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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bark Toys, Anyone?

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Discipline Should Not Be This Hard (Kitten or Child)

Eyes ablaze with passion, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, they bound into the house.

“So Mom, we found a bunch of bark in Bobby’s* back yard, and we put it in water and it got really soft, and so then we made some toys out of it. We’re going to sell it, and we wanted to make some posters and flyers to put up and to give people, OK?”

Ummmm…..you made toys out of wet bark, and now you want to approach and/or flag down strangers to sell them? No. No, you cannot do that. Eyes dim at this less-than-enthusiastic response. I make a pitiful attempt to recognize their creativity, I suggest that they create other items and trade them with each other. But that’s not fun. You know what? I am a big fan of being a mean parent, and being consistent, and not caving in. But sometimes it sucks.

Ugh. I’m sure I’ll find out later today that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both began their careers making things out of stuff (and you know I’m using polite grammar here) in the backyard and selling it, but no, sweet boys, no.

I cannot tell you explicitly why you cannot approach strangers without an adult to sell them wet bark things. I can only hint at how annoyed total strangers might be to be flagged over by children, who are selling….things….made out of wet bark.

How they do not remember this lesson from the time they scrounged broken McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, made a poster and tried to sell them to passersby, yelling and waving at each car? How do they not remember the long conversation we had about how that wasn’t safe? And how by the way, here is supply and demand, and if you don’t want it no one else wants it and you can’t write “Garage Sale” on your sign if you have three tiny broken toys in a bucket?

Luckily, there is not much traffic on our street. But if you happen to be cruising through, just keep going, OK?

*Generic Anonymous Kid Name

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On a related note, sort of, I am also having to enforce hard-core kitten parenting today. One of the three kittens we adopted (I KNOW,  I KNOW, WHAT WAS  I THINKING?) is not being very well-behaved when it comes to her litter box, and two separate vets have recommended that we segregate her and limit her to a very small space. The theory being that cats do not want to play and eat where they …. um….mess, so she’ll figure out where to do her business. So since last night, she’s been quarantined in a small bathroom, and she’s miserable.

I keep telling myself that this is for her own good, that we can’t keep a kitten who goes wherever she feels like it, so I have to be tough and help her learn. But she’s freaking out, and I’m going insane with the constant meowing, and I’m thrust back to those early baby days when you just want them to sleep through the night and all of the expert advice conflicts.

How long will this take? How will I know when she knows? Why is this so hard?

I did NOT want to become obsessed with another creature’s bowel movements, and yet here we are. Sigh.

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Are Air Mattresses Evil?

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It’s time for another the first blogisode of Q & A with TTTM! Today’s theme is Camping with Kids. Enjoy.

Hello, lovely Friends from the Interwebs! I spent the day cleaning up after our family’s third camping trip of the summer – it is a Summer Camping Spectacular around here for sure. While I was cleaning up, I was also mentally answering a few of the many (completely fictional) questions that you, my dear readers (hopefully not fictional), have sent in about camping with your family.  This information has been finely honed over years of camping with my kids and my husband, and I hope it encourages you in your own family camping adventures. Let’s begin, shall we?

Question: How do you manage your kid’s electronic screen time on camping trips? Do you bring a portable DVD player AND the Nintendo DS, and what type of generator do you use for the XBox and/or Playstation and the TV?

TTTM Answers: Sticks. And pinecones. Rocks, weird tree moss, and bugs. Also plastic army men. That is what my kids play with when we are camping, quite happily, in a way they never would at home. If they need a break, they can read a book.  This last weekend there were also a lot of card games. A LOT.

I am not going to lie, however, Interweb Friends. They do bring their DS’s, and they are allowed to play them In the Morning Before Mommy is Awake IF THEY ARE QUIET. Because Mommy needs her sleep, so they MUST BE QUIET. But that is it, without exception.

So, mostly sticks. No generators.

Question: TTTM, please help me, I think my marriage is in trouble. My husband and I have had some of the most viciously whispered, middle of the night fights of our marriage on our recent camping trips, and I don’t know what to do. It seems that every air mattress we buy springs a leak within two nights of first using it, no matter how careful we are. So while we may go to sleep initially in seductive, air-cushioned comfort, I inevitably wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning on the cold, hard, rocky ground. And every time my husband moves, I move. And then the pump breaks, or the pump batteries die, and then I’m elbowing him at 4 a.m. demanding that he wake UP NOW and BLOW UP THIS MATTRESS, cause MOMMY NEEDS HER SLEEP.

TTTM Answers: My, my, what a coincidence that you and I share similar sleep, um, needs. Anyhoo, here’s the deal, and I’m gonna call it like I see it. Air mattresses may be of the Devil. The signs are all there – seductive promises that are broken, injury and heartbreak, relational discord. I’m just sayin’.

We have had the same experience, they just don’t stay inflated. Once, we had a brand new air mattress, and in our overconfidence that it would last the measly two nights of our trip, we only brought the air pump that plugged into the car lighter power thingy. Which meant that at 3 a.m., when I could no longer stand it, my husband and I were dragging it out of the tent, over the sleeping children to the car to re-inflate. What we said to each other in those moments, I will tell you, they were not Spirit-filled words of encouragement, or of building up, or love.

Our last experience with The Deceiver That Is An Air Mattress led us to put them behind us, and lo, we invested in two self-inflating sleeping pads from REI. Our experience with these new options over our recent three-night trip has led me to a time of increased hope for my own marriage, and perhaps yours. While they are not as comfy as a newly inflated air mattress, I now recognize those unpure thoughts for what they are, and with a possible dose of Ibuprofen and some individual adjustments, they were just great. And there was no stress about how soon they would need re-inflated, or when I’d have to elbow my sweet honey. And no vicious whispers. None. Just peace, my friend, and that is what I wish for you. Step away from the air mattress.

Question: Do you have any cleaning tips, or special home remedies or potions for the socks my kids wear camping? Because after a full day of dirt, creek splashing, campfires and sweat, they just reek. What can I do?

TTTM Answers: Burn them. Throw them in the campfire and burn them. There is no other solution. Thank you for your question.

Question: Don’t you feel a little bit guilty or silly  about the time and money you spend to pretend you are homeless, to recreate a temporary home in the woods with a wholly separate set of bedding, shelter, cooking utensils, etc., when in fact so many of God’s children live in squalor that doesn’t even approach the comfort you experience when you are “roughing it”? What kind of example are you setting for your children?

TTTM Answers: Oy, that one kinda hurts. Especially after purchasing the kinda spendy sleeping pads, I did wrestle with that, I did. But here’s where I came out.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again –  when my family goes camping, we are frequently our best selves. My kids entertain themselves with sticks, and share, and they take turns (relatively helpfully) on dish duty. This weekend, you couldn’t beat my 5 year old away from the wash basin. No easy-peasy drying for him, oh, no.

My husband played endless rounds of a Boy Scout card game that involved not knowing the rules. And then making up new rules. To know my logical, strategically oriented husband would be to understand how deeply, deeply difficult this was for him. And my boys had glorious uninterrupted daddy time the whole time.

This summer, we’ve learned a lot about huckleberry picking, and desert weather patterns, and what types of objects burn fastest in the campfire and why we can’t set the end of a stick on fire and then swing it like a sword. We tried out a pie iron and caught crawdads and waded in a creek and found out that traditional unflavored marshmallows really are best for S’mores.

And my boys carried heavy water jugs from the pump hundreds of feet away, and next time we talk about our World Vision sponsor kids without any running water, I can remind them of that. And when we talk about conservation, and they learn about the environment, I hope they’ll remember the creeks, and the berries and the waterfalls and the bugs. And next time my husband or I don’t have time to play a game because we have to answer one more email or check one last thing online, I hope they have memories of S’mores and card games to carry them through.

So, no, I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s one of the best ways we’ve found to be fully present as a family, to love each other without the distractions of home that lead us to think that we are responsible for what we have, that we have built this family, and that we don’t need any One else.

Hmmmm. I really wish I had the perfect scripture to end with here, but maybe you can suggest one?

I May Have Committed a Felony

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If I go to the slammer, I’m gonna need you folks to help me break out. Cause let’s face it: at 4’11, not super…ummm…athletic, and a bit of a outspoken, perky, smart-mouth, do-gooder type, it’s gonna get ugly for me. You KNOW I’m gonna talk back to the guards, especially the ones who are mean just because they can be, or because they always wanted to be on reality TV but their shot at “Big Brother” didn’t work out.  Which is why I’ll need you all to have my back.

I’m thinking sort of a combo hiding-in-the-laundry-bin, diversionary-explosion, impersonating-an-attorney-with-an-outfit-smuggled-in-pieces-through-my-mail-from-home kind of an escape. (See, all of you smug “don’t watch TV” types? See what a disadvantage you’ll be at if you are ever wrongly accused of murder, or the victim of mistaken identity confused with an international terrorist/hacker?) Can y’all start working on that plan for me?

Oh, and I beg you, while I’m away in the pokey, will y’all take up a collection and hire a cleaning/nanny service for my guys? Cause that house will flat fall down around them in my absence. Seriously. I’m no Martha Stewart, but they will be in a world of hurt, dirty laundry and 3-square-meals-of-breakfast-cereal-a-day.

Since I’m asking you for so much help, I feel obliged to confess to my crime. Can a blog confession be used against me in a court of law? I wonder if that cute Matthew McConaughey look-a-like from “Suits” would be willing to represent me?

Of course, I’m not even sure I’ve committed a crime, but since I’m not very good at cleaning or following directions, odds are high.

I’ll miss you all when I’m gone….

Post-Camping Recovery

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Note: I have had a bit of a blog pause because I’ve been obsessing on posting perfectly instead of just posting. Plus, I have a really serious blog post brewing based on something I read last week that just shredded me, but I’m not ready yet. Part of the problem is that it was so disturbing that I needed a little distance before I could write about it.The other issue is that my blog is evolving in a more humorous genre, and I haven’t figured out how to be both serious and passionate about the things I feel called to speak out about, while still being – most of the time –  my irreverent, not-serious self. I’m guessing the best answer is to just do it, be true to who I am, which is equal parts silly and serious. I may have to take after my favorite blogger, Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like, who has occasional intentional Serious Wednesdays……in the meantime, bear with me.

Camping Math:

One night of tent camping = 2 days preparation and 4 days of clean up

Two nights of tent camping = 2 days preparation and 4 days of clean up plus 2 extra laundry loads

Three nights of tent camping = 2 days preparation and 4 days of clean up plus 3 extra laundry loads

Clearly, a one night tent camping trip is hardly worth the trouble. Add the mental exhaustion inherent upon returning and one could be quite justified in questioning why one would do it at all? Not to mention the filth, the sunburns and the “are we there yets?”

Because my kids and my family are different when we’re camping, that’s why. Different in a way that is more profound than a “regular” vacation, which is of course fun and exciting and different from the home routine. In the woods, or the desert, or the mountains, without all of the stuff of home around us to distract us from each other, my kids will play with sticks. And dirt. And rocks, and bugs, and twigs and each other. And I will play with them. I have no laundry, no internet, no appointments, no dishes. (OK, there are still dishes.)  So I can sit in my camping hammock with my magazine and watch my kids instead. Watch them make up games involving stumps and army men and valiant battles for world domination.

We’re adventurous, and tolerant, and interested in the world around us in a different way. We take care of each other, we are playful, and we’re relaxed in a way that doesn’t happen on other vacations.

Mind you, we’re not moving to a forest commune any time soon, nor am I claiming camping is total butterflies and rainbows. I love my bed at home, and I don’t know why we can’t find an air mattress that will stay inflated for more than 10 minutes at a time. I require total darkness and quiet to sleep well, and my kid want to wake up and play at 6 a.m.  In the close confines of a tent this results in much angry shushing, threatening and general parental ugliness.

Last week, we took 6 Cub Scouts camping, plus our other two boys and a spare playmate. The grownups stayed up late to enjoy the (OH DEAR LORD THEY WERE FINALLY ASLEEP) peace and quiet  and look at the stars.

Oh, the stars. Adjectives do not exist to express how glorious they were. We were in the high desert of central Oregon, in the middle of nowhere, not even a developed campground. The stars were amazing, intense, and humbling. I am convinced that if the entire human race could still step outside our homes and see the stars each night, we would be a less violent, power-hungry, arrogant bunch. Nothing like seeing the heavens laid out above you to give you a bit of perspective on what a speck you are in this beautiful world.

Anyhoo, I digress.

When we finally snuck into our tent to go to sleep, I eased hopefully into my sleeping bag, looking forward to sleep. But, wait? Why can’t I move my arms? Why is this sleeping bag so tight? Why am I SO UNCOMFORTABLE? I will spare you the details of the following hours, but suffice to say I was IRRATIONALLY tired, and beyond frustrated, and very thrashy angry grumpy sleepy. All the dwarves and some extras, really.

If I unpinned my arms, I was too cold. If I put them in the sleeping bag, I could not roll over or move them. I know I’m a wee bit chunky, but I couldn’t imagine what had happened between last summer, when I slept happily in the sleeping bag, and this summer. I began to speculate wildly that maybe my scale was broken, maybe I’d gained a lot of weight I didn’t even know about. The sleeping bag was even too short. At least, I figured that was the weird feeling I was experiencing, with my feet cramped and smushed at the very bottom end of the bag. I wasn’t sure, because at 4’11 I don’t have much experience with too short.

The next morning, after the worst night of sleep since the boys were babies, I realized I’d been in a child’s sleeping bag, about 8″ narrower than an adult bag. And not a camping-in-the-45-degree-desert-night sleeping bag, but a “I’m-going-to-grandma’s-for-a-sleepover” sleeping bag.

My undersized 10-yr-old had luxuriated in my flannel-lined, puffy adult sleeping bag, and slept like a baby. Sigh.

So guess what we’re doing for 3 of the next 4 weekends? Going camping, that’s right. ‘Cause even with a bad night’s sleep, I like who we are when we’re camping.

Plus there’s S’mores.

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