A day for the memory rolodex

So I had a doctor’s appointment last week — I don’t need to go into that, the point of this story is that my kids were with me.  I’ll back up here a bit to say that I’m seriously geographically challenged.  I know that sounds irrelevant. Stay with me for just a minute. On top of being geographically challenged, I switched insurances in January and now have a true HMO which, while great in some respects, is horrible when it comes to locations of specialists, tests such as MRIs, CAT Scans and the like.  I know, I know. My HMO issues sound equally irrelevant as to why my kids were with me.  I’m getting there. Trust me. So. Being geographically challenged and nervous about driving to the location of the specialist I needed to see, my son Jake was kind enough to take me to my appointment so that I didn’t have to traverse unknown lands. Ta Da! I made it to the point–told you I would! Aren’t you glad you waited around?

Well, he also had the absolutely brilliant idea of catching the light-rail (a.k.a. commuter train) to the National Aquarium in the city after my appointment…his treat. Which is how I got to spend the entire day with both of my kids, something I haven’t done in quite some time.  Oh, we’ve gone to the movies here and there. Every time a Marvel comics flick comes out actually. But since Jake doesn’t live at home any more, we haven’t truly spent a day together, the three of us, since I can’t remember when.  Jake’s friend came along as well and he is very much like my son which means he’s smart, has a sharp, somewhat twisted wit and is quick to laugh. He fit right into our little familial clique just as if he always belonged there.

Despite the overwhelming odor of urine throughout our foray from the light rail station to the aquarium, and witnessing the beginnings of a throw-down between two women at a bus stop, for which another man, for reasons unknown, seemed to be gathering an audience in the passers-by, a fun day was had by all. I’ll admit the two women (one proclaiming loudly, “I am NOT going back to jail!”) may just have added to the excitement of the day.

We laughed more than I thought possible, we oohed and aahed over black tipped reef sharks and blue-tinted jelly fish, we waited patiently in one spot for over 20 minutes for a 3 finned sea turtle named Calypso to make his way back around a panoramic tank so we could see him up close, saw a dolphin who refused to swim right side up, and reminisced over field trips from days past when Jake’s fellow student (my charge) skipped into a museum exhibit, setting off alarms in the process.

I used to tell my kids they could stop growing at any time…that they could simply stay small indefinitely. They grew up anyway. They never listen to me. Damned kids. Now I know that’s the way of the world. I know that’s how it’s supposed to go. Kids grow up and move on.  Even still.  In the aquarium last week, I caught myself sorely missing the hand holding and the “stay together!” that always accompanied such trips when they were younger. The barrage of quick fire questions that would need answering as we went through the exhibits because they wanted to learn about everything they saw.  Now they know more than me. Which is as it should be, I suppose.

The one thing that has not changed, and it thrilled me to no end, was their sense of wonder at the animals and habitats contained in the aquarium. They are both still very much in awe of the natural world around them and the animals that reside within it. And I’m happy to say Jake’s friend is the same. I’m glad that he has surrounded himself with like-minded friends. Like I said before. It’s as if this kid is one of us.

So at the end of the day, Sarah and I arrived home gloriously tired with impossibly sore feet (oh my god such sore feet!)…and for me — a full, happy heart.

Below are some photos from the day. You can probably guess my favorite exhibit.

the kiddos

the kiddos

fierce looking jelly

pacific sea nettle

jellyfish3

jellyfish 2

moon jellyfish

moon jelly – these were a very good size

baby moon jellyfish

baby moon jelly — some were the size of quarters, some the head of a pin

jellyfish8

spotted lagoon jelly

spotted lagoon jelly

jellyfish9

Trading Up

I have an idea! It’s perfect if I do say so myself. Let’s turn in grandma and grandpa for newer models…

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the traditional role of grandma and grandpa. It’s a real treat for young kids to go to the grandparent’s house while mom and dad are working – grandma will bake cookies and other goodies and let the kids eat all they want. Grandpa will take the kids fishing or to the park or somewhere fun.

But sooner or later there will come a time when grandma and grandpa just can’t hack it anymore. Grandma no longer bakes and can’t do certain things anymore because of arthritis. And Grandpa just can’t move like he used to, his knees pop and his back aches…what fun is it going to the park when grandpa has to use a scooter?

Let’s forget about all the wisdom and love grandma and grandpa have provided over the years and can still provide.  No baking, no trips to the park? No need to visit them any more.

But…mom and dad desperately need the time off that those visits to grandma and grandpa used to provide.

So as I said, I’ve got the perfect solution!

Take grandma and grandpa to a shelter where they can be quietly put down (or not so quietly depending on the technique) – after all, they’ve outlived their usefulness – and exchange them for a new grandma and grandpa!  The newer model grandma can cook tasty treats, and the new grandpa will be able to get into a roller coaster with the grandkids and they can all get happily sick together.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this. Okay, yeah, I know. I’m melodramatic. But stay with me here for a bit.

I’m talking about people who have had dogs and cats for years and years (the animal’s entire life even), but once the dog gets too old to chase after a ball, or the cat has lost interest in playing with the little laser light and just sleeps all day long, lots of people just take them straight to a shelter – a kill shelter, mark you – because really, who wants an elderly dog or cat? – and replaces them immediately and without compunction with a new impossibly adorable puppy or a kitten.

So, a dog has given a family a lifetime of love, and now when it can no longer run and jump, but simply wants to sit by his master’s side and be petted, the family just gets rid of it? It’s disposable because it’s so easily replaceable, I guess. This is our society now. This is what we do. Aren’t you proud?

What prompts this ridiculous rant you ask?  Well, recently I saw this couple, with their kids in tow, dumping a 13-year-old dog off at a shelter and at the same time were adopting a puppy. There was nothing wrong with the dog except he was just too old.  I could see his confusion and terror, it was written all of over his face. He knew something was wrong but just couldn’t quite figure out what. The woman was even talking about what a great dog he was, he was just “too old.” They wanted a younger puppy around the house. And the shelter had no problem with this!

“Ah, yes, Fido’s outlived his usefulness, we’ll take care of him so you don’t have to (and you know what their idea of “taking care” of Fido will be) and here’s a brand new puppy for you – see you in another 13 years! Have a great day!”

You’ll be happy to know that a rescue friend of mine swooped in to save the day for Bruce (his name is Bruce). But what about all of the elderly dogs that are dumped daily into “shelters” (what a euphemism that is!)? I have a hard time with any animal being dumped at a kill shelter (there are so many alternatives) but it especially breaks my heart to see a dog who has lived with one family his entire life, has given his love, his loyalty, his everything, and that family who supposedly loved him has no qualms about abandoning him.

It’s a shame that those pet-owners/parents can’t be dumped by their kids when they get too old – or maybe they will be. Maybe their kids will learn from this…so much more than the parents ever intended.  And when they get older their kids will dump them in “a home” the first chance they get because they’re “old.”

old dogs

A little something called your computer’s history

You don’t have to be an IT expert these days to know about a little something called your computer’s history. Back when the Internet was first being explored by us commoners, the intricacies of our activity were tougher to figure out as we struggled to understand how connecting to our phone line can make pictures appear on a screen. Crazy!

Now it’s 2014. We have no excuse for not knowing what the history is. And we also have no excuse for not knowing how to clear it. Spoiler alert about the movie Don Jon: Joseph Gordon Levitt is a guy addicted to porn blah blah blah. He meets a girl blah blah blah. She goes on his computer to check his browsing history blah blah blah. She finds all the XXX sites he’s been to for the past ten days blah blah blah. Wait, what? This is where the record scratched for me. Not only was he so dumb that he didn’t clear his history of his more intimate indulgences but he had no clue what his history even was.

This should not be. This cannot happen. People, how would you feel if your history were made public one day? I, personally, would feel fine because the most you’re going to see out of me is that I read too much (yes, yes, I am aware of the numerous visits to Amazon and Barnes & Noble), make frequent visits to Irish travel guide sites (a dream as yet unrealized), spend way more time on Facebook than I should (who doesn’t?), and that I really, really like Marvel Comics (I am NOT ashamed).

Clearing one’s history is not only good advice to keep in mind for porn aficionados and e-voyeurs, but also surprise birthday party planners, gift givers, child stalkers (your own child, pervert, not other people’s!), Words With Friends cheaters, and closet Kevin James fans. Oh and if you’re going to be chatting it up with people you really shouldn’t be chatting it up with?  Yeah, it would be a good idea to delete that too.

Long story short, if you’re going to do something sketchy online you should really be better at covering your tracks. It’s really not that hard. Yet some people just can’t seem to grasp the basics.  Would you ever rob a jewelry store and not wear gloves? Websites have fingerprints too. All your movements leave a trail, but clearing history can wash away that digital DNA, at least off the surface. Use it or if you get caught I can only say to you, “I told you so.”

Of course there’s always the novel idea of not doing sketchy things to begin with.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Like that’s ever going to happen.

 

The Wailing Child

My neighbor has a daughter that’s roughly somewhere between three and five years old. Honestly, I’m not a good judge of age so I’m going to stop at that pretty wide estimate. She’s small, much like a kid around that age should be, but this girl has got a set of PIPES on her. Holy heaven she can wail like a banshee.

The other day the weather was so nice I decided to enjoy the breeze so I popped my windows open to catch some of the nice aromas of the surrounding wilderness. Piercing through the serenity of the great outdoors came this unnaturally loud bellow. It was the little girl, just letting loose everything in her superhuman lungs. She was standing maybe five feet from my bedroom window (where I was trying to relax) yodeling away. If she would have told me she was trying to communicate with life on another planet I would’ve found her volume level perfectly acceptable and understandable.

The real reason she was letting out this blood curdling shriek? She was calling—nay, screaming—for her friend who lived all of two doors down.  Let me step back for a second and explain that prior to the aforementioned assault on the senses, these two girls had had a loud conversation (also right next to my bedroom window) that centered round the one girl having to go home for dinner and that she’d be back later. The wailing child (aptly named) was apparently not thrilled with this plan. So. She waited all of five minutes to start the kind of howling that would make any banshee proud.

Maybe she wasn’t allowed to leave her yard alone, hence my guess at her young age. Maybe she was super lazy and didn’t want to walk the twenty seconds it would take to reach her friend’s front door and knock on it. Who knows? All I know is that after a half hour she had gifted me a fresh migraine and frayed nerves from all the yelling she did.

She was screaming so loud I couldn’t even tell what she was saying. Her volume was so high that the message couldn’t get through the deafening barrage of sound. I made out her friend’s name but that was it. Besides that, it was all gibberish. Extremely loud gibberish.

And there I am in my house, dumbfounded that she’s able to continue on like a raving lunatic for sooo long. Where the hell were her parents? I know I’ve written a few times about people who have questioned my parenting methods. Allow me to turn the tables and tell you all that I certainly think her parents could use a little tune up in the personal decency department. I would never have allowed my kids to stand out there and just randomly scream like that. It’s not exactly what I would call neighborly behavior.

When I got pregnant (both times) everyone told me “oh this will finally make you realize how great kids are.”  Yeah, my kids. They’re awesome. Other people’s kids? Not so much. They still haven’t rubbed off on me quite yet and probably never will if they keep on trying to raise the dead outside my window. Remember kids: Silence is golden.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Smartphones are Eating your Brain — Or, Ode to “The Feeling of Power”

I was thinking today as I was out doing my round of errands…what did people do before smartphones?

Did they come out of a grocery store pushing their cart full of groceries, paying attention to their little children and not letting them run around willy-nilly wherever they wanted? Especially, let’s say, directly in front of another person’s cart causing that person to stop quickly or else run them over thereby tossing their precariously perched milk into the parking lot. I’m sure parents would’ve noticed this prior to smartphone days don’t you think?  Maybe?

Since their attention would not be riveted on a small square screen, did these non-smartphone owning parents put their groceries in the trunk of their car, while at the same time keeping track of the aforementioned little children so that they weren’t at risk of being flattened by cars driving up and down the aisle-ways (or whatever the technical term is for the driveway between the rows of cars)?

Did they put their children in car seats then take their cart all the way to a cart corral so it wouldn’t block someone else’s access to a parking spot or roll back into the aisle-way? Would they then get in their car, look in their rear-view mirror both ways before backing out of the spot, and then drive carefully out of the parking lot?  (You can sort of tell what kind of experience I had at the grocery store I suppose.)

Well, the answer to those riveting questions is no!  Ha! Surprised you there, didn’t I!?

The same people who are careless today with their smartphones are the same people who were careless even when they didn’t have smartphones to occupy their attention. Smartphones just make it worse.

Even without smartphones, grocery store parking lots (and grocery stores themselves) have always been hazardous and annoying places because of inconsiderate and/or oblivious patrons. And don’t even get me started on those people who leave their shopping cart in the middle of an adjacent parking spot, instead of pushing it all of ten feet into a cart corral! (I’m not joking. I can understand people who don’t want to walk 10 yards or so to a cart corral, but when it’s literally ten feet away and they can’t be bothered? What’s up with that!?)

So, smartphones are just another way for people who are already inconsiderate and careless about personal space to be even more inconsiderate and careless on many levels.

But there’s more to the insidious nature of smartphones than that…I’ve been considering this for a while.

There’s a rather famous Isaac Asimov short story – well, it’s famous if you’re a science fiction fan, anyway – called “The Feeling of Power,” about a society where people have forgotten to do math in their heads, because they always use calculators. (I don’t want to go into the whole story…suffice it to say that it takes place in a dystopian future where people have been supplanted by intelligent robots — of course, being Asimov).

In his autobiography, Asimov says that one of the magazine editors who read this story (he wrote it in 1958) scoffed at the idea that mankind could ever possibly forget how to do simple math in their head.

Well…in 2014 is there any doubt about it? It used to be calculators were never allowed in classrooms – students had to do all the math by themselves. By the 1990s, students were allowed to take math tests with their handy-dandy calculators by their side.

And it’s only gotten worse.

There are no calculators in classrooms these days, I don’t think… because they have been supplanted by phones which have calculators, cameras, and of course, the ability to text to people. And if students are asked not to bring their phones to school and text in class while the teacher is trying to actually teach, there is such an uproar that you would not believe it!

I admit – I personally can’t remember new phone numbers anymore. I don’t need to. They’re all programmed into my phone. People in general don’t need to keep anything in their heads anymore – it’s all in their phones.

And it’s amazing how many people are connected to their electronics as if they’re life giving umbilical cords.  If something ever happened to their phones, I think these people would end up staring glassy-eyed into the distance, drooling, not knowing what to do.

Asimov predicted this in 1958….but he was ignored.  I imagine that not too long into the future we’ll not only be amazed by anyone who can remember how to do simple arithmetic or recall a phone number on command, but perhaps going further, we’ll have a Wall-E kind of existence. Just sitting on floating barca-loungers, computer screens planted right smack in front of our faces with no idea whatsoever of what’s going on around us.

Read Mr. Asimov's short story here

Read Isaac Asimov’s short story here

 

Wall-E

Wall-E

Warranty (Or how I foiled the evil-doer)

The cats in my house are treated very well. Always a full food dish. Ample water. Toys abound. They should never complain of being bored with all the games and distractions I’ve spent money on specifically for their enjoyment. Yet this one cat…this one cat…well, let’s just say I’m reminded of Ralph Kramden’s “One of these days, one of these days…POW! Right in the kisser!”

Trust me, this exclamation of promised violence is not unprovoked.  Because for all that I do to keep them occupied, this one cat is hopelessly and helplessly addicted to eating headphones. Every single chance she gets to gnaw away on the expensive cords she takes with unabashed glee. They’re never my headphones mind you (I don’t use them). They’re my daughter’s.  The one person in this house who ensures the safety of all the four-legged creatures within…and this cat chooses to destroy her things. Who ever said cats make sense?

Oh and let me tell you, she knows she’s not supposed to do it, but like most cats, she simply doesn’t care. She lays in wait for the perfect moment to strike and makes the most of it when it comes. Sarah will leave the room for, literally 30 seconds, and when she comes back in, there’s Holly grinding away on the cord of the latest pair of headphones mistakenly left on the coffee table.

I swear it’s like she’s trying to crack walnuts with her teeth she’s so devoted to the task. We try to keep them out of reach but she knows where they’re stored. You’d think that if they’re placed way up in the top drawer of a high dresser they’d be safe right?  Well you’d be wrong.  Holly just scales up the dresser and tries to open the drawer to get at them.

I’m a woman of simple means. I can’t be going around buying a new pair of $15 headphones every two weeks. Sarah is great about putting them up out of harm’s way when she’s done with them, but quick trips to the bathroom are sometimes overlooked. And there’s no hope of rehabilitating my cat to break this destructive habit. I’ve tried. Oh how I’ve tried.

Thankfully, the last time I went to Radio Shack to buy yet another pair of headphones, the girl behind the counter told me that for an extra $3.99 I could get a warranty that includes damage of any kind. Any kind. Even damage caused by an annoying, obnoxious cat falls under the warranty (I asked).  Why oh why didn’t they tell me about this before!?  Damn right I want the warranty! Ring that sucker up! I don’t get the super hoighty-toighty noise cancelling Beats headphones or anything fancy like that but taking into consideration how many pairs of the cheap brands I’ve already had to replace, the $3.99 warranty was a steal.

Would it actually pay off or was this just a clever ploy by Radio Shack to scam a few extra dollars so they can stay in business just a little bit longer? Lo and behold just two days…two days mind you…I was right back at the Radio Shack picking up a new pair of headphones cost-free because the last one’s cord had been neatly sawed in two. So was it worth it? Most definitely.  Oh and the replacement pair I got for free?  Yep. They’re under warranty too. So take that Holly! Your dastardly deeds are foiled!

 

evil-doer

evil-doer

Sharing vs Taking

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you have probably run across an entry or two that talks about my parenting methods and my views on parenting in general. You have also probably gotten the idea that I’m not exactly what many would define as a “traditional” mother, what with the swearing and tattoos and all. There’s an article I read several days ago that grabbed my attention because it describes another woman’s ideas on child-rearing. It’s sure to inspire lively debate because she puts forth the idea that maybe teaching your kid to share isn’t as good of an idea as it has been made out to be.

Check out the article here for the author’s own words: http://www.sunnyskyz.com/blog/365/This-Mom-Perfectly-Explains-Why-She-Does-Not-Teach-Her-Kids-To-Share#K30Up3rQsEbSfM3r.01

I’m sure we all have our own takes on what she has written. It’s not a black and white issue and I certainly stand right smack in the grey area. I completely agree that your child shouldn’t feel like it’s his or her obligation to share toys that they own with someone they may or may not know if they don’t want to. That’s not how things work in the real world. If it was, a stranger could take a peek over your shoulder when you’re at the Starbucks “working,” and demand to use your laptop, right? It’s your computer, but they want it so you’d have to give it up. How much sense does that make?

But if the toy doesn’t belong to anyone in particular (it has been provided by their pre-school or Chuck E. Cheese for communal use for example), sharing should be required after a reasonable amount of time. The real world tends to agree with this logic, too. Take the gym for instance. If all the Stairmasters are in use, it’s considered poor form if someone rocks out on it for an hour. In fact, most gyms have a 20 minute maximum use time if machines are busy just so everyone can get a fair turn at something that everyone has the same amount of ownership in.

Personally, I think that the author has confused “taking” with “sharing.” Unfortunately, I also think that she’s far from the only parent that’s guilty of this inversion of definitions. A child shouldn’t just think they can point to something, have it given to them no questions asked, and call it “sharing.” I think this concept is what is driving the author’s intrepid new non-sharing platform. The outcome? To her—or at least this is what I get from what she has written—it’s possible that the old model where parents force their children to share is why society is in the state that it’s currently in now.

I would offer the suggestion that maybe parents like her who don’t believe in sharing is the reason our society has gone downhill. As adults, we no longer help the poor, the homeless, or even our neighbors. “To hell with them” is the attitude most people take these days. It’s my money/food/stuff, to hell with them we say as we hold onto our “stuff” with a death grip. Back in the day, the phrases “Gotta look out for number one” and “You do you, I’ll do me” didn’t exist. Neighbors were quick to share resources, food, time, help. Now… not so much.

Of course I’m not talking about every individual person, but as a whole we’ve become by and large a closed society that shuts strangers as well as friends out unless there are seriously extenuating circumstances.

Sharing vs. taking. Don’t get them confused. This blog is just sharing my thoughts. You don’t have to take them, but hopefully it is an idea you will at least consider.