Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

While out and about on a recent summer afternoon adventure, I was thrown out of my pleasant-weather euphoria when I turned a corner and ran into a group of animal rights activists. They were standing there with pictures of distressed-looking cows emblazoned with slogans like "Meat is murder" and "A hamburger stops a beating heart."

Um, pass the peas?

It's sort of like Moroni, who, while negotiating the release of prisoners of war, tells evil foe Ammoron that he is a child of hell. Good one. "Dear Ammoron, you are a child of hell. Release the prisoners or I will destroy you. Kisses, from Moroni." Probably not the best way to get on Ammoron's good side.

Similarly, waving a picture of a tortured cow in my face is probably going to annoy me more than it is going to convince me to order tofu for lunch.

The problem with equating a Fourth of July barbecue with a holocaust is just that; equating. If someone can say, with a straight face, that chomping down on a hamburger is the same as sending a human being to the gas chamber, well, then, we have a problem.

It is about this problem that syndicated columnist, Dennis Prager, is speaking when he tells of an informal survey he has been conducting over his thirty years of speaking engagements. He asks high-schoolers whom they would save if both their dog and a stranger were to fall out of a boat and begin drowning. In all his years of asking this question, two-thirds of respondents say either that they would choose to save their dog over the human stranger or that they don't know what they would do. Two-thirds!


They don't know the stranger. They are attached to their dog. Their dog is "family", unlike the stranger.

I don't know about you, but this scares the dickens out of me. If we are on such a slippery slope that we can no longer see that a human life is inherently more valuable than the life of a dog, I want to get off the mountain before we slide the rest of the way down.

Perhaps our problem is rooted in the fact we were all weaned on a steady diet of Disney movies full of talking, thinking, dreaming animals. So we go through our lives thinking chickens are unhappy at being stuck in cages when all they are really thinking is "Bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak. Lunch. Bwak."

To say that the life of a chicken is as valuable as the life of a human (which we do when we equate eating a chicken sandwich to committing an act of murder) is completely off-base, not to mention frightening. This is not to say we should abuse animals; we should respect all of God's creations. But there is nothing disrespectful or abusive about using animals for their intended purposes, among which are food and clothing.

Militant vegetarianism is just a symptom of a larger cultural problem; if one does not believe that human beings are created in the image of God for a great and glorious purpose (i.e., human life is inherently more valuable than animal life), all life is improperly valued.

And that's how we end up with abortion on the one hand and tofu-only on the other.

What a world we live in.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Steps on a Nail

Last night we took a family walk to check on the progress of our new house.

We made Michael exchange his summer flip flops for tennis shoes and warned him to watch out for nails and gaping holes in the floor. "I don't want anyone getting slivers," I said. "Or tetanus."

So, the kids ran around exploring. Matthew and Leah checked out Michael's new bedroom. Interestingly, it was Matthew who was enthralled with the future closet space.

Then, a four-year-old's scream sliced through the air.

Now, I have to mention that Michael is somewhat dramatic when it comes to injuries. By that I mean if you touch his big toe with a q-tip, he will scream as if you shoved bamboo shoots under his nails. The Boy Who Cried Wolf has nothing on this kid. His death wail at getting a tiny sliver is as intense as if he had bones sticking out of his arm, so my sympathy in most cases tends to be rather limited. Unless he actually has bones sticking out of his arm, I don't want to hear about it. Even then, I'm so desensitized to his overdramatic displays when he is not actually hurt that in the case of a compound fracture I might just raise my eyebrows and say, "Oh, ouch, that was probably painful. Now stop crying and wipe your nose before I take you to the emergency room."

So, in response to his shrieking, David and I responded calmly (and almost in perfect unison), "You're fine, Michael."

But, he continued his screaming, so I had him show me where he hurt himself. I couldn't see any actual injury, but he was insistent. "I stepped on a poke!" he sobbed through a curtain of snot and tears.

So I took off his shoe to check and found a nice bloody circle on the bottom of his foot where a nail had indeed pierced through his shoe.

Our house exploration was cut short, Michael earned a spot in the wagon for the ride home, and after I cleaned and bandaged the wound, he informed me that he should be he should be given top dog status in the morning. "You need to get my breakfast first, before Matthew and Leah," he said. "Because of my poke."

I'm so glad to see the nail did not injure his ability to milk a situation for all it's worth. He's been limping around and polishing his tale of woe to share with his friends later. And possibly his children and great-grandchildren. (Have you heard the one about Grandpa and the Nail?)

This afternoon he asked me in a trembly sort of voice if I remembered when he stepped on a poke. Um, yep. Pretty fresh on that memory, seeing as it happened yesterday.

I shudder to think what will happen if he ever breaks an arm.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Art of Stupidity

In the immortal words of Lisa Turtle (I can't believe I can still quote Saved By the Bell when I'm almost into my thirties. Disturbing.): "What is art? Are we art? Is art art?"

Well, I think I have a definition for what art is not. And recent Academy Award nominee, James Franco, is providing the demonstration. He, along with two other "artists", is exhibiting his work at the Museum of Non-Visible Art.

I am not making this up.

Yes, these artists are "creating" pieces and selling them. For anywhere from $20 to $10,000, you, too, can own a piece of, um, blank wall. Because there is no art. Fork over $5,000 and all you will get is a lovely little plaque describing the piece of nothing you purchased.

It's supposed to be a kick start to the imagination. But I'm not sure who is so desperate for a little foray into their childhood that they would pay actual dollars (pretty sure the artists wouldn't be impressed by non-visible money) for a chance to relive their afternoon tea parties with Mr. and Mrs. Bear.

I certainly don't need James Franco to tell me what I should be imagining when I stare at the empty wall above my bed. I can do that well enough on my own. For example, right now I am imagining there is this painting of an emperor. He's parading down the street, proud as a peacock, in nothing but his gold accented underwear...

Anyone want to pay me $5 for that?

At any rate, it's probably better than handing over $10,000 for "Fresh Air", which some crazy rich person already has, believe it or not. And the great thing is, if the buyer tires of the art, he can "loan" it back to the museum or sell it to someone else. Because this is just the kind of thing that is worth passing on to future generations.

I can just imagine, on Christmas morning: "Oh, you got me... nothing?"

"Listen, you little ingrate, I paid $10,000 for that nothing. Now take a breath of fresh air and enjoy it!"

There's only one problem with imaginary fresh air; it's known to be deadly to common sense. Especially when money is involved.

Poor Common Sense. Blindsided by non-visible art.

He didn't even see it coming.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Decade

"Don't listen to people who tell you marriage is hard and evil. Just like each other and it's not very hard." - Advice from my oldest brother on my wedding day.

Ten years ago today we went from this:

To this:

And my brother was right; if you like each other it's not hard at all.

It's been the best ten years of my life. Happy Anniversary, David! I love you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Age of the Calvin Insult

I'm not sure who the first person was to hijack Calvin's image and use it to rain juvenile dislike on everything from sports teams to car brands, but I despise the concept. It's crass, vulgar, immature, and, most of all, it's something Calvin would never do. He's much too smart for that.

But, unfortunately, he's everywhere. This particular picture is a rear-window decal that belongs to someone in my neighborhood. I've never met the man (assuming it's a man, although in this day and age, you never know. In fact, I just read a glowing article about how nice it is now that women can be as raunchy and disgusting as any drunk fraternity brothers. Swell.), but I already know two things about him:

1. It would be impossible to have a rational and reasonable discussion of politics with him. Individuals who take pleasure in desecrating the name of the President of the United States have no interest in listening to opposite political views.

2. He has no respect for authority. Like him or not, President Obama is the President of the United States. I don't care if you can't stand his politics. No human being is deserving of having his name peed on.

If you disagree with the President, say so, respectfully. A thoughtfully laid out objection to an individual or his policies does far more to engender positive change than a junior-high-level insult, which, in fact, does a lot of damage.

Perhaps it's an extension of the age of the internet - things we would never say to our worst enemy in person, we can now say anonymously online. There is no accountability for anything that comes out of the keyboard these days. Spread falsehoods, start rumors, take things out of context. Everyone is fair game. And you don't even have to sign your name at the bottom.

We have lost the art of being able to civilly discuss conflicting opinions. Someone who disagrees with you on the subject of gay marriage is a bigot. Those who aren't in favor of health care reform are racists. You don't think your female coworker should get a promotion? Sexist. And, oh, my blood pressure! -- you believe it's okay to swat a disobedient child on the bum? Abuser! Call the cops!

Does anyone think things through anymore? Or is everything just a knee-jerk reaction to the assumption that all dissenting opinions are formed on the basis of hate and ignorance?

Well, I don't know about you, but I think Calvin could use a good spanking. Because, in my opinion, spanking can be an effective form of child discipline.

Disagree with me? Tell me about it. But sign your name.

And be civil about it. We could use more politeness these days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Letter of the Day is P (Or is it S, for Stupid?)

I admit to caving in to the "Ick Factor" now and then. For example, I simply cannot eat day-old gravy that has had time to congeal in my fridge. Even if I boil the living daylights out of it during reheating it never returns to the same consistency, and I simply can't get over the fact that I had to plop it, whole and jiggly, out of its container before I poured it over my potatoes.

Also out is banana bread -- old, black bananas really geek me out. And if David accidentally uses my toothbrush I will buy a new one. I know it's irrational - after all, I do make a point of kissing the man on a regular basis, but ick! I can't stand the idea of my toothbrush being wet because it was in someone else's mouth!

That said, Portland, Oregon is taking their reaction to the Ick Factor a little too far: After a man was caught on a security camera peeing in one of the city's open air reservoirs, officials decided to drain eight million gallons of treated drinking water rather than risk getting angry letters from three grossed-out tap water drinkers who had fears of contracting some horrible disease.

People, the average human bladder holds somewhere from 350-500 ml of urine, which, in healthy persons, is sterile. Even if this man had some kind of superbladder or bizarre medical condition which caused his bladder capacity to expand to ten liters, when diluted in eight million gallons of water, that is nothing. Nothing! Immaterial, as David the Accountant would say.

Besides, this is an open air reservoir. That means there are ducks swimming in it on a regular basis. And making full use of the facilities. They drain the reservoirs twice a year for cleaning and find all manner of dead animals, dog poop, and other trash. For heaven's sake, a pint of pee in eight million gallons of water isn't going to hurt anyone. People probably get more germs from their own faucet than they would from some infinitesimal amount of urine in the water.

Stupid. Absolutely stupid.

And I know it's hard to believe, but now I really have to go the bathroom.

Serves me right.

The Philadelphia Story

In honor of our ten year anniversary this week, a walk down memory lane (also known as Holy Cow We Were Young or Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me I Was Plucking My Eyebrows Too Much?):

David and I like to surprise each other. Most of the surprises we have concocted over the years have been great (like the time David filled all the egg slots in the fridge with Cadbury eggs), but there have been a handful that didn't work out so well and one or two that might have been slightly traumatizing (let's just say the time David came home from work early, parked the car on the other side of our house so I wouldn't see it when I got home, reset the security system, and waited patiently in our bedroom while I went about my post-work routine unaware of his presence did not produce the desired result when he jumped out to surprise me. He thought I would be thrilled to see him home early - and I was - but he scared me so badly I ended up sobbing for half an hour as I recovered from the I'm-about-to-be-murdered adrenalin burst. Poor guy, he felt terrible!)

So, we have learned a few things over the years about the art of surprise: no jumping out of closets or yanking back shower curtains, chocolate = a great gift, and my personal favorite: never try to surprise your spouse when it involves significant travel.

Story time:

Let's go back nine years, circa summer of 2002. David and I had been married one year and were in the middle of our first east coast adventure. We were living with my sister and her husband in Philadelphia while we painted their house. As I wrapped up work on the final rooms, David headed to a week long internship training in Florida. The plan was that we would meet in Washington, DC after he completed his training and I had completed the paint job, and then we would live there for the rest of the summer while he interned.

The day before we planned to meet up, my sister suggested going down to Washington early. Great idea, I thought. David's flight was scheduled to arrive that night and he planned to drive straight to our new apartment. If I went down early, I could surprise him there when he came home! So we packed up and headed down to DC that afternoon.

Well, you can guess what happened next. We were about fifteen minutes from our new apartment in DC when my sister's cell phone rang. It was David.

Calling from Philadelphia.

He had been so excited to see me that he decided he couldn't wait another night, so he drove three hours to Philadelphia to surprise me. We had literally passed each other on the road somewhere in our efforts to be romantic.

My brother-in-law thought it was hilarious. I thought it was a tragedy of epic proportions and spent the evening hiccuping my way through a near-constant waterfall of tears.

My mom said I would laugh about it someday, but honestly, nine years later it's still a little traumatizing.

No more travel-related suprises for us.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Party Time

There are lots of times when parties are appropriate: holidays, birthdays, weddings, births, divorces...

Wait, wha??? How did that last one get in there?

Sadly, it's true. Why let your marriage dissolve quietly in the night when you can invite the neighborhood to throw streamers over your fractured family and toast your vow-breaking with a glass of champagne?

Plus, as in the case of one celebrity couple, you can use your divorce party to "re-affirm your friendship" in front of close friends and family. Sorry, but huh? For the life of me, I cannot understand this. If you remain such "dear and trusted friends" why in the world are you divorcing? Maybe you forgot that bit in your marriage vows where you promised to stay together forever, no matter the circumstances?

Divorce should never be a reason to throw a party. Are there times when divorce is warranted, even essential? Certainly, but they are few and far between, and, contrary to popular belief, valid reasons for divorcing do not include "I need a chance to spread my wings" or "I just don't love you anymore". Ugh. I hate that excuse. Just as falling in love is not accidental, falling out of love also requires your full consent. Come on, if you can learn to love a puppy who pees on your floor all day, you can certainly relearn to love your spouse. The Savior commanded us to love everyone. He didn't say "everyone except that annoying nitwit you married."

Yeesh. I always assumed that scripture about everybodys' sins being shouted from the rooftops would be more of a did-you-hear-about-so-and-so type thing, not a hey-look-at-me-breaking-my-sacred-vows-have-a-piece-of-cake type thing.

As Mrs. Meers would say, "Sinful."

And by that I don't mean the cake.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Perfect Dad

You know those times when you see your husband interacting with your kids and you think, "I hit the jackpot!"?

I think that all the time.

Happy Father's Day, David! I love you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

TGI... Oh, Nevermind

David's flight was supposed to be getting in, um, right now. Instead he is terminally stuck on a plane at the Newark airport while some minor repair is being made.

Darn it, I could have procrastinated doing the dishes a little bit longer. Though, I admit, there is something soothing about listening to the woosh of the dishwasher while I type. Kids in bed. House clean. No fevers. (Did I mention my babies have had fevers on and off for the past week? I didn't? Must have slipped my mind after the flour incident. Also, I discovered two molars poking through Matthew's gums tonight, which would explain why he has been super-glued to my legs all week).

I feel rather tetchy and irritable. So I bought myself a smiley face balloon at the dollar store to counteract my general crankiness. Also, I keep looking at this picture (we have a nest of baby birds in our backyard) hoping it will cheer me up, because I can't help smiling every time I look at the little fluff balls.

Awww, see? It's like getting an IV of warm fuzzies.

All I need is some chocolate and I'll be set.


Tonight I loaded the kids in the car after feeding them a well-balanced dinner of Ramen Noodles and cheese crackers. Yeah, I admit it, I'm rather pathetic at meals when David is on business trips. Especially when he's in NYC and I get little receipt emails from Seamless Web telling me he ordered Indian food for dinner. But, I also served orange juice with our "meal", so it's all good. I like to think the natural orange of the OJ cancels out the synthetic orange of the cheese crackers. (Honestly, it's a good thing David comes home tomorrow, because if I eat one more piece of junk my stomach is going to walk out of my body in protest).

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, loading the kids in the car, which I accomplished in short order. Then I went to grab my keys off their designated hook and they were nowhere to be found. If you have small children, you'll understand the problem this presents -- they could be anywhere. In the laundry hamper, down the toilet, under the stove... There are no limits to how far car keys can wander when two little feet (or possibly four) are involved in the the wandering.

I tore about the house looking for them, all the while listening to Michael yell from the garage, "Mom! I'm ready to go!" And then I found them. Zipped neatly in my diaper bag. Put there by me. This afternoon.

Apparently it was my brain that had wandered off.

So, we drove into town and I picked up Matthew's new epi pens (he's allergic to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. And sunflower and sesame seeds. Weird). Meanwhile, Michael quizzed me about the contents of every food item he could come up with. "Do bananas have eggs in them, Mom? Do popsicles have eggs in them?"

Afterwards we went to the grocery store. One of the store's employees volunteered to take my cart back inside just as I reached my car to unload. He stood there and watched me buckle the babies into their car seats and heave all my groceries into the back of the minivan by myself (about a five minute process), and then he smiled at me and dutifully wheeled my cart back to the store. Um, thanks for the help?

I came home to see that the dinner dishes had somehow multiplied gremlin-style while we were gone (the house is so trashed I keep expecting it to appear online in a report of the latest natural disaster) and that the bread dough I'd set out to rise hours earlier was sitting in a sad looking lump on top of the dryer (time to open a new package of yeast). While I was distracted by putting the groceries away, the babies were playing in the flour bin. No, wait, it was Michael who was playing in the flour bin. (The elbow-length white powder "gloves" he was sporting gave him away). I sighed. "How old are you?" I asked.

"I'm one!" he said, cheerfully.

Frankly, that explains a lot.

After the kids were in bed I settled down to work on cross-stitching Matthew's name onto his Christmas stocking. The only problem is his name doesn't fit, so I'm kind of changing up the pattern as I go. After two hours of stitching I had to undo the entire H and half the E. I should have named him Bob.

But the good news is it's past midnight now, so technically it's Friday. Thank goodness.

I've had enough of this week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

About Time

The good weather has finally arrived. Saturday was our first swim of the season at the neighborhood pool, and, it's true what they say, June was bustin' out all over. Holy revealing swimsuits, Batman! Grandmothers, in particular, should make sure their assets are a little more locked and a little less loaded, if you know what I mean.

Then there was a guy who took off his shirt and his overblown muscles yelled at me. Seriously, it scared me. I was worried he might step on me without noticing the squish if I made the mistake of sitting in the blind spot that is created when one has a neck bigger than one's head. I think The Incredible Hulk's appearance caused David to feel a little inadequate in the shirtless department, but as I had flown into my husband's arms to be protected from the green giant's pulsating biceps, he had no need to worry about my loyalties. (I enjoy being married to a man who doesn't look like he would beat me up just to get his daily workout).

The arrival of summer also brought the arrival of rain, or at least that's what Michael thought that rapid-fire pitter-pat sound was as we drove down the freeway. Let's just say he was wrong, it wasn't rain. Also, the front of our minivan looks like a mosquito mausoleum. I would wash the car, but then I would have to be actively involved in scrubbing insect carcases off my license plate holder, and I don't have the stomach for that this morning. Particularly because I ate a brownie and a leftover piece of garlic bread for breakfast after spending half the night rubbing Michael's cramping legs. It was a delicious meal, but probably not the best combo to consume if dealing with ten-thousand dead mosquito bodies is going to appear anywhere on the day's schedule.

Dead bugs notwithstanding, it's nice to feel a reprieve from a terminal case of winter. Even if summer is going on hiatus later in the week, I will enjoy the air conditioner as long as I can.

And maybe a popsicle, you know, just because.

Yum, summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Equality vs. Respect

We're a society of equals, or so they say. But I have a secret. I've held on to it for years without saying anything because I'm not much for sprinkling extra awkwardness into new social situations. But, as moving to Utah was the perfect reason to change, I'm saying it out loud now:

I hate it when children call me by my first name. Loathe. Despise. Abominate. I also hate it that, for years, I let my son address most adults by their first names simply because that was what "everyone else was doing." Ick. Taking my social cues from the junior high handbook. How could I sink so low?

But, it's been irking me for too long. I'm done. Your children may call me Mrs. Overly. Or Miss Bonnie, if they simply can't hack saying "Overly". I suppose if they've come up from the womb calling me "Bonnie" then I'll try to stomach it for the next 70 years. (Not saying I'll like it, but I'll try not to let it tickle my gag reflex too much).

This isn't one of those quirky things about me that has no solid reasoning behind it, like the fact that I don't mind folding the laundry but I hate putting it away. I think the kids-and-adults-on-a-first-name-basis issue is a symptom -- even a cause -- of a bigger social problem:

Lack of respect.

Why doesn't the snotty kid at the playground listen to you when you tell him to quit throwing wood chips? Well, if he assumes he is on a first-name-basis with all adults, he believes you are on an equal playing field. And who is going to listen to a peer or a friend asking him to stop acting like a maniac? There simply can't be respect of authority when a five-year-old is addressing adults like they are his old college chums.

Children are not our equals. Oh, I know they say cute things and sometimes have heart-melting insights that remind us of all that is good in the world. But we aren't doing anyone any favors by allowing our kids to think they have the right to interrupt our adult conversations to tell us that the sky is blue or that their pinkie finger itches just so. Or that they want more dessert RIGHT NOW!

And we aren't doing anyone any favors by attending to our kids' needs immediately, regardless of whatever it is we're doing.

Particularly not when they are calling us by our first names.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Missing Something

I'm in favor of gratitude, particularly when it comes to pregnancy. I think all women could benefit from a little more thankfulness when it comes to carrying a baby. It is a privilege and a blessing, after all.

That said, the proper response to someone saying, as a friend of mine recently did, that her baby is beating her up from the inside and that "It really HURTS!" is not "They grow up too fast so try to enjoy that you still have one that close to you. You will never get that moment back...just the memory!"

Um, pretty sure she doesn't want the moment back. She's in PAIN, remember?

I feel fairly confident in saying that the average woman will not look back fondly on having a baby play a painful game of kickball with her bladder. Gentle nudges to the ribcage or pokes to the belly button, yes. But slamming a head into a pelvis and causing horrible sciatic nerve pain all the way down to one's toes? Owwwww. No need to document that one in the scrapbook.

When I was about eight months pregnant with the twins, I was at a playgroup when someone asked me how I was feeling. I said I was doing well, but that I was a little worn out. One woman (who had, in the past, heard me express my annoyance over women constantly complaining about their pregnancies) said, "Uh, oh, Bonnie, no complaining!" I wanted to punch her.

There is a difference between saying, "I'm in a lot of pain" or "I'm sick of seeing my breakfast in the toilet" and saying "I hate being pregnant!" or "Why did I get pregnant in the first place?" The first outlook is acknowledging that there are rough parts of pregnancy which can be horribly unpleasant. The second is being ungrateful for an experience that many woman would trade all their worldly goods to have.

I loved being pregnant and tried never to complain about it. But discomfort is a guarantee during pregnancy, and women should feel like they can mention it without someone telling them to "enjoy" it. We don't tell anyone to enjoy their broken leg or their swollen appendix.

But, maybe we should.

I mean, they won't have the appendix for long, just the memory...