The Loom

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I’m late to the party. The Rainbow Loom one.

This probably comes as no surprise to those who know me. I have been known to excitedly play a song for a shotgun-riding friend in my car while thinking that I am introducing them to the greatest band of all time. Only to have them tell me that, yes, that band wrote the book on bluegrass… in, um, 1978. I have been working diligently on being more punctual and ahead of the curve (whatever that means) but I am late to this party. Better late than never.

Here is the thing. The Rainbow Loom is all the rage right now. Unlike the Xbox, swatch watches, parachute pants, silly bands and beanie babies, this one is worth an endorsement. I know we are a consumerist society and Black Friday is about to showcase our tribe at its very worst but some toys are simply worth having. Some toys encapsulate entire childhoods. This toy might very well be one of those for your kid- and without the pricetag of those others ones that require two days to update an operating systems. Please note: You do NOT have to camp in a tent outside of the Best Buy to score a Rainbow Loom.

Another reason why I can throw my endorsement behind this crafty toy? Because some of us (no names, cough…ME and cough cough probably YOU if we’re being completely honest) struggle with rationing our kids’ screen time. You know you do.

Let’s face it. When the ipad runs out of juice, all hell breaks loose.

Insert Rainbow Loom to assuage your parent guilt for allowing the late Steve Jobs’ devices to babysit your children for the past three years at the exorbitant cost of wifi connectivity and repaired gorilla glass screens. Allow the Rainbow Loom to rescue you from yelling at whoever downloaded a ten dollar app for the eighth time this month. Family rifts NO MORE!

The Rainbow Loom is NOT electronic. I repeat. It does not plug into a wall. It requires no batteries. It is ART! ART for those of us whose public schools have all but kiboshed art from the curriculum in order to buy an extra half point on math standardized scores. ART! You know that stuff that slows us down for long enough to express creativity with our own minds and hands.

On a recent flight to New York, I sat next to a mom who was juggling work and family calls left and right before take-off. I looked down at her arm and saw this.

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We bonded over the Loom art. It was the equivalent of her pulling out a wallet size pic of her kiddo to show me. See that one with a pumpkin on it? How clever. Anything that gives a parent pause to stop and brag and throw some sunshine instead of shade at parenthood can’t be a bad thing.

After all, it might be all downhill after the Rainbow Loom. Curfews broken, mystery Old Milwaukee’s Best beer stashed among your Fat Tires in back of fridge while you’re out of town , children sneaking out after midnight …. Ahhh, we will pine for the good ole days of the Loom. That much is for sure.

At a recent Pearl Jam concert, my friend noticed Eddie Vedder on stage with a rainbow loom bracelet. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the superstitious baseball players that duked it out in Boston and Saint Louis flew back and forth with a few rainbow looms in their smelly duffels. These things are gorgeous one-of-kind talismen that bring luck to the wearers and are made by the hands, fingers and fine motor skills of our very own children.

The real reason I am plugging it as my Product Pick of this month is because, like I said… abated screen time.

Unplugging is grand thing. I’ve heard.  It is also a hard thing. The Rainbow Loom makes it less painful. Actually, quite pretty.

If you’re late to the party too, don’t worry. The Loom isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. My kids are going to start a collection of their wares to sell at our upcoming yard sale. Never hurts to add a little entrepreneurial twist to the wild rumpus called childhood.

Recommended ages: 8 and up (or 5 and up with supervision)

*This monthly product review brought to you directly from our home to yours.

 

 

Wrinkle Ridge

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One thing I have noticed about parenting is that it can make you feel flat out crazy some days. I am not talking about putting-the-purse-in-the-fridge crazy OR spending-an-hour-looking-for keys-that-are-already-in-your-hand crazy. I am talking about how some days ONE MORE LOAD of laundry can make you insane in the brain because yours MUST be the only 4-person family who goes through 20 towels weekly and still smells like a baboon on bath strike.

And how am I supposed to become the adult that I am supposed to be if all that I do is laundry all the time? How am I supposed to stimulate my brain to meet its potential if I am hitting a knuckle-breaking BRICK WALL over a clothes pile? I am talking enough of a flipout session that the mom says, peace out my people, this chick is taking a two-hour hike through the woods to go find herself (and if I don’t come back, don’t come looking for me because I am probably staring at the moon and wishing I called it my zip code- maybe even howling at it). This may not sound all that unusual to you- whiny, yes, but not unusual- except for what follows the next day.

The following day is a Monday. It is quiet at the home and/or office. And since I typically work from home, I am still folding laundry. Only like I said, this time it is quiet. Too quiet. My people are at school and work. No one is begging me to watch how they’ve figured out how to give themselves a wedgie. No one is saying they can’t eat the pasta because it has a singular kernel of cracked pepper hidden in it. No one is around to wipe a booger on the wall and call it art. 

And so the very same chore that put me over the edge yesterday puts me over an ENTIRELY different edge today. North Pole meets South Pole. I am staring at the socks and noticing that it’s getting harder to tell our socks from theirs. Their feet have lost all chubbiness. I even felt a callous on my little dancer’s feet the other night. The years are taking their turn on her. My son, too.

And so, here I am, weepy with gratefulness over the fact that I am privileged enough to HAVE laundry to fold. And that these articles of clothing- stained beyond bleach capabilities and tattered in places that tell whole stories of pumpkin patches and hayrides and ball practices- are here. In my hands. And that my hands get the gift of touching them on a regular basis and filing away a memory for each beach towel or t-shirt into the shaky recesses of my mind. The same laundry that just twenty-four hours ago nearly sent me to the time-out farm. 

And so, yes, parenting makes me crazy. It makes me unreadable and moody and tired and incredibly grateful because- what better reason to be all of those things? Now please excuse me while I go shake my index finger right off of my hand at someone for leaving a freshly, rancid wet towel on the floor. And then cry about it 24 hours later because- just because.

Note: Wrinkle ridges have been observed on the surface of the Moon for over a century. I know because I stare at them sometimes too. 

Is There An Emoticon For That?

Caveat: If you don’t find humor in the sometimes phallic nature of our universe, save yourself now and read no further today.

Setting: Yesterday, on my phone in the kitchen.

The Backstory:

Two years ago, my son’s very best pal moved out-of-state. It was a tough time. He hasn’t been able to discover a similar friendship since. Frankly, I’m not sure he will… until college if they land on the same campus.

His mom and I became good friends over time. The boys often Skype with one another and send humorous video clips to and fro to stay in touch from our phones. I think that the entertainment value is just as much for us as it is for them. These two are like Curly and Mo. Actually, more like Aykroyd and Belushi.

The boys also invented a long distance game of sorts. When they are at a park, in the grocery aisles, on a family vacation (or anywhere for that matter) in their respective states, they will serendipitously discover clues that have been magically left for one another. Sometimes, it can be a directive. Example: Walk eight paces out of your front door. Turn in three full circles then drop for five push-ups. Proceed to nearest tree. Walk around perimeter of tree truck twice with one hand on tree at all times while making favorite animal noise. Stop. Clue is within sight. It is as though they have been sneaking out at night to leave one another tokens of their esteem or tokens of randomness to find in the coming days or weeks.

This (below) is a discovery from Operation ShellaCool at the beach last summer when my son was digging and found The Clue.

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Sometimes, there is no directive. It is just a nomadic stumble upon. Like, hey, check out that cool sea glass. Turner probably left that for me.

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(Above) My son’s pal is looking for a clue presumably left by my son, Turner, among the red bricks on this super cool wall a full time-zone away.

So, yesterday, I am in my kitchen deciding if my heart will get racy if I brew the third cup of coffee.

My phone buzzes. A text.

Excellent. I will procrastinate further now, I think.

I look down and see this:

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And since I couldn’t really see what the object in question was, I clicked on the image and saw this in what I can only describe as high def:

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The following exchange ensued. You can see me (below) denying any wrongdoing. Apparently, I forgot for a second that you can’t actually teleport and leave phallic clues to be found in various places across the planet.

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The sweet little guy thought the intriguing tchotchke that he found in some random place was a rocketship. And his sweet mom didn’t have the heart to tell him any different. Bless them both. We are trying to come up with a plan for facing the teacher later.

I suppose the takeaway here is that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas if you know what I mean.  Even though I know it is hard (no pun) to part ways with such sentimental artifacts, maybe it’s time to offer a collective sigh and toss some things to the landfill. I still maintain my absolute innocence here.

Oh, and about that third cup of coffee. Not even close to necessary. Turns out snarfing large quantities of air has the same effects as caffeine.

Laughter. Always the best medicine.

Oh and if this is your long lost keychain, feel free to contact me and we will do our best to get it returned to you in good condition.

Special thanks to my anonymous friend for letting me share this lively travail of parenthood.

Cray Cray For Crayola

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Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.
-Oscar Wilde-

For the past several weeks, I have been mulling over an idea. I am all mulled out. It is time to just do this thing. Leap if you will. The idea is that I am going to take two of my passions (Passion 1: toys/books/education… Portmanteau that combo however you want…Toyookation…Edubookoy, etc. + Passion 2: writing) and offer a willing audience a first-person review of something cool that I have discovered with or because of my kids.

My mama always told me that if I didn’t have something nice to say to TRY not to say anything at all. For this reason, if I am going to spend time on a write-up then it will probably only be for a product or book that knocked my socks off. I am not in the business of peeing on parades (except for today which is National Pirate Talking Day when it should really be called National Stay In Your Pajamas Because Sure They’re Hot-as-in-Hawt Day).

I am aiming to do this feature monthly. Unless people decide that they like it and WANT the info rather than just nodding out of sheer Southern politeness as we are all apt to do. If it is helpful, then I will do it more often. I eat, sleep and breathe kid books these days. I could write about a children’s book everyday for the rest of my life and die a happy woman.

This week, I am going to sing the praises of a Crayola toy that my children recently bought with $25 of their saved allowance. I ended up paying for half because they justified it as educational. And it is.

The thing is… we don’t have enough art in schools these days. Not even by a longshot. I am not pointing fingers because I honestly don’t even know who the art curricula thieves are? My guess is that it is someone who does not work in schools everyday. If I knew who the art rationing heathen were, I would’ve already done some really bad graffiti on their driveway saying something to the effect of This could’ve been so much prettier if I’d just had art every other day.

This is the Crayola Marker Maker Lab.

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Here we have science, art and by virtue of drawing and writing and THINKING… a pretty fab cross-curricular investment.

As you can see, if you become the owner of your own marker lab, you will be able to mix and NAME your own colors. Do you know how often I have wanted to be the one who gets to name the newest Opi nail polish or the next Hurricane of the season (there are some people asking for that one…they are the people stealing art from schools).

My kids are loving this gadget. They have made their first few markers. As a serious children’s art collector, I am excited that I get to see not only what they draw but the colors that they mix and how they use them to create.

I love that the kids feel like little scientists as they are mixing the inks in tubes. I love that they are given the power of choice in naming the colors. See ours…an Ode to the new favorite song, Royals, ’round here.

Most of all, I love that they are excited. They are excited to create. They are excited for a new blank piece of paper. They were so giddy that they wanted to skip reading the directions.

The age recommendation as you may have noticed is 8+. I’m going to say that’s about right. Unless you have a Xanax handy, I probably wouldn’t even co-pilot this one before age 6.

Like my dad has always said, there are two ways to skin a cat. No idea why anyone would want to do that even once BUT…

If we can’t have art everyday (or even every week) at school, we can have it at home. Any day that ends in Y.

Two thumbs up on this one.

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Wands – I mean- MARKERS up.

On Target

TargetMy husband and I managed to sneak away for three days of vacation recently. Without kids. If you have kids, you understand sneaking out of town WITHOUT them is like tiptoeing past a sleeping insomniac dragon. Until you are at least three zip codes away, you risk the chance of being caught and clawed homeward.

It’s always interesting when you approach a family member to watch your kids overnight. It’s like they have a sixth sense about what you are going to ask. You can see their eyes dart sideways and they fidget. They start backing away slowly, scheduling appendectomies, lasik surgeries and booking 24-hour bingo tournaments or some such obligation.

I kid. Grandparents love to take kids overnight… if the biological parents are present too.  I practically skipped to the airport for the three-day respite with the guy who made me a mom in the first place. The guy with whom I am sometimes (read: often) a passing ship in the night. The guy with whom I used to sip beers as often as I now sip green tea. Even though I was just tagging along with my husband for a work obligation, I was pumped. This could’ve been  a trip to a three-day sleep study hooked up to apnea machines for all I cared. Sleeping in and having an uninterrupted conversation over coffee that isn’t six hours old? Sign me up.

On this vacation, we were returning to Denver- the stomping grounds where we first met many years ago. He asked me on our first date for a Valentine’s Day. I don’t think he meant to do that. He just said ‘next Saturday’ and that Saturday turned out to be February 14, 1999. Talk about high stakes. He probably thought WTH have I gotten myself into? The anxiety turned out to be nothing that two bottles of white wine couldn’t remedy.

So on our little hiatus from real life recently, my husband bought a lovely heather grey women’s shirt at Target. For himself. By accident. This is what happens when men rush through Target. This is what happens when they refuse to embrace the insane magnitude of zen and comfort that Target has to offer. This is what happens when a man beelines for a clearance rack and then starts toe tapping at the register impatiently so his wife will hurry up with the browsing already.

When I finally found Matt at Target, he had the look. That are-we-done-here look. We had been there twenty minutes max. Do you understand what 20 minutes at Target feels like? It feels like nothing. Because it is nothing. If 20 minutes at Target happened to be an earthquake, it wouldn’t even register on the Richter Scale. In fact, it might reverse and fix previous earthquakes on the Richter Scale.

After the spouse unknowingly grabbed the circulation-cutting shirt for himself off of the sale rack in a rush, he had to wear it to the very populated gym on our workout ‘date’. Because going back to Target to exchange it was deemed more painful than the embarrassment of sweating up a storm in shirt that looks like this:

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If armpits can lose circulation, it appeared as though his might at any given moment that day. For the first time in my life, I actually walked well behind him and stayed several treadmills away to take in the sight (aka laugh my a– off).

I’m not saying there’s a single thing wrong with my husband wearing women’s clothes. I actually thought it was pretty adorable… and very conducive to showcasing his toned arm(pits).

But there is a takeaway lesson here. It is: Do not rush a woman through a store. Especially on vacation. Or better yet, learn to embrace her passions (namely Target) and she will work with you (as opposed to against you) during college football season in the same loving manner.

Quid pro quo, guys. Quid. Pro. Quo. Yes, I know where the remote control is. No, I will not tell you. Not until we go to Target without the kids. Together. One more time. And the Broncos play the Ravens in a season opener tonight so…

Tick- tock.

Truth and love,

Wives everywhere.

A Book That I Judged By Its Cover

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Once in a blue moon, if you’re a lucky reader (is there any other kind?), an author will come along and grab you by the metaphorical shoulders and shake you back to life from a slumber that you didn’t even know you were taking.

I am going to make a reader confession here. The first thing that drew me to Cheryl Strayed’s memoir at the Nashville airport was that hiking boot on the stark white front. I judged that book by its cover. I had also heard through the grapevine that Oprah had resurrected her Book Club recently. I had no idea that it was because of this memoir. I understand now why the queen of book fellowship chose this one.

Cheryl Strayed writes with ferocity.  Her honesty may shock and appall you.  You’ll have to choose to get over it.  Strayed is a novelist– an artist.  Her story invites you to experience her narrative in the same way that you might appreciate the work of a favorite band or painter.  You will not agree with her choices and her rash bouts of self-destruction after the sudden death of her mother. Still, she allows you to contemplate to her whole story.  The toil, tears, and self-loathing lead to a harsh, steep climb towards self-discovery.

The hard part for Strayed is that Wild has to be honest.  It’s a memoir.  It’s a phenomenal story of rebirth that requires background.  If the first fifty pages of the book were focused on her training regimen to tackle the peaks and valleys of the Pacific Crest Trail, the book would be 95% less interesting.  Strayed bravely puts it all out there.  She explains her sadness and her failures with pure truth.  Sentences will make you cringe.  You will be embarrassed for her.  You will be disappointed by her thoughts and her choices. 

Soon after, you will be proud of her.  How could she overcome the challenges that she faced? She fed off of them.  They somehow made her stronger rather than landing her in jail or in the mortuary. 

Wild takes the reader from death to rebirth and eventual growth.  Strayed explains the death of her mother with confounding honesty.  She reveals actions and feelings that she certainly does not take pride in.  Importantly, she tells the whole story.  Because she is so honest, we connect with her.  We want success and happiness for her in the end.  We want the trail to get easier.  We want the backpack that she has lovingly named Monster to see her through to the end- to that bridge in a new city called Portland- where she will make herself a new home, start a family and sit down to write the very words that become this memoir.

Strayed carried heavy baggage emotionally and physically for the duration of her hike.  By the end of this brave memoir, the load was still heavy, but she was comfortable carrying it. Most importantly, she takes a journey that delivers her from lost to found.

Wild has recently been released in paperback.

To see other authors whose books and talks might just change you as a person (for the better), check out:

http://nashvillepubliclibrary.org/salonat615/

http://www.dnj.com/article/20130512/LIFESTYLE/305120032

The Talk

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I wish that I had a justifiable reason for the blog hiatus. I don’t. Actually, I do but it’s a lame one. My previous blog platform sold out to Twitter. Last month, they sent everyone a terse eviction notice.

In a nutshell: You have until the end of April to move your blog out or you will disappear into thin air as though you never existed.

…or something to that effect. Here we are now at WordPress, where I have two left feet but am going to write on anyway.

What’s new in this corner, you ask?

Perhaps, most paramount – we had the TALK with our daughter. I’m still by far the one most traumatized from it and it has been several weeks now. I am just now lucid and zen enough to talk about how it went down.

I had envisioned this conversation for a couple of years now. I thought that I still had a couple of more years to solidify a plan for the talk with my daughter. I was wrong. Just as your projected baby due date is ultimately determined by your child- so shall be the estimated time of arrival for the talk. This will most likely not happen on your terms. Don’t shoot the messenger.

I have vague memories of this milestone with my mom. I was ten years old and lived in Nashville. I know that we were at some Bojangle’s chicken restaurant. I know that it was daytime- or else I would’ve run into the night to disappear into hiding. I know that I did NOT initiate the conversation. My mother did. I also know that I told her that I already knew absolutely everything that I NEEDED to know and, therefore, the talk itself would be unnecessary.

I did not know that claiming to already be in possession of this knowledge would result in her asking me to regurgitate everything I knew- step by step- in order to fact check it so that I did not proceed to live the rest of my life with false information about the procreation process.  I don’t know what prompted the talk from my mom.  I wonder if she was shocked by my knowledge, or relieved by my lack of it.  She probably knew that I understood just enough to be dangerous, so it was time to set the record straight”ish” with a cliff notes version of birds and bees.    

I understand where she was coming from now. 29 years later.

First of all, I am thrilled that my child feels comfortable enough to ask questions. That is a relief in some ways. We were on the couch. She was sitting between us. She blurted it out in a matter-of-factly as a post-script to some otherwise mundane conversation:

So my dance costume needs alterations on the shoulder straps.

(pauses)

What is sex?

She punctuated the sentence with a look left straight at me. Getting no response, she redirected the gaze the other direction- right at her dad.

Same reception. <Insert chirping crickets>

Then back at me again.

I immediately locked eyes over the top of her head with Matt. I was trying to decipher if we were really going to go there… now? I remember thinking this could be one of those significant moments in which I could scare her out of ever fully trusting a man or straight into all of the wrong ones’ arms. I also remember thinking some wildly inappropriate thought about how Matt and I would never be behind closed doors again together innocently in her eyes …even to shower. Separately.

I squinted. He raised an eyebrow. My eyelid twitched (and didn’t stop for hours).

It was clear. We were going there. Fully.

Rule #1 (the only rule in this series): If your kid goes all preemptive on you and initiates this conversation before you have the chance to do so…ALWAYS, BUT ALWAYS frame your answer as a QUESTION. It is simple. It goes like this. Practice with me now.

Well, honey, what do YOU think IT is?

Again.

Practice.

Kid: What is sex?

Parent: Well, what do you think it is?

Boy, did I drop the ball on that one. I am telling you all of this to save you. Answer the question WITH a question. Do not, I repeat do not, launch into the answer. You need to know what level of comprehension you are working with before you start in with the diagrams on notebook paper, ok?  (For the record, I didn’t do any diagrams)

 After all, I didn’t want to do what one of my dearest friends had just done during a moment of panic with her twin daughters. That is, blurt out the name JESUS at various octaves as your answer. Then shout It’s JESUS! Jesus makes the babies start in the belly.

 Because while that may be true in a larger sense depending on your belief system, my daughter already seemed to grasp that anatomy was involved in the answer. The last thing I wanted her to believe was that her mom had sex with Jesus. What kind of woman would that make me?

You know the degree of nervousness that leads to a blotchy memory? The rest of the conversation went that way for me. For the most part, we seemed to be confirming what she already knew and believed. She did ask for details.  The toughest one was “But, how …”  She wanted to know exactly how it worked. We answered all of her probing questions honestly if reluctantly.  She had age-appropriate questions, which was a relief.  If she had asked some pro questions, we would probably be in therapy. 

After about twenty minutes and a couple of trips to the laundry room to feign load maintenance (whilst really breathing into a paper bag), I decided that the next logical step would be purchasing an age appropriate book.

This, too, is a critical step. The wrong book and illustrations can really be the catalyst for trauma. Not joking. I wish I were. The one I was given still haunts me. There are more than several to choose from these days. I am sharing the one that I decided upon after hours of scouring cyberspace and bookshelves at Barnes & Noble. The illustrations are considerate. The text is straightforward. The author seemed to read our spousal minds about how much we wanted to reveal during this first go round. It should buy us at least a few years of sustained silent reading.

It covers all the bases. Literally.

Godspeed, you deliverers of birds and bees.

You can thank me later. Or just share my blog with a friend?

The Book
The Book

 

 

Thrown By The Throne

 

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Caveat: I am not sugarcoating this one.

Dear Grammy Chair Assignment Maker,

I keep doing the whole FACE>PALM thing over this Rihanna and Chris Brown snuggle fest on the Grammys last night. Mostly because I wonder why the hell I care? And then I got my answer.

Answer 1: I have a daughter.

Answer 2: She loves music.

The end.

Not quite but I wish.

The truth of the matter is that I really don’t care what a star does or doesn’t do with her ex who left her beaten and unrecognizable in a car just four years ago on the very same night. The truth of the matter is that I don’t really care what kind of black doily the stars do or don’t wear on their derriere on stage. I really don’t. That’s their right to artistic expression. Don’t like it? Don’t watch.

I get it. But the gyrating and suggestive moves are the least of my worries. I mean I would actually like a lesson from Beyonce after she steps off the bus from this next tour, people. A Mrs. Carter/ Mrs. Bevins tutorial. Maybe then will she be tired enough that I can keep up. 

But when I tune in to watch music’s biggest night and have to see a convicted, violent felon sitting on the front row IN FRONT OF the rest of the law-abiding citizens (aside from the Red Bull they snort but whatever), this is a problem.

I comb Chris Brown’s body language every time I get an accidental chance for some smidge of remorse on his part.  I can’t find it. I have looked! I really have. The guy is an insufferable douchebag. Period. Just a few months ago, he had to (I’m assuming at his publicist’s demands) shut down his Twitter account because he tweeted to comedian, Jenny Johnson, that he would like to (I paraphrase) defecate in her eye, “you ho”. Nice.

Never mind the other countless incidences like the punch fest in the studio parking lot last week. Is that why he didn’t have the common decency to stand when Frank Ocean took the stage to accept the award in his category? And who nominated him in the first place? I don’t care if Michael Jackson last will and testamented his blood  to the guy. Or if Charlie Sheen loaned him some of the tiger kind. Whatever. Get. Him. Out. Of. Here.

My daughter loves music. She can read. She wants to know why someone would go back to a person that hurt them. I can’t answer that question to her liking or to mine. And frankly, it is none of my business. Until you put them in the front row.

Shannon

Mom, Music Lover, Open Minded and Still Stymied

Lockdown

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I try not to make promises to my kids that I can’t keep. I screw up plenty of other things about parenting so keeping a promise is one thing that seems to be within my control. When my 4th grade daughter recently asked me if I could promise her that she will be safe at school, I stalled. Tried to mute my nerved up gulp- in vain.

 

I lied to my kid.

 

I said yes. Made an empty promise that I cannot keep. I added just a little bit more collateral damage to the post-tragedy flotsam that’s always adrift in the wake of a storm. I doubt that I am alone. Parents are probably lying straight-faced to their kids left and right these days because there is NO way that some of us can send a scared child to school everyday to learn and have fun. Fear isn’t exactly conducive to a learning environment, you know?

 

Admit it. The first time you went to a movie after the Aurora shooting, you cut a glance briefly to the side door once inside the theater. You scoped out the nearest emergency exit a little more closely instead of wondering if the butter calories were worth it on the popcorn. Maybe nabbed a seat closer to the aisle than you ordinarily would.

 

The truth? I have no idea if my kids are safe at school. I only know that the every single adult in that building is doing her very best to make it so– just like the adults at Sandy Hook Elementary last December had been doing until suddenly their best wasn’t good enough anymore. So to answer my daughter’s question truthfully to the universe? No. I can’t promise you’re safe. Not today. Not tomorrow. And most likely not the day after that.

 

The truth of the matter is that I can’t promise the bus ride home will be safe either. Buses are a bully’s venue of choice these days. The equivalent of a drunken bar just waiting for a brawl to spring into action. Come to think of it, I can’t promise that the bumper cars at the state fair are safe. I can’t promise that the storm warnings are always embellished. I mean really, if you can conjure it, it can happen. The earth could conceivably open up in a pissed off yawn and swallow us all whole right now. Possibly.

 

But here is one thing I can promise you. If we don’t do something differently soon, nothing will change. Insanity (n): doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

 

When I was little, I fell out of a ceiling loft and landed hard. Hard enough to knock the breath out of myself and learn the weird truth that seeing stars isn’t all hyperbole. My mom sprinted upstairs to check on the origin of the thud that shook the house.

 

I had broken no bones but definitely the cardinal rule of climbing navigation in general. I tried to navigate the ladder rungs facing out. You’re supposed to face in- with your nose to the ladder itself, one-stepping your way back to the floor with both hands white-knuckled to the railings. That would be the safe route. That would be the route of a cautious child. But it felt much more Evel Knievelish facing out.

 

When my mom found me in a heap, the tears were still stunned into submission. All she saw was a twisted torso and a gape-mouthed kid in pain. Verdict: seriously bruised coccyx bone. I walked funny for days. And I never went down the ladder facing forward again. Not even to this day.

 

I still have an occasional flare from that fall decades ago. A pinched nerve. A metal chair for too long might send an electrical current up my spine out of the blue. A pair of vertebrae that easily tangle up on something as innocent as a sneeze.

 

I didn’t listen. I got hurt. It scared me. I changed my approach. I’ve been safe on ladders ever since. But a few vertebrae still sting to this day. My mom could’ve reamed me that day. Or reamed the ladder company for no reason. Maybe called me insolent and sent me to my room. I mean, after all, I was warned that I might get hurt if I failed to climb carefully. But she did not. And it wouldn’t have helped. In fact, I might have mistaken that type of reaction for lack of caring. For being totally insensitive to the plight of the wounded. The manner in which we are debating guns is making it so difficult for to assume goodwill. One person wishes the NRA president to rot in hell yesterday. The next is shoving a gun into the hands of a teacher who stands at a chalkboard in front of 20 kids who are still learning to tie their shoelaces.

 

All of this argument about more guns versus less guns these days? All of this shouting about how to be safer? All of this knee-jerk commentary about where the power shifts should be? All of these internet memes trying to categorically wrap every bit of a horrific tragedy that still feels like yesterday into some neat caricatured package? All this talk of whether automatic weapons were used on December 14th or not? Who cares what kind of gun was used? 20 children and six adults are dead in the one place that was supposed to be able to keep them safe. At this point, I don’t care what we do differently. I just care that we do something.

 

The tug-of-war among NRA supporters and bashers, pheasant hunters, angry parents, and stymied psychologists does not seem to be helping anyone get closer to a solution. Hurled words in the wake of a school shooting (no matter what side you stand on) are no different than berating the child who just fell from the loft. It is like choosing to hurl expletives over AND at the heads of the hurting who lie in a heap on the ground.

 

Words and adults obviously failed the Newtown shooter. The longer we wait to do better, the more complicit some of us feel in a tragedy like this. The least we can do is find kind words to navigate a kind discussion in the wake of Sandy Hook. At the very least. Pick someone up. There are plenty still on the ground. Debate guns without shouts. It’s time to put the camouflage, memes and lip service away.

 

Otherwise, we are just descending the ladder facing out. 

 

Note: I made the mistake of leaving this blog open on my laptop as I was writing it. My daughter sat blissfully down at the computer to pull up a You Tube on how to do a waterfall braid last night. Then unbeknownst to me, she read the first two paragraphs. I heard her call my name from where I was doing dishes in the kitchen. I replied with the usual, “Just a minute. I’ll be right there.” Pretty quickly, I sensed the urgency though. Half mad, half scared. She pointed to the part where I admit to lying to her.

 

Flashback to late December 2012: We are in the grocery store check out line. There is a People magazine cover that is impossible to miss. Impossible to run a parent screen. My daughter looks at me and says, “Wait. All of those kids died at school?”

 

And that is where this piece really began….

I am not sure where it will end.