Electronic Device Retrieval Guide….

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I no longer leave the children a “To do” chore list at home. Instead, a new tactic has been employed. The name of the list is now called The Electronic Device Retrieval Guide. As such, each morning I swipe the kids various electrical devices (DS for the boy and Ipod for the doll) and hide them somewhere in the house. In addition, to ensure they do not spend their day frozen in front of the television, I’ve thrown parental locks on the DVR, essentially leaving only news programs available for viewing. The guide then lists ways the children can work to retrieve their items for the remainder of the day and night. As you might imagine, neither child is a fan of this new system. One might argue I’m being too harsh on my children. Perhaps, but one of my stipulations is they go outside-smell the roses, experience life; rather than staying inside, cooped up all day.

Last Friday one of my “tasks” asked the kids to go outside and walk around for a while and then write a 300 word essay about what they found. The doll called me at work “Can I just write a short story that has nothing to do with walking around outside?” “How about a short story about walking around outside?” I countered. “Mom, this is SUMMER not the school year. I think this exercise is totally unfair!” She replied. “Who said I was fair? Just write something…find some inspiration and use your imagination.” I encouraged. She hung up the phone as a loud groan was heard escaping from her.

The boy called me a half an hour later “Mom how about I tell you about my adventure” He asked excitedly. “Bay I don’t have the time to listen. Just sit down and write a quick essay” I replied. “Mom, there was nothing inspiring about my bike ride…so I can’t write you an essay.” “Are you saying you can only write when inspired?”I asked in reply. “Yes”. “Bay, 300 words is not that big of an essay…really. I have faith you can find something. You know when you two were small, we’d go on walks and see all kinds of stuff-real or imagined. Use some of that imagination now…” The phone disconnected with a loud bang.

When I arrived home the doll handed me a short story about pirates. “Did you imagine you were fighting pirates on your walk?” I asked. “No. This is something I began to write a long time ago,  but abandoned. Now I found a use for it. Thanks” she said in a very droll tone. “Did you write any of this today?” I asked holding the notebook. “Yes…the last paragraph”-which contained almost 30 words. “You were supposed to write 10 times this amount” I pointed out. “Mom! For goodness sake. I went to the park, sat down and wrote the ending to the short story then came home.” “How long were you at the park?” I asked. “About a half an hour” the doll replied. Having at least completed the going outside requirement I gave in and she happily disappeared into her bedroom with her Ipod for the rest of the evening.

“Can I have my DS?” The boy asked. “Let me see your essay” I replied. “Mom! Nothing inspiring happened. I can’t write about a trip to the store…I mean seriously it was a boring exercise!!” “300 words will take you ten minutes to write…just do it” I replied. Frustrated he stomped off toward his bedroom while his father and I shook our heads at his behavior. “How difficult really is 300 words? I mean heck, it really isn’t that difficult!” I remarked to my husband. “I know I told him to just do it. I don’t understand why he’s fighting so hard against it”. “You know if he wrote the phrase “I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood” over and over again I’d accept that. At least then he would be using his noggin to get out of the essay instead his desire to just not do the darn thing.” I explained.

A while later the boy emerged from his bedroom and thrust a notebook into my hands “Here, where’s my DS?” he asked angrily. “When I finish reading, you’ll get the DS back” I said. “FINE!”  He said then stormed off. “I rode my bike to the park. I rode my bike around the park. I rode my bike to the stoplight. I pressed the button to speed the crosswalk light up. It didn’t work. I rode my bike across the street and onto the sidewalk in front of the high school. They were putting new asphalt down and the road wasn’t ready for tires. I saw a homeless man. I avoided him. I rode behind the high school. I…..”

All in all he had almost a 1000 word essay which gave me a step by step account of his time on the bike. “Bay, you don’t make up any stories in your head while you’re riding your bike? Is everything this black and white with you?” I asked. “Momma…what I think about while riding is for my consumption only.” He explained. “Now can I have my DS back?” “Sure…it’s in your bedroom.” I said. “Wha? Where?” he asked. “In between your mattress and box springs. You’ve been lying upon it all day.” I smiled. “Mom you’re cruel!” he replied and disappeared into his bedroom for the rest of the evening.

“So what did you learn from this exercise?” My husband asked. “I think it was a complete success…they spent  time outside and they actually, incredibly agreed on something–their mutual hatred for the essay” I replied with a laugh before continuing, “And what’s more, they went outside for a while…and survived”.

To which we both agreed was a good thing.

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For those wondering-Today’s blog has 970 words not including this sentence. See 300 may sound large-especially to tween/teenagers, but really is not (987)

A thesis paper: the art of out maneuvering parents

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In the boy’s mind….if all the stars aligned properly….and if he had the tenacity…he could write a master thesis titled “The Art of Out Maneuvering Your Parents”. The basis of which would include dynamics for wearing down parents resolve. Using an endless array of dumb and useless information with which to barrage parents into allowing (child)  to make a case to do the exact opposite of what parents suggest:

Subject matter: Parents want to go for a family walk

Child Argument 1: Temperature of the day: If the sun is out, regardless of the outside temperature, there is some little known fact (or not) that just walking in the sun could cause heat stroke.

Parent reply: Are you a vampire?

Child Argument 1 Support: While Vampirism is a work of fiction, the disease of Porphyria does exist. (Me) Having been born with fair skin, there have been cases where the sun, can cause pain….

Parent Reply: But you do not have Porphyria. You have 15 yr old boyitis. You also suffer from contrary-ism which explains your need to do the opposite of every thing suggested. In addition, your limited knowledge of the disease would suggest further examination and clinical trials. As such, walking with parents in a shaded park, carrying water with you, should help eliminate heat stroke possibilities.

Child Argument 2: I’m too tired to go for a walk in the park.

Parent Reply: Well the walk will do you good…give you some exercise, create energy…wake you up.

Child Argument 2 Support: Scientific studies suggest too much exercise does not create energy, but instead energy drain. As such, going for walks with my Grandmother last week filled my exercise quotient for the week.

Parent Reply: Question…how long did said walks take?

Child reply. We walked about an hour each day and then went out for a treat afterward. *Note smile from memory of treat-not the walk

Parent Reply: Out of the possible 168 total hours for the week, you walked 3. Contrary to what you believe…or rather would like US to believe, exercise creates energy. Thus your three hours were more of an exercise of stretching to get into a better slouch position. Through walking or any type of physical exercise available, more energy is created thus helping you to live a healthier and longer life.

Child Argument 3: You woke me up too early that day, therefore it’s the parent’s fault for my lack of desire to cooperate.

Parent Reply: You were awaken from your slumber 15 minutes before 11 am Mass. A Mass; I might add,  in which you pretended to sleep through. Having acquired over 10 hours of sleep through the night/daytime hours, You’ve had ample rest for the day.

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Child Conclusion: The combination of all three arguments in addition to further examples of data suggest that a family walk-though nice for a family outing, really isn’t within the realm of things said child would like to accomplish that day.

(play video games, watch television, read a book-maybe)

Parent Reply: Not even for a snack after the walk?

Child Reply: New information suggests an additional hour of testing is necessary to further complete thesis.

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Parent Result: Child finds tennis shoes to attend a family walk; bribery in its basic form still works on 15 yr old contrary boy. Child’s thesis paper needs work.

 

 

 

 

splashes….

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345“Mom, how did Nicole get my phone number?” The doll asked me. Giving her an “I don’t know” look back, she explained, “Well she just sent me a text about sleeping over at Angel’s and I never gave her my number”. “Maybe someone else gave her your number…” I suggested and she accepted as a viable answer. Then our home telephone rang and lo and behold Angel was calling to ask if  the doll could spend the night at her house. “Can I?” the doll asked. “If you want to…make sure it’s okay with Angel’s mom…” I said and before I could change my mind, we were on our way to Angel’s house. “Mom, is there a chance we can go swimming tonight?” The doll asked. “If you all want to freeze, I don’t have a problem…just have Angel’s mom text me when you do.

Around 10:30 PM Angel’s mom sent a text explaining the girls were on their way down to jump into the pool. Neither of us expected them to do more than jump in and just as quickly jump out-as the air temperature was in the low 60′s with the water temperature not much better. When I arrived, two were in the pool while two were vacillating. “Mom I need to go pee” the doll informed. “Um, so do I” Nicole added. “Why didn’t you two go before you walked down here?” I asked annoyed as they accompanied me to unlock my dad’s back door. “You know this is the first time I’ve hung out with the doll since preschool…” Nicole said sheepishly. “Yes I remember we took that trip to McDonald’s.” I replied. “I wonder why we haven’t hung out since?” She pondered while the doll and I did the same.

A short time later Nicole and the doll stood on the pool deck looking at their two friends in the water. “It’s really not cold at all” Angel said and swam around as if to prove to them she was right. Twin, the other girl in attendance; reiterated Angel and said “The water feels great”! Nicole did the run and jump into the pool; emerging from the water, she declared, “You’re right!! The water’s not cold at all!! ITS FREEZING!!” Meanwhile the doll easily lowered herself into the water and bounced on her tip toes trying to convince her lower extremities the water temperature was warm. “Doll…you need to go underwater” I observed. “I’m trying not to get my hair wet…” She explained. Laughing I said, “Oh, well that’s just giving the others permission to splash you…” Which they did until she went underwater in self defense.

For the next forty-five minutes all four girls held hands jumping into the pool together;  played Marco Polo-each taking a turn at being the blind swimmer; held swim contests, racing back and forth; But most of all, they laughed and had a great time. I sat on the porch, fending off hungry mosquitoes and snapping a few pictures; acutely aware how lucky I was to witness the girls having so much fun swimming, laughing and creating memories together.

Breathing in and out….

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When I was a small child I used to lie in my bed every morning and take really deep breaths into my lungs and then slowly release the air back into the world. Sometimes I would look out my windows and try to create a world in the tree branches visible from my windows, while I continued my breathing exercises. Other times I simply enjoyed the feeling of breathing in an out without care or worry. I often wonder if my younger self enjoyed these exercises because she had foresight into my future…?

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This past month, I convinced my doctor the time had come to find a new medication, to help keep wheezing to a minimum whenever I try to breathe. You see, every morning as I laid in bed, breathing had become increasingly more difficult-I could hardly take a good breath without ensuring a coughing fit to follow.

Most of this is my own damn fault.

Over the fifty years of my life, I developed asthma-not because I had a predisposition to the disease, but rather because I willingly took smoke deep into my lungs-several times a day-for several years. I loved Marlboro Light cigarettes–the taste, the smell. Even after I quit smoking I used to attend parties and invite smokers to blow their smoke directly into my face so I could absorb that old familiar smell and feelings, smoking used to give me.

I began smoking in grade school-not continuously, a hit off one here, a half of one there, etc. Doing so was easy because my dad was a smoker; I had an unlimited supply of cigarettes to sneak. In addition, everyone smoked back then-parents, teachers, older siblings. Smoking was a rite of passage, if you will and I didn’t want to be left out. I didn’t begin smoking seriously until my senior year of high school. By then most of my friends smoked and I had been taught how to inhale the smoke deep into my lungs, essentially inviting asthma to become a part of my life from that moment on.

I remember people concerned for my well being telling me how smoking would lead to my death. My standard stock answer back then was, “Well you have to die from something…” We even began referring to our cigarettes as “cancer sticks” yet were undeterred. By the time I finally did quit, I was a 2-pack a day smoker. That meant I went through 48 cigarettes in a day or 2 per hour per day.

I bring this up today because of a conversation the doll and I were having the other night. She watched me suffer through a coughing fit-water went down the wrong pipe-and handed me my emergency inhaler as a precaution. Once my breathing was back under control I said to her “This is a direct effect of smoking cigarettes. Please don’t ever smoke…it’s not worth it”. Looking at me as if I’d lost my mind for even including her in the conversation she said, “Why would I? Mom I can’t even stand wood smoke smell…I would never do that.” “Because doll things change as you get older. Peer pressure builds and sometimes you do things you never ever thought you would do….just to fit in”. I explained.  “Mom, that’s not me”.

 

Taking a moment to respond I said, “Have you ever heard the expression hindsight is 20/20?” Shaking her head “no” I replied. “Hindsight is the ability to look back at something and realize you were wrong-even though it felt right while you were doing it..” I stopped to see if she understood what I meant. “Oh you mean like when Julie took our text fight and posted it on Instagram, but thought better of it and took it down?” “Wait, what?” I began but decided that was something to pursue at a later date. “Yes, something like that.  Anyway, I wish when I was your age I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up. Perhaps I wouldn’t have sneaked my dad’s cigarettes…and gotten hooked on them. I wish I had had the foresight to know better then”.

“I wish I knew then what I know now…and listened when others tried to warn me” I left unsaid-for fear the thought would have the opposite effect of what I was trying to convey.

The doll turned her head and asked, “Grandpa used to smoke?” “Yes he did..and so did all of your aunts and uncles-on my side of the family; at one time or another. But I digress. There will be times when you’re going to feel pressured to do something-because “all the kids are doing it” and I’m telling you…while it may be fun at the time, there are always consequences. My consequence to smoking cigarettes all those years ago, was developing asthma which will likely lead to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). You know I used to tell people, “I have to die from something” when asked why I smoked. Talk about a dumb answer. I mean seriously, wouldn’t you rather die a nice peaceful-in your sleep kind of death rather than a long drawn out inability to breathe kind of death? Just totally dumb and stupid on my part.

Tired of this conversation she nodded her head and then left the room…

Hopefully understanding the full scope of my hard learned wisdom.

 

vivid nights…

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What a difference it makes when you change the name of the chore list to the Electronic Device Retrieval System. Not only do the chores get completed, they -meaning the kids; are excited to show off their handiwork. Why oh why didn’t I think of this sooner?
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Shopping at Costco on Saturday to get a “few” things (insert joke), I decided to buy their house brand ice cream. Little did I know what Pandora’s box I was opening when I brought that yummy confection home. We went from a family who eats ice cream once in a while to one that can’t seem to get enough. Last night as I began scooping some into my bowl, the boy startled me when he said “Nooooooo!’ I assumed in regard to my action. As the result, my usual pin point control pulled the newly scooped ice cream past my bowl and onto the kitchen floor. “What the heck bay?” I said with a disappointed lilt. “What?” he replied; looking up from his DS. “What’s with the “Nooooo”? I asked again. “Excuse me?” He said confused. Bending down to pick up the wasted deliciousness from the floor I reiterated, “What’s with you telling me ‘No’ just as I scooped?” “What are you talking about? I never said “no”. Perhaps that was your waistline…” He argued. “Did you seriously just say that to me?” I asked incredulously as my eye brows shot to the top of my head. “Momma I think you were having a vivid auditory hallucination” he explained. “A what?” I asked beginning to laugh. “a VIVID AUDITORY HALLUCINATION”  he repeated laughing. “Oh…is that what you’re calling this? “I asked shaking my head. “Yes, yes it is” he replied with a laugh before turning his attention back to his video game, while I sat down and finally ate that yummy ice cream.

 

 

when did this happen…?

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irony

“I’ve got broad shoulders…” “Well when you’re a mommy, you can be mean too!” “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Just a few examples of when my mom somehow filters out from my subconscious and blurts out of my mouth toward the kids. I cringe when I’ve realized and wonder, “How did this happen? When did I start to sound like her?”

When I was in high school I dreamed of becoming a writer and kept journals and journals of short stories and poems. I still have a few of them today, which usually make me laugh at how similar most of them (poems) were. I used the journals much like a diary-a place where I could doodle my name, write gibberish or list in order, all my favorite songs or groups (many of which I don’t recognize today). My journals were about me: my thoughts, my ideas, my stories. While I didn’t have a lock on them, I certainly didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading my doodles and gibberish.

One night I opened one of the notebooks and found my mom had offered her ten cents for all I had created: “Stop wasting your time and do something constructive instead”. My immediate response was to mouth an inaudible “F* U” to her, before I ripped the page from the book and threw it away. As you can see however, that criticism never quite left.

While the doll has a few journals she writes in, I’m finding she’s reserved her creativeness for her online friends at Pic Collage and Instagram–which makes me extremely nervous. While most of what she posts is typical teenage fair, I’ve found some pictures to be a bit disturbing. In trying to allow the doll’s creativity to flow, without censorship from me, we’ve discussed some of the more disturbing images she’s attached to her page and thankfully, she’s removed them. In an attempt to sway me into seeing Pic Collage as a pretty innocuous site, she sent me via instant message, a few collages from an online friend of hers. In true mommy fashion I replied “That’s cool!” to the first picture sent. When she added a few more-to show just how talented her friend was I replied,  “She seems to have too much time on her hands…. Why don’t you unplug for a while…?”

A few days later I happened to re-read our conversation and my mother’s comment about wasting time came rushing back. “Oh my goodness…that’s exactly what she said to me…” I thought and immediately felt bad. Different generation…different media…same message.

Thankfully, the doll takes after her mother and hasn’t stopped being creative…the difference being…she lets me in on what she’s creating.

 

passing notes…

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I stopped home briefly yesterday during the day to drop something off. Mary Alice was in the car waiting so I didn’t have long to stay. The doll was seated on the couch playing with her iPod, the boy was nowhere to be found. “Mom, I just woke up like ten minutes ago…” the doll said. “Where’s your brother?” I asked. “As far as I know he’s still asleep…” she explained. “Time to get things done…” I said noting the time was almost 2 pm. YAWN “Mom, I just woke up…” the doll replied.

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What in the world did we do at bedtime to “help” us fall asleep at night when we were young? I remember listening to music until I fell asleep at night, or reading a horribly boring book, to help usher sleep in. My kids have different ideas….

“Mom, listening to the radio isn’t good…. I need to listen to Pandora (online music genome)” the doll explained. What’s the difference? Pandora needs an iPod or smart device to work. The radio…well that’s old news. “Momma, I need my  (Nintendo) DS to make my eyes tired enough for sleep” The boy tried. “Really…so you need to ruin your eyes staring at a screen in order to make them tired enough for sleep?” I asked. He laughed and said, “Exactly!”. “Seems to me, if you’re not tired enough to sleep by midnight, then you haven’t done enough during the day to warrant sleep. I guess we’ll have to work on that tomorrow.” I explained.  His sheepish grin dispersed quickly.

As you might imagine, he was not amused.

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I fell asleep twice last night, in front of the television. Once before I sent the kids to bed at 11:00 pm and again shortly before the end of the news. This is good news for me because I haven’t been sleeping well at night-so any power naps I can get to add to my nightly sleep, I’ll take. In any case, when I awoke again shortly after midnight;  I made my nightly rounds to ensure the house was locked and all the lights were off. Then I turned my attention toward the kids bedroom doors-both of which were closed.

Opening the boy’s door, I stepped inside and said, “Goodnight bay…” At the same time, I held out my hand so the boy could hand me the Nintendo DS game system he was playing. Giving me a sheepish grin he reluctantly pulled off his headphones and lifted the gaming device out from under his covers, before placing the device in my hand. “Next time bay, if you’re trying to fool your Momma into thinking that your sleeping, it would be wise to take your glasses off first…” I said before giving him another round of goodnight’s and I love you’s” and then exited his room.

Walking across the hall I opened the doll’s bedroom door and stepped inside. Reaching my hand underneath her pillow, I asked “Doll, where’s your iPod?”  She made some slight noises and I wasn’t quite sure whether she was feigning sleep or not. But then she sat up and handed me her device mumbling, “Somehow I was laying on top of it” and then rolled away from me. “Goodnight dolly, I love you” I said as I exited her room and made my way to bed, carrying both kids’ devices with me.

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While getting ready for bed the doll’s iPod sprang to life on it’s own. Taking a closer look, I noticed one of her friends wanted to skype with her. Picking up the device I sent back a pre-written response message which read, “Can’t talk right now, what’s up?” Realizing the response only stopped the skype but not the instant messaging system, I quickly added “Hey! This is the doll’s mom. It’s past her bedtime …I think it may be your’s too. How about we all go to sleep.”  Her friend responded “Ok” but added a “?” to her text.  “Goodnight”. I replied. “Goodnight?” her friend replied. Wanting there to be no doubt as to who she was really talking to, I replied, “Yes. NO ?s. It’s 12:24 am and if you’re lucky, I won’t text your parents about you being up so late. OKAY?” She seemed to have gotten the message because she quickly replied, “Okay” and ended the text.

And then it occurred to me….the reason the kids were sleeping in sooooo late–besides being a teenager. They were staying up most of the night online–skyping and sending texts to friends, playing games, listening to music. Doing everything except going to sleep….

well…. until tonight that is.