February 24, 2012

Flashback Friday--Finders Keepers

Today's Flashback pains me to tell. It happened about 16 years ago, during our first year of marriage, but it still causes me grief. Perhaps because it not only proves how much Murphy loves us, but it also reflects so poorly on our neighbors--both children and adults.

MC was working with his dad in their construction business. His typical work uniform consisted of a t-shirt and cotton shorts with an elastic waist--the kind you would wear to the gym or to play basketball in, the kind that if you were to put a wallet in the side pocket it would pull the shorts down. So MC never carried a wallet. This particular story takes place on the holiest of all holy days when you are newly married and poor--Pay Day. MC was paid in cash that Friday, all $1200 worth. His dad drove him home as they had a bunch of wood to unload in our back yard. When they got to our house, his dad pulled over to the side of the road and MC hopped out of the truck so he could open the back gate to allow the truck through. They got the wood unloaded and then MC came in for dinner. At dinner MC mentions the fact that he got paid. "Um, that's great honey, but...where is the money?"

It seems that when MC hopped out of the van, the cash he was holding in his lap dropped on the ground. We scoured the area but couldn't see any sign of the cash. Obviously someone had come along and picked it up, but who? It was then that MC remembered the elementary school kids that were walking home at the same time he pulled up. He remembered because he thought it probably scared them that a truck pulled over right in front of them and then a dirty looking man jumped out. Well, if it was kids from the elementary school, then they most likely lived in the housing complex across the street. It was late by the time we put all this together so we decided that we would canvas the neighborhood the next day after MC got home from work.

That Saturday we hit every single door in the neighborhood and talked to everyone. Parents questioned their kids but no one remembered seeing anything. We were on our last row of houses and I was close to tears (again) at this point, but we weren't ready to give up. As we went through our sob story yet again we could tell something was different. This particular mom was looking a little nervous. She knew something. We begged her to tell us. We didn't want to get anyone in trouble. Seriously, what kid wouldn't pick up all that cash if they saw it lying on the ground? And we were offering a reward, no questions asked, if we could just get the money back. That money was the difference in paying our mortgage or not, eating or starving, paying our bills or letting them go to collection. Finally, with a cautious glance around the neighborhood and a promise from us that we wouldn't say where the information came from, the story came out.

The group of kids who were walking home at the time did indeed see the cash and took it. They didn't think to ask if it belonged to the man whose house it was in front of, they just split it up and took it home. The reason this Tipster knew about it was because when the other neighborhood kids heard about the money, they were upset that they didn't get any. This included her son who came home crying about it. I wish I could say this was a case of kids stashing away some found money and the parents were none the wiser. I wish I could say that because then it would only reflect on the children who can be more easily forgiven for being tempted by that kind of money and not thinking of how taking it would impact someone else's life. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It had become a matter of contention among the neighborhood because those kids showed up at football practice that Saturday morning wearing brand new Cowboys jerseys and sporting new tennis shoes. These were elementary school kids. The only way for them to get to the store would be for someone to drive them there. And no parent would miss the fact that their kid was wearing very expensive new clothes. That meant their parents took them on shopping sprees within hours of bringing home money that obviously didn't belong to them.

We were absolutely devastated. We had knocked on every door that day. That meant, somewhere along the line, grown ups looked us right in the eye while we told how that money was all we had in the world and they lied to us, flat out denied knowing a thing. While it was awful to have lost that money and not had any idea how we were going to pay our bills, the worst part was knowing that there were grown ups out there that condoned not only taking something that didn't belong to them but also lying about it. And they were teaching this lesson TO.THEIR.CHILDREN. It just made me sick.

Since the Tipster refused to name names--not wanting to get involved, you know--there was nothing the police could do. We were simply out of luck. Our family came through for us as much as they could. Bills were late, and some not paid, but we had food and gas. That is easy to get over. To this day, though, I am just heartbroken that there are parents instilling those types of lessons onto their kids. People wonder what's wrong with kids these days? Start with their parents. Kids are only as strong as the foundation they are built on.

February 23, 2012

First Kiss

It happened. My son was kissed by a girl. My kids are getting older so I knew it was bound to happen, I was just hoping for later rather than sooner. And I definitely didn't expect it to happen to Bubba first. That's right--Bubba had his first kiss.

He gets to stay after school to help in the library a couple of days a week. I was picking him up from library duty and as he was getting buckled he announced that he got "liked" at school. "Not the normal kind of like," he explained, "but the kind of like that leads to public displays of affection." I thought, "How cute. Someone has a crush on Bubba", but it turns out it went a little further than that. According to my son, there was a little blonde girl with glasses also working as a library helper. She asked Bubba to help her shelve some books and when he did she gave him a hug and then kissed him...several times...on the MOUTH! That little hussy! I see how she "shelves books". I can't really fault her choice in boys but really? In the library? In elementary school? I think those kind of moves are supposed to be saved for much, MUCH later in life.

Before I could deliver the Bad Mama beat down to the girl with the loose lips, Bubba went on to tell me that he was NOT happy about being kissed. Well, duh! The kid is anti-girl and even more anti-romance. He said he tried not to be rude, though, and waited until Hussy (he didn't actually know her name so I'm guessing) turned away before wiping off the kisses, and then he told the library assistant what happened. Because if there's one thing Bubba knows, it's the rules, and PDA is NOT allowed at school. So Hussy got a little talking to. It was explained to her that PDA is not appropriate and, in addition, Bubba does not welcome it. Apparently she got upset at being tattled on and told Bubba, "Well, thanks for calling me ugly!" He, of course, can't make any sense out of that one since he didn't call her anything, much less ugly.

Although it seems somehow appropriate that Bubba's first kiss was quickly followed by his first scorned female.

February 19, 2012

Return of the Slumber Party: Part 2

When you have children, you want to give them everything--you know, within reason. You want them to be happy. I chalk up my recent moment of insanity to this overwhelming love of my children and my obsessive need to be the cool parent. That's the only explanation I can offer for my decision to let Sassy have another slumber party. She was given a choice for her birthday--a big party with lots of kids or a slumber party with just a few girls. You know how it goes. If your kids are given a choice in something, they will invariably choose the one thing most likely to cause you to pull your hair out. A normal, intelligent woman would have learned her lesson after the last sleepover and not even offered that as a choice but, alas, I have never been accused of being either one.

As you could see in Part 1, my confidence that this sleepover would be different waned quickly. It seems I underestimated their sheer determination and force of will. Instead of structured, guided activities, I did good just to have all the girls in the same room at the same time.

Picking up from where I left off, after finally being reassured that the girls were going to sleep, I crawled into bed around 2:30am. I set my alarm for 8am so that I could get up before the girls and get started on breakfast. Knowing how late they stayed up, I had high hopes that they would sleep in a bit. Imagine my surprise when I found out the girls had been up since 7:00. Luckily they managed to keep themselves busy with cartoons and jewelry making until I finished making pancakes, bacon and eggs. By the time they finished eating and getting dressed, we only had 2 1/2 hours to go until pick up time. The end was in sight.

As the girls took their turns in the bathroom and "helped" clean up (as helpful as a room of wound up 9 year olds can be), I made another fun discovery. While I knew Sassy, "K", and "I" stayed up coloring on their faces, I also learned they decided to take it a step further and color the bottoms of their right feet. The soles of their feet were green from toe to heel. And this time they didn't use the dry erase markers--they used Bingo daubers. Yeah, not quite as easy to wash off.

After this I had no choice--I started an assembly line. Each girl took her turn at the kitchen sink where we scrubbed the tattoos off her arms and the ink off her face. When their arms and faces were once again presentable, I filled a bucket with warm, soapy water and proceeded to scrub feet the best I could. Howdy commented that I looked like Jesus washing everyone's feet. I gotta say I felt more like Kathy Bates in Misery, ready to do a little hobbling to keep everybody in line. I managed to get the vibrant green ink down to a more subdued stain. I figured the rest could be covered by socks and therefore not as likely to cause heart palpitations in the other mothers.

The girls wanted to go back outside but it was way too chilly. With nothing planned, I broke down and let them all get back on the Wii until pick up time.

By 12:10 we were down to just 1 guest.

1:30 I'm simultaneously crawling the walls and desperately fighting to keep my eyes open.

1:45 The last girl has gone home. I crawl into bed where I force Sassy to join me. I am so grateful for nap time I want to cry.

2:01 Sassy insists she's not tired. I tell her, "Too bad. Close your eyes."

2:03 Sassy is sound asleep. I join her soon after and we sleep for 4 hours. We wake to the beginnings of colds that we are still battling a week later and a cautionary tale about the perils of slumber parties that will last a lot longer.

February 17, 2012

Return of the Slumber Party: Part 1

This week's Flashback Friday has been rescheduled so that I can get caught up on the happenings of the last week. Seven days after the slumber party to celebrate Sassy's 9th birthday I am still recovering. I spent about 4 days sick in bed after the event. It started out as swollen tonsils, worked its way up to my head and has now settled in my chest. This nasty virus has systematically hammered its way through my body, making sure I will remember the lesson learned by agreeing to host 5 girls for a sleepover. I've never been a drinking girl but I liken it to the world's longest hangover. With each piercing ache of my head, I am forced to ask myself, "What was I thinking?"

In my defense, I really truly thought it would be different than the last sleepover. I was prepared with lots of planned activities. I figured if I had it all structured, the girls wouldn't have the time or opportunity to get in trouble. I should have taken it as a hint when Sassy was told she could invite 4 girls but actually invited 5 that things were bound to go awry. The following is a timeline of actual events that occured that evening. I'm still sifting through the rubble and trying to figure out where it went wrong.

2:45pm T minus 10 minutes. I'm sitting in front of the school waiting to pick up Bubba, Sassy and the 5 friends we are taking home for her slumber party. I spent the last 2 1/2 hours scrambling around to make sure everything was ready at the house and now I'm sitting in Suzy, shoring up my nerves with Hostess Snoballs and Dr. Pepper.

3:19pm 5 of the 6 girls are with me in the van while we wait for Bubba to finish his library duty. To pass the time, they sing "Rolling in the Deep" and then "Last Friday Night". The karaoke session eventually dissolves into a debate over which boys they would like to sing to. Oy.

4:48pm While waiting for girl #6, we play a "Who Am I?" game. Yay, they're having fun.

5:14pm Caught a break--girl #6 isn't going to make it. Game's over and while most of the girls are willing to play another round, Sassy vetoes it. While I am scrambling for another game, they all throw on their shoes and go outside which is proceeded by a litany of instructions. "Don't play in the front yard--it's too dangerous. Stay off the swing set--it's rusted and not safe. No, you can't go on the trampoline because I haven't fixed the enclosure yet. No one ever means to fall off but it happens. I don't care how careful you'll be, until everyone's parents have signed a "Will Not Sue" waiver, no one is going on it."

5:28pm The girls decide it's too cold and boring outside and trek back in. I sit them all down at the table with glue and glitter and stickers to work on a craft project. This is met with enthusiasm. I stand at the ready to mop up the puddles of glitter glue that find their way to the tabletop.

5:51pm I feed the girls and my boys. Scarf down a slice myself knowing I may not get a break for awhile.

6:24pm I would have liked to wait longer to let their pizza digest but the natives were getting restless and I bring out the cupcakes and ice cream. Sassy decided she wanted everyone to decorate their own cupcakes instead of having a cake. This means that the girls had a little bit of cupcake to go with their sprinkles.

6:58pm The sound of Sassy opening her presents is accompanied by repeated strains of "Open my present next" and "No, open mine". Sassy is given not one, but two beading/jewelry kits, one of which will be scattered all over the livingroom before the party is over, which makes my vacuum so happy.

7:13pm The girls sit down in front on "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer." With the exception of "M", who knows the movie by heart and insists on talking along with the characters, it is blessedly quiet for a few minutes.

7:25pm I sneak into Sassy's room to clean up and make sure there is room for all the sleeping bags. I pick up a sheet of construction paper only to discover that it landed facedown on the glitter glue that hadn't yet dried. I scrub the carpet but some of it managed to dry, leaving a large glittery patch about 6 inches from the nail polish stain.

8:11pm After plying the girls with bowls of popcorn and M&M's, I sneak off to my room to watch a movie with MC. We are able to watch it in spurts throughout the night.

8:44pm The movie is over. It was nice while it lasted. The girls bounce around between having a dance party in Sassy's room, playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii in the livingroom, and harassing the boys.

10:15pm The girls pull out all the craft supplies again and start making their own scrapbooks. Somehow this leads to them using the stamps and ink to tattoo their arms. I just shake my head and ask them to please not tattoo their faces.

11:30pm I make the girls lay out all the beds and get pj's on.

11:38pm Drama. "T" is crying. She's been a little out of sorts all evening. I think it has to do with having to share her friends and not getting enough attention. I'm at the computer when she comes out of the bedroom and pouts on the couch. When the other girls come out and try to talk to her, I try to be as inconspicuous as possible and pray they don't bring the drama to me.

12:30am Thirty minutes after lights out, there is Drama again. That's right, with a capital D. "T" is crying because "I" is being mean to her. She just wants to go home. "I" is crying as well (I'm assuming because she got tattled on). This causes Sassy to cry and when I come in to try to intervene, she has worked herself up so much she's doing that hitching/choking sob where she can't even breathe. After throwing some guilt on the fire ("Thank you girls for making my daughter cry at her own party."), I proceed to calm everyone down. No one goes home.

2:06am Sassy, "K" and "I" are still up. When I go in to scold them, I discover Sassy and "K" got bored and wrote all over their faces with marker. For a moment, I am at a loss for words. The only thing I can think to say is, "At least you used the dry erase markers."

Eventually they go to sleep. I set my alarm so that I can (hopefully) get up before the girls and drag myself to bed at 2:30am. Stay tuned for Part 2...

February 6, 2012

The Final Frontier

MC and I took the kids to a free show at the Planetarium the other night. After some poor communication on the part of the program director which led to us sitting through a very dry lecture on The Life and Death of Stars (zzzzz), we got to wait in a crowded lobby for 30 minutes to see the actual Planetarium show. We've been to the Planetarium at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle and it was amazing to see the night sky with all the millions of stars broadcast overhead. And while this presentation was absolutely nothing like the one in Seattle, I found I did learn a few things I'd like to share.

1. If you are going to present a lecture that involves words like neutrina (which, despite what it sounds like, is NOT a dog food), luminosity, and pulsars, and involves complex mathematical equations, you should try to find someone to deliver that lecture who isn't a Ben Stein clone.

2. According to astronomers, all the materials on Earth originate in space. We are, in their words, made up of "space stuff". Does mean that we're all aliens?

3. They may have funny names but nebulae are freakin' awesome! Looking at pictures I can't help but see the hand of God in their creation.

4. Given that the overhead projection show actually made me seasick watching it, I don't think I would survive the "Vomit Comet" used to prepare astronauts for living in a gravity-free zone.

5. Since astronauts could face as much as a 2% loss in bone density, they have to exercise 2 1/2 hours a day while in space. Another reason I'd never make it as an astronaut. I don't exercise 2 1/2 hours a WEEK!

6. Having your video narrated by a cartoon shark with a "Joisey" accent does not make it fun, it makes it obnoxious. If I wanted to hear someone who is not amusing talk like a Wise Guy, I'd turn on Jersey Shore. However, having Ewan McGregor narrate something apparently makes it infinitely more enjoyable. (See #1)

It turns out these free evenings are a regular occurrence at the Planetarium. I'm not sure if we'll attend again or not. I think I'll hold out for one that's narrated by Gerard Butler.