Friday, June 29, 2007

Poverty Schmoverty

Maybe I'll write a book on entitlement issues.  I'll go on a self-righteous rampage about my own strategy to
avoid passing on my entitlement issues and those of our Paris Hilton
obsessed youth population to my children.  I'll turn my nose up at the Mom who buys her
kid a $5 toy to quell his crying in Wal-Mart. I'll pass silent judgment tinged with envy on the Mom strutting through the
mall with her $800 stroller, dressed in couture.  Then I'll tell you about how my son cried today as we were leaving
Zoo Camp because I told him that we could not afford to buy a boat.


My entitlement-issue-avoidance strategy does not appear to be working. Actually, my strategy is more of a
pretentious soapbox that I stand on when I discuss entitlement with
others. It has no basis in reality. I rub my own ego with orations (sometimes
real, sometimes daydream debates with popular public figures) about the culture
of instant gratification and blatant materialism that plagues the youth of
America. The righteous indignation
billows out of me like smoke from a smoke stack but it has no foundation. My children have not yet started school and
they already have entitlement issues.

Exhibit A:  My son
had a conniption fit in the parking lot at Zoo camp because I had the audacity
to deny his request that our family purchase a boat.

Exhibit B: My son is
four years old and I paid $85 to send him to Zoo Camp.

Exhibit C:  My
two-year-old daughter immediately jumped on the boat bandwagon, yelling “Boat!”
at the top of her lungs in a demanding voice continually on the drive home from
Zoo Camp.

I’m no idiot. I wear
my semi-transparent cloak of righteous indignation but I know where my
children’s entitlement issues stem from. They have almost no contact with the poor. As far as they know, everyone in the world lives in their own
home, has plenty of food to eat and gets to go on vacations a couple of times a
year. My son saw a homeless man once,
standing at an intersection with a sign requesting help and he asked me about
him. I tried to explain the concept of
poverty and homelessness to him but it was not something he could wrap his head
around and I dropped it fairly quickly.

My maternal instincts tell me to shelter my children from
the realities of society. I want to
cushion their lives and make sure that all of their needs and most of their
wants are met. But is this a
reasonable strategy? Do I really have
their best interests at heart? These
are questions that I plan to ponder as I begin my new mission: make friends with some poor folks to give my
children perspective. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Friends with Benefits

What’s the only thing better than having a boat? Having friends with a boat. What’s the only thing better than having
friends with a boat? Having two friends
with boats. Two of our good friends
have purchased boats in the past month. This is great for us as I have no desire to be a boat owner nor do I
want to insure, store or maintain a boat. Good friends with boats means having the ability to enjoy the benefits
of a boat without the hassles. It’s a
nice spot to be in. Note to the
Tunnells and the Byrnes: The Hales will
happily tag along for any boat trips you want to take. We won’t be total freeloaders though. We’ll chip in for gas! Gotta save face with my boatin’ friends.

BoatI have yet to ride on either of the boats despite a
couple offers to do so. I’ve either had
conflicts or been sick and have managed to miss out on the boating fun thus far. My son, however, has not had my bad luck. He spent the night with the Tunnells last
night and got to take a trip out on their boat. He was pretty excited about it and I am really bummed that I
missed his first private boat ride. My
regret level reached new heights when Alyson (Mrs. Tunnell) called me last
night after the boat ride was over.  In a scene straight out of South Park, my son, the type A clean-freak little boy that cohabitates
with me, christened the waters of east Tennessee with (how do I put this
delicately) his own personal solid waste.

Apparently, in the middle of the lake, my son told Alyson he
had to go potty. When she told him to
jump in the lake he looked at her like she was crazy. It took her a few minutes to figure out that he didn’t have to
pee. They were at least a half hour
from any facilities and she told him he had two choices. He could either go in the water or hold it
until they returned to shore. Apparently, he had to go pretty badly because he chose the first
option. He jumped off of the boat,
removed his trunks and went. Now, this
probably is not the most pleasant story and I would not be telling it if I did
not find so much humor in Alyson’s actions during the event. She had her camera out and took a shot of
him doing the deed and then another shot of the end result (that’s right
folks. She took a picture of the
poo). She sent it to me last night in a
slide show with a little narrative at the bottom explaining what each picture
was. I nearly peed in my pants when I
saw it. Here’s my dilemma: Do I save these pictures for my son’s
scrapbook? With the current popularity
of the scrapbooking industry, I wonder if there is a special paper for this
particular event. Maybe going number
two in a body of water for the first time is considered some sort of milestone.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

We just got back from a whirlwind trip that included 8 hours
in the car on the way to our destination, roughly 40 hours at our destination
and 8 hours in the car on the way home. It was a little rough on all of us and I have returned with a burning
question: How do you explain the concept of time to a four-year-old? 

In a very Bart Simpson way, my son asked repeatedly in the
car how much longer we had to go. My
husband and I answered him to the best of our ability but he kept throwing
curve balls at us. Here’s how our
conversation went:

Son: How much
longer until we get home?

Me: About three

Son: How long is
three hours?

Me: Well, it’s
about how long you are at school during the school year.

Son: Oh. How long is that?

Me: Three hours.

Son: How long is
three hours?

It was a circular conversation. I tried to equate increments of time to common events in my son’s
life. Twenty minutes was a trip to
Katherine’s house. An hour was a trip
to Grandma’s house. Two hours was one
movie, etc… Things were much tougher at
the beginning of the trip when the answer was seven hours. I had nothing. I said things like, “Seven hours is how long Daddy and Mommy
sleep at night.” My son had no concept
of this but it got him to stop talking long enough for me to get a little bit
of shut eye before his next inquisition.

Our next family vacation is a little over a month away. This one will probably take us about ten
hours each way. I need to start doing
some research now so that we have a plan of action for filling those ten
hours. I Spy and a couple of DVDs can
only get you so far.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bee Charmer

My son lacks physical grace in every aspect of his life but
watching him catch fireflies is like watching an expertly trained
ballerina. He has never charmed a bee (to
my knowledge) but I have given him the nickname, “Bee Charmer” recently. He has some type of connection with insects
that I have not witnessed in another child. He doesn’t chase after the fireflies or even run. He spots them, walks calmly up to them and
gently wraps his hands around them with little or no effort. He doesn’t harm them or startle them. He just
charms them into his hands, night after night, lots and lots of fireflies.

Once they are safely sealed in our makeshift Mason jar
habitat, my son observes the fireflies with great interest. He puts “food” in the jar for them (grass
and dirt) and discusses, in detail, their every move. As darkness falls, we start our journey back inside and my son
releases the lightning bugs into the night sky, vowing to catch them again
tomorrow.  I don't want to romanticize this too much.  There are some bugs that don't move on the bottom of the jar because they have fallen victim to my daughter's unsympathetic bug catching methods but the vast majority of them do fly right out of the jar.   He tells them goodnight and
walks through the door, back into the house where the only bugs he can charm
are the flies that swarm around our bay window.

It is with great love and pride that I bestow the nickname,
“Bee Charmer” on my son. One of my
favorite lines from Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop
(one of my all-time favorite books), came from Ruth, “You're
just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That's what you are, a bee
charmer.” My son is in good company
with Idgie Threadgoode. He’s just a
bee charmer. That’s what he is, a bee

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mini Waffle Debacle

Father’s Day was fairly uneventful in our house. I attempted to make my husband French toast
(his request) but failed miserably. I
left the bread in the mixture too long and each
piece of bread disintegrated in the pan. The only survivor was the end piece. It held together by virtue of the extra crust. He said that piece was “pretty good.” This probably wasn’t a Father’s Day that my husband will remember
for years to come. It was kind of sad

Breakfast may have been a bust but my husband did take
advantage of his special day by getting some extra work done in the
garden. After a couple beers and some
digging in the dirt, he came inside to get some water. When he opened the freezer to get some ice,
a mini waffle fell out. I bought them
for the first time a few weeks ago.  It was my first
experience with miniature breakfast pastries and, in a momentary lapse of
reason and impulse control, I took the four mini waffles apart in preparation
to cook them. It was only after I
looked at the cooking instructions that I realized the waffles were connected
so that they could be put into a toaster just like a regular sized waffle. I thumped myself on the forehead for being
such a dufus and, unable to swallow just chucking them in the trash can, I threw the four mini waffles that I had separated back into the
package.  It was one of these mini waffles that fell out of the freezer and led to
my husband’s pathetic attempt to make up for my breakfast debacle.

My husband wasn’t really sure where the mini waffle had come
from but he didn't really seemed to care.  It was as if a giant gold nugget had fallen from the sky.  He picked that sad little
waffle (about an inch in diameter) off of the floor and put it into the toaster
to cook it. Not wanting to burn it, he
put the toaster on the lowest setting and waited until it was finished to dig
the mini waffle out with a knife. He
set it on a cake plate, poured a teeny tiny bit of syrup on it and ate it,
enjoying every bite. I watched from a
distance, chuckling at his desperate love of breakfast pastries.

Lesson learned: a
trip to IHOP makes a great Father’s Day present.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Comment Slacker

Just wanted to give props to all of the faithful Another Gray Hair comment posters.  I always enjoy reading them and responding to them.

Regarding the latter, I am sorry I have been such a slacker lately.  I did not realize how behind I was until I played catch up today.  Yikes!  I promise I'll do better.

Beginner's Luck Daniel Son

My son has upped the ante with his Mr. Miyagi tendencies
lately. He can catch flies with his
bare hands. It’s not an isolated
incident either. He catches one fly at
least two to three times a week. Here’s
how it goes:

I am usually folding laundry, cooking or changing my
daughter’s diaper and my son will yell from the living room, “Mommy. I need you.” This is a phrase that I have come to decipher to mean one of two

A) My son has just gone to the bathroom and needs help wiping.

B) My son has caught a fly and wants me to open the door so that
he can let it out.

If he is in any room other than the bathroom when he makes
his request I can assume that it is B. I finish what I’m doing and go into the living room to see what’s going
on. He shows me the fly which he holds,
ever-so-delicately, between his thumb and forefinger by the wing. The fly is always alive and it’s little legs
are moving at 100 miles an hour. He asks
me to open the door and I always comply. He holds his hand out the door and opens up his fingers. The little bug immediately takes flight and
he says, “bye fly!” and shuts the door.

I always ask him, “How did you do that?”

My son responds with a should shrug, “I just did.”

This talent, coupled with his freakishly long tongue, is a
guaranteed in on The Letterman Show’s Stupid Human Tricks segment.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stay-At-Home-Mom Syndrome

The image of the stay-at-home-mom has changed in recent
years. Our aprons have been replaced
with cell-phones and we’ve traded in our cocktails for Xanax and Prozac. The peaceful, nurturing spirit that used to
fill our minds when we thought of stay-at-home-moms, along with the smell of
fresh-baked cookies, has disappeared. Today’s Moms are in a big freakin’ hurry. They're not sure where they’re going but they are going to get there
fast and no one, not even their children, is going to stand in their way.

This image of the pill-popping, cell phone wielding Mother
is not always a fair representation but it certainly is a common sight. I saw an incident today that would make
anyone shudder. I was at the pool,
taking a break from my constant poolside anxiety because both of my kids were
out of the water, when I saw some commotion by the baby pool. There, in the pool, was a little boy who
looked to be around 2-years-old. His
face was in the water and he was clearly struggling. The group of women by the pool called out to his Mother who came
over casually, cell-phone at her ear, and attempted to lift the boy out of the
water by his wrist while still talking on her cell-phone. In her attempt to multi-task, her hand
slipped and her son fell, face first, into the water. She still did not put her phone down. Instead, she rolled her eyes, kept talking and grabbed her son
again, this time successfully taking him out of the water.

It was a very disturbing sight and not one I hope to see
again anytime soon. It brought to light
the stigma that is associated with the modern stay-at-home-Mom as  anxiety ridden, cell-phone weilding,  multi-tasking monsters hardly capable of taking care of themselves, let alone their children. Is the stigma accurate? Obviously it is in some cases. Every stay-at-home-Mom (including myself) I
know has a cell phone that gets a great deal of use and there are a whole lot
of Mamas on Prozac.  The vast majority of them are, however, good people, good mothers
and good citizens of this earth. They
are our friends, our neighbors and, for better or worse, the Mothers of the
next generation. Some of their children
are just going to need a little more therapy than others.

In a very timely, if less-than-graceful, act of redemption
for stay-at-home-Moms everywhere, a Mom (a friend of mine) was sitting by the
baby pool, looking at her friend’s newly printed vacation pictures when her
2-year-old son started to struggle in the water. Without hesitation or regard for anything or anyone, she
jumped into the one-foot waters of the baby pool. She could have scaled a small building with the leap she made
and, before anyone knew what was happening, she had her son out of the water to
safety. Those freshly printed pictures
lay on the surface of the water effectively ruined. If her cell phone had been in hand (it wasn’t) it would be
waterlogged at the bottom of the pool. Everything in her lap at the time her son went under was sacrificed for
her rescue attempt. It was a glorious

Friday, June 8, 2007

Range of Motion

They say bad things come in threes. I guess I’m living proof of that. Less than two weeks ago, I discovered a dead
body on the banks of our campsite. Three
days ago I became ill and made every effort possible to keep my body firmly
planted on the couch, despite my children’s many requests. My son learned a little bit about
self-sufficiency during that time. And
today my daughter fell from a swing-set fort to the ground and landed on her
back. It was about 4.5 feet high (this
is a guess) and my 33-inch tall daughter fell sideways off of the platform onto
the ground with a fairly loud thunk.

I went to the ER about 10 minutes after the fall. She seemed OK but was a little lethargic and
crying in a way that had me worried. I
called my doctor but he was at lunch and I couldn’t stand not taking her
in. I had to make sure she was OK. So, I called in a favor with Melinda to take
my son home with her if necessary (thank you Melinda!). I explained to my son what was going on and
I jumped in my car and drove the three miles to the hospital. I got to see the triage nurse relatively
quickly and she did a fairly extensive check-up on my daughter. She said that she would be happy to let a
doctor look at her but she was quite confident that my daughter was fine. By that time she was calm and smiling. I asked her what she would do if it were her
child and she said she would take her home, observe her and come back if there
was anything noticeably wrong later on. I took her advice and went back to pick up my son and hang out a little
bit with some friends.

My daughter seemed fine. She ate lunch and was a little moody but I attributed it to her being tired  and a little shell-shocked from the fall. I took the kids home and they both napped for a couple hours. When my daughter woke up she was clearly
favoring her left arm. She held her right one pretty close to her body and kept pointing at it and whimpering. It took me about three seconds to get both
kids in the car and on the way to the hospital. We got right in again with the same triage nurse and saw a doctor within fifteen minutes of arriva. My
daughter charmed the scrubs off of everyone in that hospital and managed to
coerce the nurse into snatching a popsicle for her and my son from the staff’s
freezer. She sat still for the doctor,
licking her red popsicle and grinning while the doctor pulled her arms and
legs, checked her back, neck and head and, every once in a while, looked at me
as if to say, “Why did you bring her here again?”

My daughter is fine. The range of motion in all of her appendages is normal and she walked
out of there with a new bracelet, a sticker and a popsicle. She thinks the hospital is some type of amusement
park full of friendly people and frozen treats. I walked out of there with a $300.00 bill and a post-it note
stuck on my daughter’s file that says, “Warning: Neurotic Mother.”

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Non-Surgical Lobotomies

I've been a blogger slacker for the past couple days because I've been sick.  My mothering skills have fallen to the wayside along with my writing.  The television has been on so much that I think my children may have experienced non-surgical lobotomies.  My son has been using the phrase, "I'm never
get to do anything fun" quite frequently.  And, right now, my daughter is spraying my cat with organic all purpose cleaner continuously.  I am doing nothing to stop her.  It's non-toxic right?  How much harm can it do?

Let's hope, for the sake of my children's brain development and the overall health and welfare of the felines in my home, that I get better soon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Sweet Smell of Irony

My daughter has developed a very annoying habit of changing
clothes several times throughout the day. One of my good friends has struggled with this since her children were
very young and I have always secretly thought she must have encouraged it in
some way. My son never changes clothes
unless, God forbid, a drop of rain fell on an article of clothing or the fabric
is, for reasons unknown, considered “scratchy.” If either of these situations arise, then he has to change
clothes immediately. Strange as they
are, my son does have reasons. He
doesn’t want to change clothes for the sake of doing it. My daughter does.

This morning this exhausting habit brought a smile to my
face when, in an ironic twist of fate, she brought me a shirt that I bought for
my son to wear at his second birthday party. I have not seen it in over two years and have no idea where she found
it. It is a simple black T-shirt that
reads, in small white letters, “Benevolent Dictator.” 

Friday, June 1, 2007

Chocolate Factory Revitalization Project

Legos and Lincoln Logs are a hot commodity in my house right
now. My son creates tall, elaborate
structures and no matter what they look
like, I always get the same answer when I ask him what they are: chocolate
factories. He builds chocolate
factories like they are going out of style. A common occurrence in my house of late is my son's sudden, hysterical crying followed by a dramatic collapse and an almost incomprehensible, “Sissy isn’t
being nice. She knocked over my
chocolate factory.” If I were a random
onlooker and witnessed one of these fits, I’d probably think that my son's puppy  had just
gotten run over by a truck. It’s
that dramatic.

Clearly I cannot endorse this type of
reaction to my daughter’s maybe accidental, most likely purposeful, destruction
of my son’s structure. I also don’t
feel like I should punish my daughter for knocking things over
occasionally. It’s what kids do. It’s normal. My son, however, is not. He assigns great value to his creations and feels that the rest of the
world should not only recognize this value but also respect it. He’s got some tough lessons to learn.

When this happened this morning I told him that he was
overreacting. He continued to jump up
and down and scream, whining unintelligible phrases between deep, dramatic
breaths.  I was forced to threaten to take his Legos away for
the day if he continued.  When he was finally able to compose himself I explained to
him that he could play uninterrupted in his room if he chose to. I told my son that his sister could not be
expected to refrain from knocking over his chocolate factories if they were built on the living room floor. He didn’t quite agree
with this and fought me tooth and nail but finally conceded. He begrudgingly dragged his Lego basket back
to his room, closed the door and commenced a chocolate factory revitalization
project. My daughter stood by his door
for a while perplexed saying, “Bubba? Bubba?” It was really sad but
she gave up pretty quickly in favor of “helping” me fold the laundry.

I’m happy to report that the chocolate factory
revitalization project was a success. It is restored to its formal glory and has found a new home on the floor
of my son’s room. The room wrecker lock
on the outside of my son’s door has been given new life as my son’s official
chocolate factory security system. The
success rate thus far: 100%. I’ll keep you posted.