Month: October 2012

Halloween Comes Down To One Thing — Sugar Worship

Just before trick-or-treating

Unlike Valentine’s Day, which I can’t stand, I love Halloween. It’s not that I enjoy the ghouls, ghosts, goblins, and gore. I simply relish the opportunity to dress up and the excuse to buy and consume tons of candy without guilt. In preparation for this perfectly mild Halloween evening, I purchased five large bags of sugary candy to share with kids. I put on my cat ears and drew on some whiskers and went out with the kids to trick-or-treat on a couple streets while hubby took the first shift of candy distribution. There’s s something about going through this ritual with my boys the way my parents went through it with me that makes me feel good. Halloween is a family night in our house. It’s the only holiday when we don’t have to share our boys with relatives, and that in itself makes it special to me.

Our boys attend a Christian school where there are no costumes allowed on Halloween. Each of my sons have several classmates who are not permitted to trick-or-treat at all. In fact, Joe was telling me that one classmate stays home and hands out candy to other kids who come to their house. I’ve always been baffled by those who don’t participate in Halloween. I understand that their disdain for Halloween stems from a religious belief that this is the devil’s holiday. (Joe actually gave me this entire lecture today on why he believes this cannot be a holiday celebrating, as one friend told him, the “devil’s birthday” because Lucifer was created as an angel and not ever born in the traditional sense at all, so how could Halloween be a holiday celebrating a birth that never actually occurred? I don’t know. He lost me about two seconds into that explanation.) But, I was raised in a fairly strict Catholic household, and my parents had no reservations about Halloween. Until my boys began at this school, I really had no idea that there were so many Christians who do not allow any sort of Halloween activity in their household.

Curious about the reasons why some people choose not to celebrate what, to me, seems like such an innocuous and fun occasion, I did some research tonight. The Christian Broadcasting Network article I read claimed that Halloween is linked too closely to Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft, and “those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.” Huh. I guess you have to toss me into the category of those who aren’t totally aware of Halloween’s roots because I do not believe I am intentionally promoting evil and its power in the world by letting my kids dress up as superheroes and Star Wars characters and take candy from our kind neighbors. As I read more and more, I began to better understand where these families are coming from with regard to their stance on Halloween. They truly believe that Halloween gives power to Satan. They want no part of that. I get it. The devil is scary business.

I would never tell someone they should allow their children to trick-or-treat. But, I have to say that by keeping your kids from enjoying some fun and candy with friends on the basis that Halloween is a holiday that promotes Satan’s power in the world, you seem to be giving the devil even more power than he deserves. I’m not a practicing Wiccan, so Halloween isn’t a religious holiday for me. It’s just a chance for me to draw on some whiskers and follow my kids through the neighborhood to ensure they are being polite as they collect what will be dessert every night in our household until Valentine’s Day. I choose not to examine too carefully its origins because whatever Halloween once was is not what it is now. In today’s society, in our culture, it’s not devil worship, it’s sugar worship. Plain and simple. And, any day when someone willingly hands me a free bag of Skittles is all right in my book. Devil be damned.

 

One Lego Brick Shy Of A Load

The most creative object on earth

A few days ago I was looking through Halloween costume ideas online. Not exactly sure why I was doing this given the fact that our boys made us buy their costumes about a month ago when the Halloween costume stores began popping up in previously abandoned retail spaces every five miles or so. Joe has his Captain America costume, a costume that fits his personality so well that I think he should wear it 24/7. It’s just my favorite thing ever. Joe is all about being an upright citizen, protecting the innocent, and keeping an eye out for the bad guys. Luke, on the other hand, is the bad guy. He picked an elaborate, black, ninja costume complete with face mask and two swords that attach to his costume in the back. He would also be carrying nunchucks and throwing stars if we let him, but we decided that was a bit more weaponry than is actually necessary to obtain a pillowcase full of free candy.

At any rate, during the course of my random costume search, I came across homemade costumes to match the Lego brand. Luke is a Lego fanatic, so I thought they might interest him. Against all greater wisdom, I showed him some of the costumes and told him that if he liked one maybe someday I could make him one…the operative word there was “someday” because he already had a costume and therefore didn’t need a new one. Then, last night, four nights after my original mention of the Lego costumes, Luke casually mentions that he’s excited to wear his Lego costume. What???? I froze.

“Luke, honey,” I said, “I thought you were excited to be a black ninja.”

“You said I could be a Lego dude,” he replied. “I like that better.”

“Ummmm….I didn’t mean for this Halloween, sweetie. Halloween is in a couple days. I’m not sure I can make a costume on such short notice,” I said.

Oh, what hot glue can do!

His brow furrowed.

“Oh,” he said, clearly disappointed.

I sat there silently loathing myself for bringing it up when I knew there was no way I’d have the time, energy, or inclination to create a Lego minifigure costume with paper maché head in a two short days with oodles of other obligations in my way. That was a rookie parenting mistake. I knew better. Still, Luke looked sad. I hate that. So, you guessed it. I made rookie parenting mistake number two.

“Well…I might be able to make you a Lego brick costume,” I said. “I know it’s not a minifigure, but it would still be in the Lego theme,” I said with doubt in my voice. “Would you like that?” I asked.

“Yes. Definitely,” he said. Then, he added for punctuation, “Perfect.” It was a done deal.

“Okay,” I replied. “If I can find the materials and if I can find the time, I will do that for you.”

So, this morning after I dropped the boys at school, I got to work. An employee at Joann’s was emptying out a box of freight on the sales floor. From half a store away, it sure looked like exactly what I needed. I swooped closer, stealthily eyeing it from an aisle away and sizing it up before approaching the employee and asking if she’d be willing to give it to me. She did. First task completed and for free. After that, I was off to Michael’s for blue, satin-finish spray paint. My last stop was Hobby Lobby, where I found the round boxes I would need. Roughly $37 in supplies, and I was ready to assemble.

Insert child here

At home, I pulled out my ruler, a pencil, some big scissors (although a box cutter would have been much nicer), and my trusty glue gun. When I bought that stupid thing, I had no idea why I would ever need it. It was on sale and someone had told me once that everyone should have one, so I bought it. I have since come to a great appreciation for the beauty of the hot glue gun. It helped me put together a burlesque costume, adhere badges to a Cub Scout uniform, and patch together several book report projects. There’s nothing like the smell of hot glue in the morning. I fired that thing up and in less than an hour of measuring, cutting, taping, tracing, and gluing, had the whole costume assembled and ready to paint. Two cans of spray paint later and she was done. Is it perfect? According to my perfectionist mind…no. There are things about it I would do differently if I had another $40 in supplies and a couple more days to fiddle around with it. But, I don’t, and it’s definitely workable as is.

When Luke walked into the house and saw it, I realized why I had my moment of weakness and made my rookie mistake. My mom sewed our Halloween costumes. I used to think she did it because she was trying to save money. After today, though, I no longer think that. When you make something for your child and you see their face light up when they see it, for just a minute you almost feel like Superman. For a split second, they know you’re amazing. And, as cool as that is, you know that somewhere in the deepest recesses of their minds, they not only know that you are amazing but also that they are cherished and important. And, that’s way cooler.

The King Of Doubt Marries The Queen Of Curiosity

The bottle that did not kill me and would not, apparently, make a good mixer for my vodka.

Two years ago I was very sick for Thanksgiving. Suffering from both bronchitis and a sinus infection, I had multiple prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestants, and cough syrups, and a doctor’s order for bed rest. As I was coughing the other night on Day Three of what is now a five (soon to be six) day cold, I heard a little click. Light bulb! I jumped out of bed and ran to the closet in my bathroom. After digging around for a few minutes, I found a half full bottle of codeine cough syrup, a remnant from my 2010 sickness. I ran downstairs to get a dosing spoon. Perhaps I would finally get some respite from this wretched cough and sleep! When I got back upstairs, hubby asked me what I was doing.

“I found this cough syrup. I’m going to take some and finally get some sleep,” I told him.

“How old is that stuff?” he asked.

“A couple years?” I shrugged. There was no expiration date on the bottle.

“Are you sure it’s okay to take that?”

“It’s not a dairy product. It’s not like it turned or anything. It’s gotta be chock full of preservatives. I’m not about to ingest two-year-old raw chicken I had sitting in the back of the closet. Don’t ruin this for me,” I said, trying to convince myself that he was not going to introduce any doubt into my resolved mind.

I was going to get some sleep, dammit. He would not deprive me of this with his overactive imagination and his wild visions of my dying prematurely and leaving him as a single father of two sons. Nope. I was going to live on the edge and take the stupid codeine. I deserved the sleep. He was not going to take this from me. I was going to take it. Yep. I definitely was. I shook the bottle lightly to mix the syrup and poured myself the recommended dose. Oh, okay. If you must know, I sniffed it too. Silly husband had me a bit curious. That’s all. It smelled fine. Just as I was about to drink it, he spoke up again.

“You sure you don’t want to verify that it’s okay to take that?” he asked.

“I’m sure it is fine. It smells fine. I saw a show once that said the worst that happens with most medications is that they lose their effectiveness with time. Most of them don’t become more dangerous. They become less dangerous,” I reassured him.

Most of them don’t become more dangerous? How do you know this isn’t one of the ones that does become more dangerous?”

Seriously? He was egging me on. I knew it. I stalled for a few minutes. When he went in to sit with the boys as they were falling asleep, I decided that I might as well go ahead and conduct a Google search. Once I knew for sure that I was right I could show him the proof and then he’d have to leave me alone, right? I grabbed my laptop and did about fifteen minutes worth of reading, all of which supported my theory that it would be fine to take it. If anything, it had probably only lost some effectiveness, so the worst that could happen would be that I would take it and get none of the cough-free sleep I so desperately needed and deserved. While he was still out of the room, I hopped out of bed, drank the cough syrup, quickly recalled how icky it tastes, chased it with some water and a brushing of my teeth, and jumped back in bed just before he returned.

“So, did you take it?” he said.

“Yes. Yes I did,” I said confidently.

“How much did you take?” he inquired.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.

“Well…if something goes horribly awry and I end up having to call 911 because you seem to be turning into a zombie, I just want to know what to tell to the physicians whose brains you’ll be trying to eat what you took.”

“Funny,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “You’re a laugh riot. Just you wait. I’m going to sleep tonight, wake up fine tomorrow, and you’re going to owe me an apology for giving me such a load of grief,” I told him.

“Uh huh. Sure,” he said as he turned out the light on his side of the bed and went to sleep.

I’ll have you know that I slept like a baby that night. 9 hours straight. I did the same thing last night. And, I’m going to do it again tonight. No regrets about my decision. I am still, however, slightly disappointed in myself for letting him get into my head like that and making me think for a fraction of a second that I could be wrong. When am I ever wrong? The good news is that I have my browser set so that it doesn’t save any of my web site activity because I’m stealthy like that. He will never know that I did actually check up on the safety of the medication upon his recommendation. (Well…unless he reads this blog, I guess.) Men. You can’t let them know they can get to you. If they know that, it’s all over. You’ll never again have a moment’s peace.

 

 

There Goes The Neighborhood

Classy versus trashy

Well…what I suspected has become reality. We’ve become those neighbors. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones you worry will ruin your property value by virtue of their sheer proximity to your home. We try to be good about taking care of our home and yard but, when given a choice between spending a weekend working on our lawn and garden or spending a weekend hanging with friends on a last-minute camping trip, we skip town. We’re always on the go. We’re not around much. As a result, we’re not the best about taking care of our property. We’d just rather be doing things other than home maintenance, and it shows.

I’ve long suspected that our next door neighbors wished they lived adjacent to a neater, tidier family. Instead, they got us. Their yard is immaculate. They have a beautiful patio with a built-in grill, a perfectly stained pergola, and a discreetly placed hot tub. Winter, spring, summer, and fall, their yard is perfectly maintained and their garden is appropriately appointed with seasonal plants. Their house is immaculate. I like to attribute their beautifully maintained home to the fact that their children are grown and out of the house. (Of course, it certainly helps that they actually work around their home fairly regularly too.)

Our house? Well, let’s just say that our house looks lived in. It’s not unusual for me to pull out of the garage in the morning and discover Nerf weapons strewn across the grass, a hockey stick leaning against the siding, and a bike helmet resting on the sidewalk. We’ve had parachute-laden plastic soldiers hanging from the ash tree while Lego minifigures fight battles in the lawn. But, as bad as we are about our front and back yard, the yard on the south side of our house that borders our neighbor’s beautiful home teeters on the edge of Sanford and Son. We don’t have enough room in our garage for two cars, much less all the many things that should neatly fit in there. So, our side yard has become a haven for all sorts of random things. It holds plastic planters, a wheelbarrow, empty propane tanks, patio furniture, kid toys, dog toys, and sawhorses. Truth be told, I won’t even walk in there. It’s fenced off from our backyard so I can pretend it doesn’t exist. And, while everything in there is hidden below the fence line and not visible from the front or the backyard, it’s still an embarrassing eyesore. I know it. Steve knows it. Our next door neighbors know it. It’s been the elephant in the room for years. In the ten years we’ve lived here we haven’t figured out what to do about it.

Well, a couple days ago our neighbors figured out what to do about it. They told Steve they would be erecting a trellis for vines on the north side of their home that overlooks our yard. They didn’t want us to think they were doing it because of our crappy side yard. They just decided they wanted something more pleasant to look at than our siding. I so do not blame them. I would do the same thing if I lived next door to us. It would be hard to enjoy a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner if when looking out of the dining room window you got to gaze upon our uncovered yard waste receptacle. We’ve talked about getting a storage unit for some of our extra crap. We would do it too if we could afford an extra $60 a month. The only way a storage unit would fit into our budget, however, is if I went to work part-time at Starbucks as a barista. As much as I truly like our neighbors, I can’t say I like them that much.

So, I am going to try to live with the shame of being that neighbor instead. If you hear me call one of our boys Lamont now, though, at least you’ll know why. Hold on, Elizabeth! I’m coming!

Want Something Cleaned? Pee On It

It’s clean and I didn’t have to do it!

Last night, our son Luke had a friend spend the night. His friend slept in the top bunk of the bed where Joe usually sleeps. Joe was displaced, so he slept on an air mattress in our room. This morning before sunrise, Joe woke up to use the bathroom. As soon as he was finished, Steve went to use the bathroom. The toilet flushed, the light turned on, and all hell broke loose.

“JOE!” Steve yelled with disgust.

“What, Dad?”

“There is pee everywhere in here. You have GOT to look where you’re peeing,” he said.

“It was dark,” Joe replied calmly.

“Well, then, TURN ON A LIGHT! Seriously! The floor is wet. There’s a puddle here. You are going to clean this mess up,” Steve barked.

“I didn’t mean to,” Joe complained.

“Yeah, hon. He didn’t mean to,” I said, hoping to diffuse Steve’s annoyance. It didn’t work.

“You should see the mess he made. Joe…did you get any pee in the toilet? Any at all?”

“I’ll clean it up, Dad,” Joe said as he grabbed some paper towels.

“We need more than paper towels, Joe. We need rags.”

Joe came in and did a little mopping up with paper towels while Steve railed on about the sheer amount of urine covering our bathroom floor. Joe apologized and sneaked out when he felt the coast was clear. I couldn’t blame him. This pee mess had really gotten to Steve. I waited for things to calm down, then I went to inspect. Steve was on his hands and knees with disinfectant and he was mopping the floor and wiping the walls. Our bathroom floor was spotless. (Not that I would eat off it or anything.)

“It was dark. How did you know he’d peed everywhere?” I asked.

“Because when I stood up I realized my butt was wet,” he replied, “and I knew that was not right so I flipped the light on.”

I muffled a giggle. At least now I could understand the vehemence of his response. As the only female in our house, maybe I’m just used to it. I don’t sit on a toilet seat here, or anywhere else for that matter, without expecting it first. Sit on someone else’s pee once, shame on you. Sit on someone else’s pee twice? Well, I’m just not that clueless. I’m used to messes. I own several pairs of yellow rubber gloves because of them. I also make my sons clean their own toilet. I won’t even touch that thing. And, you could not pay me to use the toilet in their bathroom. Donald Trump couldn’t even give me $5 million for my favorite charity to do it. Still, the mess was hearty enough to encourage Steve to clean our toilet and mop up the bathroom floor.

In the 10 years we’ve lived in this home, Steve has cleaned our bathroom floor once, maybe twice. (He says more, but I find that highly unlikely because I’ve never actually witnessed such an act and I’m home a lot.) As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Steve is wonderful about cleaning our stove, which I refuse to do because it’s one of those gas contraptions that take forever to clean. He’s also amazing at deep cleaning totally random, out-of-the-way spots in our home right before we have guests over. He has been verbally abused by me via blog twice for cleaning the laundry room and the cabinet under the kitchen sink just before company arrived…because we all know the first place house guests snoop is under the kitchen sink. It turns out that I am actually grateful to Joe for peeing all over our bathroom in his still-half-asleep, 11-year-old boy way. His pee mishap has left me with a shiny clean bathroom floor that I didn’t have to touch. Heck…if I had known that Steve would become so impassioned about cleaning after a little yellow accident, I never would have potty trained our boys. Imagine how clean my house could be!

 

My God Doesn’t Make Junk

There is beauty everywhere.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ~Audre Lorde

This morning while driving the boys to school, we got into another one of our deep discussions about life. In particular, today we were discussing the Bible, Christianity, and love and tolerance for all types of people. Very ambitious subject matter for 8 a.m., I know, but I cherish these conversations with my boys because it’s in them that I see the amazing young men they are becoming.

Today’s conversation started because I was talking about something I had read where two young, gay men had been asked to leave a public place they had every right to be in. In fact, they were told they would be thrown out if they did not leave willingly. This type of exclusion bothers me a great deal. Every time I start to think that as a society and a country we are moving forward with acceptance, I read something like this and my faith in us is diminished a bit. My boys are being raised in a home where it’s acknowledged that homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals except that they fall in love with someone of the same sex. We’re raising our boys this way because 1) it’s what my husband and I believe, and 2) they have family members in same sex relationships and we’ve never wanted our boys to think that it was unusual. We’ve decided the best way to teach tolerance is to discuss it and demonstrate it.

“I don’t know why people care who someone else loves,” I said. “Gay people deserve our respect too. Just because they’re walking a different path doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. If Jesus could love the sinners, beggars, and lepers, why can’t His followers find love for different types of people too?”

“I don’t know.” Luke said. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said with a bit of pride. Then, after thinking about it for a minute he added, “Why does it bother people?”

“Well,” I replied. “many Christians quote the Bible and say God says it’s not right for men to be with other men. Personally,” I said, “I think it’s a little crazy the way people pick and chose things just the things they want to support from the Bible. I mean, do we go an eye for an eye or do we turn the other cheek? You can read an awful lot into Bible text. If every life is precious, then that means the lives of gay people are precious too. If we’re going to chose things from the Bible to follow in our lives, you’d think we’d pick the positive ones…like love your neighbor as yourself.

I allowed for a little pause while the boys chewed on that tidbit.

“Sometimes people fear what they don’t or can’t understand,” I added.

We sat in silence for a minute or so. Then, Joe spoke.

“You know, in the X-Men show we watch, they say humanity crushes what it does not understand.”

“Exactly, Joe,” I replied.

I was so proud of him just then, proud that he understood what I was saying enough to draw his own parallel to support it, even if that parallel was the X-Men. Sometimes my boys surprise me with their wisdom. To explain people’s differences, I tell them what I truly believe. A Christian should follow the example of Christ first and foremost. We are not God and we can’t understand His wisdom, but we can strive to accept that He does not make junk. Just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

Need A Vacation From My Subconscious

My greatest joys, my biggest concerns

I had a nightmare last night. Not a bad dream, a nightmare. A bad dream is something you will remember when you awaken and say “wow…that was unpleasant.” A nightmare is something that wakes you up, sticks with you, and makes you uncomfortable enough that you’re not even sure you want to go back to sleep. The last nightmare I had was about my boys and I standing on a dock over icy water, think Anchorage in late March. Both boys stepped a little closer to the edge of the dock and simultaneously they both slipped into the water. I tried to grab them, got a hold of one, and the other went under and did not come back up. I didn’t have a chance to find out if I jumped in to get the other one because I awoke at the moment that I realized I was losing one. Still, this nightmare causes me to tear up years later.

My mom taught me once that our dreams are our mind’s way of working out things that are troubling us in our subconscious. The things that we bury deeply don’t stay buried. Sooner or later our mind wants to work them out. She taught me to look to the feeling you’re having when you are in the dream for a clue as to what is bothering you. Then, look to your life and see where that feeling might match up. In my nightmare where the boys fall off the dock, I was feeling helpless and guilty, guilty that I saved one and not the other. In my life at the time, I’d been working extra hard to help Joe after his ADHD diagnosis. I was putting in hours a night to help him with his school work, meanwhile letting Luke more or less fend for himself. I was doing what I needed to be doing at the time, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t giving as much to Luke as I was to Joe. During my waking hours, that thought would cross my mind but I would shrug it off, saying that I had to be there for Joe while he struggled. During my sleeping hours, my mind reminded me that I felt as if I was shortchanging Luke. I felt bad for neglecting him.

Well, last night my subconscious brought me a real doozy. I was on a plane with the boys, heading somewhere exotic and distant. The plane suddenly started to fall from the sky. The cabin was losing pressure. Oxygen masks dropped, but not mine. I put Luke’s on him. Then I realized Joe’s was mask was a cord with nothing attached. I moved him to another seat that had a working mask and secured it. I was now separated from Luke and crouching down next to Joe as I realized I was running out of air. I grabbed Joe’s hand, told him I loved him, and he began sobbing. That’s when I woke up, heart pounding, breathing more heavily than I should be. I lay there for a minute, taking deep breaths and simply trying to return to a normal pulse rate. I shook my head as if somehow the act would work like an Etch-A-Sketch and clear the image from my brain. It did not work. It was shades of my last nightmare coming back to me. I help Luke who doesn’t need much help and focus on Joe who needs me more, all the while feeling like a horrible mother for neglecting my second child. Not good.

I suppose the fact that we just learned that Luke has some serious reading concerns isn’t helping my subconscious relax any. As Luke was starting with his pre-reading skills, Joe was struggling mightily in first grade. For the next two years, I worked hard with Joe to try to catch him up to grade level. Luke seemed to be doing well enough, so I let him simmer on the back burner. I reasoned that a lot of kids struggle with reading until around 3rd grade. For many children, at that time things start to click. At the end of last year, however, I realized how far behind Luke was with his reading skills but by then the issue was already firmly in place. Now, Luke gets to endure 2 hours a week of customized reading tutoring with a dyslexia specialist in our home to try to correct the issues we didn’t catch when he was first learning to read. And, yes, I feel like a big schmuck for not being more proactive and paying enough attention to Luke. Big letter L on my loser forehead.

You know, I appreciate the work my subconscious is trying to do for me, always running in background and working furiously to fix things for me. But, sometimes, I really wish it would just leave me alone. I’m subjugating those emotions because I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to deal with them at this point. Why can’t my subconscious take a vacation like my conscience does on occasion? Being The Mom (like The Donald only without all the braggadocio and bloviating) is tough. Is it too much to ask for a little respite on occasion? Wait a minute. Instead of having my subconscious leave me, perhaps it would be better if I left it? Perhaps if I could leave it behind with my conscience, I could relax, let loose, and recharge somewhere tropical, like Hawaii. Then I could come back with the energy to help both boys simultaneously, and my subconscious could return to its job, running quietly in background mode and leaving me the hell alone.