Archive for the ‘Life and Parenting’ Category
I hope you enjoy one of my popular posts from last fall.
“Hey, Mom. We found a chair and it’s a recliner…and it’s really fuzzy. And it was free. And we thought we could use it when we wanted to play Airsoft…or if we need to chill somewhere. It’s a good chair. So, yeah…call me back when you get this.”
That was the voicemail message Noah left on my phone one afternoon when Ron and I were out running errands. “Eww….” I said to Ron after relaying Noah’s message to him.” I wonder where they found that chair. They better not have brought it home.’ I didn’t call Noah back and assumed that if I didn’t give him permission to bring the chair home, it would end up at a friend’s house instead.
A short time later, we pulled into our driveway and to our delight, we found a stunning, green chair (circa 1974) parked in the second stall of our garage. Noah and his friends were nowhere in sight.
We got out of the car to inspect it. “Gross,” Ron said as we both stood gazing at it. The fabric was seasick green-colored synthetic fuzz probably made from a combination of polyester, nylon, and melted plastic. The piping along the front cushion had worn down to its pallid grayish innards, there was a hole in the back where a button used to be, and the handle that operated the reclining mechanism was hanging precariously by a thread. Taped to the front of the chair was a piece of paper with the word “FREE” scrawled across it in bold Sharpie lettering. As I sized the thing up, I could only imagine how many cans of Billy Beer, Cheetos, and episodes of “All in the Family” this chair had seen in its lifetime.
“Great…what are we going to do with it?” I asked my husband. “It’s disgusting.”
“He’s going to bring it back to where he found it,” Ron responded matter-of-factly.
When we went inside of the house, Noah was sitting at the kitchen counter eating a snack. “What are you planning to do with that chair in the garage?” I asked him point blank.
Noah paused long enough to look up from his Ramen and said, “Me and Jake and Eric are going to take it into the woods and shoot it. You know…with our Airsoft guns. It’s cool.”
“You need to take it back where you found it,” Ron told Noah. “We can’t have that thing sitting around here.”
“I don’t even remember what house we got it from, Dad,” Noah said.
Noah explained that they had discovered the discarded recliner at the edge of some yard off the county road and they were so pumped when they saw it, they didn’t pay attention to where they were when they began hauling it home. Now none of Noah’s friends were around to help him lug it anywhere, anyway. And the clincher was that even if Ron did load the chair into our truck to help Noah get rid of it, our observant teenager didn’t have a clue where it needed to go. What if they ended up chucking it in front of the wrong house? Try explaining why you’re dumping a giant pile of green trash on someone’s yard to the cops.
So, while we tried to figure out a cheap way to get rid of it, the chair sat in the garage. For weeks it sat. Then weeks turned into months. We walked around it. We parked next to it. We moved it across the floor a few times. We stored things like toolboxes or huge bags of water softener salt on it. Finally when Ron got tired of constantly maneuvering the thing around the garage, he pulled it out onto the driveway.
“You still need to get rid of that thing, ” he reminded Noah again and again.
Noah’s chair-hauling posse had been gone for months. The chair never made it to the woods, and to my knowledge no one ever shot it. Now outside, the green albatross endured snow, sleet, rain, and acorn showers. And yup…Greenie was displayed front and center outside our house on the driveway. We were quickly turning in the classiest family in the neighborhood but unfortunately, no one was jealous enough to sneak up and steal the chair.
I know you’re wondering. Why didn’t we just throw the thing out? Well, that would mean a painstaking call to our waste management service and a hefty fee to have it hauled away. I wasn’t ready to fork out money to have trash hauled away that wasn’t ours to being with. So, we just left it there, hoping that it would eventually turn to compost and blow away. But since it was made from some super secret 1970’s indelible material, it didn’t. The chair had pretty much become a lawn ornament and sadly, it had gotten to the point where I barely even noticed anymore.
A few weeks before Stella’s graduation party Ron had finally had enough of the nasty recliner and handed Noah a crowbar, saw, and sledgehammer and said, “Go chop the chair up.”
Noah was ecstatic about this idea and quickly ran to the driveway and set to work. After an hour or so of sawing, hammering, and prying, the chair had been broken down into bite-sized pieces that were easily dropped into our trashcan. The next day, Walters Refuse finally hauled ol’ Greenie away. And the best thing about it was that we didn’t have to pay anything extra to have it done.
Have your kids ever brought anything strange home that you had to deal with? Did you ever do it as a kid?
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My son, Noah, arrived home from the beach yesterday afternoon the color of a severely ripe tomato (I’m not sure how a tomato can be “severely” ripe, but it’s the only way to appropriately describe the way he looked…). Did he wear sunscreen while he was out frolicking in the sun? Duh! Of course not! Noah wouldn’t be caught dead cracking open a bottle of Coppertone and applying cream in front of actual people at the beach. How embarrassing would that be?
Apparently, it’s much “cooler” to sport a fancy shade of crimson than to protect your skin from the damaging, blazing ultraviolet rays of the sun. Never mind the stinging pain of bed sheets during the nights that follow, the singeing showers in the morning, and peeling skin he’ll be experiencing in a week or so.
“Chicks don’t dig boys that are molting. You need to wear sunscreen,” I tell him. “Besides, you don’t want to end up with cancer.”
“Mom, I don’t like smelling like a chemical bomb. Besides I’m fine,” is always Noah’s response.
Occasionally, he’ll cave and I’ll see him delicately applying a microscopic dot of Banana Boat to his forearm or shoulder, but he never seems to use enough to actually ward off a burn. Then after being outside for a period of time, he’ll return later in the day sporting a pink and white camo design across his body courtesy of his “hit and miss” style of lotion application.
Back in my day it was cool to smell like a coconut in the summer. All of the hippest, grooviest kids I knew seem to be constantly slathering on Hawaiian Tropic or Sea & Ski lotions. In fact, you wanted people to see you putting the stuff on. For some reason, it made you feel grown up – something akin to getting a driver’s license or smoking a cigarette. Even if you had already applied 17 layers of the stuff, applying just one more coat could up your cool factor by about 20 percent. No beach bag was complete unless it contained thongs (and back then, they weren’t undies…they were what are known today as flip-flops), a beach towel, and a envy-inducing bottle of suntan lotion (aka sunscreen).
But what’s interesting is that in the wintertime, Noah displays the same sort of dangerously inappropriate habits as he does during the summer. It will be 20 degrees below 0 and he’ll still leave the house in shorts and a t-shirt. Does he wear gloves? No way! Unless he’s snowboarding, he would never be caught wearing anything to protect his hands from the elements.
“It’s going to be pretty hard to hold a chick’s hand if you don’t have any fingers.” I tell Noah. “You’re going to end up with frostbite.”
“Mom, it’s not cold. I’m fine,” he’ll respond.
As a worrisome mom, I can threaten Noah to be careful when it comes to the sun or subzero temperatures but I can’t force him to apply sunscreen in summer or wear gloves in winter. The only mom-measure I can take is to sneak a tube of Banana Boat into his bag or tuck a pair of gloves into his backpack. Then, if he’s extremely desperate he’ll have them.
Last night I went into his bedroom to say good night to him and as he was sitting at his computer blowing his friend’s heads off playing one of his typically violent video games, I looked a the back of his neck. “You’re really red. Doesn’t it hurt?”
“No. Not really,” Noah responded before hesitating and saying. “Well…maybe a little.”
“Chicks don’t dig boys that are molting. You need to wear sunscreen,” I told him. “Want something to put on it?” I asked.
“No. I’m fine,” he said. “Well….maybe. Yeah.”
I retrieved a bottle of what I deem as “Granny’s Soothing Miracle Oil” from the bathroom cabinet and handed it to him. “This stuff is like $300 a bottle. Be careful with it,” I warned.
Like when I give him sunscreen, I don’t know if he actually will/did put I on but I can’t force him to do it. At almost 15 years old, he’s at the age where he needs to figure out some of this stuff himself. But in all honesty, I think that all it will take to get him to start wearing sunscreen is running into Emily Cuteypants at the beach when he’s modeling a gruesome sunburn peel. Looking “repulsive” in front of a babe is probably be the only thing that will ever change his tune…because Mom’s advice is so not cool.
After Stella’s summer job fiasco last year, we thought she’d gotten her work plans for the next few months washed, dried, and completely ironed out. Last summer, she landed a job with a retailer but they rarely gave her (or anyone else there) enough hours to make the drive to the mall worthwhile. If she was lucky she’d be scheduled for 6 or 8 hours a week there – not enough to put a microscopic scratch into her cruise ship-sized college expenses. This summer needed to be different.
I encouraged (forced) her to start applying for work early and she knew she’d probably need to get two jobs just to make a meager teenage living. She applied at dozens of businesses and quickly landed jobs with two retailers. One of them said they could promise her only 1 or 2 days a week. The other one, we’ll call “Jan Sailor Toft,” told her they were eager for help and that she could expect anywhere between 12-20 hours per week. Perfect! Stella found it easy to schedule one job around the other and was soon working 20-24 hours per week between the two of them without any wrinkles.
But things got weird. “Jan Sailor” continued to hire workers and had soon added a half dozen more girls in addition to Stella. Stella’s hours there began to dwindle as did the other girls’ at the store. Eventually, she was down to only 12 hours per week. Then two weeks ago, she was scheduled for just 4 hours on a Friday. The icing on the cake was the cheery voicemail she got from the store manager on Thursday letting her know that her shift for the next day had been cancelled and that she could enjoy the whole day off. Wow! Lucky her!
Last Friday when Stella checked her schedule, she found that she, along with a number of other girls, had been scheduled for 0 hours the following week. Yup. ZERO hours. Yeah… I’m thinking that paycheck is going to be really, really, really small. Seriously, is this “Jan Sailor’s” wimpy chicken way of quietly hoping that these girls will get frustrated and quietly fade away since they have no grounds for firing them? “Jan Sailor” clearly screwed up by hiring too many employees to fill the few hours the store has been allotted by their “powers that be.”
So, Stella is out pounding the pavement again…looking for a job. This makes me anxious because she is changing colleges next fall and I don’t see a lot of prospects for work in the town where this particular school is located unless Stella becomes really good at milking cows or learns how to operate a manure spreader.
But just as all of this was culminating, I got a call from WNYC’s “The Takeaway,” a nationally broadcast public radio show out of New York City. They wanted to interview Stella and I about the troubles and toils teens are experiencing in their quest for summer work.
How did they know about all of Stella’s job woes? Are they telepathic? Did they bug our house? Peek into our windows? I wasn’t sure but I didn’t care. We were all over this and the next morning, Stella and I were awake at 4:30 a.m. so “The Takeaway” could perform sound checks and gives us a few cues as to how the whole interview would roll. They also advised us that Betsey Stevenson, President Obama’s former chief economist, would also be interviewed. How cool was that? Within a half hour, we were being interviewed by John Hockenberry, an extremely articulate host who immediately put us at ease.
Later that day we were able to listen to the interview via an audio link provided on the website and when I heard it, I was annoyed with the amount of “ums” I said, even though I had tried really, really hard not do say that. And Stella wasn’t too pleased when she heard herself say, “it’s really difficult…” four times. But hey…we did it. We were honored to be a part of the show. And next time, we’ll do better.
As for Stella, she still hasn’t found a job that will give her more than the 0 hours a week she’s getting from “Jan Sailor Toft.” Maybe her next radio interview will help her land a great summer job.
Here is the link to the show in case you want to enjoy it. It’s only about 8 minutes long max so it shouldn’t take you away from Words With Friend’s or Bejeweled or “The Bachelorette” for too long if you decide to give it a listen.
I may possibly be on the brink of insanity (again). Today after lo, so many years, I’m returning to college. This isn’t the first time, but I certainly hope it’s the last.
I started college while I was in high school …I went there in the morning for classes and then headed back to my high school in the afternoon for my “regular” schoolwork Originally, I had hoped to earn a degree in journalism — the whole idea sounded quite exciting and glamorous. I had no problem envisioning myself covering news stories like heated political protests in the midst of a crowded city street or crouched beneath a whirling tornado in the middle of a cornfield somewhere. Like any 19 year old, I was an immortal risk taker and was all for a little excitement. But when I told people of my hopes and dreams the typical response was, “Ohh…that’s such a competitive field. Do you really think you do it? And aren’t you worried about getting hurt?”
Yeah. As I got older, I actually did having concerns about errant Molotov cocktails or a couple of cornstalks getting embedded in my forehead. Plus I was a wimp. If the job market for journalism was competitive, it was much easier to give up before I even tried so eventually I dropped the idea.
But not to worry! I was able to land a fabulous 5 dollar an hour job working at an optical lab located in the moldy basement of a strip mall. From there I went on to work in sales support for a bunch of perverted men at a booming computer manufacturer, and eventually I was employed as an account service representative at a medical instrument company located near the Mississippi River.
After Stella and Noah were born, I quit my job and began working from home so Ron and I could forego putting our kids in daycare. I figured out how to do all kinds groovy things on my own like web design, graphics, and freelance writing. I even took a few college classes in web programming but ultimately figured out that really wasn’t my bag, either.
So now, 7 years after that last college stint (now that I’m practically at retirement age…), I’ve decided to dive back into the whole college thing and get the English degree I should have gotten decades ago. I cannot even tell you how many times I have wanted to kick myself for not doing this earlier (and by the way– I’ve learned that it’s actually super hard to kick yourself).
One thing I have been able to take away from my initial mistakes and fears is wisdom. I have learned that my kids need to get a degree. Any kind of degree — even if it’s a BA in Peanut Butter Sandwich Making. They need to do it because it does open doors. It will make difference in what an employer will pay. It can make the difference between getting a job in a moldy optical lab in the basement of a strip mall or landing work in a clean, spore-free environment.
So, wish me luck today as I head out the door with my sharpened pencils, spiral notebooks, brand new Hello Kitty backpack, and the used textbook in “good” condition I scored from Amazon for a mere $20. In a few days, I’ll let you know how my first day went.