Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gotta Love Kids

I recently spent a few days with my cousin's family, enjoying life with little girls. During the course of my visit, the oldest (a very loquacious four year old) began a soliloquy regarding her new favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz. Tucked in the midst of her childish observations, opinions and pearls of wisdom was this gem:

"I like Kansas because it's fun being brown!"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Little Bear's Chinese Tunnel

I always find it fascinating to trace the origins of a conversation after four or five topic changes - trying to see how we got from outlining the next day's itinerary to explaining the finer points of an aerial attack during World War II, or discussing the inner-workings of an earthworm. Normally I enjoy long chats with friends or family, and hob-knobbing with children oftentimes yields hours of entertainment. This past week, however, I became embroiled in the Conversation Of Doom with a five year old. It began simply:

"Mommy's going to let us stay up ALL NIGHT!!"

Disregarding the possibility that this statement was completely false, I made sounds of wonder and awe that were guaranteed not to get my head bitten off for doubting his word. I knew exactly where the desire to forego sleep had originated as I'd been the one to let them watch an episode of Little Bear wherein he tries to stay up and see the sunrise, just like Father Bear. Unfortunately, the creators of the episode didn't fully explain the part where Little Bear actually does fall asleep and begins to dream amazing dreams.

It was all either of the boys could talk about all through lunch. They just couldn't wait to stay up all night and see fireflies and bats, walk around the neighborhood without their parents, fly around like super-heroes, and just have the most amazing adventure of their young lives.

After the three year old went down for his nap, the five year old and I sat down at the kitchen table to draw, and the conversation picked up again.

"When Little Bear wishes for things, they ALWAYS come true!"

I tried to explain that Little Bear has a very good imagination and when it looks like his wishes come true, he's actually just pretending. He repeated what I had said in a very disillusioned, questioning way and I verified it. A moment passed, and he repeated his above comment as if to reassure himself that I hadn't actually meant what I said. Before I could correct him again he cut me off with another question:

"How do wishes come true?"

Ah-ha! For once I have a Catholic child in my care and so I began to explain that wishes come true when God grants them. I told him that he should pray about it and ask God to make his wish come true. It quickly became apparent that he expected his wishes to come true just as quickly as Little Bear's always did, so I began to explain that they usually take a long time to come true and even then it's not certain they will. This led to explaining that God always does what is best for us, even when we wished for the opposite, and that He doesn't do things like give people wings because people aren't supposed to have wings.

I could see that this wasn't what he wanted to hear, so I expected some sort of argument or gem of childhood "wisdom". What I didn't expect was what I got:

"What if I wished that I could walk through a tunnel to China?"

. . . ??? Even after two years of experience as a nanny, the randomness of children continues to surprise me. What kid wants to walk to China? Apparently this one.

Anyway, I gave him some sort of answer, I forget what it was, but it didn't satisfy him, so I had to try again. I explained that there was no tunnel that led from America to China and that the only way to get to China was to take either a boat or a plane. (Yes, hot-air balloons were discussed, but that's not terribly relevant.) That answer didn't satisfy him either. We went around and around in circles of illogical arguments for a good half hour, finally arriving at the solution that when he grew up he could dig the tunnel so that he could walk through it. But he reasoned that this idea wouldn't work either because if he was the one to dig the tunnel, he'd have to be in China already, so he couldn't walk through the tunnel to get there. I told him to dig the tunnel, walk back to the beginning, turn around and walk through the tunnel to China. He still wasn't pleased, but before he could start up again I checked my watch and announced that we had missed the beginning of Quiet Time. For my part, I was ecstatic - finally I could just sit quietly and read a book and all thoughts of Chinese tunnels could vanish with the whims of a five year old boy's attention span. Silly, silly me.

For once the, "OK, it's Quiet Time," announcement didn't phase him. The questions continued. Having learned my lesson in the past, however, I shut him down and wouldn't argue anymore, so he finally went off to do his own thing.

Periodically throughout Quiet Time he would ask something along the lines of, "Do you still think the only way I can get to China is on a plane or a boat?" But if he got an answer at all it was, "It's Quiet Time right now." My hope was to kill the conversation through lack of participation. But then Quiet Time ended and my shield dissipated with my hopes.

Solutions were suggested: pretend like Little Bear does (which he did for a bit, but apparently the other side of the basement doesn't look like China despite my best impersonation of a Chinese lady); ask mom and dad if the family can take a trip (his idea - he felt they wouldn't mind, but I was a little more skeptical); wait until he's old enough to do it himself (but this didn't satisfy his need for instant gratification).

Thankfully, the three year old killed the conversation with a question of his own:

"WHAT are you guys TALKING about?"

This brought the five year old's mind back to the beginning and once more we were discussing the amazing things they'd be doing after everyone else was in bed. Exclamations of anticipation and excitement were numerous, and they were planning every detail very eagerly. They were still discussing plans at the top of their lungs when their mom came home, heard what they were planning and killed it:

"What? I told you that you could stay up all night as long as you stayed in your room!"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Morning With Murphy's Law

Today was supposed to be a good day. I had to go to work earlier than normal (which means getting up earlier and facing the bitter morning cold with the dog) but it was all supposed to get better after that. The boys and I were headed to the Science Museum with three free passes and we were all looking forward to it.

After several alarms and half an hour of "Why am I getting up again?" I managed to drag myself out of bed an hour and a half before I had to leave. That was plenty of time to get both the dog's and my morning routines taken care of, pack my lunch and accompanying pills, and snarf an apple and peanut butter, with a few minutes left over to check email, etc.

Planning ahead, I hopped in my car ten minutes early to allow for any residual traffic from rush hour. Yes, sir, the day was off to an easy beginning and could only go up from there!

. . . Or so I thought.

Things started to crumble as I was passing through the airport - roughly ten minutes away from home. I was already a trifle annoyed due to the idiotic morning shows that were monopolizing my favorite radio stations, when my phone started ringing. It was my mom, informing me that I'd left my carefully packed lunch and pills on the kitchen counter. Some quick mental math told me that I could still make it to work on time if I turned around right then and didn't waste any time getting back on the road afterwards.

So I managed a fairly efficient turn around and made my way back out of the airport, took a left and was horrified to see the gates closing at the railroad crossing just ahead. Thankfully it was a really short train, consisting of one engine sandwiched between two pairs of coal cars. The gates went up and we were off like a herd of turtles.

The guy in front of me somehow thought that going 30 in a 45 was the normal thing to do. I couldn't pass him due to lack of visibility and oncoming traffic; so I sat behind him, praying that he wouldn't have far to go before turning off.

He stayed with me most of the way home, but through some careful bending of the speed limit once he was gone I was able to make up some lost time. My mom met me in the driveway and passed lunch and pills through the window and I was off again.

Checking the clock, I was relieved to see that if I just drove my normal route at a sane speed I could make it right on time. And the other drivers were even cooperating with me. Made good time back to the RR Crossing and discovered a very long coal train making its way down the tracks very slowly. I was back to praying.

Thankfully, I had missed the first half of it and it didn't take too long for the rest to pass by. We all put our cars back in gear, ready to make our way to freedom! . . . But the gates didn't go up and the lights continued flashing . . . as another very long coal train made its very slow way down the tracks in the opposite direction. I was no longer praying - I was begging. But just to be on the safe side, I called my boss and let her know that I was most likely going to be a bit late.

Finally, the train ended, the gates rose, and I managed to make it all the way through the airport without incident. A few cars were a trifle slow getting up to speed as we neared the freeway entrance ramp, but nothing terrible. Then we caught up to a Wide Load being hauled up onto the interstate. Took a while, but we made it onto the freeway and were able to pass him and make our jolly way down the road, yet again bending the speed limit. And managed to catch an identical Wide Load - this one in the middle lane, bleeding over into both the left and the right lanes. So we all slowed down and squeezed past.

Traffic wasn't too bad after that, despite the usual assortment of speeders, plodders, and weavers. The construction zone wasn't even too big of a hassle, despite people's fear of the cement wall blocking the shoulder. The clock was still on my side and I was definitely going to make it. No more worries. I wouldn't even have to pay the 20 cent toll to go the fast way.

I exited the interstate right on schedule, got a green light at the intersection and happily made my way to the proper street and turned right. To my utter despair I discovered two large dump trucks and some sort of Caterpillar Tractor Thing scraping leaves off the road and blocking both lanes. (By this point I'm beyond begging - I'm pleading with heaven to get me to work on time and in one piece.) Another car and I were stuck in limbo between the dump trucks, unsure if we should turn around or wait it out, until the CTT driver noticed traffic wanting to go the other way. So he moved and let them through, and we nearly had a massive pileup right there as we were sitting in the only open lane as they whipped around the truck in front of us, unaware that we were even there. Thankfully, they slowed down and we managed to move over onto the shoulder. We then forced our way through the same hole before the CTT guy could get back to work, leaving us stranded.

At this point, I figure either nothing else could possibly go wrong, or my day would continue on this way until I was a ball of tears and drool babbling in the corner. Deciding to be optimistic, I continued my journey. After all, I was within ten minutes of work with the miraculous possibility that I could still get there on time or just a couple minutes late.

At the penultimate major intersection, I had a green light and so was pulling through without stopping when a lady in the cross lanes pulled out in front of me, forcing me to stomp on my breaks, beseeching heaven to spare my life, my car, and the cars and lives behind me. From all I could tell, she wanted to make a right on red, but she was on her phone and therefore distracted. Her brain told her, "Right on red!" so she went for it without stopping to look. It must have occurred to her that this could be dangerous, because she stopped cold, completely blocking my lane. But does she rectify this unfortunate situation quickly and efficiently by continuing on and clearing a path for the rest of us? No. She doesn't. She decides to prove that she's actually a conscientious and law-abiding driver by smiling sheepishly at me as she proceeds to put her car into reverse and back out of my way!

Shaking my head in disbelief, I make my uneventful way through a few more turns before I reach the proper neighborhood, figuring that nothing else could possibly go wrong when I was this close. Total incredulity was no doubt coloring my face as a gas truck pulled out in front of me and poked its way down the road. Thankfully, it continued on past my destination and I was able to pull into the driveway only five minutes late. My boss was waiting in the driveway with the boys, and as soon as I got there, she hopped in her own car and drove away, leaving me with two boys jabbering nonsense at me.

I managed to get myself organized and my stuff stashed in the house quickly enough and went back outside to play with the boys. It was some little boy game consisting of good guys, bad guys, and chocolate hot dogs. I was apparently one of the bad guys, along with the three year old: we were chocolate hot dog thieves. The five year old was the good guy: an extremely fervent and vindictive good guy. Chocolate hot dog thieves must have murdered his family, kicked his dog, and stolen his toys when he was a kid to inspire so much anger and blood lust.

Anyway, as we were making our getaway, he stowed aboard our ship and we were able to capture him. The three year old was all in favor of taking him home and eating him, but I thought he was too tough and stringy. Regardless, our captive's shoes were muddy and he managed to kneel in one of his own muddy footprints. And so, within ten minutes of my being at work, the five year old's nice white khakis have both grass and mud stains on the knee.

After all of these remarkable events, it was with some fear and trepidation that I loaded up the boys and headed back out into the big bad world. But through the grace of God, the rest of the day was incident-free. We had a fairly good time at the museum and my commute home did not involve trains, dump trucks, near misses, or anything beyond a bit of slow traffic and evil afternoon sunlight in my face.

And that, folks, is how I spent my morning. How was yours?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OK, So First We Put This . . . Wait, No, We Toss This . . . Huh?

As a nanny, I've encountered a variety of situations: surprising, enlightening, difficult, frustrating, etc. But the recurring frustration of one particular problem finally reached critical mass today. Namely, the mind-boggling habit of throwing away the instruction booklets that come with children's games. There seems to be an epidemic!

Now, don't get me wrong, I put a lot of the blame on the manufacturers. Why they don't print the instructions on the box is beyond me. But then . . . I guess you're limited to only one or two languages, depending on the size of the box, whereas you have no limit when printing in a booklet; and who doesn't enjoy studying those funky Chinese symbols while your kids wait impatiently to play the game?

The reasoning behind the method of printing them, however, is unimportant. The matter at hand is the unusual practice of discarding this all-important document. Have any of you tried to play children's games these days? They're mostly electronic and far from self-explanatory. Up to now I've been able to muddle my way through on common sense and basic reasoning capabilities; but "UNO Moo!" was a new one on me, and I was completely stumped by the seemingly innocuous little plastic barn full of spherical animals of various colors; so I had to ask the five year old how to play.

I can't even begin to remember half of the gibberish he spouted at me, but it was a lot of pointless maneuvers without any objective. When I tried to insert a bit of logic and a motive into his unrelated mess of instructions, he declared, "No, I'm the judge, and what you're saying is against the rules!"

As I had yet to figure out even the first step, we argued in circles until I happened upon a barn door that actually opened and he suddenly remembered a whole new set of disjointed commands we were to follow. Somehow, out of this we managed to cobble together a decent game, which I won; but this in no way dissuades me from my original point.

So to all you parents out there, current or future, especially those who intend to hire a nanny at some point: save the instruction booklets! Even you may be grateful some day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This Had A Really Clever Title . . . but I forgot it

Yesterday it was proven, yet again, that nothing is certain in life except that God will get you through.

On the way to church on Sunday I was very dismayed to discover a new noise in my car. It was originating in the front right wheel and sounded like a busted wheel bearing to me. (My opinion is, of course, very well-informed: I heard a busted bearing once and it sounded like that.) So after sitting around on my thumbs for a few days, hoping it would go away if I just didn't drive anywhere, Daddy told me to head to Midas. He was even nice enough to set the appointment for me when Mommy's car was back in the shop for the second time within a week. Apparently this just ain't our month to save money on the cars.

Anyway, I took it in and told the lady that it was a busted bearing (since I'm the expert on such things). She said they'd take it for a test drive and let me know what they found.

So Dave and I headed out into the wild world to kill time. How does one kill time in a city? Spending money. But that was OK because I've been in dire need of a 2011 calendar ever since the year started. So we headed one block over to the Barnes & Noble; they've always got calendars. Cute ones, too.

After a brief search we discovered a small table display of four different calendars: some dirty TV show, half naked dudes, Boyd's Bears, and Twilight: Eclipse. Of those I was most inclined (shockingly enough) towards the last one, until I turned it around and discovered that there wasn't a single picture of the wolves as, well, wolves. I no longer had any interest in purchasing it or looking at it for the rest of the year. (Can you imagine an entire month of Edward's stoned visage? I don't think I could handle that.)

Then the hunt was on. Where does one buy a cute calendar for the current year at the end of January?

Bookstore? Nope.

Target? Nope.

DSW Shoe Outlet? . . . hehehe . . . Nope, no calendars there!

. . . Wal-Mart? Bingo.

Wal-Mart's selection wasn't exactly vast, but it had more variety than anywhere else we'd tried, and although I was tempted by the Justin Bieber one, I had to pass it over for the puppies. (Yes, that was sarcasm, please tell me you caught that!)

Along the way, I also purchased a few necessary items for my car, such as maps of the area, and rubber mats for the floors. Then I get a call from Midas (three dead hours later) saying that it wasn't a busted bearing at all. It was actually just a poor wear pattern on the tire that was making the noise. Despite being unable to visualize how that could possibly be the cause, I agreed to wait one more hour while they replaced the tire.

When it was all said and done, Dave and I had killed the entire afternoon in the pouring rain, and I'd spent over $500 in car repairs in less than two weeks of ownership. When I got home, I immediately checked my bank account online and was appalled at how low it had gotten: lower than it's been in the last four years. But as I was fretting over that, Mommy told me that I'd missed a phone call when I'd been out.

A few weeks back I'd gone to a job interview for a nanny position here in town, but hadn't gotten hired because I wasn't a strong swimmer. Turned out they decided somewhere between then and now that the lady they had hired wasn't going to work out. So they called and asked if I would be still be interested in working for them. Naturally, I agreed.

And so that is how I managed to go broke and get a job all in one day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Drive Away with Absolutely No Cash!

My life was looking to be pretty boring in 2011: get a job and save money. There were possibilities of flitting hither and yon across the country to help family members in tough situations, but nothing was set in stone. So I settled in to the distasteful task of job hunting, but wasn't sure where to begin.

Somehow, in the mess of life plans, short term job possibilities, and wishful thinking, my wonderful father gave me the Go Ahead to adopt a dog. So I ran gleefully out to the shelter and brought home a sweet little Aussie Shepherd mutt named Zoey. Extremely distrusting and timid at first, she has since warmed up to the family and ingratiated herself with each of us. The stairs no longer represent a dark and cunning trap waiting to swallow her whole; and car trips no longer begin with the overwhelming fear of being dumped on the side of the road.

Within a few days of having this sweet addition to our family circle, it was also decided that I needed my own wheels. A sudden change in the car-eography of our family was going to leave us in a pinch once I finally get a job. So exactly one week after bringing home Da Baby, I was driving my own car off the Carmax lot: a really sweet 2007 Trailblazer.

Two days later I was sitting in Midas while they gave it the once over and replaced a leaky rear tire. The day after that, I was in the vet's office while they gave Zoey the once over and removed the stitches from her Snip-snip. And so, I have come to two large realizations: I'm an adult, and I need a job!