Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Punkin Guts

My wife and I this week wondered aloud how bored the first guy who carved a face into a squash must have been. And how this bizarro act could have possibly caught on with the masses without Pinterest. Then we each offered the Gods of Spare Time a burnt offering of a month's salary in exchange for that much time to come up with our own weird phenomenon...or to get laundry caught up...before realizing that there aren't any holidays left.

So next summer we'll petition the month of August to create a holiday that celebrates dry brown grass or oppressive humidity, and we'll carve Tic Tac Toe boards into cow patties and eat pale, tasteless watermelon cut into the shape of William Howard Taft, proclaim that this should become a "tradition" and BOOM! an August holiday is born. Stay glued to Pinterest to find out to see how that works out.

In the meantime, a different Halloween issue has crept into our consciousness...whose job is it to clean the orange stringy crap out of pumpkins? More than one correspondent reported that boys have pawned that duty off on their moms, insisting that the inside of a pumpkin is a place they'd rather not go. BOYS, mind you. The same kids who will eat heads off of worms, pack dirt into their open wounds, and poop in their brother's pillowcase. But cleaning out a pumpkin goes too far for today's BOYS. Boys will no longer be boys.

And I agree with them. The inside of a pumpkin is a hellish place that is better off left to nature. If pumpkins were truly meant to be gutted, all anyone would do is cut the lid off, flip it over, and let the seeds and strings slide into the trash can. Or, for the truly sadistic, onto a newspaper (daddy, what's a newspaper?) so we can separate the seeds from the strings, then cook the seeds and...do what with them, exactly?

But instead, the crap inside a pumpkin maybe trickles out but mostly just sticks fast to the side, grasping for dear life, forcing us to use perfectly fine eating utensils to hollow out a space for these faces, maps of the Baltic, or whatever we're carving in them for "fun." And it's always good to have a special utensil on hand that specializes in pumpkin-gutting. But if you live in this house, it will be lost before November. Or it will break in half at first contact.

This is where kids don't understand the impact of their actions. Several weeks ago, as we visited the pumpkin patch, picking our own pumpkins, contributing to the ever-burgeoning "let other people pay for the privilege of doing your job" industry (seriously, apple and pumpkin farmers have to be just laughing at us each fall), we go get the biggest, heaviest, fullest pumpkins we can find because Dad has never thrown out his back. When we announced the conception of our third child, the phrase we heard most often (ahead of "Congratulations!") was "zone defense." We survive most of the time, but this is one instance when we could have used a third, surrogate parent... either to carry the third pumpkin or the third kid or help us negotiate a twisted network of vines before our biceps ripped apart or our hernias arrived.

Unfortunately, at home one pumpkin never made jack-o'lantern status. An unseasonably warm October meant the garage was not the usual cool, dry place where we could house three pumpkins -- not to mention over 10,000 apples -- without some deterioration. One way to ensure a smooth exit of a pumpkin's insides to the outside is to wholly rot the thing out, then pick it up like an injured baby bird, only to have the guts predictably spill all over your dress pants, shoes, and, somehow, your car as you take the Lord's name in vain. And the whole garage smells like pumpkin stomach acid...which isn't latest flavor at Starbucks, though it could be. Luckily, we somehow managed to accumulate several "back up" pumpkins from who knows where, so our 2-year-old never noticed his prized squash died a very real, palpable death. Very palpable.

Now, faced with the daunting task of cleaning out these rotunda-sized plants, kids were regretting their decisions to pick huge pumpkins and were also regretting their choice in dads, since theirs ran to the sink 16 times during the process to clean this menacing, orange, flesh-eating gunk off his wrists. Luckily, their mother isn't as selectively OCD, and she helped finish the job, mostly because she wanted the process to end before midnight.

So, who in the family should go in there and get the guts out? The dad? The kids? The mom? What do we do with those seeds? Is pumpkin-carving still necessary to a successful Halloween? There are still many unanswered questions to this odd-but-still-not-as-odd-as-a-fictional-rabbit-hiding-decorative-eggs-that-house-candy holiday tradition. Does anyone have any answers? Or are we still going to do this because that's what we did last year? Cause next year we can just pick watermelons or something. Less mess, right?




Friday, October 10, 2014

Decisions, Decisions: "Pee" is for Playground


Parents make hundreds of decisions every day, not all of them involving pizza toppings or vaccinations. (One of those is harder than you think.) But as parents we make our money when we make the decisions in between. We have to be able to think fast, think clearly, think coherently, and absent any of those conditions, just ask the other parent. Or any parent. Just find a responsible parent immediately.

Today we have a situation that calls for the coherence and quick thinking that only an experienced parent can muster. I said "experienced" not "old." So let's turn this thing over to my old childhood friend Lynne who recently faced a scenario that no parent envies. That time I said "old."

So you've seen the title. Back when I was a working girl (no, not that kind, get your mind out of the gutters, I'm a freakin PMP --Project Management Professional-- for goodness sakes), I would pick up my son from school from kiss and ride. "Kiss and Ride" is the nice name for "if you live within a mile from the school, you get to drive your kid to and from school every day." I don't work anymore. (Define work?) But, I get to hang out with the cool moms at the playground after school. We set up our soccer chairs, talk about our haircuts, and now that I'm officially in the fold, I get to bring my dog.
Let's stop right there for a second. A Kiss and Ride? I'd never heard of such a thing. Sounds like a good idea, even for DC. Do they have these on Capitol Hill?

But then I broke my foot.  
Lynne has broken every bone in her body twice. She'll start Round 3 at the bottom I guess. By Halloween I expect a profile pic of her wrapped entirely in gauze but not because it's Halloween.

Those who know me well enough, know this isn't a rare thing. So I was on crutches. And then my kid did the "mom mom mom I have to pee! Noooowwwwww!" In the middle of the playground. The school is closed. No port a potty. I'm screwed. So... what do you do?  
Quick, parents, what do you do? Your kid is on the playground, has to pee, eyes about to explode, dancing the Dance of Shame in front of everybody, grabbing himself ferociously which puts the shame in the Dance of Shame, for SOME reason there is no port-a-potty on a playground in front of a school. There is no time to waste. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO? HURRY. I HAVE TO PEE! NOOOOOWWWW!!

This is Reason #357 to never potty-train your kids. Kids in diapers never have this problem. Parents of kids in diapers never have this problem. Only "big kids" and their parents have this problem. Keep your children young forever by never potty-training them.

Frankly I'd tell my kids to hold it until we got somewhere with a toilet. They might protest a little, or a lot, but deep down I know and they know they can hold it. But I also know my kids have bladders the size of potato sacks. The 5-year-old, in fact, has the superhuman ability to not pee before bed AND not pee the bed that same night. He is also born with a biological clock that wakes him at precisely the proper time in the dead of night to come over to OUR bathroom, NOT turn the light on, pee directly into the bowl with a force that would break glass, then try to crawl into bed with us. (Oh no you don't, kid.) Your kid may be a superhero, but mine can pee in the dark with a perfectly acceptable margin of error-ish. Win.

But that's just my kid. What did a hobbled Lynne do in the same situation? Let's find out!

A teacher friend of mine was there and offered to take him into the woods. He (my kid) NEVER would have made it home. So we peed in the woods. 
Lynne doesn't have a little girl, does she? 

And then seventeen other kids had to pee in the woods.
This is brilliant. A Peed Piper tale if ever we heard one.

As you can see, there is no right answer to this question, Though there are seemingly dozens of wrong answers. The key is to know as much about your kids as possible without wiring out your brain. Height, weight, and allergies to medicines that may cause their face to shrivel are all important. But sometimes Bladder Size is the single most important thing you can know, and it informs your decision whether to go search out a gas station bathroom or just go in the woods. I think Lynne made the right call. 17 kids peeing in the woods is better than one peeing in his pants.

Have a tough call for Decisions, Decisions? Drop it in the comments.

This whole circus has a Facebook page, which is here:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse


On the heels of the Mount Rushmore of Gross, and in keeping with the quartet theme, you can take one look at your kids and easily make a transition to...

The Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse.

As you know, the media can take a neutral, nothing sort of thing and blow it out of proportion in a good way by placing it on a Mount Rushmore. To do the same in a bad way, they simply add the suffix -pocalypse to it, and soon we have words like "Snowpocalypse or Sharknadopocalypse." Thanks, media, for that. Really. We're grateful. However, the media never seems to take the deeper dive and get into the Four Horsemen of the Sharknadopocalypse, and that just embodies lazy journalism.

New Rule: Anyone with a child may declare a full-blown kidpocalypse in his or her house. But in so doing, they must provide evidence of Four actual Horsemen of Said Kidpocalypse or risk losing all remaining credibility with whoever deals out credibility these days.

So here are the Four Horsemen of the Kidpocalypse...yours of course will vary:
 
They seem like harmless creatures.
http://bearsenglishpage2011-2012.wikispaces.com/Four+Horsemen

1. Conquest - Any time we get the oldest on the bus on time with her lunchbox and a minimum of tears directly resulting from a hair situation, we have conquered. When we sit down at a restaurant after a 30-45 minute wait where all five of us have openly questioned whether the buzzer thingie actually works, we have conquered. (Who cares what happens in the restaurant after that,) Any time we go to the photography studio for Christmas pictures and don't have to apologize to anybody for "that scene" or for bloodying the all-white background, we have conquered. Conquest is usually riding a white horse, hopping with a stick between its legs.

2. War - Toss a dead flip phone from 2005 between two of your kids and have them contact their oldest living female relative. (At least they try to reach a living relative.) Hand one of your kids the buzzer thingie at the restaurant and explain to him or her the importance of watching it, while the other two look on, curious and hurt. Ten minutes later, try to negotiate a time-share between the kids. Five minutes after that, take the thing back because it hasn't lit up or buzzed in 15 minutes, so it must be one of Grandma's old boring rotary telephones or sewing needles. Or it's broken. Inform your kids there is only enough chocolate milk left for one glass. Hide the iPad cord. Place your children's car seats within arm's length of each other. Inform your oldest that she must go to CCD while her brothers get to stay in their pajamas and watch cartoons (this is the original Holy War.) All of these things invite War, which is often depicted riding a red horse, which is ridiculous. If my child tries to color a horse red in school, his teacher tells him "no" and has him start over. Red Horse sounds better suited as a beer name than as a symbol of impending doom.

3. Famine - Cook anything for your kids that isn't cotton candy or Fruit by the Foot-based. Famine ensues. Famine arrives on a black horse, the veritable "dark horse" in the Kidpocalypse, the unheard of force that causes the end of days...kids principled enough to starve themselves to death in protest over the absence of cotton candy, as an example. In this case, I would think famine should arrive on either a pink or blue horse. Like My Little Ponies.

4. Death - Admittedly, it's a little jarring when your kids start understanding death, then using it very matter-of-factly in sentences like, "Daddy, did your grandma die?" and "Nana's kitty is DEAD." And you feel a bit more mortal when they understand a little more and ask, "Daddy, when are you going to die? How old will I be when you die?" It's chilling.

Death, then, arrives on a pale horse, but the ancient texts (Wikipedia) don't indicate what color, just pale. Not helpful. Perhaps a whiter shade of pale? From beyond the pale? Whatever.

As always, yours may vary. Many interpretations of the Kidpocalypse include pestilence, for example, which kids often bring home from school or Day Care. Then the family spends the next four months passing pestilence back and forth. (Make sure you get your Pestilence shots this fall.)

But enough of this. Nobody's dying here, just like the world is not ending when there is a lot of snow. And your world doesn't end when you have kids (don't answer that), so let's dial back the drama by refraining from attaching -pocalypse to everything. There is no Kidpocalypse or Snowpocalypse or Sharknadopocalypse.

But when there's only one cookie left in the bag? It's sheer Kidmageddon. 















Friday, October 3, 2014

The Mount Rushmore of Gross


There is a phrase trying to make the rounds on bloggy-blog jibber-jabber: "Who's on your Mount Rushmore?"

The phrase is meant to start conversations/spark faux controversies by taking a longer list of notable items or people and boiling them down to your four favorites, to match the number of faces on Mount Rushmore. These four people or things then, are "etched in stone" and attached to your name for perpetuity. So don't think about changing your mind, because, to use the parlance of our youth, there are "no tradebacks."  Of course, when you invariably leave off an important something or someone from your list, you have to be prepared for the barrage of criticism that follows, because people are out there who actually care about your NBA Mount Rushmore. "HOW can you leave Lebron James off of your NBA Mount Rushmore?"

The key with the Mount Rushmore analogy is to make it pseudo-controversial by adding one "off the board" candidate...as in, "You may not believe this but I can make a case for Franklin Pierce in my Mount Rushmore of US Presidents. Click here to see why!" (That person may or may not understand the redundancy.)

People then get offended, some violently so, over the reputation damage of the perceived slights. "So you're putting Franklin Pierce on your Mount Rushmore of Presidents, who ya leavin' off? James Polk? Cause he presided over the California Gold Rush, y'know." And back and forth we go until someone realizes that there already is a Mount Rushmore of Presidents, somewhere in South Dakota.

It gets worse..."OK, I see Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Gateway Arch, but where is Mount Rushmore? HOW can you leave Mount Rushmore off of your Mount Rushmore of American tourist attractions?"

Whatever. I don't care enough about anything to make my own Mount Rushmore of important stuff and then have to defend it so vehemently. So instead here comes "The Mount Rushmore of Gross." If your kids do grosser things, you win. I won't argue with you. My kids aren't old enough to wipe boogers on the wall beside their bed (they still eat them instead), so there's a chance for you to win this thing...

1. Poop. Not exactly breaking ground here, but the surprising thing about fecal matter is, once you've got all your kids potty trained--and we're still waiting here for one--you think you're about done with poop. Wrong. If I had to do it over again, I'd never potty train my kids, since none of the trainees actually stops to wipe their own butts. (Or flush.) The results are disastrous to the insides of their underpants. Our only saving grace is that Child Services doesn't do random house calls, because odds are they'd see something brown somewhere they shouldn't. These types of people usually show up on the news, with heavily masked workers extricating cats from the house. Note to Child Services: Please don't show up to our house unannounced. I also have a hidden but very real fear of showing up to an important business meeting with visible poop stains on my shirt and/or my hands. Please somebody make a kid-friendly video or PSA advising the younger set how to WIPE their ASS. This could replace Dog With a Blog on Disney Channel.

2. Pop Tarts in the bed. We bring this one on ourselves by having Draconian rules like no TV in the kitchen and only one iPad per household, which we all SHARE. If we just would loosen up and give everyone in the house a tablet, they could eat crackers, peanut butter, Pop Tarts, licorice, fruit snacks, and tacos in their own beds. Or, we could put a TV in the kitchen. Or we could enforce the
"no eating anywhere but the kitchen" rule, but unless we have armed guards at each entrance, that will never work. It doesn't matter how tired, worn out, fed up with life or sick you feel, when you lie in your own bed on a bunch of potato chip crumbs and a quarter-eaten Pop Tart, you fly out and angrily swipe all that crap onto the floor and promise you're giving one of your kids up for adoption as soon as you clean the floor. Easy solution, more accessible screen time in more places.

3. Three-week-old milk in a cup. The gross younger sibling of #2, there are no faces quite like the ones you make when you bravely open a cup you found under someone's bed, if only so you can literally throw it into the dishwasher and shut the door before whatever is in there jumps out at you and stinks you up. The more curdled milk the better. Sometimes so curdled it's solid.

Seriously.
4. A hair in a pool of toothpaste on the sink. This combines two great mysteries...how does hair get wherever it gets, and what happens to all the toothpaste between the middle of the tube to the top. As a kid, I never had the proper co-ordination techniques to get any toothpaste from the tube after two uses, so I assumed my kids didn't either. Either I was wrong, or they found a mallet, smashing the tube open so that heaping piles and gobs of toothpaste land everywhere. I've no answer for the hair question. But just as I'll spend 15 minutes in the shower if need be to get a hair off of a bar of soap before I begin, I will spend zero time trying to pull a hair out of a toothpaste lagoon, instead finding easily 5 paper towels and wiping the whole counter until there's barely a counter left, while screaming and hissing how this could have happened, then being genuinely shocked and appalled when it happens tomorrow.

I doubt anyone is waiting around to sculpt an unflushed toilet, a broken Pop Tart, a soon-to-be-trashed sippy cup , and a giant hair into a rock formation. Instead let's imagine four faces...not the stoic, reverent faces on the real Rushmore, but... a scrunched up, disapproving face of someone who has just smelled poop, the face of sheer anger of he who lies on a bed of potato chip crumbs at 12:30 AM, the timid, dreadful look of horror of someone opening a stray cup, and the confused, desperate countenance of the person assigned to clean the sink, hair and all.

That's the Mount Rushmore of gross. Now let's have yours.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hate the Players, Love the Game


Chapter 1 of the Big Fall Blowout was supposed to be about football and it will be, but it just didn't seem right talking about football as the NFL was busy crapping the bed, and then its commissioner showed up and took a dump in all of our beds also. Enough people were prepared to boycott the league that if they did, and three of their football-loving friends did likewise, the league might...oh who are we kidding. Nothing would have happened. But we spent so much time shielding our eyes from The Shield, we almost missed the creation of a brand new country in Scotland.
His sister is a fan :-) and, yes, they're called the Redskins. Why not?

I never considered boycotting the NFL. I watched a very large percentage of Pittsburgh Steelers games from 1981-1992 with my grandfather, so I'm emotionally invested. Also, my wife unofficially quasi-diagnosed me with some characteristics that, a generation ago, would have put me on the autism spectrum I'm naturally drawn to and often think in colors and numbers. Even if you hate football, turn on a game for five minutes and just watch the flying colors and numbers. I'm 39 years and still get transfixed. It's like a carnival. I'm not giving that up to try to teach my kids some lesson about how some football players do bad things, particularly when they watch the morning news with me every day anyway.

Let's stop acting as if we woke up three weeks ago and realized athletes can be jerks. Anyone who went to high school and didn't play a sport knows that athletes get their own occupancy lane in the school's halls. One year on the first day of school I unwittingly sat at the football players' table, and while they let me sit there that day, they advised if I showed similar audacity going forward, they'd use the top of my head to get to the hard-to-reach areas of the grossest toilet in the locker room. The quarterback of that team some months later punched me in the sternum during a lull in gym class, for reasons that were never fully discussed or vetted with me in advance. Fight or flight? Neither, both would get my ass even more kicked. Fight, flight, or stand there an pretend nothing much happened
but don't be so cool about it that you get hit again, then check when nobody's looking to make sure your entire chest cavity isn't hemorrhaging.

We of course encourage that horseshit behavior by paying hundreds of dollars per ticket or shrug when the school district spends its entire budget on Astroturf -- when teachers buy all the supplies for their rooms annually, with only the joke of a $250 IRS tax deduction as support. That $250 gets them through October, maybe. So I contribute to the mindset that allows all this misbehavior, no doubt. But I'll deal with that on my own.

All of the above contribute to my relative lack of enthusiasm when my older son decided he wanted to play football. Concussions, yeah, but what if he turns into the guy who punches his classmates for sport because he knows everyone will look the other way. What if he sees another kid in the halls and treats him like a piece of meat? (And, also, concussions.) I can't force him to not do something he likes because I worry about the type of person he'll become. I should let him do what he wants and accept the challenge that would come with molding him into a different sort of football player.
______________________________________________________________________________
For now, there's no need to worry about all that stuff.  This kid dances in an odd, unidentifiable shape sometimes 10 yards behind his teammates, and his coach needs to corral him and remind him where to line up. When he gets the ball for his (league-mandated) carry per game, he usually rips off a nice gain, even when he stops in the middle of the play to ask his coach which way he should run. He sits the bench a lot, and usually plays satellite positions that don't get the ball. Normally I'd be all up in arms about this (aren't we supposed to just be teaching him the game at this age instead of playing to win?) but I'm ok with it here. If he's the last guy off the bench at this age, he's probably not going to have a long career. And he says he enjoys it, so best of both worlds.

Which brings all this back to the coach. On Opening Day, at the Parent Meeting, the league coordinator encouraged us parents who can't commit the time to coach but who'd like to get involved to "volunteer" with the team, mostly try to herd the cats and help the coach with whatever he needs. When I approached the coach about that after the first practice/game, he told me politely but flatly that he had an old football buddy helping him and didn't need any more help, then told me to sit in the stands and leave everybody alone. He probably thought I was one of those helicopter/hovercraft parents, and I'm sure there are thousands of coaches out there who would kill to have only parents who sat down and shut up, which is what we're doing. He didn't threaten to flush my head down a toilet or punch me in the chest, though, so it was a start.

Football. I love the game. I just can't stand most of the players.