Living with four cavernous maws

If I were to look it up, I feel certain I’d learn that the word teenager originated from an ancient Anglo-Saxon root which means, hide all the good stuff away, or they’ll eat it.

Not only have the four teenagers in my house eaten everything edible in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, but at one point they started looking at my furniture in a hungry sort of way. Things were looking grim until Tiger got an idea:

TIGER: Hey! There’s a drug store down the street! They sell all sorts of stuff to eat! We could walk!

SQUIRT: We could buy kites!

COUSINS: Let’s go!

This is the upside of having older kids with disposable incomes: they might occasionally use their own money to feed and/or entertain themselves. The downside is that they don’t want to share the cookies they bought with their own money, which is totally unfair if you ask me.

So I’ve got to go to the store AGAIN. Here’s part of my list:

  • 4 gallons milk
  • 4 dozen eggs
  • 2 bags hash browns
  • 6 lbs tortilla chips
  • 1 dozen cans refried beans
  • 1 dozen cans black beans
  • 3 pounds cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, block
  • 2 loaves bread
  • 3 pounds sour cream
  • 5 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 doz flour tortillas
  • 3 doz corn tortillas

I figure this should get us through the afternoon. No cookies, though, because if you look up the origin of the word parent, you’ll probably find it comes from the ancient Anglo Saxon root which means, never forgets about the time you wouldn’t share those cookies.

Better living through filtered dog thongs

And now, the winning project of the 52nd Annual Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair: The filtered dog thong!

Picture of dog wearing a thong
Now you, too, can stop canine flatulence at its source!

No… wait. I lied. This clever device has nothing whatsoever to do with the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair, even though I believe it would’ve won top prizes if it had been an entry.

I mean, 2004’s sweepstakes-winning “Quantifying The Effect of Tungsten Illumination on Color Rendering of Low-Pressure Sodium” was an excellent science project, warming the hearts of astronomers all over the world. No argument there.

But what do science fair projects like that do for those of us suffering from the unbearable heartbreak of canine flatulence? Nada, that’s what.

Ah, well. Maybe next year.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see the real grand prize winner because by 7:30 pm the judges had only finished listing off the third prize winners, junior division, and Squirt still had Geometry homework to do. Even more pressing was the fact he hadn’t eaten in 2 hours and was gnawing on the IpayOne Arena‘s metal folding chairs.

We did stay long enough to come home with one ribbon, though: 4th Place Senior Division in his category, which I’m not allowed to describe here because it might humiliate poor Squirt, who, while most proud of his stinky underwear, is shy about any positive academic achievement.

I thought winning a prize was cool, though, for various reasons, but mainly because of out of 12,000 qualifying San Diego science projects, only 800 made it to the fair, and Squirt was one of the 800. Hoo yah! An achievement made even more noteworthy when you consider Squirt was born of a science-impaired mother who still twitches when remembering her high school Chemistry class.

Still, behind every science fair winner is a supportive parent, and I think it would’ve been nice if I’d gotten a little recognition, too. Here are just a few of the possible awards I could’ve won:

The Constant Vigilance Award: For successfully preventing a determined bulldog from scarfing down Squirt’s science project, even though Squirt often found the need to leave parts of it ON THE GROUND. The noodle.

The Fast Driving For Science Award: For successfully making it to the Foam Display Board Store minutes before it closed, even though her son knew MONTHS in advance that he’d need a new foam display board by 7:45 the next morning.

The Resourceful Solutions in Problem Solving Award (AKA, The Stoic Self-Restraint Award): For listening to Squirt’s repeated assurances throughout the afternoon that his project was packed up and ready to take to the exhibition hall at 5 pm, and then discovering at 5 pm that his entire project was not “here”, but rather “locked up in a classroom at school.”

Here’s to all the winners, when they finally post the list. You done good, kids, even though none of you managed to solve the pervasive problem of canine flatulence.

(Thanks, You Can’t Make It Up.)

Tiger’s Driving Lesson

What I Said:

Hmmm, I’d say you need to practice backing-up a little more.

What I Thought:

Oooh, now THAT was a little scary.


What I Said:

Whew! That’s why we always slow down on blind curves. Don’t want to mow somebody down because we didn’t see them in time.

What I Thought:

Omigod! We almost hit that elderly pedestrian and his dog! He clutched his heart—I hope he’s okay! Wait a minute… where’s his dog? We DID miss the dog, didn’t we?


What I Said:

That was a bit of a rough stop, Tiger. Don’t worry… you’ll get better with practice.

What I Thought:

Will I ever get my teeth marks out of the dash?


What I Said:

Oh, my! Well, next time just remember: “SMOG.” Signal, mirror, over-the-shoulder, go.

What I Thought:

We almost pulled right into that bus! Oweee—is this what a stroke feels like? Yes, God, take me now! Don’t wanna die in a fiery crash!


What I Said:

Slow down a little, gently, gently.

What I Thought:

SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY SLOW DOWN!


What I Said:

Pull to the left, please. Quickly.

What I Thought:

We’re going to hit that parked car! MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER OH LORD WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!


What I Said:

Uh, do you see that oncoming truck?

What I Thought:

AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

After the dance

The moment Tiger put on his tux for his first dance, Hubby turned to me and said:

HUBBY: Bonnie, remember: this is a digital camera. That means we can take THOUSANDS of photographs if we want, just because we CAN. And if we take THOUSANDS, a couple of ’em are bound to be good ones.

I thanked Hubby for his confidence in me as a photographer, and then turned my viewfinder on Tiger. Here are the results: Continue reading “After the dance”

Teeny-bopper telemarketing

At dinner I noticed a blinking light on our answering machine.

“I’m just going to play our messages,” I said, and hit the button.

ANSWERING MACHINE: BEEP! You have one. New. Message. The following message has not been heard.

GIRL’S VOICE: Hullo! This is, uh, SHELLY’S MOM. Hee! Hee! Hee! (lots of giggling in the background) Shh! Oh, I mean… Well, SHELLY says she’d LOVE to go with you to the movies! Hee! Hee! Hee! And, hee! Oh, my, I’m sorry I’m just a LITTLE BIT CRAZY RIGHT NOW… (intense giggling ensues)

“Shelly’s mom” sounded like she was 11 if she was a day, maybe 12 at the most. There were at least two girls in the background, urging her on.

I sniffed. “Friends of yours?”

The boys shook their heads. Their noses were ultra-wrinkled.

GIRL’S VOICE: So … (more giggling) Shhh! Hee! Hee! Hee! Oh, my God! Bwa ha HA HA HA! (click!)

ANSWERING MACHINE: End of message. There are. No. More. Messages. BEEP!

“Well!” I said. “My mom would’ve tanned me if I ever called a boy. Times sure have changed.”

The boys were silent.

“She didn’t even say which one of you was taking Shelly to the movies.”

No answer.

“You mean, BOTH OF YOU are taking Shelly to the movies?”

“MOM! We don’t even know who Shelly IS.”

This was from Squirt, who hasn’t yet figured out when I’m kidding, unlike his brother Tiger, who has learned to bear it as he does all of life’s indignities—like having to fold laundry—in stoic silence.

“At least I don’t know who Shelly is. Maybe she’s Tiger’s girlfriend.” He smiled at Tiger, who merely shrugged and resumed stuffing his face.

“That’s okay, honey,” I reassured him. “Lots of teeny-boppers will call you, too, one day. Just be patient and your day will come. I promise.”

“MOM!”

Here’s hoping your aim is true

Living as I do in a house full of males, I have a hate-hate relationship with one facet of our plumbing system.

Bonnie: All I’m saying is that if you aren’t going to clean it—

Tiger: I clean!

Squirt: So do I!

Bonnie: All right, then… if you aren’t going to DO A GOOD JOB cleaning it, then you might as well sit down.

Males: (shock and disbelief)

Hubby: What, are you kidding?

I do not think this is an unreasonable request. The men in this house, after all, are quite tall. And everybody knows that the greater the distance from Point A to Point B, the more likely errors will creep into certain calculations.

Besides, I’m not saying all men MUST sit down. I’m just saying…

Bonnie: If you cleaned up after yourselves then you could stand up all you wanted. Heck, you could stand on a ladder for all I care. I’m not an unreasonable woman.

Males: (general incomprehension, shock, and dismay)

Bonnie: It’s… icky… right now, and whereas I’d normally need a DNA test to determine the culprit, this time I know exactly who did it because I saw him leave the facilities. (her evil eye slowly roams over the three of them, then falls upon Squirt)

Squirt: (chokes but recovers quickly) What? Not me! It wasn’t me!

You should know I’m not arguing on only my behalf, but on the behalf of those innocent victims who visit our home. Specifically, innocent unexpected company victims. For this reason, the five words guaranteed to strike terror in my heart will always be: “May I use your bathroom?”

Squirt: No way! I have perfect aim!

Bonnie: That’s not what I call “perfect aim” on the seat right now, young man.

Squirt: Perfect! Aim!

Hubby: That’s my boy!

Squirt: (warming up) Why, I can hit a quarter AT TEN FEET!

Hubby: Amen, Son!

Squirt: You’re talking to the boy who practices his aim… BY WALKING AWAY FROM THE TOILET!

Hubby: Damn straight!

(high fives all around)

Living as I do in a house full of males, I think it would be best if you called before you dropped in.

Doesn’t the Freedom of Information Act apply here?

Plan A: Keep the Lines of Communication Open

“Just talk to your kids,” say the experts. “Be there for them. Listen to what they have to say.”

All righty then.

Bonnie: So, Tiger, your dad heard you say something about a dance.

Tiger: Eh.

Bonnie: Your dad’s not sure if you’re actually going to a dance, or if you were just mentioning a dance, you know, in conversation.

Tiger: Eh.

Bonnie: You know, if you are going to a dance, you’ll need transportation and a suit, or maybe even a tuxedo, and a corsage for your date….if you are going to a dance, I mean. If you are, just let us know.

(a moment of silence)

So, Tiger, are you going to a dance?

Tiger: Arrrgh! I feel like I’m being interrogated!

Note to the Experts: Keeping the lines of communication open with my firstborn is like keeping the lines of communication open with a rock. You can ask a rock whatever you want, but it’s probably not going to tell you anything. And if it were to open its mouth and share, the shock just might give you a heart attack.

Time for Plan B.

Plan B: Turn to Outside Sources

Hubby: Did the neighbors know anything?

Bonnie: They sure did! Didi says it’s a formal, so Tiger’ll need a tux and a corsage for his date. And get this—he and his friends are splitting the cost of a limo!

Hubby: A limo! (clutches his wallet protectively) But who’s he going with?

Bonnie: Didi didn’t get the gal’s name, but Tiger told her she’s nice. How about that? Tiger’s first dance! Who did you take to your first dance?

Hubby: (opens his laptop) I don’t remember.

Hubby has a very selective memory. He could never remember anything about his ex-girlfriends, even though we kept running into them when we first started dating. Let’s just say the rock didn’t fall far from the non communicative boulder.

(Bonnie’s evil eye finally bores through Hubby’s laptop screen)

Hubby: I think Tiger’s just being shy. That’s why he’s not telling us anything.

Bonnie: Well, he better get over it soon! We’ll need at least a week’s lead time to rent a tux. By the way, don’t you think it’s odd that all our neighbors know more about this date than we do?

Hubby: (shrugs)

Great. Well, Hubby’s ex-girlfriends were one topic I could overlook, but I haven’t been laundering Tiger’s underwear all these years just so I’d have to pry all the details about his first dance from the neighbors.

Time for Plan C.

Plan C: Internet Research

Bonnie: Who needs the neighbors when we’ve got MySpace.com! What do you want to know? It’s all here in the comments section!

Hubby: (perks up) Hello! Who’s the girl?

Bonnie: Her name is Sweetie Pie. She’s into sports and 4H Club…

Hubby: Excellent, excellent…

Bonnie: …and here’s her picture. Isn’t she cute?

As I filled Hubby in on all the pertinent details, I wondered what the experts would think of my methods. Maybe they’d think I was too nosy. Maybe they’d think Tiger’s first dance was none of my business.

Then again, I don’t see any experts helping me do my kids’ stinky laundry, so who cares what they think, anyway?

There’s a new gun in town

We share a home with two teenage swimmers. You know what that means?

A towel-less existence, that’s what it means.

“Open up!” I demanded.

“Mom! I’m taking a shower!”

“I know that. What I don’t know and want to find out is if you’re using a brand-new towel, fresh from the linen closet, rather than, say, one of the seven towels currently on the floor of your room.”

“Mom!”

Aha. No denials, just generalized indignation. Guilty!

In the past I would’ve launched into a tirade worthy of gold plating and a prominent display in the Motherhood Hall of Fame. Today I just smiled and made a notch in my notebook.

“That’ll be a buck!” I said through the door.

“MOM!”

“Plus one dollar for each of the towels on your floor. Thank you for coming to Hotel Wren, please enjoy your stay.”

“MOMMMMMMM!”

Why, I rather like this new financial arrangement Hubby set up. It almost takes the sting out of doing the laundry.

Almost.

Lost in translation

I had to study a foreign language when I was in high school, and by gum, so will my kids. But which language to learn?

Squirt: Japanese, Mom. It’s so cool!

Bonnie: Yes, it is, but Spanish is easier and you’re more likely to use it.

Squirt: But Japanese, Mom! It’s the language of anime!

Yes, well, Japanese may not be as easy to learn as Spanish, and it may not be as desirable in today’s world as Arabic or Russian or Chinese, but it IS the language of anime. And I guess it’ll still be useful if Squirt goes into business, or international relations, or lands a job with Toyota.

In fact, the more I think about it, I’ll bet that in today’s global economy, fluency in Japanese is considered a highly marketable and useful skill.

Squirt: I learned something really useful in Japanese today, Mom.

Bonnie: Oh, good! What?

Squirt: Um, I can spell it better than I can say it, but it means infection. Isn’t that sick? Now I can tell Tiger, “You are an infection!” And he won’t know what I’m saying! Once I learn how to say it, that is.

Okay, so maybe my idea of usefulness isn’t the same as Squirt’s idea of usefulness. That’s all right. Learning Japanese will still enrich his cultural awareness and broaden his worldview.

That’s because he won’t just be learning about anime in his Japanese class—he’ll be learning all about Japan’s incredible culture: its history, its technology, its emphasis on higher education, its respect for the elderly… and a whole bunch of other stuff I can’t think of right now, but which I am sure is highly cultural.

Squirt: (laughing) Heh, heh! We read the funniest story in our Japanese book today! Ha, ha! It was so-o-o funny! HA, HA, HA!

Bonnie: (starting to chuckle) Tell me about it!

Squirt: Heh, heh! It was called “Takeshi’s Bad Day” and Takeshi’s pants rip in front of his girlfriend, hoo hoo hee! … And then he drops all his homework in a puddle… bwa ha, ha! And then… HA, HA, HA, HA!

Bonnie: (laughing) And then?

Squirt: And then… HA! He gets on a bus, and Takeshi’s reading a newspaper on the bus… hoo hoo hoo! And then he turns and looks behind him with this really disgusted look, and there’s this guy! (falls back in his chair and laughs helplessly) HA HA HA HA HA! THIS GUY!

Bonnie: Ha, ha! What? What?

Squirt: He’s… ha, ha, HA! He’s… HOLDING TAKESHI’S BUTT! HA HA HA HA!

Bonnie: (stops laughing) Hunh? What’s so funny about that?

Squirt: (holds up his hand until he can control himself) “Takeshi’s Bad Day” Ha, HA! It should’ve been called… “Takeshi Gets Molested”! BWA HA HA HA HA HA! (dissolves into a heap of hilarity)

Bonnie: Hmmph.

Squirt: Oh, my stomach hurts! Ha, ha, HA!