Sunday, February 20, 2011

Look Mom.... No Cavities

While shopping for linens and boring my children to tears, they managed to find creative things to occupy their time.   Who knew of the fun that was to be had at the 90% off clearance table. I was happy going about my business of comparing thread counts and searching for alternative down filling when I received this photo on my phone.  Now positive that the children were still safe in the store and cavity free, I continued with my shopping while they magnified each other's body parts and suited up for mock battle with barbecue utensils and colanders in aisle three.   I have to admit that I had forgotten how much fun a big magnifying glass can be.   I remember as a child that we would sit on the sidewalk with bits of paper and a magnifying glass trying to make fire from the sun.  We were never actually successful in this endeavor, but I think we may have blinded a few neighborhood children participating in this activity.  I should point out that trying to look at the sun is never a good thing to do.  Attempting it with a giant magnifying glass is even worse.  "Hey, look how big the sun is now...aGhhhhhhhh."   The fun always ended about the time your best friend's retinas were burned to a sizzly crisp.    The simplest things have always made the greatest toys, no matter what generation you are from.  In the 70's, we were surrounded by Schwinn bicycles, EZ Bake Ovens and the complete cast of Star Trek Miniatures and Barbie and Friends.   We had giant Tinker Toys (what I wouldn't give for those now) Lincoln Logs and enough Legos to build a city. Thousands of dollars were spent on toys to entertain us and yet you could find us all piled in the basement sticking flashlights to our skin in hopes of seeing blood and bones shining through.  Some of the best toys of my life were found down in our basement.  We had a wet bar there where we would make up lizard juice and serve it to nervous guests who were secretly hoping it was really only Kool-Aid.   Behind the bar was a cash box full of play money and as we collected revenue from our bug juice bar, we would hide it from the make believe robbers who would arrive on scene as soon as we turned out all the lights.  Many a child was traumatized in the dark of our basement as we attacked the robbers with giant Tinker Toys and dusty erasers. This was life before Atari and it was wonderfully fun.   My children, who were born into the Apple Generation, are usually wired with ear phones, cables, cellular devices and the ability to stream the latest unreleased movies.  One would assume that these items would come in handy while waiting for their mother in the linen store.   But no, a magnifying glass and a set of Barbecue Utensils provides much more fun.  While the other bored children were standing in the corner of Linens and Things playing Angry Bird and sending mass texts to their friends announcing that... "I'm Bored",  my kids were shooting zoom photos of the insides of their mouths and uploading them for the world to see.  Oddly, there seems to be a fair amount of people who enjoy viewing such as proven by the 24 comments that followed these pictures.  Case in point... Just months ago, my daughter was doing a perfect handstand on my coffee table.  Her dismount was textbook until she crash landed on the corner of a chair sending us immediately to the Emergency Room for stitches.  Instead of crying in the back seat of the car, she was shooting play by play photos of the injury and sharing it with her friends.  Before we could arrive at the Emergency Room, she already had flowers and balloons waiting at the house and 14 comments about how cool the wound looked.  If only she would have had a giant magnifying glass and a flashlight.... that would have been icing on the cake!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Busting Right Through the Language Barrier

A recent opportunity surfaced that allowed me to use the Rosetta Stone
language series for free. Dozens of languages were only a click away
from my attempts at mastery and perhaps I could use them if I ever traveled the world.  While I had already taken two years of
French in High School and could proficiently conjugate verbs and announce to foreign strangers that I wanted to go to the beach in a blue car, I was curious
about other languages. The blue car phrase was about as far as my
French skills would take me. Of course... do you really need to go any
further than the beaches of the French Riviera? I say no.  A few years ago, I did, in fact, take my kids to Paris and was actually able to maneuver throughout the city without speaking any useful French.  The kids had no need for language skills when one could simply point at all the things they needed.... ice cream, a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, crepes with Nutella and a hotel outside of the 18th ward.  I did almost board all of us on an outgoing train to nowhere and realized quickly that it could have been helpful to understand the language a bit better.  Rosetta Stone would have been helpful back then.  So now that it was available to me.... what would my new language be???  I selected Italian and hoped that
soon I would know what Andrea Boccelli was singing to me as I floated
lifeless in my hot-tub in the late hours of the night. Since I'm a
read ahead kind of person, I skipped the first few tests and jumped
right over to the Spanish lessons and realized that the images and
learning strategy was the same, no matter the language. The only thing
that was different was the words. The same boy was jumping from a table
and the same group of children were throwing balls. The words to
describe these actions changed from language to language, but these were
definitely the same people. I had friends in foreign languages and it
was comforting. I realized the choice of statements I was practicing was
geared at basic actions of daily living and I quickly learned how to
describe running mothers, jumping children and red cars. A peculiar
phrase included in the training was one declaring that the boy is under the airplane. For the life of me, I can't figure out why one would ever need this phrase. However,
it seems to be a common phrase in all languages. I've yet to find the
opportunity to use it properly and once while on Delta, I shared this
phrase with my children, only to the dismay of the Italian couple
sitting in front of me frantically looking for the heinous act occurring
below deck.   In fact, as I think back, most of my opportunities to use key foreign language phrases have been on airplanes.  I was once seated next to a blind man on a plane who was reading a braille version of Siddhartha and the journey to enlightenment.  Curious about the book and unable to resist conversation on the two hour flight,  I engaged this man in an oral report on his book.  Come to find out, my new friend was French.  You know I couldn't resist and I had to practice my one French phrase.  He smiled and I knew that we could both clearly see how ridiculous I looked with my total lack of foreign language skills.  So... perhaps it's time to return to Rosetta Stone and try to get past the first two tests.   Until then,  the boy remains under the airplane and English, Piglatin and pointing are my top languages.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Southern Boys and Their Toys

Recipe for Disaster... or maybe not....

Ingredients....  Southern boys, too much time on their hands, a dark summer night, and a bag of fireworks.

Mix well and get the following video.  Watch closely in the dark for the faint glow of two lighters, the sounds of the summer night and what comes next......

Thank you Corey and Baily.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nocturnal Stirrings of Mice and Men

It's unusually cold in the South and terribly dreary out. I haven't seen the sun in days and it's feeling a bit medieval out there.  I find myself wrapping in cloaks and scarves and layers of clothes to fight off the cold.  While inside our home is toasty warm, my daughter has taken up a new practice of sleeping with her Northface jacket on.  She isn't fighting off the cold, but rather has found comfort in the feel of the fleece.  Often I wake in the middle of the night to find what I think is a small bear sleeping next to me.  She has made a habit of sneaking in my bedroom dragging a heating pad and a stuffed platypus with her.  She quietly crawls in my bed, fires up the heating pad and leaves me to roast under the covers.  I thought I was approaching menopause with night sweats, but realized it was just a long extension cord and a small furry child curled up next to me.  My children have always stirred during the middle of the night and have mastered crawling in bed with me without waking a soul.  I suppose they get this nocturnal problem from me. My son struggled with sleep for years and I assumed it was his genetics at play. One night, I was lying in his room with him when a light bright enough to burn retinas came crashing through the window.  It seems my neighbors had installed a motion sensor light that was pointed straight in my kid's bedroom.  No wonder the boy couldn't sleep!  We moved him into the spare bedroom in the center of the house where no light enters the room.  He has a soft mattress that he sinks deep into as it molds itself around him. With the darkness and being wrapped up in micro-plush memory foam, I imagine it's much like being back in the womb.  He sleeps like a baby again.  As for the rest of us...we are up all night climbing in and out of bed, changing the thermostat, lighting fires and cursing the neighbor's ill-placed security lighting. The other night, I woke to see a small hooded being standing at the foot of my bed.  Had it not been four feet tall, I might have panicked a bit at the possibility that the grim reaper had come calling.   I asked my daughter why she was up and she told me that the hamsters would not stop running on their wheel.  I told her to move them out of her room and a tiny voice replied, "okay" as she disappeared quickly out the door.  My husband and I lay there for a few moments in the darkness rejoicing in the fact that she had returned to her own bed. A few more moments passed and I had to ask the obvious question.. "You don't think she...."    Before I could finish the sentence, the whirr of the hamster wheel began as tiny hamster feet ran like out of control vermin on hamster crack. "ALLLLLLIIIIEEEEEE"  I shouted!  But she was already back in her bed of pink fluff, hunkered down in the silence under layers of cover and wrapped in a fleece hood.  She was not coming back.  I knew our son was curled up in the fetal position in the blackness and silence of his room and he wouldn't be coming to my rescue either.  This was now a test of endurance between my husband and me to see who would crack first under the pressure of the hamster wheel and get up and move the jogging little beasts at the foot of our bed.  Needless to say, he can sleep through anything, and it was I who had to crawl out of the warmth of my bed to relocate hamsters at 2:00 a.m.   Wide awake now, I turned on the television to catch the latest infomercial on Amish Heaters.  How timely, I thought. They were free if I ordered immediately and paid $250 shipping.  They were guaranteed to ward off even the extreme cold of a Cryogenic Ice Age.  I wanted one.  I wanted it in several colors and I would have had one except I bumped the remote and accidentally changed the channel to a station where some guy was selling weight- loss smoothies and my focus was diverted.  I watched this thin man in his little spandex suit promise women that they would look trim and slim by summer.  Knowing full well, that we were never going to see warm sunny days again and unconcerned about looking trim and slim in layers of fleece and fur, I threw on my jacket and hat and went back to the warmth of my bed to remain there until Spring shows signs of arrival.

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...