Monday, March 31, 2014

The Dumbing Down of America Has Unexpectedly Dire Consequences



I had a present fail, and it was completely not my fault. I blame all those touchy-feely everyone is a winner crappy consumer parents. And I'm totally justified.

While I would love to rant about how Tiny Pants doesn't bother running the bases in T-ball because he knows the league doesn't allow outs, or about how Big Pants felt no satisfaction in getting an award at school because everyone in the class got one, this is about something far more serious. 

(Besides, I do actually like everyone getting a trophy for participation, I can't lie.)

This is about Operation, the all-time most coveted game of my youth. If you, too, are a child of the eighties, you will recall the iconic commercial - Take out his spare ribs for one hundred dollars!  and how hard the freaking spare ribs were to get out of their tiny hole. Buzz! Buzz!  


image: cdn.instructables.com

All the little holes were shaped just like the pieces that went in them, and there was no way to put wishbone where the wrench went.  There were doctor and specialist cards, and fees and money and drama. I always wanted it more than anything but had to be content with playing it at friends' houses. So of course I bought it for Big Pants for his half-birthday. (Yes, we celebrate half-birthdays.)

Huge fail.

The new version has updated pieces, all placed in big round openings.  There are no cards or fees, or specialists.  It was staggeringly easy for everyone except Tiny Pants, and even at six he could remove a piece 80% of the time on the first time.

Newer and Crappier version.


Crap, I tell you. Utter crap!  Hasbro took the best game in the world and made it too easy to be fun.  I want a refund of my nostalgia!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Poets Are Heroes, Even When They Yak


So last night round about eleven o'clock Tiny Pants yakked on the stairs, one of the few carpeted areas of my my house. But this isn't about that.

 When you are the only adult at home and your kidlet yaks on the carpet, you have to choose between cleaning it up and snuggling the baby.  I went with "put a towel over it and pretend it didn't happen," because that boy needed Mama more than I needed yak-free carpet.  But this isn't about that, either.

This about a little six year old boy whose head is overflowing with stories. This is about the love and pride I felt when  Tiny Pants said, "I had a sideways taste in my mouth, and it got tighter and tighter until I had to throw up." 

School might not come easy to Tiny Pants.  He will always find the idea of following the rules purely optional.  I quake with fear when I contemplate his teenage years.  But that little guy has the heart of a poet, and poets are heroes.  Big Pants cruises through school and does his homework without being told, and loves strategy and chess and football.  Tiny Pants is cut from an altogether different cloth, but I'm just as sure that he will find his way through life just fine, if he keeps following the stories in his soul. I wouldn't change him for the world. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Space Cadet


A former friend once accused me of being "flighty."  I was indignant. I am not flighty.  I am very together and on top of things. Mostly. Except, of course, when I am, er…flighty.

Actually, I think spacey is more apropos. It's more like some of the wires in my brain aren't connected properly or are covered in pudding. I have gotten lost driving to work on more than one occasion.  (Which taught me four different ways home, for the record.)  Lost isn't the right word, rather I tend to drive past my exit obliviously. 

Case in point:  we went to Orlando last month, and as I was exiting the plane I had a niggling thought that perhaps I should have checked the seat pocket in front of me and double check that I didn't leave my kindle there.  Naah. I'm sure I didn't. 

Except when I got home it was gone.  Tragically gone, and although I filed a lost item claim, no one ever turned it in. Sadly, I gave up on the airline ever returning it, and bought another a few weeks later.

Yesterday I was reading my kindle and it inexplicably made me re-register it. I figured I must have accidentally hit the wrong button or something and relinked it to my account, then continued reading my book.  The next time I picked up my kindle, it had forgotten my location, which happens, because I also use the kindle app on my laptop and my cellphone. 

I went to pack up my kindle in the precious handmade case I lovingly made for it, and this happened:



Wait, what?




Yes. I am that person who lost her kindle because I put it away in its case and never thought to look there.  Sigh. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tiny Pants wanted a Baby


TINY PANTS:  Mama, I think you should have a baby and give it to me and Big Pants.

MAMA:  Well, what about when you went to Daddy's house? What would you do with the baby then? 
TINY PANTS:  Oh, I'd bring it to Daddy's. 
MAMA:  I don't think Daddy would be on board with that. 
TINY PANTS: But it would be me and Big Pants' baby.
MAMA: Babies cry all the time.  I think Big Pants would prefer a puppy.
BIG PANTS: Totally!
TINY PANTS: But they are on sale! We can just order one and go pick one up. See? I circled it in my catalog.

Sure enough, he had circled the baby posing with a toy in the advertisement several times.  In sharpie.  He meant it.

Still, I wasn't entirely on board with the idea.  If I have another baby, I am not planning on giving it to a kindergartener to raise.  I'm just not going to do that no matter how much he begs. I've seen how often he feeds the fish, which is never. 

Instead I got him a baby doll that says "Dada" as well as "Mama."  You can give it a fake bottle and if you pat its back it burps. 

He loves it more than I even thought he would. He is completely nuts about the baby, even though he hasn't assigned it a name or a gender yet.  I went to post a picture of him opening his new baby on Facebook and I paused.

I don't want him teased.  I don't want people to think he's a sissy.  I want to remind everyone that boys grow up to be fathers, and we all value fathers.  I want to say he also loves magic and building things and hockey.  In other words, I want to rationalize it as if it bothered me.

Now wait, I can recite all the lyrics to William Wants a Doll  from my Mom's Free to Be You and Me album.  Big Pants has a few dolls. I never had a problem with it before.  Why do I now?

Tiny Pants has been teased a little in his life, not much, but just enough to make me want to murderize people and question if I made him into a target. Tiny Pants is my baby. I can't stand the thought of anyone making fun of him.  Also, Tiny Pants is much more of a "boy's boy" -- he's really into hockey and would never dream of wearing a dress.  He has a few sporty friends that I don't trust to be as understanding. 

But you know what? Screw that. I love my kid, and I love that he loves his baby, and I'm proud as hell of who he is. And I'm proud I found a doll that burps. 





Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sick Day With a Monkey


The Big One is home sick today, and it is just he and I alone in the house with the dog. Well, the cat is roaming around somewhere, but the feline is more like a grumpy roommate than a member of the family. 

Last night I rubbed the Big One's back as he threw up over and over for nearly an hour, but he was so good natured and sweet about it -- Look, Mama! Bell Peppers! -- not like how I am when I am sick at all.  When I throw up I beg for someone to kill me and sometimes cry and feel betrayed by my body and everyone I have ever known. 

After we dropped Tiny at school I brought my work into the living room and the sick boy and I are watching old movies on the couch.  I made him hot chocolate and we both ate hard boiled eggs and talked about other times when he was a lot sicker than he is now.  He likes talking about throwing up.

Of course, there is gratitude there that he is now eight, and old enough to play chess on his computer and watch movies I actually like.  When he was a toddler he would run around like a crazy monkey sick or not.  Illness only made him cranky, not tired. 

It has the familiar almost-forgotten feel of his baby days, when he was an only child, and, though I was married, it was just the two of us for long hours at a time. It's the alternate reality of having only one child.  Everyone who has more than one baby always says that they could never imagine life without the second or third, and while this is true, on sick days there is a glimpse of what it might have been like.

Today also echoes back to my own sick days, when my mother made me a bed on the couch and brought me toast without butter.  I have forgotten the discomfort of being ill, but the tender sweetness of being alone with my mother remains.

I'll be glad when he is better. It breaks my heart to hear him cough like his lungs are turning themselves inside out, and there is a birthday party on Saturday for his brother I hope he is well for.  But there is poetry in this day, too, and I'm going to savor it just a little. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Guest Post on MomSoap!

Today I am posting over on MomSoap!  I first "met" Martha after I read her article on the blog at BrainChild Magazine.  I liked her writing so much I chased her down online and sent her a fan letter.  That led to guest posting on her blog (read the first one here if you missed it) and she graciously posted here on Only-Mama in return.  

In honor of Black History month, MomSoap.com solicited guest posts on racism. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say, but I decided to write about that moment when you know you have made a colossal faux pax but you aren't entirely sure what it was or how to fix it.  I call it Awkward Silences, and I have far too many of them. 

I am a white woman, primarily raised around white people.  I have always considered myself to be as non-racist as possible, given my isolation from other races.  In my heart, I believe I don’t judge others based on color, and I think I manage to avoid believing or perpetuating stereotypes.  But sometimes I get it wrong, and my first clue is the awkward silence.

Read the whole thing on MomSoap.com!




Sunday, March 9, 2014

What I Did Instead of Blogging This Week


I saw this link on a friend's Facebook wall this past week, and I thought, "I can do that!"  I hate cleaning. A lot. But I like challenges and sticker charts.



The idea is that you only have to throw out one bag of garbage a day for 40 days. You don't have to clean, or organize, or mop.  You just have to throw away some of the crap that's cluttering up your life.

The first day I was in the basement doing laundry while the kids played roller hockey. I looked at the garbage can overflowing with a year's worth of lint and I thought, "I can empty that garbage can. That's all I have to do."

Baby steps. But what difference will one bag make in my house? It couldn't be much.  But strangely it was. Emptying that one overflowing heap of lint that I had been looking at for a year (OK, two, but who's counting?) suddenly created a little bit of clean space. It was addictive. Within 20 minuted I had taken 5 bags of crap out of the basement and out to the curb.

I needed a day to recover.  Now, granted, the basement isn't clean. It isn't even marginally cleaner. But there are 5 bags less crap in it.  I'm not cleaning, after all, I'm just collecting bags of trash to meet the challenge.

Yesterday I decided I would go through the shoe box by the front door and take out all of the shoes the kids outgrew. That's all. I wasn't going to clean or vacuum or mop.  Just empty out the outgrown shoes.  Which lead to this:


No, that's not all shoes. I can be an overachiever. But the end result is a house that has empty space around the corners.  I'm not a big believer in feng shui, but this idea that living with clutter affects your inner peace seems to be true.  My house has less tension. I didn't even realize how much all the piles of stuff and art projects had been like living with a radio constantly blaring static.

And I so am going to beat this 40 in 40 thing. I bet I can do 40 in 20. It's been four days and I'm up to 15 bags. Then I'm going to go through and do 40 in 40 again.  

Hey, I can be compulsive/addictive/neurotic about a lot of other things in life, why not decluttering?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

These Boots Were Made For Walkin'



I have been accused of being flighty.  Spacey.  Not fully present.  I resent these charges, but my indignation got lowered a peg this weekend.

It was time to leave the house, but I had to do one more thing and was a little scattered, and then I couldn't find my boots. The kids were standing there with their coats on and for the life of me I had no idea what happened to my boots. I had been wearing them just 20 minutes before. My house isn't that big.  Both boys were exceedingly helpful in searching for them, but those boots had simply vanished.

We make it to the birthday party only five minutes late
(I hate to be late) and as we waited for them to answer our knock I look at Tiny Pants for the first time.  I mean, really look at him.  

This is what I see:

Notice anything weird?  Like perhaps his feet seem a little big for the rest of his body?

The missing boots…the ones he helped me look for.

Perhaps I have to own that spacey moniker after all.