Monthly Archives: January 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

This morning two preschool girls decide to play doctor. I am immediately alert; this particular role playing game has all sorts of questionable potential–as you might imagine.
So the patient comes in and lays down in the "office". 
"What's your problem, little girl?" the Doctor says.
"My arms are backwards and my teeth are broken."
"Hmmmm." The doctor puts her hands on her hips and looks thoughtful. Then she goes over to my big wall calendar and traces her finger along the days. She shakes her head. "Nope. It looks like I'm too busy." 
She helps the patient up. "Come back next week and maybe another doctor can see you."

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Freedom of What?

Astounded by the headlines this morning. 
Probably because I so rarely read the headlines or maybe because I'm totally ignorant of political protocol, but I was under the impression that we yet lived in a country founded upon such basic principles as freedom of expression. 
I have no idea who Justice Samuel Alito is, or what the supreme court ruling about campaign funds entailed.  I couldn't begin to argue the man's politics or personality with you. 
What does seem clear is that the man disagreed with something Obama said in his State of the Union address last night. And Justice Alito frowned.  He may have even muttered something. Pundits are in disagreement what that might have been or to what part, exactly, of Obama's remarks the man's muttering referred to. Because the man hasn't actually publicly said anything. Indeed, he refuses to comment on the President's speech at all. 
But no matter. Everyone is distraught over his behavior. "There were days when judges stayed out of politics," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, "It would be nice to go back to those days."
Pray tell me, at what point did Alito intrude into "politics" where he so clearly doesn't belong? Was it in having an opinion or in having so human a face that it betrayed some of his private feelings? Was it in attending the State of the Union at all? Should ski-masks for official figures be standard issue at the door next year?
Apparently the president can disagree with–even scold–the court publicly, but the members of the court cannot disagree back.  They may clap enthusiastically–but not frown. 
Since when does agreeing with the President constitute proper etiquette, and disagreeing with him get you lambasted  for stepping out of the bounds of your proper public office? 
Is Obama so thin-skinned and fragile or the very office of the President of the United States so precariously situated that one man's facial expression constitutes a remarkable threat? 
Has the media really come to such a ridiculous state as to pick this up?
No wonder I don't read the news. 
PS: Since posting, I have been called on my political ignorance. I did not know that Justices are not to join in the general clapping, etc.  Intriguing. Nor did I know it wasn't okay for Obama to address the court in the manner he did. I'm intrigued and disturbed by comments made on both sides of the issue on many websites. Should a justice stand up (or frown) for truth, even if it breaks rules of decorum? Should the leader of the free world worry about decorum, or should he use the stage to spotlight truth, regardless?

I'm not interested in arguing about whether Alito or Obama had actual truth on his side. What I want to know, is what if the courts had ruled something atrocious–say promoted genocide or something–would the President be wrong to break the rules of decorum to point it out on such a public occasion? Or, if the President really did tell an all-out lie, would it be wrong for a senator or a Justice or you or me to throw politeness to the wind and challenge him publicly, or maybe even just mutter in disgust in full view of the cameras? 

Or would it be more wrong–in either situation–to obey the laws of decorum and tradition during the public meeting and overlook the wrongdoing?

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Boy one: "Why is he taking medicine?"
Boy two: "Because he has an ear infection." 
Boy one: "Why?"
Boy two: "He heard you talking."
Girl, after gasping and doing a double take when her mother walked in:  "Oh my goodness! I thought you were the Devil!"
Mom: "The Devil?!"
Girl: "Yeah, but now I think your hair is pretty."

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I Can Do That

I have a fourteen year old girl in my class Sundays. She's got some delays–which is why she's still in my class and hasn't moved on with her peers. Unfortunately, I haven't made the effort to thoroughly understand those limitations; after a few weeks of getting no response at all from her, I'm afraid I almost forgot she was there. 
She sits in the far corner of the room and she doesn't look up. Never moves or speaks. Sometimes I come home from church and go over the girls and their needs in my mind and I'm not even sure if she was there or not. 
This last week we were talking about talents and gifts. It was one of those days where everyone wants to talk but not necessarily about the idea at hand. We were short on time and I wasn't entirely sure we were getting anywhere coherent–but on we trundled.
During the last few minutes, I asked the girls to write down–anonymously–things they felt they could bless other's lives with. After everyone handed in their papers, we read aloud things like, singing, dance, smiling, etc. Some were a bit of a stretch and there were many repeats, but there were some good ideas. And then the girl in the corner stood up. She came to the front of the room and thrust her paper into my hands. Smiling a secretive little smile.
I glanced at it, expecting childish scribble, and then I looked again. It read: 
"Hope. Glmph."
And it was like this child had taken my busy, distracted face in both hands and smiled down into my soul. I don't know what Glmph meant, if anything at all. But Hope
I know hope. Sometimes I forget how very well I know it. 
I have had so little hope for this girl's interactions in our class. Forgot that she even needed it. Forgot that she even existed so silently there in the midst of all the bubbling, giggling, noisy young women obscuring her from my view. I was so ashamed and yet she was not. She sat there smiling at me for all the world like we were best of friends–and we were–because she had not given up hope in me. In my ability to smile back at her and to take her efforts seriously. 
I can do that.

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Memory Match

Collectively, my six children attend four different schools and have 26 teachers.
They are fond of sending me emails like this:
"Your child has a notebook check this Friday. All overdue work must be turned in by Wednesday for half credit. Second quarter exams will be taken the following Tuesday." 
They sign these missives with something like, "MSCHMIDT"
No class name, no grade level, no school even. Being the proud soul that I am, and unwilling to admit I don't know my children's teachers intimately (well, except to a global audience such as this), I can't bring myself to hit reply and ask, Um…to which child, exactly, do you refer?  

I am left to wander from room to room asking whichever small person I stumble across, "Do you have a teacher named, um, Smith? No. Wait. Schmell? Do you have a teacher who conducts notebook checks? Are you sure? Do you have a class where you have a notebook? Okay, well. Make sure it's up to date. Sometime this week. And you might have a test next week. So. Uh, study, okay?"
I'm telling you, the pioneers with their one-room school house had at least one thing going for them.

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Just Wondering…

Some things I've been mulling over this week:
  1. What is worse: the sound of an electronic siren on one of those cheap plastic fire engine toys, or, the sound the child emits while making believe he is the siren when the batteries have inexplicably disappeared? 
  2. Would it be wrong to eat the entire batch of cookies in one sitting?
  3. What if you also fill out, like, ten thousand pages of information for the IRS while eating the cookies?
  4. Is there a medical condition that would make a person look like a corpse? I was in the temple today and if the guy hadn't looked up at me and sighed, I probably would have thrown him on the floor and started CPR. Or maybe just called the coroner, because he looked like he'd been dead a long, long time. As in his skin was a deeper blue than Papa Smurf. Disturbing, to say the least. Although, kudos to him for getting up from his death bed to attend the temple.
  5. If a child vomits in a vehicle travelling 70 miles an hour, on a journey of 70 miles, why does it take the car 70 thousand hours to reach its destination? If you don't believe it actually took that long, I've got a couple kids I'll loan you for a day and you can recreate the conditions and see for yourself. All you need is some bad Burger King, a day of freezing rain so that rolling down all the windows isn't really an option, and something like 3 hours of sleep the night before.
  6. Why does Google suddenly think I'm a gluten-intolerant Vietnamese florist? I'm being bombarded by ads, and I swear to you, I didn't even know for sure how to spell Vietnam before I saw the ads. I definitely don't want to retire there. Or send flowers there–even if they are guaranteed to arrive today. And the cookies: chock full of gluten, baby.
  7. If an individual were to mop up an entire bottle of super-concentrated laundry detergent with two or three bath towels, approximately how many rinse cycles would be required to get the towels, um….clean?
  8. This isn't a question–it's an answer to riddle I know has been gnawing away your soul for days: How To Hide Something From Your Teen. Put it in a closet. You don't need a fancy closet. Any old closet will do. Even an empty closet.  Even if she really, really wants the hidden thing, she won't be able to find it. There's some kind of mental block having to do with teens and anything related to organization. Like, say, a closet. Thank old Saint Nick for that secret–my daughter would probably still be searching for her Christmas stocking today had I not offered her younger brothers five bucks to find it for her. Not that I knew anything about the perishables in it, of course. 
  9. Are the ingredients for all the crap I've eaten this week deductible as a business expense? I ate it while doing an entire year's worth of backed up paperwork.
  10. Am I morally obligated to participate in all those surveys every company I have ever dealt with wants me to participate in? Is it really not enough that I spent ten thousand dollars buying appliances at your store that now you are going to hound me day and night with automated phone calls asking me to rate my satisfaction with your customer service? It's not enough that I provide childcare, now every remotely child-related agency in the state wants my input in the form of twelve-page surveys and telephone calls at an hour when any sane childcare provider is in bed? Okay, and maybe several of the insane ones, too…
  11. Is it just me, or is the "laughter of little children" overrated? You hear a lot of sentimental mash about this phenomenon. And believe me, it's mash. It's said by people who never actually spend time with little children. The laughter of babies, infants, okay, that's maybe a little bit magical.  But little children? After about the age of about 18 months their laughter doesn't actually warm the cockles of your heart. Because you know that if they are really laughing (as opposed to just snickering which, while contagious, is in reality kind of gross and usually involves flying spittle and/or nasal discharge) generally one of three things are about to happen:  
  • Blood (followed by a wide variety of other bodily fluids). 
  • High pitched, eardrum blowing tattling (ie: KIMBER! KIMBER! KIMBER! ANAKA IS GOING TO TELL ON ME!!!) and/or 
  • Significant property damage. 
     I'm just stating the facts. Dispute them at the peril of your truth-loving soul.
12. If God really loved us, why didn't he make our teeth spontaneously regenerate every four or five years? I'm kidding. But seriously. Go brush your teeth. You only get the two sets and you can blame your mother for the first set failing, but the second set? Taking care of those ones is pretty much up to you. And you don't want to look like the Smurf dude. I'm tellling you–skin tone was the least of this guy's problems. 
13. Going to bed now. Not a question. Statement. Take me seriously on pain of death. Or being beaned by whatever I can reach from my side of the bed. Whichever I deem easier or most effective at that point-murder or maiming.

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Peering Over the Edge

I've thought about it every day for more than five years. Every hour of every day. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up. The thing I mull over as I go to sleep.  
A project that has possessed me. Paralyzed me. Even when I wasn't working on it, even when I have avoided touching it for months at a stretch, it still intruded on every moment. Nagging.
Almost twelve months ago I gave myself a deadline–I would lay this thing to rest in 2009. 
Panic started to set in sometime in July. 
Frantic, all-night sessions in October. 
Long, glassy-eyed periods in November where I couldn't focus on a single thing my children were saying to me unless they spit it out in one coherent sentence, and quickly. 
And when, on the 30th of December,  I held finally held the thing in my hands, ready to inscribe that one final touch–I could scarcely hold the pen. "I can't do it," I said.
My husband rolled his eyes. "Yes you can. I've seen you sign your name a million times."
He's right. Between the flood of paperwork six children in the public school system generate and signing kids in and out of my care and filing government forms every day, my signature has emaciated itself from nineteen letters to something like three. A "K" at the beginning, a "t" at the end, with a wobble between the two.
But this is different. Should I really use my "ask me if I care, Uncle Sam" signature on something that has taken five years to create?
In the end, I have no other choice. I barely tremble out the muddle of letters in between the K and T. And it is done. 
Here it is, the next day and the thing has gone. It feels like it never existed. My brain has become unfastened with nothing to weigh it down. I read five novels in 24 hours and took a shower so hot the walls began to stream and the bathroom ceiling dripped. 
And I find myself groping for the next project, clawing away at the slope of my days for such an all-consuming anchor as that has been. Dreading its demands but needing it like food or air or affection. 
And look. It's 2010. Here we go. Again.

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