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.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mayo in the tank

Ok, visualize this with me (it won't be hard, trust me):  You get up, feed the kids, find the backpacks and shoes (this takes an extra 15 minutes because the 9 year-old's shoes are in the back yard -- and it rained last night.  Too bad! -- get everyone out the door and on the bus on time, eat three bites of the toast you made for yourself 20 minutes ago (tasty), get dressed (avoiding the falling asleep in the shower bit), and check your to-do list for the day.  Costco run, someone's rash Rx to pick up, the chameleon needs crickets (insert your own pet & fodder here), the fridge needs to be filled with SOMETHING, and the 1st grader needs green sprinkles for his science project on cheese. Why?  Who cares.  Just get the sprinkles and avoid an un-win-able argument with someone whose logic runs to "If my Star Wars clone's head can come off, then I want to remove my head too.  NOW."  No lie.  Ask my sister Emily.

You plot out the course -- which stores in which order.  You rack your brain for anything else you need and really, really don't want to make an extra run for.  You run down the basics: milk?  Check.  Bread?  Check.  TP?  Ooo, better grab some from Costco.  Maybe 2 jumbo packs.  And the industrial-size bottle of Excedrin . . .

You get in the car.  Turn on the engine.  (Bonus points if your vehicle started.  Mine doesn't 1/4 of the time because of the wretched button lights in the roofs of minivans.  My kids turn them all on when we go anywhere.  Even in daylight.  Because pushing buttons is FUN! (And that, my friends, is a universally applicable analogy.  Feel free to poach ;D) Do they ever turn them off?  No.  Do I ever have the wherewithal to check and make sure they're all off?  No.  Result= dead battery.  Hint: the switch to turn off all the interior lights so that they CANNOT be turned on in a Toyota Sienna 2005 is just to the right of the steering wheel.  Took me 3 years to figure this out. Actually, I tell I lie.  My daughter had to show it to me.  College $$ at work. Oh. Ya.)

Anyway, back to you starting up your car.  You start it up and BINGO your gas idiot light is on.  You'll be lucky to make it to the gas station.  And you're just relishing the $4 a gallon.  Oh well, the oldest can put off college for a year, right?  You pull up to the pump.  You reach for the handle.  But what's this?  Your choices are not unleaded, expensive unleaded, and good-grief-do-they-make-it-with-24-carat-gold unleaded.  Your choices are Mayonnaise, Elmer's Glue, and Fairy Dust.  To put in the tank of your gas-powered automobile.  Good luck with that to-do list. (Seriously the list of analogies and comparisons that could be made about those three 3 items is staggering.  But this post is getting long enough.  Consider it homework . . . )

And that's really what it's all about.  What is in your tank?  YOUR tank, not your car's, I mean.  Straight up honesty here, because otherwise I'm just preaching arrogant blather: I struggle with depression.  I also have IBS and Meniere's diesease.  None of these is life-threatening, none of these is facility-admittable.  But combined, they are a world-class pain in the neck for getting on with life! I have too much to do, dang it!  Why can't my body get its act together?  Sheesh.

Here's the scoop: my depression is the same kind many, many women struggle with.  I've seen it referred to as Vegetative Depression.  Sounds like Couch Potato Disease to me, and that's more or less correct.  It's not that I am a Couch Potato, in fact, I rarely sit down all day long.  It's based on the reality that we are all genetically designed and evolved to be farmers!  By that, I mean our bodies were meant to DO, to be outside, to be moving.  But the world we live in and lives and jobs and hobbies we live now don't require it for survival the way it did for thousands and thousands of years.

My other medical issues are heavily affected by diet (possibly even created by diet, but lots of factors to consider) and commercially prepared food is about the worst for me.  I have to be very careful about what I eat.  It's a drag, I'm telling you.  And I kinda suck at Following the Rules.  This is a generally applicable statement of my personality in general :D (see World Peace in 76 Seconds, or ask my parents, my siblings, my husband, my children, or anyone who has had to work with me on a project of any kind.)

My point here, though, is that I don't have to eat healthy, get exercise, go outdoors, or get regular sleep.  Nothing about modern American life forces me to do these things.  If I don't take care of my garden, we're not going to starve.  I'm going to just drive to the grocery store.  It's a lot easier.  And the list of convenient options I have to deal with any basic survival concern goes on and on.  I might spend more time on the porcelain throne or take three naps a day, but I'm not going to die.  It's both a tremendous blessing and privilege of living in an advanced, stable country but also it is a burden and a curse.  Frankly, it probably will kill us in the end: a slow, apathetic, lethargic, sort of blurring into non-life.  But we can do something about it!

This then comes to why people are people and not animals.  We can choose to act differently than our inclinations.  My inclinations are to eat chocolate cream puffs and read all day, with variables being savoring mint brownies and knitting while watching Downton Abbey/Pride & Prejudice, or sewing while munching away my entire container of chocolate chips.  I really, really can't do this, however, because I can't.  And that's it.

I can't put mayonnaise in my tank and expect to parent 5 insane boys (upcoming post: Why you WANT the insane ones.) because:

1.  I pay the price for bad fuel in the engine because I feel rotten, have no energy, and live in a perpetual pity party.  This is just pathetic.  Really.

2.  My kids pay the price for bad fuel in my engine because I can't parent well because of #1 above.  Parenting is HARD, no matter how many kids or what kind of kids you have.  Raising humans is not like raising goldfish -- sprinkle food and forget.  Oops, floating. Flush and start over.  Ya, no. -- The most complicated computer in the world is running inside those little skulls and YOU are in charge of the software and programming.  Scared?  You should be.  I'm terrified on a regular basis.

3.  My spouse pays the price for bad fuel in my engine because I'm not bring my half to our partnership.  This is something far too many people do not understand.  They just cry and stamp their foot and say "what have you done for me lately?"  Wrong question.  What have you done for your spouse lately? Really.  I'm not kidding about that one.  What have I done today to make my partner happy?  What have I done to make this marriage work?  Get on it.

4.  YOU pay the price if I put bad fuel in my tank because I have not done my part to take care of my responsibilities: to make sure the little souls I am turning on loose on the world do not walk in to your store and rob you.  Or get drunk and run you over with a car.  Or become a criminal mastermind and steal all the computer codes to control all the atomic bombs in the world and kill Superman and take over the world with Fembots.  (Seriously. Upcoming post.  But I am working on it.  I promise. Many of you know to whom I referring.)

So the question is: what DO I put in my tank?

1. Body -- This is the easy one.  Your body is an engine.  Just like a car won't run on Elmer's Glue and Fairy Dust, your body won't run on CRAP (Carbonated drinks, Refined sugars, Artificial sweeteners, Processed foods (source: all over the internet, lots of great idea for not eating these and eating FOOD).  You need FOOD.  This means real food.  If it has a bar code, it probably doesn't qualify.  Shout out to my friend Karen Kennedy and her blog -- great information about really understanding food and properly fueling your and your family's bodies -- hint: lowfat = not so good, unless it's naturally low-fat, like, you know, an apple.

Seriously, though.  Humans are chemically and electrically run machines.  Food that comes from nature is more or less matched to our bodies' needs.  Thousands of years kind of made it that way.  It went something like this:

Caveman:  "Me hungry.  Me see rock.  Me eat."

(Crunch, crunch, crunch.)

Caveman; "Me still hungry and lose 3 teeth. Me try banana instead."

(Munch, munch, munch.)

Caveman: "Yum."

Just so realistic, you almost feel like you were there, eh?

And thus, our (somewhat stupid and un-dentalled (I made that word up)) ancestors discovered what could and could not be eaten.  The range of what IS actually edible in our world is a bit eye-watering.  What WE think of as edible is largely culture-driven.  I am not eating grubs, no matter what fabulous proteins and vitamins they have.  This goes for anything in the "insecta" class.  A nice horse steak does also not appeal.  The French exchange student who lived with my mother's family for a year, however, was horrified that Americans eat corn on the cob.  (Pig food.)  Nonetheless, the human body is adapted to eat things that come from this planet.

If we are putting fuel into our systems that is a work of chemical gymnastics from a lab, it makes a certain kind of sense that that fuel may not work with our engines.  Pay attention to what you eat.

2.  Spirit -- THIS is the one most people ignore.  Whatever your word for your soul, your spirit, your inner self -- the part of you that is YOU, your emotions, view points, reactions, outlooks, expectations -- everything that is not the physical blood and guts of your body -- this is the part I'm talking about.

Your spirit (that's my word for everything I just defined, insert your own word if it makes more sense to you) MUST be fueled, just like your body.  Almost more importantly than your body, because this is where the desire and determination to take care of your body comes from.

What is your belief system?  Whatever it is, BELIEVE it.  DO it.  KNOW it.  What is your holy text?  Bible?  The Vedas? The Koran? Bhagavad Gita? The Torah?  Read it.  Study it.  Apply it.  Live your beliefs.  Teach it to your children.  Give them a moral code, and live that same code.  If you don't have one, don't understand yours, or don't think it's relevant, GET TO WORK.  The human mind is structured to search, to know, to understand, but to also work and live and function with purpose and direction.  We cannot function in a moral and purposeless vacuum.  We just don't.  Sadly, there is evidence all around of this.

My holy text is the bible and the Book of Mormon.  I have read all the holy books I listed above and find much good and great value in all of them.  Interestingly enough, (kudos to Mr. Bledsoe, Honors CWP 1986-1987 Columbia River HS), ALL major religions have a variant of the Golden Rule with almost the exact same wording: treat people the way you want to be treated.  Probably something to pay attention to, eh?  For ME, the whole package is found in being LDS -- a Mormon.  Being Mormon isn't easy.  We have many guidelines to follow which create a fairly structured and busy life. Some people see it as controlled and restrictive.  But I find it gives direction and purpose to my life with greater understanding of why I bother to do what I do.

When I DON'T read my scriptures daily, say prayers daily, ponder and meditate daily (even if it's only 10 minutes -- hint: in the shower is a great time for contemplation. Seriously.  You've got the sensory deprivation element with the sound of the water, you're relaxed and warm, the kids aren't there (well, mine aren't.  They're, uh, male, and uh, a bit too old to be in the shower with mom.  I think I just derailed the spiritual vibe I had going.  Oops.  Moving on . . . )), and give genuine thanks and appreciation daily, I see the difference.  I feel my engine sputtering and choking.  More, even, than if I eat cookies and drink diet coke all day. (Although this is not helpful.)

Where is your whole package? Find it and LIVE it.

This may have been more of a rant than I intended.  Truly, I have been mostly ranting at myself.  Hopefully you found something to glean :D  But after nearly 22 years of parenting -- parenting as student, as a working mother, as "single" parent (when your spouse works 110 hours a week, you are effectively a single parent.  And I didn't exaggerate those hours.  Anyone who thinks doctors have easy lives and play golf every Friday is either living in a 50s sitcom or simply uninformed.  You are now informed.  If you are living in a 50s sitcom, let me refer you to these nice men over here with a comfy white jacket with extra long sleeves.  Ugh.  Distracted again.  Back on target --) parenting girls, parenting boys, parenting kids I didn't give birth to but who are now part of my nest, parenting ADD kids, parenting perpetually angry kids, parenting all academic levels, oy this list could go on . . . after parenting under many different situations and conditions, I know this: I must take care of ME.  Not excessively, not narcissistically.  But with an eye to real health and well-being.

The point is, Parenting can and should be FUN.  Life can and should be FUN.  That doesn't mean it won't be really hard sometimes.  Kids and life will throw everything they can at you.  That's just kids and life being what they are.  BUT if you're trying to manage it all with a tank full of mayonnaise, glue, and fairy dust, it will SUCK.

Don't put mayo in your tank.  That's just dumb.  (Do you hear me, Jeny?)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ignorance IS Bliss

As a parent, you always want to at least appear to know what you’re doing.  It goes against the nature of adulthood to feel comfortable with not knowing things. Plus, there's a big, big edge in your favor if you can keep the kids thinking you're Omniscient as long as possible. There's a lot of ambient power that comes with your kid thinking you do, in fact, know everything, even the thoughts in their head right this very minute.  It won't last long, but don't give it up one day earlier than necessary!  It took me awhile to learn, therefore, that there is wisdom in protecting ignorance in certain quarters.

It's scary! (No, not really.)
For example.

I do not do bionicles.  I will do legos, k'nex, and wooden blocks.  I am all over stacking wooden blocks.  I can make a tower like nobody's business.  But I do not know how to put together a bionicle.  It's not that they float above my ability level, I simply refuse to learn. When presented with a handful of plastic bits and a whine of “Moooooooommmmyyy I can’t do it!  Fix it for meeeee!”  I fall short.  I’m sorry, I don’t know how to make bionicles.  That's it, stop whining.

I do not deal with animals, other than the human kind.  I do not do tanks, aquariums, pumps, tubes, plants, shrimp, algae, fish, turtles, eels, frogs, whatever.  I do not clean cages.  I do not know how to make the hamster happy.  I do not know anything about 4 footed creatures or things that live in water, swamps, or suspended in the air.  And you can’t make me learn.

I. Do. Not. Do. Video. Games.  I have no idea how to get Mario through the Rainbow Valley of Death.  I do not know what cheat codes you need to help Kirby find the Atomic Princess.  I can’t even get Pac Man through one frame.  Though I may be a child of the Atari generation, I do not play video games.  And in this case, it’s legit.  I frankly stink at any and all gaming systems and I always have.  Matthew really, really wanted to share a game of Castle Crashers with me.  I told him I wasn’t any good.  In his wonderful, sweet, 7 year-old mommy loyalty, he didn’t believe me.  “You’re great at everything, Mommy!”  After three rounds, he invited me to not play any more.  Ah well.

Cow Racing on Wii is a riot, however.  But still, I am really, really terrible at it.

A strange, strange land to me.
Why would I protect this ignorance, you may be wondering? Well, I could give you a very nicely reasoned, psychologically sound answer of "It truly encourages their independence and problem-solving skills."  And it would be true, as an academic, stand-alone reason.  For me personally, it would be a lie.  It's simply a quick way to shut off the whining NOW.  If a kid knows you CAN do it for him and they want your help now, they will whine and cry and fuss until you do it. At least a few of mine will.  I do have a couple who WILL do it themselves, whatever "it" is and no matter how old they are.  Different set of problems.  

But most kids want to do what the older kids are doing and they want to do WAY before they actually can do it.  They find big brother's Megaloid Raksha Deluxe Motorized Bionicle for ages 14+, college degree recommended.  And the kid wanting to put together and play with this item is 3.  Review of the situation: this will not be child making the toy with help from Mom.  This will be Mom making the entire toy for kid, then kid whining and running back for Mom to fix it every time a part comes off.  Which will happen every 37 seconds.  No thank you.  So I just make sure I'm too much of a dummy to be helpful.

I'm so confused . . . 
It's the same with video games.  All the teens are playing Mario Kart 12, level 43, Slalom Slide of Shamu.  So the 5 year-old wants to play too, but it's waaay over his head.  "Moooooom!  Get me past this level so I can play with them!"  The fact that the next level is harder than this level, which they cannot do, is beyond 5 year-old logic.  But all of this is nicely averted because Mommy is a complete moron when it comes to Mario anything.  The whining stops because they figure out there really, truly, is no point.  Mom cannot fix this one.

It is OK to not solve every problem for your child immediately. (It's actually really, really good to not solve every problem for them.  But that's a whole extra blog topic: "Don't Be A Helicopter Mom 101")  It is OK to be stupid in some things.  Child safety?  No.  Nutrition? Nyet.  Basic literacy? Don't even go there.  But Video Games?  Oh ya.  Bring on the Dunce Cap, I'll wear it with pride.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You know you're tired when . . .

If you read The House of Beth (bonus points if you got the word play in that title), you probably have figured out or were already aware that my Grandma has been in the hospital recently.   She's still there, in fact.  That she's even still swapping out oxygen for CO2 is just short of miraculous, really.  Literally, all of last week went like this:

Saturday: Bad news, Grandma's having major emergency surgery.
Sunday: Badder news, it was worse than they thought, surgery took till 4 am.
Sunday afternoon: Good news, she seems to be recovering (ie: she's yelling at everyone.)
Monday: Bad news, Grandma had a heart attack, she's alive via machines.
Tuesday: Good news, her heart is strong and lungs are clear.
Wednesday: Bad news, they can't get her to wake up.
Thursday: Badderer news, looks like if you want to see Grandma one last time, better come now.
Friday: Uh, nevermind, she seems to be waking up.
Saturday 2.0: Good news, instead of pulling the plug, Grandma is awake and talking.

So she's doing great now (relatively, she ain't climbing any mountains or doing any astrophysics anytime soon).  And everyone is worn out. Physically, emotionally, mentally.  Happy and rather amazed at her vitality -- everything she went through last week would have done me in by the first Saturday night -- but we are TIRED.

Action-packed.  Could watch this for hours.
It's that kind of tired you can only experience as an adult.  Kids only sleep when they literally cannot force their eyes open one second longer.  I've had kids fall asleep in high chairs with their mouths still open, mid-scream.  I've had them fall asleep standing up.  I've had them fall asleep in the shower (big kids, not little ones).  And teenagers can sleep absolutely anywhere.  But that's just physical exhaustion.  Even just 5 minutes of sleep revs them up for another good 10 hours.  Unfortunately.

It takes grown up life -- and particularly parenthood (and taking care of elderly parents and grandparents, is, frankly, just the same as normal parenting.  Just a lot bigger. And heavier. And, uh, hairier) -- to really understand what it is to be completely, utterly, DONE.

We'll play Jeff Foxworthy's game, parent style.  I'll get us started.  Everyone can play along, non-fiction only. (it's got to be something that actually happened to you/spouse/family member)

You might be parent-worthy tired if . . . 

My favorite show, "Darkness."
You have stared at the TV for 45 solid minutes before you realized it wasn't turned on.

You fell asleep in the shower while washing your hair.

You spent the whole day with your clothes inside out.

You made it to lunchtime before you realized you'd forgotten to put a bra on.

You wore two different shoes to church.  And neither of them was a dress shoe.

You have enjoyed the peaceful practice of watching a glob of paint dry.

You really, truly know what it's like to have NO thoughts in your head.

You have fallen asleep at 6 pm and been woken up at 10 by your spouse (when they just got home) wondering why the kids are still outside.

You have fallen asleep in your car at a red light.

You have spent an evening staring at a blank wall and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You have forgotten complex vocabulary words like "me" and "is."

You're feeling very sleeeeeepppppyyyy . . . 
So, add your own and then we'll all have a good chuckle before we hit the sack.  And maybe tomorrow I'll have enough brains to think of something else to write about.  Or maybe I'll just enjoy this pretty blue wall in front of me.  Soooooo prrreeeeettttttzzzz . . zzz. . . zzzzz