Friday, July 31, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinking Napkins

It is another Fatherhood Friday. So click the link here or on my sidebar and head over to read some great posts.

When does the need to use napkins begin?

Watching Youngest eat, you would think she uses them. Each time there is a drip on her hand or a spot on her cheek she wipes, folds over the offending area and drops the paper cleaner on the floor or table (depending on her attention). Youngest will not reuse a napkin once it has performed its duty. At some meals (barbecue, pb&j, cereal) this can lead to a discard pile that rivals youngest in stature. She appears as a dainty expert in the art of self-cleaning.

Until you see her leave the table. Peanut butter streaked across the front of her shirt, jelly smeared across her cheeks, and fading milk spots on her shorts would lead the casual observer to believe she had never even heard of a napkin. I believe this is not limited to my daughter either. I have seen the pre-k children at lunch. They all appear to be using some sort of wiping device, but largely end with the same results. So, effective napkin use doesn't begin here.

Then, it seems, in my home anyway, that by middle childhood they have given up the hope of napkin use. In handing Boy a napkin with dinner you will see a slight shrug of the shoulders and a reluctant hand stuffing said device in his lap. Here its existence is promptly forgotten for the duration of the meal. There is no flagrant wiping on shirt or shorts, instead it is a casual wipe across the shirt done quickly and effectively. If one is not watching for it, it would escape the eye all together.

Let it be said that Boy hates to have dirty hands. He washes them many times a day, spending full minutes completing the task after taking out the garbage or some other unpleasant task. Yet somehow this meticulous behavior doesn't translate to food. I sat watching him clear his plate and head to a bedroom yesterday. Only to find that his hands were too greasy to open the door. Instead of washing them, he reflexively began reaching for his shirt front. Being quick, I shouted urged him to freeze and think. He looked up sheepishly, began walking to a bathroom and then tried to casually wipe them on the couch! OK, I may have shouted "NO" at this point. So clearly, Boy has no real use for napkins either.

In looking at Teen, I see some napkin use beginning. She does not use her shirt or pants, or couch as far as I have seen. She leaves a table without a smudge except for the occasional chocolate milk mustache. But in the meal her napkin often lies forgotten near her plate, or in her lap. Greasy hands from corn-on-the-cob are unnoticed. Her wiping is kept to post meal, or in the event of an explosion of jelly to a minimum.

So, when/how does all of this become an adult's need to have a napkin at hand throughout a meal, and as older people do to keep one on your person at all times? Is it self-consciousness that causes napkin use? Is there a neatness trigger that flips when a person leaves adolescence? Is it peer pressure? Whatever the cause I will keep up my fight for cleanliness in the hopes that someday my children will not leave the table with milk mustaches and greasy hands.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Appalled at Candy - am I just old?

Ok, so I know that I am closer to 40 than 30, so is it just me? You decide.

I am at my local video rental chain and I walk up to the counter. (Now, the local chain is hugely conservative in many things. I had friends who worked there in their 20's and had hair drug tests as well as hair length requirements. In other words it is not "edgy' in any way - or so I thought.)

As I am waiting patiently for my turn I peruse the counter goodies. Locally made flavored nuts and popcorn, and look a new candy. Being a candy lover I walk over for a closer look and am shocked to find myself face-to-face with this candy:

Please look closely at the tag line: "we're all addicted to something." First blush I am furious that a candy company would joke about the SERIOUS drug problem in the world. That makes me mad at the outset - but I am most angry that this is at my VIDEO STORE. It's not the joke gift shop or another more applicable venue. It is the FAMILY video store. So, what - now I have to educate my son on what a crackhead is??

I get the referance to the added caffeine and addiction - and I would have probably chuckled if it had been at an appropriate store. But, here? It's like taking your child to a G movie and sitting through previews of Basic Instinct. It's just out of place - or am I being old?

I stewed about this problem of mine until my next visit. I decided I would say something, or if that didn't work I would write the corporation. I even brought my camera to take a pic. The candy was gone. Probably sold to teens and 20-somethings who wanted it to show their friends.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wrapped Around Her Finger

Today is Fatherhood Friday. So, click on this link or the one on the link in my sidebar and head over to Dadblogs for some great reads!

At the naive ages of 22 & 21 Hubby and I found ourselves in the hospital. There was no accident, just the beginning of a new life for both of us plus the new one we would be bringing home. With my sister there to guide and be supportive, my Hubby there to be worried and nervous, there wasn't much for me to do. Oh wait, I did have a job!

But that job was tiring and is another story.
At the end of all the work, the nurses eventually held a precious little girl up for our viewing pleasure. A quick glance at Hubby confirmed what I had known throughout the entire pregnancy, he would be a great dad. No, he wasn't sobbing or even tearing-up. He was enthralled.

As the team of nurses moved to the other side of the room to do their baby-checking things - he was quick on their heels. Watching over their every step until she was safely cleaned, weighed, rated, dressed, & marked as
mine his. Some people say that they were hooked from baby's first smile, well Hubby must be a push-over because she didn't even have to smile. He was hooked by her mere presence.

People who know me well know that I am apparently a sadist I love teens in general. I find them amusing, astonishing, and largely entertaining. Hubby has not expressed this affection for obnoxiousness - ever. When I worked with troubled teens he would often shake his head in wonder that I could tolerate such work, let alone enjoy it. So, as Teen began to fit her name, there were some brief periods of worry. Would he see her rebellion and that of her friends as amusing or would it become a power struggle to rival WWII? Oh, I knew there would be things that would not phase him, hair color for example. But girls giggling until the wee hours, increased independence; how would these things sit with Hubby? Would he be able to keep his relationship with Teen active and engaging?

I should never have feared. Hubby is nothing if not
crafty resourceful. Having used his influence at advantageous periods, Teen shares our musical tastes. He is now that father. You know the one - he loads the kids up in the car to head off to the concert and keeps watch to be sure the negative influences are kept at bay - yeah, that one. He grouses and complains that teens are silly, loud, and clueless but he is still doing the job he claimed at Teen's birth. He is watching over her, even when that means he gets to see some of his favorite bands has to attend concerts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the Know

I will never be accused of hyper-parenting (click on the link for more info). Parenting in the extreme, scheduling and pushing for your children so hard that you are actually doing the work and activities for them - is absolutely not my style. Heck, I was never even ABLE to attend a PTO meeting - whose bright idea was it to schedule them at 4:00 on weekdays anyway?

As a result, I was often out of the loop with oldest. When she was in kindergarten I checked her daily folder one evening to find that there was a cookie exchange and sing-along. In. One. Hour. This was the first I had heard or seen, and I checked her back-pack daily. So we rushed through dinner and to the event, oldest still in her school clothes. Another kind-hearted parent took pity on me as I watched an assortment of children dressed in their Christmas finest and told me, "With kindergartners you never know what's going on. It will get better."

And in some ways it did get better. Teen was on safety patrol in elementary school, she won awards and gave performances- which I always attended. But, I was never the parent who knew how to get things done, or even what things I was supposed to be getting done for that matter. When the school sent a letter home saying they were moving her from advanced classes because there was no longer enough space, I didn't even know I should fight it - let alone how to fight it. Needless to say, I was not a parent "in the know" of things. Until now.

Through a series of events with Boy, (click here or here for more info) and by becoming a teacher in the district I have greatly increased my "know" power. So it was last May that I asked a counselor at my school to run Teen's high school schedule for me (she starts in August). In looking at her classes, I was dumbfounded. Two periods of English and two periods of Algebra a DAY? Only 2 electives and no language? How can this be? I colluded with co-workers and decided to wait until state test scores came back, then I would call.

I made the call this week. In speaking with a guidance counselor I was able to quickly cut to the chase; Teen wants to be in honors English and science possibly math. As the counselor was giving me the prepared "your child is not as smart as you think she is speech" I was able to quickly rattle-off the all-powerful test scores. Counselor stopped talking and started listening. She pulled records and quickly came to my way of thinking. She let me know it would take a bit, as she needed to make some major changes to Teen's schedule. She would call back, and she did. I am pleased to report Teen is now in honors, has her language as well as orchestra (she is leaving band for the cello), art, and PE. Yes, she went from 2 electives to 4. Her days will now be filled with challenge and art, she and both of her parents are happy.

Though, I do feel badly for all the parents and students who will not see their schedules until freshman orientation; I am reveling in the fact that for once - I was one of the parents in the know! And to think I only had to change my career for this to happen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Squash 'Em

I've recently, today, joined DadBlogs (though I have been loitering in the area for awhile). And in honor of that new membership, I am posting a Fatherhood Friday story.

While on our rainy camping trip, we found need to keep the children entertained. I had board games and cards conveniently stashed under the seat of the van, and nonna had brought along Aggravation. This game was new to my family, so we decided to play it.

There being only 6 players and 8 of us niece teamed-up with Boy, while I joined Youngest (largely honorary since I made no decisions or rolls). Now, for those of you who don't know the game, it is like Sorry - but with dice, marbles, and some other changes. In other words, you can squash other players and send them back to home.

With Youngest taking the lead, I expected little squashing to be done - kind hearted thing that she is. But, Hubby thought it would be best to strongly encourage the squashing theme. "It's part of the game," he reassured her. And she took to it, like a duck to water. Terrorizing her portion of the board with zeal. Who could've known that underneath the adorable 5 year-old exterior lay a giggling squash maniac?

The game continued with little input from me, as Youngest had her own mission in mind - squashing the opposition. Until she was in position to squash her father. At this point he looked at her and said in his sweetest Daddy voice, "Are you going to squash me?" At which point a look of pure horror crossed her sweet face. She ran over to him, gave him a two-armed hug and said, "Don't worry Daddy, I won't get you."

Other players cried foul. "Manipulation!" they shouted. (Teen and Boy were among the loudest) The kids strongly encouraged Youngest to squash her father at every opportunity, but she was having none of it. And dad? Well, he was reveling in his glory at having the ear and heart of another player. Together they would conquer the game.

Until there was a move she couldn't avoid. She would have to send her dad back to home or forfeit her turn. She moved, reluctantly. After sending him back to home, she looked at him with big eyes & quivering lip. Hubby, opened his arms, she ran to them eager for redemption. He gave her a hug, told her it is part of the game, and that she was doing a great job. She said "Sorry I squashed you Daddy." He laughed, kissed her head and told her that he would always love her no matter how many times she squashed him.

The moment passed and they went about the business of conquering the board. Youngest ended-up winning the game. Squashing and competition are great, but never underestimate the power of cute in winning the game.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday

I don't do random thoughts - because I tend to ramble and one thought can lead to a page and many thoughts to a novel....But today I thought I would give it a shot.

~ Went to mow the grass yesterday, usually Teen's job - but after camping it was pretty tall and she wasn't home. Of course the mower wouldn't start. Why is it that whenever the grass really needs cutting because I've been slacking there is some problem?

~ Brought Boy + friend and youngest hiking for a bit yesterday. As they were exploring the shore trying to catch a crab, youngest put her hands on her hips and said "boys" in her most exasperated-I-don't-understand-them-voice. Get used to it honey!

~ Teen liked the new Harry Potter movie (went to the midnight show Tues.) But she was very unhappy with the end. The rest of us (minus youngest) will go see it soon - not at midnight.

~ After cutting the lawn with neighbor's not self-propelled lawn mower I agreed with hubby we should get ours fixed ASAP.

~ Contrary to many people, I like cutting the grass. I am outside. I can sweat. When it is done I can admire my work for at least a couple of days (total opposite of housework - well except the sweating part)

~ After cutting the grass I went to the fridge. Teen tried to hand me water. I reached around her to get a beer. Receiving a lecture about the hydrating power of water versus beer. Later when I said I was still thirsty, she said "told ya so." I knew she was right, but sometimes you just want a beer - right?

~ Youngest was granted her first library card this week. You would think she was given a kingdom. It was a very big moment in her 5 years and she displayed the card (complete in its own little wallet) to anyone who would look.

A week of odds and ends. Today we are going to leave for a day outing with Grandma complete with stingray petting and sharks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Random Rants (and Raves)

I do not usually do this - ok sometimes I do this - but today I am going to rant. Today's topic is Hollywood. After reading this article (go on look, I'll still be here), I nearly coughed my diet coke all over the place. The mayor of LA, despite its 530 million dollar DEFICIT says the city will pay for the memorial.

REALLY? It cost 1.4 million - how many more teachers, police, firemen, and city workers will lose their jobs or take a cut in pay so that an alleged child molester could have a roaring send off into whatever afterlife he deserved? The mayor says they don't charge families for police etc at funerals. Does this really count as a typical funeral? It seems that even folk like me, who avoid sensational news couldn't avoid this. This wasn't a funeral - it was an EVENT. Ughhhh!

While I'm ranting about Hollywood, let me say something else. Fairy Tales and stories of the "dark" serve a purpose in society - they always have. Good triumphs over evil, strong virtues lead to accomplishment etc. So, one director or writer comes along and says - no I want a crappy pitiful ending - it's artistic. Now, every flippin movie has to be "artsy" and pull a "surprise" ending. Hollywood, it is no longer artistic, it is trite! Get over yourselves, while I acknowledge that not every ending needs to be happy - the ending should serve a purpose! (and not just to leave room for a sequel)

Ok, enough ranting. Some raves:

1) Weaselmomma is having a give-away promotion. You should go to her site and check it out. Not only is she giving stuff away, she is really funny and practical. If you are strapped for time read her "posts actually worth reading". You'll have fun!

2) I recently bought Hugs for our camping trip. If you haven't seen them, they are little kool-aid type drinks in these mini-barrel containers. Now, usually I avoid them like the plague. Always believing they were full of sugar and very bad for the kids. However, while at the store, I took time to compare and they only have 3g of sugar and 10 calories. Of course water is better - but sometimes the kids want flavor, and who can blame them?

3) If you have kid readers at home, I highly recommend the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. I read them for work (one of the perks is reading YA fiction all the time), then handed them to Boy. They are modern-day, but incorporate Roman Mythology in high-action adventures that even include a few girl characters that are smart and tough. He ate them up. Reading the entire series in just over a week.

Guess that's it, I am kinda all over the place today! Feel free to leave a rave or rant comment of your own! What have you recently discovered that you love or is driving you crazy?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Highlights of a Trip

It wasn't the trip I had planned. It wasn't the outing that my children had built-up in their minds, but with the tenacity of a pit bull locked on a steak, we were determined to have fun.

With not one, but two minivans packed with all the necessities for 4 days in the woods, my family of 5, my niece, and teen's friend, we were ready to head out. Our plan: to head north to a wonderfully refreshing fresh water spring and river for 3 nights of camping, to meet a dear friend who was traveling 9 hours south to meet us, and to keep our trip open-ended; heading further north if energy and weather permitted to camp in another set of woods that I have always wanted to visit.

The weather did not permit.

As we set up tents and kitchen area, the weather was muggy to say the least. Upon exiting the tent Teen informed me that I looked as if I had just taken a shower. The salty liquid dripping from my body was definitely not water. It was time for a dip in the clear fresh water of 72 degree springs - and a beer, but alas Nonna had not arrived with those provisions yet. I made due with the swim. We splashed and gasped as the COLD water chilled and refreshed. It was a perfect beginning, followed by roasting hot dogs and beans (beer for me, I don't do beans) around the campfire. We were content.

After breakfast the next day, we went to the headsprings for a hike. And the rain began. Determined to have fun, at a break in the flow, we decided to go tubing. A brief word about tubing in a spring fed river: it is cold at the best of times it is refreshingly cold, in the rain - it can induce hypothermia. Just ask Youngest, as she was blue for at least 1 hour of the trip. Not to say that we were complaining - ok Boy was laying stock still trying to keep all body parts out of the river, but was getting wet from above, but he wasn't whining!

The cool dip induced a need for warmth and dryness. Seeing that no end was in sight on the rain front and unable to cook (I'm not that good) in the relentless downpour, I proposed a sensible option. We loaded a van with wet things, put on dry things and headed to the town's Laundromat and Pizza Hut. Of course, our buts were all wet from riding in the van with wet seats, so we tried to dry them as our blankets and towels dried.

When we returned to camp, we commandeered a pavilion and spent the night playing board games. Ok, it wasn't a fire and their were no marshmallows, but everyone was laughing, joking, and demonstrating a surprising amount of competitive nature. We prayed that we had outlasted the rain and that the next 2 days would be at least partly-sunny and hot.

We awoke at 6 to thunder that rattles your toes accompanied by strobing flashes of lightning. It is a wonderful feeling to be be warm in your bed with nature's fury around you. But when the zippers on your tent are leaking, it is worrisome as well. I did manage to cook bacon and eggs during 2 separate reprieves. Separate because after the bacon the skies opened again and a rain delay was called. By all reports the weather would continue for at least the next 2 days. So, we packed up and spent the day swimming and playing. Leaving the woods just as the first sprinkles began to fall yet again, I knew we had made the right decision. We had kept spirits up and fun foremost, but I wasn't sure I could face another night and day of rain.

Nonna came back with us and we spent Friday by the pool drinking daiquiris and visiting. All in all a good trip, but next time I'd appreciate sun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hopes Dashed

The location is ideal. A curve in the land that juts into the bay, a grassy area that is bordered by both the bay and a canal. An unobstructed view of the bay and the island, specifically the jetty where Sunnyville stages an array of dazzling explosives to the delight of its citizens. The location offers further enticement in that it is a private yard, and the friends who live here hold a barbecue for the event yearly. They even fog the viewing area to cut back on pests.

And, for those with small children (me), a car can be parked to offer a muffled version of the display. Young children can sit in the protective shell of the van, and whimper or cry as the need takes them while older siblings, and sometimes parents, can enjoy the dazzling display. It is in this way that youngest has spent every 4th of her short life until this year.

Upon arrival she announced that she would be sitting outside to watch. She went as far as to declare this to the host and some guests. She was pumped-up and ready to go. She had her spot on the blanket and was dictating the terms of entering her area; no shoes, no food, etc. When the display began, she was firmly wedged on my lap. As the display continued, she had a comment for many, largely that they were much prettier outside of the car. "Brighter," I believe, was another word she used often. Eventually she was comfortable enough to sit beside me, and finally she was able to be on her own. Awe was apparent in her comments as the display continued. In glimpses to Boy, I could see that he was happily content, waiting for the personal show to begin, viewing this as an extravagant opening act. What is it exactly that boys of all ages love about blowing things up? I am not sure, but I could see that Boy was hopeful that this year we would be able to stay long enough to view our host's personal show in its entirety. A feat that is seldom accomplished, as Youngest is so shell-shocked from the public show that we often leave early.

It was a phenomenal show, lasting about 40 minutes. At the conclusion it was time for Youngest to have a potty break. We trekked up to the house and arrived back in time for the personal show. Now, the house being on the bay, many people offer personal shows. There is plenty of waterfront land, and little to no danger that you will catch a neighbor's house afire. Just as we were settling ourselves on the blanket, a whistling explosion of stars occurred above us. At this point, my brave little trouper, previously so proud that she could watch the show with no fear, began screaming at the top of her lungs. A high-pitched screeching filled with tears and terror. Quickly, I scooped her into my arms and brought her to the van. Where she insisted every window and door be closed through wrenching sobs of fear.

Between collecting Boy, blankets, misc. items and thanking our hosts, I sighed for Boy's disappointment. He was good-natured about the turn of events, even checking on Youngest while I gathered our things. But, I know he yearns for the day that he can put punk to fuse and be responsible for lighting the sky with a rainbow of light. Maybe next year.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Imperatives and Blessing

I am fairly middle-of-the-road. My lifestyle, my income, my beliefs are all largely inoffensive and moderate. But, there are a few things that are at the core of my being, beliefs that I will argue, debate and defend. One such belief is how fortunate I am to be an American citizen.

Even through the college days, while engaged in the Environmental Club, I knew beyond a doubt that there was no other country I would want to call home. In the times of the Gulf War, when even by closest friends were saying that we were killing people for oil, I kept my steadfast to my belief that this was the country in which I would stay and flourish. Why? Because, all through these events my young mind was able to recognize and appreciate that even these people who were alternating between blaming and moaning about their country were able to do it because they LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY! An imperative and a blessing.

Being an American comes with imperatives that include decisions, work, and exertion. In this country we have to work hard for what we value. And in doing so, the sky is the limit. While achieving our goals, we have many options available. There is no big brother telling us which path we must follow. And for this I am grateful. Taking responsibility for my own life means that while I may fumble and fail at times, the rewards will be all the greater because they are mine.

Blessings are abundant. But one particularly caught my attention yesterday. It is the freedom of religion. In reading about the plans of France to outlaw burkas, it dawned on me that this is part of their religious beliefs and the government is planning to make wearing them illegal. While I may not want to wear one personally, I can't imagine anyone telling me that it would be illegal to do so. I was outraged at the idea of a government making this type of decision. A basic right to practice religion, in a way that harms no one is possibly going to be outlawed there. Now, while the founding fathers may have had no intention of granting me freedom to wear ripped-up jean shorts and tank tops while doing yard work, it is part of the vast array of freedoms that I hold dear. I am thankful for being born into this country of responsibility and rewards and I wish everyone a Happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sleeping Alone - Unheard Of

Sharing a room builds a special bond...a certain love-hate relationship that can stand the test of time. In my home this is the relationship between Boy and Youngest.

On the surface of many days, they appear to tolerate each other with varying degrees of animosity. There is bickering and rivalry buzzing in my head like an annoying insect. It is during these moments that I remind myself of the positives of their siblinghood, largely exhibited at bedtime.

Last night the story had been read, the water given, hugs, kisses and goodnights to both & mom exited the room. Just as I was sitting down, here comes Boy in an exaggerated tip-toe walk. Turning a corner he was directly in my sightline and announced that he was just getting himself a drink. He and I talked about animation (how animated I was going to be if he doesn't get to bed), while he was in the fridge. Low and behold, Youngest entered from bed, announced that she was waiting for Boy - because she was scared. I made the exasperated sigh, announced that all need to get to bed. Boy hustled along and said he had to go to the bathroom.

Youngest grabbed at Boy's PJ shirt as he passed and asked, "Are you going poop?"

Boy responded, "Ewww - you are so gross. Let go of me!" (love, it overflows at my house)

He shook her off and marched away (apparently his sense of dignity was upset). Youngest looked to me and explained, "When he goes poop he minutes and I'm tired."

As I was retucking Youngest into her bed, Boy came to climb into his bed. The relief on Youngest's face was visible. While I was walking out the door, I could hear Boy, "Fine, I'm here. Now go to sleep and no playing with your animals or I'm leaving." Ahhh, siblinghood is filled with love.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's a Deal!

As a child I attended the drive-in with surprising regularity. There was a drive-in near my home and even one near the cottage - where there is really not much of anything else. I can remember seeing episodes of Star Wars, Rocky (who knows what #), even Clue. It was in a drive-in that I caught my first glimpses of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in stolen glances at the screen behind us.

The car would be loaded with pillows, blankets, popcorn, and people. We would park and the speaker would be propped in an open window. After the bitterly cold winters of the Midwest, the drive-in was a summer adventure.

So, when I arrived as a teen in Sunnyville, it was with shock that I discovered there were no drive-ins near my home. In this land of sun and fun where a drive-in could be used to greatest profit there were NONE. Oh, I heard tales of their existance, but the distance made it improbable that this would ever serve as an evening's entertainment.

It was with all of this knowledge that I decided to find the nearest drive-in. Using the convenience of the web, I began a search. I had heard tales this type of movie theater might exist an hour south of me. Nope, it was closed. But there are some north. I searched, mapped, and looked at the movie offerings. The more I searched, the more I felt driven to share this experience with my children. "Ok, it is a bit far," I acknowldege that. But, once determination sets-in it is difficult to derail me.

Hubby balked a bit at the distance, but through use of practiced cajoling, he relented. I popped the corn, packed the snacks, loaded the kids and we hit the road. A short hour-and-a-half (80 miles) later we had arrived! It was a double feature - Night at the Smithsonian & X-Men Origins. The last movie ended after midnight and the drive home was long... but I still contend it was worth it! Tell me, where else can a family of 5 see 2 new movies for a total of $14?