It’s All About the Vibe

Jun 27 2011

It was with some measure of trepidation that I allowed my parents to leave today to gallivant around Europe for the next six weeks.

Yes, I know they’re adults.

Yes, I know they’re technically allowed to make their own choices without my input, permission or excellent advice.

Yes, I know I repeatedly pressured them to “take a break,” “go on a trip,” and “make retirement look appealing rather than exhausting so I have something to look forward to post-child-rearing.”

But they managed to ignore me so well and for so long, I wasn’t sure they would ever leave.

“No, no,” they’d protest. “We want to be here to help with our grandkids, to run the karate schedule, to plant your garden and take care of your yard.”

Um, yes, please.

It was all working out so well.  I would nobly suggest they take a more leisurely approach to retirement.  They would slog away growing my tomatoes.

And then it happened.  The unthinkable.

They booked a vacation.

And not a two-weeker.  A six-weeker.

This will be good for me, I tell myself.  This will make me self-reliant.  This will make me learn about tomatoes.

But my Dad made one serious error in his planning.  ‘Cause, while I’m supposed to miss them achingly and realize how much they do for our kids and us, he made me an offer.  An offer I couldn’t refuse.

See, Greg and I own two cars; the glamorous car and the minivan.  We used to own two minivans, but I couldn’t take it.  So I bought the glamorous car.  It’s a used Pontiac Vibe. ‘Cause Pontiacs are so sleek and so sexy, and they make people SO jealous.  It has cloth seats.

I know.  Try to hold yerself back.

My Pontiac is completely impractical for family life.  Glamorous cars always are.  It seats 5.  That means our whole family can’t fit in it, and I’m all, “Whatever.  Hauling more than 4 kids anyway is totally unsexy.”

The uber-hip, extra cool Pontiac is probably the reason why my dad wasn’t certain what my response would be when he made his offer.

Last week, as we were going over important details for my parents’ departure – things like our #1 family rule, “No dying” – my dad said, “So, I’m not going to be here to drive it.  Do you want keys to my convertible while we’re gone?”

Maybe diving across the dinner table to get at the keys, squealing like a 16-year-old with her first car, and then jumping up and down and yelling, “YES!  YES!  DO I WANT THE KEYS TO THE CONVERTIBLE?! YES!” was a little over the top.  But I think he got my point.

It’s just that the opportunities for a mother of 5 to be cool are, well, rather scarce.  Even if she owns her very own Pontiac.

So I’m trying to be sad about the family time we’ll miss with Nana and Papa this summer.  The BBQ’s.  The sleepovers.  The last-minute babysitting.  The sitting on the patio with my dad and a beer.

I’m trying to think about whether my tomatoes are getting too much water.  And whether the soaker hose is working.  And whether my 4-year-old can teach me how to reset the water timer if it’s not.

I’m trying to send my parents off with wishes for a memorable and relaxing trip.  To remind them to take pictures.  To reassure them that updating Facebook isn’t hard, and that publicizing their vacay won’t result in their condo being robbed.

I’m trying to miss them terribly like a good, dutiful daughter.

But my inner 16-year-old has taken over my mind.  CON.  VERT.  Ih.  BULL.

I’m picking up my summer car this afternoon!

I mean…

Bon Voyage, Mom and Dad!  Have a great trip.  Send postcards.  We’ll miss you!

Love,

Beth

(THIS AFTERNOON! Hee hee hee.)

 

The Striptease Model of Parenting

Jun 25 2011

Once upon a time, there was a man.  I shall call him Nayfan.  Which sounds a lot like Nathan.  Which is the name of my cousin.  Which my boys cannot pronounce.  So they call him Nayfan.  Which is entirely a coincidence and has no bearing on this story.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Nayfan.  And Nayfan had a son.

And the boy grew.  And he grew.  And he grew.  Until he became a stocky, hilarious, and very stubborn three-year-old boy.

A three-year-old boy who had a favorite word.

And that word was no.

Wait, wait.  That’s not exactly right.

His favorite word was NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO!

Sometimes, NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO was followed by other words, like I DON’T WANT TO.  And STOP IT!  And NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

One night, the boy was offered dinner.  It was a delectable dinner with noodles and cream sauce.  The boy liked noodles and cream sauce very much.  And he wanted to eat his dinner.  But he had made a commitment to the NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO, so by the NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO he stood.

The boy would not eat his dinner.

Nayfan’s wife (the boy’s mother), whom I shall call Wes-a-wee, which sounds a lot like Leslie (but is definitely not Leslie), cajoled.

She encouraged.  She held bites.  She may have threatened.

But the boy was steadfast.  NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO.  NO NO NO NO NO.

And then Nayfan saw the beautiful, sweet little thang that would change it all.  Her name was Cupcake, and she was dressed in ridged paper and swirled with frosting.

Nayfan beckoned Cupcake to their table, and he introduced her to his son.

“Son, this is Cupcake.  Cupcake will change your life.  But in order to have her, you have to eat your dinner.”

And the three-year-old, that stubborn little boy, thought long and hard.  He thought about his relationship with NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO.  He thought about all they’d been through together.  They way they’d clung to Wes-a-wee’s pants when they had to leave his cousins’ house.  They way they’d held protest signs and rallied for the right to more juice.  That one time in Toronto they got arrested for chaining themselves to a tree to avoid naptime.

The boy wooked at his dad.  And he wooked at Cupcake.  And he wooked at his dad.  And he wooked at Cupcake.  And indecision wrestled with his soul.

So Nayfan did it.  He peeled off a teeny, tiny piece of Cupcake’s paper.  And he said, “Son.  If you want Cupcake to lose more paper, you have got to eat a noodle.”

The boy’s eyes glazed over, and indecision lost.  The noodle was a thing of the past; it went up, into his mouth, was chewed and swallowed.  And the boy wooked at his dad.  And he wooked at Cupcake.

And Nayfan peeled off a teeny, tiny piece of Cupcake’s paper again.

A bite.  A strip.  A bite.  A little more.

Until dinner was consumed and Cupcake lay bare to the oogling eyes of the three-year-old boy.

And that, my friends, is the Striptease Model of Parenting.

Boom chick-a wow wow.

Poor kid.  He never stood a chance.

 

On Being Made Real

Jun 23 2011

VelveteenRabbitbySirWilliamNicholson

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day.

When you’re 9 years old and a girl, I suppose being an emotional wreck is to be expected.

Ah, heck.

When you’re 37 years old and girl, I suppose being an emotional wreck is to be expected.

But sometimes, it’s hard to know which 9-year-old wrecks are I Stubbed My Toe And That’s A Great Excuse To Let Go Of The Emotional Mess Smouldering Inside Me,

and which wrecks are Real.

Yeah, yeah.  I know they’re all real.  But the Real real ones are those that will haunt my daughter into adulthood.  The ones that have Serious Potential for me the mama to Screw Up.

The other night, my Aden missed her birthmom.  Aden and Ian share a birthmom, so it was a natural conversation for the three of us to have together, and soon Ian was snuggled up, all ears.  There I sat, on the ground in the hallway next to the piles and piles of dirty laundry, with two kids missing their birthmom and asking questions.

I genuinely love moments like that.  It’s epically, gigantically important to me to talk to my kids about birthparents and adoption, and I’m grateful for every opportunity they give me.

But I almost Screwed It Up.  Especially when Ian kept asking about his “real mom.”

Now, I don’t always know where kids pick up their terminology, but I can tell you that we’ve never referred to my kids’ birthmoms as the “real” moms.  Mostly because I don’t want to be… what?  The fake mom?  The pretend mom?  The long-term sub?

No.

I’m the Real Mom.  That’s me.  My title.  Real Mom.

And she’s the birthmom or the biological mom.  I cherish her.  I’m grateful to her.  I cry for her, and I honor her.

But I’m the Real Mom.

Every adoptive mom I know thinks about how she’ll respond to “real momness.”  Whether the question comes from a stranger at the grocery store.  (“Are those kids your own?”  “Why, yes.  Yes, they are.”) Or from my child.

So I felt very prepared for Ian’s “real mom” reference.  I could finally use the clever responses I’ve honed over the years!  Yay!

“Real mom?  Real mom??”  I said to Ian.  “Who wiped your poopy bottom?  Huh?  Who works with you on homework?  Who buys your groceries, and kisses your owies, and makes you bathe?  Sorry, pal.  I’m your real mom, and you’re stuck with me.”

I smiled and winked.  And Ian smiled back, because he understood.  That kind of easy, breezy answer was just what he wanted.  He wanted to know that I am content and confident in my real momness, and that’s what he got.

But Aden continued to cry, and my light answer failed to soothe her.  Because kids are different.  They grow at different rates, and they have different needs.

My snappy, clever reply was neither snappy nor clever when held to the light of her need to be heard.  It didn’t dry the tears or diminish her pain.

And that’s when I realized that this mom, Real or not, was too hasty.

I was too quick to talk about my own selfish need to be Real.  And too slow to listen to my daughter’s Real sense of loss.

Sometimes, I wish for a word that can describe the plummeting of my heart or the way my gut can turn itself upside down when I’m ashamed of myself.  Other times, I’m glad there’s no word for that.

I slowed down, and I shut up.

I listened to Aden talk about her hurt and her pain.  Which everyone knows is not my best thing.  I like to fix those things, not lay them all out on the table to discuss.

As I listened, I reevaluated what I think about being Real and my own selfishness in hogging that title for Just Me.

And I told the truth as far and as best as I understood it in that moment.  Which is a different truth than the one I’ve been reciting in my head all these years.

I told Aden the truth that all of us are Real.  And that there’s room in the Real pool for more than just one mama.

Your birthmom is your Real mom, Aden.  She grew you inside of her own flesh, and she gave you the gift of life, which is something I couldn’t do for you.  Nothing will change that or take it away from you or her.  That’s Real life.  Her story will always be part of yours.  And stories are things we get to keep forever.

And I’m your Real mom, too.  I get to love you and parent you every day.

You know what else is Real, Miss Aden?  Holding the loss and love of your first Real Mom alongside the love of your Me Real Mom in your heart.  Because it’s not an either/or.  It’s a both/and.  Love and loss.  Pain and joy.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.  When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.

Sending love today to my kids’ other Real moms,

Beth

……….

Quotes are from the beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. Interestingly, the book’s alternative title was How Toys Become Real. The artwork above is by the original Velveteen Rabbit illustrator, Sir William Nicholson.

On the Importance of Taxidermy

Jun 22 2011

“I plan on recruiting a commune,” my husband said reassuringly.

Oddly, I didn’t feel reassured.

Blogging has provided an unanticipated opportunity to get to know the inner workings of my husband’s mind.  Now, I’ll be honest; Greg’s mind terrifies me.  So much so that I don’t often go there.

I prefer to stay in the vicinity of Greg’s heart.  It’s warm and welcoming, and it doesn’t scare me.  I know exactly where his heart is; Greg’s priorities are solidly with me, our kids, our family, and our community.  He’s a man of faith and conviction.  He has unshakeable beliefs and morals (which are often irritating, since I wander around wondering, doubting, changing my convictions and generally blathering, but that’s neither here nor there.)  Greg’s heart is a safe place.

I also enjoy Greg’s hands.  Quite a bit.  They’re big and muscular, dry and rough in all the right places, and they do the most amazing…

Alright.  I’ll stop.  I’m just stalling anyway.  Because I’m headed into scary territory.  Greg’s mind.

Let’s dive into the terror together.

After you.

No, no; really.  You go first.  I’m right behind you.  I swear.

FINE.  I’ll go first.  But you should know that you’re a chicken.

First of all, Greg is so much smarter than I am, academically speaking, that if you compare the two of us to water, he is the ocean and I’m a tiny drop of water in the desert that quickly evaporates when exposed to heat.  I’m not maligning myself by telling you that this is so.  It is simply fact.  Then again, I’ve saved Greg’s life thousands of times while crossing the street because looking both ways with all of that academic prowess is apparently very, very hard.  So there’s a give and take here, folks.

Second of all, Greg’s manly hunter / protector sense has apparently meshed inextricably with all of his science fiction and apocalyptic urban fantasy reading.  I didn’t know about this until I blogged about Aunt Lillian’s dandelion pancakes.  There, I wrote:

I’m a mother, and, therefore, a protective freakazoid who thinks up apocalyptic scenarios in my spare time.  I often wonder what I’ll do when modern society collapses, and I’m forced to burn my dog’s dried poo for warmth (should’ve bought a bigger dog) and contemplate how much meat is on his bones (aaannnd again with the bigger dog… poor end-days planning on my part, I tell you.)

It’s not just me who’s a freakazoid, though.  Greg invents improbable scenarios, too.  For example, feel free to ask him all about exactly what he’ll do when terrorists take over his office building.  FYI, his office is in a two-story strip mall above a grocery store.  So it’s super, duper, extra likely that a terrorist will take over his office someday.  That’s why Greg has an executable plan that includes hiding in the ceiling and some form of jumping into a dumpster.

I mock now, but when the apocalypse happens, I’m going to have to apologize to Greg so he’ll share all the survival knowledge he gained from reading Robinson Crusoe and Mysterious Island.  That apology is going to suck for me.

Well, here’s the thing.  That little bit about the apocalypse and survival opened up a whole new part of Greg’s mind that I got to explore while alternately shivering in horror and giggling like a loon.

Greg has a half-hour commute to and from work every day.  He uses it to plan for the protection and survival of our family in case of a total and complete breakdown of society.

Greg let me know that he’s mentally writing his “alternative universe apocalyptic autobiography,” which is a relief.  Because, when this whole apocalypse thing is over, we’ll have a sure source of reliable funds in his best seller.

Now, you probably think that the apocalypse just involves general anarchy, disease, war, and a lack of every modern comfort, including, oh, food, clothes, shelter and water.  That’s where your apocalyptic planning falls short, my friend.  Because Greg’s got us covered for all of those scenarios, and he has back-up plans in case our physical universe is altered.

Did you ever think about what you’d do when physics no longer adhere to scientific laws?  Well, did you?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  You have got to think, people.  Physics anarchy could happen to you. Among other heinous things I can’t remember about physics, engines won’t start.  Which means your big plans for driving all those abandoned cars across the country to find pockets of surviving humans are right out.  You’re gonna need horses.  Lots and lots of horses.  And you’re gonna have to feed those horses.  And you’re going to have to feed all the people you collect.  Because you’re gonna be collecting people.  That’s inevitable.  People collection… and the right kind of people collection… is essential.

Greg has thought of all of these things.  I haven’t gone as far or deep as I should to find out how we’re going to execute all of his plans, so I’m going to have a lot of catch-up to do after the apocalypse starts.  But at least I know what to do first.

While Greg is on his way home from work (FYI, the apocalypse will start while Greg is at work for sure — this is kind of the lynch-pin in all of his planning), he’ll have a lot of stops to make.  Among the stops: 1) the big, huge, giant knives manufacturer for dozens of machetes, and 2) kidnapping the taxidermist (I’ll explain later, but you’re going to be embarrassed you didn’t figure it out for yourself).  Of course, in the event of the Physics Collapse, he won’t be in his car, so he’ll have to hijack a horse or four along the way, and, well, those things could take time.

My assignment, obviously (really, it’s obvious; I know ’cause Greg said so), is to head to the all-purpose store in our area.  The one that sells everything from food to hunting knives.  I’ve been instructed to bring our Burley… the attachment that goes on the back of my bike for hauling children.  It looks like this:

Of course, first I’ll have to find our tire pump.  And then probably the tire repair kit.  Which I bet we don’t own.  But right after I make sure the tires work, I’ll be set.

I’ll head to the store to buy bows and arrows, hunting knives, and all the wheat products we can carry.  I don’t know what we’re going to do with my mother, who’s on a gluten-free diet, but I was specifically told “wheat products,” so that’s what I’m buying.  I’ll have only about an hour to do this before the general populace figures out that money is worthless, so it’s going to be a time-sensitive operation.  Maybe I should look for that tire pump now.

As a side note, I’ll tell you I was very excited to see that bows and arrows are on the list.  One time, about 18 years ago when I was a camp counselor, I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow so I could teach the campers.  I even regularly hit the 4-foot-diameter stationary target from about 20 feet away.  So I’m completely qualified to shoot rabbits and quail running through the brush.  It’s a transferable skill that will take almost no training.  That’s going to work out well.

My next stop with the Burley (after dropping everything off at home to free up burley space), will be the library.  I’m instructed to snap up all the books the Burley can carry on basic farming, how to make soap, tallow, etc.  “Pretty sure we need a pig for tallow,” I said.  “And we have NO IDEA what to do with pigs or how to milk them for tallow.”

Greg had already thought of that.  “I plan on recruiting a commune,” my husband said reassuringly.  Oddly, I didn’t feel reassured.

Nevertheless, such is my faith in my husband, that I figured I’d get a leg up on the apocalyptic commune recruitment.  Remember how important people-collection is?  Yes.  Me, too.

Commune openings include:

  • Pig farmers – I actually know some of these… Sarah and Bubba, you in?  It’s B.Y.O.Pigs, but we’ll all help raise ’em and husband ’em (is that weird?); but, well, if Bubba can still do the slaughtering, that would be awesome.
  • Fence builders – ’cause no commune is complete without a huge fence.  Priority will be given to people with large stores of barbed wire.
  • Chickens
  • Aunt Lillian
  • Taxidermist – No, not because we’re stuffing pigs.  Because of his hide-tanning skills.  That’s crucial.  Doy!  Fortunately, Greg’s got a handle on this one.  “There’s a shop on my way home from work that says ‘taxidermy and tanning.'”  Still up for debate is how to convince the taxidermist that a) there’s an apocalypse happening, and b) he should go with Greg on his horse.

We’ll be taking applications until the apocalypse begins.

Just Call Me MommyMomMomMomMommyMom

Jun 20 2011

I got jealous of my blog this morning.

You know why?  ‘Cause my blog is neat, organized, and clean.  It’s white with crisp black text.  It’s double-spaced, and, get this… conversations show up here in precise, linear order.

Oh my gosh!  What would it be like to have actual, real-life, orderly conversations?

That would be aMAZing.  So calm.  So structured.  So little bleeding from my ears.

Inevitably, when I share a conversation with you here, I’ve removed the background din.  The incessant chatter that happens on all sides.  It’s like going back through an audio recording for ambient noise reduction.

Sometimes, it feels disingenuous, as though I’m misleading you by allowing you to believe that I can actually have a conversation with just one child at a time.

So I thought today I’d introduce you to my nickname.

Nope, not the Beth nickname which is short for my given name, Elizabeth.

My Mom nickname.  Around home, Mom’s much too long.  For short, I go by MommyMomMomMomMommyMom.

MommyMomMomMomMommyMom isn’t just a name, though.  It’s also an important part of our family’s punctuation rules.

You know how sentences begin with a capital letter?  Capitals are essential for structure.  I have the non-capitalized text messages from my child to prove that’s true.  Messages like this, unedited for your reading pleasure: “Not home and why and I will NOT be loud we will be out side for most of it Kk? plZ we will be quiet promise WHY?! that’s not fair I am finLly done Nd want Nslpeep over but NO?”

Let’s pause for a quiet moment in remembrance of punctuation and capitalization.  I miss you guys.

The period is such a nice way end to a sentence, and I know how I feel about a capital that politely informs me a new sentence has been birthed.  So sweet.  So precious.  So new and fresh.  A capital is clear and precise.

In my world, MommyMomMomMomMommyMom is a capital letter.  It’s the beginning of every important question, declaration or exclamation at our house.

It’s like this:

Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mommy? Mom?

Yes?

Are you making cookies?

Yes.

Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mommy? Mom?

Yes?

Can I make cookies with you?

Yes.

Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mommy? Mom?

Yes?

Can I break the eggs all by myself?

Yes.

Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mommy? Mom?…

See how that works?

It’s like an essential part of our language around here.

But our conversations, while lovely, aren’t nearly that organized, that black and white or that double-spaced.  No.  Our conversational life looks more like this:

MommyMomMomMomMommyMom? Yes? Are you making cookies? Yes. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom!  Can I fill up water balloons? Yes.  I mean, no. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom, he took my bear. Give Cael back his bear. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom? Yes? Can I make cookies with you? Yes. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom! Yes? There’s something brown and sticky on the couch. Ian, can you get that? There’s a sponge in the sink. Moooommmmm! I said water balloons! Yes.  I mean no. NOT THAT SPONGE; that’s gross. Take it to the laundry room. No, not the bear – the sponge. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom, I was first. I don’t care who was first.  I want you both to be nice. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom, he interrupted! I wonder what that feels like? MommyMomMomMomMommyMom?! Brown. Stuff. COUCH! Get. The. Sponge.  NOT THAT SPONGE.  Use a paper towel.  Well, get a new roll.  Well, have dad put it on the shopping list. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom? I have to go potty and no one will go with me. (Wails and sobs.) Aden, go potty with your brother. Can I break the eggs all by myself? Yes. No, not the water balloons. MommyMomMomMomMommyMom, I want my bear. Where’s your bear?  Ian, go get the bear back out of the laundry room; I meant the sponge

You get the idea.  MommyMomMomMomMommyMom is an exciting person to be.  Never a dull moment.

And MommyMomMomMomMommyMom is especially exciting because it applies both linguistically and mathematically.

Where Mom is m, Kids are k, and Attention is a,

1m ÷ 5k = 0.2a

Right?  Right.

Even though I want to give my kids the undivided attention they crave for every single question, I’m a walking division problem.

Ultimately the kids’ goal is to increase Attention.  Clearly, they can do this by decreasing Kids, which they’ve tried to do by falling off play structures, cracking their heads open on walls, and sliding down my stairs head-first on “flying carpets” (aka, mattresses).

But their favorite method of changing the equation seems to be trying to increase Mom.  I theorize that’s why they use MommyMomMomMomMommyMom.  It creates more m. Logical, right?

I’m really sorry, kids.  The bad news is, no matter how many Mommy Moms you give me, I’m still just one person.

The good news is, I LoveyLoveLoveLoveLoveyLove you.  And that’s the part of the equation that has infinite, exponential increase potential.

Much love,

Your MommyMomMomMomMommyMom

Happy Father’s Day

Jun 18 2011

Happy Father’s Day, Old Marine.

You taught me about decorum.

You taught me about discipline.

You taught me about balance and never taking on too much.

In short, Happy Father’s Day to the coolest dad I know.

Mine.

I love you, Dad.

The Hairy Eyeball

Jun 16 2011

“My children aren’t excessively physical,” I explained to my daughter’s elementary school staff this entire year.  “I mean, they’re kids and they scuffle, but they don’t hit, punch, or kick at home.  They know that’s automatic time-out behavior.  So I don’t know what’s up with Aden.”

I meant it, too.  I really did.  From the bottom of my heart.

(Thank you for not laughing where I can see you.)

So my immediate reaction tonight to being cold-cocked in the jaw by my 4-year-old was enormous relief that the elementary school staff wasn’t present to witness it.

Next reaction?  Shock and utter disbelief.

Next reaction?  Rhetorically questioning said 4-year-old.

“What was that, Cai?”

I accompanied my verbal brilliance with The Look.  It’s The Look that my friend, Ann, a more experienced mama than I, and a southern belle to boot, calls The Hairy Eyeball.

Good mamas since the dawn of time have been using The Hairy Eyeball on their sweet babies.  In fact, it’s more than likely named for a hard-working Neanderthal mom from back in the day.  “Oh, you think my forehead’s big, do ya?  Well, guess how it got this way?  From beating my head on the cave wall ’cause of little Neanderthal children like you.  That’s how.  Want to say it again?  Do it.  Just say it one more time.  I will ground you from here to eternity.”  And then she raised just one bushy brow and focused a bulging eye on the child.  And it was so powerful that that child used it on her child, and then that child used it on her child, and so on, and so on… until we arrive at today when I used it on my very own sweet baby.

“What was that, Cai?”  Hairy, hairy eyeball.

The best part about rhetorically questioning children is that they don’t know what rhetorical means, so they feel compelled to answer questions that make no sense.  So when I said, “What was that, Cai?,” Cai answered.

Cai:  “That was a hug, Mommy.”

Me:  Hairy, furry eyeball.

Cai:  “A different kind of a hug, Mommy.”

Me:  Hairy, furry, shaggy eyeball.

Cai:  “A new hug, Mommy.”

Me:  “Actually, Cai, that was an infraction, and it just earned you a time out.”

Cai:  “No, Mommy!  No, Mommy, no!  That wasn’t a time out kind of a hug!  And I don’t even know what a fraction is!”

Oh, he got his time out, alright, fractions or no fractions.

I used to think time outs were for child disciplinary purposes.  But, honestly, that can’t be the main goal, what with the “one minute of time out per year of age” rule.  My kid had a four-minute time out for slugging his mom in the face.  He spent more time tonight deciding which episode of Phineas and Ferb to watch.

You know what time outs are really for?  They’re so the mommy can collect herself and giggle in private.  From the word “hug,” I had a terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad time hanging onto my Hairy Eyeball.  It was by the… well, by the hair of my eye… that I managed not to dissolve into laughter in front of the offender.

But even if the excruciating four minutes my child spent in a cushy chair in time out contemplating his “new kind of hug” did no good on a disciplinary level, I have one solace.

I have a terrifying Hairy Eyeball, and that sucker is going to haunt his dreams.