Sunday, April 29, 2012

Davis Boys Sing the Hits!

Are the classics getting just a bit faded for you?  Hard Day's Night is just a bit tired?  Jumpin' Jack Flash losing its spring?  Call now for your copy of . . .

Davis Boys Sing the Hits!

They've taken those tired old Rock n Roll classics and given them a whole new twist!

Tired of the Kink's version of Girl You Really Got Me Goin?  Sing it the Davis Way!

One by one
We're havin' some fun
on the kybo
All day and all of the night

Two by two
I'm takin a poo
on the kybo
All day and all of the night

Three by three
I'm takin a pee
on the kybo
All day and all of the night

Four by four
I'm gettin' sore
on the kybo
All day and all of the night

With such great poetic skill as this, you know you want to hear more!

One Republic's Stop and Stare seem a bit over-played?  Listen to it the Davis Boy way!

Stop and Stare
I know you want to lick my underwear
Ya I know that even now you're scared
But now I've gotta peeEEeee . . . . Oh, oh . . .

All the songs of our time, done the Davis way!

All-American Reject's Move Along renovated for your listening pleasure!

When all the chores are really wrong
Mow the lawn, mow the lawn
till the grass is gone
And even when the weeds are gone
Mow the lawn, mow the lawn
Just to keep it gone!

Find new enjoyment in the great movie classics!

From the Jungle Book, I Wanna Be Like You but with a new flare!

Oobee doo
I gotta a take a poo-oo-oo
Oh yes it's true-oo-oo
I'm goin' to poo-oo-oo
Right in your shoe
And then I'll pee
Right off the balcone-eee-ee!

If your listening interests run a bit more contemporary, you may enjoy this Beat Box Alex/Jacob collaboration

Gotta take a dump
Gotta gotta take dump
Gotta take a dump
Gotta gotta take dump

Walking to the bathroom
There lies my porcelain throne
I got to
Pop a squat
Dump a lot
Take a (beep)
All over it!

As a BONUS, enjoy these all new, original songs!

I'm a Lady Unicorn
by Jonathan

I'm rubbin' my butt on the table
by Jonathan

I'm goin' to Uranus (you know how he pronounced it)
by Jonathan



Thursday, April 26, 2012

The House of Beth

When I turned 12, my Grandma took me shopping.  She took me shopping a lot, she likes (read: lives) to shop.  But when I was 12, she took me shopping for my birthday -- serious present time for a girl who knows how to stretch a dollar!  I liked to shop with her.  You always went out to lunch, got treats, and of course, the shopping swag.  The price you paid for all the fun was listening to the Lecture whilst the shopping was happening.  Up to this point, I had always decided the lecture was worth a double scoop ice cream cone.  Good things never seem to last, though.

Bellevue 1978
Grandma is not a gentle soul.  Grandma is not a quiet soul.  Anyone describing her as meek would be, well, besides flat out wrong, completely crazy.  There is a cranky, ever-burning spirit of vengeance and determination that powers her spirit through the universe.  It could probably sustain the energy needs of a small metropolitan area, if they could figure out how to bottle it.  So, when you got to go shopping with Grandma, you had to brace yourself for whatever lecture topic was her current rant. Until then, I had always just tuned it out, as small children are able to do. 

When you are a girl turning 12, there are a limited number of issues the rant is going to be about, so it's just a matter of figuring out which way the conversation is going to go and brace yourself accordingly: bras, menstrual cycles, the evils of boys.  None of these appealed at all, not the actual things, not the lecture from Grandma.

We were at Jantzen Beach shopping center, browsing the racks at Montgomery Wards.  Thus far, the trip had been fine.  I was looking at red cardigans.  Grandma came over and scowled at my choice.

"I DON'T THINK THAT'S THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU, JENY." She said.  (This was not yelling, this was her normal volume, audible in neighboring counties.  As I said, Grandma was not soft-spoken.)

"But I like this one.  I like the buttons."  I replied, eying the faux wood buttons.


At this point, I was trying to fit in between the hangers, or possibly inside the round clothes rack.  Maybe if I crouched down a little further . . . but she kept going.


At close to a dead run, I bee-lined it out of there.  "Uh, I think I want to try another store, Grandma."
Naperville 1972

We went to lunch and I thought maybe the fervor had died down.  Wrong.


I think it was possibly the fastest, most non-intrusive restaurant service we have ever had. And I ate most of my meal with my head about level with the table.  Actually eating under the table would have been nice, but would have brought on a whole new dimension to the Lecture.  Oy.

But another incident a few years later showed me how the pilot light of her zeal didn't necessarily burn with Crazy, but with a never-ending need for things to be right and fair and correct.  (Even if her definition of "right and fair and correct" was actually a bit crazy.)

We were shopping (of course) in Anchorage, Alaska.  My grandparents had moved there semi-permanently, so my parents sent me there for the summer when I was 16.  As we were walking through a mall, we passed a young family: mom, dad, two small kids.

One of the kids, maybe 2 years old, was crying.  I don't know why.  But the dad had lost his temper and was smacking the kid.  The mom wasn't saying anything.  But boy, Grandma did.


The man was absolutely horror-struck.  "Shut up lady!" He growled.  She gave him back, stare for stare and kept on yelling.  "CHILD ABUSE!! CHILD ABUSE!!!"

Whatever else happened, he stopped hitting his child.  She was not afraid of what anyone thought, of making a "scene."  She saw Wrong and she was going to stop it.

She survived the Depression, their family building homes by hand, then selling the house, and moving to build again.  Her father was a dentist who bartered and traded his service for whatever the family needed.  No one had money, but they could work.

Sacramento 1943
She survived WWII.  Her sweetheart was being shipped out so she put her foot down and said, "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED NOW.  BEFORE YOU LEAVE." And so they did.  It was three years before Grandpa was back, surviving the Pacific Theater and being on the first deployment of American soldiers into Hiroshima after the bomb.  None of those soldiers was supposed to live, but Grandpa did.  He probably knew Grandma would march up to Heaven and demand to be given her husband back, thank you very much.  So, he figured he'd skip dying and just get on with living, since he was going to end up living anyway.

She survived raising my father.  There were 4 kids, my dad is the oldest.  The story goes he was such a stinker and so physically tough that the needle actually bent when the doctor tried to give him a shot in the tookus.  Little Ronnie did not want a shot, so he tightened his little cheeks.  No shot that day. 

She survived innumerable visits and vacations of 18 grandchildren.  And then 37 great grandchildren, including my 5 boys.  Honestly, she pre-medicates before visits with them.  No lie.

On Monday, she turned 88.  And right now, she lies in a hospital bed with tubes and needles connected every which way.  Every time they try to awaken her, she starts yelling at the doctors and her kids and tries to get up and walk, despite a 10 inch incision in her gut and having just had a massive heart attack.  My dad is in trouble for not taking her home "RIGHT NOW."  The doctor is in trouble for not stitching her up the way she thinks he ought to have.  "MY GUTS ARE GUNNA FALL OUT!"  My aunts are in trouble because she wasn't done yelling and they were in the room.

Beth Craner Athay is like no one else on the planet.  The crazy yellow sunglasses in every vacation photo.  The wildly inappropriate meal-time discussions of bathroom events.  Lemon frozen custard and lunch at the Holland.  No one lives forever, but this gal will leave a hole in our universe.

But then again, it's been 25 years since she's had a good holler at Grandpa :D Maybe she's just bored with the rest of us!

 Let 'em have it, Grandma!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Really, Really Don't.

Think of something that smells really, really bad.  Not like overcooked broccoli or BO, but really bad.  Personally, I think of the time when a bird got into our garbage can and got stuck in there.  Nobody knew about it until approximately three days later.  I'm guessing three days is how long it takes for the smell to start.  Not a lot of things smell like a rotting corpse, even one as small as a bird.  But I can think of one thing.

In the early years of marriage and parenting, pretty much everyone is scraping for every penny.  Finding clever ways to save money is not just clever, it's required.  If the choice is between groceries and wearing hand-me-downs, you're an idiot if you turn up your nose at pre-worn clothes.  Even if you're not so strapped as to worry about making choices, sharing and swapping kids clothes is simply good sense. There is one thing, however, you must never save and reuse.  Ever.

Proper storage of boy shoes MUST include VENTILATION
Do not ever save used boys' tennis shoes, especially if you're going to store in them in a box with a snug-fitting lid.  Even if the boy is only 4 years old.

I did this once.  I learned.  There's nearly 5 years between boys #1 & #2, so the shoes had been in the box for awhile.  But really, even a dead animal would have stopped smelling quite so badly after 5 years.  But genuine, grade A, Walmart plastic shoes go on smelling forever.   I should have saved them for chemical experimentation.  Interesting analytical breakdowns could have been done.  New chemical weaponry might have been developed.  Except that's a bad thing, so never mind.  Anyway, the smell is something like minced garlic soaked in wet gym socks that have been sitting in a hot car.  It's impressive, especially considering no teenagers were involved.  That would have been fatal, I'm quite certain. 

Generally speaking, however, the question of what/how/whether to save boys' clothing is a moot point.  There usually is nothing left to save.  Boys destroy clothes.  And what they don't ruin, they lose.  Ok, that's not entirely true.  Sunday clothes can be passed down, not just from brother to brother, but from father to son, and thence onwards to grandsons because those clothes are worn for the absolute minimum amount of time required.  Most of my boys, on the return trip from church, exit the car mostly naked.  The collar and the buttons and the TIE cannot be tolerated the 6 whole blocks it takes for us to get home, though why Matthew must not only take off his shoes but also completely unlace his shoes EVERY SUNDAY, I really do not know.  I've asked him.  Answer? "Idunno."  At least he's stopped tying them together and whipping his Sunday School classmates.  Making lemonade, that's me.
Kudos to Garanimals -- Worn and liked by all 5 boys!

Aside from Sunday clothes, as a mother of a male child, you can plan to save and pass on/resell these items:

1.  Shirts he doesn't like and doesn't wear very often.

2.  um . . .

Oh, I know: shorts.   Shorts don't have knees and therefore don't wear out so fast.  Pants in general, however, not a chance.  After age 3 or 4, your boy will rip through the knees of every pair of pants he has (except dress slacks (the horror!)) until age 14.  The average lifespan of a pair of boy size 8 Levi's is either 3 months or 1 month before he will grow out of them anyway: too soon to move up to 10s, too long to go without jeans.  For awhile, I was really good about turning knee-less jeans into jean shorts.  These will last FOREVER.  First, you will have 73 pairs of them.  Second, your son will declare them "too hot" to wear in the summer and never wear them.  And if you have multiple sons like me, they just keep piling up.  I think I even have "earned-interest" jean shorts.  You know, like interest you earn with a bank account (bahahahahahaha!!! Ya, know :D a quarter of a percent really adds up! Early Retirement, here we come!) But seriously, whose jeans were these?

Upon reaching age 14, he will request jeans that come pre-holed, for an extra $50.  Pants HE put holes into are garbage.  But pants Tommy Hilfiger put holes into are acceptable.  Bleh.

Sooooo many pairs that look like this
You can try to get those ToughSkins jeans from Sears or JC Penney or whatever store sells them.  But it would be cheaper to just go to Home Depot and buy a package of 1/4 sheet fine-grit sandpaper and glue that to the inside of your kid's jeans.  Either way, the knees will absolutely last on the jeans because your son will walk straight-legged like the Tin Man from then on.  It's either that or lose the top 3 layers of the skin on his knees.  There's a reason they don't sell these kinds of pants to adults.  Well, two reasons.  1) Grown ups don't crawl all over creation like monkeys and rip out the knees in all of their pants and 2) we generally avoid clothing that grinds off our skin.

If you can, convince your child that basketball shorts are THE THING to wear.  Year-round.  Cold-schmold.  Blue skin is all the look since Avatar, right? They wash, they wear, they don't have knees but they DO cover the knees.  More than once, a son has practically cried at the prospect of wearing "tiny" shorts that came to two inches above the knee.  (I should've saved some awesome shorts from the 80's for them to wear.  How on earth did we ever think those looked ok? Man-thigh is just not a body part that should be seen. Ever.) So today's shorts are practically capris -- except guys don't wear capris and should you make the massive mistake of comparing basketball shorts to capris, you will have a pile of now unwearable shorts on your hands.  Mums the word, eh?

Sport shoes, though, you should save and pass on and bequeath.  If you think having to replace full wardrobes at the start of every school year is expensive, wait until you have to buy whatever form of specialized shoe your son needs for whatever his current sport is EVERY SEASON because they can and will jump 3 shoe sizes in 3 months.  I have a full range of sizes in football cleats, soccer cleats, wrestling shoes, basketball shoes sprint spikes, middle distance spikes, jumping/pole vault spikes, snowboard boots, hiking boots, and standard snow boots.  And the CHEAP pairs were $50 each.  Just keep them in the garage with FULL VENTILATION!! 

PS: If your son ever volunteers to wear his church clothes voluntarily at any other time than the exact moment when he has to put them on for church, say NO.  Those clothes will then have a life span of 14 seconds as he will be heading directly to the closest mud pit. Boys aren't dumb.

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Peace In 76 Seconds

I've said before that I'm not the world's best at keeping the house tidy.  Honestly, I am simply incapable of doing anything in a set routine.  I have no idea why nor do I have much inclination to fix this.  But it absolutely runs fingernails down the black board of my soul to do the same stupid chores day after day.  Give me a new project any day, even if that new project is replacing all the toilets in the house.  At least it's something different!

It's so artsy!  My dishes, returning to the earth . . .
The two biggies are laundry and dishes, of course.  I call these "the chores you get punished for doing."  Why?  Because you get all the dishes done so that everyone can use the dishes and put them right back in the sink.  Well, in the sink if you're lucky.  Most of my dishes end up under couches, beds, in cars, and in the sand box.

Laundry is the same.  As soon as I ferret out every last pair of dirty underwear and every random sock, everyone goes and wears them!  And hey look, more laundry to do.  Yuck.  (Tip: Do not bother to wash socks that have been left out in the backyard in the mud.  Socks seem to have a very short decomposition time, although the noxious gases radiated from Boy Feet may also have something to do with this.)
Not worth the soap.

So one day, early on in my parenting, I was arguing with myself.  I needed to unload the dishwasher.  I do not know why I hate unloading the dishwasher, but I do.  I hate hate hate it.  It's tied with putting laundry away.  I can wash it, I can dry it, and if I grit my teeth, I can fold it.  But I want to pull my hair out when it's time to put it away.  I do not why.

I was standing there, in my tiny Houston kitchen, staring down my dishwasher.  I knew then, as I know now, it's completely ridiculous for an adult to be so stubborn about something that simply has to get done.  And the level of animosity I was feeling towards an appliance was a bit embarrassing.  After all, it was actually doing all the real work.

I decided to do a little empirical research.  How long did it take to unload the dishwasher?  I was hedging my bets around 15-20 minutes of suffering.  I started the timer.  I gathered the bowls.  That must have taken at least 5 minutes.  It was agonizing.  Then the cups.  Stack, stack, stack.  Ten minutes more, I was certain.  The plates are always my favorite part -- no, seriously.  You clear a bunch of space and they all stack so nicely.  At least 20 minutes must have passed by now.  The silverware came next, then the dreaded "other stuff."  All the little bits of this and that which don't fit into a standard category.  Moderately disposable Gladware lids are possibly the top of the list.  Keep it?  Wash it?  Will I reuse it?  Not if I wash it.  If I toss it, I'll need it.  Ugh.  I bet we were nearing on 45 minutes total time.

Once upon a time, this was a white dishcloth.

I looked at the timer.  76 seconds had passed.  Seriously.  One minute and 16 seconds.  I can't even pee that fast (Well, I've actually never timed this, maybe I can?).  I can't eat a cookie that fast (This I have timed. I do not remember why.)  I stared at the timer, my mind absolutely blown.  But a whole new awareness was coming over me.

I tried folding a basket of bath towels.  Under 2 minutes. (It was small washer)  Then I put them away.  15 seconds!  I wiped down the bathroom counter.  29 seconds! I had been so productive and it hadn't even been 5 minutes!

A beautiful dawn of enlightenment filled by brain:

If I break the world down to 76 second chunks, I CAN GET ANYTHING DONE!

I could teach my children how to speak Mandarin! (By starting with teaching myself Mandarin . . .)

Got the Chair Rail too :(
I could write the Great American Novel!

I could solve world hunger!

I could cure the common cold!

I could bring about world peace!!

But I should probably start with rotating the laundry.

Still, if I just break it down into tiny, toddler-size, 76 second nibbles, any task is achievable.  The two doorknob holes in the wall?  Done.  The three missing railings (all lost in Jacob-related incidents)? Replaced.  The disaster zone of a storage room?  Still a mess.  Some elephants require a whole lot of  mental gearing-up before the 76-second bites begin :P  But I will get there! 76 seconds at a time.

To be honest, I have to admit to it being an "I Told You So" moment.  My mother had been telling me, as long as I could remember, that if I would just get it done quickly, it would be over quickly.  When I took a long time and whined and complained about a chore, it just meant that I was having to do the chore for a lot longer.  Why not reduce my chore time by simply getting it done fast?  BECAUSE I HATE THE CHORE!!  That's why.  Ahem.

So there you are.  How to Save the World in 76 seconds.  And short of that, at least unload your dishwasher.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phrases to Ruin Your Day

The frailty of happiness is an interesting concept.  That we can be filled with joy one minute and sent into sprawling despair the next is an aspect of life I find intriguing, albeit not very enjoyable.  How can we be so delicate?  Humans have to survive a lot.  We simply have to be a bit tougher.
 I have toughened up quite a bit over the past 20 years.  I cry little bit in my soul whenever I think back to the Innocent I was way back at the beginning, when I thought keeping track of kids' shoes was easy.  (Early research on anecdotal evidence indicates there may be a species of troll that lives in closets and eats right shoes.  Apparently the lefts leave an aftertaste. They believe it to be related to the Dryer Goblin, which eats one sock per pair. If we wait long enough, I'm sure someone will develop a reality TV show about it, answering every question we never had.)

Despite my hard-earned stability, there are still a handful of phrases that can and will and have ruin(ed) my day within 2.8 seconds.

To wit:
1.  "Uh, have you seen the photos of your son on Facebook?"

Setting aside the whole aspect of not knowing what new insanity your teen has been up to, having all of the Facebook world be aware of your child's deeds before you is just AWESOME.  It brings to mind a few considerations:

a) My child is an Honors student, with a heavy academic class load.  How is it, then, he did not realize that if photos/video of his stunts are posted for the world to see, his parents, who are also residents of the "world," will also see them?  Hmm.

b) Given the level of work and creative effort involved in some of the stunts, a quick and comparative review of chores/homework sets in motion a Quality Review and Capability Evaluation Panel.  You can set up an auto ramp on an abandoned, pot-holed dirt road in order to "catch air" but you can't unload the dishwasher in less than 4 hours.  Let's review that.

c) This has happened more than once.  More than twice.  One might think that he just doesn't care?  Ya, I know.

2.  "Um, the Idaho State Police might be calling . . .  "

Really?  I mean, really?! The state speed limit is already 75!  That's not enough for you?  And if it's not speed limit issues that are the reason for the forthcoming phone call, you better have one whale of an explanation.  Ugh.

3.  "Mmmmoooooooommmmmmmmm!!!  The toilet's not stopping!!!!!"

Among all things a parent MUST know how to do is how to stop an over-flowing toilet NOW.  Especially a, uh, used toilet, as it were.  First and foremost, take the lid off the tank and pull up on that straight metal rod thingy.  Next, holler for one of your kiddos to bring you a screwdriver or a wooden spoon to wedge under the rod thingy.  (Upcoming post: "How to get the full range of uses out of everyday tools.")

Then grab the plunger and start plunging like crazy.  If you do not keep a plunger by every toilet, Loki WILL get you.  They're cheap.  Buy a lot of them.  Don't splash around and make the mess, get that hummer down there and plunge with serious determination.  If you don't, YOU get to clean it up. 

Oh sure, you could make your kid do it.  Then you will have a bathroom (and possibly hallways, adjoining bedroom, and/or closets) that has been a) filled with poo-saturated urine water and b) been cleaned by someone who doesn't want to clean and doesn't know how to clean poo-saturated urine water.  Moms get all the fun jobs.

4.  "Mom, I don't feel goo  . . . "(insert retching noises here.)

Bonus points can be added by sending your kid to school when he "doesn't really feel so good" and waiting until the school nurse calls to say that your kid threw up in class all over his history book and his desk and three other kids then threw up and they had to evacuate the classroom and the janitor had to just throw most of it away including the text books and could you please come pick up your son?  Oh, and bring him some clean clothes as well?  True story.

5.  "BTW, I got a ticket. Last month."

Did you really think waiting a month to tell me would improve my reaction?  Did you think that TEXTING me this information would improve my reaction?  Because I just love to find out about things like this after the late fees, warnings printed in red, and threats of warrants have been piled on.

6.  "Hi, Mrs Davis, this the school principal."

Believe it or not, I didn't get this call until the last kid.  Wait, lemme think.  Ya.  Others have been sent to the Principal's office, and I've received emails from principals, but I didn't get a direct call until the last one.  Lots of teachers have called, however.  Lots.

7.  "Hi Mrs Davis, this is the wrestling coach."

Same thing.  Youngest kid.  Made it three weeks before getting kicked off the team.  

8.  "Hi Mrs Davis, this is the soccer coach."  

Oh wait, I WAS the soccer coach.  And boy howdy, I would have called me if my kid had been on my team.  Which he was.  Oh, you know what I mean :P

9.  "Please fill out this form and wait over there.  The triage nurse will call you soon." (Read: 3.6 hours)

UUuuuuUUUuuuuUuugggggghhhhhhh.  ALWAYS carry a book with you.  ALWAYS. Or take up crochet.  Knitting is good too, but crochet hooks are smaller and will fit in your purse better.

Actually, my mom knew a lady who had a bunch of sons and she kept a special cross stitch project just for emergency room waiting time. Finished it the youngest son's senior year of high school.  World's most expensive cross stitch, if her ER visits tended to go like ours do.

10.  "Mom, I think Matthew has ants in his bed." 

Wait.  What?  WHAT?!  He did.  He was "saving snacks for later" in between the 17 blankets and pillows and stuffed animals he keeps heaped up on his bed.  Bread.  Apples.  Crackers.  Cookies.  At least there weren't any lollipops in the mix.  He kept those on the carpet.  All pre-licked and ready to go. 

May you never hear any of these.  And if you do, Matthew has a lolly to share with you to make it all better.  Don't mind the carpet fuzz.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mea Culpa

There's a moment I'm looking forward to.  I think every parent does.  You spend years working towards it.  You stay up nights worrying if it will ever happen.  You plan and pray and hope.  So many moments nearly bring tears to your eyes as you contemplate that future day.  Too many wishes and dreams depend on it.

I clearly remember the moment when it happened for my mother.  It went like this:

Telephone: (Ring ring)
Mom: "Hello?"
Mom: " (pause) Bahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahaha (insert slightly insane cackling) bahhahahahaha!  Yes!!"

Ahem.  It was a difficult day for me, to receive such harsh treatment from the one who is supposed to always be your greatest source of love and support. (sniff)  I felt rejected.

Well, I tell a lie.  I did not feel rejected.  But she could have been nicer about it.  Or maybe not.  I must be honest.  I had it coming.

Deceiving, isn't it?
It began in the Fall of 1969.  The doctor's office called my mother and told her she needed to bring me in.  The doctor needed to talk to her about some concerns he had.  I was around 7 months old.  The doctor sat her down and looked her in the eye: "There are somethings you need to understand about your daughter."

I can only imagine the list of terrifying options that raced through her mind as she waited to hear the diagnosis with the great concern.  Brain damage?  Cancer?  Congenital Stupidity? No.  He said, "You need to understand that not all children are THIS ACTIVE.  This is going to be very challenging." True story.

Let's see, where to start.  At the beginning, of course.  I started to walk before 8 months.  I had minor surgery at 9 months, which required an antibiotic.  Every mom knows what antibiotics do to the bowels.  And my surgery site was in the diaper area.  Have you put the pieces together yet?

Baby can walk, not just cruise furniture.

Baby has diarrhea.

Baby cannot wear a diaper because of stitches.

And thus, my parents came to own their first washing machine. Pretty much that, right there, sealed my fate.

Ya, I have no idea what's going on here.
But it could also have been the time I hid in my dresser drawer while playing Hide-n-Seek.  Broke the carefully restored dresser, the hand-painted Raggedy Ann lamp, and my arm.

It could have been the time I painted both arms, fingertips to armpits, with her oil paints.  You know, the kind that does not wash off with soap and water. 

It could have been the time I walked around the neighborhood wearing nothing but her panythose pulled up to my neck. (I was only 5 -- but still a bit old to go nudey in the neighborhood :S)

Then there was the time I used (lots of) Elmer's glue to put up all the Halloween Decorations.  On the walls.  On the brick fireplace.  On the couch.

We could also select the time when I showed my little brother the "trick" to getting the toaster to work -- the toaster caught fire, which caught the cabinets on fire, which melted the side of the fridge.  But I did drag garden hose in the house and put the fire out.  Very mature for 10, I think.

Also in the offering would be the night when I got into a HUGE dirt clod fight with the neighbor kids.  Which would be the same night my mother was having all the neighbor ladies over for a tupperware party.  And I was almost 13, I think.

There are too many babysitting incidents to mention.  But we'll just leave it at this: Mom and Dad come home, one kid is locked out on the roof, one is hiding in the attic, the rest are locked in the bathroom.  Entertain yourself with guessing the reasons why.

And we won't even talk about the car.

Or the lawn.

There are no words.
Or the hair color(s). 

I think I'm the only child out of all SEVEN of us to break a bone.  I've broken 8, I think.  Mostly all fingers.  The same finger actually.  But seriously, WHO gives a removable cast to a 14 year-old?  Of course that hummer was coming off if it meant I had to miss my soccer game!  Sheesh.

So, as I hack away at my keyboard in frustration over some new stupidity my kids have committed, I know where to look for the reason why.  The mirror.   Oh sure, Jeff can take some of the blame, but when you see your kids do certain things, you KNOW who to blame.  And soooooooo much of what my kids do is so familiar.

And so, Mea Culpa.  And if you're grumbling about your kids, probably You-a Culpa too.

And thus it is, that I dream with rosy-eyed fondness towards the day when one of my children will call me and say, "This kid is nuts!"

I'm already practicing my maniacal laughter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Worries, I got this.

There are not many things I am really, really good at.  Balancing the checkbook is not on the list.  Keeping Up With The Laundry is not on this list.  Dishes laughed at the prospect and walked away.  And Keeping The House Clean lives on the other side of the planet.  Frankly, everything I AM good at involves food, sleeping (I am BOSS at taking a nap), or generally enjoying myself.  All the stuff The Womanly Art Of Housekeeping (or whatever that book is called) says a Housewife  . . .

We interrupt this show to bring you a soapbox rant:

I HATE the term "Housewife."  I do not belong to the house.  I am not married to the house.  It sounds like the terms Lapdog or Head House Keeper.  I am not an employee, I am not a servant.

I am a highly-educated, thoroughly devoted mother and spouse.  I am an engineer in long-term relationships and human development.  I take my job seriously.  It is the most important job in the world.

Anyone can be a doctor or a lawyer or POTUS.  I can MAKE a human being who is capable of being a doctor or a lawyer or POTUS. Ha.

PS - Homemaker is ok.  I am making a home where everyone is loved and welcome, even if they are covered in mud, have pockets full of live frogs, and got bad grades on their last report card.  That's what my job is -- making a HOME.  Not wiving a house :P

We now return to our regularly scheduling programming . . .

  . . . ought to do well, I am very mediocre at.  Except for cleaning odd stains and disasters.  The things I have had to figure out how to clean is a bit appalling and really quite odd.  Anyone can spray Shout on a table cloth and throw it in the washer.  It takes a Pro to get out the gum chewed into the fibers of the table cloth.  (Hint -- DON'T spray Shout on it and throw it in the washer.  Unless you prefer your table cloths with gum chewed in, of course.)

Here is a list of things I can clean up like nobody's business:

Desitin.  I think they make it differently now, but when I started having babies, Desitin (a baby diaper rash ointment) was approximately the same formulation as the stuff boat makers use to water-proof the undersides of boats. This white, greasy goo was fantastic at keeping the poo and pee off your baby's bum.  And if your toddler (Lauren, 2) smears an entire tube of it into the carpet, the poo and pee will also be kept out of the carpet.  But you will have a carpet full of Desitin.  It's like having a large tube of vaseline nicely smoothed into your hair.  You cannot wipe it off.  If you could rip up the wall to wall, you could throw it into the washer, but that's not possible.  A whimpy little sponge and a pathetic little bucket of soap and water will run screaming from the prospect.    Bleach?  No and it removes the color from your carpet.  409?  No and it removes the color from your carpet.

Here is how you clean thick, greasy, goo from your carpet:  (I called the company that makes Desitin and brainstormed with the gal on the phone for an hour.  THAT'S what I call Customer Service!)

Bring a pot of water to the boil with a teaspoon of dish soap and 1/2 cup of vinegar mixed in.  Pour the hot water into the carpet where the Desitin is.  DO NOT RUB.  Using a large bath towel folded twice, lay it on the wet area and stand on the towel.  You want to pull the goo straight up out of the carpet without spreading it further.  The soap and vinegar will break down the grease.  You will probably need to repeat this a few times with a fresh towel each time.  Wash the towels with an extra dose of laundry soap in hot water. Done!

Dark Purple Crayon: We had lived in the house for less than a year.  It was a brand-new house.  We were the first owners.  EVERYTHING was clean and perfect and new.  And then Alex (3) took three crayons -- brown, dark green, and dark purple -- and scribbled with great industriousness all over the lower three feet of the entire circumference of the dining room.  He held all three crayons together in his chubby little hand and ground them into the walls.  There were three little stubs of crayon left as evidence to the crime laying in the middle of the brand new, perfectly clean carpet.

So, out came the WD-40.  This cleans about everything toxic off the wall.  Of course, it also smells fantastic, so be sure to open all the windows :P  BUT it doesn't remove all the dark purple out of the wall.  It got the wax, but not the color.  It did get the brown and it got the dark green, but not the purple.  Guess what does get all the purple?  Paint!  I just painted over the walls from three feet down.  ALWAYS keep at least a quart of whatever color your walls are on hand.  Why waste time scrubbing all day?  Just paint over it!  Job done, let's go play!

You almost feel like you're in Chauvet, eh?
Sharpie Marker.  [Shudder]  Sharpie.  Marker.  Ok, first and foremost (and y'all probably figured this all out way before me,) KEEP YOUR SHARPIE MARKERS IN A HIGH, LOCKED CABINET.  They draw nicely and easily, which makes them a favorite for toddlers.  They give lots of beautiful coloring reward for a little unskilled penmanship.  Should one marker escape to fulfill its artistic destiny on your walls/furniture/clothing, here is a list of ways to remove/repair it.

Walls:  Paint it over.  Or keep it there, if it's done well :D

Finished wood cabinets:  The only thing I found that works without completely destroying the finish on your furniture is a product called Sol-U-Mel made by Mellaluca. The directions say to dilute it before using.  This won't work.  Pour it full strength into a small bowl (and open a window, it stinks) and, using a Q-tip or old toothbrush, rub it on the scribbles.  You will have to use elbow grease and keep dipping your Q tip/toothbrush into the solution.  If using Q tips, switch frequently.  It WILL damage the clear finish off the furniture, so you will need to brush a little varnish over the repaired area when you're done. The stain or paint under the clear finish should be fine. There are lots of water-soluable varnishes available at all kinds of stores, so you don't have to deal with turpentine or anything.  This is a bit of work, but it will repair your furniture.

Upholstered furniture: Ya, I gave up on this one.  Sol-U-Mel, fingernail polish remover, and WD-40 will get it most of it out, but it will also bleach out the upholstery and leave that lovely Garage smell in your couch. If it's a loose cushion, flip it.  If you can't flip it, artistically drape a lovely throw blanket over the scribbles.  Or if you're me, ignore it until the kids are bit older and just buy a new couch! ;D

Clothing: Are you kidding?  Don't even bother.  Time to go shopping, baby!

Poo/Pee/Puke. The "P" Trinity of Grossiosity.  I've broken down and cried more than once in my parenting labors.  The only time I've really lost it and truly would have given up if that had been any kind of option, however, was when I found poo industriously smeared all over the lower three feet of the kids' bedroom.  Ev. Ry. Where.  That's probably the closest I've come to a serious nervous breakdown.  But what doesn't kill us, eh?  And so, the PPP clean up guidelines:

1.  If you can chuck it, do.  Alex had rotovirus during an airplane flight from Baltimore to SLC once.  Did I keep and wash the FOUR outfits he threw up on and pooped all over? No I did not.  Baby clothes are not that expensive and they grow out of them in a blink anyway.  If I had been at home, yes, I would have washed them.  But on the road, opt for sanity and toss the poo. (Really thinking that should be the name of the book, should I ever get this compiled . . .)

2.  Keep rubber gloves on hand at all times.  Just get a big box of those medical style ones.  It's sooo much easier to clean up whatever if you're not also trying to not touch the whatever.  Hmm.  That sentence is bit garbled, but you know what I mean.

3.  Paper towels.  Again, anything that can be quickly disposed of and doesn't have to be de-mattered before it can be washed (read: chunks of vomit, globs of poo) is a big plus.  Scoop up the bulk with paper towels and toss it.  All these items compost quickly.  You're helping the environment, you good person, you!

4.  Vinegar.  White vinegar and baking soda are your solid go-to guys for all basic cleaning.  Vinegar will cut almost any smell and, if not too generously applied, will not leave a vinegary smell behind.  Hot water and vinegar will pull the lovely aroma of urine out of carpet, bedding, furniture, clothing, wall paper . . . not kidding.

5.  Buy a steam cleaner.  Buy a steam cleaner.  Buy a steam cleaner.  But remove the chunks with paper towels first.  Learn from my mistakes.  Um.  Ya.

 . . . it's in France . . . 
Red lipstick.  There is a reason our family portraits are spaced by years rather than months.  Getting everyone clean, dressed, and smiling at the same time requires months of prep and planning.  And heavy sacrifices to the Luck Gods.  So, was I surprised when, ten minutes before we were supposed to be leaving for the studio, Lauren (3) comes down the stairs with her face COMPLETELY coated with my lovely "Fresh Poppies" lipstick?  No, not really.  After all, it was the same weekend she had spread a tub of Vaseline all over the room and then dumped rice on top of the Vaseline.  It was my fault for not predicting this, really.

Soap and water will only go so far.  You really need make-up remover.  That's why it's called make-up remover.  Rub/dab/soak (which ever will work with whatever you need to get the lipstick out of) the lipstick with the remover.  Then put your kid in the tub and scrub the beejeebers out of them and dump lots and lots of water over their head to rinse the suds.  Be sure to make lots of comments like, "This is the only way to get the lipstick off, Sweetie." This may create a long-term fear of baths, but they probably won't get into the lipstick again either >:)

Yellowish food stains on baby clothes: Ya, I know, that's what bibs are for.  I'm lazy, ok?  And if you have a world-class spitter-upper like Will was, all the bibs in the world won't cut it.  Make a paste out of dry laundry detergent and liquid dish soap.  Another option is to use Comet or baking soda and liquid laundry detergent, but dish soap has stronger elements for breaking down proteins. Scrub the paste into stains with an old toothbrush.  If it's really bad, you can add a bit of bleach -- but it's bleach so keep that in mind.  You have to be really careful not to mix bleach with anything containing ammonia.  It creates a toxic (read: FATAL) gas.  Wash as soon as you're done scrubbing.

Here is a list of other reliable cleaners:

Hand santizer/hair spray: gets out ball point pen.  Be sure to wash the item after applying the sanitizer or hair spray. 
Fingernail polish remover:  This gets out any permanent stain.  But it will also remove any dyes or finishes, so you have to be careful what you use it on.
Peanut Butter: Removes anything mega-sticky like sap or gum.  The oils in the peanut butter break down the sticky.  Again, you'll have to wash the item.  Or just wear it full of peanut butter.  If you really like peanut butter . . .
White Vinegar: Excellent deodorizer. Run 2 cups in your dishwasher every month to clean it out.
Baking Soda: Excellent scrubber.
WD-40: Great at removing waxy, gooey stuff.  But it has a strong smell, so either ventilate well or wash afterwards.

Cleaners I don't like so well:

409: Great for counter tops, but will remove the paint from your wall while LEAVING the ball point pen scribbles.  I learned this when I thought it would be a good idea for Alex to have to clean up his wall art himself.  THIS IS A MISTAKE.  The fun of getting to spray stuff on the walls gives them yet another good reason to color on the walls :P  Lots of pen still on the walls, used up an entire bottle of 409, lots of splotchy paint on the lower 2 feet of my walls.  Opposite of win-win.  Well, for me.  Alex thought it was GREAT!  
Cheap dishwashing detergents:  They don't work.  They just make bubbles.  Which means they're great for making jumbo-sized bubble wands and improving slip-n-slides :D

And a final cleaning hint . . .

If you wash a shoe with a dog turd smooshed on the bottom and the turd gets stuck in the rubber ring where the door seals so that it remains unseen in the washer through the next 10 washes, the turd turns nearly white.  But it still looks like a dog turd.

Just . . . don't ask.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

If you build it, they will climb.

Ok, let's be clear about some things right up front.  All children can climb.  All children will wiggle and jump.  Please understand this: all children are not created equal.  If you have never had a Climber or an Escape Artist, please take this moment to offer your sincere thanks to your favorite higher power. Offerings of delicious food would also be a good idea.  As a convenience to you, I will be acting as High Priestess for all known and recognized deities and said delicious food offerings can be sent to me.  :D Ahem.  Pressing on, then . . .

Are you unsure if your child is a Climber?  Take this little quiz.

1.  Does your child climb on the sofa/couch?
a.  yes -- not necessarily a climber.
b.  no -- are you sure you have a child?  It may be a stuffed animal.

2.  Does your child climb on the table/counters?
a.  yes -- more likely to be a climber.
b.  no -- possibly a child, but still likely to be a toy of some kind.

3.  Does your child climb on top of the fridge, on top of the tv cabinet, on top of the bookcases, any assorted stacked items, on top of the upright piano, up ridiculously tall mono-limbed trees, on top of the garage shelving, and out the window and up on the roof? (Bonus points for climbing studs of unfinished houses and walking on the open beams of the roofing trestles.)
a.  yes -- Climber
b.  no -- normal kid

MUST be climbed
The list in #3 is not fiction, unfortunately.  If you ARE a parent of a climber, you know what I mean and know I did not make this up.  Sigh.  Take a moment to readjust your thinking.  Your child IS NOT NORMAL.  He/She will try to climb anything: all stairs, ladders, walls, objects, imaginary objects, and last parental nerves.  Prepare accordingly.

If your child did not pass the Climber test, the rest of us hate you.  Please go away and enjoy your calm, normal child somewhere else.  And stop complaining about their normal level of jumping on furniture and floors.  You didn't give birth to a stuffed animal, after all.

And, if there is a chance that your "child" might in fact be a stuffed animal, there are some nice people over here in white jackets who would love to talk with you.  They have a very nice, padded roo . . . uh, comfortable space . . . to share with you . . .

Climbers are not like other children.  They will, they MUST climb everything.  They see any scalable object as a challenge from the gods.  These are the kids, who as babies, will literally climb up your body and try to sit on your head.  (Better view, apparently?)  These are kids, who as teens, set their backpacks on fire and jump in the river to impress girls, climb trees in the middle of the night in full ninja gear because they are bored, and . . . well, my next example would possibly get two of my kids arrested, so I'll stop there. 

Anywho, the next other special category of small child is Escape Artist.  Wanna know how many car seats we went through before finding one Alex could not get out of?  Four.  And that's when the auto industry came out with the 5-point harness.  This only worked if all following conditions were met:

1.  All straps were fully fitted to Alex's body.
2.  All buckles were fully engaged.
3.  Alex was asleep.

Soooo love this pic!
All kinds of statistical quandaries would rip through my brain every time I would be on the freeway and see in my rear view mirror the reflection of two little feet flipping over the back seat.  So, not only do I now have to navigate the Ramp Of Death (those from Syracuse, New York will most likely be familiar with this particular roadway -- it's the ramp from 690 east on to 81 south. THERE IS NO MERGE LANE.  You get flung, blindly because of the way the ramp is designed, right into the lane of traffic. It's suicide!) but also, I have a feral toddler loose in the van.  While I'm trying avoid being scrunched into the side rail by an on-coming semi.  And it's all 75 feet up in the air on a ramp with no shoulder.

I'm thinking the Amish have a point with the whole horse and buggy thing.

Other interesting tidbits of information I know, after surviving Alex's second year:

1. The Lost Child code in every box store in the Syracuse, New York metro area.
2. It is possible to climb out of a moving shopping cart.
3. It is possible to climb out of a moving shopping cart with the buckle strapped down as tight as possible.
4. A child who has just climbed out of moving shopping cart can move faster than the speed of sound.
5. A child who gets lost more than three times in the same store during the same trip does not get taken seriously.
6. If you don't lock your front door, Alex will walk in your house.
7. If I don't lock my front door, Alex will take this as tacit permission to walk to Massachusetts.

Places Alex has been returned from (and I didn't know he was gone):
1. The school playground, three blocks away. (four times)
2. The neighbor's house, while the neighbor was in the shower.
3. The middle of the road.
4. The middle of the mall.
5. The cabin docks.  You know, the ones over the WATER.

This kid must have a whole FLEET of guardian angels.  No, they must have created a new level of guardian angels -- Special Forces Angels.  Seriously.

Unless you have had an Escape Artist, you are probably thinking "She needs to watch her kids better!" If you DO have an Escape Artist, you know that I thought he was sleeping soundly or playing quietly! Which was exactly what he was doing 2 minutes earlier when I checked on him!

Brotherly love.
Some people think child harnesses or "leashes" are demeaning.  These people either a) are the ones whose children are probably stuffed animals or b) don't have children.  Harnesses saved Alex's life.  The kid had NO FEAR.  Physical restraint was not required because I was a lazy mom who didn't want to watch her kid.  Physical restraint was required because Alex was GOING to climb up the chimney.  His very soul demanded it of him.

It's like that episode of SpongeBob where he keeps his eyeballs glued to his new plant for three days and as soon as he glances away for one second, Mystery the SeaHorse eats the plant.  You couldn't take your eyes off Alex for one nanosecond or he was out the second story window.  At night, he would stand in his crib and move the entire crib across his bedroom floor just by jerking the crib back and forth so he could climb up on to the upper bunk.  We would listen to it every night.

(Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.  Ka-chunk.)
Me: "Your turn to go put Alex's crib back."
(Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.  Ka-chunk.)
Jeff: "No, I went last time."
(Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.  Ka-chunk.)
Me: "No, I did."
(Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.  Ka-chunk.)
Jeff: "Rock, paper, scissors."
(Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.  Ka-chunk. Screeeeeechhh)
Me: "Crud. That's the window. I'll go."

Repeat every night from May 1998 until January 1999 when we gave up and put him in a toddler bed.  This had NO chance of keeping him in bed, but at least the fall was shorter to the floor and he couldn't move it.  And, of course, we nailed the windows shut.  Locks are for amateurs. 

This is the child who will be old enough to get his driving permit next week.  Sigh.

But remember, Parents of Climbers and Escape Artists: at least your child is not a Cabbage Patch Doll :D  And Karma is REAL! Mwahahahhahaha!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The GruntMumble Lexicon

Of all the things you probably thought you would need to know in order to successfully raise a teenage boy (ie: keep him alive until age 21, whereupon he can damage himself with stupid stunts if he wants but he's paying the ER bills from now on), I would be surprised if you knew that foreign languages would be required.  One language, specifically, and it ain't the one you speak.

I present for your edification ($$ college word), the GruntMumble Lexicon for your rigorous study and preparation.  The practical exam will take place on or about your son's 15th birthday.

The GruntMumble Lexicon (Unabridged)

Cuz [kuhz]
1.  I am uncertain as to your intended connotative meaning with your proffered inquiry.
2.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because a hot girl is nearby, which means I am unable to answer your question.
3.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because I have not eaten in nearly 10 minutes and my brain is dying from lack of food.
4.  I do not wish to answer this question as I feel the answer may incriminate me.

Idunno [ey-dun-oh]
1.  I am uncertain as to your intended connotative meaning with your proffered inquiry.
2.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because a hot girl is nearby, which means I am unable to answer your question.
3.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because I have not eaten in nearly 10 minutes and my brain is dying from lack of food.
4.  I do not wish to answer this question as I feel the answer may incriminate me.

I'm Hungry [Ey-ammm-hung-gar-ree]
1.  I am, in fact, starving this very moment. I realize I have two legs, which work very well if cleats or a ball of some shape are involved, but which seem to cease functioning if I am required to feed myself.  There is a very real possibility that I may starve to death before dinner is finished.  I am also aware that I have been sitting on the couch for 2 hours and the kitchen is only 6 feet away.  But, as mentioned before, I am starving to death and no longer have the strength to move my carcass to the refrigerator.  I.  Need.  Food.
2.  I am, in fact, starving this very moment.  I realize you are dishing up dinner right this very moment, but I require a large bowl of Captain Crunch RIGHT NOW.  It is very likely that after I eat this bowl of cereal I will no longer be hungry enough to eat the meal you have taken the time and effort to prepare.  And, an hour after dinner is over, I will be starving again.  This means I will get all the dishes out and make myself a snack.  It is unlikely that I will clean up after myself.

mhunumhsumnshuh [ghdjkadjhgkdjshmxndhwuv]
1. I wish to convey my displeasure at being forced to communicate.  In fact, that I must acknowledge parental affiliation of any kind grates on my very soul.  I blame you.
2. The details of the event that you are desiring to understand more fully are a) unclear to my recollection b) of a nature that may cause grievous bodily harm to myself and therefore I do not wish to explain them and/or c) possibly illegal.
3.  I am experiencing an uncomfortable degree of confusion regarding my emotional attachment to you, my parent.  On one hand, I am PRACTICALLY an adult and feel I have not received my due recognition as having the ability to make my own life choices.  Do NOT treat me like a child.  On the other hand, I want still want my mommy but there is no way in hell I am going to actually say that.  Thus, I am experiencing a challenging dichotomy and will speak accordingly.

(Shrug) [___]
1.  I am uncertain as to your intended connotative meaning with your proffered inquiry.
2.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because a hot girl is nearby, which means I am unable to answer your question.
3.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because I have not eaten in nearly 10 minutes and my brain is dying from lack of food.
4.  I do not wish to answer this question as I feel the answer may incriminate me.

What [wuh]
1.  I am uncertain as to your intended connotative meaning with your proffered inquiry.
2.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because a hot girl is nearby, which means I am unable to answer your question.
3.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because I have not eaten in nearly 10 minutes and my brain is dying from lack of food.
4.  I do not wish to answer this question as I feel the answer may incriminate me.
Whatever [whud-evr]
1.  I am uncertain as to your intended connotative meaning with your proffered inquiry.
2.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because a hot girl is nearby, which means I am unable to answer your question.
3.  I am experiencing temporary memory loss because I have not eaten in nearly 10 minutes and my brain is dying from lack of food.
4.  I do not wish to answer this question as I feel the answer may incriminate me.

I sincerely hope this aids your  teen/parental communication efforts :D  Go hug that big, smelly boy of yours.  He actually wants you to.  But dude, like no way is he going to say so!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Real Life Horror Stories: Teaching Teens to Drive

So, we're all sitting in the family room reviewing the calendar for the upcoming week. Jacob reminds us for the umpteenth time that next month he will be THIRTEEN.  Honestly, you would think this held all the earth-shaking importance of the Second Coming.  He reviews, yet again, the list of desired gifts and celebrations.  At this rate, he's going to be lucky if he gets to sit in a dark closet for a day with bread and water.  Sheesh.

Alex pipes in: "Well my birthday comes before that.  And I'll be 15.  And I can get my learner's permit."

An odd crushing pressure fills my chest, my vision blurs, my ears start ringing.  What are the signs of a heart attack?  Does my left arm hurt? Is that part of it?  Do we have any aspirin in the house?  Aren't you supposed to take an aspirin if you're having a heart attack?  Or is that an aneurysm?  Do I know the signs for that?  Or is this post-traumatic stress?  Because . . .

I have done this twice before.  Teaching teens to drive, that is.  (Shudder)

Lauren wasn't so bad.  She's the oldest, a girl, and not prone to insanity.  Plus, I NEEDED ANOTHER DRIVER.  Life had reached the point where I seriously needed to sell the house and just by an RV because I lived in the car anyway.  Between sport practices/games, church youth group, doctor/orthodontist appointments, and the grocery store, my mileage each day was reaching a critical point.  The girl HAD to get her license.  And she did, taking a, er, practice run or two at the testing portion of it  :D

William was a surprise.  This is the child who had chipped both front teeth (standing on the (wet) edge of the bathtub), cut off the end of his finger (standing on the back of his stroller--we got it stitched back on), and lost his high chair privileges all before the age of 1 (standing on the tray and jumping.  YES, he started buckled in.)  He began walking at 8 1/2 months and began running at 8 5/8 months.  He never crawled like a normal baby.  He bear-style crawled on hand and toes, legs out straight.

So it was a bit of a gift when he broke his wrist (snowboarding halfpipe) at 15 and we had to put off learning to drive for awhile.  Then that healed and we signed him up for driving lessons.  Which was great, because I didn't have to do it.  He worked his way through the class, but practicing at home was less consistent because he had a big sister who could drive.  Oh darn.  I just keep forgetting to have Will drive.  Hmm.

Age 16 approached.  He had nearly all his required practice time in, and then he broke his leg (football).  Well, it's simply illegal to drive with a broken leg and crutches.  More time passed.  Finally, the leg healed and Big Sister was getting ready to graduate.  He had to get this done.  We drove over to the church to practice parallel parking.

Holy Cheezits Batman.  My grandma drives faster than this.  My perpetual-death-wish-stuntman teen boy drives like an octogenarian with cataracts.  There is a MINIMUM speed limit on most roads and I'm pretty sure we are nowhere near it.  Whole new kind of problem.  Since we do not live in Bedrock and do not have a Fred Flintstone car, he was simply going to have to step on the gas pedal.  It won't break.  I promise.

He got his license not too long before turning 17.  And, unfortunately, he did find the gas pedal.  Yes he did.  They a have a very close, personal relationship now.  Reasons for insurances rates for males age 16-25 are not a scam.  They are real.  My no-common-sense son was back.

And then there was Alex.  When you have two children, it's easy to think that the gene pool created by you and your spouse has two halves.  It was easy to think this with my first two because they are so different: girl v. boy; shy v. outgoing; quiet v. LOUD, etc.  It's not until you have a third that you realize you have been thinking in a 3 dimensional way about an 11 (or possibly 12 (credit to Terry Pratchett -- bonus points if you can name the book)) dimensional world.  It's like thinking your choices are red or blue and then someone asks for green.

Alex was not shy but not loud.  He was definitely a boy, but didn't look anything like William.  He didn't throw tantrums and he spoke clearly, perfectly, and very early.  NONE of my other children have done this.  They either don't say much or they talk non-stop in Chinese-swahili in an Iraqi dialect.  That little chart that says "Children at 12 months often have 3-5 words" (or whatever it says)? Alex actually DID and he was starting to use sentences!  It was bizarre.  A kid I could actually communicate with!

He was good at expressing himself right from the start.  And one day, as we pulled into a parking stall at the store, Alex announced that it was his turn to drive.  He was not yet three.

Me: "Sorry, Alex you can't drive."
Alex: "Why?"
Me: "Because you're not old enough."
Alex: "So?"
Me: "You have to be 16."
Alex thought for a moment.  "Ok, I'm 16 now. Gimme the keys."

Someone has been waiting for a looooooong time to drive. 

I'm scared.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

One Size Does Not Fit All

It was April, 1989.  I was getting married in a month and I was home from college for a final dress fitting.  It was also my birthday. Many important things were going on: my marriage to a wonderful man with whom I would spend my future; the introduction of a new family member, my soon-to-be husband, into our family who would be the very first in-law child for my parents and siblings to adjust to; and, of course, it was my birthday :D.  I did not know then that something else, vitally important to my future happiness and ability to cope with life, was about to happen.

Yes, I took my bridal pix on a trampoline :D
My mother had made my birthday cake.  It was sitting on the dining room table.  My aunt had come down from Seattle to take my bridal portraits and had brought her young daughter with her, Dana.  Dana had just turned 3, also having an April birthday.  She was sitting at the table, eying the cake and my wedding veil, which hung from a light fixture as I hemmed it.  (Not near the cake.) My youngest brother sat next to her.  He would not be 3 until August.

Score 1 for Dana.

Dana looked at the cake, then looked at David.  Then she looked at the cake, then back to David.  Quietly, she said to him, "That's not your birthday cake.  It's not your birthday."  It did not matter that it wasn't her cake either, nor was it her birthday, so long as David knew it wasn't HIS.

Score 2 for Dana.

David looked at Dana, picked up the table knife brought in to slice the cake, screamed, and started chasing Dana around the table, who was also screaming as per standard when being chased by a raving maniac.

Score 1 & 2 for David. (He didn't catch her, don't worry.)

My aunt quickly picked up David.  She was (and still is) an educator.  In fact, she's a high school principal and spends all day long dealing with kids and teens.  At the time, though, she was still completing her education and was very much in the midst of academic thought concerning child psychology.  Using clear speech and appropriate vocabulary for a young child, she endeavored to explain why this particular behavior was not the best choice for David to make.  She encouraged him to "use his words" to express his feelings, rather than acting on his feelings.  David acknowledged her efforts by shrieking at a decibel which generally causes permanent hearing loss and kicking her in the shins.

Dana, on the day of the "incident" and David, a year earlier
My mother, with 17 more years and 6 more children in parental experience, walked into the room, grabbed David, and plopped him on a chair.  She snatched the knife away and looked him straight in the eye: "Stop it," she commanded.  And he did.  My aunt stared in disbelief.  My mom looked at her.  "With David, it's best just to be clear."  Indeed.

This incident came roaring back to me about 5 years later, as I was holding on to my own 2 1/2 year old boy, who was shrieking away my ability to hear and battering my own shins.  I was desperately rifling through my mental filing cabinet for "Ideas to Calm Insane Children." I had an older child, I had made it through Age Two before.  What worked for Lauren?  Ok, let's try that.

I man-handled William into the chair, knelt down, and looked him in the eye.  "William, what you are doing right now is not ok.  It is wrong to hit your sister with large trucks.  It is wrong to bite your sister.  How do you think Lauren feels?  She is very sad.  You will need to have a time out for 2 and a half minutes." (Which was very Responsible Parent of me, as per something I had read somewhere with a neat little chart showing ascending "time out" time according to age, segmented by months and weeks.  No lie.)

Now, according to my mental filing cabinet notes, the next part was supposed to go like this, gauging by my previous experience with Lauren: Child looks up at me with big, watery eyes.  Child quietly says, "Ok, Mommy."  Child then sits there, perfectly still, until I give permission to get up.  Child then runs over and give me a hug and says "I sowwy."  This is how this is supposed to go.  (Holy Cow, I remember thinking all this back then and even now as I write this, I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW DUMB I WAS!)

Here is how the scene went, with Davis Child 2.0 (Blue Model).

William burst out giggling, said "Mommy Dumb!" kicked me in the shin, and ran out the front door.

A great, big, enormous moment of epiphany came upon me: "This is why humans have so much fat on their bums.  So Moms can swat their kids on the butt!"

I remember my mother, snatching away the weaponry and getting clearly in my little brother's face:  "Stop It."  Clean and Clear. Wait, I think that's an acne medicine. Uh, let's go with Direct and Simple.

Direct: Do not waste time over-talking, making emotional appeals, or trying to get them "to see the other person's point of view."  A) They're two and this is 10,000 leagues beyond their abilities and B) They stopped listening after the third word anyway.

Simple: If you want them to HEAR it, keep it simple.  Girls can out think boys every day and twice on Sunday until they reach the age of 30.  Girls are clever, crafty, and sneaky.  You know this is true, if you are a mom, because you ARE a girl.  Boys are direct, uncomplicated, and clear.  (This is why they like the Three Stooges.  Still a complete mystery to me.)

This doesn't make girls better than boys, it's just a difference in the way they process the world. (From a certain POV, it kinda makes boys "nicer" and possibly therefore "better" than girls, simply because they're just not so warped in the way they think.  But then we have to revisit the whole "History of War and Humanity" aka "History of the Pissing Contest." Ya, no winners here.)

If you start blathering on about feelings and choices to your boy while you are in the middle of a "Stop It Now" situation, you will only have bad hearing and a limp.

Knowing how a boy thinks makes all the difference in the world when you're trying to figure out how to resolve a situation.  Why is your brother duct-taped to the wall?  Who cares "why." Most probably the answer will be "Idunno." Or "Cuz."   Lectures on kindness to younger brothers, the Golden Rule, and responsibilities of setting a good example are Priority 2.  Priority 1 is "Stop it, get him down, and clean this up."

Oh, and "You're grounded to your room for an hour." Direct AND Simple.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Peeps Must Die

We are a family of intelligent people.  It is shocking, then, to realize how long it took everyone to figure out how Bunny Day should really run when the ratio of grandsons to granddaughters is 3:1.  (I'm not the only one raising a litter of pup . . . er . . . boys)

Back up the boat, you say.  Bunny Day? Did I miss a memo on the list of holiday options? The answer is, "Possibly, yes." It stems from the basic childhood question: Which came first, the bunny or the egg?  And how does Jesus fit in the whole Easter egg thing? 

A recent conversation between Jonathan and Matthew shows the mental confusion that happens with the convoluted elements of this holiday. 

Jonathan: "So the Easter Bunny lays eggs?"

Matthew: "No, the Easter Bunny lays jelly beans."

Jonathan: "No, the Easter Bunny poops jelly beans."

Matthew: "Well then who lays easter eggs? Santa?"

Jonathan: "That's just dumb."

Ya, but Easter Bunnies pooping jelly beans isn't.  And I think my taste for jelly beans has disappeared.  Odd.

Anyway, we just made two different holidays out of Easter.  Saturday before Easter is Bunny Day -- spring, egg hunts, gobs of candy, the works.  Sunday is Easter.  Yes, I know nearly everything about the configuration of Easter stems from pagan history, spring equinox, phases of the moon, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.  The point of Sunday is Jesus, no matter how you configure the day on which Easter is celebrated.  No wonder my kids can't remember that Christmas is always December 25.  That's just waaaayyy too easy.  You don't even have to factor in Leap Year.  In fact, I think someone should author some legislation here.  The Holiday Reform Act.  All holidays happen on the 15th of the month, no matter what.  No more of this 4th phase of the moon except if it's a Sunday then we add a day and skip the third Wednesday and whateverrrrr.  And some months are getting too crowded so SOMETHING has to get moved to August, except that that is kinda the unofficial Vacation Month, so we might not want to mess with that.  Hmm.  I sense I might be slipping from the point . . .


Grandma had a BRAINSTORM last year.   Recall the grandson to granddaughter ratio.  Also, there was the burgeoning number of pre-teens/actual teens to consider.  Standard candy hunts were soo 5 minutes ago.  Snooze-errific.  Dumb. Thus, the PEEPS WAR was begun.

Peeps, the ultimate Easter Bunny poo of candy.  It's processed chemical sugar covered by granulated sugar.  And they look like neon dog turds.  But add three dots for a face and PRESTO! It's a Peep.  Even as a kid, I didn't like them.

And now, once each year, the fruit of my loins straps on their (nerf) armor and does battle with the fruit of the sugar conglomerate industry's loins.  Somehow, that just sounds . . . wrong.

To continue.  Roll film . . . (There might possibly be some artistic license at play here. Just a little.)

It generally happens around mid-afternoon.  As we play with our delightful children in their perfectly clean and pressed walking outfits, identifying flower species and cataloging bird song in the realm of grandmother's backyard, the first shot is taken.  WE never start the war.  It's always the Peeps.

A malted robins egg is thrown and hits my sister's youngest! A cowardly act, going for the young and the weak.  But what else would you expect from a Peep.

Our manly sons instantly answer the call and take up their positions in defense of their mothers.  Sniff.  So proud!  And the battle begins!

Artillery sprays of M&Ms barrage the young men, who answer with round after round of nerf darts.  Marshmallow egg grenades fall heavily and our wounded, sticky from the blast, seek safety in the baby pool.  The boys break out the mini mallow shooters and the snipers go to work.  Yellow and pink globs fall to the ground, but they aren't surrendering yet!

We can feel the tremors in the ground long before we see the ranks marching up the hill.  The chocolate bunny brigades!  And they have the bite-size candy bar bazookas.  I can smell fear creeping in the ranks.  We must be strong now!  This is no time for hesitation, we bring out the big guns!

THE POTATO CANNON.  King of the boys, Uncle David strides into the line of fire, the bulk of the weapon strapped to his shoulder.  One swing and the cannon is steadied and ready to fire.

But wait! A scream rises from inside the house!

THE PEEPS HAVE TAKEN GRANDMA HOSTAGE!!  Unbeknownst to us, the Peeps have forged an alliance with the stuffed animal menagerie!  And now they have captured the queen!  She lays bound by their chains of oppression (ignore the snoring, I swear she is oppressed) awaiting rescue!  Wo wo is us!

But hark!  Heavy is the tread of justice!  For here comes GRANDPA!  He fears no candy, stays no hand of snacking in the rescue of his queen!  With one great motion, Grandma is freed ("Sarah, wake up, the kids want more candy") and Uncle David frees his wrath up on the Peeps!  We are saved and the Peeps are defeated!

Or something like that.  Till next year folks, snack strong!