Mama’s Lost Her Mind (please pass the chocolate chips)

My friend, “M,” is a crafter, a serious crafter. A spare bedroom in her house serves as her craft room with an inventory that easily rivals any Michael’s craft store. As you might expect, M follows a lot of crafting websites and blogs.  While perusing one of these blogs recently, M came across something she just had to share with me.

Now, technically, this is not really a craft project. It’s more of a mama’s-lost-her-mind sort of project. What is it? It’s a special treat for the toddler who has successfully achieved the potty training milestone of pooping in the toilet. As I understand it, you simply slice a banana into a toilet shape and toss some chocolate chips in the middle. Yeah.

potty chairLet’s be honest. Your 2 year old will not give a crap (pun intended) if you sculpt a banana into a porcelain throne replica – he or she will simply grab the chocolate chips from the middle and be on his or her merry way.  Maybe the other mommies in the play group will be amused by your creativity, but there’s an equally good chance that they will ooh and ahh to your face, while tsk tsking about your emotional well-being behind your back.

As I recall potty training days (thankfully, they were long ago), I tried using M&M’s to reward successes. They were completely ineffective as a motivational tool, though I enjoyed making sure that they didn’t go to waste by consoling myself with a generous handful of M&M’s for each and every unsuccessful try with the potty. In any event, my children somehow managed to master the skill anyway.

Of course, if you find that this sort of special treat works for your kids, I’m happy for you, ecstatic! My fear, however, is that this will become just another opportunity for over-zealous parents to try and one-up the neighbors. Remember that years ago, kids’ birthday parties featured the basics — pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, balloons and a homemade cake. Now, it’s bouncy houses, pony rides, make-overs, custom cakes and blinged out party favors.

So while bananas and chocolate chips seem innocent enough, I will leave it to your imagination to worry about where this could lead. Suffice it to say that if my neighbors install a lemonade spouting fountain in their yard, I’m moving.

Many thanks to M for alerting me to this disturbing trend.

The Power of One

Marsha A1Cropped

45 years later… you learn the troubled 10 year old, with low self-esteem and other issues, has blossomed into a most amazing, caring, giving person who is made Chief of Police, all because someone cared 45 years ago.

Subject: THANK YOU

Hello Mrs. A., I owe you a debt that I can never repay. You were my teacher from [school name omitted].  Prior to this I had been shunted through various “special education classes” where very little real effort was made to educate. The program seemed designed to remove problem children from the “normal” students. I spent years in that emotionally and intellectually toxic atmosphere. Many of my classmates were profoundly challenged. You can imagine what effect this had on a young child’s self-esteem.

Everyone had given up on me. Most importantly I had given up on myself. There was no hope, until a bright, lovely and enthusiastic young teacher entered my life. You recognized potential seen by no one else. With indefinite patience you pushed and prodded me. Within a year I was back on track.

Today I have a Master’s Degree and I’m considering a Doctoral program. This Thursday, March 28, I will be promoted to Chief of the Police Department. The ceremony will be held at [omitted]. Refreshments, sandwiches, etc., will be served immediately following the ceremony. I would be honored if you could attend. 

I shudder to think of what my life would have been if not for you. Words fail to convey my sense of gratitude but words are all I have. THANK YOU!

________________________________________________

This powerful letter was received by Marsha A., who has been a friend of our family since before I was born.  She graciously gave me permission to share it here to illustrate the profound difference that one person can make in the life of a child. You don’t need to be a teacher or parent to reach out and show a child that he or she matters. We’ve all got a little Marsha in us!

Wild Thing

A journey through the T.V. channels this weekend landed me on Animal Planet, a channel that can be fascinating, bizarre, ridiculous and/or disgusting. For instance, Finding Bigfoot qualifies as both fascinating and ridiculous – fascinating because there may just be Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) out there; ridiculous because the intrepid team of researchers never ever finds any concrete evidence and the night vision filming gets old real fast. Then there’s Monsters Inside Me, a show I’ve never watched, but judging by the promos, it clearly falls into the category of disgusting.

This weekend, I stumbled onto an Animal Planet show I had never seen before, Raised Wild, in which an anthropologist named MaryAnn travels the globe in attempts to document reports of feral children who have seemingly been raised by wild animals. After watching 2 episodes back to back, I’m pleased to report that both the Dog Girl of the Ukraine and the Monkey Boy of Uganda were legit stories and both children are now healthy and relatively well-adjusted adults.

Upon further reflection, though, are feral children truly an anomaly? When you think about the kids you grew up with and the kids you know now, perhaps there is little difference between some of them and their feral counterparts. A few examples from personal experience (Note: if you read this and begin to wonder, “Is she talking about me or my kids?” the answer is “No! Of course not! Any resemblance is just a coincidence.”):

  • You’ve probably encountered families, usually families with many children, whose mealtime rituals bear a remarkable resemblance to a pack of starving jackals ravenously descending upon a fresh kill. Right?
  • How about families with multiple siblings, usually sisters, who relentlessly peck and scratch at each other like barnyard chickens fighting in the dirt over the last grain of corn?
  • There are the families with lots of brothers who are constantly fighting and literally butting heads, not unlike hyper-testosteroned big-horned rams during mating season.
  • Then there was that kid in elementary school who would eat anything from scraps of paper to balled up wads of dried up rubber cement who clearly would have felt right at home in a family of goats.

For those of us who grew up in the suburbs, running away to find a surrogate feral family was simply not practical. The choices would have been squirrels, stray cats and the occasional elusive skunk, none of which sound all that appealing. We had little choice but to remain in our human families and simply behave like animals when we felt like it. Alternatively, a few of us took solace in the knowledge that we were not authentically human, but rather extra-terrestrial visitors to Earth, who merely had to endure childhood until we could return to our home planets (mine is Jupiter, in case you were wondering).

Now’s your chance to ‘fess up – did you run away and grow up as a feral child?  Alternatively, have you personally seen a Bigfoot?  We want to know all about it…

Curse You, Facebook!

Here’s a scenario that undoubtedly plays out thousands of times a day all over the country. Perhaps this specific set of circumstances is a thinly disguised depiction of a real life situation, with names changed for obvious reasons, or perhaps it’s just a hypothetical, which I’ve cleverly devised to enable you to stretch your moral and/or parenting muscles. Either way, what would YOU do?

Just because your friends are getting arrested, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

The Teenager: Mom, I think Thomas Wexler is in jail. [Thomas is a 16 year old acquaintance.]

The Mom: What makes you think that?

The Teenager: This comment he made on Facebook. Plus, all he ever talks about on Facebook is smoking weed.

The Mom: Huh. That’s a shame.

The Mom then goes into stealth mode, attempting to check Thomas’s Facebook page for herself. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Thomas has restricted his FB page to friends only. The Mom determines that Thomas’ Mama is not one of Thomas’ FB friends.

Hmmm. What to do? The Mom is acquainted with Thomas’ Mama, but they are not really friends. Thomas and his Mama moved away a few years ago and The Mom has not had any contact with Thomas’ Mama in quite some time. Thomas’ Mama is a very astute woman. It’s unlikely she’s oblivious to the situation. The Mom is quite sure that if Thomas is a pothead, his Mama is well aware.

Still, The Mom wonders if she should contact Thomas’ Mama and give her a heads up about the FB postings.  Is there a tactful way to pop up out of someone’s past and say, “hey, thought you’d want to know that your kid’s smoking his future away?”

Curse you, Facebook, for presenting parents everywhere with a moral dilemma. It’s bad enough that we have to feel guilty when we choose not to accept a Friend invitation from someone we know, but don’t want to connect with, and now this!

Alright, my brilliant friends, time to weigh in. What would you do?

A Little Help Please …

Have you had the opportunity to do a good deed this week? If you haven’t, I’ve got one for you. If you have, I’ve still got one for you. It involves:

  • NO MONEY
  • NO COMMITMENT
  • NO NEED TO GET YOUR BUTT OFF THE CHAIR
  • NO NEED TO CALL AND HARASS YOUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES
  • NO POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS
  • NO 5K RUNNING OR WALKING OR SWEATING

Here’s the deal. I live in the little town of Mount Airy, North Carolina, population 10,000. It’s located in a rural county in northwest NC with a sky high poverty rate. It’s best known as the real life inspiration for the town of Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. Andy Griffith was born and raised here. It’s got a little downtown main street straight out of 1950.

It’s also got a wonderful little library with plenty of heart and soul but very limited resources. Lucky for us, LEGO is running a contest for public libraries and the winning library gets $5,000. That means more books for those of us who love to read (have I mentioned that the nearest Barnes & Noble is a full hour away from here – ACK!).

This morning, our local newspaper pointed out that we were running neck in neck with a Houston, TX library and that the Houston newspaper had run a piece slamming our little town in an effort to get more votes for its own library. Shame on you, Houston newspaper, for being a bully.  Perhaps they’re embarrassed that a city with a population in excess of 2 million was trailing behind a tiny town of 10,000.

Here’s where you come in. If you love books and hate bullies, please go to http://readbuildplay.com/index.cfm and vote for Mount Airy. You DON’T need to register, give your email address or anything else. Just click on “Nominate Your Library,” then choose North Carolina, Mount Airy, and the Mount Airy Public Library. You can vote once a day until October 1st.

Not only will I be personally grateful for your support of our little library, but voting will also fulfill your weekly good deed quota (unless you vote for that Houston library, which would be like rooting for the bully to win).

THANK YOU, kind friends :-D

It’s War, Baby!

Forget the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, the War on Women – authorities are finally cracking down on an insidious evil that lurks in neighborhoods everywhere – that’s right, the War on Sidewalk Chalk.  I’m not talking about a new pseudo-drug that’s being snorted or smoked, I’m talking about children maliciously drawing pictures on streets and sidewalks with ordinary chalk that washes away with the first gentle rain.

A typical crime scene.

No longer will these criminals in the making, who will no doubt progress from washable chalk to permanent markers to toxic spray paint, be allowed to scribble willy-nilly on the pristine hard surfaces of our neighborhoods. No more hopscotch, no more tic-tac-toe, no more giant hearts with initials in the middle. We’re cracking down.

Never mind securing our borders, we need to secure our neighborhood driveways. Never mind the First Amendment right to freely express one’s views on rainbows and unicorns. Never mind keeping assault weapons out of the hands of lunatics, we must act now to keep sidewalk chalk out of the dirty little hands of our children.

Friends, I must come clean and admit that I too chalked sidewalks, driveways and streets in my youth. Worse yet, I enabled and encouraged my own children to unleash their evil creativity in our very own neighborhood, time and time again. Why, I even corrupted other children in the neighborhood to take part in this unspeakable crime.

But, it’s even worse than that. I also armed my children with bubble wands and liquid bubble solution, unwittingly allowing them to launch thousands of bubbles into the atmosphere, no doubt creating damage I can’t even fathom. Surely, I’m going to hell for my actions. Who’s coming with me?

Going, going …

Apparently Louisiana is being swallowed up by a gigantic sinkhole. Certainly, this is bad news for those who live in Louisiana and I don’t wish bad fortune on anyone (well, almost anyone).

Hey, it looks real to me.

On the other hand, we lived in Louisiana for 6 long years and while we met some lovely people, it is not a place about which I have any warm and fuzzy feelings. To begin with, the oppressive heat and humidity bring to mind the phrase “hell on Earth,” and while there is an abundance of natural beauty, it is most often obscured by the worst litter problem I’ve ever seen.  Poverty is everywhere and the public schools are deplorable on every level, from crumbling facilities to sub-standard teaching and student achievement.

Now, I’m not a particularly religious person – a fact which otherwise polite Louisiana folks regularly cautioned would result in my going straight to hell (though it seemed to me I was already there) – still, when I read about the curriculum that would be taught at some Louisiana private schools paid for with taxpayer vouchers, I couldn’t help but conclude that the sinkhole is God’s way of  swallowing up the perpetuation of ignorance once and for all.

Some “highlights” of the curriculum include  the idea that most slave masters were nice guys; that the Ku Klux Klan was simply trying to fight a decline in morality; that modern math is nonsense; and that dragons were real (along with the Loch Ness monster).  I fervently hope that such hate and ignorance are the first things to be lost to the sinkhole, where they will fittingly descend into the bowels of the Earth like the crap that they are.

Would someone please put the lid down and flush?

The Importance of Proper Enunciation

When I’m tired, I tend to mumble. Mumbling, while annoying, might seem harmless, yet today it caused a momentary look of horror to spread across my daughter’s face. As I was leaving to run to the grocery store, I said:

“If you’re looking for Dad, he’s on the porch swing reading a book.”

But she heard:

“If you’re looking for Dad, he’s on the porch swing smoking weed.”

I’ve either got to get more sleep, or I’ve got to learn to speak more clearly, no matter how tired I am.

*In the interest of full disclosure, this photo does not show my porch swing. My porch swing is covered in a thick layer of pollen and probably needs to be refinished.

Watch Your Step

 

Follow me. Watch your step.

 

The photo above indicates that:

a) Debris from the Japanese tsunami has not only reached the shores of the U.S., but has migrated hundreds of miles inland and is now a danger to homes everywhere.

b) The room shown has been ransacked by a marauding band of misfits, hell bent on stealing Boy Scout paraphernalia, NC State University t-shirts and marching band sheet music.

c) The dresser shown in the photo has rare magical powers, enabling it to vomit the contents of its drawers onto the floor at will.

d) My baby boy, having survived 2 grueling semesters of college, 9 months of dining hall meals, a roommate who plays loud video games until 2 a.m. each night, and 3 significant bicycle accidents, is home for the summer.

Adventures in Mom Land (please fasten your seatbelt)

It’s not even noon, but I’ve been fielding calls and texts from my kids all morning (and there are only 2 of them).

First up, my son, a college student, who generally only calls me directly if he needs permission to use the emergencies-only credit card, called to let me know he feels like he might be getting sick. Sore throat, stomachache; some people have food poisoning, but he thinks he might have strep.

Next up, my daughter, a high school freshman, begins a series of texts about how she’s not feeling well and she’s worried she’s getting sick.  Probably nothing serious and she’ll likely make it through the rest of the school day, but TGIF.

Second phone call from my son, who’s out of breath, which is rarely a good sign. He explains that he’s walking fast to make it to class in time and turn in something important , and that he’s walking because a car clipped the back wheel of his bike moments before. The bike wheel is bent, the bike un-rideable, but the son is unharmed (whew) and the !@#*% car just kept going.

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’re probably saying, “hey, didn’t that kid have a bike accident before?” Yes, yes he did. In fact, he’s had 2 pretty serious bike mishaps, the first requiring 5 stitches to his chin and the second a broken wrist and a substantial bike repair bill.

Moms, I know you feel my stress because you’ve been there.  So please, help me out. In addition to being very very thankful that my babies are okay, should I:

a)      Change our home phone number and flush my cell phone down the toilet

b)      Send my son off to his sophomore year in a Hummer (expensive, but after you factor in bike repairs and medical bills, it may be a wash)

c)       Visit one of our lovely local wineries to stock up

d)      Other (PLEASE ELABORATE)