electric boogaloo

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Six things I don’t get

1. Trance/EDM, which sounds like a bowel disease. The name I mean not the music. The music sounds like techno that was taken out into the woods and left there and it had a plan to get home but someone ate the breadcrumbs so it just kind of hangs out in the forest awhile.

2. Watching youtube videos of people playing computer games.
I want to make a channel of baffled parents watching videos of their kids watching youtube videos of people playing minecraft

3. Coverlets

4. Advance meal planning. If you aren’t hungry, how do you get motivated to think about food? And if you ARE hungry, well you didn’t do this in advance now did you.

5. Trying new foods when you have no idea.
What if you try it and it’s awful? How can it be worth the risk??

6. 11-year-old humor.
Sometimes to be silly I will send my child messages over skype telling him to unload the dishes or something. The chore is real, but skyping someone who is in his room 15 feet away from me is silly. Being in a chat session with my kid gives me a whole new perspective on what he’s like in conversational writing. And he’s damned goofy, that’s what. Example:

ME: Congratulations! You get to go upstairs and bring the dog in!

HIM: NOOOOOOOOOooooooooo

ME: Yep. Go do it soon, please.

HIM: I can’t.

ME:

HIM: I’m a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

ME: OK

Nic: A peanut.

ME: Before she starts barking.

Nic: Cheesecake.

Nic: Apples. Pasta. Mango.

ME: …

Nic: Is grapefruit all one word?

ME: You know you can’t just list foods and expect to win an argument.

Nic: LOL
Nic: Grapefruit.

ME: You would make a terrible lawyer, you know that?

Nic: Sad face. NO!
Nic: Cereal.
Nic: Sandwich.
Nic: Hot dog. Salad. Potato.

The dog howls, and a kid made of giggles runs up and lets her in.

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LOCH NESS

Current Kickstarter projection

Current Kickstarter projection

So many big things are going on, but my mom is here and I said the word brunch and even though it’s 2pm she is holding me to my word. Brunch is a word you should only say if you mean it. But in the meantime, if you’re reading this, please GO CHECK OUT my kickstarter. I will love you forever if you back this project.

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Go ithn hnay to bnd bnforn your loving mithnr ithntnns to cill you.

I was getting ready for bed when a kid knocked on the bathroom door to ask me something really important. “Just a sec,” I said, figuring it was Graham needing to run in and pee. He gets trapped in the bedtime water cycle:
pee cycle

But I opened the door and Nicolaus was there pacing, waiting patiently to ask me a question.

About Tolkein.

Which he knows I have no interest in or knowledge about beyond “that thing my kid likes”, but maybe he figured I would get excited about looking something up on my phone — a reasonable bet seeing as I grew up using microfiche and card catalogs and haven’t ever gotten over the high of instant looking up of stuff. Instead I hugged him and bounced him back to bed. “We will talk about this in the morning.”

A little later I let the dog out, and he joined me out on the porch to laugh about this ridiculous abridged graphic novel version of The Hobbit hahaha it leaves out something important in this one conversation, well, I mean not IMPORTANT but it sounds better with those two words you know?

Once I was all settled in bed, he tapped quietly on our bedroom door and came in to tell me the rules of his new elf story that is based on the elves from the hobbit but they aren’t the same elves, so now he needs to make up a language for them and here are the rules he’s come up with so far, and so “Want to hear me translate something? -CK is pronounced like a long A sound. All Es are replaced by N sounds, including silent ones but that makes a slightly different kind of N sound. And TH will now be said like ITH. So say the phrase “The feather is under the brick” which is just a random thing I am saying that doesn’t really mean anything about anything, I mean it’s not from my story or whatever but say that’s the sentence? It would be “Ithn fne-ithner is undnr ithn bray.”

We are constantly reassuring this kid that he is not in trouble. He often assumes any level of “nope, sorry” or “Hey, please don’t do that” means we are mad at him or he’s in trouble. So I feel a little bad that I reassured him that if he did not go to bed and stay in bed and never get out of bed again until the wee hour of 9 a.m. released him from bed then he would be in TROUBLE. But it didn’t faze him. No wet eyes blinking back tears, no stressing at all. Just: “Okay, sorry. I am also thinking that there’s no need to have the letter K really at all? I mean we have a C already and it can do both the K sound, well really AND the S…”

“TROUBLE.”

“I know! Just one more thing I promise! If someone uses a silent K then it wouldn’t make sense to –”

“STOP. I love you. It is after one in the morning. BIG TROUBLE NOW.”

“Okay, okay, goodnight…”

“Goodnight.”

“Can I get some paper?”

“Yes.”

“So I can write down some notes?”

“Good idea.”

“For in the morning so I won’t forget –?”

“Mmm.”

“From your printer?”

“YES. Now GO OR TROUBLE.”

And he did, he went to bed and slept until 5:30 in the morning when he whispered. “Mama? Did you charge the ipad? I want to listen to that podcast by the Tolkein professor…”

This is when I remembered something: I gave my son a nice big glass of unsweet tea with his lunch. He seemed really exhausted from a weekend social-a-thon and I thought it would be a nice treat. Perk him up a little bit! Awesome idea! I’m basically a genius at parenting! What’s the worst that could happen?

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What in the heck just happened? My 30s, that’s what.

When our babies were small enough that they rode in the front part of the basket, nice ladies with silver hair and watery eyes would stop us and urge: “Cherish every moment. It goes so fast.”

And we would assure them oh, for sure! We are cherishing every moment so hard! Even though those women know damned well it doesn’t work that way. Even if someone had handed us a real live actual no-shit time downslower, we still couldn’t have stopped the moments from sliding by because we were so sleep-starved and stressed about money and laundry and babies who wouldn’t JUST OMG EAT and everything else that there’s no way either of us would’ve had the mental clarity to operate the Time Slowdown Machine. Especially if it was a fancy one with more than one or two settings where wait, read the quickstart guide, I think the rate of time passing is controlled by the other remote. The black one. It can work with either but you have to set it up. So this one turns the thing on and calibrates — NO, SWEETIE you have to aim it right into the cone of perception or else it won’t read the signal. It’s infrared and… just let me see it. What the heck did you do? Now the box is turned off and we have to

Okay you know what? We will just let time pass at the normal rate for now. Then later when the kids are grown and we have years where we constantly feel a deep heart-stabbing regret over not slowing down time when we had the chance, well THEN we will get one of the kids to come over and use the machine to speed time up for us. Assuming I haven’t misplaced the remote, in which case we will just go to grocery stores and accost new parents like creepy sad old soothsayers.

I really have cherished the holy heck out of my kids’ childhoods. Maybe not every single moment, but definitely a lot of them. I savored mundane things like bedtime stories and morning snuggles and the way toddlers point and flex their feet when they are concentrating. I blogged, I took candid photos in natural light, I listened to them intently.

And just like those old ladies knew it wouldn’t, all of that did nothing to slow down time.

Despite all of my frantic cherishing, our youngest is now eight. No more talking to a tiny person; we are in the middle stretch of parenting. I don’t feel as frantic to cherish moments and milestones but for the kids, this is Childhood. These years are where their lifelong memories (and/or false memories, if we decide to troll them with photoshop) are made. This is where our failures and parental shortcomings will be fished from when they’re old enough to talk to a therapist about their issues, and this is where they’ll get all of the things they try to repeat or avoid with their own kids. This is where kids start putting in their own hard work towards forming their identity, their social connections, their future selves.

At the same time, life becomes hugely easier for parents at this point. Which sort of sucks for me because having little kids is a great social equalizer. People who just met me in the last decade don’t know how scattered I was before I was a parent. We are back to where we were before we had kids: lame messy people who don’t know anything about being grownups that wasn’t clearly spelled out in an IKEA catalog or episode of Friends.

When your kids are 5 and 7, people 100% understand if you show up late and your given reason is Shoe Drama. It’s not worrisome if you’re visibly exhausted and have a sticker in your hair. You have little kids! Of course your socks don’t match and you just ate peanut butter for dinner — lady, you’re doing great to survive each day!

But that level of sympathy is over once your youngest turns eight. Not only are you free of little kids slowing you down, heck now you have extra field hands. 8 and 11 can do real chores. 8 and 11 get their own band-aids. In fact if you say “Ow!” they’ll run to get YOU band-aids. 8 and 11 can shower and dry their own hair. They might do a terrible job but so what? They can unload dishes!

The little bits of freedom keep surprising me. Wait, did you just let the dog out without me telling you to? Did you refill the paper tray in my printer just because hey, paper? Are you genuinely helping with dinner in a way that helps instead of slowing me down a bunch? These things are GOOD things.

So here I am, at the start of my 40s. It seems like the next ten years will be less frantic, but still intense in a new way. I see these kids becoming people. People! People with friends and interests and quirks and habits and social lives. What they need from us now is listening and talking, guidance, reminders, help understanding all the social weird stuff about being human. And rides to friends’ houses. And popcorn with lots of butter. And help setting up Skype.

No grocery store ladies have warned me to cherish every moment of pre-adolescence, but I’m finding that as much as I adore and miss conversations with four year olds, I wouldn’t mind slowing time down right now. Just a little. You know?

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First of all I want to say that there aren’t any closeup pictures of you in this year’s post, mostly because you won’t stop making the Chloe face every time I look over at you.

They will flat out say they like you best. I mean, they like being with me because I’m their mother and when they were little I brainwashed them with that Are You My Mother book. But I don’t have the same credibility that you do. They roll their eyes and say “Yeah but you’re our mother. You basically have to think we have good ideas.” Which is absurd and unfair; I think they have dumb ideas all the time! But still, when I tell them they’re awesome it doesn’t carry much weight because all moms think that. Where did our kids learn to stereotype people?
I don’t remember what brought it up but the other day Graham chimed in, “No offense? But yeah. Daddy’s just so much cooler. Like honestly there’s just no comparison, and I really do not mean that offensively.”

And I said oh no, of course! None taken… I did marry the guy on purpose.

Because oh my gosh if DADDY thinks something is a good idea, it must be a fantastic idea. If Daddy thinks something is funny, it must be hilarious. And if Daddy says things will work out and be alright, everything’s going to be better than fine.

I’m glad one of us has serious influence because this year our children turned into pre-adolescents. No more little kid stuff. Sometime this year the bath toys were dragged out for the last time before both kids decided to start taking quick showers instead. There was a last time for Graham getting up to say “I’m scared” at bedtime, a last time that Nicolaus fit in his stripey adorable winter hat with the hangy down ear flaps. Bittersweet doesn’t quite cover the shifts that happen as our kids become more independent. It’s like nostalgicbummer/FANTASTIC. I love little kids but oh holy heck big kids are easier. For every last time some adorable thing happened, there was a last time for wetting the bed or clinging to us at the playground or oh my god why is there poop on the wall.

They almost never play with toys anymore, not even Legos unless they’ve invented a game. Whenever they’re not hanging out with friends, life is all computers, reading books, drawing, board games, building things. They are happiest when you’re making something and they can work nearby.

Even if they’re working on something totally separate, they want to be near you and talk talk talk talk. Which isn’t easy for your brain I know but you seem to enjoy it as long as they aren’t bickering.

So our life is filled with things you’ve made. That’s their normal. Doesn’t everyone make their own dishes or have their dog’s collar decorated and tagged with hand-cut sterling silver? It’s awesome because you’re giving them access to something a lot of people find intimidating: of course you can make things, and if you don’t know how you can take a class or look it up.

This year we deepened our social life, folding friends into our plans almost every day. It can be overload, but our guys have this core group of creative, compassionate, hilarious kids. They make puns. They openly mock adults in ways that are too funny to be considered disrespectful. They play Dungeons and Dragons types of games, and talk about Tolkien and science and oh my god Minecraft.

It’s a relief, isn’t it? You and I were both shy kids who tried to avoid talking to other kids in elementary school. Our boys are a little shy, but this year they’ve learned to work their way into a group of kids, how to negotiate and be a good friend. The non-stop socializationathon has radically changed our groove and it can be mentally exhausting but that’s okay. It’s totally worth the energy we put in. Bonus! They generally don’t care one flip about blending in, and their friends accept them despite their interesting style decisions.

Pre-teen hormones make life rough for Nicolaus some days, and when he’s feeling down or overwhelmed and stressed he will still talk openly with me about it. But he would rather talk to you because you, I’m told, “Get the exact perfect amount angry about things in life that are annoying.”

He also describes what it feels like to be stressed out: My brain has all these strings hanging down, little threads that are vibrating, and I need them. But people — ALL people, even people I like being around! — people zip around waving scissors. And I can repair the threads or put in new ones, but when there’s too much… that’s when I feel completely stressed out. But Daddy is the only person who doesn’t wave scissors around. Like he HAS them, but he just naturally like keeps them closed and walks around slowly. That is a bizarre metaphor but I get it. So whenever his brain makes him worried or sad, he looks for you. You navigated the little kid years plenty fine but this big kid stuff is where you’re a viking. You sat down for more Full House “Hey, Deej…” talks in the last twelve months than you probably ever imagined. Thanks for that. I do a lot of those talks too, but you know? There’s a reason Full House writers ditched mom before the pilot.

And it’s not ALL weepy heartfelt talks. The kid had a mostly excellent year. Elevens are allowed to watch movies with bad words in them. Elevens can tell when adults are joking. Elevens are allowed to start campfires and own real hatchets. Littler kids look up to elevens. Good stuff.

Graham too has benefited from the overall oldening of our kids. He got to watch Zoolander, Airplane, and The Jerk! He got to know all the bad words. He got to have his own bow and arrows, he can play outside without an adult, he can have more grownuppish pocket knives. Why do they love knives so much? They don’t stab stuff with them. It’s more about the collecting and occasional tiny boat making.

We must prepare. Teenagers are coming. They’re going to idolize someone as they hit this stage; it was going to be you or the Mythbusters or those idiots from gamer YouTube channels. The more I see them gaining confidence as they form their identity, the more I am so thankful that they picked you and that you and I have the same basic values. This is the point where it would suck to realize I’d married some kind of weird douchey materialist selfish a-wordhole. Moreso than it would’ve already sucked just from having to live with that kind of person, because now I’d be stuck living with two copycat a-wordholes.

Another year or two, you might become uncool. Who knows? But for right now they would follow you anywhere and you should take full advantage of that while it lasts.

Like trick them into going with you to insurance seminars or something.


“Well son, it looks like Graham and your mom’s head done fell off.”

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