26 August 2008

Just In Case You Are In an Accident

With apologies to Cat Stevens, the Alatorre boys have reworked a classic song. Can you find the twist?

Now that I've lost everything to you
You say you want to start something new
And it's breaking my heart, you're leaving
Baby, I'm grieving
If you want to leave, take good care
Hope you find a lot of nice underwear
Then a lot of nice things turn bad out there.

School-aged boys sure now how to crack themselves up.

14 August 2008

What Are We Protecting Them From?

I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the word "appropriate."

My kids know this word way too well, and the world for them is becoming divided into THINGS THAT ARE APPROPRIATE and THINGS THAT ARE INAPPROPRIATE. I'm getting more than a little suspicious that the modern urge to protect children from becoming monsters is leaving them little room for freedom and discovery.

We don't want them to witness violence, of course, so we don't let them see violent movies. Ok, wise enough. But when my son comes to me with a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson and says "Mom, I know you don't really want me to read this because it's not appropriate for my age. There's too much violence in it," then I say UNCLE.

Chalk one up for the over-protectionists! My son is staying away from a great adventure story because we and the culture around him have made him hypervigilant about what's appropriate...

He's mere weeks away from being 10 years old, and he's burdened with the great APPROPRIATENESS FILTER.




It's kind of like that line in Finding Nemo, when Dory says to Marlin "You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo." We can't protect them from all things negative without protecting them for the richness and fullness of a life lived with energy, curiosity, and imagination.

Granted, the kid in question is one who wants to know the categories of things, and not all of my children need these kinds of sign posts. But yikes! We have succeeded in protecting him against a fantastic adventure story.

A few months ago, a woman in New York made headlines for letting her son (I think he was around 8?) ride the subway home from downtown Manhattan. I've posted about her story, and about the article she wrote on the topic. One of the ideas she puts forth has been rattling around in my head for the past few months: the bad stuff we want to protect our kids from is NOT lurking around every corner...the kid-snatcher is more than likely NOT going to pounce if I let the kid get something out of the car while I'm in the grocery store. Letting a 9 year old do something independent will probably not end in tragedy. And the price we pay for behaving as if all of these terrible things are more than likely to happen is high -- too high, I think.

I am super protective of what my kids see on TV and in movies, more so than many of my peers. But that's as much if not more about aesthetics as it is about protecting them. I can't stand those mindless Disney shows because they seem so darn STOOPID. I'd much rather have them enjoy great stories and entertainment that doesn't just seep with bland, boring, predictable, stereotypical gags and characters, that is utterly lacking in real imagination, that seems to exist only to sell the products featured in the commercials.

I almost don't care what violence they are exposed to, if it comes with a great adventure story where the good guys prevail and we can talk about anything that worries them. It's the gratuitous stuff that's the problem, of course, but the Approriate Police are making this all seem entirely more black and white than anything real actually is.

Because when Marlin finally let Nemo go for it, Nemo saved an entire school of fish, and when my kid gets to walk home by himself, he feels and is stronger for it. When he can imagine adventures without worrying about their appropriateness, his unfettered imagination can take him anywhere. Which is exactly where I want him to be able to go.

13 August 2008

And Now, A Few Words from My Family

Little sister to big brother: “You scream like a little girl.”

Oldest son, watching women’s gymnastics: “It must be hard to run with breasts.”

Artist son, gazing thoughtfully out the front window: “It’s very beautiful outside…the way the light is coming through the trees.”
3 year old, with disdain: “It’s just the sun.”

Unsympathetic offspring to mom: “You’re not very exciting when you’re sick.”

Oldest son, after a dance party featuring The Stray Cats: “What does ‘Looking better every beer' mean?” There is just no good way to answer that question when speaking to a nine-year old. Except of course for the one I provided: Ask your father.

And speaking of artist son, here for your enjoyment, I present his latest masterpiece. He drew this for his 3-year old cousin. Well, not really for him, since he didn’t want to part with it after he drew it, but he did draw this the way his cousin wanted. “You want me to draw you a bridge? Ok, here’s a bridge. You want a whale in it? Ok, here’s a whale. You want a lobster? Ok, here’s a lobster.”

Nothing profound tonight, just every day offerings from family life. How lucky am I?

10 August 2008

I'll Be Your Groupie

I'm sicker than a dog. But I have a new band that I am going to follow forever, so why not start right now?

My almost 10-yr. old just called me into his room to show me the picture he drew of his band. He's in the middle, heavily tattooed, playing guitar. He's got Brian Setzer on his right, playing bass, and Paul McCartney on his left, on drums. (Sorry Ringo!)

I'd follow that band to the ends of the earth, even in a head-cold fog.

Good thing the band is still in rehearsal mode, because I must sleep now...

07 August 2008

Memories of My Crazy Pregnant Lady Days

I was driving the kids to their various stashing spots today, and as I pulled onto the freeway and went about merging into traffic, I noticed a motorcyclist sitting on the side of the freeway, half leaning against the concrete guard rail, looking a bit rattled. About 15 feet away from him, his motorcycle was also resting against the guard rail, standing upright on its back wheel, with the front wheel up and over the concrete.

He reminded me of something, because I have seen this man, and his motorcycle, once before.

Almost four years ago, on October 6, 2004, I was driving my first born to Kindergarten, with his little brother and little sister along for the ride. I am 100% sure of the date, because I was exactly nine months pregnant. It was my due date, although the intrepid Elizabeth would make us all wait another week before arriving in all her glory. But on this day, I was driving down Carlson towards the school, and I witnessed an accident between a car and a motorcyclist. Yup, that's right, same guy!

You might wonder how I can be so sure. Well, I am this sure because I circled back to see if the motorcyclist was OK. I was certain someone else would stop to help. As it turns out, no one, not even the car who had hit him, stopped. There he was, lying in the middle of the street, with cars passing him by, slowing down enough to rubber-neck at him, but declining to pull over and help.

So I pulled over, and hauled my 9-month pregnant frame out into the middle of the intersection, and asked him if he was OK. He was dazed and confused, to say the least. Why else would he, all approximately 6' 3" of him, put his hand up to a 5' 4" pregnant lady, and ask for a hand up? The next logical question is, why did I comply? He damn near pulled me over on top of him, and then required my assistance to manuever over to the curb and sit down. Picture me, belly out to here, (imagine my hand several feet in front of me for the 'here'), offering my shoulder to this poor guy as he hobbled across the street.

Essentially, he was OK. Just very shaken up.

Eventually, someone else arrived and helped call 911. I excused myself and took Samuel on to school. On the way home, I drove by to see if he was still there, and he indeed was, now with a police officer who was taking a report. Again, I pulled over and checked in with Mr. Motorcycle Guy. You should have seen the officer's face when he heard that I was the passerby who stopped to help. He wouldn't even allow me to stand on the street, because of my 'condition.' He said something like, "On your due date, all you should be doing is lying down and having people bring you stuff to eat! Not out here hoisting grown men out of the street!" Bless him.

Anyway, I had forgotten all about that day, until this morning when I saw Mr. Motorcycle Guy, again looking dazed and confused. I'd recognize that yellow leather jacket anywhere, as it was plastered to my cheek for the time it took to steer him to the curb four years ago. Same jacket, same shock of whitish hair, same large, gangly frame.

I don't know why I stopped to help that day, or why I didn't take my unborn child into consideration. Maybe that's why she's so extroverted: my reaching out to this guy right before her emergence imprinted her with a "reach out and touch someone" kind of personality. She's definitely got that. I just hope that someday, when she's 9-months pregnant with my grandchild, she'll show more prudence than I did that day. Get the hell out of the road, crazy pregnant lady!

And This Was a GOOD Day

"Yogurt is not a finger food!" Had to say that one twice. To two different people.

"Do not swing on the freezer door!" Had to say that one five times. To the same person.

By 11:30, two kids had already showered...their first of two showers by days end. That happens when you dig holes in the garden for approximately five hours. Which they did, and they have the sunburned faces to prove it.

But the biggest happening of the days was the one in which I caught a kid in a lie. I basically told him that I did not believe something he said, and then endured a good twenty minutes of intense and well-executed indignation. Just as I was starting to doubt that gut level instinct that told me he was fibbing, I took him gently by the shoulders and said:

"Honey, if you were telling me the truth, then all you need to do is look me in the eye and tell me that. And if you do that, then I will apologize, because it was entirely wrong of me to accuse you of lying."

His teary eye-contact avoidant response? "I can't, because I was lying. But it really hurt my feelings that you didn't believe me."

I breathed a sigh of relief. What an awful thing it would have been if he had been telling the truth and my gut had steered me so wrong. I wasn't happy that he had lied, but I was thrilled that my instinct had been right on target. Chalk one up for mom!

03 August 2008

Advantages to Little Sisters and Fresh Air

One of the best things about having a little baby sister is that she is a captive audience and a pliable plaything. Witness one dressed up baby girl, courtesy of her very proud big brother. Lady Guinevere in a grass skirt!

In other news, our very good friends have returned from their one-year sojourn to Nicaragua: Welcome Home! We had a lovely time seeing them today. A particular highlight was watching our two six-year old girls reunite. I took their two girls and my five kids on a two hour walk through Wild Cat Canyon today, (which, by the way, is easier than taking just my five out) and the 6-year olds held hands the entire time. They tried to wear the binoculars at the same time, but wound up conking heads pretty good, so that idea got nixed. After spending the morning together over coffee cake, after hiking the canyon, there were still tears when the day came to an end and they had to part ways. "We didn't even get to play!"

I forgot my camera (grrrrr!), so I could not capture the day, but it pretty much entailed me getting all gooshy and gooey over how fantastic these seven kids are. Watching seven heads bent over a lizard and shushing one another so the lizard wouldn't run away. Watching the two 9-year olds walking with the 1-year old between them, holding her hands and keeping her safe. Watching the 3-year old rip her shirt off at every opportunity "because I'm so COLD!" (she's a little confused about the temperature words...)

All of it was delightful.

I recommend fresh air for children. Or maybe more so for parents. If it hadn't been for the fresh air, I think I would have ended the day with fewer children than I started with.