One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Husband's New Name

Luke really ought to change his initials to B.S. I mean seriously, this guy can smooth talk crap like his brain has downloaded a copy of the internet—and maybe it has. For someone who can't stand small talk, you wouldn't guess it the way he can chat with acquaintances or strangers as if he's fully engaged in the topic and knows exactly what they are talking about. And maybe I shouldn't be shedding light on his little secret, but it's too funny to pass up.

Now I'm not trying to say he is a know-it-all. He tells me nearly every day how much there is that he doesn't know, how much he has to learn. And he loves to learn. He can skim through a 500 page nonfiction book and soak up the knowledge like a proverbial sponge. More more more, he can't get enough. He's the five-year-old boy still asking questions every minute.

What I'm talking about is his uncanny ability to appear as if he knows what he's talking about in his nice-guy manner of carrying on a polite conversation that leaves the other party smiling.

Here's the latest example that had me laughing through the whole exchange.

We went on a trip for Thanksgiving break and naturally had to fuel the car many times while on the road to and from relatives' houses. Our journey took us through Oregon, where you have to wait on someone else to pump gas. Luke got out of the car from habit and thus handed his debit card to the attendant right by the gas pump. Being face-to-face while the fuel ran seemed to require chit chat, but instead of the awkward question/answer session that often occurs at the hair dressers—So what do you do? Do you have kids? Have you lived here all your life?—the attendant took the opportunity to share his love of the Broncos with Luke. See, Luke happens to have the Denver Broncos symbol emblazoned on his debit card. As soon as I heard the man ask, "So, did you catch that last game?" I knew I was in for a good eavesdrop. What followed sounded like two fans talking up their football heroes and lamenting their ill treatment or revered actions. Luke even threw in a little tale of his family members who were Cowboys and Dolphins' fans making fun of him for liking the Broncos. Oh my Luke. BS to the max.

He got back in the car and I started teasing him, but he just gave me a huge grin. He gets a kick out of his little secret. The truth is, the only football my husband is interested in, maybe just a little, is the Boise State Broncos, who just happen to share colors and mascot with the professional team. But he's lived in Boise for years and has never attended one of their games! Rather than explain which team he actually likes, he just goes with the assumption that he's a Denver fan. Does he have a clue what the pros are even up to? Not a one.

If you're curious to try and stump him on a topic perhaps in a future conversation discuss embroidery. No, don't do that. His mom knows that topic left and right and Luke could probably BS that one no problem.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Where No Toddler Has Gone Before

Geddy recently discovered the book on the back of the toilet. I mean, doesn't everyone have that book? The one that keeps a man in the bathroom for hours, even if you told him before he went in there that dinner would be ready in two minutes? In our house that book is one about "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Within its pages lies a compelling read discussing the show's creation and a 7-season detailed episode guide.

Naturally, since Geddy is male and since he wants to do everything his daddy does—such as play guitar, build with LEGO, tickle Mommy, and watch "Star Trek" shows (he seems to favor the original series lately, because of Spock)—he wanted to start reading this book every time he used the potty. Every time. Flipping through the pages of this book is now part of his routine. It gives new meaning to the term "potty talk". Wipe, and flush, and recite "Star Trek" trivia. A normal trip to the bathroom now goes something like this:

Geddy: "Read Star Trek?

Me: "OK." I get the book and hold it in front of him. Then I start pointing to characters in the pictures. Identifying Data and Captain Picard comes easily for Geddy.

Me: "Who's this?"

Geddy: "Data. Yes!"

Me: "Who's this?"

Geddy: "Captain icard. Yes!"

Me: "Who's this?"

Geddy: "Um. Let's see."

Me: "Riker."

Geddy: "Yeah! Riker."

We do this through each group photo we come across. Geddy now does well recognizing Geordi and Worf too. And if I don't quiz him on the characters, he gets upset. He's very disciplined about it. The only trouble is that he often won't pee and read at the same time.

One day Geddy trotted into the bathroom and got a shock: the Star Trek book wasn't there. I didn't want to go see where Luke had put it, so I said it was gone and Geddy should just go ahead and pee. Well, that took some time. The book had its place and it needed to return. A day or two later, Geddy, having had nothing to do while he sat on the toilet but wad up toilet paper and try to make a basket between his legs, needed another book. He tried one of his board books with the planes and helicopters, but that was just over too quickly. To his delight, he found the book he desired on the nightstand next to Daddy's side of the bed. He insisted it go back in the bathroom at once.

So there it is. If you are trying to get ahold of me, I'll probably be kneeling on the floor pleading with my son to just go already while he smiles and points to pictures, learning Dr. Crusher, Wesley, Guinan, and Counselor Troi. I just hope this isn't how he wants to study kindergarten.

                                          photo credit: Amazon

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Intending to Offend

After watching a comedian online go through a short routine about something that sounded rather funny and innocuous to me, I scrolled down to read some of the comments on the video clip. This is a habit I sometimes feed and then feel as if I should have just let it alone because the comments often litter my brain with word trash. My reason this time was that in the back of my mind, as I chuckled over the jokes, I thought perhaps some people actually wouldn't find the topic funny. Yep, my suspicions were confirmed. The comedian was bashed for being rude, for not accepting people who were different or had interests that she did not share. And many of them were VERY MEAN about it.

I know that comedians often get away with any type of joke because it's almost protected under the comedy banner (except racism usually gets them blasted by the media), and I don't usually like this aspect. We teach kids in school to be kind and not laugh at others when they fall down but comedians can laugh. Funniest Home Videos can give people lots of money for footage of someone falling down because it's apparently hilarious.

But my reason for writing isn't to pick on the comedians.

This social media age where people post what they think every other minute causes the words offend and offensive to be tossed around a lot. For example, someone will prelude a post on Facebook with, "I hope this doesn't offend anyone;" or, "This might be offensive to some people, but. . ." People are smart. They know if they start spouting off their opinions on a political or social hot topic they will get comments back from people who say they are offended. They know if they post certain jokes not everyone will laugh along. But people usually do it anyway. Why? Sometimes they want to offend just to get those comments so they can then reply and continue the thread: offend, retort, offend, retort. Who gets the last word becomes the battle. People might TYPE that they don't want to offend anyone, but they really do.

Now I don't believe it is wrong to speak up about political matters, news topics of the day, social injustice. I don't believe it's wrong to share jokes in person and online, and not just because of some free speech laws. I certainly don't think it is wrong to feel offended, because feelings are real and valid. But do we really believe we will change someone's mind/actions/beliefs by ranting about our offense? The comments, by known and anonymous people, just trigger more strong feelings when they blast back in attack. Does that mean stay silent? Sometimes. For the health and sanity of both sides. Think before posting: Will it bring awareness to an important issue or will it just cause more harm than good? Think before responding: Is there a non-offensive way to reply? And sometimes, can't we just hide/ignore the comment/statement/joke and LET IT GO?

It's hard, I know. I've participated in some discussions online and in person where I've realized I opened a can of worms that I should have kept sealed, or I've responded back in a way that others immediately saw as offensive and I knew, I really did, that it would cause strong feelings without helping anyone. We know all about the suggestions I just gave to avoid some of these situations, but naturally life shouldn't be spent walking on tip-toe to avoid offending others. It's a tightrope walk sometimes, and sometimes we just have to risk the fall and hope there's a net. But maybe we can start by checking our motives first. Do we really want to help/inspire/ignite a fire for good changes to come/laugh over something really funny, or do we just want to stir the pot? Next time I feel like stirring, I hope I just go make some soup and share it.

(Comments? HA HA HA HA HA.)

Monday, September 21, 2015


We blow bubbles in the backyard, beside the wading pool full of floating sticks, leaves, and green tomatoes plucked from the garden. I ask the finches' and sparrows' pardon as my son scares them away in his joyful popping of soapy rainbows. Geddy just hollers, "Birds! Come back birds!" And they do, noticing he's not a serious threat, though he is competition for eating the sunflower seeds from the birdfeeder.

We watch the flurry of wings then return to the bubbles; my son wants a go so I hand him the wand. He presses it to his lips each time, getting a shiny mouth of drippy solution and spattering me with spit and soap. Success comes eventually as the bubbles string along on the wind to the sound of cheering. Again. Again. Then my turn, as I'm directed to send the bubbles "up high." The bottle suddenly spills on the cement pad as I lunge for my son to keep him from toppling off the chair he has climbed. He's not distressed in the slightest; now his feet can play in the bubbles too. He giggles as he dances in the puddle and races around making footprints.

"Two minutes, Mommy, TWO minutes!" cries my slippery boy when I announce it's time to go inside for supper. I give him more time, knowing he's likely to come happily when I say two minutes are over. He needs to have some control in his little world. Once inside, though, bubbles are still on the brain as he's washed and sitting in his chair. He tries to blow bubbles through the tines of his fork after he dips it into his water cup. I retrieve the fork but Geddy still finds delight in making it "rain" as he dumps water on the tray and splats puddles, popping imaginary bubbles.


Naturally he has his whiny moments and his "Geddy need" cries, but he still turns to giggling at the slightest bit of fun distraction. That's his childhood superpower: making moments awesome.

I dream to blow a bubble big enough to surround my son and strong enough to protect him from the not-so-awesomeness in life. Then I waffle and burst that idea as it forms in my brain because if he can go out into the world and see its filth maybe he will light it up a little and wash a corner clean.

Creative Commons: Martin Thomas

Friday, August 21, 2015

Into the Woods

Thunder, hail, and rain on our first tent camping experience with our son didn't deter this family from a second adventure under the stars. If we could live to tell—and laugh too—then we believed it could only get better from there. So we packed more blankets, more radio equipment, and more tents and sleeping mats and talked a few grandparents into joining us in the woods for another summer escape.

Trip number two started out so well. We had the Kia loaded on time and Geddy slept the first two hours of the drive. When he awoke, he was excited as before to be out on an adventure, only he kept talking about a storm. No, no, not this time, we laughed. No rain, no thunder. I think he was disappointed. We passed a lot of cows as we got closer to the trees (giving Geddy plenty to "moo" at) and even saw a few once we turned onto the "bumpy" road that Geddy liked so well. Then, as Geddy looked for "waterfalls," I tried to not look out my window as the world dropped off and everything went down, down, down. Meeting other vehicles on the narrow way made me glad that Luke drives so well.

We rolled in with the dust at the perfect time to meet my parents, who had snatched up a prime spot with space enough for all the tents and close enough to get to the creek but not so close that Geddy would fall in after stepping out of the car. I'm not certain but I think my dad and Luke set up antennas before the tents while Geddy and Gamma went straight to the water to throw rocks. In a little while, the camp set up complete, Geddy started finding rocks to climb on and jump off of while brandishing a stick wand and hollering "riddikulus" for about 20 minutes. Gamma taught him, cause you never know when a boggart might come along.

Supper time came, and cleanup, and before we knew it, bedtime. I started settling Geddy into the tent where we reclined on the big air mattress and read books by flashlight. I think Geddy would like to always read by flashlight now, even at home. For this time around, we planned to have our son sleep on his own space, so we laid out several blankets and put him on top and then covered him up. Geddy had other plans, and ended up falling asleep between us. No matter, I said, I will just move him once he is totally out. I did, he stayed asleep, and we slept all night and woke up refreshed.

OK, pure fairy tale.

The true story involved a mom who couldn't sleep, had to go to the bathroom numerous times and cursed herself for drinking hot chocolate before bed, and who couldn't stop checking on her son because it started getting colder, and colder, and colder. Within an hour or two after Geddy fell asleep he was hollering and wouldn't be soothed until I put him back in our bed. Then, every hour when he wanted to roll over and couldn't move because of being jammed between his parents, he would holler again, say "NO!" if I tried to help him, and finally calm down after about five minutes. And Luke and I got colder, and colder, and colder. We had no clue it would get into the 30s that night, and snuggling for body heat doesn't work with a squirmy toddler who doesn't like to be confined but refuses to sleep in his own bed.

I don't think morning ever came.

Ha ha, OK, it did, and my dad built a fire, and sometime by noon we got warm. Luke slept a few hours after warming up in the car, and Geddy and I played a game of getting warm in the car, then by the fire, then in the car. But by midday we had forgotten all about the bad night and decided to stay another. We are that crazy.

The gorgeous day warmed us and wiped the sleepy from our eyes, so Geddy, Gamma, and I hit the beach while Papa and Luke did some radio business.

Geddy found heaven: Dirt to throw, rocks to throw and climb, AND a beach with sand to throw.

In the afternoon I didn't know if Geddy would want to nap, but fortunately trekking around the woods and creeks wears out little boys. The tent, wonderfully warm, cradled the both of us for the most amazing sleep. I wanted to zip it all in so the night would be warm too.

Later in day two, Pappy and Raine arrived with dog Blue. Geddy couldn't have been happier with all the attention. We continued our Geddy watch, making sure that whoever was in charge of Geddy was fully aware. Sometimes I would call out, "Do you have the Geddy?" and wait for a grandparent to respond in the affirmative before I let the boy out of my sight.

(How could any of us lose track of this little dude? After I took his picture, Geddy wanted to see. He looked at it and frowned, tore off the bandana and said, "NO! BanANA!")

Before I knew it, the night appeared. This time we put two sleeping mats on the floor of the tent, covered them with blankets, and snuggled a Geddy down beside our bed. Sleep WOULD happen for ALL. It wasn't so bad. Ten or fifteen degrees warmer than the night before helped. Geddy somehow still ended up on the mattress beside me, but I caught a few winks before that. 

Our last day in the woods was a beautiful Sabbath. "Raine" came to the rescue so we had good pancakes, we took another trip to the beach, and Geddy gave the sermon. I wish I'd gotten a recording of him running circles around the picnic table, stopping to stand on a stump, and shouting out all the while, "Ladies and jumpin'." Geddy also led the efforts to find Blue when she disappeared. He could be heard calling "Blue! R you?" Fortunately she was found safe and sound in the car, afraid that it would leave without her. 


Rolling out of camp to drive home, dirty beyond belief, worn out but happy, we had no idea the destruction on its way for the beautiful woods. As I write this, so many days after our camping fun, the fires rage. I don't know if our very camping spot is going up in smoke, but I hear that evacuations have been issued for that area. Mom called me the other day saying she was so glad we had gone camping when we did. I look through all our pictures and realize that the mountains can recover, but it will take ages and nothing will ever be the same. I just continue to pray for the firefighters and all those in the path of these vicious flames. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"What's Dat Noise?"

What better way to welcome the season of thunderstorms than in a tent? Our weekend of camping started with deciding it might not happen. 

Luke sat down across from me at the table and said, in all seriousness, that we needed to talk about whether we would join our church campout or not. I knew the forecast promised moisture and rumblings, but I still wanted to go. I told him we could always come home if it got really bad. He agreed and we continued our exhaustive preparations, or, as Luke liked to call it, "a lot of work to go relax."

I figured as long as our new tent kept us dry then we had nothing to lose. But in the back of my mind I wondered how Geddy would like being trapped in a fabric box while storms raged around us. He had survived "tunder" before, listening curiously from inside our house. He had also splashed excitedly in raindrops that settled a bit after a downpour. But he had never slept in a tent, even in dry weather. Would he sleep at all? Would we?

Sweaty, grumpy, and already tired, I was thankful Luke said a prayer as we finally got packed and pulled out of our driveway. This is supposed to be a fun trip, I told myself; so let go of all your cares. Of course, once we had our Starbucks and some food, and Geddy was sound asleep before we even got out of town, we were quite happy and I felt the excitement return. 

When we got out of the brown and into the green of trees and Geddy woke up giggling and talking about the mountains, trees, and "waves" in the river by the road, and I truly felt good about our decision. Then we saw the sheets of rain falling eight miles ahead of us—right at the campground—and I wavered again. We were crazy! The rain hammered our vehicle, turned to hail, and drummed along as accompaniment to the thunder while we sat in the parking spot by a fire pit and a picnic table. 

I snatched Geddy from his seat and pulled him up with me and we waited. Surely there would be a lull soon so we could make camp. In the meantime, it was too boring in the car so I decided to change Geddy's poopy diaper while he stood on the floor in the little space in front of my seat. And here I thought it was hardest to change a diaper with a squirmy toddler who won't stay on his back! I can't wait to try this on an airplane! 

My fearless husband, who had just purchased a new tent that is not only bigger than our other one but sets up instantly, got the tent up and the bedding and bags unloaded without too much rain damage. (I joked that what everyone outside didn't know was that we had a Harry Potter tent.) Then Luke also disposed of the soiled diaper so Geddy and I wouldn't have to stay locked in the car too long with that stench. He continued his heroics, helping others set up their tents in the rain while Geddy and I read books in the tent. 

We didn't get a lot of time outside the first night, but we got fed, stayed safe, and answered Geddy's every-five-minutes question of "What's dat noise?" with honesty and humor. "That's thunder. That's someone talking. That's a car door slamming. That's the sound of Cindy wishing she was in a hotel room." 

I'd like to report that because we stayed safe and dry, and because Geddy wasn't scared and upset, that we had a great night of sleep too, but, alas, it didn't work out that way. For one, I didn't arrange a bed for Geddy so he slept on our mattress between us. And even though I told myself I could stay on my back all night, with my one little strip of space, Geddy doesn't like to stay in one position or one place while he sleeps. He was back, to tummy, to side, under blankets, on top of blankets, and then happy to be head-to-toe with us at the foot of the bed. I was roasting and knew that night number two would have to be different. 

Geddy, bless him, slept in the first morning but the darn crows cawing back and forth woke me up. Along with the awesomeness of getting to hear nature through the walls of a tent is the damn annoyance of getting to hear nature through the walls of a tent. Anyway, not that I was really sleeping. Plus, our super deluxe tent that we could even set up our chairs in does not have a bathroom. If it wasn't my son or the crows it was my bladder acting as alarm clock.

Our decision to camp was rewarded with most of a day to explore outside in sunshine and clouds on Saturday. Geddy got to dig, collect rocks, follow dogs and point them out to me, follow girls, go around and around the campground, play Thomas the Train, and pretend to be a dinosaur. We had church in the warmth, shared food together in one of the yummiest potlucks ever, and had a beautiful day waiting for the next storm. 

Yes, I felt that we were just waiting. It would come. In the meantime, Geddy refused to nap though we played a lot in the tent, and Luke got to set up his antenna and listen to the world without attracting lightning to his pole. When the rain hit again, Luke played his guitar inside our tent and I sang a little, here and there, between two-minute snoozes. Geddy put himself to bed at about five o'clock, before dinner, and showed no signs of waking nearly two hours later. Not even rolling thunder caused him to stir. He created a little storm all his own, however, when I got him up. Mr. Grumpy Pants might have slept all night, but I worried that he wouldn't, so I dragged him out of his beloved tent and snuggled him in a blanket until he was happy and awake enough to eat. Then he was off chasing dogs and girls again. 

That final night, settling into our tent, I made Geddy his own bed and told myself, OK, the worst of the storms are over, we are very tired, and Geddy has his own spot so SURELY we will sleep. Turns out this time I was cold and Luke was uncomfortable. Geddy slept like a rock. Well, he still tossed and turned some, but he didn't complain. 

Let's just say that the following morning when Luke suggested we pack up and go into town for a hot breakfast, I was all for it. 

So what bothered Geddy the most? It turns out the blare of our car alarm when he punched the panic button and I took forever trying to figure out how to turn it off concerned him greatly. Geddy talked about the "beeping" and how it was "all gone" for about 20 minutes. He slept soundly through lightning cracking over our very heads but stressed about the car horn beeps. I shouldn't be surprised. With a few additions and modifications, I think we are ready for camping trip number two! Thunder, bring it on!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Buddies

Two women, decades older than I, for some reason like to drive across town to my neighborhood Starbucks once a month and sit reading their poetry or critiquing my story with me. Often only one can make it, sometimes none of us can, but when we meet I return home happy, energized, inspired, and thankful. As mothers, readers, and amateur writers, we have much in common. We share stories of our kids, our travels, our education. We talk about rejection slips and fear of submitting work for publication. We laugh till our eyes run dry, but I can't even tell you what exactly we laugh about. (Except for when they tried to think of a pseudonym I can use for my romance-novel writing career—'cause that's where the money is! Ha!).

They tell me they wish they hadn't waited so late in life to take writing so seriously. They laugh at me if I say I feel that I've waited too long. They tell me what it's like to have grown sons and to get to spend time with them and travel, and I feel hope that my son will still want to be around me when I'm their age. They tell me my date nights with my husband are SO IMPORTANT.

When I get writer's block, want to scrap the short story I've been working on for over a year, start feeling bored or down on myself that I'm not any good as a writer, I remember that we are meeting soon. We communicate by e-mail, even if we can't meet in person, and they give me honest feedback on my work, as I do for them. I come away with new ideas, new vigor. They recommend books, authors, and websites that I can go to for further inspiration.

But reading their own poetry gives me inspiration aplenty. A scientist and a minister, these two share knowledge, grace, truth, and wisdom through their written words. Sometimes they reflect on a time of life, a moment in history, a tree in the yard. I peek at the world that was and is, get a glimpse through their lenses and refocus mine. I feel blessed to sit side-by-side with these authors who want to sit beside me. When I'm in my 60s and 70s I hope I can be a part of a writing group with younger women (and guys too) and continue the blessing.

Creative Commons Image courtesy of Denise Krebs

Monday, June 1, 2015

Two Years Young

-Do you want to put on your shoes?

"No, walk on toes."

-What else do you want to eat?

"Else . . . um . . . maybe applesauce."

-Can you say Thank You?


-Will you let me read you a story?

"No, Geddy's turn."

-Do you want to go outside?

"No, play with toys."

-I'm going to take a shower. What show do you want to watch?

"Watch Little Brown." ["Guess How Much I Love You] Or "Watch Clifford." Or "Watch Cookie Monster."

"Go Daddy. Go garage."

-Put on your shoes please.

"No, Mommy's turn."

-Do you want some juice?

"Yeah, OK! Me too!"

(Toys all put away in a box.) "Mommy, please, get the cars!"

(Raining) "Go side. Walk rain!"

(He won't let us read him a bedtime story.) -OK, it's time for bed then.

"Mommy, read book!" (Happily climbs into a lap.)

-Geddy, please share your toys.

"NO! Mines!" (Hugs toy or toys tightly to chest.)

-Do you want to go visit Liam?

"Yep! Amen's toys." (He calls his friend Amen. Sometimes he gathers up a bunch of toys as if to take and share, but then he leaves them home.)

(The house creaks.)

"Mommy, sound. Creaking."

-That's the house. It's OK.

(Daddy comes downstairs, comes home from work, comes out of the bathroom.)

"Hi Daddy!"

(Luke kisses me before he leaves for work.)

"Geddy, kiss!" (Gets a kiss from Daddy).

(His friend Liam has his birthday; four days later Geddy has his. He can't stop talking about it.)

"Amen, birthday. Geddy, birthday. Happy birthday!"

-Did you have a fun birthday?

"Yep. Kids. Bubbles. Blue one. Ball."

-How old are you now?

"Two!" (Shows five fingers, then in deep concentration trying to only hold up two like Mommy showed him.)

-Geddy, I love you. Go to sleep.

"Piwwo fight!"

Monday, May 4, 2015

Changing the Face of Normal

Social media brought an inspiring story into my news feed the other day. A mother and her daughter travel around to schools teaching students about kindness when encountering someone who looks or behaves differently than they do. The little girl in this story has a genetic disorder that caused deformities in her face, hands, and feet. In other words, she doesn't look "normal."

Normal. Ouch. What is that? Adults and kids have stared some unkind stares and said some thoughtless words to this little girl because she doesn't look normal in their eyes. Yes, she has a medical issue that her parents didn't want her to have. They were happily awaiting the birth of a healthy child. They don't want her to have trouble, multiple surgeries, a life of numerous challenges. But, they love their daughter regardless of all this. They quite probably don't see her as anything but normal because they know her. But reading this story got me to thinking about why differences—whether from difficulties or not— so often shock and scare us or cause us to respond without thinking about someone's feelings. Why do we immediately react that someone is not normal?

Are we hard-wired to want to see everyone as fitting the same mold? Or are we conditioned to believe that some people are weird or not normal because they are not like us?

These questions reminded me of the crayon skin-color fiasco. How long did it take the makers of crayons to do away with the flesh color? Have they even eliminated this name on the peachy stick? When you think about it, having only one color for flesh is like having one color crayon labeled "flower." Is peach the "normal" color for skin and all other colors are not normal? As a child I faithfully colored the faces of people in my coloring book with that flesh color. But I lived in an area where I never saw people with very dark skin. I doubt it occurred to me to use any other color unless the character in my book was Native American. I definitely had my own idea of normal.

Thinking about crayon color brought me to thoughts of commercials with babies in them. Yes, many commercials in our country use model babies with many shades of skin tone. Thankfully someone somewhere in the industry realized that not all babies are Caucasian. But haven't you noticed that there is something remarkably the same about how all these babies look? They look "normal," right? Don't you hear people say (haven't I thought it or said it), "Your baby's so beautiful; she should be in commercials!" ? Would diapers really stop selling if some of the models didn't look symmetrical?

There is a magazine that puts out issues of the most beautiful people in the world each year. Yeah, OK, we like to look at these "perfect" people. Yes, it sells. Yes, I've heard of the studies with babies who respond differently when shown pictures of these beautiful people and then shown pictures of average or ordinary faces. This is where I wonder about how we are maybe hard-wired for some of our appreciation of, and responses to, beauty. But, what if this magazine—what if those baby commercials—included more variety in their definition of beauty? What if simple changes like this helped change the face of normal? (Think Dove Beauty Campaign). Then, no matter how we might be hard-wired, what if we stopped being conditioned to stare and started responding to others who look different than we do with the same way we greet a friend? (What if we stopped passing around those people of Walmart clips?).

I know as a mother I really think about what I can do to raise my son to be compassionate and understand that normal is diversity. That starts with how I behave in and out of his presence. I hope that I keep learning daily to choose kindness even if my gut first wants to rebel. If normal is mean, then I really don't want anyone to call me normal.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Toddler Home Inspections

Before you parents hit that point where you know your baby is about to be mobile, family, friends, and doctors will tell you to baby-proof your house. They will say to get down on your hands and knees and inspect every inch of the floors and the walls up to a certain height where curiosity and chubby fingers might meet harm. Put up gates above and below any stairs, plug outlets, cut curtain cords that are looped, and move chemicals and medicines to high and locked cabinets. If you do all this, chances are your scooting crawling bundle of joy will stay safe. Of course you have to keep an eye out for anything that falls on the floor as well.

I'm sure I've left out a few things parents are advised to do, and probably should do, but let me tell you what you might not have been told: there is no baby-proof-and-then-you're-done moment. First, you are going to miss something or forget something. But second, your baby WILL move beyond the crawling stage and will soon walk and then climb; therefore, you will need to toddler-proof your home.Yes, maybe you were overzealous and put on a fridge lock, toilet lock, stove lock. Maybe you already installed latches over your doors and your baby doesn't even do more than roll over. But unless you think like a toddler, you will not have done everything.

I have the answer to finding all the dangers of your home, at least up until your child turns two (revisit this blog monthly for future installments as Geddy grows). What you need is to hire an expert from Toddler Home Inspections. We will send in our skilled son to examine every inch of your home and then provide you with a detailed report of what is dangerous. (Actually, the disaster your house will be in afterwards should provide you all the information you need).

Here's a sampling of what our expert will do:

1. Remove outlet plugs and insert pieces of paper into the holes. (Let's hope nothing else goes in there.)

2. Unplug the vacuum cleaner then try to plug it back in, while it is turned on.

3. Remove vent covers and almost fall into the open holes or at the very least throw items into them. (Yeah, I know there are ways to fix this, but honestly I never thought of it when Geddy was a baby and I don't remember anyone saying anything about it.)

4. Push a chair or stool or box over to the table and climb up onto it. Maybe you have nothing there, maybe you have an innocent little candle in the center. He will dig fingers into the wax and spread it all over the table.

5. Dig dirt out of plant holders and dump it in various parts of the house. And if you think he is way beyond eating dirt you might be surprised. Or he might just say that he's eating a "Cheerio."

6. Rip bits of toilet paper off the roll and put those bits in different places around the house (ahem, outlets). (Perhaps not dangerous but certainly frustrating for you when you are trying to pull off a nice sheet of toilet paper and all you get are frayed bits).

7. Put crackers into any shoes lying around. (OK, maybe there isn't any potential harm to the toddler here but then again if you fall over after trying to walk around in your shoes with food or foreign objects in them you might land on the child).

8. Help himself to the water from the dispenser in the fridge, (you won't remember to always lock it, plus toddlers like to push buttons . . .) and spill water all over the floor and make it really slippery.

9. Throw toys onto the stove, into pots with food bubbling in them, or just reach up and put items into the hot pots and pans on the stove. (Yes, while you are right there and watching. You can try to lock him out of the kitchen but he will possibly go on a rampage throwing toys and crying and then you will take him to his room, forget about the food on the stove and it will boil over and then the smoke alarm will go off.)

10. Politely ask for a cracker and wait for you to remove the latch that keeps the pantry closed then start climbing the drawers in there that pull out and be flung backwards on the hard tile floor.

As I said, this is just a sampling. Our expert will meet you where you are, finding the areas unique to your home that you never dreamed would be the source of danger or destruction. Perhaps you plan to just be good parents and keep an eye on your little one. We applaud you. We respect you. We hope and pray you will follow through. But your little one will be full of surprises. He or she will be playing alone quite happily in a different room when you decide to unload the dishwasher. As you turn to put something away, the sudden clatter of dishes will pull you back around in time to see the bottom tray of the dishwasher on the floor and your little one climbing inside the gaping opening.

So, what's a parent to do? Remove everything from your house, pad the walls, and wrap your child in bubble wrap? That's one option. If you figure out something better, let us know! Oh, and that will be $99.95 for the destruction, er, inspection of your home.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Reading, Trying, Guessing, Praying

Word time for the most part since my son has been around means either soaking words through my eyeballs from this computer screen or from the pages of children's books. This week I'm stretching myself a bit by picking up a book that is thick, has fine print, and lacks pictures. But it's still putting children on my brain. The book, from the library (! free books !) is Meg Meeker, M.D.'s Strong Mothers, Strong Sons. Not far into it but I'm trying not to slap myself around for the goofs I've already made as a mom—and I know the author is not wanting readers racked with guilt—and I'm trying to learn these lessons to "raise [an] extraordinary [man]."

Trying trying. I seek patience, wisdom, and compassion in abundance. Failing failing. The life of a parent is really guesswork, even with great books to guide us, wise friends, and a compassionate God. Yes, I also keep praying praying, which is the best action for me I know.

Speaking of words, praying, and children, Geddy sometimes likes to run around saying "Amen" and getting us to react or join in. Today I started singing the song "Amen" and then looked it up online to discover The Impressions singing it. Geddy is now a fan. He doesn't quite have the rhythm or the tune but adds a little singsong to his "Amen" now. He kept asking "song?" to hear it again.We went upstairs to get him ready for his nap and we sang a little bit more. Then he started bringing me his stuffed animals to hug. Next he grabbed his Simba and his Dalmatian puppy and laid them on the floor and told them to sleep. Once he was in his crib, after we read three books and he wanted more, he was not so happy until I told him I would moo for him. Then he settled down happily on his tummy and I mooed "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Now he's sleeping soundly.

Thank you Dooby, Dooby Moo. Maybe children's books have all the answers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Total Parental Exhaustion

The signs of total parental exhaustion start small: eyes slip closed here and there—no biggie; your child can only color so high on that wall with a marker—but they grow quickly, and right about the time you think you should be getting plenty of rest they make their move. That time is when the baby stage has ended. No more night feedings. No more waking up even though the baby didn't because you just can't believe he hasn't woken you up yet and you have to run in and check on him. Your little one sleeps all night now, so should you. Unfortunately, this is the time you realize the months and months of sleep deprivation have built up and are about to SHUT YOU DOWN. You think you have been sleeping, but your body starts telling you that it still isn't getting enough shuteye. You might be experiencing total parental exhaustion if:

10. You don't mind watching the same episode of your son's favorite animated show over and over again.

9. You want to make toast for your son because he'd rather throw than eat what you prepared for dinner, but you can't find the loaf of bread even though it's right in front of you.

8. You begin to think the floor by the crib is actually very comfortable for sleeping when your son wants you to stay and sing another song.

7. You start to fall asleep reading to your son even though it is 8 AM and you are not in bed.

6. You collapse on a giant bean bag and let your son repeatedly throw a small cardboard box at you because, hey, he's having fun and you know he's safe and you don't have to be vertical.

5. You admire your son's decorating skills and let his creative juices be free without rushing to clean up the mess, er, art!

4. You read a book with your son and say, "Look at the cow," then realize it is a dog.

3. You mentally keep track of how long a single Cheerio has been on the floor just barely under the edge of the couch. Three weeks.

2. You remember random facts like a Cheerio's lifespan but can't remember what day of the week it is.

And the number one way you know you have gone over the edge of the exhaustion cliff:

1. You bend over your son in his crib and start to say good night prayers and instead say, "Dear Lord, thank you for this food."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Lately I've been reading more mom blogs and personal online essays about raising boys. They're fun to read to hear others' perspective on male children and the joys and challenges of raising them, and I hope to get a little insight. One part I still don't really understand is why I should expect a big difference in behavior in boys and girls while they are children. I mean, my sister and I did our fair share of wrestling (maybe I was the lesser willing of the two), tree climbing, dirt clod fighting, and truck playing. We captured frogs and played with LEGO and pretend swords. And when my niece was Geddy's age, she loved to climb up on the couch and dive off of it. What I'm getting at is that I'm used to girls getting dirty, being a bit reckless, and being physical. I always thought of these as part of being a kid.

Well, whether it's a boy trait, a kid essential, or simply a Geddy do, I'm trying to relish every self- head slap, "bonk," and "meep" from my son. He comes with batteries included and they never run out of juice. Climbing up the slide the wrong way just feels right to him. Dumping dirt and water all over the floor? All part of a good day. He wants to splash the water out of the bath, make his food fly, wear his bowl on his face, collect every rock he walks by, and yell at the top of his lungs. And if Mommy and Daddy say that's enough of that, he wants to do it again twenty times.

What can I do but smile and say "That's my boy" when he throws his little plastic balls into the hot hot toaster oven? How can I help but be proud when he spits all over and then paints his crib with saliva? When I try to avoid using the word No and come back with a "please-don't-do-that" instead, should I expect anything less than a hearty "[a]gin!"? He's all boy, all fun, and all our child. As he grows I'm sure the boyness will appear more clear, and even this part-time tomboy will see that Daddy has the inside scoop. But I hope my son will teach me what I need to know about raising a boy, and I hope I will always listen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

When Mommy Isn't There

A couple of weeks ago this mommy went through another first. I know, usually it's all about Geddy's firsts here but this one definitely involves a first for him too. And for Daddy. This mommy got on an airplane and flew away from her baby. I wasn't just gone an hour or two to the store or to visit a friend. I was gone a day, a night, and a morning. For me, that's a big deal. My son, every now and then while I was away, also thought it was a big deal. Luke, he was ready. Ready to take charge of all the necessary details. Or so he thought. Little did I know that I would have such a great time and be so busy that I wouldn't burst into tears at the thought of my son. Little did Geddy know that Mommy wasn't going to be around for milk time. Little did Daddy know that Geddy was going to take full advantage of having Daddy all to himself and pull out all the stops. But the biggest surprise in this first was the way Geddy reacted when I came home.

My friend's wedding was far enough away that driving didn't make sense and flying the whole family seemed costly and extreme. When I purchased my ticket I considered flying home the same day, but I knew that getting to the airport on time after the wedding would cause too much stress and likely be too challenging. Excited to go but nervous too, I slept little the night before. A lot of that had to do with normal travel concerns, so once I was at the airport not forgetting anything and on time, I felt pretty good. Then I told Geddy Goodbye and that I would see him the next day. He started crying. Then Luke pulled away from the curb. Well, I told myself, they would get back home and Geddy would ask for a cracker and then he'd be fine. Luke would make breakfast and then they would dance and listen to music and play and Geddy would be happy. Yes, that all came true.

I made several phone calls home throughout the day, and each time I called I could hear a boisterous Geddy in the background. Luke said they were doing well and not to worry. It wasn't until the end of the day, when I was relaxing after the wedding and getting ready to sleep that I got the full picture of how my boys had been doing. Geddy was finally asleep, which hadn't taken too long since Luke has put him to bed without me many times. There were calls and cries for Mommy, but Geddy soon settled down. Then Luke told me how he had spent the day going around the house cleaning up after our son.

Geddy, as usual, had been demanding Daddy's attention almost constantly. He can play independently, but he prefers attention. He likes to grab Daddy's pant leg and pull him into the living room then pat the floor and say "chair" so Daddy will sit down and play. Sometime during the day Geddy felt he wasn't getting enough attention so he started messing with the plants and getting dirt all over. Luke dealt with it and thought that was that. Later, however, Luke realized he got a little too absorbed with his computer. Geddy had been coming and going from kitchen to living room, not being particularly noisy but he was where Luke could see him out of the corner of his eye so he didn't have cause for concern. After a bit Luke looked up and noticed something all over the floor in front of him. Oreo cookie crumbs! And then, OH! He got up and watched Geddy, with a spoon, scoop dirt from a plant in the dining room and run out and dump it on the floor then run back! Luke followed, saying No, but watched again as Geddy looked him straight in the eye and scooped and dumped again! I think it might have been after this that father and son spent some quiet time in Geddy's room, where Geddy threw a little fit but finally calmed down.

I laughed over the story and then told my husband I hoped he could get some sleep. I thought I would sleep really well not hearing Geddy noises and jumping up to check on him. HA. Sometime around normal Geddy wake-up time (even though I was in a different time zone) I awoke suddenly, sure I had heard my son. Before I boarded the plane that morning I called Luke and discovered that he had had to get up before five to try to soothe a crying boy who only wanted Mommy. Then, heartbreaking to hear about, Geddy and Daddy had searched every room looking for me as Daddy kept telling Geddy that Mommy wasn't there but she would be home in a few hours. I wasn't laughing then. I was so ready to be home and Luke was eager for it too!

But when I rushed up to the car at the airport to greet my baby, he just stared at me. OK, I thought, he just woke up from a nap and is still a little sleepy. He will be excited when he gets out of the car. We stopped for lunch and all Geddy was interested in was food. He kinda glanced at me a little but was mostly indifferent. What's this? I wondered. When we got home I really got to see just how upset my son was at me. He basically didn't want me around while he and Daddy danced and played and did all the things they had done together without me. This was not the moment I expected to be sad. By bedtime, Geddy was mostly back to his normal self, but I still felt a distance between us. It made me not so interested in any future solo trips while he is so young.

Many days have passed since I was away, and Geddy has shown me much love and affection during this time. I'm grateful he has forgiven me. Yes, I know he isn't permanently damaged or anything. And I know he did want me back, he just didn't know what to do with all that he was feeling. I'm grateful, too, that he has a special bond with his daddy, and it's OK that they have their little dances and songs. Maybe I have to shut my eyes sometimes or go into another room at Geddy's request, but I can handle that. Before long I know he will have a lot going on in his life that only Daddy can relate to or help him with. I don't want to be a nosy mom or demanding of his constant attention. I just want to love him for him. But I sure don't ever want to break his little heart again!