Told you there were cops

Lucy, my little shi-poo, started barking hysterically. It was 5 a.m. and I still had the luxury of another hour’s worth of sleep until my alarm was set to startle me awake. What was her problem? Lucy barked at anything and everything. Person walking…bark, bark, bark. City bus driving by…bark, bark, bark. Leaf blowing…bark, bark, bark. You get the idea. What was going on now? Then I heard strange noises outside my bedroom window. Was that a scraping sound? Was there construction work going on outside? Snow plows maybe? As I maneuvered myself from under my nice, warm sheets, Lucy persisted with her panicked high pitched barking. I sauntered over to the window, pulled the curtain to one side, rolled up the horizontal blind and was shocked to see that good ol’ Lucy actually had a legitimate reason to be barking her head off. Imagine my surprise when I saw 4 police cruisers with their flashing lights whirling around, illuminating the houses on the street. Was there a gunman out there?

Wha-what you must be asking yourself. How on earth did you go from Police cars to gunman?

Flashback…

It was 1990-something. I had a doctor’s appointment early that morning and my brother had decided to tag along with me. I was driving home, yawning exhaustedly as I had only had 5 hours sleep and did not function well in the daylight hours. We had no classes at University that day so we were heading home to have a nice hot breakfast of bacon and eggs. As we got to our street I noticed a police car blocking the road. We couldn’t get onto our street. That was odd. No matter. I turned around and drove all the way around the strip mall and around the next few blocks to enter our street from the top end instead of the bottom end. Imagine our surprise when we saw another police car parked sideways, also blocking the road. What the heck was going on?

“Go ask him what’s going on,” said my brother. I didn’t want to bother the gentleman and I wasn’t sure what to say either. Our house was the 4th one in from where the policeman was blocking the way. Our mother was expecting us home because she had errands to run and needed me to drive her. Cop? Mom? Which one terrified me most.

“Excuse me?” I asked the police officer as I drove up closer to him. (Yes, I was more terrified of my mother. Oh sure, he had a gun, but my mom had her own weapons arsenal: THE LOOK that could burn your soul, THE SILENT TREATMENT that was a deafening mime of disappointment and THE POWER to make my father transform into THE PUNISHER. She won…hands down.) Anyway, the policer officer marched over to me with a look of mighty annoyance.

“Could we just drive home?” I began timidly. “Our house is that one right over there…the 4th house in,” I begged, pleadingly.

“I can’t let you through Miss,” he declared authoritatively.

“But it’s right there…you can see it from here. It won’t take me long…”I began and was cut off with a sharp, “I can’t let you through. There is a man with a rifle in the townhouse complex and we aren’t sure he won’t try to take a shot at you,” he said, matter-of-factly.

I really had nothing to say to that. “Thank-you officer,” my brother added as he leaned over toward my window from the passenger seat. Then whispered angrily to me, “Get moving.”

I did a remarkably quick and accurate 3-point turn and headed back from whence we had come.

HOLY SHIT!! A SHOOTER!? was all my mind could process.

“Let’s go to the coffee shop,” my bro said. “We can figure out something while we are there.”

“Do you have any money?” I asked him. I had a two-dollar bill in my possession and that would not be enough for coffees for the both of us. I went to the bank machine and discovered I had five dollars in my account. I couldn’t get it from the bank machine as it only dispensed ten and twenty dollar bills. It was going to be one of THOSE days, obviously. After trying not to look like a hobo in front of the bank teller, I gave her my withdrawal slip to get the last five bucks out of my bank account. Bank balance: 52 cents. Then we were off again, heading toward the coffee shop. We got ourselves two coffees and sat down to plan our next move.

Our top story. Police are at the townhouse complex located at [insert my street name here] talking to 39-year old [insert shooter name here] who has threatened suicide…The rest of the story mentioned that his wife had told him that morning that she was leaving him. He wanted to see her or he was going to end his life.

“We should call mama,” said my brother, “and let her know we can’t get home.”

Made sense to me. I grabbed a quarter, went to the payphone hanging on the wall by the door and punched in our home number. (Yeah people, no cell phones then). My mother picked up after the 3rd ring. (Not sure if you had any obscure rules like this at your house, but for some reason we weren’t allowed to answer the phone until the 3rd ring.) I calmly explained to her that we couldn’t come home right now because our street was blocked with police cars. She didn’t believe me. I passed the phone to my brother. He told her about the cops. He told her about Rifle Man. He paused, rolled his eyes at me and then waited, silently listening. “Fine!” he replied, exasperated. “We will try again.” He slammed the receiver down onto the cradle, harrumphed angrily and said, “she wants us to come home.”

Seriously? The cops won’t let us pass. My brother explained that he had told her all of this, but she said to tell the police officer that we had to come home because she said so. Oh yeah…that would definitely work (dripping sarcasm).

Off we went again, driving home. The same police officer was there. I drove up to him again, rolled down the window and saw his initial look of confusion and subsequent disdain as he wandered over to see what we wanted.

Now, I cannot imagine what my face looked like when I explained to him that my mother demanded we come home. I begged him to just let us through. “He might shoot at you,” the policeman said with a look of bewilderment and a pinch of exasperation. I saw on his face what his mind was really thinking: Are you crazy? If he could only read my mind: You don’t know my mother.

“I know,” I replied, thinking about how much crap we would be in if we couldn’t get home. “My mother told us to tell you that we need to get home.” It was at that point, that the expression on his face became etched in my mind forever. His brow wrinkled, his eyes screwed up as he tried to remain calm and dignified. His mind was trying to work out what kind of people would be willing to risk being shot at? What kind of mother would allow her own flesh and blood to be used for target practice. He didn’t realize that my bro and I were professional storytellers (a.k.a. compulsive liars). As such, my sibling and I were pretty sure she (our beloved mother) wasn’t believing any of this far-fetched gunman / police stand-off hooey.

“No,” he said flatly. “I can’t let you through.”

We’re dead. That’s all I thought. She’s gonna kill us. Yup, no thought about the shooter whatsoever. I even had thoughts of parking the car and then visualized us pulling a total Bionic Man move and running evasively past the copper to get home. Sheesh! What fear can do to you!

And you guessed it…back to the coffee shop we went. Back for two more coffees. Back to coming up with a backup plan.

Being low on funds now didn’t leave us many viable options for a feasible hangout. We couldn’t sit at The coffee shop and NOT order coffee. We decided to wait for a bit and hopefully the guy’s wife would show up or the cops would finally get him out.

“I know,” said my brother excitedly, “let’s go to our aunt’s house.”

It sounded like a good plan. Actually it sounded like an excellent plan! Genius! Our aunt had a phone so we wouldn’t need to use our change for the payphone and she only lived a few blocks from our house. It was the perfect plan!

What do they say about best laid plans? Yes, they do go awry. We pulled up to my aunt’s house. It had now been two hours since our ordeal had begun. Oh yes…forget about the man threatening suicide…our lives were in peril. Our mother was seriously going to kill us once we got home.

Well, we arrived at our aunt’s place. She was just getting ready to eat a lovely sandwich she had made herself for lunch. “Would you like one?” she kindly asked.

My brother and I looked at each and psychically knew that we would be beheaded if my mother ever found out that we ate food at our aunt’s place. Yes, don’t pshaw me. There was this weird rule about not eating at relative’s houses either. I have no idea where my mother’s “Thou Shalt Not” rule book came from, but there were many of them and any broken rule led to eventual beatings and/or possible threat of death. Or even worse…The Magnanimous Silent Treatment. Brrrrr….iced out forever! (Who knew that one day this would become my preferred daily experience). However, on this occasion we declined her offer, but did ask for a glass of water. Just one glass…that we would share. Only one glass for out aunt to wash so not a fatal sin in our minds.

After glugging down the water and extinguishing our thirst we decided to call home again and see if the cops had made any progress. Our next fantastically great idea was to have our aunt initiate the call. Mom couldn’t yell at her right?

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THERE!? GET YOUR ASSES HOME RIGHT NOW! YOU HAD BETTER NOT BE EATING ANYTHING THERE! WHY ARE YOU DRINKING HER WATER! WAIT UNTIL YOU GET HOME!” This is what I heard after my aunt happily passed the phone receiver over to me.

Our aunt had had a pleasant conversation with my mother. She explained how happy she was that we came to visit. She hoped the police would resolve the issue soon. My dear, loving aunt had no idea the verbal barrage I would hear as she passed the phone to me.

“We can’t come home,” I tried to explain to my mother, attempting not to yell back at her over her yelling. “The police have blocked the road. We have told you this. Go outside and look.”

“COME…HOME…NOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!” our mom bellowed.

That’s when I got incredibly brave and yelled back, “HOW DID YOU WANT US TO GET HOME!” I thought for sure this was now a done deal. She would leave us alone until the police left.

“Drive the car to the street behind our house. Park the car there and jump the neighbour’s fence,” she said hurriedly.

I looked over at my brother. I really could not clearly compute what this woman was saying. Seriously? Did we look like fence climbing / jumping people? My brother looked over quizzically at me. I nodded silently and then realized that no words had escaped from my lips. “Yes,” I agreed solemnly, “we are coming home.”

And so it was that we thanked our aunt profusely for the hydration and for the use of her free phone and hoped we didn’t bother her too much. If we grovelled enough we might receive bonus points in accolades after she praised our good upbringing to our mom.

Back into the car and back to our neck of the woods. I parked the car as my mother had demanded. We got out of the car and headed into our neighbour’s backyard.

Oh, did I mention it was winter? Did I also mention that there was a slight incline in our backyard at the back of the property? Now, dressed in winter coats and winter boots we had to scale an 8-foot high, wooden fence and land in our own backyard without breaking any appendages. I will be honest and say I do not recall if I went first or my brother did as we could not both scale the fence at the same time. There was only a 2-foot wide expanse of fence that bordered our backyard. I do recall bumping my elbow with full force as I clambered over. I remember hearing the neighbour yelling, “What are you doing? Get off my property!” I recall landing hard on my knees and almost bashing my face into the ground. Nothing elegant about this stunt. No MacGyver worthy escape here. But, the good news was we had made it.

As we pulled ourselves up and out of the snow pit we had created, the back door opened. Our sister had been visiting over the weekend and she had opened the door to inform us that there was an ambulance across the street at the townhouse complex. They were wheeling someone out in a gurney. My emotionally and physically exhausted brother and I marched into the house and headed to the living room so that we could get a better look at what was happening.

The ambulance doors closed. The siren wailed as the flashing lights were turned on. We saw the ambulance race down the street. Then we saw one….two…three….four…oh my….five police cruisers follow behind it. All sirens on…all lights flashing. The ordeal was over. Well, the shooter’s ordeal was. Ours was just about to begin. Our mother’s pinched, angry face had appeared in the doorway of the living room.

In our defence I said, “See, I told you there were cops.”

P.S. We survived.

P.P.S. The gunman did not.

P.P.P.S Our mother doesn’t remember any of this. I guess we did many more traumatic things to her during our younger days.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Our generation was one where, as children, you did get spanked, you did get yelled at, your feelings were not spared, and parents did not bow to the whims and desires of their offspring. When I say that my mother was going to “kill us”, please know that this was a slang expression used in our generation to define the horrible verbal abuse and/or occasionally the meeting of wooden spoon to child backside…like whack-a-mole without missing the mole, that we children experienced. We all lived. Thankfully, this particular old European style of upbringing has allowed us to forever have fond memories and stories of the craziness and hilarity of our childhood.

Who’s the genius now?

I am a smart woman.  I have lived almost a half century and there is much wisdom stored in my grey matter.  Truly, I am a competent adult.  I function well in society with knowledge gained through schooling and book learning.  I have experienced many things in everyday life that have led me to believe that I am a bright individual; resourceful even.  So, why is it that when I try to figure out stuff on my iPhone my brain cells seem to pack up and go on permanent vacation.  Why is this so hard?

I never liked computers, rather, I never understood computers and hence my dislike of them.  Right from the good ol’ PET Computer and my inability to do any kind of sophisticated programming…or any kind of programming for that matter.  Sure, I use a computer now.  I am typing on one as we speak.  However, there are many things I am sure it can do besides letting me click, click, click on its keyboard.  I tell myself, “It’s a learning process.”  I tell myself, “I can always Google it.”  Oh yes, even dear Google can’t educate me on the basics on these newfangled programs.  There were signs telling me that I was slowly losing my “hip” persona on the ways of the world.  Old lady brain was just around the corner.

I realized my technological brain was fizzling when I couldn’t figure out the TV and cable remotes.  So many buttons to try to turn on one screen.  I had finally mastered that high-techiness (new dictionary word) when Wiseguy presented his fantastic new projection screen TV!  Gulp.  Was that another remote?  No wait…two remotes?  Did I see a third one?  After installing everything, including surround sound speakers, my wonderful husband scurried off to work and jealously left me to play with our new toy.  After managing to scare myself half to death (and deaf) with surround sound static from my “Poltergeist” TV screen, I hit every OFF button on every remote and proceeded to read a book.  So much for my introduction to technology and being a modern woman.

Now, when it came to the most profound new technology of my generation, I would say the cell phone.  Music lovers would probably say the Sony Walkman, but I was a bookworm so my vote was for the cell phone.  I had pined for it, begged for it, and finally got it.  This was actually not too complicated.  It reminded me of my high school calculator.  I remember using numbers to spell words.  We were so cool (lame…in 80’s speak).  I learned how to program phone numbers.  I could now call people while I was away from home!  Coolest device ever…until the phone’s battery died on me.  Besides not having an active phone I also realized my inability to recall phone numbers.  After that I made sure to memorize at least two numbers in case of emergencies.  Smart right?  Not as smart as the creative minds out there expounding their computer geniusness (new dictionary word) on the world.

Technology grew in leaps and bounds.  Suddenly simple things became super complicated things.  Most horrifically, the flip cell phones transmogrified into a … AHHHHHHH … A COMPUTER!  The thing I could never understand!  These TV-screen-typewriters that used to sit on a desk were now in people’s pockets!  When the kids showed me what they could do I was stunned.  Literally, dumbfounded.  My jaw dropped.  I couldn’t believe that this “phone” could take pictures and show videos and play music and provide instant information!  No more need to store information in your brain.  All you had to do was “Google” for the answer.  (Yeah…first time I heard THAT word I needed a kid to ‘splain to me what a “Google” was).  I was happy living in my flip phone world until that universe expired.

My phone battery died yet again so I went to get a new battery for my exquisitely ancient (7 year old) flip phone.  To my horror I was informed that my phone was obsolete which meant its battery was also extinct.  **funeral dirge**  There were other antique (5 year old) phone styles I could pick from, but Death of a Battery was not something I wanted to relieve again and again.  It was time to move into the future.  I bought an iPhone 4.

The very first thing I did was open the box and survey the instructions.   Then I promptly made sure all the kids would be home for a fancy dinner.  After our fancy dinner I would have them program my phone, show me some of the basics, and ply them with educated questions.  Three hours later I had numbers programmed and had learned how to turn my phone off and on.  I had managed to take fantastic pictures…of my thumb.  With the basics memorized, I followed up with my usual modus operandi…trial and error (mostly error).  I have learned lots via this intense and elaborate technique.  There is no real manual for using this computer…ahem… “smart” phone.  I rely on overhearing conversations, or watching others do stuff and then follow up with the excited “how did you do that?”

I’m on the iPhone 6 now.  I wait for the grandkids to show up for the fancy dinner.  They show me stuff on YouTube and how to download stuff.  Yeah…they’re smart.  Technologically smart.  They know how to use TV remotes too.

But just wait…my time is coming.  One day they will come over for the perfunctory fancy dinner and I will show THEM something they have never seen before.  I can write cursive.  Hah!  Who’s the genius now?

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’tis the season for…less and less stress

Yes, it’s that time of year again when humankind goes berserk.  It’s the season of gift giving and life stressing.  What used to be simple days of praise has now become the merchandise mecca of the year.  It’s all about the gifts and the gift giving and the gift receiving.  Or is it?  Besides the present factor, there is the presentation factor.  Oh yes, the hosting of the feasts or the attending of the feasts.  Are you one of those who finds this time of year especially stressful?  Even better, don’t you enjoy all the tv shows and the radio talk shows and expert magazine articles telling you how to survive the holiday season?  Yeah, I can’t stand them either.  So I have decided that I am going to share with you MY way of surviving this wonderful time of the year.

PLAN A:

LEAVE TOWN!  If you can, go and hop on a plane, a train, or leave in an automobile.   GO! GO FAR FAR FAR AWAY!  Why?  You don’t have to deal with any of the visiting drama or the hosting drama.  There is NO drama, except for crowds at the airport, but who cares?  You aren’t related to anyone.  Oh…leaving is not an option?  Ok, plan B

YOU ARE THE HOST

KEEP IT SIMPLE:  

The invite:  If you are the chosen one hosting the get together, send out your invitation in July.  That way everyone has time to book their trip abroad!  Or, sadly,  they can decide to spend time with you.  I feel bad for them.  Well, if you are the hostess with the mostest (like me!), here is your holiday survival plan.

Menu plan:  it’s all about the list … ahem … lists.  Your menu is one list.  This will include the items you are planning on making.  Sub-divide your list into the following categories:  Appetizers / Main / Dessert.  Further sub-divide that list into when to prep each item and what you have to buy at the grocery store.  Example:  vegetable tray: grape tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cauliflower.  This list will become your cheat sheet for the next list – GROCERY LIST.  Oh, then there is the list of what platters / bowls utensils will be needed for each dish.  See!  Super easy!  Oh, as the days progress you might find that you cross things off your list because they are either going to take too long or you’re too tired to attempt making them.  Your 5 page list will suddenly wither away to one sheet.  There…NOW it’s easy and manageable.  So, if you started off with apple pie, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, chocolate cake, you might find that by December 24th your pie kingdom has morphed into “I’ve got ice cream in the freezer.”  Yup, who doesn’t like ice cream?  Someone will bring you chocolates or cookies and voila!  Your dessert is taken care of.

Seating:  Don’t worry about getting too fancy with your seating arrangement.  As long as everyone can sit and eat it doesn’t matter what they have to sit on.  Plastic stools, lawn chairs…who cares?  It’s about family and being together right?

Gifts:  Buying gifts has become a true tragedy.  If you watch every commercial and try to buy the kids what they want, you will find (especially if there are divorced and/or remarried parents involved) that there will be quadruplicate same gifts!  Avoid this catastrophe.  Go for the stuff they aren’t expecting.  Nothing trademarked.  Nothing Disney.  Nothing Star Wars.  Nothing that anyone else can buy.  Surprises are way more fun and they MIGHT even like it.  Huzzah!

Decorating:  No need to go over the top with decorations.  Yes, it’s nice to make your home feel Christmasy, and a visit to the dollar store or your Goodwill store will have enough to make it ho ho hopefully good enough.  A green garland, some red bows.  Ta-da!

Drinks:  Sure it would be nice to have every variety of booze available to your guests, but even restaurants draw the line.  “Can I get a Pepsi?” you might ask only to hear, “Sorry, we have Coke is the ok?”  Well, it’s not really ok but you take what you can get.  Keep in mind that you are actually paying for getting what you didn’t really want.  So, when guests come over (and they are not paying for anything), they can sip on whatever you have on hand.  Newfie Screech?  By golly why not?!  It’s Christmas!

Clean up:  Wow…look at those mounds of dishes that piled up because it was more important to be with your guests than hanging out washing dishes in the kitchen.  In the old days the women would congregate there and gossip while washing and drying dishes.  Gone are those days.  There are now dishwashers.  Sure it might take you 4 days to cycle all those dishes through the magic washing machine, but who cares?  No one else is coming over so you’ve got lots of time.

Now, if you are…

THE GUEST:

KEEP IT SIMPLE:  

Driving:  Give yourself time to get to your destination.  Parking is what it is.  Don’t wear your nicest shoes as you might have to park in knee deep snow.  Just saying.

Host(ess) Gift:  I find two gifts work out best.  Booze or sweets.  Wine or hard liquor is a win!  If you aren’t sure then chocolates or baked goods work (as they double for dessert at your destination).  Note:  Buy what you like to eat/drink since the hosts usually share whatever they have received.

Don’t overstay:  You may be having a good time, but keep in mind that your host(s) have probably been losing lots of sleep planning the perfect soiree.  If they keep mentioning how late it’s getting, that is a definite subtle clue that it’s time for you to pack up your sorry drunk ass and get on home.

There!  That’s all there is to it!  Sure, you may think this a bunch a hogwash and some are saying, “Well, you don’t know MY family.”  Maybe not, but think about it, the less effort you put in the less people expect of you.  Keep the bar low so no one can limbo under it. Low expectations will keep you off the high expectations list.  Each year will bring less and less stress as you continue to regress.

YOU’RE WELCOME!

 

The Real Boo Boo Cure…

Recently I went to my local drug store to buy some health and wellness items.  Bandages, eye drops, headache medicine, burn ointment…you know, the stuff that seems to disappear all too soon in my house.  Me?  Accident prone?  No, I consider myself more of a survivalist.  As I wandered down the aisle I noticed all the kid friendly stuff.  Bandages with cartoon pictures.  Toothpaste in tubes with Disney princesses all over it.  That got me thinking about the tried and true methods of our parents and grandparents to heal our boo-boos and other hurts.  It also made me laugh at my fanciful methods.

My cabinet at home is full of items that will help unclog my intestinal tract and if that gets too expunged then there is the one that will help stop the migration south.  There are little pills for so-so headache days and there are the extra strength ones for those dismal air pressure headaches.  There is the liquid pink potion to help with stomach pains and the fruit flavoured tablets for heart burn and indigestion.  There are the tablets to be used in case one of us has an anaphylactic shock.  It hasn’t happened yet, but one never knows right?  Add to this menagerie the cold fighting liquids, the herbal remedies, and the muscle and joint ointments and you have a cabinet full of illness fighting goodies.  Thinking back to my childhood my parents did not have such a full cabinet.

My childhood home’s main bathroom was where the “medicine” was kept.  Here is an inventory of what was in that cabinet:

  • bandages (Elastoplast brand because my father said these were the only ones that adhered well enough).
  • the everything pill – Aspirin – both children (little pink pills) and adult (yucky, chalky white pills)
  • iodine – used on any scraped knees, elbows, or puncture wounds.  It was red and had a little eyedropper for application.  Once applied it burned and burned and then tinged your skin red.  If the wound refused to clot then (and ONLY then) you would be given a bandage.  (If you ever had an everlasting-Elastoplast bandage ripped off, you would never, ever want a bandage again).

That’s it.  Nothing else in the cabinet.  There were no special kiddie bandages.  Nothing with cartoon pictures at all.  How did our generation manage to survive without the special first aid items that are out there now?  I have put a new spin on first aid making me more of a Witch Doctor than your regular mommy-type doctor.

I do not buy the special first aid bandages.  Also, my bandages are not to be applied to invisible or internal wounds.  Yes, they make a child feel better because now they have a memento of their boo-boo.  Everyone can parent the way they like, but I find this to be futile.  You give them one bandage and suddenly they’ll be returning asking for more until you have more of a mummy than a toddler.  I prefer the dramatic approach.

EXAMPLE:  CHILD FALLS WHILE RUNNING:

METHOD 1:  The wailing begins.   He/she is in unbelievable pain.  No doubt about it.  The tears are streaming in big fat drops and rolling down his/her cheeks.  Usual first aid is the Mommy Kiss:  Mommy kisses the boo boo and all is well.  My method:  “Come here sweetie,” I coo.  “Is it this leg?” I ask, pointing to the left leg.  “Shall we cut it off?”  Little boys LOVE that one!  Totally in for it!  They rest their leg on my thigh and I pretend sawing back and forth with the side of my hand.  The giggles erupt and all is well.  And no bandages were used.  Little girls usually give me the glare of death and skulk away.  Again, no crying and the irrefutable pain is suddenly forgotten.

METHOD 2:  The crying begins.  He/she is suffering like no other human being ever has.  “Oh my,” I say with hands on the sides of my face, staring in astonishment, “I guess you won’t be able to take the dogs for a walk with your broken leg.”  “I can walk the dogs!” comes the determined exclamation as child gets the leash and heads for the dogs.  Being able to do fun stuff will cure what ails them.

METHOD 3:   The sobbing begins.  He/she will not survive this wound.  If I have tried the sawbone solution or the distraction method and neither have worked, then I pull out the big gun.  The tried and true sure fire way to heal them.  Magic.  I put my magic wand on the injury and with some flair and dramatics I “heal” their injury.  They look at me shocked, stunned, and very silent.  They are also miraculously cured.

Now, some may say that I shouldn’t lie to children.  I don’t think it’s lying.  I tell them I will cure what ails them and I do.  That isn’t a fabrication.  It’s true.  They were there and watched me and they felt better.  WIN WIN if you ask me.

What makes my magic even more special is that MY wand is a Harry Potter wand.  I bring the special box out of hiding and have the child watch me slowly open it and reveal its contents.  The wand sits there, magically of course.  Also, no child is allowed to touch it because it is MY magic wand.  Eventually, when they are older, they can get a wand that magically selects them.  This way, no one fights over who gets to play with my wand and my wand will be safe for future use when fatal child injuries occur.

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I am hoping that one day, when they are grown up, they will recall these fanciful things I used to do.  Maybe I’ll be the crazy Baba which is fine with me because it makes me unique and memorable.  Childhood goes by too quickly and I love letting them live in a world of magic and fantasy while they can.

Bandages or Harry Potter wand?  You now know the real boo boo cure.

Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.

As a child, did you play make believe?  I have a feeling you did.  If you had comic books you might have wanted to be your favourite super hero.  If you didn’t have that form of entertainment, you might have wanted to be a firefighter or a teacher or a doctor or a dinosaur.  You could be anything and be wonderful at it.  When we got a tv and the Super Friends were on, my brother and I loved to be the Wonder Twins.  Here I am, all grown up and I am still playing make believe.  I make believe I am an adult (lol).  The grandchildren are into pretend play too.  Recently I watched in amazement as they huddled in a circle, arm in and then shouting out as they raised their hands out of the circle.  Welcome to the new power partners.

What did they holler?  MINI SQUAD!  Yes, they are little, but I am thinking maybe there is a video game or something with that title.  Their power members consist of a 7-year old, and two 3 1/2-year olds going all gung ho with excitement.  I had to find out what this squad of theirs was all about.  Here is what I learned.

There is a lot of running around.  First you stand in the circle with your right arm into the centre and then as you are lifting your arm out of the circle you yell:  MINI SQUAD!  Note:  there is also a second type of huddle.  Instead of arms and hands in, you do it with arms and fists in yelling MINI SQUAD!  “It’s totally different,” said the 7-year old.  I had to agree.  After that all important battle cry is done you run around looking for stuff.  What kind of stuff?  “Well, the one holding the flashlight is searching for monsters,” said the eldest cousin.  The other two?   “It changes,” she remarked matter-of-factly.  “Bugs, birds, shadows…anything,” she continued.  It doesn’t matter what you look for, eventually the eldest will yell for her cousins to come back to do the rally cry again.  Uh huh.  So, no real rules.  Then I got curious about names of the members.

“So,” I began, “how did you get the name Mini Squad?”  Boy wonder got a shirt from his parents with Mini Squad on it.  His aunt saw it and decided to buy it for her girls and ta-da!  They were now “officially” the Mini Squad because, well, as we old folks like to say:  Been there.  Done that.  Got the t-shirt.

My next question was about the running around and seeking for things.  “Well, it’s different every time.  Unless you have the flashlight because then you are the monster hunter.” Fair enough.

“What are your names?” I inquired.

Eldest:  My name is Flash.  [pointing to her younger sister] She is Spark.  [pointing to her younger cousin] His name is Jonathon.  WHAAAAAAAAAT!!??  OK, I admit I snort-laughed then.  What the heck kind of superhero name was Jonathan?

Well, after my obnoxious display of laughter she decided that they should have different names.  The chooser of names decided that she would be Shadow, sis would still be Spark, and Jonathon would now be Flash…no no…Flasher.  (Ok, not much better for helping stop my laughter.  She should’ve quit while she was ahead with Flash.  lol)  One day she is going to read this and definitely laugh her head off.  (Ha Ha Ha…Plop).  Until she gets bumped into adulthood and realizes the definition* I ain’t gonna spoil the fun.

Ready everyone?  Stand in a circle, arms in.  And ready to move arms out and yell out:

MINI SQUAD!

* Note:  The adult brain can really stunt a child’s imagination.  As a pre-tween I recall a school project where, working in groups, we had to come up with a product and an advertising campaign.  My group decided on something like Jello.  Being so genius, we were happy to show the teacher our progress with our new product called “Jiggle-o”.  She smiled weirdly, took a couple of breaths and then said we needed a new name.  “Why?” we inquired.  She tried to explain without explaining.  To this day I don’t recall her lame explanation.  Our cool product name was changed to…ugh…Wiggle-o.  After I crossed the threshold into adulthood I heard of a movie called “American Gigolo.”  Oh my.  A-ha moment.  Been there. Done that.  Got the t-shirt.

 

 

Is it really “child torture”?

I was once asked why I torture children.  Whoa!  Let me explain.

A four-year old wanted to play make-believe with me.  No problemo!  I am always in for some fun and games.  Well, she started off by saying that we would be playing tea party.  “YOU can be a princess and I’LL be a princess…” at which point I interrupted her (as children are apt to do when we adults speak).

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“I don’t want to play tea party,” I said calmly.  “Let’s play something else”.  Child torture?  I think not.

When I play with children, I love getting their minds working.  I love challenging them.  I want to see and hear what they will think of next.  Honestly, they are brilliant!  There are things that we, as adults, can teach them.  However, their minds, at the young age, have a world focus that is so pure and genuine.  It’s a mind that we adults used to have, but then had reprogrammed along the way to adulthood.  As we went to school we were taught to think a certain way.  We were taught about past beliefs and were not only encouraged, but forced to think that same way.  I recall, as a child, I needed some form of escape.  I think this is what got me reading at a young age.   It was something to release me from reality.

Reading is a great escape.  A good author can have you leave this reality and enter another world using only your mind’s eye.  This is often the reason why I prefer reading the books instead of seeing their counterpart movie versions.  Movies cannot recreate what I have beautifully conceived and visualized in my mind.  This is also one reason why I love the Harry Potter series so much.

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This wonderful woman (J.K. Rowling) has written stories that children are enthusiastic about.  They WANT to read.  Youngsters and many adults (me included) love them!  The stories are exciting, but also sometimes scary.  There are good people and evil people.  These stories, although taking place in a magical world, incorporate everything going on in our muggle…ahem…human world.  Think about it.  J.K. Rowling’s story about Harry Potter talks about bullying.  It talks about shy people.  It is detailed about friendships and how you can end up in arguments with your best friends.   It discusses bravery.  It tells the reader that you will find friends in the strangest of places.  You learn that there are those who will always have your back and those who will always try to put you down.  In the end, the moral of this series for me is that, no matter how difficult life’s challenges may be, it is important to always to be true to yourself and hold onto your beliefs.  Again, my opinion only.  I am sure there are many differing opinions about these books.  Huzzah!  Even better…books that mean something different to everyone.

Back to my non-tea party playdate (a.k.a. adorable granddaughter).  Did she get mad and storm off when I said I didn’t want to play princess tea party?  Nope.  She sat back for a second, hummed and hawed and said, “Ok, let’s play hospital.”  The new game was about to begin.  Oh sure, I kept changing stuff along the way.  She wanted me to be the doctor and I told her I wanted to be the patient.  She let that one go too.  Then she wanted me to have a baby and I wanted to have a broken leg.  Well, that one I gave in to.  Why?  Well, she had the baby doll all lined up and ready to go.  Lesson learned:  If you want to have friends to play with, sometimes it’s your way and sometimes it will be your friend’s way.

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I know that parents want their children to be happy, happy, happy all the time.  No tears, no issues in life.  Give them whatever they want because you love them with all your heart and would never want anything to hurt them.  The difficulty with this is that the real world isn’t like home.  Eventually they will have to deal with the bullies or they might not get their own way.  What will they do then?  How will they handle it?  If you don’t have them try it out at home where it’s controlled and safe, they won’t know what to do when it happens outside the safe house.

Conclusion:  You may disagree with what I have said.  That is fine with me.  We all have our opinions about teaching children to become great citizens in this world of ours.  There are gads of books out there from psychologists to psychiatrists to other parents.  Every parent worries that they are the worst parent ever and that someone else has the right answer and the best way to raise their children.  NEWSFLASH!  Parents who love and care for their children ARE great parents.  Everyone is doing it wrong and everyone is doing it right.  That’s why there are so many books on this subject because no one really knows the best way.  If your gut tells you it feels right then go with that way.  You will be happy and your child will be happy and happy people go on to live happy lives.

Feel free to challenge your kids during playtime.  No harm…no foul.  Your brilliant lad or lassie will surprise you with what they can come up with.  “Child torture”?  Naaaaah!  Let’s refer to it as…mini-brain stimulation.  When you get that clever answer back you won’t regret it.  Give yourself a star for being the BESTEST PARENT.  (Yes…my made up word, but there should be a word for something better than best)!

Dear Parent / Guardian – Please feel free to print off this star and wear it proudly.

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Food Fight!

You are probably thinking that I am going to regale you with the many high school adventures I had with food fights.  Firstly you would be incorrect as we never had food fights in my high school cafeteria.  Secondly, I can’t throw straight!  (You can confirm that with my dart-playing partner.)  So, what food fight am I referring to?  Let me gently guide you back to your childhood for this one.  If that part of your life has bad memories then you can easily relate while watching (your) children.  Here we go.

Close your eyes and think back to a time when you were playing with your brother or sister or cousin or neighbourhood kid.  Now, recall when a bag of chips came out.  The bag was cautiously opened by an adult to ensure minimum spillage.  The glorious contents of the bag were then deployed into an awaiting cavernous bowl.  YES!  Junk food!  Chips!  Woo hoo!  You would think this would be an amazing event and all would be happy.  NOT! Why?  Well, if there was a younger (spoiled) sibling it got ruined.  Who got the biggest chip?  Who got the chip with the most flavour toppings on it?  Once you got down to the end of the bowl, how could it be divided evenly?  Does this sound like your family?  Chips were a special food group in our humble abode.  Now, let’s ramp up the crazy and discuss the genius solution that my brother and I came up with in order to ensure equality.

Me:  There aren’t too many chips in this bag.

Bro:  I know.

Me:  Our two cousins are here so we need to make sure we share or we’ll get in trouble.

Bro:  I know!  Let’s crush the chips so there’s more of ’em!

Me:  Great idea!

Well, truth be told, we actually had our cousins help us crunch up the chips into bitty pieces so that there would be more pieces for everyone to share. Genius right?  Perhaps, but eating chip crumbs wasn’t that great.

Now, let’s discuss family meal time.  How about that can of pork and beans!  I loved this canned delight!  Honestly, when I saw that on the dinner table I was mega-excited!  As a child I loved the thickness of the sauce and how tasty it was.  However, there was a glitch…pork.  The can stated there was “pork” and beans in its innards.  How true!  Imagine a family of six.  Two adults and four children.  There was a “pork” inside.  One “pork” in the pork and beans.  Who would be lucky to get the “pork”.  If you have never had the honour of digesting the contents of a can of pork ‘n’ beans, you cannot really understand the need to be the “Chosen One” to get that insignificant little fatty piece of bacon.  You want Food Fight!  Bring it on!  This was where the debate began of who was worthy.  To this day, I view this canned good as a vessel of divisive evil.

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Moving right along we come to the eternal evil: CEREAL!  I do believe that serial killer was hatched from the word CEREAL!  From childhood to grandparenthood I do not find that cereal has good qualities.  I shall explain.

Cereal commercials show the benefits of these boxed glorified sugar bandits.  They contain fibre, vitamins, iron, petroleum, fairy dust and other things we know nothing about.  For some reason, as children, the FUN cereals were the ones that led to the most trouble.  Do you recall “Count Chocula”?  Healthy breakfast?  Heck no!  We wanted it because it would make chocolate milk.  When my mother actually bought a box we children stood there in awe trying to figure out the type of hostage situation we would have to deal with.   There it was.  The box of our imagination.  It was in front of eyes.  Not only did we get our dream cereal but there was a prize inside!  Oops.  There was the catch.  Since we were only permitted about a 1/4 cup of that prized cereal to mix with our Rice Krispies and Honey Comb cereal we had no idea who would be the lucky one to get the prize.  Dissension occurred.  What if Mom picked the youngest child out of pity?  What it the child with the best grades got the prize?  What if it meant being nicest to mom?  What were the rules to getting the prize?  You want insane behaviour?  Find a child surrounded by other children competing for the two-cent prize in a cereal box.  The rules changed.  You were never ready.

The same deal for the Cracker Jack box.  Lovely box with caramel popcorn.  There was a prize inside.  Gadzooks!  If one child got the prize there was always a fight.  Honestly, the prizes were crap, but it was always about who got something more than the other kid.  You solo kids…you missed out on all the drama in life.

 

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The same holds true for marshmallows in hot chocolate.  You had better ensure that each child gets the same amount of marshmallows in that brown frothy goodness.  That is a misstep that parents make and it leads to traumatic psychiatric treatments.

Popsicles?  Same drama.  For some reason that mixed box of popsicles should only contain purple and red.  Why is there an orange flavour for children?  In the olden days only red and purple were of any use.  They were like the gold bullion of frozen sugar water. Orange?  Bleh.

SUMMARY:  Food fights.  Jealous food fisticuffs are all about who got what and why or who was deemed more deserving.  Perhaps the world is better off with real food fights.  Although I have never partaken in such a vigorous display of displeasure, I have seen reels of The Three Stooges throwing cream pies at many an adversary.  What did I learn?  It appears that the evil ones were stymied.  The good, although creamed, being recipients of said sugary confections, appeared to be satisfactory with the results of their actions.  In plain English:  FOOD FIGHT!!!!!   Whip it!  Whip it Good!   (Let’s “LOL” you children of the ’80s)