Friday, October 31, 2008

Mommy Tales

Anda told me she's going to be the long long necked dinosaur that walks on four feet--you know, 'the herbivorous one.'

Yesterday or the day before I was reading the news and I heard Benjamin calling me from outside. It took me a minute to engage my brain and realize he'd probably climbed onto something and was stuck (he often goes up, doesn't try to come down). So I went out there and said, "What, Benji?"

And then I saw him.

He was standing on the top of the kids' ride-in toy truck, which is about 4 1/2 feet high, totally naked. The truck was pushed up against the wall that divides our back yard from the neighbors', and Benji was pointing over the wall, saying, "Diaper. Over. Diaper."

I wish I could have seen what colors I turned before I could make my feet move. I'm glad I had the foresight to climb up on the truck with him and peek over the wall before I rushed over to the neighbor's house. Benji had, indeed, removed his diaper (wet, but not poopy, thankfully) and tried to throw it over the wall into the neighbor's yard.

Fortunately, he missed.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I gathered naked baby off the top of the truck and the diaper from the crack between the truck and the wall and came inside. I re-diapered the baby (with a fresh one), disposed of the old one, and then moved the truck away from the wall.

Being a mommy is so fun. Ben takes his diaper off frequently, lately. Apparently Huggies are uncomfortable and easy to remove! The other day I caught him naked, reading one of my vintage books, which he had just peed into.

That kid will be the death of me yet!

I'm trying not to think of all the trouble we could have when the object of his attention is the new baby, instead of his own diaper!

moosebutter on YouTube with Corey Vidal

This is a very clever take on one of moosebutter's most popular, long-lasting songs, "Star Wars." And Corey does a mighty fine job of lip-synching the parts, although he doesn't always identify who is singing with complete accuracy (who would guess that sometimes it's Tim on the low notes, and sometimes on the tenor line!) Still, it's a fun video and he did a good job. The video has so many hits so fast that a news story has already been written about it. You can read it here:

NOTE: Please read the comments for Corey's take on my statement above. Corey was working with the 4-man sheet music, performing it as it is performed live, to a great extent (except that Tim really does say all of Luke's lines in the live performance, too) and I was going by the recording, which has even more than 4 parts, with someone multi-tracked here or there. So my apologies to Corey. Regardless, he did a fantastic job.

Great video!

Halloween in Jonesville

We had more than our usual share of frustration going into this holiday. Benjamin threw up last night. Tim's been sick for a week, and, judging from how deeply exhausted I've been, I have too. The car battery completely died and had to be replaced this afternoon. There was a moderate tragedy in the extended family that could get better or could get worse--we don't know yet--that we found out about early this afternoon. Oh, and I voted. Tim checked out the lines and said they were long, but not impossible, and sent me instead, figuring one of us had to vote on the 4th, and he would probably handle the longer lines that day better than I (and he's right).

So this is house the day went, divided between me and Tim but in this order: clean up Benji. Get car fixed instead of going to the birthday party I promised the kids we'd go to. Absorb bad news. Go vote. Try to get a confirmation of my pregnancy for Medicaid, but the office was closed for 'nevada day'. Come home and eat. Find costumes and dress everyone, complete with the usual changing of minds, lacking of pieces, and frustrations. Go buy candy to hand out. Go to the ward trunk-or-treating party, which included dinner and was really fun.

This was the first trick-or-treating adventure I remember where Tim got to participate, too. So I got to sit down and watch and hand out treats while Tim took our scientist, cheetah (that jaguar costume has been pretty flexible for us over the years!), mouse, and suave 'james bond' kitty around to get treats. Benjamin loved the 'punckin-mins' (I think this is a derivation of pumpkins and pikmin) and the 'calloween' (candy+halloween, but referring specifically to the candy). All together everyone seemed to have fun. I walked in to dinner area of the parking lot party and immediately noticed the brand of speakers the sound guy had set up, and how many and which directions they were aiming, and what kind of laptop and size of mixer he had set up, and which software he was running to choose the songs, and that (as usual) the sound was far far too loud for the audience. I guess I've been married to a musician for a while! Even with loud music, I far far prefer trunk-or-treating to trick-or-treating. You get the same amount of candy much faster, with less walking and everyone there are 'safe'--or at least you've met them in church before. I was surprised to find our neighborhood, which is totally ideally set up for trick-or-treating, with lots of houses in a circle, was deserted, with most of the lights off. Nobody in the neighborhood really has kids anymore, so nobody was really doing the holiday, although a few houses were decorated.

So we survived another holiday with no tears. That means its a glowing success, right?

Oh, and halloween in vegas? Pleasant. It was the first year ever I didn't have to find costumes that fit over coats, hats, and gloves, or worry about snow.

Holidays are hard for me because I dont' really care about them, but I know the kids do. The funny thing is, they won't remember any one particular holiday so much. It's more of the conglomerate of Halloweens they'll remember. That's why, despite the fact that I'm not big on an overload of traditions, I try to follow a few simple ones for the major holidays--or at the very least do it in the same simplified way every year--because the sameness every year is what will make it so the kids will remember that we 'did Halloween' (or christmas, or easter, or thanksgiving).

Besides--it's less work for me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ADD jokes

How many kids with ADD does it take to change a lightbulb? Hey, lets go ride bikes!

from a T-shirt: "They tell me I have ADD. Look! A Chicken!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

good writing quote.

"After plot comes style. But in that order. You have to have a skeleton underneath your skin or else you're just an unappealing pile of flesh." Nathan Bransford, on what he would do for an MFA writing program (instead of what is being done right now).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Political Babes"

A different version of this should be posted tonight, and it should hit youtube, too, but here, for your listening pleasure, is Tim's latest finished song, featuring him and a lady named Judy on solos. I'll update the video when we get the visuals done.


I saw this ad on craigslist today: "Seeking models of all genders...."

Gee....I thought there were only two genders. What am I missing?

Monday, October 20, 2008

our latest fun adventure

Mac-n-cheese made with tub margarine and reconstituted powdered milk=double yuck.

(Hey--why is margarine spelled that way but pronounced as if it followed the rules for a soft g? It's the opposite problem of 'girl.' If you follow the rules, it should be pronounced 'jirl'. Once again betrayed by the vagaries of English spelling!)

So today's fun activities for the kids included getting out a little blow-up kiddie pool we bought for $1 off the clearance shelf at Food-4-Less, and combining that with 3 cans of shaving cream we've been carrying around for 5 years even though Tim hasn't used shaving cream in that time, and adding 4 young children and a little instruction on how to shake and spray. It was really really fun. Caleb ended up coated with slippery white, and we decided that, in the future when everyone's old enough to do slip-n-slides, we'll use shaving cream instead of water. Then a little hose action, and we had a whitewater wading pool to play in.

Later, the kids continued their dig for buried treasure in the back yard. The hole is getting quite big, but no treasures have come out of it yet except good memories and dirty hands, and a couple of scoldings for taking my best serving spoons out to dig with.

Making plans for upcoming holidays: so far we have requests for 3 kitty costumes and a vampire costume for halloween. Anda just has to be a cheetah. She has become absolutely fascinated by reading about animals, and cheetahs are the latest favorite. So last year's jaguar costume is going to become this year's cheetah. Dan and Ben just copy.

And the only thing we know for sure about thanksgiving this year is that we're going to have a cool whip pie. That was all the kids ate of the pies last thanksgiving, so we're even going to skip the crust, and just spoon cool whip into the pie plate and serve it that way. Jello was the only other thing the kids ate, and I'm wondering if I can get away with having a jello-cream-feast and skipping all the other stuff, except for me and Tim.

Do you know what's growing in your dishwasher?

Honestly, I don't know why dishwasher manufacturers don't make easily removable gunk screens like dryers have for lint.

Our dishwasher stopped working again, and I got fed up and prayed for a working dishwasher. The next morning, I went to work on google looking up how to remove the spray arm assembly so I could clean it. I figured that was the last thing I could try before we had to throw the whole thing out and start over.

Didn't ever learn how to remove the spray arm assembly, but I did find a bunch of forums discussing my exact dishwasher, with questions by regular folk and answers by handymen, that gave me a bunch of new ideas and enough instructions to pursue them.

I discovered very quickly that it's much much harder to work on the inside of a dishwasher when you are six months pregnant but the size of an average 8 months pregnant, with the baby all out front. I couldn't maneuver my body right to get into the dishwasher, reach things, etc. And the awkward positions made my sciatic nerve act up again. And just getting down on the floor and up again to, say, grab a different size socket for the socket wrench was difficult.

Following the instructions online, I removed the pump cover and found the pump was clean, but the inside of the cover had at least 1/4 inch pinkish crud on the inside, with a little black mold to even things out. How do I write YUCK as emphatically as I felt it?

So I removed the screen assembly in the back of the machine. That was easier said than done--two of the bolts are literally an inch under the heating element. I managed it, though, and found 2 inches of crud stuck behind the screens, gumming up the pump thing back there. Plus the screens were plugged with calcium/lime deposits from the hard water. So I cleaned all that up.

Then I had to run the machine several times empty to get all the gunk rinsed out of the spray arms, etc.

And things are looking better on that front--at least, freshly dirtied dishes are getting clean. The ones that were washed before are not getting cleaned and will have to be scrubbed by hand with a chore girl before they can be considered cleanable again.

What a pain.

And who would've guessed what gross stuff can collect inside a machine that processes soap and hot hot water at least once a day. Makes me wonder what kind of gunk got into the kids while we were using the dishwasher dirty!

I suppose if they were going to die from something, they would have already....

So that's two major appliances that have taken my time this week. No wonder my plan to work on one room a day hasn't made the house look any better (although Tim's work has...)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Duct Tape

I have now fixed a major appliance with duct tape. Hooray!

The washing machine wasn't draining, and, in desperation I lay my head down on the dasher inside (what the kids call the 'chugger') to bemoan my fate before looking for a free washer on craigslist when I noticed a bit of metal poking down. A little exploration revealed that the switch that indicates the washer door is closed was mounted with plastic screw mounts. Washers vibrate when they work, and apparently the vibration had slowly cracked the plastic screw mounts, and they broke off, dropping the switch too low for the door to trigger it. I duct taped it back up and once again am in the race to keep up with the mounds of dirty laundry.

It's not a permanent fix. The moisture in the washer loosens the duct tape, and I have to tighten it before every load. Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out a way to wire the thing up using the screw holes. A plastic cable tie might be just the thing, and I think I have a few around here somewhere.

I am cursing Kenmore, though, for using a cheap plastic part. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned nuts-and-bolts technology? Sure those sometimes worked themselves loose over the years--but then all you had to do was tighten them up and you're good to go!

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with the dishwasher. I can't wash by hand because it hurts me terribly to stand in one place for very long, and it hurts to hold my arms up to wash dishes, and my hands lock up while I'm holding the dishes, both painful and annoying, as well as a claustrophobic experience. So we HAVE to have a dishwasher that gets the dishes clean. And mine sometimes does. But the water jets get plugged so often that I've come to the conclusion that, to keep the thing quiet, the water pressure inside isn't powerful enough--it certainly doesn't spray sauce off dishes. I think if I can fix the float somehow to make it so more water comes into the dishwasher, that might help. The water level does seem rather low. But this is one of those dang new-fangled, computer-driven dishwashers, and I don't know where the float is, or if it even has one! I am seriously considering moving to a run-of-the-mill, no-fancy-schmanzy-parts portable dishwasher. You know, the kind that you hook up to the faucet, and all you have to worry about breaking is the belt? I've always had good luck with those.

You really ought to read this....

This is a blog post by a 'publishing professional' about a book and discussion about the book she was involved in about how difficult it is to get truly non-partisan information, and why that is. Very interesting. I'll have to look up the book. I'm especially interested in the author's assertion that most people in her area are not with one of the major political parties in actual beliefs. So why do we grant those two major parties so much power, if we don't agree with them? I know I don't.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who to vote for....

Everyone I know is as puzzled as I am about who to vote for. McCain seems to be more of the same-old same-old, and he seems 'slimy'. Obama is charming, but so deeply entrenched in democratic same-old same-old, and he's extremely inexperienced. Both seem out to serve themselves and their friends over the American people.

Neither of them fills the need our country has right now. What we need is a person who is experienced with taking broken systems and fixing them. Someone who can take in all the input, work with corrupt or slimy or deeply entrenched politicians but not cave to them. Someone who can consider novel plans and implement new ideas without falling for whatever fad comes along. Someone who will consider what is right and best, and also what his people want, and not be swayed by special interest groups or lobbyists. Someone who can stand on his own two feet, but still listen to the people he is supposed to be serving. And someone with a proven track record in these things.

What we need is Mitt Romney.

I had just decided to write the man in, just so I could say I voted with my conscience instead of trying to 'psych out' an impossibly corrupt and mixed up game, when I discovered to my horror that Nevada doesn't allow write in votes at all because they use touch-screen voting machines!

Back to square one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

health care problems

This article really highlights for me, in statistics, what the health care problems in America are: lack of access to care, poor quality care, and overall poor health.

And the candidate's plans do nothing to really fix the problems. Both candidate's health plans are big bandaids that don't really address the problems, but actually feed them in the long run. We have a socialist bandaid (Obama's plan) and a capitalist bandaid (McCain's plan), and both require people or try to entice people to buy into the insurance system--which, as I see it, is actually the CAUSE of the health care problems in America.

Think about it--what is the crisis anyway? It's that poor people and sick people can't get care except in emergency rooms, which then overtaxes the hospitals by forcing them to take on all the welfare cases while also forcing them to neglect the true emergencies. And, since it's so unpleasant to get care in an emergency room, and since you can't go there except in an emergency, preventable problems are killing people.

Even poor people who have bought into the government's existing welfare health plans, like medicaid, don't have access to care--nobody takes medicaid. A boy in NY died because he couldn't find a dentist who would take medicaid. (So how Obama's plan to just put more people on medicaid will help is beyond me--not only does nobody take it, applying is impossible if you don't have a graduate degree, and the things they require to prove you exist can cost up to $100/person to obtain!).

Honestly, this crisis isn't going to be over until we get rid of the insurance companies and find a new way for people to pay for medical care. And the insurance companies, protest though they will, really are the part of the 'crisis' that needs addressing. They cost too much for many many families to get into, even if they are paid for in part by employers, they (instead of doctors) determine what care is acceptable for patients (nobody's talking about the hundreds of patients who die every year because the insurance companies wouldn't approve the care the doctors wanted to give, or wouldn't approve it on time), they deny access to care to those who need it most either by outright denying access, cancelling coverage, or making it so expensive people can't get it, they own the hospitals and doctors that give the care (why isn't anyone crying 'conflict of interest'?!). In short, they have blatantly put their profit margins ahead of the health, welfare, and financial stability of the people and the doctors.

The problem is, the insurance companies are all caught up on their bribes. As long as they continue to fund the politicians, what honest chance is there of the kinds of changes in the health care system we need?

I realize the socialize it-privatize it debate is not so easily brought to a happy conclusion, but right now medicine is essentially socialized anyway, but by a private, for-profit industry that has placed access to care into the hands of the people who can pay the most, and they're milking them for all they're worth.

That article says we pay more for care and get worse care than other countries in the world, and we're getting worse. Worse, even, than the socialist countries. Think about is encouraging more people to buy into this corrupt system going to fix things?

Personally, having been denied access to medical care or given poor-quality, demeaning care for many years, I am starting to get anxious for a REAL solution. Would Christ run the medical system the way it runs now? Absolutely not.

Friday, October 10, 2008

what I've learned this week

I have learned this week that, to the world, chicken pox doesn't matter. Neither does strep, pregnancy, 'invisible' disability like ADD or fibromyalgia, teething, the sewer overflowing into the house, poverty, people being out of town, or stress.

They still hold you to a standard set by healthy women with no kids.

It isn't fair.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Daniel just informed me that there are monsters under my chair in the bedroom.

Anda added, 'Like most monsters, these are carnivores. Most carnivores don't eat people, but these do.'

So there you have it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I Don't Think They Know What 'Simple' Means

From the side of the Ivory Soap packaging:

"simply ivory
simplement ivory



'Simply' Ivory, huh?

I don't think I have ever seen a less exact, more complex list of ingredients. It's like a list of cookie ingredients that says, "May contain one or more of: eggs, flour, sugar, butter and/or shortening, vanilla...."

What exactly is in that soap, anyway?

Where do they get these questions?

Raising kids, I get more difficult questions than ever I answered in college.

Today, Dan asked, "Mom, do monkeys have fingernails?"

Um....I think so. I'll have to look up monkey pictures online to be sure.

Always a new trauma....

And this one is silly...

So the last agent who requested my book got back to me with a "it moves too fast--both the readers and the characters need a pause here and there to rest and get to know each other." This was a variation on a comment I got from another agent who read the book pre-rewrite, and I had tried to fix the problem. You can see my reaction on the previous post about this. And it was even a quick response, well-phrased, and kind! I guess I just had to cry it out once, since I don't remember crying over any other rejection ever. She wasn't even an agent I've been following online for any amount of time, or anything like that.

Still, I went through several days of "Do I change it, or is the book what it is and it's time to move on?" and also "So I know I can write a killer query--can I write a book, or am I wasting my time?" and also, "Being mormon is an integral part of me and my outlook on life, and therefore the output of my writing. Is it possible that there really aren't any other women who want squeaky clean, plot-driven books--is the outlook too sweet for the content to be sellable?" and also, "Some of the stuff I want to write is driven by the conflict a main character has between their Mormon beliefs and their interactions with the real world, but one agent told me that Mormon references are a no-no in literature, even if it's a cultural rather than didactic reference (in other words, even if the character is mormon and neither of us is preaching). If I get tied up in a career as a writer, would I lose the freedom to tell these stories, too? Is it better to give up and feed my writer soul and never be published than to be constrained to fit someone's view of what should be written?"

I decided the only answer is that I can only tell the stories I have to tell, not anyone else's. And that nobody else can tell my stories. Orson Scott Card, in a lecture at BYU years ago, said that if you don't tell your stories, they are lost to the world, and that's a tragedy. I also concluded that the reason I write is because I need to write like I need to eat and need to love. To feed that need, I have to just write, and not worry about what is going to come of it.

That settled in my mind, I was perfectly content to never even pursue publishing again.

THEN I found my thoughts drifting to the reality that in times of turmoil and stress (think the '30s and '40s, for example), people need an escape and they seek out music, dance, social events, and the so-often disdained 'escape fiction'--just the stuff that I like to write. Many of the enduring forms of art in America really took hold and became a force to be reckoned with during those hard times, including jazz, American-style partner dancing (swing, etc), and the ever-popular murder mystery. Bad times promote good art, and also create consumers of fun art--not the depressing, 'literary' stuff, but the stuff that takes you away for a little while. So if this time of turmoil continues and gets worse, which I think it will, wouldn't it be a favor for the 'lightweight' artists of the world to provide an escape for people?

So, with all that floating in my mind, I checked my email and discovered an agent got back to me. I had emailed her the day before I got the previous rejection because on her blog she had expressed a new-found interest in a genre I write. I had been following her agency's blog for over a year because they have a fantastic reputation, and I liked their blogging personalities. I also really liked the insight and encouragement I got from their client guest-bloggers.

I assumed it was another rejection, since she's a top-of-the-game agent, and not a 'baby agent' in a good agency. Still, I always read them.

And I nearly fell out of my seat--she wanted to see the first 3 chapters of the book.

Instead of being excited, I was horrified and absolutely overcome with doubts about my work.

It took me 24 hours to open my manuscript and see if I could fix the chapters and still mail them in a timely manner. It was another hour before I could make myself read it. And I had the same experience I did when I was studying for finals in college and got to a point when I was just done, regardless of whether I felt like I knew enough to pass the test. I realized that I am done with that book. It is what it is, and I'm ready to move on. For now. If an agent or editor wanted to work with the book, I'm sure I'd have no problem dusting it off again, but for now, I just can't go on changing the manuscript for every person's opinion. I mean, really, the agent before the one who said it moves too fast said it moved too slow!

It was another 8 hours before I printed the pages and decided to send them. 25 pages won't hurt her to read much (and she could quit after 1 or 2; I've heard agents can tell right away if they're going to like something). The worst that happens is she says, "No thanks." If I never send the pages, it's an automatic "no thanks."

But what happened to my resolve to settle myself happily in a private, non-published world and feed my writerly soul and spend happy hours with my children? Can I take the continual ups and downs of trying to get published, or will I finally be content to let it go and not care as much about the outcome?

(and isn't it when you finally adopt that attitude that things start to happen?)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Anyone know any resources for this?

I absolutely love the curriculum we use from Compass Learning that we access through The lessons are age-appropriate, interactive, animated, and truly educational.

They are also only accessible through a subscription to Time4Learning, and usable only online. That means we have to have internet access and continue to pay for each child who wants to use the curriculum.

What I wish I could have, and want to know if anyone has ever heard about anywhere, is a curriculum as well-made and thorough as Compass's Learning Odyssey, and as interactive, computer-based, and in tune with the educational possibilities of computer-based learning, but that I can purchase on cd and then use for all the children like people do textbooks, handing it down to each kid as is appropriate. I realize I would lose the continually-updated status of the curriculum as it is now--it would become static--but it would be bought and paid for and I wouldn't have to worry about losing it if we missed a month of paying for the internet, or the subscription, or whatever.

The only thing I have been unhappy about with the Compass curriculum is that their math program is not well leveled (introduction to money for first graders includes adding total values of mixed coin sets; lessons on money for 2nd graders include several that are along the lines of 'sort this pile of coins by type of coin; put all the pennies here, all the nickels here,' etc. Many of the math quizzes that accompany each lesson test things that were not taught in the lesson, which is a source of great frustration to new learners, and very discouraging. It's also not a 'spiral' program, like Saxon math is. I don't mind that they include elements of 'new math' (the numerical equivalent of 'whole language reading') because they still teach the basics, but it seems like it would be so easy to program a spiral kind of math program!

Anyway, if there is anything out there like this for homeschoolers that you know of, point me in the right direction. If not....I know a couple of designers and programmers. Wanna pick up a side project?

I'm sure I'm not the only homeschooler who would like to own and interactive e-curriculum, especially one that is fun and solid educationally. And I imagine there are some school districts that wouldn't mind investing in a product just once, instead of having to subscribe year after year--especially in foreign countries. You could partner with that guy who provides laptops for kids in third world countries, and the curriculum could be provided for local neighborhood home schools worldwide, or developing schools around the world (like in Africa), where you might not have competent teachers available--or the money to access the internet or the resources to pay for a subscription to a program like Compass Odyssey--and for volunteer tutoring organizations that work with at-risk populations like kids in inner cities or in mental institutions.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Latest Benjamin Chaos

So the landlords made a surprise visit (only 22 hours after I got notice they were coming, too, so illegally), and I spent the day before cleaning like mad so the house would be clean. Didn't make it all the way there, but I got the bedrooms, hall, bathrooms, and the worst of the kitchen done.

They came, they left, we started getting ready to pick up Tim from the airport, and I realized Benji had been quiet for a long time, and when I listened, I heard splashing.
Bad sign.

I sent Caleb into the bathroom, and he brought out a drippy Ben, who submitted to being cleaned up.

Episode over, right?

Oh, no.

I went into the bathroom a bit later and found the little monkey had fished wads of toilet paper out of the toilet and they were now plastered to the shower, the walls, the outside of the potty, and all over the carpeted floor.

I am reminded of the story my mom tells of the time she went to the doctor and said, regarding one of her babies who was colicky or something, "One of us needs a tranquilizer. I don't care who."

fishy fishy fishy

This was the funniest thing I've read in months:

"...and there's just no way to sanitize live fish."

I found it stated seriously in a serious article, which can be found here:,2933,432132,00.html

And don't bother trying, because we now have it on the strictest authority that there's no way to sanitize a live fish.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Just 17 months old, this child has become the largest source of work I have ever encountered.

He has a lot of energy, for one.

And he's a climber, so he can reach just about anything in the house.

He's smart.

And he's pretty sure that he knows more than anyone else. Even me. He's so sure he's right that you can't even negotiate with him. He just gives you this look and then, the instant your back is turned, goes back to what he was doing.

Strong-willed, which I am and have done 3 times already, doesn't begin to describe this child.

Benji is the little duck from the old cartoon "I want to flush it again," Dennis the Menace, Calvin, and that kid from "the Ransom of Red Chief," all rolled into one and too young to punish.

Oh, he knows what 'no' means--he says it to the other kids all the time, scolding them for getting in his way--but he doesn't care if someone says it to him. They don't really know what they're talking about.

And he loves to empty things. Like a new box of paper, down to the individual sheets. The dirty dishes out of the dishwasher onto the floor as fast as I get them into the dishwasher--and then he closes it on your hands while you're loading it still. Water out of anything--sink, pot soaking on the counter, toilet, etc.--especially onto the floor. Boxes of toys, books, garbage, fabric, clothes, or anything else. Keys off the keyboards. Generally speaking, the increasingly full floor is the receptacle of these things. It's bad enough when he tosses a plate full of grated cheese onto the floor. It's so much worse when he's already dumped onto the same spot a box of toys, a box of baby clothes, and every dirty dish that was sitting on the table. The ants think he's wonderful.

The 3 year old and 5 year old think he's wonderful, too. Half the time, they joyfully join in the shenanigans, more than tripling the trouble that can be--and is--caused.

Ben's the kind of person who, when Tim said, "Don't touch my mic stand," he moved his hand down two inches and grabbed it again, and then looked at Tim, grinning, to see what he would do. They repeated this behavior until Benji had been told not to touch every inch of the mic stand--one inch at a time. I don't think he's touched it since then, but the process of getting there is enough to get any parent pulling their hair out and any teacher calling for ritalin. I can just hear him at 13 years old, saying, "But you didn't say not to touch the legs of the mic stand." or "But you didn't say anything about not touching the mic." or "Did you mean the whole mic stand? I thought you meant just don't touch it right there on that spot."

Tim literally had to take him off the chair and out of the room, saying, "Don't touch my computer" 6 or 8 times before Benji took him seriously and burst into tears. For about 15 seconds. And then he found something else to do.

But what parent has time or energy to teach a child a lesson ten times before he realizes you're serious about not putting spoons in the microwave or drinking from the toilet?

Benji loves an audience, so it's getting difficult to keep any number of children in the room with him still and quiet--like for bedtime, or singing time in nursery--because he sees quiet people as his own personal audience, and immediately and determinedly begins to entertain. And he's good at it. He knows exactly what to do to run the show, get the kids going (even kids who have different things that get them riled up), and then keep the show rocking and the audience focused on him and entertained. This may be a great asset to him if he goes into Tim's field. It makes putting 4 kids to bed in the same room (and they insist on sleeping in the same room) impossible. Last night Dan, who is sick, fled to my room. Benji followed him, climbing on my bed and standing in the middle, singing at the top of his lungs 'I know we can do it" (a song Anda wrote that Ben and Dan sing together often) and dancing the dance that goes with it. He was earnestly trying to entice Dan into one of his favorite games--do a show on Mom's bed. I finally left the big kids reading Calvin and Hobbes while I put me and Ben in a dark, quiet room to calm him down, where he protested sincerely, "I'nna sing. I'nna dance."

To his credit, he also loves to cuddle. He loves to sing and dance and gets great delight from making people happy. He works incredibly hard, and rarely gives up, despite opposition or difficulty (see, this is an asset that, at this moment, drives me nuts because I can't get him to stop doing a wrong thing), and even when people won't help him. I have watched him more than once cry because he can't move something that's too big and heavy for him, but keep working through his tears until the task is accomplished. He is loving and devoted. He's a born leader, hard worker, and sensitive to other's pain. He gets over sorrows quickly, and is generally cheerful and friendly. In fact, most of the things that make him a difficult toddler will make him an exceptionally incredibly adult. If he makes it that far.

This child will grow up to be a force to be reckoned with. I just hope he is a force for good. And that is not something anyone is going to be able to coax him to--he's going to have to decide for himself.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

something to think about

Something to think about:

Consider all the systems in our nation that are widely considered broken. Education, health, welfare, etc. Consider all the major issues that have the country divided, like abortion, homosexuality, gangs, or what to do with sexual predators, the mentally ill, kids who don't fit the mold, etc.

Now consider what would happen if we stopped for a minute and asked, not "how can I offend the fewest people and guarantee my re-election," but, "what should our mantra be in order to build the strongest nation possible?"

It would entail something like changing our focus from non-offense and appeasement to building strong families, since they are accepted widely as the basis of society. What if, instead of focusing on laws and policies that excuse and support (or even just refuse to condemn) promiscuity, for example, the national leaders accepted as a standard that there should be no sex before marriage, fidelity within marriage, and a sincere focus on raising healthy children.

It would not erase the problems or the issues. Not right away. And it would offend a lot of people, but the policies now offend a lot of people, too.

What it would do is change the discussions. When people talked about, say, abortion, you wouldn't get the two unrealistic extremes--absolutely none ever no matter what or go ahead whenever you want and the government will pay for it. People would suddenly be asking, not, 'how can we patch _____," but "what needs to be done for things to be right?"

Such a paradigm shift would not automatically solve all the issues or prevent new ones from arising. It would, however, change the debates in such a way that it would be possible to solve the problems. Right now, nobody can find the answers because they're asking all the wrong questions.