Category Archives: Kids

A Foolproof Method for De-Cluttering Your Home


It may surprise you to learn that my house is often filled with clutter.

Yes, yes, hard to believe, but it’s true. With two kids, a dog, an indeterminate amount of cats (who seem to wink in and out of existence like quantum particles) and then, y’know, me, things don’t always end up where they belong. A place for everything, they say, and everything in its place.

Not in this house. In this house it’s more like A place for everything, but sometimes just for today I’m really tired so that thing will just go over there with those things, and I know that isn’t where it really goes but bollocksed if I can drag myself down the stairs and back up the stairs again after to put it in its real place.

Things, in other words, pile up.

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Clutter. Pictured: Nine books, two notebooks, a couple pairs of headphones, a pack of highlighters, a pair of socks for some reason, my keys, a tape measure from a fix-it project I worked on last week I think, a single glove leftover from winter (it’s July), a speaker I’ll be taking to school at the end of the month (so why would I move it until then), other sundries. Bonus: next to all of this, on the floor, my daughter’s shoe. You are dealing with a clutter expert.

But never fear. I have for you today a simple, step-by-step process for dealing with the clutter in your own home; a process which has worked for me more times than I can count and is guaranteed to produce results. (Just maybe not the results you expected or wanted.)

  1. Notice clutter.
  2. Summon the will to care and then to do something about it. (Don’t be discouraged if this step takes a day or four.)
  3. Consider the proper place for the clutter, and measure the convenience of that place against your willpower from step #2.
    1. If you don’t know the proper place, ask your wife.
    2. If she’s not there, or if she sasses you for not knowing, take a nap and start over.
  4. Okay, let’s be serious. If you start putting things away now, you’re going to feel silly if you don’t clean the entire room, and since nobody has time for that, let’s just tidy up the clutter a bit. Push it to an unobtrusive corner of the table. Tuck it into a corner. Hide it under your sleeping dog’s backside. Be creative!
    1. Or, for bonus points, make the clutter more intrusive to encourage your future self to clean up the clutter sooner. Moving a stack of junk into the hallway so that it must be looked at / stepped around several times an hour is effective. As is putting whatever’s in the way on the kitchen counter so that you can’t cook until it’s dealt with also works.
  5. Focus all your mental energy into ignoring the clutter. Breathe deeply. Feel the energy of the universe flowing through you. Meditate on what it would be like to be a feather tossed on the breeze. Feathers can’t clean up clutter, and neither should you have to.
  6. Become overwhelmed and slowly panic inside, but continue not to do anything about it. You really need that “spiders crawling inside your skin” feeling for the next step.
  7. Wait for the weekend (which is what you were always going to do anyway) and clean the entire room.
    1. As you’re cleaning the first room, you may find yourself cluttering up a second room. Be careful not to start the cycle over again. Leaving the lights off as you clean can be particularly helpful for this.
  8. Relax in your newly uncluttered room.
  9. If you live alone — congrats, you’re done! You might not enter the cycle again for months. If you are married, you might get a week or so. Pets, a few days. If you have kids, expect to begin the cycle again within an hour.

This post brought to you by me stubbing my toe three times on a crate I put in the hallway so that future me would put it away properly at some undetermined time in the future.

It has since been properly put away and replaced with a fake potted plant.

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Sprout Tells Me a Story


“Dad, I have to tell you about this guy.”

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“Oh, yeah?”

“His name is Rocker Baddo.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Um, it’s cool, but he’s not a nice guy.”

“No?”

“Well, he’s a mean guy with powers. He catches people with his magics and his powers are being mean to animals, and he makes mean animals like dragons catch him. And he makes dragons catch other people, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re putting this on Facebook?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay, well, you should show someone. Put their name on the website, too.”

“Maybe I’ll do that. What else can you tell me about the guy?”

“Well, he smacks people with bombs. And he sneaks up on people to catch them. And he — you remember what I said about him that he says, when he sneaks up to scare you? He says BRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRR.”

“Wow!”

“Spell that word, too. And do you need me to tell you more?”

“If you like.”

“Okay, well, the worstest part that he does is when his stomach blows up with the little blower, it goes all over the city until everybody gets dooms right in the tower. (It’s just too long for me to sit, daddy.)”

(He gets up and starts monster-stomping around.)

“That’s okay, bud. Anything else?”

“I think there’s a lot more to tell you. Guess what? The other part is when the goats come out. After he does, he gets a lot of mean animals to come out, and after the animals come out, the animals are critters and they walk around like mean monster walkers but they’re robots. And when they blast people, people fall down. And when that happens, they put fire on you and your eyes, and then you don’t wake up anymore.”

(Jesus.)

“That sounds pretty scary.”

“Yeah, very scary.”

(At this point — he was stomping around like a mean monster walker robot, and unplugged the laptop, which distracted him enough to derail the story entirely.)

Oh, to have that amount of creativity, and the total indifference to whether it makes a damned bit of sense.


WriterSpawn


It’s 7:45 AM. The sun is out, the weather, gorgeous. The beach is deserted. A dreamland for a kid who’s already been awake for two hours, mainlined a bowl of sugary cereal and awakened every adult in the house.

And instead, he’s doing this:wp-image--2074352929

I even asked him if he wanted to go down to the beach. He said, “no, I want to finish making my book. I’m so excited to read it to you.”

As parents you sometimes find yourself in these moments. Moments when the heavens open up and celestial light shines down, and you realize that you’ve done the right things, and your kid is going to be OK, that he’ll be a force for good in the world.

Then there are other moments. Moments when you wonder whether the next time you see your kid, he (or maybe you!) will be on the wrong side of iron bars and bulletproof glass, and you question every parenting decision you’ve ever made.

I’m not sure which of those moments this is. If he’s a writer in the making (and he’s definitely not an athlete, so, you know, maybe!) then he’s doomed to a life both torturous and wonderful. Afflicted with a sickness that causes him to think about everything, absorb everything, and never let his mind be quiet. Gift and curse. Not sure if good or bad.

But this morning, he’s a creator and not a consumer, and that’s more than a little inspiring.

 


Toddler Life, ch. 68: (Lack of) Sleep Chronicles


My daughter has never been much of a sleeper.

I mean, she’ll do it, in much the same way I eat my vegetables. (I know it’s a thing I have to do, and if I don’t do it for long enough, I start to feel really funky.) But it’s not a thing she’s ever chosen to do, or done willingly. I think it’s safe to say she expends more tears in a week of bedtimes than the average pregnant woman does over the course of her nine-month term.

And that’s at home, where all the routines are firmly ensconced and the deviations from said routines are rare.

But this week, we’re on vacation. Which means: strange beds, strange rooms, strange barometric pressure, the total absence of anything like routine, and her absolute favorite person in the world (grandma!) hanging around to dote on her at any time. Which by extension means that if sleep is usually a struggle, this week it’s more like healthcare (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Tried her pack & play (for the uninitiated, that’s a fancy word for a “quick set up” crib that doubles as a playpen, which has accommodated both of my kids — in either task — for maybe three hours TOTAL) in a couple of quiet rooms in the condo. Nothing doing. Tried the air mattress we packed in case the pack & play didn’t work. Not a chance. So on night one, she slept in my bed with my wife while I slept on the air mattress (which I’m pretty sure is Greek for, oh, you’ve never had back problems in your life? Well, surprise, now you do).

Surprise surprise, the baby who doesn’t sleep very soundly by herself sleeps even less soundly while sharing a bed with an adult. My wife hardly slept a wink with the little princess kicking her, tossing and turning next to her, waking up to scream and falling immediately back to sleep.

So I slept with the baby last night, while my wife — who actually has legitimate back problems — opted willingly to dance the dance of death with the air mattress instead. This doesn’t seem like a terrible call. I’m a sound sleeper in exactly the way my daughter isn’t, so theoretically, we should balance each other out.

Should.

I woke up five times that I can remember in the night.

Every successive wake-up I found myself closer to the edge of the queen bed. Somehow, the little girl 20% of my size and body weight managed to completely box me out of the bed until I was, quite literally, dangling an arm and a leg onto the floor, somehow managing to hold onto my place either by biting the pillow or clinging on with my toes.

When we went to sleep, she was arrayed on the mattress like a normal human. Head on pillow, feet pointed downward toward the edge of the bed.

First wakeup: she’s angled herself away from me slightly, head pointed away and feet pushing firmly against my hip.

Second wakeup: She’s aligned herself like a torpedo aimed at my shoulder blades, the top of her skull driving into my spine and forcing me towards the edge.

Third wakeup: The toddler torpedo has reversed itself and is now pushing its feet into the small of my back while she lays flat on her face, arms at her side, like one of those planking videos from five years ago, except that in a truly remarkable abuse of the laws of physics, she’s leveraging me — 150 pounds her better — off the side of the mattress. At this point, I actually get out of the bed, redistribute her like an actual human in the bed, and reclaim y rightful half.

Fourth wakeup: she’s curled up in the fetal position against the small of my back, which is kind of adorable, except she’s pressing the dagger points of her toenails into the soft tissue behind my knees. I concede an extra quarter of the mattress again to make the pain stop.

Fifth wakeup: it’s now six AM, the time when she ordinarily begins to stir when we’re at home. I open my eyes to find her face inches from mine, eyes wide open and gleeful, teeth bared in what I guess is a smile but what appears to my newly-awakened brain to be the grin of the very angel of death itself. She giggles and swats me with frankly astonishing strength in the ear. This is a fantastic move if you’re ever in a fight as it discombobulates your opponent and bollockses their hearing. It’s a real jerk move to pull on your father who was, moments ago, asleep, as it discombobulates the hell out of him and bollockses his hearing.

In slow motion, I slither out of the bed and collapse to the floor and attempt to sleep just five more minutes while my beautiful, delightful daughter — the apple of my eye, the joy of my life — continues to rain blows upon me.


Parents Who Hate Their Kids, Ch. 1


My son has a classmate named Taylor.

But not “Taylor.” It’s pronounced “Taylor,” but it’s spelled “Taeler.” Nothing against the name — I have a new niece named Taylor (and I hope I spelled it right, as I haven’t seen it in print yet, and HOO BOY am I about to make things awkward at Thanksgiving if I guessed wrong) — but this strikes me as a problem. Not because I don’t know whether Taylor is a boy or a girl; there are plenty of those names these days and that’s cool and trendy and whatever. But because poor Taeler’s parents have doomed her (or him) to a lifetime of interactions that begin with “actually, it’s spelled T-A-E-…”

Isn’t life hard enough?

Then there are C’Niyah and Zaniya. Pronounced the same, just starting with an “s” sound or a “z” sound. So is the apostrophe required? Or the “A”? How about the “H” on the end? Or are all of these things just flopping around like vestigial tails? And when it’s time to learn about capitalization, I pity poor C’Niyah — she (or he?) has to do it twice in her own name! How confusing is that?

In my own classes — this year alone! — I’ve got Michaela, Mikayla, Mikayela, McKayla, and Macayla. And maybe Mikaela. All pronounced the same. I’m pretty sure one of them has an “H” on the end as well, but does it even matter at this point? C’s, K’s, Y’s, E’s, H’s … they’re all flying around like cows in a tornado (RIP Bill Paxton), and there’s no telling where they’ll end up, or why. These poor girls (because there are plenty of other Michaelas, Mikaylas, etc enrolled) must ever clarify their identity by adding their last name, and have given up hope of ever having a teacher spell their name correctly — I personally couldn’t properly tell you which spelling goes with which girl with the first degree of confidence. These, too, might as well have the middle name “actually, it’s spelled …”

To say nothing of Caila, Kayla, and Kaela, whom I taught last year. Guess which one was pronounced “Ky-la”. You can’t, because there are no rules when it comes to names.

Here’s a fun one. How do you spell the name that’s pronounced “Jay-len”?

Trick question. I’ve seen it dozens of ways. Jalen, Jaelan, Jaylen, Jaelen, Ja-len, Ja’lin, Jalynn … I could go on. The possibilities are almost endless, because you can apparently capitalize whatever letters you like and throw around punctuation like you’re mixing salad with the SlapChop.

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Point is, none of these spellings for any of these names is “correct”, because there is no “correct” spelling when it comes to names. Which means — wait for it — ALL these spellings are INCORRECT! That’s just logic.

As a teacher, I dread meeting these kids for the first time, because inevitably, my first question will not be something insightful like “how was your summer” or something easygoing like that. No, the first thing I’ll have to say to them is “…spell that, please.”

And I know, I know. We want our kids to be unique, and we want them to stand out from the crowd because they are our delicate little snowflakes. But having been a teacher now for seven years (if that doesn’t make me the grizzled elder waving a yardstick around and get-off-my-lawn-ing), I can tell you that these names don’t uniquely identify a student to us, and certainly not in a positive way. Rather, these students are more likely than others to be frustrated with school, and people in general, because nobody can pronounce or spell their name! (Take it from a guy with a last name that’s vaguely eastern-European. I’ve heard so many different pronunciations I could start my own alphabet.)

If you want your kid to stand out, the way to do it is to bring them up to be a decent human being. One that seeks out learning and opportunities for their own sake. One that treats people with respect as a baseline. One who greets the world with positivity and optimism and effort.

You don’t do that by telling a child that they’re special all the time (and make no mistake, spelling your kid’s name “Taeler” when it’s pronounced “Taylor” only sets her — or him! — up to think that she’s special, that she’s different). That only confuses them when the world doesn’t back up that belief, and then they get mad at the world.

No, you make your child stand out by teaching them humility. Yes, to me you are special, but to the world, you are just another person like everybody else, and you have to earn what you want. In our new, technologic, me-centric world, it’s the person who actually lives in the real world, who pays attention to the people around them, who acts with compassion and good will instead of out of attention-seeking, who really stands out.

This post brought to you by M’ahtT, because apparently I can spell it any way I like.


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