Monday, June 27, 2011

MY Redneck's Inventions

They say that, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Or at least I think that's how it goes. And boy oh boy, have we met 'necessity' up close and personal these last few months! We have been brow beaten by her over and over. I say 'her', because only a female can poke, prod, tease and nag like necessity does.

I'm talking about the necessity to create meals out of potatoes, or pasta, whatever canned vegetable is left and season it from the crumbs scraped from the bottom of the spice cupboard.

I'm talking about the necessity to walk away from our credit cards, redefine "needs" and how that differs from "wants."

The necessity to use what we have and not let anything that costs money go to waste. Conserve energy, water and food to meet budgets set every week. We will never be able to keep up with the Jones's, so what's the point in trying? I hear they're not great company anyway.

The necessity to work as much as possible in order to dig ourselves out of a huge hole we've dug by living above and beyond our means, thinking there would be no consequences. (Can I get an amen?!)

We no longer buy new, we buy used, or more often the case...we create. I consider us to be the Rednecks of the North. Yeah, I've seen all those websites that poke fun at "Redneck Inventions" and we've never reached the lengths as say, oh, these guys:
Redneck Hot Tub

But really? Hasn't the economy and high gas prices forced most of us to make do with what we have in one way or another? To come to grips with the idea that the moment we throw it away, we might need it and can't afford to buy a replacement? It's just that a lot of us have to make do with a lot less. I'm pretty sure it was a Redneck who came up with this idea first so he wouldn't have to leave his lawn chair:
In addition to this, he probably invented the catheder as well...

I'm guessing the first one involved a duct tape, a camouflage baseball hat, 2 cans of Schlitz, and a bunch of straws from McDonald's strewn together. (You can see it, right?)

Anyway, back to me (because it's all about me), or rather my husband. He is THE KING! The difference with his inventions is, they're actually quite useful. He feigns incompetence when it came to changing diapers, cooking anything besides cheeseburgers, and apparently changing a roll of toilet paper. But I began to see through his ploy when he invented the "refrigerator knot." Besides the possibility of my children hanging themselves from the frig door, this one had a lot of potential...it just needed some tweaks and a good marketing campaign. We call them "McGyver's" because, seriously, under all of that Hollywood make-up, wasn't he just a glorified Redneck?
I always thought he was hot...


Wanna take a look at what we got going on? Let's start with this:
A little worse for wear, but we cut the sharp ends off.

This was built several years back out of scrap wood and chicken wire. It fits perfectly between the edges of the garage door rails. Since the garage opens to the backyard, this allows us to have the garage door open AND be able to let the dogs roam freely. It has saved us hundreds in doggy jail bail-out money.

Problem: we lost our downspout in a windstorm. The large hole in our soffit caused the rain to pound on one section of our patio, thus washing out the sand between the pavers. The solution?

That is the top to our outdoor fire pit (whose handle corroded away and left a hole) up-side-down on a bucket, thus collecting any stray streams, and directing it to a bucket...also with a hole drilled into it, and PVC pipe and our salvaged piece of drainpipe leading the water away so our pavers don't take such a beating. The downside to this one, sounded like a Reggae band on steel drums whenever it rained.

Next, we had a light fixture located directly above the stairs leading to our basement. Problem: Who could reach the 12-inch string dangling above the middle of the stairs? Reaching it was a matter of luck and a death wish...and that was for the adults. Our children wouldn't go downstairs to their playroom without having a lighted way.

Solution:

Much better. We can now turn the light off and on without having the balance of an aerialist AND without leaving the safety of the first floor.

Moving on. The kid's bouncy house did not survive the rambunctious tribe of 7-year-olds at my son's last birthday party even after several attempts to salvage it with strips upon strips of gorilla tape (sorry mom). Besides, after all of the air-filled-toy-lift-offs on the news, maybe it wasn't safe. However, after creating a yellow spot from laying on our lawn for too long, hubby devised a way to recycle. Problem: No escape from heat and sun on a 2-second sunburn-rated body while fishing in the boat.

Solution:

PVC pipe (eat your heart out, Blue Man Group), string, screws, cut up bouncy-house canvas, and some ingenuity, and wa-lah! A fold out canvas that provides shade and comfort while fishing, yet folds up easily and doesn't reduce visibility while driving. (He also concocted some sort of PVC pipe set up that allows him to steer while trolling and controlling the motor from the BACK of the boat. Too complicated for me to picture here.)

If you have a career as a handyman, you need to utilize every available space for transporting your tools. Problem: Where to store brooms so they don't poke you in the eye from the back seat every time you make a right turn.

Solution: Add a wooden bumper, drill holes, insert brooms or shovels...'nuf said.




View from below.


Hell, his whole trailer is a McGyver-ism:


This is my life. I embrace it. I consider my husband quite a talented man. (Shameless plug - find Help Around The House on facebook, and you can see pictures and updates of his craft.)

So, when we have a need, we find a way. I kid my husband a LOT about his "inventions," but deep down, I hope that my kids inherit his ability to combine necessity, creativity and materials at hand to form a solution...that takes talent...especially if you need to defuse a bomb with a paperclip, Rolex watch, and duct tape.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clever Is As Clever Does

Our family has flirted with the idea of changing from cable to dish for about a year now. It's cheaper than cable and has more channels, but we were worried about reception and had heard the rumored horror stories here and there. Monday, the solution found us in the form of a blue-shirted sales kid named Doug. We had it installed the next day. IT TOOK 5 HOURS! If this is any indication of what we're in for, I'm afraid. Very afraid.

The up side, besides having, oh, about 45 more channels with nothing on, is a channel called, "Boomerang." I'm sure I'm late in discovering this one. But, from what I've seen so far, it is the American Movie Channel, of kids programming. It runs the cartoons that I grew up watching, including, but not limited to:

Tom and Jerry:


Dastardly and Muttley:

And one of my all time favorites, Pink Panther (with shorts of Inspector Clouseau and Sergeant Deux-Deux (pronounced "Do-Do")):


Kamrin is absolutely fascinated by Pink Panther. Not so much the cartoon, but the theme song...but not the "dead - ant" one, this one:


He turns it way up and dances to it. This is him in his PJs, watching. He insisted on wearing the heavy winter "feetie" jammies even though it is nearly the end of June. It always ends the same way, in the middle of the night, he'll get hot, strip them off, realize his room is dark and I wake up to a naked 4-year-old's butt in my face. Nice.

The intensity!

The reason I am so thrilled that they are watching these cartoons is not because I'm transported back to care-free memories of my own childhood, really. I've just forgotten how a person could watch an animated feature that doesn't drown itself in burp, fart and snot jokes, along with the gag inducing visuals or kids with overly large eyes and names I can't pronounce. These rely only on mind numbing, non-life-threatening violence of falling out of windows and bouncing high into outer space, hitting your hand with a hammer only to have it pulse to three times its normal size, having the fur ripped off of a tail, only to appear magically intact in the next frames and bombs that explode, but leave all limbs whole, no blood and only a blackened face. Aaah the good ol' days. (sigh)

Anywho, one downside to this channel is that Kamrin now looks for every excuse to stay up later than his bedtime to watch it. Since he's exhausted the...need for a drink or something to eat, having to pee, being scared, wanting someone to sleep with, looking for a specific stuffed animal...excuses, he needs to come up with new ones. For example; he created a drawing which he attached to his door. On it were stick figures representing Dad, Kaiden and myself. They were each circled with an 'X' through them. When questioned about the meaning of this sign, Kamrin replied that it meant these were the people who were NOT allowed into his room. "Aha. I see. Well, goodnight then," I say to him from his doorway, "I'll see you in the morning." I walk away. Join my husband in the living room to explore what OTHER channels may be available for us...like Discovery Channel or National Geographic Wild (come on people! What did you think I was talking about?) Not four minutes into channel surfing, a hear the soft pad, pad, padding of jammie-clad feet. As my son notices me looking his direction, he throws up his hands in frustration and proclaims, "GREAT! Now I can't go into my room!!"

Blink. Blink.

(He's quite the actor as he truly seems appalled by recent circumstances.) He takes me by the hand and shows me that his drawing on the door now includes a rendition of himself...surrounded by a circle with an 'X' through it.

Manipulated a bit so it was more visible since he only had a yellow colored-pencil to draw with.
I immediately burst out laughing. Couldn't contain that one if I had tried. He earned another 10 minutes of "up" time due to creativity. Points for this one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All The World's a Stage

Summer is here, (although someone should've made sure that Mother Nature got the memo, because I'm pretty sure she was missed on the group email), which means baseball season for my oldest.

I LOVE watching him play. Entertainment abounds in watching all the 7-year-olds who have learned to hit and catch, but have no concept of the logistics of baseball. There are pile-ups on third base as the runner there has forgotten to run, and now the runners from first and second are all standing on the base with him, waiting for their turn to round the corner towards home. There are the ostrich-like stances as the ball rolls between their legs, the chin-up running form as they sprint to first base, but cannot see where they're going because the helmets are too big, and the constant throwing of the ball to first base...no matter where the runners are. And finally, there is the never-ending game of tag at home base where the runner will do ANYTHING to avoid being tagged, even if it means running out the side gate to the bench.

As a side note, I played softball for many many years, and it's hard for me not to be THAT mom shouting, "Run, run!" or "Throw it to third!" Shawn now sits on the opposite side of the bleachers from me.

My problem is this: if we get to watch Kaiden play as a family, there is no avoiding bringing my youngest along.

Kaiden frets when, from 100 yards away, he sees no one at the field with the same colored shirt on.  He asks me at least three times if I'm SURE that this is the right field (there are three). He hangs back tentatively, watching the other players warm up, until the coach invites him inside the gates. He so gets his antisocial behavior from my husband's genes! But once he's out there, he's not as self-conscious and does pretty well, it's just getting past that initial hump.

Not the case with Kamrin. Before Shawn and I have even had a chance to pick our place on the butt-wrenching metal benches behind home plate, Kamrin has marched up and down the the bleachers twice, no doubt scouting his audience. He has managed to dupe someone into giving him a handful of sunflower seeds, picked up a large stick, and is now coo-ing to a baby in a stroller.

As the game begins, he is warming up to his viewers, "What's your name?" he asks each. and. every. person. The first inning is 2 batters in and he draws out his stick. He taps one person on the knee, "This is your circle, (he draws one in the dirt front center of the bleachers), and this is yours...(tap the next person)." I'm waiting for him to produce a top hat and a rabbit. This continues for about 4 people. "Kamrin, come here!" I say.

But his act is just gearing up. "You wanna hear a joke?" Oh boy. "How does the tree get on top of the car? (pause) With a ladder." Polite smiles and even some giggles.

He has now learned that the little girl, who is also there and politely sitting on the lowest bench with her mother, is named Lilly. He has coerced a ball from one of the coaches and is trying to entice her to play. He offers her some sun-seeds that he has pilfered from one of the spectators.

"Kamrin, why don't you go play in the park?" There is a playground close by, and I have forced him to wear a bright red visor for this very reason...I can watch the game in peace, but yet still locate that hat from a safe distance. Kaiden bats, makes it to first and as the next batter is up, I peek at the park and locate the hat. Simple.

This would be the hat.


I hear the twinkly, tinny music. It's the ice-cream truck. (Someone as cornered their target market beautifully!). Not 3 seconds later, Kam is front and center again, "Mom! I want ice cream! Mom? Mom? Gimme your purse! Where's your money?" Several laughs from his "audience" once again. I have now missed Kaiden crossing home plate.

By the end of the game, I realized that Kam's ploy for recognition was a success. EVERYONE knew his name...("Kamrin, stop bothering her." "Kamrin, put down the stick before you hurt someone." "Kamrin, get that rock out of your mouth.) They ALL knew who he was....and that he belonged to me. As we left, he shouted, "Bye Lilly, my love you!" and other parents patted him on the head.

Tonight, just Kaiden and I went to baseball.

When the game was about to start, and I had situated myself on the far end of the bleacher, a mom leaned over and said, "Where's Kamrin?"

Mission complete Kamrin, mission complete.


Monday, June 13, 2011

I Fall To Pieces

I have come to terms with many of the reasons for my kids' meltdowns...
  • being overly tired (ninety percent of the time, my friends, I'm the same way) 
  • my youngest not understanding why his older brother gets to go play at friend's house and he doesn't
  • being screamed at by a mother who just spent 2 hours cleaning the kitchen (half of it on hands and knees scrubbing the floor) and upon returning from a 5 minute trip to bring up the laundry from the basement, discovers a melted Popsicle on the once immaculate kitchen floor
  • a toy car that has been beaten against walls and stomped on by plastic gigantic dinosaurs, and bombarded with "landslides" of rocks, has finally disintegrated
But what part of a child's psyche cannot accept broken food as edible?! I have tried to envision every possible angle as to why this is so, and I simply cannot wrap my mind around it.

I have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep their food intact. I don rubber gloves and grab tweezers, to ensure that a slice of pasteurized, synthetic piece of cheese is carefully extracted from its cellophane wrapper. One crack in the smooth, unnaturally yellow landscape of that square is met with arms crossed in front of their chests, and a lip that has amazingly swelled three inches beyond the upper lip. A stomp of the foot and vigorous shaking of the head alerts me that the cheese will now not be eaten.
So can't eat this stuff.

I know! I have tried reasoning with them, explaining that once the dang thing is bitten, it becomes the exact thing that they refused to eat. No headway.

Hot dog buns are divided with surgical precision, because the moment that bun becomes two SEPARATE pieces...inedible. (If you have ever watched Seinfeld's "Undateble" episode, you'll understand the tone of voice I'm taking here.) It doesn't matter that the EXACT SAME BUN (although it be in circular form rather than oblong) IS edible in two pieces with a hamburger. I have held up physical examples of both, read the ingredients from both bags, only to look up, see the lips, and know I will have to consume the broken hot dog and bun (and I don't even LIKE hot dogs...they frighten me.)

This isn't exclusive to just the bun. Cook a hot dog too long in the microwave and it will split. I'm usually able to hide this under ketchup and mustard, but just tonight, Kamrin opened the door to the "cooker," saw the split hot dog, grabbed it in his pudgy little hand and I suddenly had a scene from some overly dramatic black and white film. As he grasped the dog, his eyes teared up, with the back of his hand meeting his forehead as he throws his head back and he closes his eyes...(ever seen one of those movies where the voice is several octaves lower and drawn out in slow motion?) "Nooooo!" he screams, as he drops to his knees, his hand opening, palm up, as the V-shaped meat product drops to the floor. In a nano-second, it is consumed by one of the dogs, who instinctively KNEW this was going to happen.

Even the tantalizing lure of sweets, such as a chocolate chip cookie (and who can resist that?) has lost its magnetism if it has a notch in it. "Who bited this?! I don't want it!" Their rage against the imperfection is manifested in throwing the cookie onto the counter hard enough to now break it into several chocolate infested crumbs. I lick a thumb, press it into the pieces and insert into mouth. Can't let anything go to waste!

This from the same people who will willingly consume cereal dust. You know, the pulverized leftovers of any boxed breakfast product which has sifted to the bottom of the bag? I can't eat that. Urgh.

Others who have made the ultimate imperfection list include:
  • cheese sticks (even though you immediately peel them into asymmetrical poles), 
  • graham crackers (try that with S'mores!), 
  • and those super-cheap Popsicles that come in the fishnet bag. 
  • Whoever invented fruit roll-ups, has an evil sense of humor. Has anyone EVER unwrapped one of those whole? (Actually, I have a secret which brings me close enough 99% of the time.)
P.S. Are you starting to wonder about my children's diet by now? Yeah, I know. I know.

BUT, against all odds, the foods that pass, despite their flaws include:
  • Hershey's chocolate bars (mostly because they are still square when you break them and also, who DOESN'T eat chocolate?!)
  • Tortilla chips. They HAVE to be broken to dip.
  • Chipped M-n-M's. (Sometimes found weeks old in the car and STILL eaten)
  • Suckers (lollipops), but this is if-y, they need to be broken by the owner, if broken upon purchase...inedible (again, refer to Seinfeld) and usually only by Kamrin who has an insatiable sweet tooth.
  • Pies and cakes
At least I don't have to deal with different foods not touching...not yet. I'm sure that's coming, with all the drama of an over-cooked hot dog.

Side note: Anyone else have Patsy Cline stuck in their heads? I do, so here ya go:

  You're welcome. Also, if you want the fruit roll-up secret, comment, I'll tell you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pants On Fire!

I don't know when children learn to lie, so I Googled it. Most sources say it's about the time they learn to speak. I'll vouch for that.

"Did you eat that chocolate?"

Big blue eyes look up at me and my pure, innocent angel shakes his head back and forth, "Uh uh."
 i
Even has his little brother in on it.
These same sources claim that children don't even KNOW they're lying, that they are really just reacting to your body language and facial expression. Well, duh! Do you know how hard it is to get chocolate stains out of clothing?! I don't have 2 deep creases between my eyebrows for nothing, I earned them! But I beg to differ.

The early stages of lying are quite comical and so obvious, that more often than not, I would find myself pursing my lips in what I hoped would convey an angry face, not laughter suppression, and the tears in my eyes were from the deep disappointment I felt, not from holding my breath lest a giggle escape me. Case in point, someone very close to me, say as close as a brother, had a hard time breaking the bed wetting habit. My mother, frustrated from numerous loads of extra laundry loads of bedding finally threatened, "If you wet your bed again...(and honestly don't remember what the consequences were at the time, but it must have had an effect)." The next morning, faced with wet sheets and pajamas, my mother shouted, "WHY DID YOU WET YOUR BED?!" To which, my brother this close person to me said, "I didn't wet my bed...I just sweated a lot." Okay, it's plausible. But as a mother myself, we all know it's not true.

I'm pretty sure that once you become a mother, some gland in your body produces a hormone which is the human version of a lie detector. I know I have it. My mother has it. To this day she has it. I have no idea how she does it, because she lives 5 1/2 hours away, and even THEN will know when I'm lying not telling the whole truth. I used to think that if I just didn't call her for awhile, I wouldn't give myself away, but now just the absence of the phone call makes her suspicious.

It's always harder when you're the oldest too. You have no one to point the finger at, you either did it, or you didn't. Case closed. Poor Kaiden, he had no one to blame but the dogs, and I know THEY didn't do it. Someone should explain this to my husband as well, when you live with someone for eight years, I know it wasn't the dogs.

I know my youngest is lying by the how elaborate the story is. For example, I appreciate that he wants to give me flowers, I'd appreciate it if they weren't the purple flowers lining the front of my house. I've told him this several times. When I asked him why there were picked irises (I'm guessing, I don't even know what kind of flowers they are) were laying in the yard, this is the response I got:
video

Look at him, giving me a bold faced lie. No hint of remorse. Basically, he is telling me that lightning hit my flower and blew it off its stem. When I ask him why it isn't burnt, he tells me it's because it only burnt the green part. Also note in the video, at the beginning of the question, his eyes look down and away from me. In all my viewing of CSI and various crime shows, I know this is because he is formulating his story. He is also playing with his hands, another dead giveaway. He occasionally looks up at me with one eyebrow raised as if to say, "Is she really buying this? Because if she is, I'm going to add more detail..."

And my crime show watching has definitely enhanced my skills. I know that I can sit in the living room, see the bathroom mirror from the couch, and know exactly who is splashing water all over the bathroom floor. Don't even go there, you're already busted.

The one thing that absolutely blows my mind, and I know I'm not alone in this, is when they lie when I'm watching them do thing exact thing they are getting called out on. You know what I'm talking about. The other day, I noticed Kaiden...in my car. The window was down in the driver's seat and he was straddling the door.

"Kaiden! Don't sit on the car door, you're going to break my car!"

"I'm not!"

(What the? I'm sitting here looking at you. Seriously, how stupid do you think I am!) Shawn is standing right beside me, and I look over to verify that we are both witnessing the same thing. Shawn tries his luck...

"Kaiden, mom said get off the car door!"

"I'm not on it! I'm standing on one foot."

Details.

Do they learn it from their parents? Absolutely. But we tell WHITE lies. We tell the neighbor boy from 7 blocks away that we're eating supper and Kaiden can't play, because he's 3 years older than my son, and he really only comes over to play video games.

We are super quiet when the Schwan's man comes, because as much as we'd really love to buy some ice cream sandwiches, we're broke.

And yes, if you ride your bicycle naked the cops will come and put you in jail.

No, mommy isn't eating the last of the Reece's Pieces. What? Open my mouth and show you? Just a sec, (hey! they were mine!)

If you don't clean your room, you won't get to stay with Grammie for a week! (Are you kidding?!)

They are also aware that if they are going to tattle on one another, the one who tells the story to mommy first, has the best chance of "winning." You try to listen to each equally as the garble story comes up in as fast as they can tell it. Analyzing each to see who is lying is nearly impossible. Solution? Punish them both.




Thursday, June 2, 2011

Personal Boundries

In the past few weeks, Shawn and I have been trying to explain 'personal space' to our children, the physical kind. I am sick of trying to elbow my way to my plate while eating because one or the other or both of the kids are literally hanging on my back. I'm tired of big craniums blocking my view of photos on my computer because they can only see them when their noses are thisclose to the screen, and having to cut a phone conversation short because the decibel level has gotten out of control. To do this, we have explained personal space as a bubble around a person, and that a person sometimes wants to be ALONE inside that bubble. I don't know if it's helped or created more fuel for arguments between the two. "Mooo-oom! Kaiden's in my bubble!"

So when a news story on the, "Today Show" mentioned personal space in it's teaser, I set aside my frosted strawberry Pop Tart for a moment to listen. It wasn't the same personal space I was thinking of, but interesting nonetheless. The piece was called, "How Twitter Changed The Way We Communicate." After citing some of the benefits of Twitter, it focused on the 'next generation's' (they always like to throw that around) perception of false intimacy they have with the once inaccessible celebrities. They feel that they directly communicate with their idols, which can create fantasies of a personal relationship with them. Selena Gomez apparently gets 'hate Tweets' because she is dating Justin Bieber and a lot of 12-year-old girls feel that he is 'their guy.' (I'm really not up on teen celebrity dating habits).

Anyway, the gist is that Tweeters and Facebookers feel they have the right to say anything about themselves or anyone else, and are not realizing the consequences. I mean, really, how much easier is it to tell someone off on the FB page, than to speak your mind face to face? Walls have come down, discretion has flown out the window, and people no longer bite their tongues.

My beef is not with the social networks however. My anger is directed more towards cell phones and idiots people who use them. Case in point:

I was finally at the end of a harried grocery shopping errand and realized that I had forgotten the BBQ sauce, and as always, it was on the other end of the store. While standing there deciding how much I needed, I picked up an unpleasant conversation. It wasn't hard, the woman was 3 aisles away, and I'm sure EVERYONE heard her. She was in the process of screaming at a boyfriend, or husband or whatever and apparently he was an ass wipe. (Her words, not mine.) She proceeded to shout accusations of all types, something like this:

"Oh, so that's where we're going now?! You want to go there? I'm done you d*ckhead."

"I've worked plenty of jobs and paid rent, I'm a mother 24/7 you a$$hole, you hardly ever take and f*cking time to see them!!"

"That's a bunch of bullsh*t. I don't have to take that kind of sh*t from you!"

Anyway, you get the idea. Not pretty. How does a person even decide whether you're having baked beans or green beans while carrying on a conversation like that? And then proceed to eat them with that same mouth? She was obviously oblivious to anyone and everyone around her or just didn't give a damn. And then she turned into my aisle. As other profanities spewed from her mouth, she looked at me and rolled her eyes as if to say, "Can you believe what an ass this guy is?" Really? You want me to sympathize with you, when all I can think is you may be a mother 24/7, but what do you subject your children to in the privacy of your own home when you can lay it out there for complete strangers to witness? Wouldn't want to be there. Or currently where I was at, frankly. Luckily my kids weren't with me, or I would have said something. (Umm, maybe I'll just stay under the radar and avoid the laser beam eyes.)

What I'm trying to get across, is that conversations that used to be held within the 4 walls of your dwelling place, are now right out there in public. I don't want to be subjected to that. I don't want my kids subjected to that. Have some decency (or dignity)! Take it outside or even better, to your car with the windows rolled up and maybe a hose from the exhaust pipe to the window.



Finally, BBQ sauce in hand, I sprinted for the checkout.

But it doesn't end there. While pushing my cart across the lot, I notice a rather young driver backing up. I see it, the 70+ woman with hair dyed Christmas red sees it, and she's deliberately continues walking, knowing that the driver doesn't see her. I can only assume she does this so she has the excuse to slap her hand on the trunk of the car, shake her fist in the air and scream,  

"Watch where you are f*cking going, ya damn lady!" 


Wow, there are a lot of angry people out there.

Maybe we SHOULD limit them to 140 characters or less.