Knowledge is power.
Unless you’re nine years old.
Then it becomes entertainment.
Our son marched into the living room and announced in a booming voice, “I’ve been going comprende since the 1970s.”
Uh, say what?
I chuckled and asked for clarification, “Did you just say ‘comprende’?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You know, comprende.” He stressed that final word while gesturing toward his pants. “That means I’m not wearing any underwear.”
He then filled us in that he’d been watching a family television comedy where the hipster grandpa told his un-hipster grandson that he hadn’t worn underwear since disco was all the rage.
“So you see,” our son pointed to his bottom half, “I’m going comprende too.”
It took just about every weapon in our parental arsenal not to lose it in laughter right then and there, possibly scarring our beautiful son for life.
My husband quickly turned his back and discovered something completely riveting outside the window.
Could have been a squirrel.
Could have been the cat chasing a squirrel.
Could have been the dog chasing the cat chasing a squirrel.
At this point, a naked Charlize Theron chasing a squirrel through the back yard wouldn’t have caught his eye.
I leaned over and snuck a peek - his eyes were closed, lips smashed together, tears running down his cheeks, shoulders shaking.
He’s a strong one.
I straightened back up, took a moment to compose myself and asked my son, “Don’t you mean commando?”
He cocked his head to the side and eloquently responded, “Eh?”
I smiled and said, “Comprende means ‘understand’ in Spanish. Commando is slang for no underwear.”
He cocked his head, shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s good to know. I’d hate to get those mixed up in school.”
“Hey, Mom, I’d like the Rosetta Stone for Christmas,” he announced later in the week.
Yeah. So did Napoleon. And we saw how well that turned out for the Little Big Guy. He got to claim it for about five seconds before the British swooped in, knocked him to the ground and took his new toy away to England.
Since this is a kid whose list normally includes items like video games, soccer balls and NERF blasters, I was a little taken aback at this more highbrow request.
“The Rosetta Stone?” I asked. “Are you sure?” (Seriously, where does the kid come up with this stuff?)
He nodded an exuberant “YES.” (Seriously, he’s a weirdo.)
“Well, good luck with that,” I said. “The Egyptians have been trying for 200 years to pry that big rock out of Britain’s hands. I doubt we'd have any better luck.”
He looked at me quizzically. (Seriously, not the first time that’s happened.) “Uh, it can’t be that hard, Mom, I just saw it advertised on television.”
That’s a lot easier than mounting a full military campaign. Poor Napoleon. If he’d just waited until QVC was invented, life would have been a lot easier for him.
“Wait a minute,” I muttered. “I think we’re talking about two different Rosetta Stones.”
Turns out he was referring to the series of language learning tutorials and not the actual Rosetta Stone.
That makes a lot more sense.
The shipping and handling on the real Rosetta Stone would have been a nightmare anyway.
I laughed and said, “I guess we can put that on your list.” I smiled, recalling his earlier foray into the misuse of Spanish, and added, “I assume you’re wanting the Spanish video.”
He quickly shook his head and said, “Nope. German.”
Great. By the time he’s done he’ll have learned how to go commando in just about every language on the planet.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Friday, November 21, 2014
Our growing 9-year-old son’s bedroom was smaller than the less oft-used guest room. So when he asked if he could switch rooms, I decided to grant His Highness’s royal wish.
I sincerely thought I could dismantle his large bunk bed and move it into the bigger room.
But before you question my mental status, I’d like to state for the record that I was doing just that.
Armed with only an Allen wrench and a flathead screwdriver, I was like the super-fan-ta-bu-lous Bob Vila, only in reverse.
The first bolt?
I popped that baby out of there like I did my son’s first loose tooth.
I was flying through the process, envisioning my husband’s return home from work where I would triumphantly show him what I had done.
I even practiced my “Ta-da!”
I wanted to have just the right amount of flair, you know, without dipping into the category of obnoxiousness. He’d brag to husbands everywhere how much his wife rocks an Allen wrench.
But, like the tragic heroes of Greek mythology who counted their chickens - er, drachmas or whatever they counted back then - before they hatched, the universe decided to screw with me in the form of one tiny, quarter-inch, seized bolt.
Oh, I don’t think so.
I stomped down the stairs and into the garage, threw open the lid to my husband’s tool box and grabbed another - larger - screwdriver.
I can’t tell you what I planned to do with it, mind you, but it seemed like a good tool to start with.
I stomped back up the stairs, aligned the Allen wrench on one side of the bolt and wedged the screwdriver onto the bolt’s fastener and proceeded to turn the bolt counterclockwise.
Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty, you know.
I gripped the tool handles tightly, squeezed into the scant six inches of open space between the bed and the wall, braced my shoulder against the beam and turned with everything I had inside of me.
And blew out a kidney.
And tore a rotator cuff.
Holy mother of God. This is war.
I threw down the screwdriver and stomped back down the stairs.
(I’d like to say it was at this point I got smart and just grabbed the tool box to take back upstairs with me. But I can’t say that without lying about it. So I won’t.)
I grabbed something that looked like a cross between a pair of pliers and the forceps they used on me when my son was born.
If they got a 9-pound baby outta my uterus after 24 hours of labor, then that seized bolt was MINE!
73 minutes later....
I won’t lie to you. By this time I had lugged the toolbox up the stairs and tried every *#&% tool we had.
I even tried drilling it out. No luck.
And that’s when I spotted it.
Just sitting there in the bottom of the toolbox.
Calling to me.
I bent over and picked it up, hefted it in my hand, testing its weight, and thought, “Just one swing. Just one. Then all my troubles will be over.” I smiled.
Just as I swung the hammer back in a large arc over my head - I heard this behind me, “Hi, Mom.”
Oh, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world.
With the hammer frozen over my head, I turned to see my son standing in the doorway of his bedroom. He smiled at me and said, “I just wanted you to know I’ve been downstairs praying for you. I know you can figure this all out.”
I turned back to the bed and muttered, “Well played, you little son of a bunk bed. Well played.”
When my husband returned home from work a bit later it wasn’t to congratulate me on my awesomeness, as I had envisioned.
Instead, he found me crying in a huddled mass underneath the bunk bed, clutching the hammer to my chest and babbling about my kidney.
First, he fixed me a really strong drink. He’s a good man.
Then he grabbed the drill and ripped out that bolt like it was butter.
I’d like to think I’d loosened it for him.
At least...that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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.
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!”
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!”
We’re moving to the moon.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Let’s be honest. We lie to our kids.
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.