Gentle Humor

Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog – I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Kids Page 1 of 4

Father’s Day 2019

Father’s Day Fish Slippers

It’s Father’s Day, and my daughter sent her dad a pair of fish slippers. Thankfully my husband’s sense of humor got passed down to our kids.

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A Memory for Mother’s Day

Note: I wrote this when my daughter was around ten years old.  

It’s five in the afternoon, and I’m debating whether to sacrifice precious calories for a glass of wine, or save them for a piece of the ugliest cake on earth that my daughter, Kelly, made last night.  It’s really no contest. That cake! Oh, my! 

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The Girl and the Piñata

I was at the high school tutoring in the second floor library on a warm, sunny day so the windows were open. I could hear a commotion outside, and when I looked out, I saw a class full of students in a half-circle yelling at a blindfolded girl who held a stick and stood in front of a piñata hanging from a tree.

I could understand the class being outside and soaking up some rare Oregon rays, but I couldn’t figure out the piñata. What did that have to do with economics or health? Maybe it was Spanish class, but it wasn’t even Cinco de Mayo, which I’ve been told means “put the empty mayonnaise jar in the sink.”

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Easter Craziness

This Sunday is Easter, and I observe the usual traditions from my childhood, plus things that other moms have done that sounded like they were better moms than me. That’s how the Easter Scavenger Hunt got started.

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Be Yourself – What a Bunch of Nonsense

When you were a teenager, did a grownup ever say to you, “Just be yourself?” To me this was exactly like them telling you to “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

How would you find the right spelling of a word in a place that requires you to know the right spelling of the word to find it? Grownups never had an answer for that, because they had never actually cracked a dictionary themselves, unless they were English teachers. Why couldn’t they at least give us a hint – a couple of letters – to get us started?

I could have used a hint about being myself as a teenager. When I was being myself and, say, flipping someone with a rubber band because that’s the kind of person I was deep inside, someone would get mad at me. Maybe it was because I was so good at it – I could hit someone in the chest with a resounding “thwack” at thirty feet. I finally realized it was a skill I shouldn’t practice on human targets.

Same thing with hitting people with snowballs, especially when the snow went down their shirt. So even though my “self” wanted badly to cream others with rubber bands and snowballs, I had to deny myself or risk getting a shovel full of snow in the face. Which actually happened to me last winter.

Let me tell you about it. I’ve got this cranky neighbor who was shoveling snow one day as I was walking my dog up the street. I playfully threw a snowball at him from about eight feet away that hit him in the leg. He happened to have a shovelful of snow ready to sling it to the wayside, and instead heaved it at me as if to say, “I’m a jerk and don’t you forget it next time you come around here with your playful BS.”

The snow hit me right in the face, and since I wasn’t expecting it and had my mouth open, it went down my throat and clogged my windpipe. I couldn’t breathe. It was quite frightening. I got my throat unclogged eventually by coughing forcefully like a three-pack-a-day smoker. Then gulping in the cold air caused a whole ton of new coughing. I have to admit I played this up a little once I realized I wasn’t going to die. It was a dirty trick to hoist a whole shovelful of snow in exchange for one measly snowball.

Here was a guy being himself (a jerk), and causing misery all the way around. It cost him a a lot of blubbering pleas for forgiveness and a bottle of wine he brought to my house later by way of penance.

I don’t think anyone should tell kids to be themselves. Tell them to be nice. If they don’t know what nice is, spell it out for them. “Don’t hit people in the chest with rubber bands, even if you are the best rubber band shooter in the whole universe. Plus don’t strangle people with snow.”

If you want to know the truth, I still don’t know who my “self” is, but I know I like the parts of me that are kind and sweet and considerate, and see the fun in life. So I’m glad that self is starting to win out over my other self which is ornery, mean, and spiteful and will cough a few minutes longer than necessary to make a jerk feel guilty.

In conclusion, thanks to my dear friend, Google, I never have to pick up a dictionary again. Not that I ever did before. A dictionary is like a First Aid kit. It’s good to have around but you never, ever want to actually use it. Although, who knows, you might find your “self” in there. It’s one place I haven’t looked.

Excavating the Empty Nest

I finished shoveling out my daughter’s room today. It was part two of the cleaning – I got about halfway done a few days after she left for college but after several hours I gave up and closed her door. It was like that TV show about hoarders who won’t throw anything away. She’s kept every item since she was an infant – seashells, pretty rocks, pieces of Barbies –along with candy wrappers and potato chip bags she’d snuck into her room late at night, wadding up the evidence and tossing it under the bed.

I found two portable phones that have been lost for years under there.

Her room hasn’t been really clean in years. Sure, we’d change the sheets and dust and vacuum – but I made my kids clean their rooms, and when she “cleaned” she’d simply take everything strewn in the middle of the floor and piled on top of her dresser and toss them under the bed and into the closet. It would appear to be clean for a day or two, and then you couldn’t walk through it again.

When their rooms became fire hazards, I’d help them deep clean. First we’d pull out all the dirty clothes, some had been stuffed into the closet still wet and muddy where they grew mold and mildew and the odors they cause. Then we’d put away all the books that were tossed on the floor beside the bed. Then we’d arrange the stuffed animals and large toys back on the shelves. That all went pretty fast.

The worst was those little odds and ends left on the floor – things that didn’t really have a place, such as the toys they got for free from McDonalds or those little things they’d win at arcades when they cashed in their tickets.

Both my kids hated to throw anything away  – it all had some unique function or wonderful memory tied to it, but by this point in the process I was ready to be done. I did not want to sweat the little stuff.

In the meantime, they had sneakily wandered out of the room to get something and hadn’t come back.

I finally created a new bin for the McDonald’s toys and little stuff, some of them still in their wrappers. One of these days they’ll be worth a fortune, I’m sure. Just like Beanie Babies.

My son’s friend, Dylan, was obsessed with them. Every time a new Beanie Baby came out, which was about three times a day, he’d get his dad to drive them to the mall so they could buy it. They bought tag protectors to keep the tags from getting crumpled, because that made their “investment” more valuable.

I’d say, “How can something they’re selling to every kid in the universe and a whole lot of their parents be an investment? Something has to be rare before it’s valuable. They’re selling millions of these.” They wouldn’t listen because they kept hearing on the commercials (made by the Beanie Babies company) that they were collector’s items.

They never really played with them, although they’d gently lay their precious Beanie Babies on the floor and admire them one at a time and talk about how valuable they were, like Midas counting his gold. They also threw a substantial amount of money away on Pokemon cards for investment purposes as well.

Today when I was cleaning my daughter’s room, lots of good memories flooded into my head, so I guess it was worth it. I can’t even imagine what my daughter’s dorm room looks like, and thank goodness I don’t have to.

Hippie vs. Hipster

My husband and I and some friends went to the Hawthorne Street fair today. To those of you unfamiliar with Portland, this is an area on the east side where hippies went to raise their children, and now the children are sporting tats, piercings, and pink pony tails.

The thing we noticed the most were the tattoos, and I still don’t get it. Today I saw people whose skin was nearly covered – both arms, legs, necks – everywhere that was showing and Lord only knows what was underneath.

As I was looking at the parade of tattooed youth, I thought, “Doesn’t that hurt?” When I got home, I asked Google to find out how it’s done: “Artists create tattoos by injecting ink into a person’s skin. To do this, they use an electrically powered tattoo machine that resembles (and sounds like) a dental drill. The machine moves a solid needle up and down to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. The needle penetrates the skin by about a millimeter and deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin with each puncture.” (health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/skin-and-lifestyle/tattoo.htm)

That sounds more painful than I imagined. Just the thought of a drill sounding like a dentist’s made me flinch, much else the pulsating needle.

I can understand the traditional “drunken sailor” doing this. Alcohol kills the pain, and they only got one or two tattoos. I imagine it sobered them up pretty quick. I can also understand gangsters, thugs, and gang members. They have something to prove to their peers.

What I can’t understand is people using tattoes as a fashion statement – girls especially.

My friend said, “I must be getting old because I have absolutely no desire to get a tat.”

“You’re not old if you call them “tats,” I said.

“I feel pretty old. I remember when we first invented tie-dye, and look – it’s everywhere again.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I said. “You know you’re getting older when the stuff you used to wear comes back in style.”

Of course this generation looks nothing like we looked in our tie-dye shirts. We were thin, with long, straight, shiny, healthy, natural-colored hair. Today I saw tie-dyed hair that looked like someone had taken a dull knife to it and then dried it with a blast furnace. There were whole chunks shaved (or yanked) off of people’s heads, surrounded by ragged, lifeless, crisp hair.

We were tanned, healthy, and acne-free because we were into nature, hiking, eating healthy fruits and vegetables, treating our bodies like they were our best friends. Many of the people I saw today looked like they only came out at night, and their bodies were their mortal enemies. Pierce it! Stab it with needles! Yank the hair out! Douse it with harsh chemicals! Remove the color and replace it with pinks, purples, black! Whack at it with dull razors! Put a big round orb in your earlobe and stretch it three inches! Cover everything with fat! Pierce your tongue, your breasts, even your…

Well, I guess I’ve made my point. These guys may be young, but I’m not so sure about bright – except their hair and skin, that is. I’d pick being a hippie over a hipster any day.

Sad Little Good Memories

Today we got a new refrigerator to replace a refrigerator and separate freezer in our bonus room that are old energy hogs.

I don’t go out to the bonus room much anymore. It’s my daughter’s lair. I swoop in with a vacuum on occasion, so I only look at the carpet. Today as I was rearranging the space for the new refrigerator, I started noticing things that I hadn’t “seen” in a long, long time.

I noticed my son’s snowboard and remembered how my son, daughter, and I used to go up to Skibowl on Fridays when they had cheap night skiing so we could learn to ski. My husband is a good skier, but I learned at the same time my kids did. My daughter was only five years old and had a neon pink one-piece ski suit. Both kids were fearless and zoomed down the hill with me trying to catch up between my constant falls. They looked like cartoons of speeding streaks while I had skis and poles flying through the air. We’d ski until 11:00 at night under sparkling stars, freezing on the excruciatingly slow lifts but having too much fun to go inside.

I saw the skateboard and remembered getting up at 4 am and going to the skate park hauling my son and six of his friends in our old Ford Taurus station wagon. That early, they had the whole place to themselves. My daughter and I would roam around the adjacent pastures with the dog and then fetch French toast sticks at Burger King for everyone. That was before I quit eating there because of their tacky commercials.

I saw my son’s lacrosse stick and remembered tossing that forty pound ball with him, worried that it would miss the tiny little net in my stick and knock me out cold.

I saw the boogie boards and remembered going camping at the beach and playing with the kids in the ice-cold Pacific ocean. We would go in an inch at a time and let that part of us get numb before going a little further. The legs weren’t so bad, but when the water got to my waistline it was SO cold on my back. I didn’t want to go any further but they’d splash me until I was wet enough I might as well dive under the waves.

I looked at my son’s drum set and guitar and remembered the garage band practices and how the walls in the house literally shook from the loud vibrations. I saw the wooden blocks that they used to build roadways and ramps. I noticed the two big bins of Legos and remembered the castles and spaceships they worked hours building, and stepping on those tiny pieces barefoot in the night, silently cursing that Legos were always everywhere.

I saw an old blanket and remembered how they’d would gather every blanket in the house and build elaborate multi-roomed forts, and how they’d make me crawl on the floor and go inside.

Holy crap, it was a tidal wave of memories that knocked me down and left little streams of tears rolling down my cheeks. 

What happened to those fun little people? They used to always be right by my side. We had new adventures every day – building obstacle courses, doing cartwheels in the back yard, playing hide and seek. They disappeared and left their memories to collect dust in the bonus room as thick as the dust under the old refrigerator.

If you are still with me through this soulful trip down memory lane, I can only say that this one little day of boo-hooing is a very small price to pay for years and years of great memories. My kids may not give me the time of day now, but not so long ago they were like little planets orbiting around me, and I was the light of their lives.

Excuse me, it’s midnight and I hear a car door slam. Let me drop EVERYTHING and greet my baby girl who’s all grown up now.

sigh….

Where’s Your Paradise?

I’m thinking the key to life is loving where you are. Where I am, or soon will be, is in the kitchen getting a fistful of chocolate cherry trail mix. Be right back.

It’s gone! I searched everywhere – in the cabinets, on the nightstand, in the bonus room, but it’s disappeared. Doggone it! Thank goodness I found a Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bar the size of a greeting card that hit the spot. No, I didn’t eat it all, I left a couple of squares to the previous owner so they’d know they hadn’t imagined putting it in the cupboard. After all, I’m a considerate person.

Back to paradise. We were visiting friends over in Central Oregon and the sun was shining the whole time with nary a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to complain about warm sunshine after living in Portland during the incredibly cool summer we’re having (to find out why – SHAMELESS PLUG – get the global warming book I helped write called, Footprint, a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Extinction).

One morning we came out of the dark bedroom to be greeted by glowing sunlight through every window, and our host said, “Another day in paradise!”

Didn’t Jimmy Buffet sing a song about that? Somebody did. Anyway, I got to thinking about it and I concluded **** PROFOUND SAYING ALERT***** that:

PARADISE IS WHERE THE HEART IS

This might sound a whole lot like another saying, “Home is where the heart is,” but that one isn’t centered on the page and in all capital letters. I wonder if I can copyright this saying and get royalties when the world starts using it? Because, you know, paradise is sometimes where the money is, too.

Clear skies and warm sunshine might certainly be part of the formula for paradise, but I’ve had a taste of paradise when I’ve been on the side of Mt. Bachelor in the freezing cold and hit a bump on my skies that should have sent me flailing end over end but I miraculously recovered and flew weightless through the air without breaking a leg. It’s exhilarating.

Something else to ponder: Isn’t the world confusing enough without spelling skies and skies the same way? 

I’ve also been in paradise when my teenage daughter asks me to go to a movie with her. OMG I will drop anything to spend time with either of my kids because they are scattered like my Uncle Vance’s ashes in the trunk of my cousin Nancy’s car. That’s a funny story I’ll try to remember to tell one day.

My kids rarely light near me any longer than it takes them to say, “Mom, you already asked me that.” I’m not so sure I DID ask, and I certainly don’t remember what they said. They make stuff up to drive me crazy. Even so, I love when they’ll forsake their friends and hang out with me, even when I know it’s because none of their friends can do anything right that minute and also I’ll pay for their movie ticket. Still, to me it’s more of a “paradise” to hang out with them than being in the tropics sipping POG and vodka while swinging in a hammock on the beach. I think.

The point is that paradise is in our heads. If it weren’t, then everyone in warm places would be happy, and everyone else would be miserable. That may pan out in some cases, but I have witnessed many, many cranky shop clerks in those little beach stores in Lahaina. In fact, there are few things crankier than a middle-aged Hawaiian woman in a t-shirt shop packed with tourists unfolding the merchandise during the heat of the Maui summer. I’ve heard them mumble, “I got your paradise RIGHT HERE!” and though I’m not sure what that means, they didn’t sound happy.

So, gentle readers, you probably don’t need to look any further than your own back yard for your little patch of paradise. And if you find some money out there, send me some!

Heroics to Stop a Crying Baby

Let me tell you about the extremes I used to go to to quiet my colicky baby. But first notice that I used to and to right beside each other in the last sentence. Amazing, huh?

My son started crying at one month and didn’t stop until seven months. Maybe I should clarify that. At one month his default mode was crying unless I came up with ways to get him to stop.

If I stood up and did this little “mommy” step (instinctive to all mothers except the one in church yesterday), he’d stop crying. If, however, I sat down and continued the same exact motion with my upper body, he’d cry. How could he tell the difference? I would stand and gently bounce him until my legs ached, then I’d sit and he’d immediately commence crying like someone had flicked a switch. Stand up – stop. Sit down – cry.

I used to sit in the back seat with him while my husband drove us to wherever we were going. He DID NOT want to be in that car seat, but of course it was the law. When your inside a giant metal box such as an SUV, crying is irritation times two. It’s like having an amplifier – like someone recorded a baby having a screaming fit and cranked the volume all the way up to 32.

It was weird being chauffeured, but I made the best of it. I’d snap my fingers and say, “Drive on, James.” My husband’s name isn’t James, and he never thought it was funny. He’d give me dirty looks in the rear view mirror. When I wasn’t playing rich society lady, I’d attend to my duties as the “keeper of the crying at bay.” I would hold a Binkie in my son’s mouth – not by force or anything. He’d just work it out every five seconds, which was a reason for him to start squalling. I’d fish it out of the valley between him and the car seat and put it back in his mouth, which made him happy until he’d do whatever he did that caused it to fall out. If I simply held it in place – no pressure – I’d let my hand hover over the Binkie, it wouldn’t fall out and we’d have peace and quiet for a few minutes.

If we were going on a road trip, eventually he’d fall asleep in the car. Sometimes the baby would also fall asleep. Ha Ha – a little joke to show how exhausted my husband and I were. When the crying stopped and that sweet peace descended on the vehicle, nobody moved. If we had to go to the bathroom, we held it. There was NO WAY we were going to cut the quiet short by stopping the car. If we were lucky, we’d get up to two hours without noise.

At home I had all kinds of tricks to have cryless interludes. One was to run water. I put my son in the little baby carrier on the kitchen counter and turned on the tap water. He could be twisted and contorted in the awfulest misery – eyes squeezed shut, fists in tight balls, legs kicking – and when the water started, he’d stop cold. He’d get this look of calm wonderment, like “ooo, what IS that marvelous sound? I LOVE IT!” Meantime I’m freaking about the water running, but I figured it was a small price to pay. After about five minutes, the calm would disappear and the crying would start again.

He had this wind up swing someone gave me for a baby shower gift. I’d turn the crank several times – it sounded like rusty gears grinding against each other, then the swing would start. He’d go forward – click – and then back – click – and forward – click – and back – click. It was like a giant windup grandfather clock. With the motion and the steady clicks, he’d soon be asleep. I’d put the swing in front of the bathroom with the door open and dash in there to take the fastest shower on earth. I’d dry off, wiggle into whatever fat clothes I had that were clean, and dash back, just in time for the swing to wind down. If I was lucky, I could wind it back up for another fifteen minute reprieve, but usually all the racket from winding woke him up and he didn’t like it, not one bit. Oh he’d cry!

Another thing I did was put him in his carrier and rest him on top of the dryer. That was good for loading the dishwasher and wiping down the kitchen counters – if I moved at warp speed.

If we were out in public and I forgot his Binkie, I learned an emergency move from his pediatrician, Dr. Ferre. I’d put the tip of my little finger in his mouth and he’d latch onto it like an octopus. Really, I don’t know how something so small could Hooverize a fingertip like that. Sometimes I worried he’d suck a hickey on my finger.

I’m remembering how TIRED I was from all that baby pacifying I used to do. If that baby fell asleep I’d curl up right next to him and try to make up for the ZZZZ’s I lost walking him in the night so my husband could get some sleep.

Luckily, around six or seven months the crying tapered off, just like the pediatrician said it would, thank goodness!

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Copyright © 2019 by Suzanne Olsen