Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother Nature'd Better Not Mess With Mom

Bookworm had an assignment this week for her Brownie troop to write a letter to the President. Each Girl Scout was supposed to think about problems in our country and how she could ask the President to help her make changes.   Now, a little background:  Bookworm was in a school group last year that encouraged recycling and picking up of trash.  We encourage this at home as well, but with four kids frequently heading in three different directions when we're out and about (the fourth kid isn't walking yet!) I have had to be sharp a few times when Bookworm or Buzz take off in parking lots to pick up water bottles or drink cans left behind by the less-environmentally-conscious.  Apparently this conflict has reached the level of requiring executive intervention, as illustrated by the first draft of her letter:

Dear Barack Obama,
You are the 44th President of the United States!
But anyway, I have a problem.
Around stores and on my school playground people are littering all over the place.
I help Mother Nature by picking it up and either recycling it or throwing it away.
But that's another problem.
Mother doesn't want me wandering around picking up trash to help Mother Nature.
She says I can't clean up after everyone.
I don't know what to do to help Mother Nature if I can't pick up trash.
(signed her full name)

So, Mr. President, now you know...the real threat to our environment isn't deforestation or rampant industrialization.  It's the vengeful Mom sparring with Mother Nature with one hand, while trying to get four kids and a cartful of groceries into the car with the other.  Choose your side carefully.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Official!

The Spotster has mastered forward motion! The baby gates are back in service! And Buzz is so excited she can hardly sit still. OK, so she generally doesn't sit still anyway, but this definitely isn't helping. And the little 'un is quite pleased with herself too.

So now I'm going through the house again, reviewing anything below two feet above ground that can't go into her mouth. Something else to do while I attempt to finish a little of the spring cleanout I started during Spring Break. I had to actually look back at the calendar to remember what I did for the two weeks since then, since it passed in such a blur. There were quite a few highlights: egg hunts at church and at Grandma and Grandpa's, our last NSO concert of the season (a marvelous Deutsch Requiem), turning 37 (for the first time), and surviving my first Blue & Gold Banquet with the Cub Scouts ("Jurassic Pack"). We did manage to clean out the garage and get a bunch of stuff given away. Now I have exactly two weeks before my mom comes to finish cleaning out the rest of the house and plant something in the front yard, which underwent a major slash-and-burn event last weekend--well, I didn't actually burn anything, but I dug out and tossed most of those nasty overgrown lion's mane grass things that could have been the inspiration for the Venomous Tentacula. As far as I know they haven't grabbed any people yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to find they've snagged a few garden tools or small animals by the time I get the last of them out. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The real reason tape recorders are obsolete

This evening while I was standing at the kitchen counter getting dinner ready, Aslan comes up to me and says, very politely: “Excuse me, Mommy, I wanna be a wion.” So I moved aside, allowing her access to the floor mat I’d been standing on. She promptly curled up in a ball and began snoring like a drunken sailor. If this is indicative of the sounds of lions in the wild, no wonder lionesses have to do all the hunting.


When I was a kid I would occasionally tape record myself talking or reading aloud. I don’t really remember why I did this, though it may have been in imitation of my dad, a communications professor who used to spend hours at home transcribing recordings of conversations with a foot-pedal Dictaphone. What I remember about my own recordings, though, was that I always thought my voice sounded really strange. I knew that it was me, but it felt like someone else was speaking my words. It was weird to hear what I sounded like to everybody else.

This sensation of having my words played back to me has returned with a vengeance since my kids learned to talk. The first time I really remember it happening was when Bookworm was about four. We’d been battling for about year over asking for things politely; we’d progressed from “I want some goldfish” to “May I have some goldfish?”, but getting her to add “please” was like trying to get my hair to hold curls on a rainy day. So we were at a family reunion watching a football game with one of Bookworm’s uncles and a few cousins, and the following exchange took place:

Uncle Keith (to Bookworm, who was snacking away on her usual): Say, can you hook a brother up with a goldfish?
Bookworm: Not if you ask like that!

We have since taken to keeping a little notebook handy in the house to jot down the priceless things they say, since I generally can’t remember them by dinnertime. This procedure is now so familiar to our kids that if my husband or I bust out laughing at something someone says, the kids immediately ask “Can we write that down?” even if they’re not sure what the joke is. There are a number of gems in this book. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that some of the most fun and fascinating things to come out of my children’s mouths are noteworthy not so much because they are funny (though plenty of them are), but because I can tell exactly where they came from. In the age of credit-card sized video cameras and digital recorders that have pretty much replaced my old push-button cassette recorder, the best playback devices in my house are the kids. Not that any of them are copies of me or their dad; they have four completely different personalities, but we can both identify particular traits that remind us of ourselves as kids, or phrases whose provenance is obvious. If you ever want to get a brutally honest assessment of your parenting style, listen sometime when your children are disciplining their dolls.

The playback effect can be particularly entertaining with Aslan, who is quite articulate for a three-year-old, but who still can’t quite manage the sounds “r” and “l.” With two big sisters acting both as models and as competition, she misses nothing and is rapidly developing her skills in reasoned argument and negotiation. But it’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes when her most earnest reflections come out sounding like those of an intellectual muppet:

I can’t have Cown Fwakes because I’m awergic to soy. But I’m not awergic to Cheewios.
Mommy, I can’t find my bwankie. Is it awwight if I bowwow (Spot’s) bwankie?

Or others, like her comment during a recent diaper change when I realized I might need to tone down my verbal frustration at her lack of interest in potty training:

Ewww. That’s extweemwy gwoss.

If her pronunciation is less than precise, there is nothing wrong with her perception, or her determination not to be misunderstood. This one from a few days ago sums it all up—I had gone upstairs upon hearing the baby wake up crying, leaving Aslan at the kitchen table with a bowl of pretzels. She came up to join us, pretzels in tow, before I’d finished changing Spot’s diaper:

Me: Hi there, did you get lonely?
Aslan: Yes, I got wost.
Me: Oh, you got wost?
Aslan: Not wost, wost! Oh, I dwopped my pwetzews.

The older ones come up with some priceless comments too, but with them the odd déjà vu sensation of hearing my own words played back tends to have more punch, often inviting me to reexamine both the wording and the attitudes that I’m modeling for them at home. On a recent occasion when Buzz asked if I knew where her favorite dress-up dress was and I didn’t, she responded with some heat, “Don’t you tell me no!” I have also attempted to break my unfortunate habit of speaking aloud my opinions of some of the less-than-considerate motorists in the metro area ever since Bookworm innocently inquired what a moron is. I sincerely hope that their flattering imitation of my expressions will continue to motivate me to improve their quality.