I Didn’t Know!

I parked the car in front of the house where Jane’s Destination Imagination team was meeting. We were early.

“I hope Jane hurries out,” Daryl said anxiously. “I’ve got this peach jelly bean I saved for her.” He held his hand out and showed it to me. I glanced at it wistfully. Why hadn’t he saved one for me?

“We are early. She won’t be out for another 10 minutes or so,” I said, instead of asking for the jelly bean.

Shortly after that, Hal called out, “Sissy! Hurry up! Bubba has a barf cherry jelly bean for you!”

“What are you talking about, Hal?” Daryl asked. “It’s a peach jelly bean.”

“Oh, yeah,” Hal said. Sometime later, he mentioned vomit again and Daryl asked him why he kept talking about barf. I repeated the question but nothing struck me other than the fact that he’s six years old and into that kind of stuff.

Eventually, Jane came out and Daryl promptly and enthusiastically offered her the jelly bean.

“No thank you, Daryl,” she said, sounding just slightly put out. I was just about to reach back and say I’d take it when her tone started to sink in.

“I’ll take it!” Hal called out cheerfully.

“No, don’t,” Jane warned. “You don’t want that jelly bean – trust me. It’s going to taste nasty.”

Hal screamed out in disgust and began spitting out the window. Daryl began to laugh. Jane announced that she had warned him and he should listen to her. Hal broke down in a major crying fit and yelled in a pitiful voice, “Bubba is always giving me the barf jelly beans!”

I tried to get through to him over his wails, “I don’t get it, Hal. You already knew it was a barf jelly bean. You even called it one while we were waiting for Jane.”

“Well! I didn’t know!”

“Yes, yes you did. You even called it that. Why would you eat it when you knew what it was?”

Jane then explained to him the trick of cracking open the candy and smelling it before taking your chances. There was apparently a chance that this one really was a peach jelly bean. But a nasty chance that it was not.

Fast forward to dinner. Daddy came home near the end of the meal and as he ate, the rest of us talked. I told him the tale of the barf jelly bean. He shook his head.

“Why did you eat it, Hal?” he asked. Everyone was laughing and Hal buried his face in shame. “He’d already done it to you once today! Why would you try another one?”

“Well, I didn’t know!”

“Sure you did. You were in the car when he said it was a win-win situation for him. Either it’d be a peach jelly bean and she’d thank him or it’d be a barf jelly bean and he’d get to laugh at her. You knew.”

Hal wasn’t happy that everyone was laughing at his expense, and I know it wasn’t nice, but it was so shocking that he had all that pre-information plus his own personal experience plus his sister’s direct warning, all that afternoon, and he still trusted his brother.

“Don’t worry,” his Daddy said as he comforted him. “You won’t always be this gullible.”

Obsessive Fandom

I think Jane’s 1D experience deserves a bit more attention than I gave it in my nutshell post last week. {For you less experienced and less knowledgeable types, 1D is short for One Direction.}

There are two reasons for this. The first is that there’s a level of humor in what happened that was glossed over in last week’s post. The second is that there’s a lesson for all of us in it, I think. So let’s get to it.

I learned the earth-shattering-if-you-are-of-a-certain-age-and-female news via a quick glance at Google News around 1:00 last Wednesday afternoon. Having recently been the person to break the news to her  of his departure from their tour, I wanted a similar position of honor this time around.

I took out my phone and shot her a quick text.

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And then I immediately put my phone away. So I missed her desperate attempts to interact with me on the subject:

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As you can see, I wasn’t the first person. No, that honor goes to some girl at school. From what I’ve been able to tell, Jane’s practically the only One Directioner in her school so there wasn’t a loud wailing and gnashing of teeth as has been reported from other locations.

Jane confidently corrected the girl that he was only taking a break from the tour. The friend insisted he had quit the band. Jane checked Twitter. Jane excused herself to the bathroom. Jane cried. Jane texted her Daddy:

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He responded (to her surprise) that he was on his way, no questions asked. It was sometime in here that I sent my text. My husband, not prone to just pick the kids up willy-nilly from school did so without question this time for two reasons. First, she hadn’t been feeling well that morning. Second, he trusted her good judgment to not request removal from school unless it was important.

She waited in silence as he signed her out. He could tell she was very upset about something. And then they left the building. As they walked down the steps toward the road, he asked, “So. What’s going on?”

She took a deep breath and then croaked, “Zain* left. He left One Direction.”

He stopped walking. He stepped away from her to get a clearer look. “Are you being serious right now?”

And, no, he wasn’t expressing shock that Zain had made that decision. All parents everywhere should be laughing at this scene. Of this father so blindsided by his irrational teenaged daughter. She burst into tears and just nodded.

“Please, Daddy, please… can we just go? Please don’t make me go back in there. Can we please just go home?”

“I hope you know this is never gonna happen again.”

“I know, Daddy.”

And with that, they left. She didn’t get the previously promised after-school treat though.

Before you judge, do me a favor and go to YouTube. Pull up a video of some teenaged girls getting to see The Beatles for the first time. For One Directioners, it’s that. You may not think 1D measures up to The Beatles, but I can assure you that their fan base is every bit as intense.

Which brings me to the lesson. Jane took comfort in Tweets about not judging other people’s emotional reactions to events that affect the things they love. And one of them had a good comparison.

Think about the reaction from adult men when a favorite player leaves a favorite team. Think about how the entire city of Cleveland reacted when Lebron James went to the Miami Heat.

Do they go running to the bathroom and cry? Do they beg their bosses to let them go home from work early? No, of course not. They are men, not teenaged girls.

But they sure do whine like little babies on Facebook. They angrily declare their disgust at the disloyalty of the player. They rid themselves of that treasured jersey with that now-despised number. They boo when that player returns on an opposing team.

In short, they react the same. Maybe even worse, since the One Directioners are sad but not particularly angry at the deserter.

Nerds have long complained about how people ridicule their obsessions with Pokemon, comic books, video games, and similar pursuits that non-nerds seem to think we should all grow out of by adulthood. But no one bats an eye at adult obsession with sports. (Ironically, I know some adults nerds who would ridicule Jane’s obsession with 1D).

I think it’s perhaps time that we all step back and give each other some room to breathe. And grieve. We’ve all got our obsessions. And if we are rational, we can admit that those obsessions are irrational. And if we aren’t, our spouses or close friends can whisper it in our ears during a calm moment.

And sometimes, something or someone upsets our obsessed-over apple cart. And we momentarily feel like we can’t go on because of it. People who don’t get it should take a minute to realize they have their own apple carts. And then just wait. We’ll get over it.

I’ll worry if she’s still wound up a week from now. She’s already doing better. She’s righted her cart and she’s picking up her apples. And she’s a bit stronger and a bit more aware of her feelings now than she was before. And that’s an important part of growing up.

 

*A note on spelling. When I asked Jane to read this to make sure she was ok with me telling the story, she commented that I misspelled his name (Zayne – as can be seen in the text I sent her). Since I got that spelling from news sources, the problem is apparently widespread. I asked her how to spell it and her response made me sad. She said, “It’s Z-A-Y-N. Unless you want to spell it the way he really spells it and then it’s Z-A-I-N. But their publicists decided that was too ethnic so they changed the ‘I’ to a ‘Y’.” Too ethnic? She had to clarify that he is of Arabic descent. This is probably another post entirely but I think it’s sad that we can’t let people be who they really are. Afraid they wouldn’t be a success if we aren’t all fooled into thinking they are “white”? Shame.

Channeling MacGyver

I went redneck with my lunch yesterday. Or maybe it’d be cooler to say I went MacGyver.

Yeah, that’s it. I totally went MacGyver.

We had fixed Taco Salad for the church youth group Sunday and still had leftovers come Wednesday evening. The nice thing about salad is that, as long as you don’t overdo the dressing or, in the case of taco salad, load up on chips, it’s a fairly low calorie and healthy meal choice. For that reason, I had one for dinner both Monday and Wednesday evenings.

I had nothing planned for lunch the next day and thought, Hey! Taco salad sure would be nice. Problem is that my one little bowl at work isn’t big enough for the mound of lettuce involved. Last time I tried this, I mixed everything in the salad mix bag. That worked ok but those bags are fragile and tend to tear down the side while you are attacking the contents with a fork.

As I was contemplating my bowl-at-work options, it occurred to me that we had purchased one of those big rectangular plastic boxes of 50/50 spinach/spring mix things since we had been buying for a group. There was still some lettuce in it.

Score! I opened the new bag of lettuce and added some to the box. Then I added onions and shredded cheese. The ziploc bag of remaining taco meat was just right for one serving, so I scooted the lettuce/onion/cheese over a bit and placed the bag of meat inside, to be heated up at work. Then I poured some green salsa in a small plastic container, added the Italian dressing to it, placed the lid, and nestled the container into the lettuce. That’s when I noticed that the bag of tortilla chips also held a very meager supply of already-crushed chips. So I rolled the bag up, ignored any concerns about whether the outside of the chip bag was actually clean, and laid it carefully on top of the salad before closing the lid.

Voila! All the ingredients contained inside the box, which I could then eat out of the next day before throwing away. And it’s a testament to how my week has gone that this event caused me as much joy as it did. Sometimes it’s the little things in life.

Maybe all my daughter needs to come out of her One Direction mourning is to eat salad out of a bumpy, flimsy plastic box. Or maybe not. Not everyone can be MacGyver.

In A Nutshell…

I haven’t had much time to blog lately and I don’t see that changing for awhile now. I’ve had a lot of ideas on things to write about but then things get in the way. Things like working overtime, my husband hogging the computer to work on our taxes, being too tired. Always too tired.

I planned to blog about our nearly-disastrous, certainly not-as-planned two-day Spring Break. The one that had us sit immobile on the interstate for nearly an hour because of downed power lines. And then we finally got to our destination to find it hopelessly overcrowded with no place to park. So we headed to Central Market. Yes, the Great Spring Break of 2015’s highlight was a trip to a grocery store.

But, you see, it was BaconFest! This cracked my husband and me up since Pandora had been ruthlessly advertising BaconFest during our morning workouts for weeks. We gave each kid a certain amount of money to spend and everyone had the time of their lives buying bagels, tortillas with bacon chunks in them, stinky cheese, fruit.

The next day, we traveled to another town 2 hours away just so Jane could see a couple of friends. Only one of them bailed. And the communication with the other wasn’t great. They still had a great time, although Daddy spent all his time unexpectedly ferrying people about. I played “Lunar Golf” (mini golf with glow-in-the-dark elements under black lights) with the two boys, who fought in such a ridiculous way that I was exhausted.

Trust me, the telling of their interaction was going to be so funny! Weeks ago, that is. Why bother now?

We drove from there to a town roughly halfway home so I could buy some wine from my new favorite winery. But they wouldn’t let me sample without sitting at a table and ordering a flight. Eight quickly consumed ounces of wine later (on an empty stomach), I was swaying at the counter buying 9 bottles of wine and joining their wine club.

And then we headed back home to some friends’ house, where we ate great food and drank more wine. All in all, a reasonably good but not-as-planned and way-too-short Spring Break. But all it gets is a light brush stroke because it’s simply not current.

Then there’s Daryl, who broke his right thumb last week. He’s the only kid in our family that is right handed. So now he’s in a splint and the school has to have a special meeting to secure permission for him to take his standardized tests without filling in the bubbles. He’ll read off his answers to a teacher who will fill in the bubbles for him. Assuming it’s all approved.

The tale of how he broke it (playing dodge ball at school) was a riveting tale as he shared it with me. I planned to share it with you. But the energy seems to have gone out of the moment and I no longer think I could do it justice.

Then there’s the ongoing Tooth Fairy near failures. Both Daryl and Hal lost teeth last week. I think Hal now has more holes than he does teeth. Some friends, some semi-local, some from two states away, came over Saturday night. I remarked at the beginning of the evening that I had to remember to perform my Tooth Fairy role for Hal.

Well… by the time everyone was loading up to go about 1:30 Sunday morning… yeah, I know… bad idea… anyway… by then, I had completely forgotten about the tooth. And in a lucky, saved-my-butt-but-also-demonstrated-what-a-lame-tooth-fairy-I-am move, one of the guests reminded me. Yes, one of the guests. In my defense, he was the only one who hadn’t been drinking. But still. He’s not even a parent!

Maybe that’s why he still has brain cells.

Then we get to today. When the big news was not who was announcing a run for the Presidency, not that voice recordings had been successfully removed from the black box in that horrific airline crash, not that Earth exists because Jupiter was a giant planet-eating monster back in the day.

No, the big news of the day was that Zayne Malik left One Direction. And my daughter’s world stopped spinning. It’s not the proudest moment of her life. She knows it’s silly and even stupid. Still, it is very raw and real to her.

She called her dad to leave school early. He wasn’t happy when he learned the reason. She cried and cried and cried. She threw away her teen magazines. She took the poster down from her wall – the one covered in lipsticky kisses. She can’t stand to see them now. She regrets not going to their concert last year. One Direction just isn’t One Direction without Zayne.

Some of her friends are supportive. Some are dismissive.

And it’s all so ridiculous. But it’s where she is. And it’s real. And I will do my best to not belittle her but to help her through it. Because, believe it or not, I can’t bring myself to dismiss her pain. Even if it is “just” over a boy band.

So there’s my last several weeks in a nutshell.

We shall see how long it takes me to crack the next nut.

Until then, take care.

Biding His Time

My middle child knows how to maximize his opportunities.

Yesterday, he lost a molar in the cafeteria.

But losing a tooth in the cafeteria doesn’t really get you anything.

So he put it back in place in his mouth. And waited until he got to class.

And then when he was looking for a break, he pulled it out of his mouth, exclaimed that he had just lost his tooth, and asked to be excused from the room.

Smart kid. I was too much of a goody-two-shoes to even think of such a thing.

You Are Not Special

I was bombarded all week with warnings that if I told my children they were special, I’d be turning them into narcissistic adults. I saw it flash up in Google News. My friends shared it all over Facebook. NPR devoted air time to it.

Having interacted with some narcissistic individuals, I found the prospect alarming. I began to wonder if I fell into the “you are special” parenting camp. I didn’t think so, but… you know, that teenager does have a strong sense of entitlement and a frequent inability to empathize with others. Then again, she’s a teenager. That’s exactly how she’s supposed to be. So maybe that’s not a good indicator.

I wondered about it for several days. Yesterday, no one was going to work or school. A holiday, of sorts. We were not in a hurry to get up or get moving. Around 8:30 or so, Jane came wandering into our room.

“Have we ever told you that you are special?” I asked.

“No,” she said, as she reached down to retrieve her ipod cord she had left in there the day before when she, apparently, took over my bed space as hers.

“Never told you that you are better than anyone else?”

“No.”

“Never said you deserve special things?”

“No. But I do. I am special. I deserve special treatment.” She grinned and then crawled onto the bed.

“Right. You aren’t special, honey. Not at all.”

“Well, fine. I’m going to go back to my room and cry now.”

“Oh, we love you. I just don’t want you thinking you are anything special.”

About then, Hal came bounding onto the bed.

“Hal,” I said. “You aren’t special.”

“Yes I am!” he responded with way too much sunshine in his voice. “Because I’m just so cute!”

We laughed and messed around, enjoying each other’s company. At one point, in response to something ornery they had done, I said, “You kids are awful.”

“Wow,” my husband said. “In just a few short minutes you guys went from special to not special to awful!”

“No!” I said. “They were never special – remember?!”

“You guys are special to me,” he said.

“This,” Jane said, as she snuggled up to his arm (while stretched across me), “is why I’m a Daddy’s Girl.”

“Fine. You guys are special to me too. Just as long as you understand that you aren’t, like, special. You know.”

Probably not my most subtle parenting, but I think they got the drift. Guess I can check that parenting-panic-of-the-moment off my list. Done.

Oops. Except Daryl. He was still passed out in his bed. Guess I’ll have to give him the news bulletin sometime soon. Then again, he’s a Mama’s boy. He is kind of special. To me, anyway. Is that enough to turn him into a narcissist? I sure hope not. Maybe I’ll say something. Just to be safe.

Open House Punch

My son punched me in the mouth. Hard. He didn’t get in trouble for it though.

It was Tuesday evening. We were at the Elementary School Open House. He was smarting off in some way as we headed down the hall, so I reached out and poked him in the butt cheek with my compact umbrella.

He turned around and started throwing defensive Ninja moves my way. I bobbed and weaved as I looked for an in to jab my umbrella at his belly or swat his behind with it. He was good though. He blocked every thrust. So I acted like I was done messing around and then poked him when he turned away.

He then announced that he’d be giving me a slow-motion punch. I grinned as he moved his right hand in a large, wide arc toward my face. He slowly and lightly brushed my chin, turning my head equally slowly away from him. I reached out and jabbed him in the belly with my umbrella.

We messed around for a few more minutes as we waited for Daddy to return with Hal, who had disappeared. Again. He went for another slow-motion punch. I took the opportunity to quickly jab him with the umbrella. For some crazy reason, this took him by surprise. His surprise caused him to speed up. The speed up meant he slammed his fist into my mouth instead of slowly grazing my chin.

I grabbed my mouth/side of my jaw. Jane exclaimed, “Daryl! You just hit Mommy! Mommy, are you okay?!” Daryl just stared at me, wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open. I rubbed my jaw. He began to giggle nervously and apologize. Although he did suggest that my sudden jab to his abdomen might have contributed to the situation.

Which is why, by the way, he didn’t get in trouble. It’d be awfully hypocritical of me to punish him after all those times that one child or another has come to me in tears and I’ve responded with “Well, if you are going to insist on rough housing, someone is bound to get hurt.”

Daddy showed up while I was still holding my chin. He had failed to locate Hal. We walked to the other end of the hall. No Hal. We split, he and the kids heading outside to the portables. I checked the cafeteria. No Hal. We rejoined in the hallway. Hal hadn’t been outside either. The search was getting more frantic and more desperate until a mom I know asked how I was doing and I asked if she had seen him.

“Oh, I saw him a minute ago. He was rolling around on the stage.”

The stage. At the end of the cafeteria.

I was tired of him disappearing like this. I am tired of him disappearing like this. While my husband was gone on his recent trip, we attended Daryl’s basketball game one Saturday morning. Hal disappeared. I looked all over the gym. I went outside. He was nowhere to be found. Then someone said they had seen him at the next building over.

I was extremely firm and serious when I dragged him off the stage this time and sat him down in a chair and looked him square in the eye, all the while resisting the desire to rub my jaw just a bit more. I didn’t yell but I was so serious that he began to cry. He wasn’t happy when I insisted he’d hold my hand the rest of the night either. He made sure I knew it continuously as we headed back down the fifth grade hall and visited Daryl’s teachers.

Open House.

Other parents should be so lucky to have it as good as I’ve got it.

And, yeah, my face is still sore.