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  • Little Kids and Big Kids and Lessons In Community

    February 25, 2011

    When kids are of a certain age, generally speaking, they don’t want to play with the little kids.  It’s fun to run away and hide from them and that sort of thing. I know this from observing Sean and I know this from personal experience. I was the youngest, and even worse, a girl.  I spent the better part of my early childhood chasing after my older brothers, hoping to be allowed to play.  Either of them would have rather eaten a pencil than let me to hang out with them.  In their defense, I may have been somewhat annoying.  Somewhat.

    And of course all the little kids want to play with the big kids because it makes them feel big and important and one of the gang. Deep down inside, I think I still want that. Just a little.

    Anyway, in the last year or so when Sean is with either of his two good neighbor buddies, both of whom have younger sibs, they think its quite fun to exclude the younger ones.  Collectively, we moms do not permit this.  When this happens, I threaten suggest to him that if everyone can’t play together then we will have to go home.  I am hoping that at some point he will absorb this exhortation and do it out of a heart response and not under duress.

    So then awhile back, Sean had a day off of school, and since it was was a nice day we went to the park to throw around our Nerf football.  I’m quite good with a football. I can throw it with laser precision and get that pretty little spiral on it.  It’s pretty impressive and you wouldn’t know that I could do that by looking at me.  I bring that up now because there has never been another opportunity.

    So we were throwing the football back and forth and a young boy, maybe a 3rd or 4th grader, wanders through the park.  He stands off to the side watching, probably admiring my football spiraling skills or perhaps my tremendous beauty, I’m not sure which.  I ask him if he’d like to play. He does, so I toss him the football and step aside.  Sean and the boy throw the ball for awhile and all is calm, all is bright.

    Shortly thereafter, two other boys pass through the park with a basketball.  They are 5th or 6th graders, I can’t tell. I can only tell if someone is a 1st grader.  They invite us to play a little b-ball (that’s basketball for you who are not as hip as I) and we set up teams; Sean and I and the 1st boy against the two 5th graders.

    Aside: I can’t dribble a basketball to save my life. I do not have the basketball mojo. Never had it, never saw it, never been anywhere near it.  If I happen to make a basket it is a fluke of the laws of physics.  Tip:  If ever you are choosing up teams to play basketball, do not choose me.  I will understand.

    There was something about the bigger of the two 5th graders. I could just tell that he was an oldest child and that maybe his mom had issued threats and made him to play with the younger kids and that at some point he had taken it into his heart.  He made several well-veiled “flubs” and allowed Sean to get the ball and take it down court.  I really appreciated that.

    It wasn’t too long after that these boys grew weary of having to play basketball with me and decided to play Monkey In The Middle with the football.  Back in the day, we called it Keep Away.  I begged off and sat off to the side to watch.

    The two fifth graders put Sean and the 3rd grader in the middle.  Sean had a great time running back and forth and trying to get the ball.  But the 3rd grader didn’t like it. It seemed to bruise his pride.  He threw a bit of a hissy fit which all the other boys ignored.

    Eventually the 3rd grader had enough and stomped off, which left just Sean as the monkey.  The older boy would again discreetly flub from time to time and allow Sean to capture the ball and get to be a ball thrower instead of the monkey.  But it wasn’t long though before the big boys were ready to move along.

    “We gotta get going,” the big boy said to Sean.

    He gave him a knuckle bump and thanked him for playing.

    Sean beamed with importance.

    I winked at the older boy which I hope he correctly interpreted as a nod of thanks and not some creepy-old-lady come on.

    As we walked home, I noticed a little extra spring in his step.

    “That boy that stomped off, what did you think about that?” I asked.

    “Not good.  That’s being a bad sport,” he said.  “Dad doesn’t like that.”

    “Yup,” I said, “Neither do I.”

    I was pleased that he recognized that.

    “That felt pretty good, didn’t it? That those boys wanted to play with you.”

    He nodded.

    “Maybe you could remember that next time Kendall and AJ want to play.”

    He nodded and skipped ahead of me.

    Two lessons in one day.

    Probably more effective than 100 days of motherly exhortations.

    So to all the moms of big boys out there who have gone to the trouble to teach them to look out for and include the little boys – thank you.  Thank you very much.

    That’s called community.

    There’s A Good Reason Driver License Pictures Are Bad

    February 16, 2011

    Because I have super sharp powers of observation, I quickly realized that things probably were not going to go well.

    You see, as I pulled into the parking lot, it was jam packed with cars.  Most of the cars were missing hub caps, some had windows covered with garbage bags secured with duct tape and others were missing the passenger seat.  And their owners were loitering in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.  Not that my car is new and fancy by any means.  But it does have hub caps and windows and all the seats.

    So I artfully wedged my car into the last remaining spot, sucked in my gut and then I turned myself sideways and slithered out of my car and into the parking lot of loiterers, ostensibly there hoping to do business with the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Just like me.

    I got a letter several months ago saying it was time to renew my drivers license!  I put that exclamation point there to imply I was on a fun adventure.  Did I convince you?

    I procrastinated for two months but finally I could procrastinate no longer; I had to go.

    I checked the website to make sure that I knew exactly where I was going and that I had everything I needed.  I needed ID, I needed proof of my social security number or a passport,  and most importantly, I needed to pay them $25 either with a check, cash or a Visa credit card. Check, check, check.  I had all those things.

    I did not need proof of insurance or vehicle inspection or voters registration or any other hoop-jumping papers.  I realized that I would have a long wait, but I didn’t want to wait an hour (An hour! Hahaha!) and then have my number called only to have some clerk tell me I needed some sCrap of paper that was at home.  So I made every effort to secure all the required documents as specified on the web site.  I think ahead.

    I made my way through the dirty parking lot and into the dirty building which was at or near the maximum occupancy rate.  There was not a teaspoon of air to breath that had not already been breathed by someone else.  I am more than a little claustrophobic and I felt myself getting a little woozy.  But this had to be done.  Finally it was my turn to get a number. It was number #80.

    With pleading eyes and a wavering voice that implied I could go postal, I asked the young man behind the desk, please sir – is there was any way, any way at all, that I could do this any other way?  I was on both knees in the prayer position, head bowed, hands clasped, begging for mercy, intercession, a miracle, anything, anything at all.  He looked at my letter and my driver’s license and yawned.  Yes, he said, I could make this go away over the phone and then he wrote a number down across the top of my official DPS letter and handed it back to me.

    “Really?!  Are you sure?” I asked incredulously.

    He nodded.

    I was elated.

    But I also knew, deep in my heart, that he was wrong.

    Nonetheless, I was going to enjoy my delusion and false elation for as long as I could.

    I took my paper with the phone number, waded back through the icky parking lot of discarded diapers and cigarette butts and wedged myself back into my car and went home where I dialed the number, followed all the prompts and was told I could not complete my transaction over the phone and that I should present myself in person at my local DPS office.

    I groused and stomped about and heaved heavy sighs of exasperation that my false elation was false.   I whined and complained to AD (who is immune to my whining and complaining).  And then I cursed the DPS and all of big government in my head.  And then I got back in my car and drove to another DPS office 20 miles away.  I believe that is the definition of psychosis – when you do the same thing hoping for a different result.

    When I got to this DPS it was much better!  The parking lot was reasonably clean and I was able to get out of my car without first vaporizing.  I peeked in the windows of the building and there was hardly anyone there! This was going to be GREAT!  I followed the signs which pointed to the entrance several doors down.  When I walked through that door there were 632 people inside all of whom either a) were talking loudly in a foreign language on their cell phone or b) had a screaming baby standing in their lap, or c) both.


    So, once again, I made my way to the front desk and got a number – 49!  That was pretty good, much better than 80.  I would just have to wait it out.  A chair even opened up; no one made a move for it, so I snagged it and sat down.  I pulled out my iTouch and started a game of Scrabble.  An hour later I looked up and they were on numbers 986, 343 and 299.  Clearly I did not understand their numbering system, but then again this was a system engineered by the same people who bring you the IRS, so it made sense in that it didn’t make any sense.

    I looked up another hour later and they were on numbers 37, 461 and 128.  At about that time, I noticed a message flash on the screen that said they only accept cash at THIS location; no checks, no credit cards.  That was not mentioned on the website or by the person at the window who gave me #49 two hours ago.  I panicked for a moment wondering how much cash I had on me.  If I had waited there two hours and couldn’t complete my transaction because I had $24 but not $25, I might blow an artery.  Luckily I had the dough and so I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to playing Scrabble for another hour.

    Finally, three hours from the time I arrived, #49 was called. I jumped out of my seat and fist-punched the air. Woo-hoo! I ran up to the window like I was on the Price Is Right. Come on down!

    The gal behind the window found all my documents to be in order.  She asked me to take a vision test which worried me a little bit because after playing Scrabble on my itty bitty iTouch for three hours, I was just about cross-eyed. She apologized that she didn’t have any Clorox wipes to clean the eye machine.  I was disgusted to have to press my face into the same machine that everyone else had pressed their germy noggins into but I just went to my happy place and read the fifth line as requested, which is hard to do when you are holding your breath.

    She then had me stand behind the blue line and smile for the camera. I didn’t even bother to put on lipstick. I wanted the DPS to see what they had done to me.  I forked over $25 and I was outta there.  If I was lucky, I would get my official license in the mail in six weeks.

    I hold out little hope that will happen efficiently or timely or even at all, because you know, the postal service, DPS and the IRS are all brought to you by the letters U, S and A.  But I choose not to think about it for six-weeks.

    I went home and took a Silkwood-style shower and prayed that Jesus would come back before my license expires again.

    * * *

    I love my USA I do, I do, I do. I hate the exasperatingly inefficient bureaucracy.

    Will Jupiter Be On The Test?

    February 8, 2011

    A week or so back, Sean and I were driving home from somewhere just as the sun was setting and the moon was as big and orange as I have ever seen in my entire life.  It was such a wondrous sight, that I pulled the car over to gaze upon it.

    “Wowee Sean!” I exclaimed. “Look at the moon!  That is awesome!”

    We rolled back the moon roof and looked up at this giant golden orb that seemed to hang just above our heads and threatened to drop right into the car.

    Sean, although impressed, was not as astonished at its magnificence in the same ignorantly blissful manner as I.

    “Mom,” he said, “The reason the moon is so orange right now is because of Jupiter.”


    “Yes. The moon, as you know, does not generate light on its own but reflects it off nearby planets.  Jupiter is orange and it is close to the moon right now, and that is why the moon looks so big and orange.”

    “Yeah.  Sure.  Of course I knew that. Who doesn’t know THAT?”

    “How old are you anyway?  Aren’t you supposed to be, like, seven?”

    So then, yesterday, when the school sent home a letter saying that if Sean missed any more school this semester a “review” committee might determine that he can’t graduate 1st grade, I laughed out loud.

    Yes,  I laughed loud and long.  Right after I smoothed all my ruffled feathers back into place.

    Television, Lofty Ideals and The Pitchman

    February 1, 2011

    Back when we were pregnant and studying fervently for our advanced degrees in parenting, we came across this article which suggested that children under the age of two should not be allowed to watch any television, none at all.

    Their theory was that the electronic medium of television alters the tender brain chemistry of toddlers and could play a role in some of the sensory issues that beset our children today, issues that we haven’t seen so much in previous generations.  That seemed like a reasonable hypothesis to us and so we went with it and it has served us well.

    Not only do we think this policy has benefited Sean’s ability to focus and recall, but until he started public school, he had no idea what Transformers were or who Sponge Bob is.  And that, no doubt, has saved us a few bucks.

    Surprisingly, we got a lot of push back on our no-TV stance from well-intended folks who couldn’t believe that we would deny Sean his right to Elmo.

    “But Sesame Street is a good program,” they’d say mournfully as though we were withholding milk, “They can learn so much!”

    Whether or not Sesame Street and Barney and the others are good or bad or somewhere in between is debatable.  But this is not about the message.  It’s about the medium.  Big Bird is not the issue.  The issue is the unrelenting barrage of imagery and noise that is television that screws with the brains of babies.

    When we tried to explain this, that we were not Big Bird haters, the response was “But there are a lot of good shows for kids on television! They can learn to count!”  And I had to assume their inability to form a logical counter argument was that they watched television before they were two.  And I rest my case.

    When Sean was about four, we relaxed our stance on television a little bit, but not much.  Now that he is older, our concern about the electronic nature of the medium has declined an itsy bitsy bit, but our concern over the message has increased exponentially.  We go to a lot of trouble to monitor and limit what he watches, but still, the crud creeps in, and boy is it sticky stuff.

    Well, last week, we had the flu at our house and our highfalutin’ stance on television went right out the window. (And yesterday my stance on never wearing my PJs and robe to drive Sean to school also went out the window.  I can no longer sneer at those robe-wearers. This flu has been rough on us.)

    Sean came home from school sick with the flu on Friday, about 10 days ago.  He was sick on the couch until the next Thursday and then I was sick on the couch Thursday through the weekend and then AD took his turn on the couch.  Sean watched television the whole time he was sick and then whole time I was sick.  We have watched more television in the past 10 days than we have in the past seven years.   He was still only allowed to watch movies and Animal Planet and Discovery and Myth Busters and Word Girl and his usual mild semi-educational fare, definitely not any network crud, but still – a lot of television.

    And at one point, I noticed I was developing some seriously sour feelings towards Flo, the Progressive chick and the State Farm guy with the weird forehead and thinking how ugly and annoying their kid would be.  It was about this time that Sean called to me from the sofa.

    “Mom, can you come over here?”

    I leaned over the sofa to feel his forehead.  Was he feeling worse?

    He looks  up at me and tenderly reaches for my face.

    “Mom,” he says, “ProActive could get rid of those red spots you have on your chin.”


    “It renews, revitalizes and repairs in just three easy steps.  You can order it on TV.”

    “It works in as little as three days.  Katy Perry uses it.”

    “Who’s Katy Perry?” I ask.

    “I don’t know.  But you can get your money back if you’re not completely satisfied.”

    I think they need to emend that study to report that not only does TV alter brain chemistry in children, but there is also the real danger that your kid will turn into Billy Mays in just 10 short days.

    I guarantee it or your money back.