Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A lesson in humility for mom, from the ground up

The morning was hectic; we were running late. We had finally pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school when I looked down at my son's feet, clad in clunky snow boots.

"Your shoes are in your backpack, right?" I said.

"Ummmm," he answered. I sighed. He had forgotten them. Again. The shoes I had put right by the front door were probably still right there. Why couldn't he remember?!

"Sean!" I said sharply. "C'mon! You need to work on getting better organized. Now I'll have to go back and get them. That's going to make me late. That's not good."

He looked chagrined. "Okay," he said. "I'm sorry, mom."

He was silent. So was I. As we hurried toward the front door, I wondered if I went overboard in chastising him. After all, he was just a kid.  I didn't want to start his day like this.

"I love you, silly boy," I told him before he went inside. "I'll bring your shoes to the office. Just ... don't worry about it."

He smiled at me. "See ya," he said, and ran inside.

I went back home and retrieved the errant shoes - which were right where I thought - delivered them, then started driving to work. I'd gone about two blocks before I realized how cold my own feet were.

Startled, I looked down and realized I was still wearing my snow boots.

I'd forgotten my dress boots at home.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What beats technology? Don't Break The Ice, of course!

My kids love technology. They could stay online for hours, love playing x-box games, even create their own videos. It's just part of their culture - I get it.

Sometimes I have to actually push them outside to go play in the real world.

I like technology, too - but I'm not quite so enamored. In fact, I even walk a fine line with cell phones. I have one, of course, But I can't stand to see people walking down the hallway, bumping into walls with their heads buried in their screens, or lunch with someone constantly multi-tasking with their iPhone.

I know - hopelessly old-fashioned. So speaking of which, my husband and I were cleaning out a closet the other night when we came upon a box of board games. The kids were engaged in a Mario battle downstairs, so we decided to play a game of Yahtzee, just for fun.

Lured by the rattle of the dice, the kids wandered upstairs. The game held little appeal. But rifling through the game box, they found something else.

"What's this?" my son said, holding up a blue frame and some white cubes.

I looked at it. "Um ... I think it's 'Don't Break the Ice,'" I said. "We used to play it when you guys were really little."

If you don't remember that game, it's the one where you have little plastic hammers and try to hammer out little cubes without knocking down the main ice cube - which holds a little man.

I couldn't believe it - the kids were fascinated. My son even found a plastic shark to put under the cubes to add to the tension.

We played all night - and then the next afternoon.

Of all the things to push technology to second-place: mom, dad, kids and some fake ice.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bowser, Mario and why there's a castle in my living room

I have a castle in my living room. It's made from two cardboard boxes and multi-colored cardboard bricks . It belongs to Bowser - a fearsome, dragonesque character from the Mario games.

My son put it together one afternoon. He surrounded it with Mario trading cards, drew a few decorations on the front, then gathered up all his Mario plushies and set them around his creations. Some are Bowser's minions, out to do harm. Others are heroes on dangerous rescue missions.

I love to listen him play, to hear him make up his stories and do the different character voices. Of course, I'm not supposed to listen - if he sees me, he clams up, politely asks me what I need and then waits patiently until I leave the room.

Only it's my living room. So sometimes that's a bit of a problem. Because the living room is also the main room of the house.

So while I love having my son play pretend, I do occasionally wish his castle had been built elsewhere. The situation reminded me of another one, long ago.

When I was little, I used to love to play Barbies. I would make up grand storylines and set up major scenarios with my cast of motley characters - from Malibu Barbie to Prince Ken to Skipper. I'd do this, though, in my big sister's closet. I had to - she had the coolest closet with lots of space and two different shelf levels. Luckily, even as a teen-ager, my literary-minded sister understood.

"Okay," she told me. "But don't let it get too messy, and don't stay in there forever."

I didn't, of course. I put my Barbies away. And I know that far too soon, Bowser and his evil minions won't interest my son anymore. So for now, the living room is hs fortress. And that's okay.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"If you want to have a better dog, you need to be a better person"

"If you want to have a better dog, you need to be a better person."

I read that phrase awhile back in a Jon Katz book. Katz is an author and dog lover and when I read it, it seemed to make sense. It also seemed pretty easy, since we didn't own a dog at the time.

We adopted Copper from the local humane society. Well, I didn't adopt him. My kids did. They fell in love with his big brown eyes and his gangly limbs and his overenthusiastic confusion at his predicament.

Truthfully, I might have picked another pooch. But love can limit your choices.

Copper is just so big. He's three years old, over 50 pounds. He hadn't been neutered. He plays very rough, and it seems no one spent a lick of time leash training him.

Walking Copper strains our patience and our shoulders - he lunges at dogs, squirrels, old men getting their newspapers. We can't buy him treats - poor Mr. Whiskers sniffed at a new bone once and Copper picked him up and shook him like a rag doll. Luckily, the cat weighs a good 20 pounds and merely walked away with an injured dignity. And Copper loves, loves, loves garbage; last night he wolfed down half a baked potato. The other day he ate half a package of turkey bacon.

But Copper follows my son and daughter with gentle, adoring eyes. He sits, lays down and shakes hands on command. He snuggles beside me at night with his head on my legs, and warms my feet while I read.

In our back yard, he plays with such exuberance and happiness I wonder how anyone had the heart to abandon him in the first place. My  kids look at him like he's worth a million bucks.

I look at the leashes he's chewed through. I pick up the garbage on the floor. I wonder if he'll ever learn what we're trying to teach him. I wonder if the local seniors will ever forgive us for scaring the heck out of them on their daily walks. I wonder if Copper will ever calm down.

I wonder if I can become that better person I read so much about. And I hope it will all get easier.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's the bedtime questions that are the toughest for mom

So my daughter asked me a question last night, and I've been thinking about it all day.

"What do you do when you have to be around people you don't like?" she asked me. It was late, and I was tucking her into bed. She likes to do this to me, my little princess does; she asks me questions about life and love and God right before bedtime, when any real creativity I've had has trundled off to sleepytime and all I'm really thinking about is crawling under the covers with a good book.

But she was serious. She wanted an answer. So I thought for a moment.

Now, I consider myself a pretty easygoing person. I mean, I like most people; I hope they like me. But sure, once in awhile I meet that person who just bugs the poop out of me. They're loud or rude or stupid or all three rolled up into one big obnoxious sandwich.  So what do you do? What can you do?

This is what I told her: I said I don't do anything about them. Because nothing will change them. And I can scream and rant and pull my hair out and they'll still be what they are and my day will be ruined. So I just try to change my reaction to them.  I take a deep breath. I try not to listen to them. I go for a walk. Then  I come back and I smile. Or ... I make a snarky little comment. (Hey, we're all human).

Try to be like a duck, I told her.  Let it all roll off you.  Then I scratched her back. She smiled and closed her eyes.

And again, I hoped I'd given the right answer.