lay on the floor.  If they throw their head back and wail, you throw your head back and wail.  And do this bigger and more dramatically than they do.  Really channel your inner Diva. This is GUARANTEED to stop the wailing.  Nearly every time I have done this, my kid has stopped and looked at me with an expression of "My mother has lost her mind.  I am somewhat nonplussed at this event."  Either that, or they start telling me to stop acting silly, which presents the perfect segue into pointing out that they were acting just as silly as I was.  And once the tantrum is stopped, you can figure out what the problem is.  Usually something traumatic like the absolute stubbornness left shoes will insist on having over not fitting on right feet.

5.  Paying the Bill.  This is all about not maintaining their own personal hygiene standards.  Specifically, brushing their teeth regularly.  Once my kids are old enough to understand how to brush and that they need to brush, they are responsible for paying for any fillings they get.  This is an absolutely avoidable cost and learning the lesson quick and early will absolutely benefit them their whole lives.  The first kid I imposed this on did not get another filling after paying $150 for two fillings.  That was 8 years ago.  A tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush is cheaper than a filling. And all of that is cheaper than dentures!  Brush your dang teeth!

6.  Nickel Jar.  This is a very versatile method of modifying all kinds of behaviors.  I learned this one from my mother in law.  You get a jar -- a smallish one, like a pint jar (trust me, you won't want a big quart jar for this, you probably can't afford it).  Fill it with nickels.  Place it somewhere really visible, kitchen counter, mantle, wherever.  The deal is this: every time the kid does the unwanted action (in my house it was peeing all over the toilet seat) you take a nickel.  At the end of a specified amount of time (a month or so), the kid gets all the nickels left in the jar.  The kid stopped peeing all over the seat in one day.  I call this a win-win.  Two dollars (or less) of nickels will fill a jar, but the kid just sees a jar FULL of money.  And the behavior stops.  (Unfortunately, the plethora of younger brothers grew up and now it's impossible to tell who peed on the seat.  Ugh.)

7.  Holding Hands.  I can't remember who I learned this one from, but as much as it's a punishment for the two accused, it's pure entertainment for Mom and Dad.  So, when the fighting has reached the saturation point, the two fightees must sit on the couch next to each other holding hands for 15-30 minutes.  It will seem like forever to them.  If they talk, move, or in anyway do anything other than sit there and hold hands, time starts over.  A variation of this we often use is the Repentance Bench.  We have two very short, pointless little decorative arches in our living room.  It creates two little edges about 6" deep that can be sat on.  Not comfortably.  This is where both accused arguers get to sit, looking directly at each other, when time outs are required.  All other rules and regulations apply.

8.  Slave For A Day.  This is particularly effective for older siblings who pick on younger siblings.  So, when one kid will not leave another kid alone, it seems clear to me that they want to spend lots of time with that other kid, right?  So I simply fulfill their wish.  The Picker-Onner then becomes the personal slave of the Pickee-Onnee for 24 hours.  They have to do anything the Pickee says (other than illegal/immoral/unsafe stuff, obviously) -- do their chores, feed them their dinner, give them a pedicure, read them 15 stories, etc.  And, obviously, any further teasing will result in more serious consequences.  Usually involving red-hot pokers.  No not really.

9.  The Interpretive Dance Apology.  This is a truly genius idea from a friend of my mother's.  Her son had been obnoxious and had been sent to his room.  The price of being freed from the room was an interpretive dance in which he referred to her as a goddess and extolled her wonderfulness as his most wise and amazing mother.  The rewards of this are never ending.  Say it with me: "Video Camera."

So there you are.  If time outs and never ending chores are seeming tired and passe, try these new and exciting ideas.  Fun times for all!  Well, mostly all.  You, at least! :D

Saturday, May 26, 2012

4 Skills You MUST Have

The list of necessary "Mom" skills a new mother should acquire is very long.  A fair amount of what some Professionals would put on the list is useless, frankly.  Other skills are useful for a short time only, like diapering.  Play your cards right and you only have to diaper the first one.  That's what older children are for, right?

There are handful of skills, however, that will be useful until your child is him or herself a parent and even grandparent.  No lie, I've seen my own mother and father cringe and react to one or the other of my grandmothers' slightest change in facial expression.  That is real power, right there.  It behooves you, as a parent, then, to master these skills:

Counting to 3

It's about the first academic thing you ever learned and it can serve you well, long into the twilight of your life if you master the art and beauty of short-range counting.  The power of control is within your very grasp if you will master this art. You can waylay oncoming tantrums and punching matches, or add that extra motivation to get the dishwasher unloaded, just with three, short syllables.  If you are a true master, you will only ever need to get to "1." Even my adult children will heel when I start counting.  Here are the keys to master this timeless art:

1.  You must only use this skill when you really do mean it.  If you threaten to count to three every time they burp, you have reduced the power of the Counting to marshmallow fluff: "Ya, ya, mom's counting again.  Whatev's. You'd think she would have learned '4' by now."
2.  They must understand what will happen when you get to 3.  If "count to 4, with 5 as a definite possibility" is your answer, do not count.  You have just undercut yourself, Grasshopper.
Bwahahaha! She just said "4!"
3.  Whatever the consequence is that follows the accomplishment of the "3," you MUST follow through with it.  Fail one time by chickening out and going for the "4," or heaven forbid, starting over (never, never, never), and you will spend YEARS rebuilding the learned response behavior of Fearing the Three.
4.  Therefore, don't throw down threats like "I'm going to tear out your eyeballs and eat them" or "I'm going to sell you to the next passing Band of Traveling Monkeys."
5.  Unless you really are going to do this.  If this is the case, there might be other issues at play and perhaps a little time off is in order . . .
6.  You can throw down the crazy pants threat as an option as a way of conveying "I love you, I'm teasing you a bit, but you really do need to knock it off."  Do not mix this with the counting, however, because then they will always thinking you're being Funny Mommy. Not always helpful.

 The Glare

This needs to be of the kilo-watt, death-star voltage.  It needs to scream, without any sound, to any and all who get within range of the Glare that SOMEONE is going to be in serious dog doo doo if SOMEONE doesn't Stop. It. Right. Now.

Practice in the mirror.  Simply raising your eyebrows will make you look surprised and little confused.  Narrowing your eyes implies a challenge, which they will most certainly undertake.  One raised eyebrow can convey a warning and can be a good prelude to a full Glare, but it cannot stand alone.  Opening your eyes too wide makes you look slightly stunned and potentially gassy.  A really good Glare combines a solid stare, widened eyes, and a serious expression, without being simply blank.  Practice on your spouse, dog, or fish.  Well, the fish won't give you any feedback.  Nor will the cat.  Cats will win any sort of glaring contest every time.  If you have a neighbor kid you don't particularly like, you could practice there.  It's ok if they think you're just the crazy neighbor lady.  But you need your kids to take you seriously.

You will know you've got it right when your target freezes with a look of "Crap, what did I do?" even if they're completely innocent of any possible wrong-doing.  You're looking for Deer in the Headlights.  You want to see real fear.  Trust me, you'll know it when you see it.  And you will feel such a wonderful sense of success!  Except for the fact that whatever your kid is doing to warrant the Glare is probably publicly horrifying in some way.  So, it's a wash.  At least they will STOP.

Going Off Duty

This has many names -- Time out for Mommy, Hiding From Your Kids, Going to the Bathroom . . . whatever you call it, a wise Mommy knows when to go off duty.  This is NOT neglecting your responsibilities.  This is properly acknowledging routine active maintenance.  There was this (really pointless) story about this woman in Germany who bought a tv, turned it on and never turned it off.  Two years later it burned out.  I know, riveting story.  But the point is this -- everything has to get turned off every now and then or it just breaks.  Mommies are no different and just sleeping at night doesn't count.  You need conscious down-time. 

Nooo!! Not the Conniption Fit Mommy!
I believe this is the exact reason they started putting locks on bathroom doors.  A locked door is a flimsy barrier to keeping the kids at bay for 5 minutes (don't you love the teeny little fingers sticking under the door? "Mommy!  I'm right here, Mommy!  Can you hear me, Mommy? See my fingers, Mommy? Looky looky!"  Ugh.  All I want to do is pee in peace.  Is that really too much to ask?) but it does keep them from actually going with you in the teeny toilet space.  And wanting to "help."  So LOCK THE DOOR.

This is also patent permission to go completely berserk when your child gets up out of bed after bedtime.  Have a bedtime.  Make it absolute.  All time after bed time is YOURS.  Hoard it like a Depression Era Cat Lady.  Scream, yell, cry, whatever, if they get out of bed after being tucked in, tooth-brushed, and drink-of-watered.  Anything that makes certain they never want to see Conniption Fit Mommy again. Hey, a little future therapy is good for everyone, right?

Eyes In the Back of Your Head

You need to become Batman.  Why?  Let's think about Batman.  He's a "super" hero, despite the fact he has no supernatural abilities.  He has used his massive amount of cash to study and hone every possible type of martial arts to become a human fighting machine.  Unfortunately, the Mommy Super Hero Kit does not include the Massive Amounts of Cash accessory pack.  As an alternative, nearly all mommies come with a pre-programmed Ninja Skill deep within the Temporal Lobe.  The chemicals released during the Labor and Delivery process trigger this deep innate ability.  It begins to display as early as the first night after giving birth. 

You know what this is -- you have FINALLY fallen asleep for an astonishing 14 minutes when your eyes pop wide open.  Is the baby breathing? I can't hear any breathing?!  Was that a breath?  I can't tell.  How long has it been since I heard the last breath?  Was that a breath?  You get out of bed at an astonishing speed for a woman whose body has just had a watermelon-sized parasite ripped out of it.  You creep up the crib/basket/carrier and stare at your newborn's chest.  You stare as though your eyes can actually force the child to take a breath.  HOURS later (re: 9 seconds) you see a teeny, tiny little rise in your child's body.  A breath.  And now you can take one too.  You drag your carcass back to bed.  And approximately every 8-17 minutes, you repeat this process.  All.  Night.  Long.

I'm sooo sweet :D
This, my friends, is not your neurotic brain panicking over the life of your child.  Well, it is.  But it is also early Batman/Ninja Mommy training.  There will come a time when you will need Eyes in the Back of Your Head.  And after 2-3 years of listening through a door, a hallway, and another door in order to hear breathing happen, your ability to hear feet creeping down the stairs from two rooms away after lights out will be excellent.  After many, many moons of careful auditory discrimination to determine exactly what kind of cry that is -- injured, hurt, tired, mad, bored--, you will be able to determine truth from lie no matter how sweetly your 8 year-old smiles.  After months and months of careful observation to prevent Running Blindly Into the Street, Falling Over the Railing, or Climbing Into the Lions Cage At the Zoo (what? Doesn't every parent have to guard against this?), you will be able to "see" around corners and through doors and in to the back seat while driving.

The important element here is to keep your kid thinking you really do have eyes in the back of your head AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.  Your 16 year-old will "know" you do not actually have eyes in the back of your head.  But, if you play your cards right, you can keep a small voice of doubt in their heads.  Humans don't have eyes in the back of their skulls.  But there was that time she caught me sneaking downstairs and she wasn't even in the room!  Maybe she does . . . nah. That's stupid.  But, maybe . . . oh well, I didn't really want to sneak out tonight anyway . . .   

So there you are.  Four skills that will help you manage that fabulous bundle of energetic insanity for which you are legally and morally responsible.  Batman has nothing on you, Mommy!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Gaza Couch

In the history of humanity, there have been thousands of wars, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of wars.  Some have sounded like this:

In the early years, the Rebel Occupying Forces (ROF) took possession of the disputed territory with a surprise attack.  This allowed the ROF to occupy the space while the United Forces of Dominion (UFD) was distracted with re-supplying efforts at its fortified strongholds.  The ROF occupied the territory following the 6 Minute War.  Pursuant to the Monday Accords signed between the ROF  and the UFD on Monday (not as obvious at it might seem.  Or maybe it is) an interim administrative body was set up to govern the borders, with the ROF maintaining control of the left wing and the UFD maintaining control of the right.  A demilitarized zone was created in the center, including all airspace and surrounding territories, until a final agreement could be reached.

Others have been commemorated with poetry, for all of humanity to remember with a tear and a sentimental sigh:

This day is call’d the feast of Davis.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Davis.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Davis.” (wow, that sounds sacrilegious)
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Davis’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-

William the King, Alex and Jacob,
Morgen and Jake, Jonathan and Matthew-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Davis Davisus shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in Woodland now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Davis’s day.

(Bonus points if you can fully reference that selection -- the real one, not my mangled one :D)

No matter how you phrase it, commemorate it, preserve it for posterity, or record it for history -- the sum total of warfare among mankind -- pick a conqueror/conflict of your preference, Alexander the Great, Ghenghis Khan, Attila, George Washington, The British Empire, Israel/Palestine, sheesh the list could be pages long -- pretty much ALL of it can be summed up thusly: 

"He stole my spot on the couch!!" 

The Chaise Longue
The descriptions above do not, in fact, describe actions in the 1967 6 Day War between Israel and Egypt.  The poetic passage does not commemorate the speech of King Henry V as he rallied his troops to attack the French Army in his effort to become king of both England and France.  These are literary records of the battle for the Gaza Couch.  In my family room.

Maybe because I am a female, or maybe because I am now a Mom, I am daily baffled by the intensity that is created over "my spot."  We have a big couch.  It has two wings, a section of chaise longue, and even a pull-out, full-size bed.  Despite all this, there will always, every day, be an argument over "the spot."  The "spot" changes.  Sometimes, it's dead center.  Sometimes it's on the left section.  Sometimes it's the chaise longue. (I really can't pronounce that term without adding a British accent.  It sounds better somehow :D)  The one deciding factor on "the spot" is this:  it is whatever "spot" was just vacated.  

Still going . . .
There is something about mankind that has to have whatever spot the other brother has.  It's already warmed up and made cozy by a bum.  Sometimes it even comes with an accessory warmed-up blankie or throw pillow.  The fights that have happened over "the spot" have resulted in bodily harm and some of the most convoluted rules about "saving seats" that have ever come out of Camp David, oops I mean Davis. (Actually, not much difference there . . . )

In my mother's day, if one wanted to keep one's "spot" in order to get a snack from the kitchen, the following incantation was required:

Saved, no changies, locked, and swallowed the key. 

In our household, it tends to go more like this:
"MY spot!"

Take my spot and I'll pound you.

We've had bruises, broken furniture, holes in the wall, and countless shouting matches over "the spot."  You would think all of human happiness was hinging on sitting in that exact spot.  Truly, no future success could be considered if that spot was lost.  The unfairness of it all cries out for Galactic Justice!  Gimme a break.

So, my method of dealing with this has varied and changed, depending on the current elements of conflict --

"Nope.  My spot."
  • You get your spot back if you had to get up because Mom/Dad asked you to do something.
  • You do not get your spot back if you argued with M/D about whatever it was they asked you to do.
  • You do not get your spot back if you punched a neighboring brother in the process of vacating the spot when M/D asked you to do something.
  • You get your spot back if you get up to help a sibling.
  • Cheerful help earns you the right to the spot for an extra day.
  • All rights to the spot are forfeit if you hit or insult the sibling in the process of "helping." (If this seems contrary to you, you probably don't have a boy.)
  • You do not get your spot back if you hit or insult anyone at any time.
  • Sincere apologies will allow your appeal to be heard.  M/D will determine if the apology is sincere.
  • Insincere apologies will result in additional banishment from the spot.
  • In the case of universal arguing, there will be no saving of seats of any kind.
  • In the case of universal fighting, all rights to tookus occupancy on ANY part of the couch are revoked.  You may sit on the floor or you can go somewhere else.  Like your room.

(mfflemfffle) "Still my spot."
So, really, what the world has always needed is a Mom to say, 

"No, Ghengis, you can't have Tibet.  Someone is already sitting there.  No, if you punch the Tibetians, you will be grounded to Mongolian.  Now knock it off."  


"Sorry King George III.  I am going to let George W (the original one, not the recent knock-off) have the Colonies.  You've been picking on everyone and generally being a bully.  Move it." 


"Caesar, you can't take up the ENTIRE continent.  There are  other people who need some space too.  Move over."

Wouldn't that have been handy?  Ah well.  Until then, we will always have the Gaza Couch.  Sheesh.  It's just a couch.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Male Human Development Course Catalog

Congratulations!  You are the new parent(s) of a male homo sapiens!  Enclosed is the required course catalog for proper completion of this 20+ year course.  Please follow all directions explicitly and retain packing slips and requisition forms for any exchanges or returns (Bwahahahahahahahahaha!!! If only.) 

As male-specific characteristics will take 18-36 months to manifest themselves, you will have between 3 and 6 semesters to prepare the following materials, supplies, and fees.  Coursework should begin immediately, but should also be continued throughout the full two-decade time frame. There will be a test.  Multiple tests.  Good luck.

An argument you can't win
Materials and Supplies List:
Duct tape -- 6 pallets
WD 40 -- 3 cases
Spackle -- 10 5-gallon buckets, to be purchased in 2 year intervals.  More may be required.
Wide spackle knife
Narrow spackle knife
Dry wall tape / metal plate patch -- 10, all sizes
Old Bath towels -- 24 dozen
Paper towels -- consult with Bounty for bulk discount
Bar soap -- 1,200 bars per year
Bleach -- 85 gallons
Large scrub brush
Small scrub brush
Elbow-length rubber gloves, 200 pair per year
Flat head screwdriver
Phillips screwdriver
Drain snake
Alligator Clips
Small, portable generator
Rope -- 2.6 linear miles
Buckle harness & carabiners
Hydrogen Peroxide -- 700 gallons
Band aids -- 16 pallets
Athletic tape -- 92 rolls
Bike/rock climbing helmet
Safety goggles -- military ballistic standard 438511(D)

Footie PJs recommended
Course Fee List:
$600,0000 Socks & Underwear
$4.3 million Jeans/Pants/Shirts/Shoes
$5,000 Jackets/Coats
$15,000 Replacement Jackets/Coats
$150/month Early Deposits to local Emergency Room
$65/month Storage Unit (for any furniture/memorabilia/collectable antiques you would rather not be broken, jumped on, fed to the dog, or buried in the backyard as "treasure.")
$200,000 Excedrin Stock purchase (recommended)
$500,000 Lego Stock purchase (recommended)
$20 Sunday clothes (if no ancestral Sunday clothes are available to be passed down)
All remaining funds should be deposited with your grocery of choice.  Direct deposit options may be available and are very convenient.

General Ed & Prerequisite Courses

Advanced Screeching
Screechology 195: Discrimination of pitch and wave length, deciphering of tone and tenor -- is there an actual injury or is he just really mad?

Speed Diapering 100: Two-diaper technique and tips for cleaning up unexpected fountains.

Basic Carpentry 101: Dry wall repair, dining room furniture repair, and knowing when to call the professional.

Basic Plumbing 105: Toilets, U-bend removal, and toilets.

Basic First Aid 100: Boo-boos, "broken" legs, snot control, and simple foreign body removal.

Course Work by Discipline

The hat says it all
Logic 110: Nuances of "No" and "Why."

Logic 265: (Prereq Med 101, Screech 195) Understanding the rationality of "No Fair" and "He made me hit him."

Logic 351: (Prereq BL 101, Concurrent enrollment in Med 351 recommended) Contemplations of "Idunno" and "Cuz."

Logic 605: (Instructor approval required, prereq Med 525) Discussions of Omniscience at age 18.

Meditations 101: Counting to 10, the fundamentals.

Meditations 351: (Prereq Med 101,  Logic 110) The World of Om and finding your inner sanctuary during meal prep times.

Meditations 525: (Prereq Med 351, Body Lang 403, Logic 265) Tuning it all out, unless the house really IS on fire.

The face says it all
Body Language 101: Understanding Scream, Cry, Kick.

Body Language 403: (Prereq BL 101, Logic 265, Med 351) Understanding Punch, Mumble, Shrug. 

Basic Sports Terminology 220: All western hemisphere major sports, Cricket excluded in lower level coursework.  Advanced Sports Mysteries 501 covers Cricket, Figure Skating, and Professional Soccer (Football) Penalty Calls.

Basic Animal Terminology 201: Small mammals, tropical fish, and local insect life that should stay OUT of the house.

Advanced Animal Terminology 385: Large mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that should stay IN the tank.

Music Appreciation 295: Instructional guidelines for using YouTube, SongLyric, and Wikipedia to figure out what that song is really about, that he's listening to.  All day.  Every day.

Large Quantity Cookery 202: The value of peanut butter, spaghetti, and chocolate milk.

Toxic Waste Control 285: Advanced Laundry.  Includes odor containment and elimination, debates on when to toss rather than wash, and detergent quantity analysis: is there such a thing as too much?

C'mon, how can you not have fun?
Joke Tolerance 130: Knock Knock and all its permutations.
Joke Tolerance 495: (Prereq JT 130, Med 101) Chuck Norris.  Additional reading required: Yo Momma and Chicken Butt.  Full anthologies will be covered, additional course fee can be paid to either Starbucks or Diet Coke, depending on caffeine intake preference.

Military Strategy 150:  Concurrent enrollment in Logic 101 is recommended.  Bathing regulations, body function control, and stealth bedtime avoidance detection.

Military Strategy 401: (Prereq MS 150, Logic 265, Med 351) Detente approaches to tattoos, piercings, girlfriends, and facial hair. 

. . . Oh, and you might want to grab some diapers and jammies and stuff . . . 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For Every Mommy . . .

I've dithered about whether to post this.  It's a different kind of post, but hang on through the end.  It reads a little schmaltzy to me, but the feeling is genuine. Maybe I'm just schmaltzy?  I hope it works for you.

For every Mommy . . . 

There will be a handful of dates in the course of raising your children that will be permanently etched in your memory.  The day they were born, their first day of kindergarten, the day they got behind the wheel of a car (aaack!), the day they graduated from high school, the day they left home.

And the day you thought you might have lost them.

For me, those days are May 7, 2008, September 24, 2010, and November 29, 2010.

May 7, 2008 was a nice spring day.  This is unusual in the NW.  It usually pours rain nonstop from, oh, January until mid-June.  The sun was out, it wasn't too hot, it was nice.  It was also the Sub-District track meet.  My daughter was a high school junior and a good jumper -- high jump, long jump, triple jump.  She was warming up on the long jump, checking her steps on run-throughs.  Her steps were off, so she ran through (hence the phrase run-throughs) the sand pit.  There was hole in the sand and she stumbled.  Badly.  She crashed and end up crumpled at the end of the pit.  She didn't move.

Time will never move so slowly as when you are waiting for your child to move, to see how bad the injury is.  She continued to not move.  Nothing on earth compares to the rising horror a parent feels waiting for their child to move.  But eventually she did.  She had completely destroyed her knee, and with it her soccer career, her jumping career, three large ligaments, and her hamstring muscle.  It took three years and two major surgeries to restore her knee.  But she moved again.

September 24, 2010 was a cold, fall evening and a home football game.  William was a senior and a defensive back.  It had been a rough season and the game was not going well, although William was playing fantastically.  He was 3 tackles from the all-time school record for tackles in one game.  (He later explained to me that that was a sign of how bad the game was going -- no defensive back should ever have that many tackles because that means the line is letting too many get through. Stuff you learn, eh?)

It was the beginning of the third quarter.  The play started, the pile up happened.  When all the players got up, there was one on the ground, not moving. "Please," I thought, "don't let it be #6" -- William.  I looked and strained to see the jersey number.  It was 6.  Every mom of every football player has the exact same worst nightmare: neck injury.  He continued to not move.  Refs and players started to realize this was more than the usual player down.  People started to gather.  Coaches came out on the field.  Kneeling adults surrounded my son, people started waving towards the medics on hand.  And we started to beeline it for the field.  A school official stopped me.  "But I'm the MOM!" I said.  "I know," he said calmly.  When the officials won't let you on the field for your own good, it's not a good sign.  He told us to wait while he went to find out the severity of the situation.

It was his neck.  He had initially lost feeling in his hands, but it was coming back.  Taking every wise precaution, he was strapped to a backboard, helmet and all, and taken by ambulance to the hospital.  Watching your child being wheeled on an ambulance gurney, strapped down for possible spinal damage is horrible.  But he was ok.  He didn't lose it emotionally until the ER nurses had to cut his jersey off.  His number, his senior year.  He was King Cranky the week he spent wearing a neck brace until the surgeon ok'd him to take it off.  But he did get to take it off, he walked again, he played football again.

Two days after William's ER trip, we ended up taking Alex to the ER in severe pain.  (Fall 2010 kinda really sucked.) Right next to waiting to see if your child can move, watching your child in insensible pain is at the top of my "Things I Hate" list.  It took three doses of morphine before Alex was coherent again.  A CAT scan showed a massively inflated kidney.  He had a birth defect in his left kidney that was resulting in an obstruction.  It was going to require major surgery to reconstruct some of the support anatomy around the kidney.

And so November 29, 2010 arrived.  We drove early in the morning to Seattle Children's Hospital, went through all the check in procedures, and the surgery was underway.  They told us to expect it to  be several hours.  They would page us when he was in recovery and then it would be about 30 minutes for him to come out of anesthesia.  Time passed and we were paged.  Should be another 30 minutes.  An hour passed.  Then another hour.  Why wasn't Alex waking up?  Into the third hour, we started asking more serious questions.  Where was he, why wasn't he waking up?

Finally, as we approached the end of the third hour, Alex was wheeled in.  He was still pretty out of it, bloated, and red.  It was several hours before he was coherent and three days in the hospital before he could go home.  It was a month recuperating at home and another surgery (not to mention another ER midnight trip to Seattle) before he really began to recover and not have constant pain.  But he did recover.  He did come out of anesthesia.

For every Mommy whose child did not move, did not walk again, did not wake up out of surgery, your pain is known and not forgotten.  Not ever.  You are my hero.  I know enough to know I cannot ever know your pain.  

For every Mommy whose child will spend most of their lives in and out of hospitals and doctor appointments, you are an Angel on the right hand of God.

For every Mommy whose child has invisible struggles -- mental, emotional, spiritual -- you are the the Unsung Hero of us all.  Your sacrifice is known.

For every Mommy whose child will need full care for their entire lives, long into the years when you should be retired and enjoying relaxing vacations, you are the Boston Marathon Champion of Mommies.

For every Mommy who has gathered someone else's chicks under her wings, to love and protect and nurture, you are True Love, the greatest power on earth.

And for every Mommy -- in every color and size, even the ones who often go by the name of "Daddy" -- who gets up every morning and tries again, makes the effort again, hugs again, forgives again, repents again -- for we are none of us perfect--, loves again, you are the salvation of our world.  Of all jobs, vocations, or callings that can be undertaken by humans, none is greater than that of Mommy.

It is the most important job in the world.  Period.  Never forget that. 

Hug your kid and tell them you love them every day, even on the days you have to grit your teeth and cross your fingers behind your back.  When they say "hang up the phone and dance with me!" Do it, even if the music choice is from Yo Gabba Gabba. (What are they smoking?  Seriously.)  When they offer to share their tattered, smelly blankey with you, snuggle up close.  When they scream and yell and tell you they hate you, tell them you love them.  When their heart is breaking, hold them, even if they're a foot taller than you and can bench large forest animals.

At what price parenting?  Your heart, full and unconditionally.  And the return is everlasting and eternal.

Well done, Mommy.