Why I’m making tiny capes today

heart

Although I believe Valentine’s Day to be one in a long line of commercially exploited holidays, this evening will find me at the dining room table cutting out tiny capes (and swearing) in an attempt to inject a little joy into my young son’s school celebration.

I do this not because I am Mom of the Year (last time I checked, I was ranked a distant 7,383,458) but because I am nostalgic for the days when holidays in school really meant something. Say what you will, there were some things the 70’s really had going for them.

I do it because this is the only holiday kids still celebrate in our public schools. And I think it’s sad. I understand why we secularize the schools, and at a foundational level I approve, but it still feels joyless. Gone are the days when school children learned Christmas carols at school, or discussed, with reverence, the first Thanksgiving, a particularly polarizing event where we live.

Even Halloween, with its costumed parade and party, is gone. (Although why it is deemed more threatening than a holiday named after St. Valentine I do not know. I think it has more to do with enforcing the dress code and the zero-tolerance weapons policy.)

When I was a kid, valentines were something to see. They were actual cards that opened and closed, and they were delivered in envelopes with your name carefully printed on the front. And giving the valentines was as fun as getting them. Each card in the box was different, and we spent hours matching each card to the appropriate recipient. (Although, come to think of it, there was always one dog you ended up giving to the kid who sat behind you during science and threw wadded-up paper into your hair.)

But I’m honoring the good times, so tiny capes it is, soon to be affixed to 30 gluten-free, peanut-free, cherry suckers. Bring on the scissors. And maybe a glass of wine or two.

While there will be no trophy, my effort did earn me some faint praise from my son. As he put it, “Regular moms just buy valentines at the store, but you do a lot of work. You’re an irregular mom.”

Oh, and by the way – should you desire to make the little capes yourselves, here is a link to the pattern from Zakka Life. Surely you didn’t think I made this one up on my own? If yes, you clearly are not a regular reader.

Superhero Valentine

Picture and project credit: www.zakkalife.com

Have a good one, commercial exploitation and all.

 

A commitment etched in stone

stonesThe other day as I dusted the desk of one of my children, I found something that made me pause, made me think. Raised a lump in my throat. It didn’t look like much, just a small, smooth stone with some writing on it, in pencil.

But the message startled me. It said, “I will never stop trying.”

It startled me, because this is a kid who sometimes doesn’t seem to be trying that hard, who doesn’t seem to care. For whom heated questions are often met with a shrug and an “I don’t know.”

But in those words I saw a spark, the ambition to do something bigger.

On the other side, I saw my child’s carefully penciled initials. A commitment, etched in stone. It gave me hope. It gave me a glimpse of a child I don’t usually see, one with a determined attitude, in pursuit of something great.

I dusted that little stone and replaced it where I found it. It’s just a small, nondescript thing. But now it’s inspiring two of us.

 

And the winner is…

IMG_0307My children are competitive – really competitive. They come by it honestly. My husband and I have long since reconciled ourselves to the fact that we cannot play board games together. The opportunity for rapidly escalating, unseemly conflict is just too great.

My children feel no need to deescalate the tension. To them, everything is about winning, even if what they are trying to win isn’t worth the effort.

About once a day, I hear myself saying to my charming brood, “(Fill in the blank) is not a competition.” Which is just dead wrong. It’s all a competition. Where you sit in the car. Who gets the last piece of cornbread. Who gets to shower first. They even compete to see whose grades are the highest, although I gotta say, sometimes the bar is pretty low.

An urge to compete can be good. It can propel you to success others only dream of. It can spur you to excellence. Or it can just be darned annoying.

The other day, when I remarked, in response to a conflict, that “You people could make a competition out of tying your shoelaces,” my daughter replied, “And I would win that one for sure.”

And the other night, at the dinner table, my oldest son remarked, “I know this is not a competition to see who can eat the fastest, but if it were, I’d totally be winning it.”

To which my youngest child responded, pointing to his sister’s plate, “She didn’t finish hers, so there is no way I’m not going to ‘place’ tonight.”

That’s right, folks. At our dinner table it’s win, place, or show for the glory. For you slack others, it’s just the last of the dishes.

My kids seem unable to comprehend a world that is not about winning. When I took the photo to accompany this blog post, my oldest son, asked, “What is this for?”

“For a blog post on competition,” I said.

His next question? “What do you get if you win?”

Uh, I’m sorry son, that’s “on competition” not “in competition”. Unclear on the concept, I guess.

The 9 circles of parenthood

IMG_0503With my apology to Dante, if an apology is warranted. Dante could be a pretty creepy guy, but I did reorganize The Inferno a little in my spare time.

When your children are born they are angels. They coo. They smile. They dote on you. Your worst problem is changing a nasty diaper. And then they start to grow up and to your dismay, you find that are completely unprepared for the evils you encounter.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

The Nine Circles of Parenthood

Limbo. Also known as toilet training. The phase where you will repeat, “Do you need to use the potty?” 100,000 times. It is fraught with uncertainty. Do you buy the Pull-Ups®, or do you not buy the Pull-ups? Can you risk a quick trip to the grocery store? Can you let your child in the wading pool, or are you courting disaster and a public shunning? Should you try to transport the soiled underwear home, or should you just pitch it in the trash?

Lust. When you have no lock on your bedroom door, and one of your children finds their way in every night, this one takes care of itself. Nothing vaporizes lust like a small pair of feet lodged firmly in your lower back. (Sure, I could have talked about teenage lust here, but none of us is ever quite ready for that, right?)

Anger. You are an adult. You have a college degree. You endured workplaces where you encountered all sorts of unreasonable behavior.  And yet, none of them made you half as angry as the child who stowed a half-eaten sucker under the couch cushions you just cleaned (because someone had previously stowed a half-eaten sucker in the same spot.) Who knew your capacity for anger could be this large?

Gluttony. A growing child is capable of all kinds of heinous behavior, like eating, as an after-school snack, most of a chicken that was supposed to feed the whole family before an early lacrosse practice. Or a child who announces, after a day making Christmas cookies with a friend, which ones she intends to share, and which she intends to eat entirely on her own.

Greed. Nothing motivates greed like candy, especially if you discourage its consumption. A child will eat all his brother’s remaining Halloween candy, even if he has just eaten all his own, and his brother had it hidden in a dirty sock behind his bookcase.

Heresy. Your child roots for the Packers during a Vikings game. The Packers!

Violence. Also known as “horseplay,” although you’ve never seen horses carry on the way a couple of boys will. There is no good end to a violent act. Nothing screams an afternoon at urgent care like a child announcing, “I think (my brother) just broke my neck.”

Fraud. You’ve seen that band practice log, and your child is either perpetrating fraud, or writing fiction.

Treachery. They leave. In the end, they leave. You feed, clean, clothe and drive them around for two decades and then they move, taking with them your linens, your car, and half of your small appliances. Oh, and your money.

And Dante thought hell looked bad.

 

Household Mysteries

IMG_0050Either one of my children has been channelling his inner Uri Geller using the power of the mind to transfigure spoons, or he is just bent on destruction. Sorry, bad pun.

And yes, I’m sure it’s a he. My daughter is devoted primarily to the destruction of electronic devices, also any overpriced clothing required for school activities.

I did not realize in my blissful, pre-child state how much damage children can cause. It’s a little like housing a troop of circus bears that have gotten into the fermented honey. They lurch around leaving debris and broken items in their wake. But they’re clever bears. They never admit to these petty crimes, nor will they turn on each other, a trait I’d admire if it weren’t counter to my best interest.

If I believed in such things as poltergeists and supernatural phenomena, I might be afraid. Very afraid. Much of this destruction could be interpreted as violent and threatening. Crushed iPhones. A rather large hole in my bedroom wall. Dirty footprints near the ceiling in the hallway. A hunting knife stuck in an oak tree in the yard. Were I a superstitious person, I’d be listening for the hushed, bodiless voice whispering, “GET OUT.”

But instead, I do what every parent does – persevere and repair the damage. Few of these crimes are heart-breaking, and little of the damage irreversible.

Although, come to think of it, when I glance at the pretty, little pine tree in our yard whose head was unceremoniously chopped off with a pruning shears I’m a little sad. That tree has decades of crooked, unsightly growth ahead of it and no foliage deserves that.

Feel free to vent – worst damage done to your home or property? And yes, damage to automobiles does count.

Wolverine lasagna dinner

IMG_0311My sister mailed me a photo, back in the day when both photos and mail were an actual thing, of a delightful sign outside a school that read only “Wolverine Lasagna Dinner.”

I assume, like most people, that this school sported a wolverine for a mascot, and was hosting a fundraising dinner to which they hoped all would come. But for years, I’ve harbored a secret wish that it was really a dinner at which wolverine was served. Why? Well, I guess I’m a little nuts.

Since my children are now in that stage of their educations known as “the fundraising years” I find myself returning to thoughts of that sign now and then, and thinking about the school announcement that might have accompanied it.

Dear Wolverine parents,

As you know, we’ve been working quite diligently to ensure that our nationally-ranked soil-judging team can attend the state finals in Springfield this April. To support our team, we’re hosting a dinner, but we need your help!

In order to make our dinner a success we need the following supplies. Please contribute if you can!

28 flats of bottled water

50 boxes gluten-free lasagna noodles

17 gallons organic, no-salt-added tomato sauce

4 grain-fed Wolverines, skinned and diced

100 pounds part-skim mozzarella

Mid-sized Sterilite container of iceberg lettuce

2 gallons fat-free salad dressing

Please drop all items in the teachers’ lounge next Thursday between 2:45 and 3:10 p.m. There is no refrigeration available, so please do not drop items early!

Yes, I know this post is a little unappetizing but at least I didn’t write about my other favorite school sign – the Crucifixion Summer Fun Fest.

This is a Daily Post writing prompt. You can read other “sign” posts here…

They’ve blinded me with science

IMG_0594And failed me in geometry, history, technology – you name it. My kids, that is.

Children are curious creatures, and mine are no exception. On a fairly regular basis, I emerge from sleep only to be hit with a question that has been burning in one of their little brains all night. I like to call this phenomenon the Unanswerable Question of the Day.

I know some of these have answers based in scientific theory or historical fact, but frankly, before I’ve had my first cup of coffee (or two), they make my eyes bug out.

So, dear readers, how would you answer the following?

  1. If you were a dragon, and you had a mouthful of water, how many noodles do you think you could cook in there?
  2. Would fire float in space?
  3. Did William Tell ever accidentally kill someone when he was shooting an apple off their head?
  4. What would have been better to own in the 1600’s – a weapons store, a farm equipment store, or a grocery store?
  5. Could the cat have kittens if we hadn’t had her sockets removed?
  6. When the Spartans rowed into battle, did the rowers also fight, or did they just row?
  7. What happens if you’re a T-Rex, and you want a baby T-Rex, but you accidentally poop out a caveman?
  8. Do trees feel pain?

Thus my problem. I don’t even know if William Tell was a real person, and I’m more than a little distressed at the idea that trees might feel pain.

Sigh. Time for that next cup of coffee.

 

Vacation mishaps

2012-08-14_15-39-33_376All families take that vacation – the one that makes them rethink the whole togetherness thing. When I was a kid, ours was a rather spectacular trip through Lake Mead on a house boat where we were treated to unforgettable views, pristine water, and quiet, star-filled nights.

Unfortunately, we also broke a propeller, and my grandmother’s toe. My sister and I were cursed with a bad case of sun-poisoning – our Midwestern hides were not ready for the blazing sky. The bats swooped right up to the open windows at night scaring us senseless. And the low point of this trip – a scene none of us can forget – was an unfortunate malfunction while pumping the septic tank that resulted in several of us being covered with…well, you know.

But I don’t think that was our worst mishap. On one of our trips across the desert, I watched a set of borrowed tent poles fall off the back of the car as I dozed in the back. My father reacted to my screams by swerving onto the shoulder. As he swerved, a suitcase also fell, right into the path of an approaching semi. It was spared, somehow, but the images are seared in my brain.

My trips with my own kids have been surprisingly mishap-free (knock wood) although my husband and I had a bank “helpfully” suspend our credit card while we were at a resort in Mexico on our first kid-free trip in a decade. The resort was convinced we were trying to pull something during the day or so it took us to straighten it out. Apparently, we had been alone together so few times since our kids were born our trip triggered a fraud alert.

What was your worst vacation mishap? Send me your story. I’ll repost the best ones, and if you’re a blogger, include a link to your blog.

 

The sandwiches of the 70’s

IMG_0559Maybe it’s because I just finished loading the completely overwhelming school calendar into my schedule, but today’s Daily Post writing prompt got me thinking about school lunch – what to buy, what to send with my kids, and what we ate. Especially what we ate.

The 70’s is not an era known for its cuisine. It was the time of gelatin blocks, frozen mixed vegetables (including the dubious lima bean), and an array of convenience foods best known for promoting the widespread use of MSG.

In keeping with the times, my classmates brought sandwiches that make me cringe now – peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow cream, and my personal favorite, peanut butter and pickle. All served on good, old, spongy white bread that had about as many nutrients in it as the brown paper bag we carried it in.

My kale-loving, grain-eating self can’t quite reconcile my current eating habits to those days, and in truth, I didn’t eat many of these sandwiches. Peanut butter and pickles never made it into our family repertoire, and my mom did not buy marshmallow cream. Instead, I ate a tuna sandwich almost every day of my school career, a habit that followed me into my college years. (Which makes me think that the hazards of consuming mercury have been grossly overstated by public health officials.)

This would seem a more healthful choice if I had not consumed it alongside one of the past-the-sell-date Twinkies we bought at the Hostess outlet store. Oh, and a Delicious apple, the type that has been bred, in my mind, to taste the least like an actual apple. As you see, I cannot play the superiority card here.

My children have many more healthy options. I buy whole-grain bread, and nitrate-free turkey. Pack warm, homemade soup. Make kale chips. Cut up beautiful, organic fruit.

None of which they’ll eat. Even if they have the time to finish their lunches (which they won’t), I have no illusions that given the chance, they’ll trade for a past-the-sell-date Twinkie.