Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It Must Be a Guy Thing

Something I just don’t understand and leaves me wondering, is if any woman who uses a dual breast pump actually pumps both at once. I can’t sit still that long without needing a book to read, or a glass of water, or something to do that requires a free hand. Turning the suction up so high that the flanges glue themselves into place for me is an unnecessary and overly painful exercise in making me feel like a cow.

My sweet husband suggests setting them on top of a table, but I think he’s looking for a show. It must be a guy thing. Something about that part of a woman just leaves him (and possibly other men) terribly excited.

It could be a marketing thing, but I have trouble imagining that it was a woman who thought to put two pumps in one box. That brings to mind another curiosity. Is it men or women who buy the dual breast pumps more often? If it were up to me, I would only buy a single breast pump for the reason explained above; but it’s my Gemini husband who does the baby stuff shopping 90% of the time.

So is it me, or are dual breast pumps a guy thing?

Thanks for ignoring me...

Dear Utility Provider,

Originally I tried to call you this morning to report a simple brownout in my neighborhood, but of course, as usual, you’ve given me secondary reasons to complain.

Do you really have that many exclusive Spanish speaking customers? I know this complaint may be about a non-issue, but it still is a little annoying. I am lifetime fluent English speaker, living in an English speaking nation, who has to provide documentation (at least indirectly) of my citizenship at nearly every business transaction, including yours. If people are utilizing your business on American soil, then it is reasonable to assume they speak English. However, since apparently part of your clientele is non-English speakers, it is an indicator that you may be aiding and abetting illegal aliens. At best, the Spanish menu is promoting non-integration with Americans, and so far the multi-cultural / diversity experiment is failing.

Next on my agenda, I find your computerized switch board’s condescending and aloof attitude rather offensive. How is it the automagic female voice is so sure that my eight a.m. brownout is a non-emergency and deserves no explanation? I am of the opinion that if a business provides an essential service that is supposed to function on a 24 hour basis, that that business should also have 24 hour customer service that does more than take money and complaints of a catastrophic nature.

After nine a.m. finally your computer decided that partial electricity reports were important enough to be put on an estimated twelve minute long waiting list. That’s rude. If I put you on hold for an estimated twelve minute waiting period, can I reasonably expect you to wait that long? No, I didn’t think so. You have better things to do and so do I. Get more people, outsource if you have too (although as an American, I prefer fluent American English speakers).

Now let me explain why my brownout really is an emergency. It’s winter. It’s cold. In brownout conditions, same as with complete power failure, the thermo-coupler (flame sensor) in my furnace does not function properly, and the fan, not at all. The heat is not working this morning. I have children in the house and they are getting cold. Now tell me again that my brownout is not an emergency!

I hope you get your ducks in line soon, because this is insane. Good thing for you there are loopholes around the anti-trust laws that protect utility companies; but I’m sure if I did some digging I could find some consumer protection laws too.

Yours truly,
A Paying Customer

Epilogue: the electricity and heat came back on just as I finished writing this rant, at about 9:30 a.m. Thankfully it only got down to about 62 degrees (F) in the house since the lights dimmed at 7:30 a.m.

 I’ll probably re-write this in a slightly more business-like tone and send it to my actual electrical provider. Then again, I think it’s a fairly good letter.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Something You Can Not Learn in School

I didn’t skip class very often in high school, but when I did I made it a point to skip the liberal brainwashing class (a.k.a. “Parenting Class”). Now that I think back on it, maybe I should have skipped that one more often.

Of course during the time of day that that class ran, no busses ran into my neighborhood. The nearest route that I knew of ran two miles away if I took the shortcut from Pennsylvania Ave, across Scott Woods, through Mount Hope Cemetery to the corner of Aurelius and Forest road then down Forest for the second mile and home. It seems complicated, perhaps too complicated.

It was a cool cloudy day, about fifty degrees, with a slight drizzle. Good weather for sweaters and a brisk hike in Michigan; and I was happy enough. However; I had only taken the shortcut I was looking for once, and from the opposite direction. While walking through the woods I couldn’t quite remember if the proper trail was before the bridge to the right, of after the bridge to the left (I’ve come to the conclusion that I was not a very clear thinking teenager and I had a poor sense of direction while under tree cover). I went on the trail before the bridge to the right thinking that if I got a little lost I, wouldn’t get too lost; I could just find the creek and follow it back.

The march to the right started out well and good, the trail was mostly clear; but this was the season of spring rainstorms. Puddles were everywhere the creek was running high and fast. I wanted to stay dry and avoided the puddles across the trail even to the point of leaving the trail to go around them. Eventually I lost the trail to an exceptionally large, muddy puddle that stretched into the trees in both directions. I decided that in order to get back to the trail I was going to have to get a little wet and cross the puddle.

I was careful. Puddles can sometimes go up to the knees. I took one step and it was about two inches shallow. Encouraged, I took a more eager step forward. The puddle was about seven feet shallow with a swift current and a slight undertow. I kicked hard off the bottom and the very first thing I thought when my head broke the surface was, “I am stupid”. Fortunately, the current didn’t carry me to the center of the stream and I was able to grab a root and pull myself out.
I began the trudge back along the deceptively smooth appearing creek determined that trail or not, the stream could not be trusted and must stay in my sight no matter how many puddles I had to walk through, just in case it tried to trick me again.

As I splashed back to the main trail, thoughts of what the news headlines would read swirled through my head: “Unidentifiable Teenager Found Dead in Scott Woods of Hypothermia While Skipping Class” or “Death by Stupidity: Teenage Girl Wins Darwin Award First Class”.

After a few minutes I decided these thoughts were not helping and to just focus on moving swiftly and getting home alive. I made it home and was maybe a little wiser for the wear.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ponies and Horses: Equine Ambtions

Karyn does a lot of things to remind us she is two years old, but her command of the English language makes my head spin sometimes.

A normal little girl with a collection of toy ponies, if she should find them missing will shout at the suspected sibling, ”Give me back my ponies!”

A smart little girl will shout, “Did you take my ponies!”

However, today two year old Karyn confronted Colin with, “Did you destroy my ponies! DID YOU DESTROY MY PONIES!!!”

Her ponies are fine. They just got left in her “clubhouse” in the kitchen.

One of my goals as parent is to teach my children to calmly debate an issue if they disagree with me and use persuasion to try and change my mind. I seldom change my mind once a decision is made, but Colin may have won a point in his favor today.

Lately he has been asking me for a horse. I always say, “No”, but he persists. I was starting to lose patience with the badgering for a horse and said, “When I have more money than sense, I’ll get you a horse”. Colin thinks quietly for a moment then enthusiastically says, “We need lots of money”.

Now who can argue with that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Some Kind of Law Enforcemant

The NYPD is planning on introducing “Bait Bottles” in an effort to track stolen prescription painkillers. Pharmacists are to keep fake pills in these bait bottles and hide them with the bottles of real pills. Aside from the dangers of accidently selling these fakes to people with legitimate prescriptions, I see a few flaws in this plan.

It’s my understanding that prescription painkiller addicts usually obtain their drugs by doctors’ prescriptions, or by taking them from other prescription holders; not by stealing directly from pharmacies (all those inconvenient locks, security devices, bullet proof glass, cameras, etc.).

However, for argument’s sake, let’s say that pharmacies in New York City are low security, gun free zones (because I really don’t know for sure how they operate there). A crook with an average mind would know some of the bottles are being traced and would know to empty the pills into a plastic bag, throw the bottles in a public trash receptacle, and later, if the fakes are indistinguishable from the real ones, grind the lot and form new pills. Not a big deal.

Now let’s have some fun. Let’s say it was me who has just raided a pharmacy’s painkiller stash. This is what would happen. I would be have a GPS signal jammer (not difficult to acquire or use) plugged into my car. When I have a moment, I would find the bottles that emit a cellular or GPS signal (still no technical know-how required, just a simple signal detector) and keep them hidden near that handy signal jammer until I find some fun use for the bait bottles, like implicating a government official or public servant. Perhaps it would be useful, at the expense of my rivals, to see if just how far the cops will go and what equipment they would use to find the fake pills.

For even more fun at the police’ expense, I could drop the bait bottles in the river, or on to an open bed truck on the highway, or tie one to a handful of celluloid balloons. I might plant one in the yard of a vicious, half-starved fighting dog; or leave one in a common area of a nursing home (oh, the glory of squads in full SWAT gear descending on senior citizens).

Someone with my relatively mild criminal sensibilities could cause a lot of chaos with GPS bait bottles.

No, I’m not a crook, I’ve never stolen or abused any kind of drug, and I have no plans on taking up that kind of activity. However, as a responsible adult with a family to protect, I do from time to time plan against home invaders. If you yourself have doctor prescribed painkillers, I would offer strong advice to keep the meds locked up, and only tell those who need to know what you are taking.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

I'm not sure I should get after the children when...

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they eat all the tomatoes out of the salad and all the carrots right out of the bag.

My kids love fresh fruits and vegetables. Colin and Karyn are not abnormal: they like treats as much as any other child; but for some reason, I don’t have to do much persuading to get them to eat the good parts of the salad. I once had a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies sitting on the table when Aaron came home from shopping, and they ran right past the cookies and grabbed the one pound bag of carrots and ate them all before I could say anything. Maybe I don’t serve them enough potato chips and fruit snacks.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Colin is “washing the dishes”.

I repeatedly have to tell myself not to discourage the kids from helping in the kitchen. Sooner or later they may either outgrow the desire to be helpful, or worse, think that their help is not wanted or appreciated. However, it can be very hard to patiently tolerate flooding, soapy pans, chipped glasses, and the occasional cuts (it happened once, but Colin learned to leave my sharp knives alone when I’m not there to supervise and I learned to keep the knives separate from the rest of the dishes and cutlery).

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Karyn bops Colin for stealing her toys or deliberately hurting her feelings.

We live in a country that has this noble minded, but flawed desire to end bullying between children. The common line of thinking is that bullying is a one-sided problem that educational policy can solve. I venture to say the bureaucrats have only made it worse. It’s against the rules to hit back, or publically shame a bully; there-fore the rule abiding get ridiculed and beat up, and the bullies (who by the way don’t care about the rules) get time off and attention (aka counseling). I think it creates weakness in the law abiding, and a sense of impunity among the future criminal class. What I tell my children is that if they hurt others enough, it will eventually be returned in kind; and I do my best to teach them to be polite, take turns, share if they want to but respect other’s rights and property, and not to call names. However, no matter what I say, fights do break out. I usually will only intervene if the violence and teasing is one sided or over the top: using obscenity or hitting each other with canned goods counts as over the top.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Colin writes “recipes” and “grocery lists” on the utility bills.

Aaron and I keep the unpaid bills on the refrigerator door so they don’t get forgotten or lost; but Colin gets in a writing mood from time to time and doesn’t fully understand the difference between scrap or writing paper, and important paperwork. On the one hand it’s annoying that previously clear print is now illegible, but on the other hand it’s nice to pretend to have an excuse for paying the bills late.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they play outside in the snow with no mittens, hats, boots, or even pants.

Part of me says it’s unhealthy and looks bad to some of the less experienced neighbors for me to let the kids run out in the snow undressed. I figure that the kids probably won’t be out there long enough to get sick and that reddened fingers and toes will teach them faster to respect the cold weather than overbearing parents. Once in a while Colin will be outside longer than I am comfortable, so I’ll step out and remind him what it feels like and how much he’ll hate me if I have to treat him for frost bite. That’s usually all the persuasion he requires. As for the neighbors, I keep reminding myself that most of them grew up in Northern Michigan and had parents who probably let them play half naked in the snow as well.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they sing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”, or “Skeeda-ma-rinkee-do, I love you” after 10 o’clock at night.

Ok, the late night sing along is a rare occurrence, as they usually conk out by eight o’clock. When it does happen, I’m torn between annoyance that they are still awake, and charm because they are so cute and I love that they enjoy singing.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… I hear them “making dinner”, and I walk into the kitchen to find it trashed, but they are saying a prayer over a stock put full of toys dusted in baking soda.

I don’t particularly mind that the kids play with my kitchen utensils. I haven’t seen them play rough with them and they demonstrate that they’ve observed the difference between how a whisk is used as opposed to how a pastry cutter used. What does drive me a little crazy, is when they try to make something real, or half real. I’ve seen half a pound of salt mixed with an entire bottle of pancake syrup in the mop bucket to make “cookies”, or in the case above with the baking soda and the toys in the stock pot, (as well as all over the counter tops and floor), it was “turkey pot pie”. I’m flattered at the imitation, and I don’t want to discourage them from learning to cook, but I almost came down really hard and would have were it not for their prayers. I wasn’t sure then if they were praying for real, but if the Lord was listening, I didn’t want to interrupt. It gave me a moment’s pause to consider if my children were actually being incorrigible or not.

I know that most of what Colin and Karyn do in a day to annoy me is merely maturity related and that they will grow out of most of these strange habits. In the meanwhile, I still love them and try to encourage their interests.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Slightly Grouchy Blog about Public Education

Colin is turning five this spring, which means I need to give some serious thought to his education. School seems like a good idea, and I know he would like to have more friends and playmates, not to mention the advantages I see to getting an exuberant young boy out of my hair for several hours a day; but I keep thinking back to some of my own problems I’ve had with the conventional schools.

In my own experience I’ve seen that we expect way too much of our public school teachers. How can they do any actual teaching when having to coach and police a large classroom full of students who either don’t want to be there, or have a rare student in the mix who is a spazz who should never have been mainstreamed? Combine that with pressure to meet standardized test expectations, monitoring for bullying activity, and conforming to the latest agendas in the educational bureaucracy. What a struggle teachers must have. Teaching a student is easy: no advanced degree or special training required. Teaching a classroom of bored or dysfunctional children in a high pressure social engineering experiment is impossible. No wonder American students seem to be falling behind.

Regarding school security and safety, I’m not overly concerned about it. It seems America is starting to pay attention to the tragic fact that hungry wolves kill and eat lambs and it’s best not to leave them unprotected. God be thanked that school shootings are rare; but what does concern me is that no one will address the problem directly to children. I was in high school during the Columbine shootings and subsequent paranoia. No one addressed the students about it or said anything reassuring. They just installed cheap security cameras and pretended to go about life as normal. Children need to be allowed to talk to the adults about these things and deserve to be reassured that the world is not spinning out of control.

My biggest problem with public education is the educational content. I’ve always hated it when scientific theories are taught as scientific fact. Once I took a test in American history. It was a list of true/false questions, and at the end there was a choice of one of three essay questions. One of the true/false questions went, “T / F: the Native Americans came to the Americas by a land bridge across the Bering Strait”. I had been drinking the Kool –aid all my life, but even I knew better that to answer that question the way the teacher expected me too. I answered that the statement was “T, according to the THEORY”, then ignored his choice of essay questions, and elaborated on the possibility of making the crossing via water craft. I also pointed out that by his own admission, there is zero evidence of crossing by land bridge as all such evidence, if any, would have been pulverized and destroyed by glacial activity… I got a very rare extra credit for that rebellious little essay and a commendation for actually thinking. Then I got reassigned to another class taught by a younger teacher. No one was happy about it.

 We learned a lot in school about civil rights and “The Evil White Man”, evolution as a scientific fact, the virtues of promiscuity and sexual obsession, and that firearms are dangerous, scary, and bad; but if you asked any of us at high school graduation about the Bay of Pigs, or to give an opinion on modern economics, or even how to balance a check book, you would have been unlikely to get more than a blank stare, much less an intelligent answer.

School was fun for me, but mostly a failure. I do much better on my own, and as much as I want Colin to have a school experience, I want more and better for him than what was given to me, even if I have to do it myself. He deserves to be free, he deserves to develop to his fullest intellectual potential, and he deserves to decide for himself what the truth is; and these are opportunities that the public school system cannot give him.

I’ve rambled a lot in this blog, but it’s fun. Maybe someone will disagree with me about my views on public education, I know my mom sometimes does and we still love each other.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Husband, Aaron

My Husband, Aaron

A more loyal and worthy man, no woman could ask for. When I made the decision to marry him I knew my heart would be safe with him.

He works hard during the day, comes home every night, and supports me as a stay-at-home mom.

He loves his children and helps me raise and teach them. I don’t feel alone as a parent in our household.

Aaron strives to be a model follower of Christ. He takes his family to church, pays his tithes and offerings, reads to us from the scriptures, and happily magnifies his callings.

Aaron loves me and lends a helping hand when I ask, even if it’s with the dishes.

He kisses me good bye every morning and greets me with a kiss every afternoon.

My husband is kind and loves to bring me flowers and chocolates.

He listens when I speak, even if I’m ranting about nothing, and doesn’t get visibly angry when we disagree.

He is honest.

Aaron can fix a car and change a flat tire, and is handy around the house.

He does the laundry for me without being asked.

My husband says to me every day, “I love you”, and tells me I’m beautiful.

Things I Want NOW

Things I Want Now:

·                     the kids to take a long nap
·                     $250,000 in savings and an income that maintains it
·                     to be emotionally stable
·                     a clean kitchen
·                     curtains over the front door and window

Things I Have Now:

·                     kids that sleep at night
·                     a small business and a husband with a job
·                     a supply of chamomile tea
·                     a dishwasher, a broom, and a mop and bucket
·                     a south facing front door and window that let in lots of light

I want things to be better, but at least I have it good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Organized Chaos: My Parenting Experience with Toys

It happens about four or five times a year. The kids inexplicably and absolutely lose control and start screaming and hammer fisting each other in the head. They won’t help clean house either no matter how extravagant the reward or terrible the punishment. Yep, it’s time to do a toy purge again.

In the last six years of working with preschoolers, toddlers, and my own little children, I have found that young children appreciate variety in toys, but almost always are overwhelmed by too much abundance. The result is chaos.

One of the most ironic things I’ve ever born witness too was in a nursery room with the floor littered with a myriad of toys and the shelves still well stocked, three boys fighting over one dinosaur. There was a pile of dinosaurs right under their noses, but they were too overwhelmed to notice. That was the week of the first and largest toy purge I’ve ever committed.

Without even consulting to see whose permission I would need, I threw out everything low quality or ugly; re-homed all licensed characters, and over accessorized, or battery dependent toys; washed and donated everything food related (six to eight children sucking on the same plastic strawberry every week… yuck!), and the dinosaur no one could share went to “visit his cousins” indefinitely. I kept dolls and building blocks, books and musical instruments, plenty of cars, dinosaurs, figurines, puzzles, and few other things.

The following week you would never have known these were the same children by their attitudes. It was sunshine and rainbows, cooperation and sharing, and rarely a lost temper whilst waiting turns. As a bonus, everyone was much more helpful at clean up time.

Colin and Karyn are much the same way and need to lose or rotate toys from time to time. Last night as I was going through their toys and reflecting on what we do and do not have, I was surprised at how few toys I disposed of this time around. They have enough to fill a mid-sized closet, but they are productive toys the kids keep coming back to. Most of them are classic toys like dolls, cars, balls, and various kinds of building blocks. Of electronic toys, there are very few and what we have are mostly new things that are basically grandparents’ revenge toys (they usually last about three to five months before needing disposal or re-homing). There are not many licensed characters, although one has managed to flourish and that’s Anakin Skywalker. We have three of him and he’s well loved and cared for.

There are no toy guns, in spite of Colin’s persistent requests for such. Reason being is safety. I don’t want the kids forming bad habits before handling real firearms, and I definitely don’t want them making the mistake in attitude that guns are toys. I heard a story once about a police officer who nearly shot a boy because the child aimed what appeared to be a berretta at him. What gave the officer pause was seeing a white plug in the business end of the gun. It was a black painted water pistol which he immediately confiscated. Thankfully both parties survived, but I’m left with an indelible impression that toy guns can be very dangerous. I don’t mind transparent water pistols in the summer, but we have rules about them in our family.

I think the only thing we don’t have that I feel a little bit guilty about, is that we have no wood puzzles. Colin and Karyn both enjoy puzzles, but I keep forgetting to look for them. I also don’t have any “dress-up” type clothes for Karyn, who likes to wear my clothes and musses the clean laundry while looking for the perfect outfit.

I don’t spend much time feeling guilty or inadequate when it comes to toys. The kids have plenty to play with and more than they need. This morning, after a late night evaluating toys, I woke up to a relative peace, a fairly clean living room, and two happy children who thought it was Christmas all over again (no hammer fisting required).