Three Strikes and You’re Out?

I pulled out of the elementary school parking lot yesterday morning after dropping off the kids. I nodded to the crossing guard and watched my speedometer to make sure I didn’t speed in the school zone. I saw a police SUV parked on the opposite side of the road. As I drove by, he pulled away from the curb, did a U-turn, and turned on his lights as he came up behind me.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I thought. I’m not speeding. I didn’t pull out in front of anyone. Registration and inspection are current. What gives?

Take a deep breath, I responded. It might not be you.

With that, I pulled over, took that deep breath, and held it until the officer went by and pulled over the woman in front of me.

That was close. Silly thoughts. I can barely remember the last time I was pulled over. It was years ago – before my youngest child was born. Why should I let the flashing lights cause my heart to race?

Fast forward to that evening. I dropped the boys off at basketball practice. I had just enough time to pick up a few items from the grocery store, which I did. As I drove away from the store, I saw a line of cars stopped in my lane at a traffic light. The light had been red for awhile so I judged that it would likely turn green just before I got there. Not wanting to wait for the cars to resume their progress, I changed lanes.

Lights immediately began to flash behind me. No way this is for someone else.

I had no response to that. I knew I was right.

With a sigh and a heightened sense of the irony of the situation, I pulled into the next parking lot. When the officer approached, I handed him my license and proof of insurance as he told me what I already knew. I had failed to signal my lane change.

I always use my turn signal. Well, ok. 99.99% of all turns and probably 95% of all lane changes. This seemed patently unfair. And then the thought came: What budget is this ticket going to come out of?

My husband answered that one later: “Your pocket money, of course,” he said. “You screw up – you pay for it.”

Lucky for me, the officer just returned my license and insurance card and encouraged me to use my turn signal next time. Relief.

But isn’t there something about three strikes and you’re out? Maybe I should stay home today. Just in case.

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Laundry Minefield

{NOTE: I wrote this back in December, but… pay close attention to the first paragraph… it got lost in the shuffle. So I’m running it now. Hope you still enjoy it.}

I did laundry on Saturday, just like I usually do when life is running like it should. Life wasn’t exactly running like it should however… I was on day 2 of a debilitating head cold. I was stressed about an upcoming doctor’s appointment that I might not be able to keep if still sick. Between the two boys, we had three basketball games and two basketball picture sessions. And Christmas was rapidly approaching. But still, I stuck it out and got all the laundry washed and dried, if not folded, between sessions of resting and running to-and-fro.

Or… I thought I got all the laundry washed and dried. After insisting firmly that everyone was going to bed at their usual time because I simply couldn’t handle folks staying up late even if it was Christmas break, I headed into the boys’ room to tuck them in for the night. As I carefully picked my way through the debris on their floor to approach their bed, I noticed that a considerable amount of that debris was stuff needing to be laundered. I looked around in dismay as I gauged that there was at least a full load of laundry on their floor: half a dozen towels, several pairs of pants, oodles and oodles of socks and underwear, even some sheets and blankets and coats!

Now, illness often makes us terrible parents. We are much more likely to make the children fend for themselves at meals, to yell at them for trivial offenses, to let them do all sorts of things they shouldn’t because we are too tired to intervene. That didn’t happen this time. No, this time illness gave birth to parenting brilliance. I hatched a plan and carried it out the next day.

While lying in bed wishing I could breathe, I instructed the boys to get one of the empty hampers out of my bathroom. I then told them to gather all the clothing and other laundry from their floor and place them in the hamper. After checking their (lack of) thoroughness, I had the older one carry the hamper to the washing machine, load it, add detergent, start it.

When the machine finished, I called them both into the laundry room. I pointed the older one to the dryer and told him to clean the lint catcher. The younger, I told to take the basket from the top of the washer, place it on the floor, and pull all the laundry out of the washer into the basket.

At almost the same time, they each touched their respective items and… also at almost the same time… recoiled from the touch. Hal looked up and said, “Oh, it’s wet.” He then pushed the item back into the washer and prepared to close the door.
“No,” I said. “They are all wet. They’ve been washed and now they need to go into the dryer. Pull them into the basket.”

To the eleven year old trying to remove the lint without actually touching it, I said, “No, like this” and demonstrated how to do it. He still acted like he was touching raw sewage and didn’t get as much of it off as I would have, but he got it done.
After the six year old finished the arduous job of getting every single wet item out of the washer, I told him to pick up the basket and hand it to his brother. That’s when he discovered that a basket full of wet clothes is heavy. Too heavy for him to pick up, in fact. His brother took over and between the two of them, they got all the clothes in. I stopped them from shutting the door until they added a dryer sheet. I told them how to start it.

When the dryer finished, I watched from the recliner as they struggled to fold it all. I reminded them that I do that entire routine a minimum of four times every weekend and unless they just really enjoyed themselves, they should make sure they get their dirty clothes in the hamper next time.

They might remember. Or it might take some more lessons. But if their sister (who is responsible for her own laundry) is any indication, they will eventually decide a little extra effort when removing their clothes is worth not having to do the laundry.

And What Happened Here?

I arrived home from work one recent evening and stepped into my bathroom for a private moment. Nothing looked amiss except for a little bag sitting on the floor in front of our sink. It was folded up tightly like it is when in its usual location: the far back corner of the center drawer of our vanity.

Puzzled, I opened the drawer. That’s when I noticed that my vitamins were where the extra soap should be, the soap was where the hair gel should be, and the gel was where the vitamins should be. The big bottle of vitamins was backwards from its usual orientation. The toothpaste was back where the little bag should have been, and my deodorant was on my husband’s side of the drawer. Oh, and the sponge for my blush was gone.

“Honey?” I asked as he happened to enter the room. “Do you know who’s been in our drawer?”

As I proceeded to list the problems, he picked up on the blush sponge and said, “Jane was probably in here.”

“No,” I said confidently. “She might borrow my stuff but she wouldn’t make this big of a mess. This was Hal.”

He glanced in the drawer. “Where’s my medicine?”

Annoyance and curiosity turned to alarm as I realized that his pill box was gone. He called out for Hal. I noticed that the pill box and his flossers were in the trash can under the drawer.

“Hal, did you get into this drawer?”

A solemn head nod.

“Why?”

“I just wanted to know what was in it.”

Long and short of it, he was looking in the drawer, pulled it out too far, dumped all the contents as it fell, and attempted to put it all back in. I adopted the new calm, rational, loving, non-yelling Mommy persona I’m working on and explained why he needed to stay out of the drawer. I explained how Daddy needed his medicine and how Hal needed to leave it alone. I explained that even though he shouldn’t be in the drawer, if something like this ever happens, he needs to come get one of us rather than leaving it for us to discover. He nodded and looked relieved that I wasn’t turning red and going hoarse.

Later that night, after basketball practice and as the boys prepared for bed, I glanced into “the big room”, our all-purpose office, gym, guest bedroom, library, junk storage room the size of a large garage. The pieces of a paper making craft kit were spread out all over the floor.

Confused, I walked into the room, which is when I noticed the doors to the craft cabinet were open. A glance into the cabinet revealed the top two shelves almost completely void of their usual packed contents. That’s when I realized that those nicely labeled and stacked boxes and folders were jumbled on the floor in front of the cabinet.

HAL!!!

Again, the boy joined me with a solemn look on his face. I shook with the attempt to stay calm. In a strained voice, I tried, but basically failed, to keep my new pleasant Mommy persona.

“What. Were. You. Doing?!”

“I was looking for something to do.”

“What did we talk about in the bathroom that would pertain to this situation?”

“Don’t get into stuff?”

“Well, yes, but what else? What are you supposed to do when you make a mess like this?”

“Clean it up?”

“No, not when you can’t clean it up right.” I pushed and prodded and eventually reminded him of the lesson before sending him on to brush his teeth. You’d think the discussion in the bathroom might have triggered his memory of this other mess and he might have told us about it. I can only assume that Kindergarteners are like dogs. After they make the mess, they forget all about it and they’re just happy to see you.

Cute as a Button

When I visited the endodontic specialist back in November, I could hear what sounded like a TV but couldn’t see one. I idly wondered whether there was a TV behind me and if I was really getting the full attention of the dentist. But soon enough, my chair was pivoted back and I found the source of the noise. There was a TV mounted on the ceiling.

I found this patently ridiculous and almost asked them to turn it off. We don’t watch TV and I expected daytime TV to be some of the worst fare available. Which it basically was. But there was one little bit that made all of it – and I do mean all of it, broken tooth and all – worth it.

This lady came on to talk about tips and tricks for storing and sorting your jewelry. This has become a recent hassle of mine in that I now have an interest in wearing earrings. A pixie haircut reveals your ears very nicely; unlike the long style that previously kept mine covered. Problem was that I kept my measly supply of earrings loose in a small box. Some mornings found me digging through the box fruitlessly searching for the match to the earring I had decided to wear.

The lady’s solution was seriously an “Oh, my! That is so awesome!” moment. Ok, ok, in a first-world-problem kind of way, but hey! Cut me some slack. I live in the first world and my earrings were becoming a problem.

Anyway, the solution was to use buttons. That’s right, buttons. There are two holes in the middle. Put an earring in each hole, and voila! A pair of earrings is held together. Easy to sort through the box and find. Perfect. And I just happened to have a stash of buttons from my great grandmother. I knew I was saving them for something…

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If You Can Read This…

There’s a truck that I come across in our parking lot at work regularly. It has a bumper sticker on it that says:

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier.

I just want to start out by saying I don’t have a problem with the sentiment – in particular. I might argue that being over here on our own continent with Canada and Mexico as our neighbors, we’ve been pretty safe from any sort of invasion that might result in us speaking another language, but that’s just conjecture and ignores the point the person is trying to express.

No, I want to strut with my computer programmer and grammar nerd feathers spread in full display for just a bit. Some of you may remember me shining a light on my analytical neurosis when I blogged first about the fascinating designs of gum wrappers and then about the proper use and restocking of public restroom toilet paper dispensers. The fact that you are still here means that you are ok with my quirks, so I think maybe I won’t run you off with this one. We shall see. If you have joined me since those posts, consider this one your test of loyalty.

The word ‘if’ conveys the notion that there is a condition here. A condition that could or could not be true. If the statement is always true (or always false), then there is no value in first stating the condition. You are just stating what is already known.

In the programming world, there are tools that help find inefficiencies in your code. This is one of the things it looks for. If you set a variable to zero and then immediately say “if the variable is not zero, do blah blah blah”, it’ll declare the “blah blah blah” to be dead code because the condition is always false. Similarly, if you checked “if the variable is zero”, the condition is always true so why have the condition? Just do “blah blah blah” and call it good.

So back to the bumper sticker. The bumper sticker was written in English. That means that anyone who reads it is reading it in English. There is no possibility of them reading it in any other language because it was written in English.

“If you can read this, thank a Teacher” is good, because the possibility exists that a person can’t read it. And, obviously, since they can’t read it, they won’t be thanking a teacher.

But the second sentence? The word they wanted wasn’t “if”. It was “since”. It is strongly implied that the second condition is dependent on the first; that is, the reader’s ability to, well, read. And we already know they are reading it in English since it was written in English. So what they meant to say was “Since you can read it in English, thank a soldier.”

Yes, yes, I know I overanalyzed the dang bumper sticker. That’s what I do. From an English standpoint, there’s probably nothing actually wrong with it. They used the repetitive words to emphasize their point. But something has to keep this high-powered brain (hah!) working during that walk into work. And the bumper sticker just didn’t hold up under close scrutiny. I submit that most probably don’t.

Epic Fail Redemption

I left you yesterday with the hope that the Tooth Fairy would not let down the Hopeful Kid again. As Paul Harvey would say, here’s… the rest of the story.

The evening was very busy with two consecutive hours of basketball practice, one for the younger and the other for the older boy. We didn’t even leave the second gym until 10 minutes past their bedtime. And Hal, the boy I must not let down again, was a mess. He had been hyper and problematic all evening. Now he was tired and indulging in angry, tearful outbursts for any little thing. My nerves were fried by the time we got home. My patience shot.

We had already agreed on a bedtime plan but when we got home, Hal wanted to do it differently. So off Daryl went to the shower while I tried to help Hal with his homework. This might have been the most inappropriately matched homework I’ve ever seen come home. I think a third grader could have executed it successfully, but it was nothing but an exercise in frustration for my Kindergartener and his already exasperated mother.

Finally, Hal made it to the shower. My husband then asked if I wanted to go ahead and take care of the tooth.

“Um, he’s not in bed. Or asleep. He’d see the quarters when he crawled into bed. What good would that do?”

“He’s in the shower right now,” he explained. “You can tell him the tooth fairy came by while he was showering. At least this way you wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting.”

I didn’t like the idea but gathered the quarters and headed to the boys’ room anyway. Where Daryl was sitting on his bed wishing the dog could sleep with him like usual. He liked the idea of swapping the tooth for coins right then because “then Rose could sleep with me tonight.” When I asked what I’d tell Hal, he said, “Just tell him that the Tooth Fairy had so many kids to visit that she decided to visit some houses during the day and she must have done it while he was at school.”

It just didn’t sit right with me though. So I gathered up the tiny scraps of Tooth Fairy dignity I still possessed and said, “No. It’s just one night. Rose can come back in tomorrow night. I’m waiting.” I then placed the quarters in a stack on the toilet lid in our bathroom, knowing that the last thing I’d try to do before retiring for the night would cause me to see them.

The problem turned out to be that it was 9:40 before Hal crawled into bed. This was just 20 minutes shy of when I planned to go to sleep myself.

“He’ll fall asleep quickly,” my husband said. “It’ll be fine.” I secured his commitment to do it if I was ready to go to bed before Hal was asleep. And then I got so busy that it was 11:00 before I knew it.

I changed into my pajamas and carefully opened the door to their room. I tiptoed quietly over to the bed. I began to open the Ziploc bag that contained the tooth. Hal moved. I froze. Hal moved some more and then sat up!

Mayday! Mayday! Child is up! Operation Tooth Fairy is in jeopardy!

I glanced at the door wondering if I could escape. I glanced at the older child on the bottom bunk and wondered if I could use him as an excuse to be in the room. I hunkered down slightly and wondered if maybe I just wouldn’t be seen below the edge of the top bunk.

He, meanwhile, sat there and wavered slightly but did not lay back down. I decided to go on the offensive.

“Hal?” I asked. “Are you ok?”

He didn’t respond, just moved like a sapling in a light breeze and kicked his legs a bit. I noticed a rattling sound, like a wrapper.

“What do you have?” I asked, reaching under his leg to extract an empty party favor bag. “Hey, Hal. Are you ok?”

No response.

I reached out to him and touched his bare torso with the intention of helping him return to his prone state. Unfortunately, I forgot that since my husband keeps the thermostat in the low 60’s, my hands were like blocks of ice.

He cried out and pushed at my hands as he tried to scramble away, hampered by the mass of blankets and sheets. I thought I had doomed my mission to failure. But he was not awake. He resumed his wobbly sitting a little farther away from me. His eyes stayed closed. I stared at him for a minute.

Finally, I decided to try opening the bag again. As the faint zipper sound started, I decided to cover it with the rattle of the gift bag – a noise that he must be impervious to since he had been making the sound himself by rolling over it. Feeling silly, I crinkled the bag slightly with one hand while extracting the tooth with the other. Eventually, I had the tooth in my hand and the quarters in the bag.

He sighed and struggled until he was lying down again. I crept carefully out of the room thinking about just how much I hate being the Tooth Fairy.

Ironically, when he woke up this morning, he didn’t think about the tooth at all. He refused to get out of bed. Both siblings were yelling at him to hurry up which just made him stall more. He had no clean dress code pants. He was a mess. As he sat on his brother’s bed donning his shoes, I had to point out the quarters in mock surprise. His face lit up just a bit.

Parenting. Sometimes you have to work so hard to get a tiny little reward. Yet the screw-ups seem to come so naturally. Oh, well. One more tooth adventure completed. There aren’t that many left in that boy’s mouth. I might almost see the light at the end of this silly, self-constructed tunnel.

Epic Fail. Again.

I have failed. Again.

I am truly and honestly a terrible tooth fairy.

Fortunately, my oldest child has a mouth full of permanent teeth and the middle one no longer believes so he cuts me a lot of slack as long as I eventually pay up. It’s the youngest who’s the problem. He believes, he’s currently shedding half the teeth in his mouth, and he does not appreciate his tooth fairy being so unreliable.

Yesterday was a very long and brutal work day for me. The kind of day where you come home comatose and just sort of ooze your way into bed as soon as possible. I didn’t get to do that, of course. I never do.

Hal showed me his tooth, which the cafeteria ladies had put in a Ziploc bag to take home with him. I suggested that perhaps he leave it on the dining room table to make it easier for the tooth fairy.

“No, I want it under my pillow.”

I suggested that he “hide” it in the candle sconce in the dining room to make it harder on the tooth fairy (as his older brother had done while coming to terms with the tooth fairy’s true identity).

“No! I want it under my pillow!”

Right. The pillow that’s covered with stuffed animals and blankets and sits on the top bunk. Tooth fairy should be able to extract the tooth and insert the money, no problem. *Sigh*

I got some double-sided tape and put it on the top edge of the bag. I then attached that to his bed at the top of the bunk stairs. He thought that was pretty cool. I was relieved. Now I’d just have to pull off the sneak. I wouldn’t have to conduct a search and rescue event beneath a sleeping child too. Oh, and remember. I’d have to remember to do it after he went to bed.

I forgot. Like, immediately. Twice. How do you forget twice, you ask? Simple. I attached it, walked out of the room, and didn’t think about it again. The boys brushed their teeth. I then returned to the room for hugs and kisses, noticed the tooth, and felt a great surge of a) guilt that I had already forgotten and b) relief that I had just been reminded. Then I walked out and didn’t think about it again.

Not at all. Not until this morning when my husband levied a censorious eye at me and said, “The Tooth Fairy had an epic failure last night.”

I bit my tongue to keep from telling him what I thought of this all riding on my little shoulders. Instead I asked how he handled it. Apparently, Hal had adopted a very sad face with droopy eyes and said, “The Tooth Fairy didn’t come…”

While my husband and I were discussing ways to overcome my mistake, Hal came in with an announcement: “I think I know why the Tooth Fairy didn’t come last night.”

“Why didn’t she come, honey?” I asked.

“Because Rose was in our room,” he explained. The dog has been sleeping in the boys’ room for the last couple of weeks.

Without missing a beat, my husband picked up the theory. “You know, I bet that’s why Rose was barking early this morning!”

“I bet you are right!” I said in awe. “I bet she was scared of the dog. Rose saw her and barked at her and scared her off!”

“Well that settles it,” Daddy concluded. “Rose will just have to sleep in her crate tonight so the Tooth Fairy can come.”

With that, Hal left the room, satisfied. My husband turned to me and said, “Boy, your butt got saved on that one!”

“Yeah,” I said, again not bothering to ask why it was only my butt on the line. And of course, Hal just tossed me a temporary lifeline. I still have to remember tonight.