Tiger Mom’s Plans for Summer (a repost)

summer-fun-background

 Today is the last day of school for my kiddos. They have each been promoted to their next grades. Yeah! I will have them all to myself for 68 glorious days. (Wait, I need to pop my Prozac. Glug, glug. Ok, I’m back.) I am super, super excited about this quality time we will be sharing. Because I have a little Tiger Mom in me, I have some grand plans to keep their brains stimulated. Yet, because I am a hip mom, I want to make these activities, well, super fun! So, here are some of my favorite ideas:

  1. dreamstime_s_35291332Grammar Camp: “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?!” This is three hours of sheer grammatical exhilaration every day from 9 until noon. We will parse sentences, identify pronouns, analyze irregular verbs, and play Mad Libs til their fingers hurt. Then, as a reward, students will get to DIAGRAM SENTENCES! Be still my heart. Students will start with simple sentences and work their way up to diagramming compound-complex sentences with a variety of conjunctions. Kids from the whole neighborhood will be knocking on our door.  
    planet-earth-center-core
    2. Geography 101: I realize that my children are young, but when I asked them where Myanmar was, they were at a total loss until I told them it was Burma. So, we are going to have some fun with Geography. That’s right, we will study maps, learn about the nuances of various cultures, and take virtual trips to places like Columbia, the Suez Canal, and Bora Bora. How many kids are lucky enough to learn the national anthem of Laos? The highlight of this special week will be when we make a replica of the Amazon forest (humidity, giant fauna, poisonous snakes and spiders, swarms of army ants and mosquitos). Boy, oh, boy! Won’t kids love this hands-on experience?
  1. child-and-schoolFun with Numbers: Anyone who knows me can testify that I am a mathematics fanatic! For this camp my kids are going to review their math skills by building a genuine tree fort in our back yard. They will take measurements and apply their geometric knowledge before they fire up the ole’ table saw. Once that is complete, they will calculate the evaporation rate of the pool water on days with varying temperatures and humidity. As a bonus, I will have an engineer come and lecture the kids on the importance of mathematics in their every day lives. Could this be more fun?

Of course, I have lots of other fantastic educational ideas. I’m currently working on a human physiology lesson on the dangers of dehydration and how to heal from poison ivy. Sounds fun? Then, stay tuned for more Tiger Mom ideas for beating boredom in the summer.
Cara Turner

Narrative Poem: A Lazy Day in Bed

IMG_0090A Lazy Day in Bed

Today I just feel spent. Twice before noon my sugar levels dropped leaving me weak, shaky and sweaty. Pretzels for breakfast just ain’t cuttin’ it. I have a low-lyin’ headache, and I’m cravin’ a Coke Zero (a habit I just can’t quit) something fierce. Just one of those days.

This is the first weekend morning when I have had nothing to do. No baseball game, no weekend retreat, no garage sale. Of course, I couldn’t sleep in, even though that was my deepest wish last night. A body just does what it wants without askin’ permission.

I need to get out of bed. Shower. Brush my teeth. Work on my list of things to do. I write a list every day. Sometimes I add to yesterday’s list that’s scribbled on the backside of a crumply Kroger’s receipt. Sometimes I get me a new piece of typing paper, fold it in half and make it all real proper like with numbers and crossout marks in red ink.

I’m not a compulsive list maker. I don’t have to write one to maintain some inner balance or keep from my shorts from twistin’ up in knots. Just got me that ADHD, and I do it for the rememberin’. Otherwise, time just trickles always like water off a mountain in spring.

The thing with ADHD is that everything pulls at my attention like near invisible silk strings from a banana spider’s web. I go to check my email, and an hour later I know more about how red haired children are created than the greatest genetic students in the most hallowed medical schools. But, the dishes didn’t get done. Nor the laundry. Nor do I have a plan to feed my family this evenin’.

The thing is I just don’t like doin’ the laundry or moppin’ floors or pickin’ the weeds out of the flower beds (if you can call ‘em flowers). Those things don’t stir the happy clouds in my mind. So I tend to embrace my ADHD brain and go on mental field trips just to avoid the mundane.

Someone once told me St. Theresa Lisieux, a cloistered nun in France, believed that doing these mundane chores with the right spirit could bring one closer to God. Like offerin’ it up as a form of prayer. I like that and try to see my life and work this way, but then I get restless and am overcome by the need to create something—anything.

Right now I am making plans to recreate my home’s staircase. Why? Don’t know. Just got it in my head is all. And, so I become obsessed with the how-tos of this creative endeavor. I’m sorta sittin’ here doing research on refinishing stairs, which is why I still haven’t bathed, still haven’t unloaded the dishwasher, and still haven’t scrubbed any toilets.

Plus, as I said before, I feel spent, got me a headache, and just want to laze the day away in my bed without doing’ anything. But, I guess I already blew that goal because I created this here poem.

A Letter to My Preteens from Your Embarrassing Mom

Mom!

To my dearest preteen children,

Welcome to puberty! There will be few other times in your life when your body goes through such dramatic changes, when your social standing will be like walking around on quicksand, and your brain will do the exact opposite of what you want or need. Despite what you have heard, you can survive it. Some even thrive.

Since there will be a host of things you will not be able to control, I thought I would give you a break and help with some things I can control. Given that you are now in the phase of life where everything your parents do is “like so embarrassing,” I want to offer you this truce, so to speak.

As your mother, I promise the following:

  1. Never to turn up MY music (e.g., the soundtrack to Les Miserables, Dixie Chicks, Barbara Streisand) super loud as you exit the car during morning carpool.
  2. Never to pick you up from school, basketball practice, or Girl Scouts wearing curlers or my yoga pants.
  3. To refrain (as much as humanly possible) from thrusting my head up and down while blasting Led Zeppelin; or pretend to play the air guitar to other rock classics such as The Who, Boston, the Stones, the Steve Miller Band, etc.
  4. Never to coach you from the bleachers with motivating words such as “catch the ball,” “throw the ball,” and the old standby “hit the ball.”
  5. Not to move my shoulders, wiggle my hips, bounce and bob to “Footloose” at every stop light in town; and not extend my arm, point my finger diagonally out the window and bellow, “Oooo, ooo, ooo, ooo, stayin’ alive.” (I make no promises about singing “Rapper’s Delight” in its entirety.  Never mind, before your time.)
  6. Not to scream out loud, “Wow, that’s the biggest pimple I’ve ever seen,” when you are having acne issues.
  7. Never to say “You hoo,” wave to you, or call your name while you are on stage for a school performance.
  8. To walk six feet in front of you so that no one knows (God forbid) you are out with one of your parents in public.
  9. To drag out embarrassing baby pictures of you during your slumber party and talk about your infant reflux/gas issues.
  10. To sing opera at Girl Scout campouts, in between baseball and softball innings, when your friends are over, while chaperoning on the bus to school athletic events, when you are playing outside with the neighbors, while you are in the house, or even while you are within a mile of me. (Cross my heart.)
  11. Not to thrust my arm between you and the boy you are dancing with at the middle school dance and say, “Hey, make some room for the Holy Spirit.”

Now, in case you didn’t know this, I am here to tell you that nothing comes free. Therefore, if you would like to live a humiliating-free pubescent life, you must agree to do the following for ME—your mother:

  1. Flush! Not once in a while, not when you feel like it, but EVERY time you use the restroom. (And, for your brother, take the extra second to raise the seat and put it down when you are finished.)
  2. Wash your hands—with soap! Not just when I catch you walking out of the bathroom wiping your hands on your jeans, but EVERY time you use the rest room.
  3. Brush your teeth twice a day and your hair before you go out in public. And no, dabbing a bit of toothpaste on your tongue is not the same brushing your teeth.
  4. Shower/Bath every day, and no, swimming in the pool does not count anymore.
  5. Change your clothes—not in the living room, not in the downstairs bathroom, not in the kitchen, and not in the garage—but in your bedroom.
  6. Pick up after yourself. I know it may seem that God put me on this earth to pick up your cheese wrappers, put your clotted milk cups in the sink, and hang up the wet towels that you throw on the floor, but he didn’t. Believe it or not, there are other things I like to do that do not involve cleaning up your messes. I know it’s a shock, but you will get over it.
  7. Don’t stand there with the pantry door or refrigerator door open and say, “We have nothing to eat.” Yes, we do. It may not be the processed, dyed corn crunchy thingy you like. Its primary ingredients may not be sugar and hydrogenated oil. But, we do have food. I promise. It may have come from the ground at one point, but it is totally edible.
  8. Put away your clean laundry. Don’t throw it in a pile in your closet, leave it in the basket, or sweep it under your bed only to put it in the dirty clothes hamper because it is now wrinkled and has been sitting under your bed for a week. We are blessed enough to live in a house with closets and dressers, so use them.
  9. Get out of bed when I wake you. Do not fall back to sleep, leaving me to scream up at you every 10 minutes for the next hour so you can rush out the door five minutes before school starts hysterical as to why I didn’t wake you.
  10. Give me time to help you with projects. Do not tell me at 8 PM that you need to make a working, explodable paper mache volcano for first period class tomorrow. Remember, my bed time is 9 PM.

I firmly believe that if we all abide by these rules, you and I will both skate freely through the next few years. If not, just remember that embarrassing my children is one of the few perks of parenting.

 

The End of A Season or Tales from Girl Scout Cookie Sales

th-3 Most people think of the traditional three-month seasons like summer and fall. But, I think in terms of realistic seasons like the “Halleluiah-the Kids-Are-Going-Back-to-School” season or the “Gotta-Prop-the-Kids-Up-to-Get-Through-the-End-of-the-School-Year-Without-Blowing-Their-GPA” season. That’s the season is upon me. Before I move to the new season, I feel like I should take a few moments to reflect on the season that is wrapping up—Girl Scout Cookie Season.

Now, I am a veteran Girl Scout leader, who has pounded the pavement for 7 years selling these precious confectioners. Despite my experience, I continue to be shocked and delighted by the people I meet selling cookies. Every year we run into at least one person who feels the need to express his/her opinion about the cookies:
th• “I remember when I paid only 50 cents per box. They’re so expensive now. Why ARE they so expensive?”
• “Why did they change the names? I can find the Samoas anymore. Where did the Do-Si-Dos go?”
• “You should make a sugar-free cookie for diabetics.”
• “You should sell glutten-free cookies.” (We do.)
• “My cousin in Portland has different Girl Scout cookies than you do. They have these little lemon ones with powered sugar…”

th-2My girls and I patiently listen to these folks and nod a lot, even though I want to tell them we have no influence over major cookie decisions. We are only lowly cookie pushers trying to earn 56 cents a box. Be real, PEOPLE, my girls aren’t the ones in the industrial kitchens baking or incorporate board rooms saying, “Let’s make a kiwi cookie.”

Over the years we have had some noteworthy experiences with cookies. Here are some of my favorite vignettes:

1. The Man with the F-Shirt: No, that is not a typo. When my troop was a bevy of young second grade Brownies, a very nice man in his late 30s visited our booth. As two brownies were taking his order, another troop mom elbowed me, hard. “Look at his shirt.” I had no idea what she getting at. “The shirt. The guy’s shirt.” What I saw was an ode to the F word. Seriously, the shirt declared every grammatical use of the F-Word with explicit examples. As a grammarian I found the shirt amusing. I had never parsed the F-word before, but I learned it could be used as a gerund, an adjective, and an infinitive. Then I remembered I was a leader of young girls, and quickly panicked. I scanned their innocent faces. Were they reading the shirt? Am I going to have to deal with questions like, “What does F-ing mean?”

IMG_5842Thankfully, my naive little Brownies were clueless. The customer with the F-Shirt left, and I wiped my brow thinking I had gotten off easy. That’s when one precocious bob haired girl in brown whispered in my ear, “Did you see what that guy’s shirt said?” I said yes, and shook my head in silence. She too shook her head and walked away. Lesson Learned: Sometimes saying nothing is the perfect answer.

2. The Day the Market Caught on Fire: The girls had bridged from Brownies to Juniors and were between 9 and 10 years old. My troop co-leader and I had set up our cookie booth outside of a local Kroger’s on a Friday night. I wasn’t very hopeful for making any record-breaking sales because the place was practically empty. To stem my boredom, I paced in front of the store. A rare customer exited through the double automatic doors, and as I said hello, I noticed a sharp, distinct odor in the air. It smelled exactly like an electrical fire. (Don’t ask why I know that.) At that point no smoke had emerged, so I told myself I was imagining things. On my second lap in front of the store, I saw a small cloud of smoke hovering over the back right corner of the store. I could see Kroger employees glancing towards the smoke and wondering what they should do.

I picked up my pace and headed towards my co-leader and said, “I think the store is on fire.” I tried to whisper it so the girls would not be alarmed, but their ears are supersonic when not listening to their mothers tell them to brush their teeth or make their beds. The next thing I knew, all four girls were squealing and jumping around as if their own shoes were on fire. I tried to calm them: “Girls, I don’t know if that is true. It was just a guess.” Just when they stopped the high-pitched squealing, a fire alarm went off. These girls really flew into a tizzy with flapping arms and feigned fear.  In reality, this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them.

As the Kroger employees all exited the building (none in a great hurry), several asked how much the cookies cost and indicated they would be back to get them later. Score! We were so busy taking orders, we failed to pay attention to the loud sirens heading our way. A kind police officer told us we had to leave the premises-NOW. Just walk away? From at least $400 worth of cookies? No way. So my co-leader ushered off the girls to the parking lot, while I quickly threw boxes of cookies into shopping cart. I felt like the captain who was willing to go down with my ship, except the ship in this case was a pile of cookies.

The fire was quickly contained, and the emergency had passed, and we decided to pack it in for the night, but our luck held when several police officers and fire fighters came to our cart to purchase cookies. As I guessed earlier, we did not break any sales records, but without this minor catastrophe our sales would have been paltry. Lesson Learned: Like turning lemons into lemonade, we turned a potential catastrophe into profits.

3. The Case of the Missing Cases: There was one year when I had to be the troop’s Cookie Mom. The mom who did it before got a huge promotion and was traveling all over South America every week. My co-leader, who is in charge of the finances, had just adopted a baby, and the other moms had a long list of legitimate reasons they would not take on cookie sales. So, it was up to me. (Cue the superhero music!)

Let me just come clean now. I have a very poor history managing money. It’s not that I can’t balance a spreadsheet, it’s that (a) I don’t know what a spreadsheet is, (b) I have no idea how one is made, and (c) I put money issues dead last on my list of things to do. But, I took on this project with fervor. I went to the cookie sales training, gave pep talks to my little troopers, leaned a little too hard on their parents, logged all preorders into the system, and signed up for cookie booths all over the city. So far so good.

The person who is Cookie Mom or Dad has to house all the cookies for the booths and extra orders. That usually means one designates a room for all the cases. I had prepared for that as well by clearing off a corner and some bookcases in my bedroom. I had anticipated every possible kink in the system.

My-Daughter-is-selling-CookiesI was wrong–dead broke wrong as it turned out. I had not taken into consideration my family and their insatiable desire for sugar. Little by little, day-by-day each member of my family raided my makeshift cookie cabinet. For some reason everyone (including my husband) thought this was his/her personal pantry. Later I learned my kids were overly generous with the entire neighborhood. Soon those kids caught on that our house equaled free Thin Mints.It never once dawned on anyone that they would have to pay $4.00 for each box. By that point, they had consumed at least 12 cases with 12 boxes to a case of cookies, all without my knowledge. That’s a lot of dough (pun intended).  Since I added cases weekly for booths and other sales, I had not noticed the pilfering.

At the end of the season when it was time to make deposits, I was stumped. Why were we missing so much money? I had to call in favors from two other troop leaders to help me sort out this dilemma. Eventually, it became clear that my own family members were the culprits of the missing cases, and they had done this subterfuge right under my nose. That was the year I deposited into our troop account a personal check for over $600. That was also the last year I was Cookie Mom. Lesson Learned: Never take on fiscal responsibility…of any kind…EVER. (Incidentally, my husband seconded that motion, and my co-leader concurred. Motion passed.)

There are many more stories to share, but I have to start preparing for the next season in my life. Let’s just say, spring fever has sprung in our house. We’ve rounded the corner into fourth quarter of the school year, and my children’s faces very clearly read CHECKED OUT. I have my work cut out for me this season.

The Black Hole in my House

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. (NASA, NASA Know, 2015).

Fire Visualization

I have a black hole hanging around my house. Because it is invisible, I do not know where it is. The only reason I know it exists is because it is the only reasonable explanation as to where random objects in our house go.

• Pacifiers desperately needed before naps lost 9 years ago? Never found.

• Girl Scout cookie money/checks from four years ago? Never found.

• Coupon books bought from a neighbor’s fundraiser? Never found.

A piece of my mother’s jewelry, one shoe from a favorite pair, Annie’s religion project, Will’s baseball cup, Katie’s music stand, Mike’s favorite pen. These are just a few of the items that our black hole has stolen.

I know you space scientists—both casual and real—are shaking your heads saying, “This lady has no conception of what a black hole really is. A black hole sucks up everything.”

Well, for your information all you Smarty Pants out there, I do know what a black hole is. I learned about them whether I wanted to or not. I am married to a chemical engineer who I believe secretly longs to be an astrophysicist. (As a matter of fact, I just heard to term gravitational wave from my husband’s computer. See? This is my life.)

But, the black hole I am talking about is just as real as those light-sucking phenomena out there in space. It just happens to hang in my space. Let’s call it Turner Inner Space, which is mostly at my house. Sometimes it travels in my minivan, which is like a house on wheels. Don’t believe me? Besides a home (or dump or Walmart), where else can you find toothbrushes, water bottles, socks, pencils, a can opener, four smashed Skittles, a complete set of Sharpies, and dirty Corning Ware?

This black hole is not as powerful as the ones that hang out in the galaxy. For example, it has not yet sucked up the dog or my washing machine. Socks? Yes. Water heater? No. And, it is random. For example, it never ever sucks up dog hair or leftover string cheese wrappers. Those nasty old tennis shoes are still around, and not once has it taken out the garbage. Why be useful?

Now, lest you think I am just using this as an excuse for weak or lazy searching habits, I want to set the record straight now that I am a thorough investigator. I always search in the regular places—random piles in kitchen and bathroom, under kids’ beds (can you say health hazard?) and all known drawers in the house. I overturn every item in the garage (aka Man Cave). I also hunt in the deepest darkest corners of my house, like way back in closets, dilapidated cardboard boxes that say “Taxes-1997,” and way back in the refrigerator where sticky green slime survives.

Sometimes I call in the heavy hitters for help. No, not any member of my family. I have already established they are all “bad lookers.” Besides, if I involved my husband I have to listen to three days of ranting about how we have too much stuff (the polite word) and we need to take trip to Good Will. No, I am talking about St. Anthony.

My mama always taught me to say a prayer to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. Said he always came through for her. The prayer goes like this: “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found.” I have to say it worked for me as a kid. However, as much as I would like to say this is a foolproof system for retrieving lost articles, this saint has not come through for me as an adult. I don’t mean to be dissin’ the saint, but I think he’s on a coffee break every time I’ve called on him. Either that or my house really is cursed. (That’s another story altogether.) I know people who have their house blessed by a priest or minister. Maybe that would be the way to go.

However, if you subscribe to the random-black-hole theory as I do, these valuable articles are simply gone and not lost. So, St. Anthony must know there is no use in searching. (Wow, I have completely moved to a place of hopelessness.)

So, all you astrophysicists, or better yet, moms out there? Do you know how I might retrieve these items that have been sucked away to no-where’s-ville? I am completely open to suggestions from anyone. Completely open.