Friday, September 28, 2007

The Carmex Experiment

My boys have an abundance of energy. Sometimes I’m in awe as to the amount of energy that can exist within such a tiny frame. If we could harness that energy, we would no longer need to worry about the future of power generation in our country. But, before we could harness that energy, we would have to troubleshoot the problem of disappearing energy when required to move to a prone to upside down vertical position. Let me explain. If my boys drop something on the floor, they suddenly lack the simple amount of energy it takes to bend over and pick that item up off of the floor. This applies to trash, clothes, food, toys, and all manner of things that are under the influence of gravity.

Case in point: This morning, I noticed this on the floor between the ottoman and couch.


Looks like dog poop, no? But, I knew Shasta couldn’t have squeezed her fluffy butt into that space.

On closer inspection it turned out to be grapes. I had actually praised the boys for eating all of their grapes the night before. Silly me. So I asked them why they didn’t pick the grapes up off of the floor when they spilled. Jack said he didn’t know they spilled. Luke said he knew, but he wanted to see how long it took me to pick them up. Looks like he was running his own experiment on me. Serves me right for my husband experiment.

My messy floor and carpets may appear to outsiders to be a case of shoddy housekeeping, but it is really (o.k. – mostly) a product of my male-dominated household (MDH). And it doesn’t stop with my boys. My husband does it too. He will drop something on the floor, and if he doesn’t need it right away, it will stay there. On the floor. Until I pick it up. Out of this was born the Carmex Experiment.

Last Friday, I got out of the shower to find John’s Carmex on the floor outside of my closet. I thought he must have dropped it there, didn’t need to use it so had no reason to pick it up off of the floor, and observed that it had fallen in front of my closet. If it was in front of my closet, I would have to pick it up when I wanted to access my closet. My mind sometimes works overtime. A more likely scenario is that he didn’t even notice that it fell and was on the floor, given the two thousand other things lying on my bedroom floor.

It is very much against my nature to not bend over and pick up the Carmex and set it on his dresser. But I was curious. How long would it sit there? Would he ask me in a couple of days if I had seen his Carmex? Or, would he remember that it was on the floor and pick it up the next time he needed to use it? You can think I’m a nerd (John does), but I thought this would make a great experiment to post on my blog. So, I monitored the progress of the Carmex for a week. Here are the results:

Friday – The first day I noticed the Carmex on the floor. Notice its proximity to my closet door. I didn’t pick it up, but it got pushed aside as I opened my closet door.

Saturday – The Carmex moved closer to the wall. Did he kick it out of the way as he walked by, still not bothering to pick it up? Maybe Shasta did it in the night.

Sunday – No movement from the Carmex, but it was joined by many socks.

Monday – I was out of town all day, but returned home that night to no movement of the Carmex. The socks had been picked up off of the floor. That makes sense – it was a workday and John needed socks.

Tuesday – No movement from the Carmex.

Wednesday and Thursday – I was out of town until Thursday night. When I returned home, the Carmex was still in the same spot. I let John in on the experiment, and he said that was the silliest thing he ever heard. He was expecting something a little grander. I told him I thought it was funny on many levels. I thought that other women would too. Later while I was in the bathroom, he rolled the Carmex across the floor past the doorway. Funny. Guess where the Carmex is? Still sitting where it came to rest. If it is still there next Friday, I’m throwing it in the trash.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Female Influence

When it looked like things were getting serious between John and me, his father Frank told me, “We brought him this far. It’s your job to finish him.” He was only half joking. John had his share of wild teen years (and a fair amount of my share as well – we balance each other out that way), and his parents did a great job getting him through.

I guess there is a certain amount of refinement that women bring to men once they are together. I look back over the years and compare the man John is today to the man he was when we met and try to pinpoint the influence that I have had on him. John is definitely less wild, but I can’t really take credit for that. Before we had kids but after we had been together for a while, I got plenty of calls from police and hospitals, and friends who stated that they had “lost” John. So, he was obviously still quite the rowdy man even after being with me for many years. I think fatherhood can take the credit for his calmer demeanor. It doesn’t hurt that most of his cohorts in transgression are also fathers.

My influence on him is more subtle. For example, I taught him what a great combination French fries and chocolate milk shakes are. Therefore, he is open to trying new things since he’s been with me. I also think he is more honest about things in general. He talks about my moral compass – sometimes in a tone that you would think of when imagining the cool kids picking on the nerds and leading me to ask, “Are you making fun of me?” - but mostly in a tone of appreciation.

I suppose Frank was confident that my influence would be stronger on John rather than vice versa. He was mostly right. Since meeting John, I haven’t spent one minute in a police station. However, after all of these years, I am seeing evidence that the male influence on females may be stronger than our influence on them. If you live in a male-dominated household (MDH) like I do, you may be surprised by the changes you have undergone. Some of the changes I have undergone that I’ve traced directly to my MDH are:

1. Bodily functions – I burp at the dinner table, but only when my boys are around to hear it. When I’m alone, I see no reason to burp aloud. Who would appreciate it?
2. Holes – Whenever I pass a hole, I have to stop and look in it. I have to poke a stick in it and try to see what comes out.
3. Creepy crawlies – I could care less about things like bugs, snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles and all manner of creepy crawlies before having boys in my life. Now I look for them wherever we go, catch them, and study them intently. Except for spiders. I despise spiders and so do my boys (my influence on them?).
4. Movies and T.V. shows – There’s rarely a chick flick in my life. I am a shoot ‘em up convert (think Quentin Tarantino). I also watch Pokemon, Power Rangers, SpongeBob and Jimmy Neutron. As a matter of fact, I am in a hotel room in Louisiana right now with no obligations and complete control over the remote control, and I am watching Fairly Oddparents.
5. Video games – I could have lived my full adult life without ever having a video game system in my house. Now, you will often find me on the computer looking for hints and cheats to help us get past a level that has us stymied. As soon as I finish this post, I am going to do a search for how to climb waterfalls in Pokemon Ruby.
6. Halloween – Christmas is still my favorite holiday, but Halloween is an extremely close second. I love decorating the house, dressing up, and carving pumpkins.



Last year's pumpkin carving.








I am open to being influenced by the boys in my life. Most of the things I’ve allowed in have brought a sense of fun and spontaneity that I didn’t have before, being the (to quote my sister) anal-freak that I am. I will also continue to try to rub off on my boys. My best bet and most worthwhile efforts will be to live my life the way that I hope they will choose to live their lives. Have I had any success thus far? I think so. My boys are sweet, polite, helpful and sensitive, when not acting like complete hooligans. And, you should see them dance. They definitely did not get that from their father.

P.S. I won't be posting tomorrow as I will be traveling home from Louisiana. But, check back on Friday for the end to my husband experiment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Great Procrastination Conspiracy

What is on your to do list right now? I bet there is more on there than you realize. Why do I think this? Because living in a male-dominated household (MDH) has enlightened me to the fact that the few items that were on your to do list that you handed off to one of the males in your household will most likely end up being done by you.

Take my friend Christina, who also lives in a MDH. She wrote, “If men wait long enough to do something, the woman will eventually do it because it will drive her insane waiting...examples: iron the shirt for tonight, empty the trash, fill or empty the dish washer, pick up toys, make beds, etc, etc.” So true.

Through experimentation and years of honing the skill, men have discovered that women get tired of waiting for something to get done and eventually just do it themselves. They have figured out that the few hours of the silent treatment or evil-eyed looks they get as the female is taking out the trash are no big deal if it means that they get out of doing something. I call this the Great Procrastination Conspiracy.

The Great Procrastination Conspiracy won’t work for all things, and men have figured out which requests they can ignore and which they cannot.

Can Ignore:
The overflowing recycling bin/trash can.
The pile of junk mail on the dining room table.
The RSVP to the cousin’s wedding.
The birthday card for his sister/mother/father.

Can’t Ignore:
The spider on the ceiling.
The dead mouse in the garage.
The snake in the yard the boys are poking with a stick.
The birthday reservations for the wife’s night out.

With boys, it is less of a conspiracy and more of a product of age and inexperience. Boys don’t purposefully try to put off doing things hoping they get done by someone else. Usually anyway. I remember asking my youngest son Luke to hang up his bath towel when he was done drying off. The next morning, it was still balled up on the floor of the bathroom. I hung it up and when he woke up asked him why he didn’t hang it up like I asked him. “Because I knew you’d do it.” Ouch!

Could females get away with taking part in the Great Procrastination Conspiracy? First we have to ask ourselves if the men in our lives would even notice that we were procrastinating. It’s not really a conspiracy if our procrastinating doesn’t lead to the men taking care of the procrastinated task. Second, we have to determine if it is in our nature to procrastinate. For me, it would depend on the task being procrastinated. There are things that I just can’t stand to ignore, like piled-up dishes and dirty laundry (I went to college with a guy that wore his underwear inside out when they got dirty to avoid doing laundry – my first thought was “How’s that?” followed closely by “Disgusting!”).

I did recently put off and put off and put off getting the oil changed in my car. I wasn’t doing this on purpose. I just couldn’t find the time. My husband was really mad at me. The next week, he took my car and got the oil changed.



Me unloading the car after I got tired of waiting. That is the evil-eye I was talking about.







P.S. My experiment that I am doing may not go over very well with my husband and may get me into trouble. Stay tuned for results, probably on Friday. Then, stay tuned on Monday to see if I still have a blog.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I have some traveling to do for work over the next couple of weeks. I probably will not be able to post every day while traveling. I did want to tell you about a couple of things before the craziness begins.

I am running a semi-secret experiment on my husband. I would like to post a running daily update on the experiment, but he reads my blog everyday so that would ruin the experiment. When it's over, I'll include the whole experiment, how it progressed, and what the outcome was. He knows that I am doing this but has no idea what the actual experiment is. It's kind of fun to watch him try to figure it out. Have you ever seen a show where one of the characters is going to get "got" by another character? He drives himself crazy the whole show trying to figure out what is going to happen to him. Turns out, that the only "got" that he was going to get was the one that he did to himself driving himself crazy trying to figure out what was in store. Well, that's not what I'm doing here, so there is a chance John will figure it out before the experiment ends.

Also, I wanted to tell you about a book that I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of on Saturday at my son's soccer game. I met a lovely woman at the game who is the aunt of one of my son's teammates. She is an author and publisher, and provided me with a copy of the book that she recently self-published. The book, Simply Mom (advice from someone who loves you), is a sweet little book filled with snippets of advice and wisdom that this woman and mother wanted to be sure to pass on to her daughters. I think that it is a personal look into her life and love for her daughters, but also good advice for any parent to share with a daughter or son, or to follow themselves for that matter. Check it out at http://www.simplymom.org/.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The (Not So) Great Outdoors

What is it with boys and camping? Not to generalize - I know that there are a lot of girls who love to camp. I am just not one of them. Let me clarify by saying I have nothing against the great outdoors. I like to hike. I like to go to the park. I like to explore. I like to come home at the end of the day and sleep in a comfortable bed with indoor plumbing just steps away. But in my male-dominated household (MDH), the desire to camp runs deep. A cabin won’t cut it. A “camping” trip has to involve a tent and communing with nature.

Thus far since my children were born, I’ve managed to only be subjected to one camping trip. On that trip, Luke was slightly over two years old and spent most of the trip in the car poking his head out of the sun roof. The swimming pool was closed, which is one of the reasons we chose that campground, so the boys had to play naked in the water spigot much to the chagrin of our camp neighbors. Even though we were accompanied by my uncle and his family, who are camping aficionados and gourmet cooks even over a campfire, I did not enjoy the camping trip. Maybe, as I often do, I had over-planned, over-obsessed, and over-stressed about every minute detail. I can, at times, be my own worst enemy. A two night camp was downgraded to a one night camp and I was grateful to return home.

My other strong memory of camping is the trip I took with my husband John’s family before we had children. The campground of choice was a long drive south to the Missouri-Arkansas border. There were cabins available on the grounds, so John’s parents rented a cabin and all of us kids set up camp on the lawn around the cabin.
My memories of this trip are as follows:

1. It rained. A lot.
2. During breaks in the rain, the men sat around the campfire and burned things. Have you ever seen anyone try to burn one of those small, “sixtel” kegs? I have.
3. Rather than showering in the cabin, I went to the nearby outhouse-type bathhouse. In the middle of my shower, when I was already soaped up and it was too late to turn back, I made the mistake of looking up at the ceiling. There was a bug above my head. And this was no ordinary bug. This bug must have come up from Arkansas to visit its Missouri cousins. It was a size of which I’d never seen, except for on the Discovery channel or in National Geographic. There have been four times in my life when I didn’t care who saw me naked. Two of these were during the births of my children. One was after my SCUBA open-water certification which took place when the outside temperature was 45 degrees and the water temperature was 55 degrees. And the other was this day, in the shower, with the bug from the Underworld dive-bombing my head. Let me just say that had you walked in at that moment, you would have seen me bending over naked with soap in my hair and a shoe in my hand, pounding the floor of the shower furiously.
4. John insisted on bringing our “big red truck” because it could hold more stuff (translation - beer) than our car. He wasn’t concerned that it was older than dirt and had only been starting after pouring gasoline directly into the carburetor. So, we took the big red truck. When it was time to leave – surprise! – the truck wouldn’t start. John tried his trick of pouring the gas in over and over, but instead of the truck starting it caught on fire. John’s dad ran into the cabin and got the fire extinguisher, and we put the fire out before the truck exploded. After all that burning in the campfire the night before, who would have thought we would have been faced with an unwanted fire?
5. I am irrationally afraid of spiders. This includes all spiders, no matter how small. To me, spiders are not the gardener’s helper or nature’s pest exterminator. To me, spiders are way scary and definitely out to get me. After the smoke settled from the truck fire, we were standing in the cabin talking and working out our transportation home. I looked down at the floor to see a spider the size of a Chihuahua less than a yard from my foot. He immediately sensed that I spotted him, and all of his eight hairy legs stopped moving in mid-step, as if to say, “The jig is up.” I told you spiders are out to get me. I’m not sure what happened to him due to the fact that I ran screaming from the cabin. I guess that just proves that I’m not safe from spiders on camping trips, even when in a building.

Until I experience a camping trip that is memorable for good things to replace the above, I will continue to battle my boys’ desire to camp. But if I never go, I’ll never replace the memories that keep me from going. It’s a quandary, but one that I’m happy to continue if it means that I don’t have to go camping.







Luke peeking out of the sun roof.





Digging a moat to keep the rain away from our tents.








Playing naked in the spigot.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Should've

I think I know what really happened with Adam and Eve. For thousands of years, we’ve been blaming poor Eve for convincing Adam to take a bite of that apple. I don’t think Eve talked Adam into taking a bite of the forbidden fruit. I think Adam took the bite, got mankind in trouble for it, and then blamed Eve because she didn’t stop him.

I think this because of the way things go in my male-dominated household (MDH). That is, I get blamed for everything. O.K., maybe not everything but enough to make me post about it. And I don’t know why I get blamed for everything. It could be because I am the wife and mother and, therefore by nature, the nurturer. It could be because wives and mothers are typically the decision-makers when it comes to matters of the household and children, and thus the logical choice to point the finger at when things go wrong.

It could also be because I am an obsessive, sticky-note writing, list making, packing for trips two weeks early, micro-manager of everyone’s lives. If I am constantly taking responsibility for everyone’s due dates, appointments, possessions, schedules and hovering around all the time, it makes sense to say that I will get blamed when things don’t go as planned.

I will take responsibility for some of the things that go wrong. My personality requires me to have a hand in everything and attempt to keep it all uberorganized. Things are just easier for me that way. But, I refuse to take blame for the following:

1. Injuries While Having Fun – My son Jack was running with his cousin, Sam. They were having a great time, playing and messing around. While running, Jack’s feet got tangled up in Sam’s and Jack went down pretty hard. I ran to check on him, and through his sobs he said, “You should’ve been watching me closer.”

2. Reckless injuries – We were in Colorado on a family vacation over the summer. We took the boys to the Alpine Slide, which is a boy’s dream slide. It is made of concrete and runs down the side of the mountain. You traverse this slide in a plastic sled equipped with a hand break that lets you go slow (my choice) or go the speed of a stock car (my boys’ choice). We had ridden several times with no injury. The last time, Luke rode with my sister, Jack rode with John, and I was riding alone. Jack wanted to race against me. John told Jack that their plan should be to go slow at the beginning, let me think I was winning, and then zoom past me at the speed of light. Which is what they did. I caught up to them on the other side of a turn. It was easy to catch them – they had flipped over and crashed. They both had a painful and severe case of road rash. And what did Jack say to me while in the first aid station getting bandaged up? “You should’ve told us to slow down.”

Jack's road rash on knees, thumb, elbow and forehead.
3. Impulse buys – Jack loves to spend money. He would buy stuff every day if we let him. When we do go to the toy store to let him buy something, he takes forever deciding. You’d think he was shopping for his future wife, or new parents. He looks at everything in the store at least twice, and carries things around that are potential purchases. Knowing his tastes, I can tell when something he has his eye on will not be fun for him. If he decides on that item, I try to talk him out of it. He usually buys it anyway, and then plays with it for about 9 seconds before he is bored. He then wants to go back to the store and get something else. I tell him no. And he tells me, “You should’ve talked me out of buying that.” I say, “I tried.” He says, “You should’ve tried harder.”

4. Absentminded mistakes – One night last week, the boys were spending the night at my mom’s and John and I were cleaning the house and the carpets for weekend company. We ordered dinner to be delivered because I didn’t feel like cooking. I stacked John's food all together on the counter (micro-manager), and took mine to the table. He grabbed his stuff and brought it to the table. He went to the refrigerator and came back to the table with something in his hand. As he started squeezing it out on his salad, I realized it was mayonnaise. John hates mayonnaise, so this struck me as odd. I said, “You’re putting mayonnaise on your salad?” And he said something that I can’t repeat in this family-oriented blog. After he had scooped out the goopy lettuce, he said to me, “You should’ve yelled stop.”

5. With Luke, the blame is a little different. His blame stems more from the disappointment of not getting to do what he wants to do and it takes the form of the "You Said," as in, “You said I could have potato chips for breakfast!” And then he punches me.

Until I go for a personalityectomy (has that been invented?), I will have to be willing to take a lot of the blame around here. The peace of mind that it brings me to be the obsessive, sticky-note writing, list making, packing for trips two weeks early, micro-manager of everyone’s lives outweighs the few things that I get blamed for that are clearly not my fault.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Questionitis

In an earlier post I hypothesized that I often feel tired and out of breath due to the fact that I use double the words necessary when speaking as a defense against Selective Hearing. I’ve come to realize that this speculation is inaccurate, and another male-dominated household ailment (MDHA) may be to blame. This MDHA is known as Questionitis.

My boys spend three days a week at their grandma’s, my mom’s house, while I’m working. Either my husband or I pick them up around 5:30. This puts us all home by about 6:00. The other night, it was closer to 6:30. That left us with about an hour and a half to eat dinner, do homework, take baths and get in our daily wrestle before bedtime. In that hour and a half, I answered approximately 500 questions. I answered questions from Jack. I answered questions from Luke. I answered questions from John. I answered questions twice, because the asker stopped paying attention right after asking the question, so had to ask it again. I answered questions two at a time. I answered questions that were barely discernible as the asker had a mouth full of ham sandwich. I answered questions in rapid-fire succession like a game-show contestant in the final round, only there was no prize waiting for me at the end. Come to think of it, there was no end.

There are so many things going on in my boys’ heads, sometimes they don’t even wait for an answer before lobbing the next question. I have to keep track of all of these questions in my head, and then wait for them to take a breath before answering any of them. Or, with Jack, he asks a question, I answer it, and he asks a question about my answer. This sounds confusing. Let me give you an example of a typical conversation:

Jack: “Is tomorrow a meemaw day?”
Me: “Yes it is. She will pick you up after school.”
Jack: “Who will pick me up?”
Me: “Meemaw will.”
Jack: “Oh, yeah. And it’s early release day, right?”
Me: “Yes, and also Cardinal red day.”
Jack: “When’s Cardinal red day?”

You can see why, from that conversation, extrapolating the 500 questions that I answer in an hour and a half out to a full day means that I answer approximately 30 million questions a day.

I know that it’s time for a break when I feel like the next question will send me screaming from the house and headed for a commune in the desert. When I feel this way, I try to tell my boys to wait just a minute, that I can’t answer another question until I do this one thing in the other room. I then try to leave the room to get 5 minutes of peace. This is an example of when MDHAs work in collusion with each other. The Selective Hearing kicks in, and my request turns into, “Follow me into the other room so I can answer your questions.” And they do. It’s as if my request never even existed. They continue their steady stream of questions while following me around the house as I look for one place, any place, where I can hide from the questions.

They also yell questions to me from another room in the house. They need something, but don’t want to come find me to ask me. They want me to find them. I used to seek them out and find out what they needed. I don’t do this any longer. I yell back, “If you need something, come find me and then ask.” And they yell, “What?” And I yell back. If you walked by our house on a nice day when we have the windows open, all you would hear is yelling.

When my husband, John, yells a question at me from another room in the house, I just ignore him. I guess this is my way of getting a little bit of pay back. You see, even if John is sitting in the room with them, even if I am in another room or on another floor of the house and have been for some time, they store their questions up and wait until they see me to ask them. I could be upstairs making dinner, doing laundry, doing dishes, and getting things ready for school the next day and walk downstairs where all three boys have been sitting together for some time, and when they see me they start asking questions. And I say, “Why didn’t you ask your dad any of these things? He’s been sitting right there the whole time.” They usually answer this by asking another question. But sometimes they reply, “Because he doesn’t know things and you do.” I guess I can’t argue with that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So That’s Why You’re No Good at Sports

The other morning I was getting my 6 year old son, Jack, ready for school. We were walking out the door when he spotted a map on the table. Both my boys are obsessed with maps. I’m not sure why and don’t mind so much because it is a good chance to provide them a geography lesson that they don’t even know they are getting. Jack wanted to keep the map, but I explained to him that I needed the map because my doctor gave it to me so I would know how to get to the store where there was something I needed to buy. “What does he want you to buy?” he asked. I told him that I had been having pains in my leg and hip, independent of the pains from the daily thrashing I received from him and his brother, and that the doctor said one of my legs was shorter than the other. I needed to buy a little thing to put in my shoe called a heel lift to even my legs out.

I kept walking to the car, anticipating what would come next. He hung back to stare at my legs. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I see it.” I laughed at that, and told him that the difference in length was so tiny the doctor could only tell it existed after reading an x-ray. I told him he wouldn’t be able to see the difference by watching me walk.

That’s when he had his epiphany. “That must be why you’re no good at running. Or at baseball. Or at sports.” Being the sensitive and caring boy that he is, he went on to inform me, “Next time we play baseball, instead of pelting you I’ll miss.” I’m sure it’s no surprise to you after reading this blog, but in my male-dominated household (MDH) we don’t play normal baseball. We play pelt baseball. To get someone out you have to throw the ball at them and pelt them. We don’t use real baseballs and our aim is not very accurate. There is still potential for injury which is rule number one in any game my boys create. “I can’t miss all the time, though,” he continued, “or everyone else will get mad at me.” “I understand,” I replied.

I didn’t tell him that the reason he always beats me at races is because I let him win. And the reason I never pelt him out during baseball is that I miss on purpose. Or that I intentionally run slowly around the bases so that he and his brother are sure to pelt me out. Am I doing them a disservice by not trying my hardest? By letting them win, am I making them think that they are better than they really are? Will this make losses hard to deal with when they play on teams where the opponents want to win as badly as they do? I guess only time will tell. So far, they both seem to be pretty good sportsmen. And their Dad wins enough to keep their heads from swelling too big. As they tell it, he’s supposed to be better than me because he’s a boy and I’m a girl.

Jack didn’t ask if my performance would improve once I start wearing the heel lift. But, if I am to continue the charade of being a poorer runner and baseball player than I truly am, I guess I will have to pretend to forget to wear my heel lift in my shoe and blame the shorter leg for my losses. And I will continue to have fun doing it, so they learn that it’s not such a bad thing to lose.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – That’s Neat.

This weekend brought with it beautiful weather for St. Louis. The balmy, slightly cool breeze seemed to blow away the last bit of humidity from our city. Saturday was a perfect day to take in The Great Forest Park Balloon Race. This year’s race was number 35 of the annual event. Dozens of balloons take off across the sky, chasing a giant balloon shaped like the Energizer Bunny®. The Energizer Bunny® Hot “Hare” Balloon is reported to be the world’s largest hot air balloon, standing 15’ taller than the Statue of Liberty.

We had never been to the balloon race before, given the crowds and weather in the past. If conditions aren’t right, many of the larger balloons, including the main attraction, can’t always take off. That’s not fun news to break to kids who have been waiting, however impatiently, for hours to see the balloons fly. John’s mom, Susan, was in town and it was too gorgeous to spend the day indoors so we took our chances. We loaded onto the Metrolink and rode the train to Forest Park. We had a bit of a hike from the station to our ultimate viewing spot. When the boys informed us that they couldn’t walk another step, we found a nice spot in the grass hoping the wind would be favorable and blow the balloons our way. The waiting began.

And the wait was well worth it! As I mentioned, I had never been to the race before, but I assure you I will not miss another. Our seats could not have been more perfect. As we sat facing the spot where the balloons would appear, we began to see the enormous, pink ears of the Energizer Bunny® rise up from behind the trees. The bunny floated into the air, and we performed the wind test using blades of grass to see if we could guess which direction he would head. To our sheer delight, he came right for us. After about 15 minutes, balloons of all shapes (balloons shaped as you would expect, but also more creative shapes like an Alpo dog food can, a moving van, and a big bag of popcorn) and colors began to rise and give chase. The sky was nearly cloudless and a perfect shade of blue. The bright colors of the balloons were dazzling against the backdrop. When all was said and done, over 35 balloons (counted by Luke, so there may have been more) made it into the sky, most of which flew right over our heads and some landing just feet from our chosen seats.

And, during this feast for the eyes, what were my boys doing? After they proclaimed exhaustion after the relatively short hike from the train station to the park? You guessed it. They were wrestling. Even with all of this extraordinary and potentially once in a lifetime spectacle going on right above their heads, they wanted to wrestle. And play chase. And drag each other across the grass. I think if we ever went to an event like this and the boys in my male-dominated household (MDH) sat peacefully and watched the event unfold without touching each other, I would surely drop dead from a coronary. They did take an occasional break to ooh and aah and count the balloons, but of the approximately 2 hours we spent at the balloon race, 1 hour and 45 minutes of that the boys spent wrestling and chasing.

Here are the boys wrestling before the race.



Here they are taking a 5 minute break to watch the race.


Here is the bunny coming right over our heads.




Where are the boys? Wrestling, of course.
video

Here are the balloons landing right next to us.

Where are the boys? Playing chase.
video

After we got home that night and well into the next day, they couldn’t stop talking about the balloon race and how neat and fun it was. I agree that the balloon race was neat. I think that most of what qualified as fun for them was spending the day outside in fresh air that wasn’t so hot that it hurt your lungs just to breath, and having seemingly endless, wide open space to run around like wild maniacs.

And, I can’t write about my MDH without mentioning my husband. Jack had gone to a birthday party that morning at a karate center. The kids learned a few karate moves, and it was a pretty cool party. While we were waiting for the balloons to launch, Jack was trying his new moves on his brother. John’s mom said something like, “Jack, remember what the teacher said. You never use these moves on people. Please stop kicking your brother.” Definitely something a woman and mother would say. And John said, “When you kick him, use the top of your foot and not your toes or your toes may break.” All boy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wake Up! It’s the Weekend!

My boys have sleep issues. This is hard for me to deal with because I can generally fall asleep anytime, anywhere in a matter of minutes (sometimes seconds) given the right conditions. Where it gets tricky for me is when I am sharing a bed with my boys, which is rare, or with my husband, which is always.

Let me start with Jack and Luke. They both typically fall asleep beautifully. With the exception of occasional nightmares about spiders or vampires and Luke getting up every night in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, once they are asleep I don’t hear a peep. It’s the morning time that kills me. If there is no reason for any of us to be up early, for example no one has to work or go to school, the boys dive from their beds before the newspaper has hit the lawn. No matter how late they stayed up the night before, if it is a weekend they are up at the crack of dawn. Sometimes, even before then. We attended a wedding last weekend in Iowa and stayed up until after 11:00 pm, which is very late for boys used to being asleep by 8:30. At some point before I would officially call it morning, I heard shuffling around in the corner. Jack had woken up and crawled over to get his Gameboy that was charging in a corner. It was 5:45 am. Luke would have slept longer – he does a little better than Jack – but would not want to miss out on any potential fun that Jack may have by waking up so early. Thank goodness the hotel room carried Nickelodeon.

Then, there are the middle of the night issues. On special nights when my husband is traveling, I sometimes let one or both of the boys sleep with me. Even in rest, my running, jumping, climbing, chasing, wrestling boys do not rest. I have been kicked, slapped, punched, clawed and had my hair pulled out. I have to sleep with a pillow on either side of me just to protect myself from harm. With Jack, I’m convinced that there is a cat in the bed. He pokes his little toenails into whatever body part of mine his feet happen to be touching and curls them. If anyone has ever seen a cat claw a pillow or blanket before getting comfortable, you'll know what I'm talking about. With Luke, I always have my guard up. He tosses and turns and flips and talks in his sleep. My sister used to do this when we were little, right before she dreamed whatever dream made her think I was the enemy and required her to pummel me. I have been woken up too many times in my life under attack to not tense up and take cover when Luke starts showing the same impending assault signs that my sister used to show right before beating me to a pulp in her sleep. These middle of the night crazies even impact John. When he lets the boys sleep with him when I am traveling, they banish him to the bottom of the bed and he is forced to sleep sideways.

And speaking of John, he snores. And he has sleep apnea. Neither of these things are his fault, but they make it hard on a person like me who needs almost complete darkness and silence to sleep. We’ve handled the light issue pretty well. My mom bought me pajamas for Christmas and they came with an eye mask. I never knew what I was missing until that eye mask came into my life. Now, John can read in bed and I won’t be bothered by the light. The noise is another issue. When the snoring starts, I tap him lightly and he rolls over. When he quits breathing because of the sleep apnea, I give him a little shake. When he starts snoring again, I kick him a little harder. When he quits breathing again, I punch him ever so lightly. These events continue to escalate until morning when we both drag ourselves out of bed exhausted. I usually feel bad about the kicking and punching the next day, because I know he can’t help the snoring or sleep apnea, but I tend to forget those things at 3:00 in the morning. And, I can at times be a bit irrational when I’m tired. I once yelled at him to stop being so loud when he was reading a magazine in bed. The crinkling sound every time he turned a page was too much for me to handle. Sometimes John takes pity on me and falls asleep on the couch downstairs. When the boys wake up before any human being has a right to be awake, I send them down the stairs to pester him and I roll back over.

Can I call my sleep deprivation a male-dominated household ailment (MDHA)? Technically, I guess I could. I would sleep soundly and peacefully every night and deep into the morning, if not for the continuous wake up calls I receive from my boys. This MDHA would be easy to fix. I would just have to sleep alone every night in a locked room with ear plugs in. I can't do that, though. I would miss my boys too much. Maybe I could get away with doing this one night a week.

Because the weekend begins tomorrow ensuring that my boys will wake up before the roosters each day, I will most likely not post on my blog over the weekend since I do that early in the morning on school days before I have to drag everyone out of bed kicking and screaming. I hope your weekend is pleasant and that you return on Monday well rested.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Selective Hearing

My boys have a slight hearing impairment. There is a disconnection between the hearing components of the ear that are responsible for transmitting the words coming from my mouth to the part of the brain that should process those words and direct the rest of the body accordingly. I haven’t been able to find any medical diagnosis for this impairment, so I’ve put it in the category of a male-dominated household ailment (MDHA) and labeled it as Selective Hearing. Watch for it on a symptom checking website near you.

Selective Hearing is a complicated MDHA, and presents itself in different degrees.

There is the simple, Word Drop Selective Hearing (WDSH):

I don’t want you guys to go crazy and start chasing each other in the store.” Those suffering from WDSH will process this sentence as, “I want you guys to go crazy! Start chasing each other!”

We can not stay up late tonight. Your teacher, who cares about you, says that it is very important to get a good night’s sleep, especially if it is a school night.” Those suffering from WDSH will process this sentence as, “We can stay up late. Who cares if it is a school night?”

There is the more complicated, Word Rearrange Selective Hearing (WRSH):

“I know you think it’s funny when you show them, but stop showing the neighbors your underwear. Do you want your mommy to get arrested if you keep that up?” Those suffering from WRSH will process this sentence as, “The neighbors think it’s funny when you show them your underwear. Mommy wants you to keep that up.”

Please don’t take your clothes off in front of the babysitter and her friend. Being naked isn’t always appropriate, even though you think it is fun.” Those suffering from WRSH will process this sentence as, “Please take your clothes off. Being naked is always fun and appropriate.”

And, there is the Complete Reinvention Selective Hearing (CRSH):

“Everyone is eating what I am cooking tonight. I will not make four different dinners.” Those suffering from CRSH will process this sentence as, “Mom will make me whatever I want.” They’re usually right. After all, how much time does it take to open a Lunchable and nuke a hot dog?

And I shouldn’t leave out my husband:

“When you get a second, can you clean your clothes up off of the bedroom floor so I can vacuum?” Husbands suffering from SR will process this sentence as, “Within the next two weeks, I need to vacuum the bedroom floor. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of it all.”


To be fair, I’m half joking about that last one. John is not the neatest man in the world, but I knew this going into things. When I went to visit him in college after I had graduated and he was finishing up, he and his roommate Brian (a boy - was there ever any doubt?) had a slug living in their shower. They claimed that it kept the tile grout clean. Have you ever tried to shower while keeping one eye on a slug? As if a slug could suddenly develop the speed and muscle required to leap on me while I was washing my hair. And, what would it do when it got there? Slug me to death? But, showering with a slug was a new experience for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Better safe than sorry.

I blame Selective Hearing as the reason I feel that I never stop talking and am often out of breath. I tend to speak with double the amount of words necessary to get a point across, hoping that the Selective Hearing doesn’t edit out the intent of my statement or request and that the point I am trying to make will get across. This is a dangerous defense to Selective Hearing. Who knows what they will do with the extra words?



This is how my boys responded to, "Please don't make a mess with the packing styrofoam." They moved so fast to make a mess, the picture is blurry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Game Ends when Someone Cries

My previous post discussed the ins and outs of boys’ inherent desire – almost obsessive need – to wrestle. What it did not discuss was what usually ends a bought of wrestling, and that is a scream-inducing, ear-splitting, end of all things injury. Injuries are not just the end to wrestling. They are the end to all games that my boys enjoy most and don’t involve sitting peacefully or playing peacefully or talking peacefully or peace, period.

There is usually no way for me to stop a "game" prior to the injury occurring (believe me, I have tried), and I hear myself saying “You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get hurt,” over and over again. I read once, in one of the many child care books or magazines I poured over in the early days of my oldest son's life, that constantly telling your child to “Be careful,” or “You’re going to get hurt,” undermines his confidence and makes him believe that he can’t accomplish what he’s trying to do without getting hurt. I wonder now, did the author of that statement have boys? Because my boys accomplish what they are trying to do while getting hurt once, if not several, times a day and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Not even memory of the last injury, which may have just occurred 30 seconds ago with the goose egg still prominent on the forehead to prove it, stops them from getting hurt.

Let me interject that I know that this is not just a problem with boys. My sister and I wrestled with my dad night after night, and one of us – my sister or me, not my dad – always ended up crying. And my mom would look at my dad with her angry look and shake her head as she comforted us as if to say, “I told you so,” and “You should know better.” But he didn’t know better! He’s a boy! That’s the point. I’m sure if I had a mirror at those times when my boys get injured, the times when my husband is deeply entrenched in the current “game,” I would wonder when my mother arrived at my house and why she was wearing my clothes. Should my husband know better? That each game of pelt-ball or wrestle or dark chase or football tackle is going to end in tears? Of course he should know, and he does. He is just a boy at heart, and my other boys love him for it.

Since I can’t stop the injuries from occurring when Daddy is involved in the game (the boys like to remind me that he is the boss of us all), you’d think I would have some luck stopping the games before injuries occur when it is just Jack and Luke playing. I am probably successful at that 2% of the time, and it usually involves some sort of bribery as threats never work. But one day, we had been on a long flight from Denver to St. Louis by way of Dallas. We were at the baggage carousel waiting for bags, which adds another 30 minutes to an already waaaayyyy too long travel experience. Our kids had been cooped up on a plane with soda and candy for hours, and were running around the baggage carousel like prisoners on furlough. In these situations, my husband sometimes hits me with a common male-dominated household ailment (MDHA) I like to call the Sergeant Schultz, or the "I see nothing, nothing!" As I tried to ignore the sympathetic, and not so, glances from fellow waiters as my kids ran in warp speed circles around me, I blurted, “The first one of you to get hurt has to go into timeout!” Well, that stopped them in their tracks. I could read the confusion on their faces. The hurt one will go into timeout? Not the one that caused the hurt? That tactic got us 15 minutes of peace during the boys’ quiet contemplation, long enough for our bags to come and us to begin our trek to the car. But, peace is fleeting and the candy buzz kicked in once again. Before we could make it to the car, Luke, my 4 year old, was hurt. And Jack, my 6 year old and stickler for the rules when he wasn’t the one in trouble, promptly reminded me that Luke had to go into timeout for getting hurt. So, I loaded them both into the car and took a timeout myself, deep in the back of the quiet solitude of my brain.

I congratulated myself on coming so close to solving an age-old MDHA – how to stop the game before someone gets hurt. I still throw that one out there every once in a while, and even follow-up on it occasionally. The most it gets me now is a 30 second break in the action while the boys weigh the risk of getting hurt vs. the benefit of stopping and not going into timeout. As with most boys, risk always wins out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wrestlemania

Several years ago, after I had gotten married but before the thought of having kids changed from a terrifying proposition to a mildly stressful one, John and I went to visit his family who live in Jefferson City, Missouri. John has three older sisters and no brothers, putting his mother in the low category of male-dominated household ailments (MDHA) with just two males in the household. John did his part in his teen years to make up in quality what the household lacked in MDHA quantity. More stories on that in the future.

At the time of the visit, John’s sisters were all in various stages of motherhood. His sister, Nancy, had invited a friend and her two boys over to play with Nancy’s kids. As I sat in the living room with Nancy and her friend, I watched as her friend sat on the floor and tried to hold a conversation with Nancy as her two sons individually or simultaneously attacked her. It was mesmerizing. The boys pounced on her relentlessly, wrapping their limbs around her head and pummeling her body time and time again. And she sat there. And she continued her conversation. And I kept wondering, “Why doesn’t she stop them? Why doesn’t she get up off of the floor and move to the couch?” These thoughts were followed quickly by “I am never having boys – ever.” Which, just by making the statement, instantly guaranteed that both of my children would be boys.

I finally have the answers to the questions that perplexed me so back then, based on my own experience as a mother of boys. First, she didn’t stop them because she could not. Boys are wrestlers. And they feed off of each other. One boy wrestling is like a war cry to any other boy within ear shot. Before you know it, you’re being ambushed on all sides by hands and feet and heads. From the moment my boys wake up to the time they go to sleep, they want to wrestle. And the wrestling possibilities for them are endless. Just good ol’ normal wrestling isn’t always enough for them. Wrestling has to evolve. At our house, it has evolved into various games – there is chase-wrestle, hide-and-go-seek wrestle, pelt-ball wrestle, in-the-pitch-black-wrestle, try not to fall out of the bunk bed-wrestle and on and on. Nancy’s friend, the experienced mom, knew that it was easier to sit there and wrestle with her boys while protecting herself from injury as best as possible and carrying on a conversation than it was to try to stop her boys from wrestling. That would be like trying to cage a tornado. At the time, I foolishly thought she had a choice in the matter. I now know better.

Second, she didn’t move to the couch because proximity has nothing to do with the stoppage of wrestling. Moving to the couch would have just added the exciting elements of height and bounce to the wrestling game, most likely prolonging the match further. Also, coffee tables and wrestling children don’t mix. The mother wisely stayed on the floor where the most likely injury would involve one of her body parts and not one of her children’s.

So, my question to you other women suffering from the MDHA of too much wrestling, where does this urge to wrestle come from? Are boys born with it, or does it spread through the air on a testosterone-laced cloud, landing on all y-chromosomes in its path. And, knowing that it can’t be stopped, how do we remove ourselves from the middle of it? Is there a look or a word or a hiding spot that will protect us from the daily and sometimes hourly onslaught?

I suspect that the most powerful weapon against these wrestling minions is time. That friend of Nancy’s probably no longer is dealing with this particular MDHA. And I suspect she would glance on my wrestling events with a mix of envy, nostalgia, and a sigh of relief. Boys grow up, and eventually that urge to wrestle is replaced by driving and girls. Then, the sons and grandsons come along, reminding that man who once was a wrestling boy how fun it all was. That’s when the lessons begin. Future mothers, prepare to take cover.



The boys don't take a break from wrestling, even at the Cardinal baseball game.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Outnumbered at Home

I am outnumbered. I am a married mother of two, living in a house with three boys, including my husband. I don’t mind being outnumbered so much. I have never been much of a girly girl. I like that there isn’t a lot of preening and fussing over clothes and hair. Well, there wasn’t anyway until last year in kindergarten Jack decided he was in love. Heaven forbid he walk out of the house with one hair out of place!

But sometimes I am stymied by the tendencies of the boys in my life. I wonder if buying something pink and frilly and rubbing it on myself (or them) will cure me of the male-dominated household ailments (MDHA) that I suffer from. Having another female in the house would at least give me an ally when things are put to a vote. Right now, I count my dog, Shasta, as a vote for the female side since she is a female and would most certainly vote with me if she was able. But, that only puts me at two – still outnumbered by one. Come to think of it, her full name is Shasta Ice Princess, given to her by her original owner. I think I will lobby for her vote to count as two – anything with the word “Princess” in it surely should garner more weight. Then, all I would need is one more vote to take the majority. We have fish. Who knows how to tell the sex of fish?

So, welcome to my blog in which I will share with you some of my experiences of being outnumbered. These posts are not meant to be generalizations or stereotypes regarding the entire male population – just true accounts of what it’s like to be outnumbered in my house. Do you have your own accounts? Please feel free to share them.