Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweating the sweets


After 41 years on the planet I finally got smart.

I didn’t buy Halloween candy early this year.

Past experience has taught me well.

Buy candy early. Eat all the candy. Throw up.

Buy more candy. Gain 10 pounds.

So I decided to Just Say No this year and wait until the very last possible second to get candy for the little tricky monsters.

However, what I didn’t count on was my family’s less-than-stellar reaction to my plan.

“WHAT?! WE DON’T HAVE ANY CANDY YET?!” my husband screeched the morning of the big day. “THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!”

Whoa. Settle down there, cowboy. 

It’s not like I forgot to buy beer.

“Don’t worry,” I patted his arm. “I’ll get some later today.”

He puffed out his chest with all the self-importance of a guy who’d just planted a flag on the moon for all of mankind and announced, “No, I will get the candy this year.”

I’m not sure if he was expecting a fight, for me to defend my candy-buying responsibilities.

Like that was gonna happen.

“Don’t forget to grab something that’s not chocolate and something nut free,” I advised as he made his way to the garage.

He stopped, turned back around and grunted, “Huh?”

His eloquence is overwhelming.

I sighed, “Because some kids don’t like chocolate and others could be allergic to nuts.”

He looked like he’d just licked a lemon.

“What? Who doesn’t like chocolate?” he muttered and headed for the door.

***

You ever try to describe what Smarties look like over the phone?

Go ahead. Try it.

The phone rings.

Me: “Hello?”


Husband: “What should I get that’s non-chocolate?”

Me: “Smarties. Kids love Smarties.”


Husband: “What are Smarties?”

Me: “They’re like Sweet Tarts but smaller. Best thing ever invented for dentists.”

Husband: “Why don’t I just get Sweet Tarts?”

Me: “I don’t care. Get Sweet Tarts.”


Husband: (after a brief silence) “I don’t see any Smarties. What do they look like again?”

Me: (after I rolled my eyes) “What happened to the Sweet Tarts?”


Husband: “Just thought I’d look for Smarties first.”

Me: (for the Love of God) “They are round.”

Husband: “What color are they?”

Me:  (I wanna die) “All kinds of colors.”

Husband: (after a brief silence) “That doesn’t help. How big are they?”

Me: (I know about 12 different ways to kill him) “Jeez, about the size of a dime, I guess. Maybe a little smaller. And they’ll be stacked together in a roll.”

Husband: (after yet another brief silence) “I don’t see them on the shelf. I’m just gonna get Sweet Tarts.”

Me: (thank you, Jesus) “Sounds great. See you at home.”

Husband: (after a brief silence I hear him yell like he just discovered that beer has been given its very own spot on the Food Pyramid) “Oh, wait. I found them! I found the Smarties!”

Seriously.

That’s about 10 minutes of my life I will never. ever. get. back.

***

He arrived home with no less than 37 bags of candy. “What have you done?” I wailed. “There’s too much candy here!”

He shook his head and sagely said, “No, we’ll be fine.”

I waved to the plethora of sugar and pointed out, “You bought too many different kinds. You put all this in a bowl, give a kid this many options, and his head is gonna explode.”

He scoffed and said, “You’re crazy.”

I shook my head, “No, seriously, I’ve seen it. Three is the magic number. You have more than three kinds of candy and the kid will just stand there, looking into the bowl like he’s a fortune teller reading tea leaves and unable to make a decision. Then the parents nudge his side and mutter ‘hurry it up,’ which doesn’t help at all. Because then the kid starts hyperventilating. He picks up one kind, then puts it back. Picks up another kind, then puts THAT one back. By this time the parents are threatening to take away his XBox if he doesn’t move it down the street. Then he starts to cry.”

I looked at my husband and said, “Is that what you want? Do you wanna make little kids cry?!”

His eyes were THIS BIG. Then he cried, “I don’t wanna buy candy any more!”

Next year?

We’re moving to the moon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Little white lies



Let’s be honest. We lie to our kids.

All.
The.
Time.

Like how all the Snickers bars are gone (they’re not).

Like how the blue shirt goes with the red pants and neon yellow socks (it doesn’t).

Like how their crafts project is the most spectacular piece of art that ever graced the earth, rivaling both the “Mona Lisa” and “Dogs Playing Poker” (it’s not).

These little white lies are not meant to be hurtful. Rather, the opposite. Their purpose is to spare tender feelings, bestow warm fuzzies, establish trust in a “the world is full of rainbows and unicorns” kinda way.

Except in the case of the Snickers bar.

Nobody comes between me and chocolate.

Ever.

So lying is a rite of passage for parents. But it comes as a shock when you discover your world of little white lies is precariously perched on a towering pyre full of spark-worthy kindling just waiting for a match to light up the world.

Enter Indiana Jones.

***

In the same vein the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man threatened to be the innocent-looking downfall of the brave Ghostbusters, I was blown away when I discovered that the swashbuckling professor of archaeology and romancer of females would one day waltz in and spark a discussion I wasn’t quite ready for.

Over the years, our young son had occasionally popped up with a question regarding where babies come from.

So we said what every parent says, “A man and a women meet, fall in love, get married and have a baby.”

There.

That’s all the information they need at the time.

Once in a while, as the years passed and he spent more time observing the world around him - and learning how to do armpit farts - he would ask for a little more clarification.

“How does the baby get into the mommy’s tummy?” or “Does the daddy have to KISS the mommy first? YUCK!”

G-rated stuff, my friends.

So all was great in our world as we waited until that fateful day when puberty reared its temperamental head and necessitated “The Talk.”

But thanks to that fedora-wearing, whip-toting windbag that day showed up sooner rather than later.

***

There we were. Watching the fourth installment of the Indiana franchise. Those unfamiliar with the storyline might like to know that the movie takes place a couple of decades after we first meet Indy and his search for the ark of the covenant.

(Spoiler Alert) About halfway through film #4, we discover that Indy and his long-ago love, Marian, have a son. EGADS!

Considering this was about the fifth time our nine-year-old son had seen the film, I wasn’t prepared for his unexpected reaction.

But today was a special day, and it appeared those brain synapses of his were firing especially fast.

He frowned, looked at me and said, “Hey, if Indiana Jones and Marian never got married, then how did they have a son?”

Oh.

Crud.

I opened my mouth to answer. Something. Anything. A set of words that, when strung together, would help dig me out of this sticky situation.

But his sweet baby face looking at me for a little honesty was just too much to handle.
I decided it was time to face the music.

“Well, kiddo,” I said gently, bracing for impact, “men and women don’t have to get married to have a baby.”

Then, in a PG kinda way, I briefly - BRIEFLY - explained just a little bit about the proverbial birds and bees.

When I finished, he jumped from the couch and tore from the room.

I. Am. Screwed.

***

At first, I thought he was joking. But when he didn’t return, I went looking.

And found him sitting in the office, curled into a big chair, his head down, arms hugging his knees.

Oh.

Crud.

I leaned over and gently touched his shoulder. “I’m really sorry, honey, but I didn’t want to lie to you any more.”

He raised his head, a couple of tears stained his cheeks. He looked me straight in the eye and snarked, “Mom, you are creeping me out! I don’t want to hear anymore.”

OK. He wasn’t ready. Lesson learned.

The truth is overrated. Little white lies are OK.


At least until you’re 10.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Got it?




Last week, I told my young son that his female fourth-grade classmates will soon be undergoing changes within the next year two, thanks to our dear friend, Puberty.

He jumped like he’d been tased.

“Here’s the deal,” I said in an I-mean-it kind way. “They are gonna start to grow boobs.”

“Geesh, Mom,” he whined and rolled his eyes.

I looked him straight in the eye and continued, “And girls get really sensitive when someone starts making fun of their boobs. Or lack of boobs. So you will not make fun or allow any of your friends to make fun. You will show them respect and kindness. Got it?”

He quickly nodded, “Got it,” and off he went.

See?

How simple was that, America?

As a parent to a little boy, it’s my job to ensure he grows up into a man. A man who gets it.

The “Washington Post” reported that 45 percent of the NFL’s 150 million American fans are female. Hooters commercials and barely-dressed cheerleaders dancing along the sidelines not-withstanding, the female audience has become one of the most prized demographics for the billion-dollar organization.

You can now buy flip flops and purses and jewelry and yoga pants and lingerie decorated with the logo of your favorite NFL team.

It won’t be long before it’s on a box of tampons.

God bless capitalism.

But please do me a favor, NFL.

Identify those players who like to beat women and children and boot them out of the league.

Do it. Do it now.

***

The NFL refused to boot Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens after seeing video of him dragging his then-fiancee from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino.

Because apparently the parties involved said they both regretted it. She said some things, he said some things, it just got out of hand, they claimed.

It wasn’t until the portion of the video INSIDE the elevator was released, showing Rice punching the woman in the face, that his suspension was extended beyond two games.

Now Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson has been indicted on charges of negligent injury to his 4-year-old old son.

He has admitted to “disciplining” the child with a tree switch. Photos released by the Houston Police Department detailed his “discipline.”

Gashes, bruising and bloody welts covered the boy’s thighs. The report also detailed further injuries to his buttocks and scrotum.

Now, due process will play out in this wicked little play. And that’s OK. We trust that the system works, and truth will out.

At first, the Vikings deactivated Peterson from the active roster after learning of the indictment.

Way to go, Vikings!

But then the team received a beatdown by the New England Patriots.

Wait. What?

A day later, Peterson was back on the roster, eligible to practice, attend team meetings and given permission to suit up for the next game.

Due process must be followed, officials said. Let’s not rush to judgement. Let the man have his day in court, the Vikings cried.

But the Vikings and the NFL are not the court of law. Because of that, they are allowed to use a little common sense right now.

And here’s what my common sense tells me: When a man who has ADMITTED to hitting his son leaves that kind of trauma on a defenseless child’s tender little body?

I don’t need the state of Texas to tell me he did something wrong.

And neither should the Vikings or the NFL.

It wasn’t until advertisers and sponsors started dropping like flies - hitting the team where it counts - that they turned around and took Peterson off the field yet again.

But don’t feel too sorry for him. He’s still getting paid.

Don’t let his excuse “that’s how I was raised” get Peterson a free pass. If the photos released by the police department are in any way, shape or form indicative of the discipline he received as a child?

It was wrong then too. If the damage he inflicted had been on a person 18 or older, he’d have been arrested for assault.

Since Peterson appears to be such a fine model of strict parenting, I tried to find out just how many children he has. You know, so I can see exactly what kind of expert he is.

Some reports say five. Some speculate seven, conceived by possibly at least four different women.

It appears Peterson himself is reluctant to answer. It’s possible he doesn’t say because he just doesn’t know.

In August last year he discovered the existence of a 2-year-old son he wasn’t aware he had fathered. 

He revealed in an ESPN interview that the first time he saw the little boy was two months later. At the hospital. Where the child was on life support after allegedly being beaten by the mother’s boyfriend.

The child soon died from his injuries.

Here is a man who has already lost one child to domestic violence. One would hope he’d be a little more protective of the children he has left.

Instead, after reports of his indictment, Peterson tweeted a photo of a Bible with blue-highlighted passages regarding the dangers of judging others.

Sorry, but I’m gonna judge right here: a guy who has several kids with several different women is really the last guy from whom I want Bible quotes.

You don’t get to pick and choose from a list of good behaviors, Mr. Peterson.
If you’re gonna talk the talk, learn to walk the walk.

***

At the Patriots/Vikings home opener, one fan appeared wearing a Adrian Peterson jersey and carrying a long switch in support of the beleaguered running back.

She was female.

Maybe the NFL - who made $9.5 billion last year thanks to their 45 percent female fan base - is smarter than we think.

If some women can’t get it, how can we expect men to?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let's roll


Today is September 11.

It’s another anniversary of the day that changed our world.

Another anniversary when we remember the fallen.

Remember the heros.

Remember the families and friends left behind.

We remember the images. The black smoke. One crumbling tower. Then a second one. People in bewilderment and fear, running down dust-choked streets. A collapsed section of the Pentagon.

Later, a smoldering field in rural Pennsylvania.

The Stars and Stripes standing tall amid a tangled mess of debris and shattered lives.

Todd Beamer’s recorded voice saying, “Let’s roll.”

We Americans are full of pride, almost instilled from birth as soon as we slip from our mother’s womb. We are practically swaddled in the Stars and Stripes. Kindergartners learn to place tiny hands over tiny hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

We teach our children about respecting the flag and how to stand during the national anthem.

We love our red, white and blue. We love our history, our revolution against a king.

We love kicking butt in the Olympics. We love feeling like we’re Number One. We put men on the moon. We are a nation of winners and inventors and industrialists and educators and people out to take on the world before anyone can take it from us.

Pride. Arrogance.

That’s us. 

The world is a scary place. Sometimes in the fringes, sometimes blatantly out in the open, there are people whose very natures are dark. Like those who brought 9/11 into our lives. They live for the fear. They desire revenge. They see our pride, our arrogance and deem us unworthy.

But for each dark moment, for each tattered soul that lives to destroy, for each shattering event that calls into question our humanity for each other, there is light.

There is sweetness and innocence and compassion and hope.

It’s in the children who proudly set up a neighborhood lemonade stand to raise money for the local animal shelter.

It’s in those who create charming lending libraries at the end of their driveway so their neighbors can get lost in a new adventure.

It’s in the high school students who host fundraisers for a paralyzed classmate’s medical care.

It’s in the community members who build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

It’s in the shelters who help the abused and the abandoned, the neglected and the homeless, find a warm meal, a clean bed, a safe place.

It’s in the ALS bucket challenge, the Plunge for Landon Shaw.

It’s in the benefit dinner for a cancer patient.

It’s the community members who take an idea for a junior golf course and work to make it a reality.

It's in those who support a project to help disabled people bring home a paycheck and a sense of worthiness.

It’s in our teachers and our hospitals and our civic groups.

It’s the celebrities and athletes who use their fame and fortune to bring kindness and resources to those most in need.

It’s in groups like Wounded Warriors and the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

It’s in every local business that shares its time, talents and money with their community.

It’s in the welcoming faces of people like Maryville Hy-Vee greeter Fred Mares who make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.

Do not think for one damn second that the bad guys are winning.

Do not think for one damn second our world is beyond hope, beyond help.

While days like 9/11 make our hearts heavy, I know that the goodness of man rejoices. Our world is not perfect. Too many people around the world are at the mercy of the powerful. Too few own and control too much.

But I still believe there is more light than darkness, no matter how desperate some moments seem.

What life post-9/11 has taught me is to grab on to those moments of light. Use them to blast at the shadows of those who’d bring darkness to a world that is not always kind.

Be a light in your own corner of the world. Fight the shadows.

Let’s roll.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fight or Flight


“I took your advice, Mom, and didn’t do anything to get sent to the principal’s office,” my son announced after his first day of fourth grade.

He smirked then added, “But I can’t promise the same thing tomorrow.”

There was a time I would have rolled my eyes and snorted at such a ridiculous sounding statement. My son? Cause trouble? Puh-leeze.

Mother Teresa was more likely to get sent to the principal’s office. And that’s AFTER she died and was canonized for sainthood.

But now I’m a little nervous. I fear those days of enjoying the life with a well-behaved child are slipping away from me. Those blessed times when he slowly walked up, guilty look upon his face, ready to bare his soul for whatever perceived misdeed he had performed, prepared to face the consequences before he’d even been caught.

I used to joke that the only time the kid was a tattle-tale was on himself.

How sweet.


But those times?
They. Are. Gone.

Just like the days when the “120 pounds” hilariously listed as the weight on my driver’s license was an accurate measurement.

I haven’t updated the info since I was 25. And until the Department of Motor Vehicles threatens me at knifepoint to change it, it’ll stay that way.

But I digress.

I remember those early days of new parenthood.

Bringing home our little bundle of joy with absolutely no idea how to actually care for him.
We’d never changed a diaper.

Never prepared a bottle.

Had no clue how to feed, burp, clothe or bathe him.

We’d had a better chance of discovering cold fusion before learning the in’s and out’s of swaddling.

I’m still amazed we didn’t break him.

But, as all parents do - even the stupid ones like us - we quickly learned about onesies and bottles and binkies and gas.

And teething. And the great advice someone offered, which involved rubbing blackberry-flavored rum on the little guy’s mouth in order to bring a little relief from the pain of tender gums.

And...uh...yeah, we gave our baby rum because you’re desperate to try anything at that point.
Did it work? Not a chance it hell.

So, yes, there were some bumps along the way, but we did OK.

He can walk, talk, read and ride a bike. 

No back talk. No fights. No school suspensions. He hasn’t flunked out of school nor set anything on fire.

He hasn’t even joined a biker gang.

So, yeah, we were feeling pretty darn confident that our young son was on the path to becoming Mr. Model Citizen.

Then the little bugger turned 9.

Nine?
NINE!
Not 13.
Not 17.
Not 21.

I wasn’t prepared for the you-know-what to hit the fan at 9.

It was like one day I was speaking English: “Go do your homework.”

And he did. He did his homework.

Then he turned 9, and apparently forgot every English-speaking word known to man. He’s either ignoring me or his Fight or Flight Response has kicked in.

And, for the record, he is VERY partial to the Fight option.

Suddenly anything from “set the table” to “put on your shoes” to “is the sky blue?” involves a full-on discussion worthy of a Geneva Convention.

For instance, his school instituted a new dress code for days the students attend Mass. Nothing too elaborate, just clothing choices that better reflect a church atmosphere.

Geesh. He fought like a rabid coyote that first day he had to wear a polo shirt and a pair of khakis to school.

Kid acted like I told him to wear a tutu with a tiara.

It’s gonna be a loooooong year.

But that’s OK. I still have that bottle of blackberry run around here somewhere.