Monday, January 28, 2013

Bucket List: Kidstyle

After I mentioned the phrase "Bucket List" over the weekend, our 7-year-old son decided to start his own.

So far, it looks pretty good. I am, however, a little worried he's already thinking about kids. At least he put "Get Married" first. Whew!

1. Go to China
2. Get married
3. Have kids named Jack and Maddie
4. Get a second-degree black belt in Hapkido
5. Visit Washington, D.C.
6. Learn how to snowboard
7. Learn how to ski
8. Be in the Olympics
9. Become a ping pong champion
10. Visit all 7 continents
11. Visit all 50 states

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Testing the Ice: A True Story about Jackie Robinson

My 7-year-old son and I read this book on Monday. It is a wonderful children's story with a deeper message regarding the dark past of the United States pre-Civil Rights Act.

Fresh off a lesson regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my son was curious about the level of discrimination those before and during Robinson's life were exposed to. This led to a discussion of the Jim Crow laws.

The look on his face was priceless - a mix of disgust and what-the-hell? His response was priceless as well: "Well, what kind of bonehead thought of those laws?"

Bonehead, indeed. It is comforting to see how much smarter each new generation gets. It gives me hope.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Everybody wants to rule the world

It’s quite obvious that society is in for a world of hurt if my 7-year-old son is any indication.

“Mooooooom,” my son wailed down the stairs one morning. In that way kids do, stretching out the one-syllable word into 17 and ending with a serious whine.

I, however, have no problem being succinct.

“What?!” I hollered back, walking around the corner and looking up the stairs.

“I can’t do it,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “I just can’t do it.”

“What? Speak Latin?” I answered. “Don’t worry. It’s hard to speak and why the Roman Empire fell. You know, that and its destructive need to rule the world, ultimately owing its collapse to internal greed and outside forces.”


My son rolled his eyes. It’s not the first time I failed to take his concerns seriously, instead making some obscure historical reference to distract him from what was undoubtedly a not-so-serious situation.

It’s a very useful tool. Waaaaaay more effective than that listening with empathy crap.

He held up a blanket, “I’m having trouble making my bed today.”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “What’s so hard about it? You straighten the sheets, fix the pillow then cover it with the quilt. VOILA! Done.”

And just before I turned to head back down the hallway I heard this, “But this blanket is soooooo heavy!”

Oh, for the love of God and all that is holy. This right here is why our nation is in trouble.

I turned back around and stomped up the stairs. I grabbed the blanket from his hands, marched into his room and proceeded to show him just how darn easy it is to make a twin-sized bed.

“See?” I finished, waving a hand in the direction of one newly-made bed. “No problem.”
He gave me a thumbs up, a smile and replied, “Great job, Mom.” Then he turned and ran for the hills.

Son-of-a-biscuit. He got me.

I think it’s safe to say he’s got a future in management.


And let’s not even talk about laundry.


OK. Let’s talk about laundry.

I decided it was time Tom Sawyer learned to put away his own laundry.

I’d still clean his clothes, I told him. I’m not ready to have entire loads ruined ‘cuz he poured in bleach rather than fabric softener.

Some wounds, you know, never heal.

“But you are more than capable of putting away your own laundry,” I lectured.

Because he’s made it through to the final World 9 on Super Mario Brothers. I, however, can’t get past the beginning stage of World 1 without getting squashed by one of those mushroom-looking things.

So the little stinker has achieved some level of hand-eye coordination that is beyond my own capability.

I walked into his bedroom with a basket of freshly laundered clothes. I placed it on the floor and instructed, “Get after it.”

He looked at me.

He looked at the basket.

Then he looked back up at me.

“I think I’d rather learn Latin,” he snarked.

I shot him the Mom Look then walked away, wondering why people have kids.

Oh, I remember.

In case you lose the TV remote, you have someone to get up and change the channel.

At least that’s what my dad always said.


I walked into my son’s bedroom a short time later and proceeded to see red.

Pants spread out all over the bed. Socks and underwear scattered on the floor, shirts hanging off the top bunk and hangers were everywhere.

He at least had the shame to hang his head, “I had a little trouble.”

“‘A little trouble’?” I repeated and waved my arms around the room in disbelief. “It looks like the Death Star blew up in here!”

He briefly smiled at my “Star Wars” reference but then got serious again after looking at my unsmiling face.

I picked up the nearest pair of undies and shook them, “These are clean! CLEAN! You do NOT throw CLEAN CLOTHES on the FLOOR!”

I grumbled something about training monkeys and huffily began snapping items off the floor and shoving them into drawers and jerking shirts onto hangars and jamming them onto the rod in the closet.

And then I stopped.

What the heck am I doing?

I slowly turned around, dropped the shirt onto the floor and told my son, “No, you do it.” 

Then I walked away.

He’s not the only one who can be management. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Stop the madness

I have a beautiful and bright son who plays with LEGOs and believes in Santa Claus.
He is 7 years old.

And explaining to him what happened in Newtown, Conn., was shockingly easier than I thought it would be. I kept it short, simple and to the point. I provided no gory details.

Then I sat and waited for his response.

He had no questions.

He felt no fear about safety in his own school.

He didn’t ask about “bad guys” who might try to hurt him.

He simply nodded his little blonde head and quietly said, “OK, Mom.”

I walked out of his bedroom and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Why?

Because I understood that beautiful little boy had no understanding about what took place inside Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14.

His SpongeBob-loving mind can’t wrap around that kind of hatred, of abject terror, of desolation.

In a selfish way, I am happy for that. Let him be a child a little longer.

If only the 20 angels stolen at Sandy Hook had the same opportunity.

I grieve for what society has turned us into: a nation of chest-beaters and hand-wringers who sit idly by while each tragedy sinks us deeper into a cesspool of immense loathing and despair.

These events make us cry. They make us angry. Newspapers write editorials. Social media is crammed with photos and stories of victims. Networks host fundraisers, and reality show singers perform beautiful tributes. Politicians argue gun control and mental health issues.

And then...after a few days, weeks, months...the events that so traumatized us begin to sting a little less, media get distracted by something else shiny and ratings-grabbing and move on until finally the only time it enters our minds is on an anniversary or when - not if - but when another tragedy hits and we start to compare body counts.

Frankly, it makes me sick.

I hate guns. The very thought of holding one makes me want to throw up.

But I understand where Second Amendment proponents are coming from. While I’m of the camp that the Founding Fathers probably referred to an armed military presence to protect we puny little civilians, I understand how the wording can be construed to support personal gun ownership.

Fine. Whatever floats your boat.

However, I do not understand why that extends to assault rifles and large ammo clips. Armor-piercing bullets? Really? That’s necessary? For what, exactly? Target practice? Protection?

They aren’t stopping tragedies like Sandy Hook. I don’t recall one incident in recent memory where Average Joe Citizen prevented a mass shooting by pulling out an assault rifle and taking out the bad guy.

I wish I had the answer. I wish I knew how to grab our society by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense back into it.

Gun laws aren’t cutting it. No matter what changes are or are not made, people who shouldn’t have a gun will get one. I’d just like to make it a little more difficult for them to do so.

We need money. Money to make our schools safer. Money to fix holes in the gun licensing system. Money to spot and treat mental health issues and increase support services for individuals and families suffering from that nightmare.

So where do we find that money?

I’ll tell you where.

Stop building NFL stadiums for rich guys who can build their own.

While we’re at it, stop giving tax breaks to MLB, the NBA, the NHL and any other sports acronym that blackmails a city, threatening to pack up their toys and leave town if it doesn’t get whatever the hell it wants.

How much revenue did the state of Missouri lose because of tax credits given to the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years?

...and look how well that turned out.

Let’s collect and use taxes for their real intention: education, infrastructure, health services - both physical AND mental.

And stop spending $6 BILLION on presidential election campaigns.

I know I didn’t spend $6 billion and, you, my readers, didn’t spend $6 billion.

But somebody did.

Our government has gotten so polluted with lobbyists and millionaires and power-grabbing narcissists that the average voter no longer has any power.

I’d like to lead the charge to say, “Let’s take back America!” But, my friends, that train has left the station.

I’ve never felt so powerless in my life.

Too few people make the rules around here now.  Until those people tell the donors and lobbyists writing their large campaign checks to stuff them where the sun doesn’t shine, nothing will change.

Until those people stop giving tax breaks to billionaires and building palaces for them to play their games, nothing will change.

Until those people start supporting education, putting dollars back into our schools instead of raping budgets, nothing. will. change.

Remember when members of Congress broke into an impromptu bipartisan rendition of “God Bless America” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol after 9/11?


I don’t think they remember either.

Leaders at every level need to take a long, hard look at the job they are doing. Voters need to take a long, hard look at the job those leaders are doing.

And start making some changes.

I don’t want or expect people to agree with me about guns, the NFL or Sandy Hook, but let’s get the conversation started.

Because my son is only 7 years old.

And I silently scream at the thought of future Sandy Hook-conversations I’ll have with him if we don’t do something to stop this madness right now.