Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pack a Lunch

I bet those Vanilla-Isis Y'allQaeda Walmartyrs wish they'd packed a lunch.
I wonder if their mom has the 12-hour rule.

I have a long-standing rule at the House of Lee:

You're responsible for keeping track of what's for hot lunch. If you don't like it, you must notify me the night before in order to take a cold lunch. If you forget, you're stuck eating whatever it is that you claim disgusts you. I will not throw together a lunch in the three minutes before you have to catch the bus.

I would say that it's because I'm trying to churn out self reliant and responsible citizens to the world. More accurately, it's just all I can do to keep track of my own shit without having wildcards thrown in. Hubs and I have different styles here. He carefully packs up their hockey gear. I tell them practice is in 45 minutes and if they don't get their poop in a pile, I'm not making a special trip home for something they forgot. Mornings are especially grinding on everyone's nerves, and I lose my marbles when they drop last minute requests on me.

So the lunch rule. This has resulted in many elementary cafeteria gagging sessions.  But they know better than to ask me morning of, because I have consistently applied this rule, and it works.

So it was really no surprise when I encountered a crumpled green post it note on the kitchen counter.

"I'm going to want cold lunch pretty much this whole month. Like a lot of times."

Esten. He had carefully reviewed the January lineup and decided to tap out. He thought his blanket request would cover him for nightly reminders. I wasn't biting.

"Good thing you're a bigtime fifth grader this year and you know how to make a sandwich so you can pack your own lunch. But so help me if I look in your lunchbox and see a bunch of crap in there, you will eat hot lunch from now until the end of time."

"Even the gross stuff?"

"ESPECIALLY the gross stuff."

He was prepared for a debate.

"I made a list of pros and cons for why I should or should not have cold lunch. For example, pro: I know I will like everything in there, so I will eat more. Pro: I won't be wasting food that I don't like. Con: I have to dig those freezy things out and try not to bump the beer glasses because they break. Pro: I had like a whole list of things and to be honest I did not anticipate you agreeing right away."

He embarked enthusiastically on this little journey on Wednesday. He carefully packed up his portioned out ziplocs and we agreed that he would still always buy milk at school. He packed the items I insisted on; cucumbers and mandarin oranges. He gingerly placed the ice pack so it wouldn't smash his precious meal. He strutted like a peacock getting ready, brushing teeth, an air of responsibility swirling around him.

After fighting with Clayton over outerwear (like Groundhog day every day of my life) I shoved them out the door sufficiently protected against the elements. I finished getting myself ready for work. I pulled out my own lunchbag, packed it with approved foods for my perpetual diet, and set the Keurig to crank out another cup of coffee for the road.

I fulfilled ToddlerBandit's request demand for toast cut with cookie cutters; one star and one gingerbread man. I filled his cup with the appropriate amount of "appadouche". I found a leftover candy cane. I suggested to him that he might have it if he went on his potty chair today. I let him watch as I taped it to the bathroom mirror. I listened as he completely lost his shit.

Deciding I was having none of it, I relayed the candy cane plan to the Hubs who responded with something like "Yeah right. No. Thanks for ruining his day. Bye." but I couldn't really hear him over the constant piercing screams coming out of TB's cookie hole.

I stopped at the hall tree to slip on my shoes. As I grabbed my coat and badge from the hook, I glanced down on the bench. Right there, mocking me...Esten's freaking lunchbox.


I stopped by the school to drop it off. As usual, when met with the secretary's questions, I couldn't muster what his teacher's name was. Then I forgot which kid it was for. I don't know what it is about that office that makes me forget very basic information. Luckily I'd hastily written it on a piece of tape wrapped around the handle. Saved.

When we were all back at home last night he looked sheepish.

"Thank you for bringing my lunch."

"You're welcome. But that won't happen again. Next time you forget, tough luck. You will just have to eat whatever is for hot lunch. Even if it's so gross like octopus tentacles. I won't always have time to do that."

"I know."

He does know. He knows that I'm serious. What he doesn't know is that he is just like me, and I'm just doing my darnedest to reset that part of his brain so things get easier. I will never ever say I'm a "have my act together" kind of person.

Just ask Hubs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

God, Guns, and Old Glory

Girl with flag and gun, 1952
photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

If I were a songwriter, I'd write that country song because America loves songs about America and Americans and the things that make us five million times better than any other country or culture on planet Earth. But I probably couldn't sleep at night, and not because of the piles of money stuffed under my mattress.

Our President is speaking today about some significant proposals in the world of firearms. Nothing sets off such a marked parting in my sea of friends as when that happens. Here in Idaho where we're in a race to the bottom for education (State motto: "Hey, if you can't be first, be last!") folks don't take too kindly to infringements upon their freedom.

Last week, open carry became a thing in Texas, and in true Texas style, Texans did not disappoint in their displays of enthusiasm.

"Two Knives" Takacs tore up his own clothes to make a point.
But he's definitely not looney-tunes. Trust him.
photo: Joe Takacs/Open Carry Texas, facebook

But that's not what this is about. This is about action on an individual level. This is about me. A mom. Pushing my children through to adulthood and doing a really lousy job of it. I'm the first to admit that. Last year when I took my tree down in January, I found something that set my hair on fire.

After that, the ornament owner went on through his year becoming increasingly aggressive. Stories of friend-based interventions on the playground filtered home. Clayton had one playdate with him, at his grandma's house, at her request, and she and I had THE TALK.

The talk. The one where I go first to put people's minds at ease. The one where people know there's a gun in our house because Hubs needs it for his job. The one where I let them know that it's locked up and that their kids might come home with a stubbed toe and a sugar high, but they won't have any extra holes in them when they leave. The one where I tell them that even though our kids know, KNOW that there are some things that are off limits like the Hershey bars we use for s'mores, like that they need to ask first before getting the iPad...and that ANY of Dad's work gear is not negotiable, that they needn't worry about them getting their grubby paws on a gun.

And our kids? They don't even think about it. The only time either has displayed an interest was one 9/11 anniversary when the teacher asked Hubs to swing by to collect some thank you notes the kids had written to firemen and police officers. Only after classmates began asking standard questions such as, "Have you ever SHOT someone?" and an over-sharer describing with his thumb cocked and finger tucked up under his chin how his uncle had committed suicide did our son act interested in the 98 pounds of gear strapped around his father's waist.

You know, typical second grader stuff.

Taking temptation off the table for our own kids is only part of it. We have no control over the wild pack of neighborhood ruffians who I freely let roam about, in or out. I look out our front window periodically to count heads, and I watch the numbers swell and ebb as pairs break off from the gang to run home for lunch or race one another to the park. They all know that Hubs is a cop, but I know how kids are. I know it's only a matter of time until just ONE of them suggests to one of my kids they should go find his gun.

Will my kid say no? I hope so. I hope they'd tell their friends that Hubs is going to have a chitty-chat with their parents for even suggesting it. But they probably won't. Kids just want other kids to like them. So we've taken that pressure off by making them inaccessible.

The friend whose house the boys play at the most has an accomplished hunter for a dad. He works in the hunting gear industry, and his livelihood depends on those who get excited to pop off a few rounds. He also has all his guns in a safe, and he has very open and strict ground rules about what's off limits to his kids (and to mine). I don't ever worry when they're visiting these kids that they're in danger.

We've pulled the plug on friendships over this. We've had to sit our kids down and explain to them in the most kid-appropriate terms that because their friend's parents did not take the same level of care to secure their firearms that we did, that they were not allowed to play at his house. We left out the parts about the domestic violence, the parts where there were threats made to family members, the parts where the dad was off his rocker. Kids don't need to be burdened with that. But it doesn't mean they don't play a part in the discussion at all.

Does this mean I prohibit toy guns? No. Our house has an arsenal of all kinds of Nerf guns. ToddlerBandit's favorite thing to do is walk right up and shoot you in the face with them. I know without a doubt if that kid got his hands on a real gun, he'd put a hole in something or someone with it in no time. He has no business having access. It doesn't matter how many times we redirect him. He sees big brothers having Nerf wars, and he mimics them. That's what kids do.

Does this make me less American that I want my kids nowhere near a bullet flinger without supervision? That I would expect other parents to do the same?

The paranoia fueled by our media is nothing new. The platform is different. In the pre-interwebz olden days, my mother slept with a gun. Loaded. I guess she was scared of intruders. Or whatever. She got her nerve-wracking, fourth-hand urban legends and world events the old fashioned way without a shareable meme or email chain to forward. We also spent every night eating dinner in front of the evening news during the years the Green River Killer was on the loose (which is a whole other thing for me). She worked at our local bullet factory for 33 years. It's a culture here. Guns. Bullets. Normal. Bullets put food on our table and clothes on my back for 16 years.

We were detained at the airport making our way back from Germany when I was five. I was questioned about who this lady was. Where we were going. Where we had been. She had a powder-less bullet in her coin purse, one that had been there as long as I ever remembered. A fixture in her pocketbook. I'd clanked it around digging change out for gumball machines and the candy cigarettes they sold in the front end of our neighborhood butcher shop. They found it. They didn't understand why, if she didn't mean any harm, she would have that. They pulled the head off my doll and looked down into its cavernous body for contraband. Once they determined us not to be a threat, we were sent on our way.

When I was older, I had to wake her up when I returned home after nights out with friends. Her 4 am schedule meant she was in bed early, but no matter what time I got home, I had to wake her. She was always jolted out of sleep like someone was attacking her, and more than once I had to let my eyes adjust to the dark first so if she made a move for her gun I knew where her hands were. Once she knew I was safely home, and once I knew I was safe from friendly fire, I headed to bed.

We survived. We, the children of the 70's. Except that not all of us did. Nor the children of the 80's. Nor the 90's. Nor of this year already. They're dying. Dying because gun owners are not being responsible. Dying because the paranoia is so great that we must have weapons accessible at all times. Dying because We the People value an amendment and our NRA window decals over the innocent lives of our fellow Americans. Especially the small ones.

No matter what side of the issue you're on, please give our children that gift. The one that says they won't die or be injured by accidental (or purposeful) gunfire under your roof. They deserve that much. And I think everyone should agree on that.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Keeping it in the Family: Grandma's Beaver

Before I came along Hubs hadn't attended the number of funerals (that he could remember outside very young childhood) that I had, so when death began touching those he loved, he began blaming my arrival.

"You're bad luck for me."
I felt for him. Nobody should be so well versed in the layout of a mortuary, the inner workings of the re-configurable curtained rooms and the protocols of receiving lines and sympathy card baskets and casseroles and having a black dress on standby and black pair of pants on standby for your chubby years.
So when in a few painfully quick years I said both hello and goodbye to some of those who had a hand in forming this man that I was in love with, it was sad. Every. Damn. Time.
We also saw the awful creep of dementia take over the minds of our grandmothers, mine too far gone before he met her, passing when our older two were small, his seeming to keep clarity until his grandpa began to forget. Him forgetting more and more, her remaining steady almost but not quite until we lost him too.
When it came time to edit down his grandma's belongings to those things that would fit in the room she was moving into where she would have around the clock care, my MIL set aside a few things, a box of books for my kids and she said she had something for me, too.
A fur. Not her mother's. Her GRANDmother's.

What the Hell?

"No. I can't take this," I had protested. I was sure someone else wanted it. I was sure someone else needed to have it.

She pushed back. Hubs had bought me a vintage Persian curly lamb fur for an obscene price off E-bay several birthdays back, and she thought I was just the person to keep this one. To treasure it.

I did what every normal person does. I carefully wrapped it back in the plastic JC Penney garment bag from someone's March 20, 1996 silk navy blue shell size small that was picked up at the Lewiston store #1165-0 (I only know all this because I worked there in high school and college) which someone had scrawled on in black sharpie:
  • Extra sheets
  • cases
  • pad
  • potpourri

And I hung it in the back of my closet so that my nutella-and-graham-cracker-crumb-fingered children could never ever ever touch it.

Livin' La Vida Loca

My MIL does this thing at holidays. She gets out these really nice dishes and this really nice silverware and it's all super old and belonged to her grandma and then she gets all certifiably crazy by letting our children eat off it.

So many bodies this time she had to
break out the Fiesta Ware, too.

And EVERYONE gets a wine glass.

Cheers to grandma! She's the best! 

And all us moms are like "do not be rough with grandma's dishes or we will murder you" and she's all like "it's fiiiiiiiiine, my grandma used to cook for like 47 ranch hands every day on these things and dragged them across the mountains on donkeys or something".

And then they get banged around in the sink and my FIL yells in there to make sure nobody is putting mashed potatoes down the disposal (note: THEY'LL TURN TO CEMENT IN THE PIPES!!!) and then she puts them back in the china cabinet for the next gathering.

Easter. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

And I thought about this as I spent New Years Eve 2014 snuggled up to my sewing project: finally moving on from a wrongdoing by the fur cleaners and giving new life to my Persian curly lamb fur by attaching new buttons to replace the ones they'd removed to clean and just...well...just nothing. Ever.

And since we were smack in the middle of hockey season, I decided that bad boy was gonna get some use. I'm not really the kind of person who would support the NEW fur industry, but these baby lambs have been dead since 1940. What am I gonna do about it now?

Anyhoo, something pretty amazing happened.

People gave me a little extra space on the bleachers. They didn't get too close. Probably because I smelled like an old wet dead sheep. But still. And it was a little bit great. And to be honest, I think the other team looked at me like I was bat shit crazy and thought my kid must be too. And so I just started wearing it all the time. And Hubs and I look RI.DICK.YOU.LUSS. together.


This hockey season started again without Hubs having taken me to a Governor's Ball. Or a Presidential State Dinner. Or to Red Lobster for that all-you-can-eat shrimp thing. We missed that, too. So I was like:
"You know what? What am I saving this thing for? For a DAUGHTER to hand it down to? The closest we can hope for is that one of our boys would be into wearing lady-clothes and even then...would he be into vintage? Probably not."

Or maybe he will, and if he IS into vintage, I'll love him just the same. But for now, I'm not letting this fur collect dust in my closet. So I started wearing it. And the results are in: people are kind of in love with the fur. Both of them.

Me, my sweet MIL, and The Beav.

An older woman approached me after today's game in Coeur d'Alene. She had to have been the grandma of one of the Thunder players. She petted my sleeve.

"I LOVE your mink."

"Thank you. It's a beaver," I told her. "It was her grandmother's," as I pointed to my left.

"Oh I knew it had to have belonged to someone and been passed down. It's beautiful."

Of course, you know I think that things are just things. Stuff. It's the stories the things tell that interest me the most, and the best story this fur has is this:

One night in her older years, Great-Grandma Verle was in a drinking establishment with her daughter (Hub's grandma) when it began to rain. She got fussy and lipped off to her ride:

"Let's go. I have to go right now because if my beaver gets wet it will start to stink."

Yes. This is definitely mine now. Forever.