Monthly Archives: September 2009

Top Ten Things Your Children Lie About

  1. The existence of phantom siblings. These are usually older, smarter, stronger, and way cooler than the average big brother or sister.
  2. That Mom or Dad is getting married. Girls will divulge minutely detailed wedding plans–dress, flowers, cake, the whole shebang. Interestingly enough, even the ones whose parents are already married will come out with this one. 
  3. Allergies. Usually to vegetables, crusts or fruit peels, but occasionally allergies to things like sun, water, and even air will surface.
  4. Being sick/tired/injured when it's time to clean up. 
  5. Who has the poopy diaper.
  6. What they can do–the amazing things they are capable of when nobody is looking.
  7. How old they really are.
  8. Rules at your house. ("At my house we never eat at a table. We don't even have a table." Ditto for seat belts, car seats, soap, socks, beds, and any cleaning supplies.)
  9. What you have for breakfast/lunch/dinner at your house. Please tell me they're making this up. (There was the kid who had never seen a vegetable peeler, a raw egg, or any type of batter or dough before–I believe her. I trust that the rest of you occasionally do more than open prepackaged foodstuffs in your kitchen.)
  10. The tortures you devise to punish them. (At night, when I'm asleep, my mom pushes carrots up my nose.) Or oddly enough, to celebrate. (When I pee on the toilet, I get ice cream, and my mommy pulls my hair hard–like this.) I know, I should probably report you to CPS, just to be on the safe side of the mandatory reporting law, but I'm going with my gut on this. 
The really interesting thing is what they don't lie about–at least until they are closer to school age. Toddlers and preschoolers consistently tell on themselves when you ask who broke, spilled, drew on or threw something or hurt somebody else. Put the lies and the truths together, and it makes you think. They fantasize about weddings and cool siblings and family traditions that involve exotic vacations and presents but they are also secure enough in their families as they really are, that they can make up dramatic stories about rules and punishment and yet tell the truth about real misdemeanors so innocently that you know they have no real fear of cruel consequences. 
Can you imagine what our world would be like if we could all be so confident? Hmmm . . . is it the children who change, or do we change the way we react to their mistakes as they get older, thus instilling fear and fostering the tendency to deceive? And is the fear a bad thing? If only we could instill in them an aversion to the actual wrongdoing, and not just the punishment.

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Fish, Mice and Sixty-Dollar Spiders

"Mom, can we get fish?"
"Well . . . Imagine that you guys all lived in a giant tank of water and whenever you got hungry I dumped your meals into the water, and whenever you needed to poop, you did it in the water. After a week or two, how do you think it would smell?"
"Yeah. And then I'd have to clean it all up. That's fish. They stink, and I know who would end up cleaning the fish tank."
"Hmmm. Can we have a dog, then?"
"Dogs poop even more than fish."
"Just a little dog?"
"Little dogs poop even more than big dogs, or at least in more places, and then you walk in it, and get it in the carpet, and they chew on everything."
"Well, can I have a gerbil? They don't poop."
"Gerbils are big mice. They poop."
"Well can I get an animal that stays inside its cage and doesn't poop on the floor?"
"Sounds like daycare kids to me," big brother says.
"Actually, I'm pretty sure I've seen them poop on the floor," says bigger brother. This is true.
"All pets poop," I told him. "And I clean up poop all day. No more pooping organisms, reptile, amphibian or mammal."
"What about spiders?"
"Do they poop? They have spiders at the pet store that only cost sixty dollars, and they're smaller than a quarter." Also true. We also have about a trillion free ones, right in our own backyard. Not to mention the front yard, and the side yard and inside the siding around the front door and . . .
"I don't know if they poop," I tell him. Truthfully, I've never seen spider droppings. "But I'm pretty sure they'd smear when I stepped on them. And let me assure you, I would step on them."
Sigh. I am such a mean mother. 

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I know it's an old stereotype–the dumb-as-nails construction worker, but we've got a prime example working across the street this week. He can work that CAT like a thing of beauty, but as far as his regular, get-to-work vehicle he's a few lug-nuts short. 
Who parks a pickup, not only in the middle of the street, but directly in front of someone else's mailbox? All day? Just close enough to the curb to prevent mail delivery, but far enough away to block an entire lane of traffic.  Who does that? Yeah, the guy in the stained t-shirt driving the CAT. 
I'm not going to mount the "RAM ME" sign on his tailgate I was tempted to make this morning, nor am I going to call a tow truck, but only because I'm hoping that not only is he going to smooth out the parking area/driveway across the street, but that he's also going to pave or rock it. For the last five years, every time the wind picks up (often) a significant portion of the fine sand/dirt/volcanic ash from over there ends up over here. It filters through the smallest cracks and settles all over everything in my house. Not to mention the wide open doors and windows. It comes through them in big, billowing clouds. Honestly, I'm surprised there is anything left to blow this way at all.
And while I'm being ill-tempered anyway, let me just complain a moment about energy-saving light bulbs. You know the kind–the ones you turn on, and then off, and back on, thinking you must have the wrong light switch because they take a few seconds to ignite, as it were. And then when they do come on they just dimly glow for fifteen minutes and by the time they've powered up enough to actually see, your desperate, dimly lit search for whatever it is you were fetching is already over.
And no, they don't last significantly longer than a standard light bulb. I don't believe it. Not enough to make up for the exponential cost. There is no way in hades my bathroom light has been on for 10,000 hours in the last two months since I changed it. 
And what's the deal with the light in the main part of the daycare, anyway? I replaced the bulb every week for a month and now it won't come on at all. I'm thinking of going back to whale oil lamps or something equally reliable. Unfortunate we live so far from the ocean and it's probably illegal to burn blubber anyway. I'm sure the EPA has something prohibitive on the books.
Spent an hour massaging a thirteen-year-old girl's feet last night and painting her toenails ten different vibrant colors of the rainbow. I admit I was a bit skeptical. Pedicures, really? What kind of a youth activity is that? Nobody is going to show. But all seventeen girls showed up and parked themselves across from each other and went to work with gusto. Some of the young men in the neighborhood complained about the volume of the girls' chatter, but boo-hoo, I say. Plug your ears and sing a lull-a-bye to yourself in a dark corner. The girls were happy and bright and kind to each other and it was a great thing to see and even to hear.
Oh ho! They've moved the pickup truck. 
But wait. They've replaced it with an eighteen wheeler.  
And . . . the truck is now back, directly in front of the mailbox–he just moved his rig temporarily to let the 18 wheeler go by. Silly, optimistic me.

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Day of Rest

Found myself ridiculously happy to come home yesterday and find that a neighborhood transformer had blown while we were at church, leaving us without power. 
My first thought: Yes!! Now I don't have to make dinner!

I replaced my heels and nylons with pj's after instructing the children to eat fruit, and then I read a book. 
Now that is a good Sunday.

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Cremating Grandma

Received two letters today for Grandma Antje. That's Dutch, in case you were wondering. She narrowly escaped Hitler's invasion of Holland and came to America to marry Grandpa Glenn. Most people call her "Onnie".

Anyway, the letters: 

The first has bold, red lettering printed across the top: 

states "that SENIORS are one of the highest 
groups at risk of dying in home fires"! 

It goes on to assure her, in various other-hued bold print that the senders of the letter care, oh so much about her safety. I have yet to determine who those people are, but apparently they care. They care so much they want to send her a free Fire Extinguisher. Capitals included. 

The second letter comes courtesy of smartcremation. They also care deeply about Grandma.  And the environment and her loved ones who are "smart enough to know how best to choose a plan that fits their own agenda. Smart enough to know value when they see it. And smart enough to consider the many environmentally sound advantages of cremation over the pollution and unwise use of valuable space inherent in embalming and cemetery lots." 

You don't want to "burden your loved ones with an awkward duty at a time when they are most emotionally vulnerable" now, do you Grandma? They even included this caring little disclaimer at the end: "This mailing is part of a general distribution — delivery to a home where illness exists is unintentional." Good to know. 

But honestly, when my time comes, I'm all for my loved ones wrapping my corpse in a bed sheet and burying it somewhere on the back forty. Even cremation can't be more environmentally friendly than that. I'm dead, right? What do I need a hardwood coffin and embalming fluid for? 

The letters got me to thinking–what are the laws about burial around here, anyway? You hear quite a bit about green funerals in the news lately, and every article I read recommends I check with local authorities regarding laws specific to my state or county. 

So I did some checking. Turns out, nobody else knows either–or if they do, they aren't telling. Bad for the funeral business maybe. I got quite the cold shoulder from the powers that be down at the Coroner's Office and at the Grant County Health District. 

I might have to keep digging, just to tick somebody off. I think I should be able to build my own coffin and get to rotting right away if I please. 

Meanwhile, I find today's mail amusing. You see, there are a few things you should know about Grandma Onnie: 

  1. She has never resided at this address. 
  2. As a matter of fact, she died more than ten years ago–something like eight years before house or this address even existed. 

How we get mail for her, with this address printed right there on the envelope, is a mystery. When she first died I spent several days calling the customer service departments of various catalogs and magazines to cancel her bounteous mailings, but it appears the computer system is having a dickens of a time letting this woman go. When mail began going back as undeliverable I suppose they somehow linked her name to us and updated their database with our address.  

Even American Express can't quite believe she's really gone. We get annual statements from them letting us know she has a credit due of two dollars and sixty-three cents. You'd think that after ten years of inactivity, they'd figure the account was dead even if they can't bring themselves to believe me when I tell them she is. 

One thing is certain, though–Grandma Antje loved her mail and I'm sure she'd have found it hilarious to receive something purporting to be from the Feds. Who knows, maybe this is her way of living forever–jah?  

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The Second Airplane

September 11th is not a day I consciously commemorate. But there is some reflex that seizes in the soul when you find yourself writing a check or dating an enrollment packet and those numbers–9/11–form on the page in front of you. Some internal clanging that says I know this day.  And you remember.
I didn't know anyone working in the Trade Center or the Pentagon or booked to travel on those airplanes. I've been back East once, but that was in Canada. I've never seen the skyline of New York–before or after. I've never been to Washington.
I was mopping my floor that morning. My oldest children were at school and I had a toddler wrapped around one knee. The three-month-old infant was sleeping on the couch and the four-year-old played nearby. My husband was a contractor at the time, working 16 to 18 hour days; he'd leave before the kids were awake and come home after they were asleep. Long summer days would go by where he'd not see them at all and when Sunday came around he'd be startled by how much they'd grown.
I was surprised to hear his voice when I answered the phone that morning; in 8 years of marriage he'd never called from work.
"Hey!?" I remember saying it like a question.
"What are you doing?"
"The usual. Mopping. Why?"
There was a pause. It was like getting that call from the guy you secretly had a crush on in high school. Unexpected. Welcome. Mysterious. I could hear the radio in the background. 
"Turn on the t.v.," he said.
"Just turn it on."
"What channel?"
"Doesn't matter."
And then he hung up. I thought maybe somebody had played a practical joke with the satellite dish–fixed it to only pick up the shopping network or something, maybe. What else could it be?
So I turned our old television set on. 

Bizarre. A bomb or something in New York City. I called my sister-in-law to come down and see. We exclaimed over it while the four year old sucked his wrist and sat there, puzzled. It was curious, this billowing smoke and all the talking, speculating heads on the television. 
It was the second plane that did us in. Everyone saw it coming. Millions and millions of people watched its approach and none of us could stop it, no matter how many times we replayed the tape. It disappeared, every time, from one side of the building and it didn't emerge on the other like it should have–just an airplane, passing by.
It hit and we couldn't stop it. We couldn't stop the people from jumping or burning or falling or the collapse of an entire city block. And all over the country there were other airliners in the air, destinations suddenly unknown. 
I was not frightened for my own safety or my children's; the devastation was too far removed. But I sat there on the couch with my sister-in-law and we cried. The whole nation cried. And then we went mad with Americana; we put stars and stripes and the American flag on everything we could find. Every yard had a memorial. We could not stop the destruction but we could stand up and say, No! This should not be! and so we did, en masse and for a long time. 
This morning I wanted to go through my journals and find out what else has happened on this day. On September 11, 1997, and 1982, and 1979. I wanted to say, "Hey, there are other things–wonderful things–that have happened today. Crazy people with explosives–that was just one of them." 
But it's still September 11. There is no historical fact in the past, present or future to muffle the concussive effect that date–uttered or written or thought–has on the soul of anyone old enough to have memory of it.
Today we fight a hotly-contested war in the Middle East. I do not see an end to selfishness or the distorted ideals that allow man to torment man in the name of religion, politics or greed. I fully expect another date, another year, to hold equal or surpassing horror for us–whether on an international, national or private scale. Members of my own family are newly widowed, abandoned, or smarting from undeserved abuse; many suffer from chronic pain or incurable illness and some are just waiting to die. Others face obstacles so insurmountable that I cannot fathom the decisions that are theirs to make. 
And some days I feel hope is a more relentless force than that second airplane–it keeps blindsiding us out of nowhere, in the midst of already unspeakable sadness. But instead of buckling under that blow, we still stand, solitary pillars against a darkening sky. I feel its impact and to remain upright is nearly bewildering–to realize that no matter how many times we are hit, we keep living; we keep hoping. We have faith. We recycle our empty grocery sacks and spent batteries and we go to the polls and we teach our children–all because we have faith, still, in the future of this planet and the human race which inhabits it. 
I wonder, is there anything, anything at all, that could truly fold us while there remain any who hope?

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Letting Go

The classrooms at my children's previous school all had exterior doors–connected to the other parts of the building by breezeways or an overhang of the roof. The logic as explained to me by someone claiming to know: In the event of, say, a psycho loose on the school grounds, all the doors lock down and at most he might have gained entry to one classroom; in the event of fire, all classrooms have direct access to the outdoors and a fire in one room takes time to spread to, the room next door–not down a hallway or up or down stairs like it would have in the multi-storied structures that housed my elementary education. 
Oh, and it was really easy to show your kid how to find his classroom: Look, if you stand by the big slide and look straight ahead–that's your door.
The new elementary school is built like a digital zero–with an interior courtyard and a hallway that loops all the way around to meet up with itself at the front entrance. The classrooms, bathrooms, library, etc.,  open off either side of the hallway. Easier to get from one place to another, especially during inclement weather. If you know where you're going. On opening night we were rather turned around, but we kept following the hallway knowing that all roads did indeed lead to China–or at least the classrooms in question. 
But I confess I was a little worried about my six-year-old on his first day–would he be able to find his classroom in the morning crush? And what would he do, if not? My first two children would have reverted to fetal position. My third would have cried. Fourth and Fifth, well, they have other children on their bus and in their class that they already know. 
So after his first day, I asked him how he found his classroom. "I asked Juli's mom." Duh, Mom. 
I did utter a silent prayer of thanks for Juli's mom being there, handy when he got off the bus, but I also realized that this kid–he'd probably just ask someone, anyone: "Hey. HEY. HEY! Where's my classroom?" And he'd keep asking until he got an answer. 
Twenty-four-hour immersion in a daycare setting the past three years has done that to him; he trusts all sorts of people. Nobody is a stranger because strangers come in and out of his house all the time and Mom treats them all like family. 
Disconcerting. Good and bad both, on so many levels. 
And then my oldest tells me she is taking Sports Med. Good. Great, in fact. It's a semester-long, hands-on apprenticeship involving first-aid, CPR, physical therapy, and all those other things involving, I don't know, concussions and such. Her first homework assignment was to rip an entire roll of athletic tape into tiny little squares and build a tower. This so her fingers would be sufficiently calloused before the next football game, allowing her to wrap an ankle quickly without whining over her own blisters. 
I went to a football game once. I had hoped that was enough for one lifetime–my own and maybe my children's, too. But she wants to be a doctor. She needs a scholarship–and has no more interest in sports than I do, so she needs some of this extra-curricular stuff on her transcript. The class, you see, requires that she spend a minimum of 8 hours every week on duty at practices or games. One hundred and fifty hours total.  At an athletic event. Insert shudder! She even gets "a letter" for her pains. Whatever that is. I think it's like some kind of trophy, only softer and cuddlier and you sew it to your coat–which, now that I think of it, I imagine I'll probably get to pay an arm and a leg for, I don't know. 
Anyway. So I'm bracing myself for a semester of late nights and after school pick-ups; I can do this for the greater good. And then last, night, on the way home at 8:30 pm she says–oh so casually, "Hey, Mom. The teacher signed me up for the game in Coeur D'Alene tomorrow."
"Coeur D'Alene?
"Should I take your cell phone with me so you know when to pick me up?"
I'm trying to remember how far away Coeur D'Alene is from here. Two hours? Three? "Um. That's the phone number all the daycare parents call," I tell her. "Won't anyone else in your class have a phone?"
"Nobody else in my class is going."
"Well, your teacher will have a phone, right?"
"The teacher doesn't go either."
"Will you know anyone else who is going?" Or are you seriously telling me my fourteen-year old-daughter is going to spend something like ten hours with the high school football team tomorrow, on a bus en route to a strange town?!! In Kindergarten you'd have spent the entire ride under the seat in the fetal position! 
Only that's the problem–you didn't go to Kindergarten, did you? You were a head and shoulders taller than all the other   barely five-year-old children and you could read at a sixth grade level and so we put you right into first grade and ever since then you've been straining at the bit. 
And now you look like you're seventeen and you're determined to be a doctor before your twenty-first birthday and you are taking all the hardest classes and acing them and I'm terrified that inside, you are still just a little girl and nobody else will realize that. You are fourteen! You still want me to make all your phone calls for you and you don't even like to butter your own toast. 
I sent the cell phone with her. What else could I do? I set it so that all daycare related calls will be forwarded to my home phone and showed her how to change that later today so that I can harass her during the game and have her read the mile posts to me on the way home. 
These are the things I know: I am not comfortable with this. They are leaving at 1:30. The game starts at 5:00. She'll call me when they get close.
What does that mean?  I swear that one game I attended lasted six hours.  I'm going to be up past my bedtime, people! 
What was that breathing pattern they taught us in Lamaze, again?

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Lethal Goings-on in Fourth Grade Science

I got a note home yesterday from my ten-year-old's teacher. 
It was a safety contract, which we both had to read and sign in order for him to participate–brace yourselves–in building a model car using K'nex. I include a link there for those of you who not only don't have one million of these most terrifying objects already scattered around your house, but don't even know what they are. 
Yeah. A safety contract. I confess I didn't read it fully, but I did notice it said things like my child agreed to wait for teacher instructions before proceeding from one step to the next and would not use the materials in any manner beyond that which he was specifically instructed. 
Isn't that the point of building toys? You buy them a bucket of random plastic or wooden parts and they don't need instructions? They use their imaginations and their uncluttered view of what is possible and they create?
I can see it now. The entire class, building identical cars, step by tedious step. I remember those projects in school. Come ON! Free the creative spirit, people! And for heaven's sake, a safety contract? 
You remember what you did in science class? When we were actually permitted to fire up the Bunsen burner every day and mix chemicals together and wield sharp objects over dead and decaying things? There were some safety issues back then–we burned our tongues and pricked our fingers in Home Ec, ran unaccompanied five miles through a rather frightening part of town during PE, and well, there was the kid who lost a finger in woodshop, but he was an imbecile. And there weren't any genes to blame–he was an imbecile by choice.
I get that they want the kids to be safe, and maybe even protect some of them from their own stupidity, but safety procedures for K'nex? Really? What's the worst that can happen to my ten year old–he gets one up his nose? What mother doesn't know how to fix that? And if she doesn't, well I say it's time she learned; and maybe the teacher, too.

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Red Hot Chili Tissues

I'm not a diehard when it comes to recycling–for one thing, Moses Lake doesn't have many options beyond newsprint–but I am a cheapskate and since I'm required to use paper towels for drying of hands, I do put them to double use sometimes. I might also wipe the sink down or wipe the peach juice off my chin. When I use a towel to dry out a cup before measuring sugar, I usually drop it on the microwave and then later use it to wipe up a spill or blow my nose–that sort of thing. 

Life Lesson # 685: Never, ever, ever, EVER recycle a paper towel originally used to dry hands which have cut up a large quantity of extremely hot peppers. Ever. Not even–especially not even–to blow your nose and wipe your streaming eyes. If you thought the onions were doing you in, well, you've got another thing coming.
The burning residue does not easily or completely come off your hands. Gradually, yes, it will wear off–on everything you touch for the rest of the day. And then everyone else who touches those things will feel the burn, also. Which is a handy way to discover which of your teenage children has been chewing your pencils or borrowing your chapstick [insert wild, maniacal laughter at this point] but at the end of the day, when you bend over the bathroom sink, determined to wash the last vestiges of a day of salsa-making from your face, you will need to wear latex gloves, else suffer the blinding, sinus-clearing consequences, once again.
Just a word of warning from someone who knows.

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This is That Day

This is that day.

That day you think about when your first child walks into a Kindergarten class and you think, No way! No way are they old enough to just walk away from me and spend even half of every day with some stranger I know nothing about. 
The day you think about when the second and the third and the fourth one start school; the one you think about when your oldest child enters high school and still there are little ones clinging to your knees, reassuring you that even though half your progeny are taller and broader and maybe even smarter than you–you're not really that old; the proof, after all, is barfing on your shoe.
This is the day your last child gets on the school bus and you know he is going to be gone all day. 

All of your children are gone. All day. What will you do with yourself?  
I have to confess I have fantasized about this day. It falls kind of flat, now that I have other people's progeny barfing on my shoe; I know exactly what I'm going to do with myself all day.  But still. There is the awareness there–I'm at that stage of life. We could conceivably take a day off sometime, and we could do whatever we want!  Could. Probably not going to. But the possibility is there, isn't it?
Surreal. I should have taken this day off, just to give shine to all those dusty daydreams.

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