Lost In Translation: Parenting Edition

Though I know it is hard to believe, the occasional miscommunication happens in my house.

 

What I say: Clean your room.

What they hear: Play with your Nerf blasters.

What I say:  Dinner is ready.

What they hear: I’m serving you PopTarts. If it’s not PopTarts, demand them. Loudly.

What I say: Until you room is clean, you may not play with the cat.

What they hear: Touch the cat. Touch all five cats. Touch the neighbor’s cats. TOUCH ALL THE CATS! Right now!

What I say: This room isn’t clean.

What they hear: Your socks and dirty underwear are invisible to the naked eye.

parenting fail

What I say: It’s time to make your lunch.

What they hear: Play with your Nerf blasters.

What I say: Quit playing with your Nerf blasters. You have things to do.

What they hear: Play more. Never stop playing! It is your JOB to play! FOREVER!

What I say: Done cleaning? I’m coming in to check and make sure.

What they hear: I have the vision of an earthworm. I will never notice that you have not done the first thing.

What I say: Let’s get your homework out of the way. It won’t take long.

What they hear: It will take you the rest of your life.

What I say: If you just focus on the work, you will have it done in 10 minutes.

What they hear: Please flop in the floor like a speared fish. It makes both of us feel good about ourselves.

 

What I say: I made your favorite meal for you, now eat it.

What they hear: I dropped it on the floor, and then I spit on it.

What I say: But you LIKE this food.

What they hear: Just kidding. You hate it.

What I say: That’s a small wound. You’re fine.

What they hear: You’re probably going to die. Run around in a circle screaming. It helps everyone involved.

What I say: Go wash your hands for dinner.

What they hear: Walk to the bathroom, count to four, then turn around and come back.

What I say: Please get dressed for school.

What they hear: Make sure you wear your Darth Vader cape. Without it, you might as well be naked.

What I say: When I was a kid…

What they hear: Blah, blah, blah, hard times, blah, blah, blah.

 

 

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WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!!

It’s fine if you politely decline to answer that question. If you know me in real life, you probably have an entire list. It’s cool with me if you keep it to yourself. No, I insist. Seriously, STOP TALKING!

So here’s my problem. I am home alone. Okay, that right there is not the problem. Home alone means getting stuff done. Or it should. I had a list of wanna-do kinds of things. I want to write some, do a bit of NaNo prep, work on my digital scrapbook, get some exercise, make a pizza, do some dishes. You know, nothing much.

But here I sit, bound, tied, gagged by anxiety. The worst part if it is, I don’t even know WHY. There is no single, logical thought that has become my tripping hazard. So in an effort to contain this prickly beast that feels like electricity in my chest, I blog. It’s a Sunday, it’s beautiful weather, people are busy with Halloween parties and their own NaNo prep, so I don’t even have the pressure of having people read this post. So it’s good.

If you have never experienced inexplicable anxiety, this is kind of what it looks like.

Why am I anxious? It could be because…

  • I haven’t processed the Padawan’s new diagnosis and made my peace with it
  • The Girl-Child is on a camping trip
  • The Girl-Child seemed ill-prepared for this camping trip
  • The Girl-Child may get eaten by a bear
  • If Girl-Child isn’t eaten by a bear, I have to drive her to Chattanooga when she gets home
  • The boys are on a hike without me to try to complete their 100 mile challenge
  • Their dad may poop out early and call it quits and they won’t get their 100 miles
  • I will be forced to rally the troops next Sunday and lead them to the finish line myself
  • If I am forced to lead them across the finish line, I will be missing valuable NaNo writing time
  • This is the first NaNoWriMo in which I have absolutely zero ideas speaking to me
  • What if I start NaNo and can’t finish for the first time ever?
  • What if I start NaNo and I struggle every, single night to get the words down?
  • I have not managed to stay awake past 9pm for the last 3 months. How will I complete NaNo?
  • I should be working on my mom’s scrapbook, but it means I have to upload photos
  • Once the photos are uploaded, I have to arrange them on the page
  • After the photos are arranged on the page, I have to CAPTION them
  • What if I die during the scrapbooking/NaNoWriMo/Hiking challenge?
  • Can I arrange to be eaten by a bear?
  • What if the baby kitties get fat?
  • Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

    Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

  • What if my cinnamon tree cutting dies?
  • Can I order cinnamon trees online?
  • What if it gets too cold and dies in transit and the company I bought it from refuses to refund me because I should have known better?
  • Can I grow cinnamon from seed?
  • If I grow cinnamon from seed, I’m supposed to plant them immediately because they have limited viability. But they aren’t supposed to be planted until Spring. And then it takes a month or more for them to sprout
  • What if the seeds are all dead and it’s too late to complain and leave feedback on Ebay?
  • What if I never own the Charlie Brown Funko figure where he’s dressed as a ghost?
  • Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can't have you!

    Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can’t have you!

  • What if I spend all day worrying and never get anything done?
  • What if I don’t get good pictures of the new Radiata hatchlings at the zoo?
  • Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

    Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

  • Speaking of new hatchlings, that reminds me I’m supposed to scrapbook for the department. I need to compile photos into a concise album to make that process easier. Easier? Suddenly it feels the very opposite of easy
  • Also speaking of new hatchlings… My new baby Neon Day Gecko – what if the parents eat it?Are there two new ones? What if they are eaten by spiders?
  • Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

    Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

  • What if we are ALL EATEN BY SPIDERS?
  • What if one day while I am hanging upside down to do water changes in the big exhibit, the driftwood becomes so weak that it collapses and everyone sees me fall into the water?
  • What if NO ONE sees me and I drown and my face gets eaten by the turtles?
  • What if I can’t find all the fun photos I want to add to this post?
  • What if I do find them, but my storage is all eaten up and I can’t post them?
  • What if I have to wash my hair again tonight?
  • What if I am out of shampoo and CAN’T wash my hair tonight?
  • What if my ENTIRE family is eaten by bears? It’s bear season, and maybe my whole family put on their best acorn underwear for their big hiking/camping trips?
  • What if Sonic runs out of dark chocolate/potato chip/pretzel Blasts?
  • What if I eat the Blast and it goes straight to my bum and none of my pants fit me anymore?
  • What if it never gets cold again?
  • What if it gets cold and I am very, very sorry that it is cold because I wear shorts all winter and end up with chilblains?
  • What if I never learn what chilblains are? But spellcheck does, so I know it’s a thing
  • What if my headache/anxiety/neuropathy/memory loss never go away?
  • What if I never get an idea for NaNo and the muse has left me and I never got to write again and my new computer sits on my writing table sad and dejected?
  • What if I go outside to go for a walk and a walnut falls out of the tree, hits me on the head, and renders me unconscious in the middle of the road?
  • What if I go to the gym to work out because walnuts typically don’t fall in the gym, but the bean burrito I ate last night makes its presence known and all the other members die of methane poisoning and I go to jail for premeditated foofing?
  • What if I don’t make it to Target in time for the post-Halloween 90% off sale and all the pet costumes are gone and Ravenclaw and Pandora are stuck being naked for the rest of their lives?
  • Okay, so maybe they won't be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    Okay, so maybe they won’t be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    pandora_the_bat

  • What if I can’t figure out a super-cool Halloween costume?
  • What if we go trick-or-treating and kids come by our house and no one is home, so they egg the place?
  • What if we buy a million bags of candy and we have no trick-or-treaters, so I am forced to eat the candy myself because I take one for the team, and then I get fat?
  • What if the MRI costs $10,000 and insurance doesn’t cover it and we are stuck in debt again?
  • What if my chest actually bursts apart with the electricity that is building in it?

Is it too late to sign up to get eaten by a bear? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about a costume because I would be Winnie’s Poo. Also, now I want a hermit crab.

 

 

Maybe Marriage Isn’t So Great After All

So the husband and I have joined a marriage class at our church. It’s a biblically-based Francis Chan study, and there’s a free PDF for anyone who is interested.**  Let me know if the link doesn’t work, and I will see if I can find it for you.

The first chapter is called “Marriage Isn’t That Great,” and I’ve been chewing on that title for the last two weeks. And you know what? They’re kind of right.

Marriage changes everything. Husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. We knew each other well, or at least we thought we did. We were starry-eyed idiots. “I do” turns into “What have I DONE?” and moonlit walks become mortgage payments with the speed of Seabiscuit on crack.

When we were dating, a professor told us that he and his wife knew each other well. “I know my wife will eat the last piece of chocolate cake without telling me,” he said in class one day. “And she knows that I will, too.”

How horrible, I thought. Not only would I leave my beloved the last piece of cake, I would set it out on a plate with his name on it and draw a bunch of hearts around it so that he will know how loved he is. Fast-forward 21 years, and not only do I hide all the good treats in an empty tampon box so he won’t touch it, I don’t even want to share the FIRST piece of a cake. I got a chocolate ganache cake at a cake walk. When husband asked what ganache is, I may have told him it means “antelope testicle.” And he didn’t believe me because 1/4 of the cake was gone the following morning.

Sad antelope. He's sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Sad antelope. He’s sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Marriage is HARD. There’s a reason the expression “The honeymoon is over” exists. When we were dating, the toughest thing we had to agree on was where we were going to eat. Now it’s “Whose turn is it to do dishes/laundry/lunches/grocery shopping?” ***

Dating is a time we put our best foot forward, even while we were planning that trip down the aisle. We used to whisper sweet nothings like “You’re so beautiful!” “I could hold you forever.” “I love you so much, my heart hurts.” Now our whispers are more like “I haven’t pooped in two weeks.””What is that smell? Was that you? Dear God in heaven! See a doctor!” And “I would give you the MOON!” becomes “Another cat? Are you serious? The MOON, woman! I offered you THE MOON! The moon doesn’t use a litter box!”

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Marriage is laundry on the floor, reading when your partner would rather be talking, talking when your partner would rather be reading, paying utilities and mowing the lawn. It’s responsibility. It’s constantly fighting our natural selfish instincts to keep from killing one another in “The Great Covers War.” It’s learning the real meaning of “In sickness and in health,” when you watch your partner develop a potentially debilitating illness. It’s the storm, but it’s also the calm after.

It’s reaching in your lunch bag and finding a surprise package of animal crackers. It’s knowing that he ate some testicle-free ganache cake, but discovering that he also bought a bag of Sweet Tango apples because he ate the last one and he knows they’re your favorite. It’s my heart skipping a beat when he walks in the room, not because he scared me, but because he still looks good to me after all these years. It’s the coming home and finding the kitten you’ve wished for sitting on your pillow after work.

Marriage itself isn’t the easy road. But I’m so glad I’m here, and I know I’ll be okay as long as he and I are on this road together.

It looks like he's up to something, doesn't it?

It looks like he’s up to something, doesn’t it?

** for the record, it loads onto an e-reader as a PDF file, but it reads just fine. My Kobo isn’t very PDF-friendly, but it reads like any other book. Don’t let “PDF” scare you.

*** the answer to this question is usually “mine/mine/mine/probably mine.” What can I say? I’m a slacker.

What I Learn From My Cat

You’ve met Pixel. She’s an adorable, evil genius. This is the cat that can open the oven to get to the pizza. Be afraid.

She looks ready, doesn't she?

She looks ready, doesn’t she?

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

Meet Mousie. Seven-year-old Squish picked Mousie as a toy for Pixel. I didn’t think the cat would touch it with a 10-foot pole, but what do I know? Clearly nothing, because Pixel has a slight obsession with this toy. The cat with the work ethic of a salted slug is all about playing fetch with the mouse.  Or is she?

One day I watched Pixel flip and flop while she played with her toy, and I noticed something really odd. Let’s see if you notice it, too.  Click the first image to create a slideshow and read the captions. They’re the crux of this whole thing.

I couldn’t figure out what she was doing at first. She pawed and scratched at the glass like she was trying to tell me that Timmy fell down the well again. But Lassie she ain’t. You and I BOTH know she would leave Timmy in that well in a skinny minute if saving the kid  meant a long run up the hill to fetch Pa. I watched a little longer, and finally it dawned on me that what she was after was Mousie’s reflection in the back of the china cabinet.

Pixel spent a solid 10 minutes trying to get that imaginary mouse, to the point of kicking the real Mousie out of her way so she could put her best effort into getting to the one in the mirror. The one that isn’t real. The one that she will never be able to have, like Narcissus withering away longing for that beauty he can never possess.

I’ve said for a long time that this cat is almost human, and this incident kind of proves it. How often have we chased after imaginary greatness, ignoring the treasure we already possess?

This story has a happy ending. We discussed Pixel’s work ethic. 10 minutes of effort was all she had in her. She didn’t wither and die. She eventually forgot about reflection Mousie and went off to do what she does best – sleep.

So what imaginary mice are hiding in your mirror? And how do you let them go?

 

 

The One Where I Nearly Cheat

I am a good person. Generally. I try to be, anyway. But I am not perfect. Sometimes I fall short.

I love my husband. We’ve been married for twenty years. That’s more than half my life. Wait. Is it? How old am I? Hang on while I do the math. Carry the two, divide by the ratio of the moon’s circumference to its diameter… Okay, no. Not half my life, but close enough. Long time. Long enough that I am shocked at how close I came to betraying him.

It was so frighteningly easy to justify, too.

  • I’m home alone.
  • He’s out of town.
  • He will never know.
  • I’m bored.
  • I’m tempted.
  • He will never know.
  • I just really want to.
  • I never specifically said that I wouldn’t.
  • He’s probably done it himself.
  • He will never know.***

I wrestled these demons for an entire day, and I am proud to say I emerged victorious and true. I didn’t do it. I didn’t.  I resisted the temptation. I did not see Star Wars: The Force Awakens without him. But I might have eaten his Junior Mints while he was gone. Keep that between us, would you?

Shingleback skink (Tiliqua rugosa). One of the only reptiles known to mate for life. Voted as reptile least likely to see a Star Wars Movie without their mate. We could learn so much from them. Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Shingleback skink (Tiliqua rugosa). One of the only reptiles known to mate for life. Voted as reptile least likely to see a Star Wars Movie without their mate. We could learn so much from them. Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

 

*** He would totally know. The man can sense The Force from twenty paces. He’s like Yoda.

 

 

 

True Confession #657: I Don’t Like the New Year.

There. I said it. I hate the New Year. And not just this new year, either. I have nothing against 2015. It is the year of my 20th wedding anniversary, and it’s divisible by five; what’s not to like? The year itself looks pretty promising. It’s not the new year that intimidates me. It’s the New Year, the one with capital letters, the one that carries in one hand the high expectations of making a change; and in the other, failure.

My New Year tends to go something like this:

January 1 – Get drunk on the possibility of changing every aspect of my life.

January 2 – “Holding strong. Look at me! I’ll do it this time!”

January 3 – “What was so wrong with the old me? NOTHING!”

January 4 – “Screw it. I’m going to watch Malcolm In the Middle and eat MoonPies until my eyeballs fall out.”

Later, rinse, repeat.

It’s a nice idea, really.  A new year is a blank slate with endless potential. We don’t yet know what the coming year will hold, so just for a second we stand weightless on the precipice of the future. For one shiny minute it feels like nothing is impossible. And therein lies the trouble. Each new year becomes New Year; it becomes THE year, the one in which we will finally lose weight, exercise more, succeed at a hobby, stick to a budget, drop a bad habit, pick up a good one. This is the year I WILL FINALLY BE PERFECT!

It never happens. Fear of failure creates failure. By February, the budgeting software lies collecting dust in the back of the closet, the new treadmill is a coat rack, and failure takes its place at the dinner table like an old friend.

It’s lose/lose game, and I’m not going to play anymore. I’ve done my reflecting on the old year. I know what didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, and I know where I went wrong. They’re my mistakes. I own them. Will I change them? I’d like to. But I have to find a new way to do it. Making a blanket promise to the New Year hasn’t worked for me. This time I’m starting small. My new motto is this: “Just for today.”

It’s not just mine. I borrowed it from my 12-step friends. It works for me. I need that reminder that I don’t have to change my entire life, I just have to change my right now. I don’t have to do anything forever or even tomorrow. Just for today. Tomorrow can take care of itself.

I do have goals. Not for the year, but for the near future. They’re general ones, things I have some control over. I want to blog more and create enough of a focus that it doesn’t devolve into the ramblings of a crazy cat lady. I want to edit/rewrite a book I wrote last year, one I have been too afraid to look at since April. I’ve made a good start, working on it four consecutive days already. And I’ll do it again today. Even if it’s just today.

One foot in front of the other. That’s how these journeys go.

"And you may wanna take another look at that cat-lady goal, Mom..."

“And you may wanna re-evaluate that cat-lady thing, Mom, because it looks like you’re heading in that direction.”

What are some of your goals?

 

It’s All In How You Look At It

I’ve been in a terrible mood.

A to-do list looms over my shoulder that contains such minor tasks as learning a new computer operating system well enough to teach it to others. The job I was hoping for has been shelved for a few months. I spent ungodly amounts of money yesterday registering Squish for preschool and buying kids’ clothes for fall and two pairs of glasses, one for me and one for Girl-child. (Oh, yeah. I also learned I need bifocals. I was hoping my vision issues were just because my arms were too short.) After wrangling a Squish through a consignment sale, two vision appointments, and a grocery trip, we went to the car to discover our tire was flat. Two more hours of Squish-wrangling and another large chunk of change, and I was feeling kind of sorry for myself.

I did have a delightful dinner with the most wonderful person. It was the bright spot of my day. But when I returned home after 9:30pm, I discovered my kid who has a 7 o’clock bedtime was still wide awake. Daddy had let him stay up for a bit in the hopes he would sleep in. When does he ever sleep in?

When the kid’s feet hit the floor at 7:15 this morning, I was ready to run for the trees.  But then.

Breakfast_buddy

It’s funny how a perspective can shift when looking into those blue eyes.

I bet I was the only one in the world who got to have breakfast with Captain America.

 

Squish is ever the problem-solver. He was ready to fix the tire with some duct tape. That’s my boy.

It’s A Phase, Right?

I am exhausted. Right now, every tiny thing turns into a senseless argument, even stuff that’s been part of the regular routine for the entire year. It’s a constant struggle to get things done. I don’t understand. My conversations go like this:

“Time to get up!”

“I don’t wanna!”

“Get up. Now”.

*screaming tantrum commences*

Or this:

“Here’s your lunch!”

“I’m not eating that.”

“You like carrots and broccoli. You love salad.”

“No. I want McDonald’s.”

“Forget it.”

*screaming tantrum commences*

Or even this:

“Time for walkies!”

“NO! I don’t wanna go!”

“C’mon! You love to go for walks!”

“No! I won’t!”

“Get up now!”

“NO! You can’t make me! I’m gonna sit here aaaallllll day long!”

“We’re going. Get up.”

*screaming tantrum commences*

I know logically that this phase will pass. One day, I will grow up and do the things that I know are good for me. One day.  But for now, don’t you tell me what to do Because I don’t wanna! You can’t make me!

I think I may need a time out, or a nap. They tell you about the Terrible Twos, but no one thinks to warn us about the Terrible Forties.

How To Provide Excellent Customer Service

In this dog-eat-dog world, the only businesses to survive will be the ones who are so big that they own everything in sight really care about their customers. It’s important to be in touch with your consumer base in order to go above and beyond the call of duty. Here’s how to really meet their needs.

1) Have a great website. The more flashy stuff, the better. Seriously. Things that flash, and lots of it. Customers appreciate a website with a little bling. Nothing like a seizure to make them forget about a rough day. They’ll thank you.

2) Provide a contact link. Customers like to be able to get in touch. Know what they also like? Easter egg hunts. Who doesn’t love an endless search for the prize? Be sure to hide that contact link in the least likely place you can think of. If you’re really committed to providing a good time, move the link every couple of weeks.

3) Know your customers. Like, really know them. On your contact form, request as much information possible. You never know when you might need to know the name of their mother-in-law’s best friend’s dog.

4) Address all complaints in a timely manner. In order to do so, don’t feel compelled to read their entire complaint. Every third word will do. After all, time is money. They’d rather you get back to them in a hurry with any answer than to have to actually wait for the right one. I’m pretty sure.

5) Timely, but not too timely. Don’t respond to email complaints immediately. It makes you seem needy. A waiting period of at least twelve hours sends the message that you are prompt, but not desperate.

6) Provide a detailed solution. The more complicated steps required, the better. The harder they have to work for it, the more appreciated the result will be. It’s especially effective if they’re required to restart their computer several times in order to read the instructions again. And if correcting their problem involves the use of a piece of equipment they don’t actually have, so much the better!

7) Find the cause of the issue quickly. By blaming them. When they feel like they’re the entire problem, you have empowered them to become the solution. And if you’re convincing enough, they’re less likely to sue you.

8 ) Always apologize for any inconvenience. Whether you mean it or not. After all, there is nothing worse than inconvenience. In the lesser-known eleventh plague of Egypt, God removed all the Redboxes and 7/11s. And horror filled the land. Inconvenience is the pits. Your customer is not screaming at you because the computer monitor you sold them set their hair on fire. They’re complaining because it will be a total pain in the behind to drive over to Wal-mart and buy makeup so they can draw their eyebrows back on. Apologize. Often.

9) Don’t live in the past.  Keep no records of your clients’ customer service history. If you have any questions, you can always ask them again. And again. And again.

10) Encourage two-way communication. By limiting your email responses to a single, incomplete sentence. People love cliff-hangers. They’ll send you back a reply almost instantly and be ready for a response from you, which you can supply. In twelve hours.

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Update: An excellent post on creating a user friendly website can be found here. No tongue in cheek, just really good advice.