Saturday, March 28, 2009

Super-Scientific Test

I embarrass my children all the time. Not on purpose, but because I don't realize that being me is, in itself, embarrassing. I have tried to be more like them, but that is also embarrassing. Then I tried to be a modified version of me; less hovering, less smothering, but evidently, that is trying too hard and also embarrassing.

I guess it is just that I am so old I forget I am someone's mother and need to be reminded periodically that I should only do embarrassing things like breath and talk, when I am alone and in the house with all of the curtains and doors closed. The good news is, if you are like me, and you happen to forget, I have devised a simple, yet very scientific, test to determine if you are in fact someone's mother. Just answer these questions below. If you answer yes to any of them, you are either someone's mother or a deranged lunatic. Either way: seek help.

Ok, so here goes . . .

Have you ever caught vomit with your bare hands?

Have you ever counted crackers, a cheese stick, and raisins as a full meal?

Have you ever: signed a permission slip, broken up a fight, helped tie shoes, and combed someone's hair--all while going to the bathroom?

Have you ever consumed a half-eaten grilled cheese/peanut butter sandwich that has slobber on one side and applesauce/pudding/yogurt on the other because you are just too exhausted to make anything else for yourself to eat?

Have you ever listened to another adult talk about potty-training for 2 hours straight without your eyeballs rolling to the back of your head, and falling into a boredom induced coma, because you are so starved for companionship that you need to talk to a grown-up . . . or you will literally lose your mind?

Have you ever listened to an entire music/CD collection sung entirely by cartoon characters?

Have you ever agreed to help make an authentic mummy/civil war/roman chariot replica out of modeling compound/paper mache/styrofoam only to discover that, 12 hours into it you: 1.) Have absolutely no artistic ability, and 2.) Have no idea what you are doing?

Have you ever had to remove any type of round item (i.e., a marble, pencil eraser, piece of cereal, bead, etc.) from a child's ears, nose, and/or diaper?

Have you ever felt that it is absolutely necessary to "stack the deck" before you begin playing the game Candyland so that no one gets Plumpy near the end and starts crying and makes you start the game over, causing you to think suicidal thoughts?

Have you ever given a really obnoxious toy to a niece or nephew as revenge for a toy that was given to someone in your home?

Is the floor-board of your car permanently sticky?

Have you ever thought that eating boogers should be a capital crime?

Have you ever planned, and invited, twenty 5-year-olds to a birthday party complete with decorations, hats, games, food, cake, ice cream, favors and a pinata? And did you allow other parents to drop the children off and leave? Did you think it would be a peaceful and organized event, since you put so much time into organizing the whole thing, only to find that small children can smell fear and know how to mutiny? After the children left did you look around and say "I am never doing that again" only to turn around and do it again when the child turned 6?

Have you ever been peed on and didn't notice it right away?

Have you ever heard a noise from another room that sounded like something breaking and thought--"I do not care if a 16th century Ming Vase was just destroyed, unless someone comes in here screaming and holding a severed arm, I am not going to see what that noise is? I am too tired."

If you have ever said the phrase: "I hope that you have kids that are just like you," you are definitely someone's mother. Like I said above--get help. After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem, that is what my kids tell me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Day I Went Blind

Have you ever been blind? Me neither. I have been called deaf and dumb before, so adding blindness wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I do wear contacts, so I often say that I am “as blind as a bat” and as if on a cue, some know-it-all person will come out of the wood-work and say in their know-it-all way, “bats aren’t blind, you know.”

Listen, if I wanted to know that much about animals and science and nature, I would watch more public television. As it is, my brain is full with important facts, like: how many miles I can drive the car on empty before I really run out of gas, and what time I absolutely have to be dressed in the morning so that I won’t be late taking my kids to school.

Snooty, smarty-pants people really bug me. So they have some mental aptitude, do they have to draw attention to it all the time? I sweat like a rabid goat when I am scrubbing the tub, but you don’t see me bragging about it do you? Who cares if bats are blind or not, they are ugly and that is what really matters. If I saw a bat coming at me, otherwise known as a flying rat, I would scream. Seriously, does it matter if they can see? I can see them, elude and evade, that is my motto when it comes to bats.

Now, because of my disgust for bats you may think that I am biased against ugly things. This is not the case. I let my husband keep most of his things inside the house and some of it is so ugly it will make you wish you were blind. So see, I am really an accommodating and tolerant person. Except for smart people, they do get under my skin.

People of above average intelligence just don’t understand what it is like for those of us with average (ok, slightly below average) IQ’s. What I know I gleaned from the streets, otherwise known as the school of hard knocks. Things I have been taught over the years cannot be lectured about in a classroom; I have been educated in the gritty underbelly of suburbia and there isn’t a tougher one around than the cul de sac. For example: I have learned that if you say yes to the Avon/Mary Kay/Tupperware lady she will come back. I have learned that the Schwann’s man will not deliver ice cream at 2:18 a.m. even if it is an “emergency.” I have learned that if you dice up vegetables really, really, really tiny you still cannot hide them in a meatloaf.

Ok, so I did go to University, but that is irrelevant. I didn’t learn anything there except for the fact that student loans will force you to eat Top Ramen for a minimum of 10 years after graduation. My point is, even if you are smart you don’t have to be a show-off about it. I try to increase my intelligence. I do, I try. I read a lot, maybe I am just reading the wrong kinds of books.

One of the books that I read recently is “Lessons I learned in the Dark” by Jennifer Rothschild. It is basically a memoir about a woman who goes blind in high school. I loved the book because it talks about faith and trust and relying on things we cannot see. It is very moving. It also talks about things a sighted person wouldn’t worry about, like how to decorate your house, or how to choose an outfit or how to get ready for a date when you are sightless. Things that people with vision take for granted.

The book says that if you repeat the same process every time, when putting on makeup or fixing your hair, you can feel when you are having a bad hair day, even when you can’t see it. Just to show that I was trying to learn, I did a little social experiment, I decided to try and get ready to go to the mall as if I were blind, I mean, how hard could it be right? Ha!

I thought it would be easy to put makeup on and fix my hair without seeing what I was doing. Evidently, you have to really be blind to apply makeup in a way that makes you look like you are not blind. When I was through with my face I looked like I had applied my makeup in the dark with my eyes closed. On a positive note, it was the first time my husband ever asked me if I had “done something different with my hair?” Now, keeping with the theme I decided not to look at myself in a mirror before I left the house. I mean really, I was “blind” so it didn’t matter to me, right? It is the people that can see me from the front that feel frightened by my appearance. Besides, my husband likes sympathy, and trust me, he got a lot of sympathetic looks that day.

Well, the blind thing didn’t work out, but I bet you already guessed that. Yeah, I ran into a friend while I was out at the mall and she asked me what was wrong, was I sick, did I have a seizure while applying my mascara? All the typical questions one might get on their first day of blindness. “No,” I said, and I explained my experiment about putting on my makeup blind.

“Well,” she said, “you must be as blind as a bat, because you look terrible.” And that is when I said . . .

“Oh yeah, well bats aren’t blind you know.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Watch Out, She's Gonna Blow

Once when I was in 3rd grade I passed gas in class. Larry Campbell then followed me around the playground “farting” on his arm anytime I got within 10 feet of him. I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation, everyone kept telling me to ignore it, but I decided to go another way, instead I hit him over the head with a lunch tray. He pretty much stopped after that.

Passing gas is a taboo subject among women—we don’t do it and we don’t talk about it. Like most things that we are afraid of, we pretend it doesn’t exist. As mother’s we learn that kids do it and husbands do it, but we spend the next 18 years and 40 years, respectively, training them to stop. If we are successful, we load up on Beano and Gas-X and go back to pretending it doesn’t happen in the real world, even if we are faced with the stinky truth.

When I worked at a University I had one peer who would come into my office for various reasons related to the job, all the while tooting away like the noise and the smell were figments of my imagination. I was often so stunned by her, uh . . . performance that I could not concentrate on what she was saying. But, no matter how uncomfortable I was, I never said a word. I just smiled and went about my day. Well, I did hold my breath until she left, but other than that, it was business as usual.

Men handle bodily functions much differently, for one thing they are not scared of flatulence, well unless you cry while you are doing it, that scares them. I cannot even say ‘passing gas’ out loud. I stick with calling it gastrointestinal distress. Sure, it sounds like I am dying, but even death is more dignified than ‘breaking wind.’

I have found though, that in life, there are just some things you cannot always control and gas is one of them. When my husband wanted to marry me he sat down with my Mom and Dad and asked for their blessing. I was there mostly as moral support, quietly observing, until the unthinkable happened.

“Sir, I would like to ask your blessing to marry your daughter.”

Yes, that is right, I cut the cheese. The whole room was silent, except for the unpleasantness that reverberated off of the naugahyde sofa. I could tell that no one knew how to proceed, so I stuck with the protocol and acted like nothing happened.

“You were saying . . . “
“Sir, I love your daughter and I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.”

It happened again! I was in uncharted territory, but I think everyone understood it was a stressful situation, so they kept on going.

“I promise to take care of her and love her.”
“Thbbbbbbbbttttttt. Bbbbbttt. Bbbbbbbttt.”

A third time! This was unprecedented. My fiancĂ© had finally had enough. He turned and looked at me and very menacingly said, “Are you through?” From that moment on I clenched like I had never clenched before and we made it to the end of the conversation without incident.

I would like to say that I began to feel less insecure about flatulence, but sadly, no. Some things are harder to change than others. Once, when I was feeling particularly carefree, I decided to try something different. I was taking a walk and listening to ‘Funkytown’ on my Ipod. It was a gorgeous sunny morning and I was breathing in the fresh air, getting exercise and enjoying the music, I felt alive . . . and so did my intestines. I knew that my bowels were stirring, but I was all alone, it was 5:30 in the morning and I thought it would be ok to relax and not worry about it. So as I listened to my music, I just kept walking and, well, um . . . you know.

Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbbt. Won’t you take me tooooooo Funkytown. Thbbbbbbt. Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbbbbt. Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbt. Bbbbbtt.

Boy was I feeling good. Along with tooting up a storm I decided to start singing along. I am sure I sounded like a beached walrus doing a ritualistic mating call while suffering from a brain aneurism but I didn’t care. I could see my house and was as high as a kite as I headed for home. It was exhilarating. Until . . . two pillars of the community passed me on either side. They were out for their morning constitutional as well, and were now powerwalking past me. I was going to say good morning, but for once, my rear end and my mouth were silent. Besides, I couldn’t blame them for wanting to get around me as quickly as possible; I wouldn’t want to be downwind either.

From that day forward I have vowed to stick with the plan—passing gas is a myth, it doesn’t exist, and believe me, I don’t even want to talk about it.

Mealtime Isn't for Sissies

It is hard to have a peaceful meal with children. During dinner my husband averts his eyes and won’t even lift his head during a meal in which children are in attendance, afraid of what he might see, afraid it might ruin his appetite. Coward.

I agree, it is difficult, but after a while you do get used to it; the many strange concoctions: applesauce and ketchup, or pudding and noodles, or eggs and peanut butter. I tell him that you can learn to tune out the fighting, the bodily sounds, the spilling of everything from milk to Pepto Bismol, and even the constant gagging. I believe that you can learn to deal with all of that, if you just remember the goal: nourish the children with healthy food and family companionship. Boy, it sounds good in the hypothetical.

I read a parenting book that said to give your kids choices and there will be less hassles at meal time.

“Do you want apple slices or grapes with lunch?”
“Do you want strawberries?”
“Do you want raisins?”
“No! No!”
“Now son, you have to have some fruit. You can choose, either raisins or strawberries or grapes or kiwis or apple slices or oranges or mango or nectarines. But those are your only choices. I am serious.”
“No! No! No! I want neither! I want my Daddy!!!”

The parenting book also said that being firm would stop power struggles in their tracks.

“Mom, can I be done?”
“You hardly touched your food. You need to eat a little bit more.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“How about, if you eat two more bites of carrot and 1 bite of chicken.”

That is when the switch is thrown and your child becomes like Sybil, with their second personality being that of an ACLU lawyer used to strong-armed negotiation tactics.

“M’am, my client will pass on your first offer. Let us know when you want to come to the table with something serious.”
“Ok, how about one bite of carrot and one bite of chicken?”
“One bite of chicken and one bite of potato?”
“Here is what we are willing to do: one bite of chicken—no marinade, no carrots, and no potatoes, no bite of roll, and absolutely no salad. Plus, we would like extra whipping cream on desert. Do we have a deal?”

Now, I recognize my part in all this, I never claimed to be a gourmet chef, but I do make an effort. I try new recipes and look through cookbooks searching for real food that the kids will eat. Even when I put out a five course meal that took hours to prepare I can tell that all they really want is a pizza. They say rude things like: “Can we just order a pizza?”

I tell them ‘just try it,’ and ‘you have to give it a chance’ but it doesn’t help. It wouldn’t be so bad except for all of the negative and inappropriate comments. Things like:

“What is this black stuff on the bread?” and “Why is the gravy greenish-blue?” And “It is gravy isn’t it?” Yes, my husband can be a tough critic, but the kids are worse, they say things like “EWWWW! Gross!” or “Look, Mom, when I do this doesn’t it look like puke?”

I guess the bright spot in all this is, thanks to the recession, the cost of food is so high we can no longer afford anything nutritious anyway. Meal time has become less of a battle. So thank you Ponzi schemers and predatory lenders, thanks to all you generally bad people and no-gooders, you have made meal-time happy for children everywhere. Macaroni anyone? There are little pieces of hot dog in it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Conjunctivitis Bananas

I think that most clerks and cashiers at the grocery store hate me. I don’t know why it is, but I have mostly come to terms with it. When I go to the grocery store I stick with cashiers I am familiar with, if possible. I don’t care if there are 40 people in the line, I select a clerk that I know isn’t going to throw my eggs down the conveyor belt or smack gum and roll their eyes at me.

Once, my husband convinced me to go through the express lane with an untested clerk because we were only purchasing two items. I was reticent, but I gave in. I had high hopes for this new clerk because she was youthful and fresh-faced and smiled at each customer. I first noticed something amiss when she spoke to the customer in front of me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong until she rang up my purchases. The total was $4.87 but what she said was, “Fo Abee Sebum, Pees.”

“Pardon me?”

“Aye Sethd, Fo Abee Sebum,” she repeated while spraying me with spittle.

I stared at her blankly, still unsure of what she said and wondering what to do next.

That was when my husband jumped in with a five-dollar bill while I wiped saliva off my face and purse. It was when she handed him the change and said, “Hab a nithe day” that I noticed her pierced and swollen tongue.

I understand the challenges of a new piercing; the redness, the inflammation, the pain, the fear of being choked to death by your own engorged appendage . . . all I am saying is, if you can’t be understood, or speak without showering your audience with discharge, you might consider piercing some other body part, like an eyebrow, for instance.

Like I was saying, I think it is better to go with the evil that is known. Every time I deviate from my regular clerk or attendant I ask God why he is punishing me? Once when I was in a hurry, I selected what I thought was a short lane at a local grocery store.

As luck would have it, not only had the printer run out of paper, but it was shift change time. So as the one cashier was changing the register tape, her replacement came up rubbing her itchy, swollen, and oozing eye and said six words I will never forget: “I think I have pink eye.”

I had a backlog of customers behind me and one in front of me, and was therefore trapped. My urge was to grab my groceries and run, but I was stuck in the narrow lane and couldn’t have escaped without trampling innocent bystanders.

“Maybe its allergies,” the first clerk said.
“Yeah, but it really itches. And something is coming out of it.”
“That is too bad. Have to tried eye drops?”
“Yeah, but now I think my other eye is swelling up too.”

Aaaaack! My brain was in panic mode as I prayed that the first cashier would stay on until after my provisions were rung up and that the second cashier would go nowhere near my perishables.

“Well, the tape is all ready to go. Let me look at your eye. Oooh, it is red and gummy. You should see a doctor.”
“Yeah, maybe after work today. I wouldn’t want to hold up the line. Ha ha ha.”

Then ‘typhoid Mary’ grabbed my bananas and started to scan them. I am a germaphobe and don’t like viruses on my fruits, I consider it a matter of personal taste. That is why my motto is: stick with the cashier you know. And, if all else fails, it might be time to plant a garden.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Driving Me Crazy

I read a parenting book that said it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your kids and a good place to talk to them is in the car.

“Mom,” my sweet-faced little boy questioned from the backseat.
“Yes,” I answered just as sweetly.
“Do you know what boogers are?”
“Nose poop!” he shouted excitedly.

Yes, my kids and I have some of our best talks while driving down the road.

“What dear?” I say in my best June Cleaver voice.
“What does pee taste like?”

Car rides are truly a bonding experience. Your kids have a captive audience and it is easier to hide your vacant expression when you are not facing them. Sometimes I like to eavesdrop on my children’s conversations with one another.

“Turtles do not have hair.”
“They are bald?”
“Yep. No hair at all.”
“Dad must be a turtle then.”

Sometimes when we are driving along we pass a location of interest—like a school or a park or a prison. It is a good starting point for deep and philosophical discussions.

“Mom, do you have to get arrested to see inside the jail?”
“Unfortunately, no.”
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“Why, is it hard to get arrested?”
“Not really.”
“What do you have to do to get arrested?”
“Naughty things.”
“Like not eating your carrots?”

You can find out a lot about your kids just by talking to them.

“Mom, I like everything about you. I like the way you smell too. Except your feet. They stink.”

You can learn about their hopes and dreams.

“Mom, I want to be a shark for Christmas.”
“A shark? For Christmas?”
“Yes. A Christmas shark. I know just what I want it to look like.”
“Why do you want to be a shark for Christmas?”
“Because no one else is a shark for Christmas.”
“Hmmm . . . .”
“Mom, did you know that sharks have to wiggle while they are sleeping, or they will die?!”
“Yeah, I am going to wiggle always. Because I don’t want to die yet. Not until I am really old like you.”

Besides, it is important to learn what is going on with your kids—they are the future after all. And you need to find out which ones will need money to go to college and which ones will only need to save money for an ankle-monitoring type device.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Sunny days always make me think of being a kid. Back then, if you were under the age of 18 and didn’t have the chicken pocks you were outside terrorizing the neighborhood on warm days. I hardly ever see kids outside anymore. Some folks say it's more dangerous to be a kid in the world today, but I guess that is a matter of perspective.

Here is a list of “toys” we got to play with when I was a kid:
-Bicycle (BMX or Banana Seat)
-Plywood and/or 2x4 Studs
-Wooden baseball bat
-Pitch fork
-Glass canning jars
-Push mower
-Coffee can and/or metal bucket
-Concrete blocks
-Pocket knives
-BB guns
-Dog and/or cat

Now I know that everyone thinks their childhood was the hardest, the roughest, the one filled with the most misery, but mine really was. We didn’t have Nintendo or cable or Ipods. We had Atari, 3-TV channels, and siblings. I know on the outside it doesn’t sound rough, but trust me, even the scissors were bigger and scarier back then. The giant, 2-foot industrial-steel, ones with the black handles. No safety scissors in our house. If you were going to cut off a limb, you were going to do it in such a way that a board certified surgeon couldn’t reattach it.

People say, “Yeah but nowadays you have to be afraid of your neighbors.” I was afraid of my neighbors back then. It was an unwritten rule that any adult could hit you at any time for any offense without warning, and then, whatever they hit you for--they would turn around and tell your parents about. It was called community parenting, and trust me, we all lived in fear.

However, I don’t think kidnapping was as common back then. Have you ever tried to kidnap a kid on bicycle armed with a pitchfork and a 2x4? Besides, we avoided all adults except the ice cream man and I think that poor guy was afraid of us.

If, by chance, we had a rough day in the herd we might wander home for a little sympathy and Kool-aid, but what we usually got was mower duty. You wouldn’t even dream of saying the deadly phrase “I’m bored,” because what awaited you was a push mower made of solid cast iron weighing roughly 2 tons. No matter how many times you pushed that thing around the yard it wouldn’t cut a single, solitary blade of grass. However, if you happened to roll it over the human foot, it could turn flesh into hamburger with a single swipe.

Don’t get me wrong, mixed in with all the treachery were some pretty good times. I know that I had a good childhood because I can count at least a dozen near death experiences before I reached adulthood. I learned some things along the way too, little life lessons that will stick with me forever. Things like: No matter how many times you toss the cat into the wading pool, they still don’t like it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sprinkler Heads

This morning my four-year-old yelled at me from his booster seat in the car. "Go the speed limit please!" I looked at him in the rear-view mirror a little bit confused by his back-seat driving and said that I was. "No you're not, all the cars in the other lane are passing us!" I tried to explain to him that those other cars were going too fast for the snowy conditions and that I was trying to be safe. "Besides," I said, "it's not a race."

"You always say that when you go slow," he said.

Now, I don't know where he got his backseat driving mentality. It might be from my husband who shouts things at me when I drive. Like the other day, when I was pulling out of the driveway my husband bellowed, "Hello! Sprinkler heads!" Maybe the little one learned it from his older brother, or Aunt Teresa who affectionately calls me "A blue hair in training." Or, it might be all the passing motorists yelling at me to get off the road, or the pedestrians telling me to get off the sidewalk. I am not accusing, I am just saying, he got it from somewhere.

People don't yell at me all the time, some of them just honk. It is a nice change of pace really. I don't have to mentally censor a car horn.

I try to obey the rules of the road, I really, really do. I follow the laws of the land and try to be a defensive driver. You have to be defensive when people are throwing things at your car. Anyway, all I am saying is I do my best. I know that I get a little distracted from time to time--but whose idea was it to put a radio in a car anyway? Not mine. When "Celebration" comes on it is like an invitation to be happy, besides singing along to Kool & The Gang is not a crime. And lately I have tried really hard to remember to keep my hands on the wheel, even during the "Woo-Hoo" parts. That just shows how much I have grown.

My oldest son agrees with me too, the other day when I was dropping him off at school he gave me a compliment. "Geez Mom, you got your speed up to over 20 MPH this morning."

I blushed. "I can't believe you noticed."

"Yeah, the automatic door locks engaged."