Monthly Archives: May 2009

Boys to Men

Husband has set the children to breaking up large rocks with a sledge hammer. Backfill for an elusive cement project. FD suggests this sounds like punishment, but in the twisted way that boys have that allows them to feign near-death illness upon being asked to set the table but joyfully dig a hole ten times their own volume, they enjoy the rock breaking. The nine year old probably weighs as much as the hammer, but he's the one hardest at it. 

So help me, every time they take a little rest and then begin again and I hear the first thud of that hammer, feel the vibration in my feet, I think it's a toddler's head striking the floor. You know the solid sound I'm talking about–the one that's generally followed by a split second silence and then an ear-piercing shriek. I have this instantaneous panic reaction and every possibility presents itself: someone has succeeded in climbing all the way to the top of the fridge; a neighbor child has climbed the fence and fallen, headfirst onto the cement; a large someone has decided to carry a small someone on their shoulders and dropped them off backwards.

But the shriek doesn't come and so I take a deep breath and remember, it's just Dad, making men out of boys.

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Forget the Dog, What About Pavlov’s Children?

Classical conditioning may have worked with canines and other semi-advanced species, but I'm starting to doubt its effectiveness with children. 

You would think, for example, that after falling off the dishwasher door three times in five minutes, a two year old child would stop opening and climbing onto the thing. That after pulling the elastic out of the other kid's hair every day for two weeks and getting forcefully shoved backwards onto her behind, every day, she would clue in that her hair pulling behavior results in the pain and humiliation of getting shoved.
But no. 
My favorite is the child obsessed with the baby gym. Every day, several times a day, she climbs into the baby gym and after thirty seconds of sheer joy at playing baby, she starts complaining that she is stuck. 
"Well get out, then."
"I'm stuck." 
"Why are you in there again?"
At which point, someone takes pity on her and lifts her out. 
Ten minutes later the scene is repeated. I decided to leave her in the thing. Pretty soon she's crying. Piteously. I let her out. 
Ten minutes later, "Claire! DO NOT climb into that!"
"I'm stuck." 
Now it's immediate. In, cry to get out. 
"Claire! You cannot climb into the baby's toy. You're breaking it. 
Do you want to paint?" 
Moments later, again, "I'm stuck." 
"Claire! What am I going to do with you?!
"Maybe you should spank her bum."
"Is that what you need Claire? A spank on your bum?"
"WAAAAA! Kimber spank my bum!!!!"
[I am so not allowed to threaten, let alone do, such a thing.]
Her big sister comes in, hearing the fuss. "Why did you spank my sister's bum?"
"She was being naughty."
"She didn't spank her bum."
Hey! Don't blow my cover here, maybe we could instill a little fear in the rest of them.  (Or bring down Child Protective Services on our heads.)  Not that pain seems to be much of a deterrent . . . Who knows. Maybe that's why spanking doesn't work terribly well as a disciplinary tool–children just aren't as easily conditioned as canines. All that bothersome thinking and free will gets in the way.

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Trust Me

Kimber, why can't we use your computer?

It's not a toy.
My mom lets me use her computer.
That's nice–but if you broke mine, I wouldn't be able to do my job anymore.
I wouldn't break it. Why would I break it?
What happened when I let you lose my stapler?
I broke it. 
What happened to my screen?
We tore it.  But we couldn't tear your computer
I know you wouldn't mean to break my computer, but you might accidentally break it. And you know how when I'm reading everyone wants to climb on us at the same time, and when I try to use the computer everyone wants to sit on my lap? They'll all want to climb on you too, and something will get broken.
What can I do?
Why don't you play with bubbles?
We already poured them all out.

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May Fool’s Day

Remember when my computer was crashing twenty times a day but never on demand and so I took a picture of the error screen for the repair guy because it would never crash when he was around?

This morning I turned on my computer and saw this:
Only even more convincing; my thirteen year old figured out how to not only make the photo of the crash fit the desktop background perfectly but also hide all my icons and toolbars, so I'd think the computer had crashed again. 
Sneaky little bloke–if the prompt to sign into my gmail account hadn't popped up I would have really fallen for it. 

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Really Crunchy Ones

Eww! NononononoNo! Quick, grab me a Kleenex! Can you reach them? Yeah, stand on the chair.


     Why, what happened?
         Why you holding hers hands?
The baby has lots of snot. 
Yeah. Let's wipe it before she rubs it all over her face. 
         Or eats it? 
Yeah, or eats it.
    Yeah. I don't eat the slimey boogers. Just the really crunchy ones.
(Yes, this was your child. Just in case you were wondering. You know who you are.)

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I didn't call my mother on Mother's Day. 

I didn't even send an email or a text message. 
I could blame it on the plumbing or exhaustion or, I don't know, I could say I lost my voice and my internet was down. 
But honestly . . . .
I didn't call because my mother hated holidays. 
She liked to decorate for Christmas, and sew costumes for school Halloween parties.  She used to make these really intricate cakes for birthdays. Cakes like a baby grand piano complete with a full keyboard and peddles or the six layer mountain "cake" made from egg, milk, and leaven free ingredients for my allergic brother. It had  little pine trees and a waterfall and a toy train winding it's way up to the top and I think there was even a tunnel. 
But if the holiday had anything to do with focusing attention on her, she hated it. And I mean tight-lipped, neck-sinew-twitching hatred. And I think Mother's day pretty much topped the list. 
If I remember right, the rationale went something like this: If you love me, show me year round; if you don't, then cut the crap. Direct quote. I think the once a year brouhah over mothers struck her as a bit hypocritical. 
So I'm a little hesitant to make that call, you know? Because I'm not an affectionate person no matter what day it is or who you are. Unless you're under three feet tall and you drool. In that case I'm okay with you invading my personal space and I'll probably tell you how smart and wonderful you are. But once you're taller than my elbow you're pretty much on your own. I'll listen to what you have to say; and if you sincerely want to listen, I have a few things to say myself occasionally. When we can actually hear one another.  And actually, I prefer email. Take it or leave it. 
Do I feel guilty? Yeah. I start thinking about it some time in April.  I always pick up the phone and stare at it on D-day. Some years I make the call. Some years I don't, but we manage to step around the issue by talking about something else entirely, when I do hit send. 
Last year I bought gift certificates. One for Mom, one for Dad, in March. I even bought cards and figured I'd make a sneak attack through the US postal system. I think I finally sent them in July. 
So Mom, and I know you'll probably read this out of sheer morbid curiosity if nothing else, having noticed the M-word in the title. I'm sorry I didn't call. Because I know you noticed. And even when the attention makes you squirm, it probably feels even worse when I say nothing at all. 
Thank you for the ridiculous cakes and the costumes and the hours spent on the phone the rest of the year talking about nothing at all. Thank you for taking us to Conference, year after year; for trying, when it seemed like nothing you did would ever be enough, or noticed, or matter. I'm a mother now too, and I'm beginning to understand. 

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"Have you seen your Mother's Day sign, yet?"

"On the bathroom door."
Affixed there with packaging tape, I found this cryptic sign: "Winslow Did It"

With much trepidation (and my shirt over my nose) I opened the bathroom door, and thus the most motherly of tasks greeted me on Sunday morning: emergency do-it-yourself plumbing. Followed by a detailed lecture on what can and cannot be flushed, and in what quantities.
I was just glad nobody made me breakfast in bed. And that we'd taught everyone how to turn off the water behind the toilet. And that at some point he'd thought to. 
My blessings abound.

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