Idiocy At It’s Finest

Measurements. Fractions. MATH!!!!  I consider myself to be fairly intelligent.  After homeschooling my daughter for 5 years I think I’ve got the hang of pretty much everything but complex chemistry because its dumb and I have no use for it (though it would probably come in handy with this whole instant pot business).  However, I have come to tell you that children, especially teenagers, will turn you into the dumbest person in the neighborhood.  You doubt this statement? I have proof!

My teenager came home with an assignment to make a batch of cookies.  Great, we can do that!  She gathered the recipe and informed me that first, we must purchase cream of tartar.  Of course, my response is, “nah . . . that’s a fancy phrase for baking powder”.  Forty-five minutes later (I did a test batch to check my theory) and the nastiest snickerdoodles I’ve ever tasted, we trucked ourselves to the local Piggly Wiggly.

Safely back at home, the kid goes to work.  The first step is to take a recipe for two dozen cookies and break down the measurements to half of that.  Awesome, that’s math.  Not her favorite subject, but I hammered this stuff into her head for five years, surely, she can do this without me.  Ten minutes later in prances my child with a recipe and the conversions for ingredients.  For a moment I was certain my eyes were playing tricks on me.  They were not. 

2 ½ = 1 ½

2 ¾ = 1 ¾

Yeah . . . apparently, I must educate today.  Just so you are aware, I have an internal gauge for my blood pressure.  In times like this there is a bar in the upper right-hand corner of my vision field with 5 lights in succession from yellow to red (moving right to left).  They light up the more agitated I get.  I was already clearly at stage 1 because that first yellow light was quite blinding and the second one was starting to blink as I looked at these conversions and wondered if either of us would survive this assignment.

I took a breath (the second light went dark!!!!) and explained that ½ does not mean you just take away a whole number.  That doesn’t make any sense at all.  Let me stop here and explain a little something.  When a child, any child, is tasked with making cookies they do not give a crap about the process, they want the cookies!  I swear, this kid was already drooling just knowing what was coming in her near future.  Moving on, she huffed and puffed and marched back to the kitchen counter to re-evaluate the situation.  Stage 2 skipped the blinking period and immediately lit up in a darker stage than the first. 

From my perch in the living room I can see everything.  As I observe I notice light number 3 start a slow blink.  I’m aware that my child is standing there utterly baffled by this NASA level complication.   So, I offer verbal assistance.  “Child!  What is the denominator?  What is the numerator?  How many parts are in a whole?” Her response: “Can I use a calculator?”  You guessed it, stage three is full blown orange and no longer blinking.  This isn’t hard.  I gave direction and a hint. 

I directed this wonderful child of mine to break down the original measurements into quarters.  Her response was some form of “dollar quarters or time quarters?”  Obviously, my words came quickly, harshly, and full of a level of sarcasm that would rival many of my prior comebacks.  “Uhhh . . . how about cooking quarters?”  I could go on to explain the insanely ignorant conversation that ensued, but I’ll save you those five minutes.  I couldn’t save them for myself, but I will do that for you. 

Now that we have defined what a quarter is, we can proceed.  This child, my child, a child I know has a brain, proceeds to announce that 11 has no half.  It is a prime number, and this is the dumbest recipe ever.  I agree on the dumb part, but I will reserve to whom or what it applies.  She can’t remember to comb her hair, but she knows 11 is a prime number?  Come on!!!!

After one of the most painful 4 minutes of my life, she managed to get out the measuring cups and realize that ½ and ¼ show her how many “parts” a whole has.  Another nail on chalk board two minutes later she uses these tools to figure out that 5 ½ is the total of parts that she needs to convert.  Are you confused?  Because here is where things get ugly.

We’ve now invested well over 15 minutes into this conversion ordeal.  I’ve reached stage 4/5 in my journey to oblivion/maximum annoyance.  My child, this wonderful cherub, reached her own level 5 about 10 minutes ago.  But we press on, there are snickerdoodles on the line.  Mass confusion ensues because I’ve spent so much time explaining what the “parts” represent that I’ve managed to uneducate myself and have no idea what ½ of ¾ is. 

I’m not going to admit that to her!  So, I do math in my head.  Nope, that’s not right.  I do math out loud.  Nope, now I sound kind of dumb.  Finally, in a sudden moment of reality, I go to google.  Google responds quickly and promptly with 6 tablespoons.  Wait . . . what?!  You mean I was expected to calculate a conversion to a different type of measurement?  More importantly, why did I take on this task?  We have a smart home!  Alexa is the queen bee around here. 

And just like that my trader child grabbed the measuring spoons, shook her head and called her fairly intelligent mother an idiot.  She’s pretty lucky that stage 5 only blinked and that she has school tomorrow because survival would have been questionable if things shifted any other way.  I’d also like to add that the second idiot involved in this little situation produced some sort of ok cookies . . . but there’s no need to spill those beans.

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Lessons of Laughing

Parenting. The word needs no introduction and it definitely needs no explanation.  In my world, a world full of kids with traumatic backgrounds, parenting is a dirty word.  My kids came to me with parents, what they needed was loving.  So, I practice loving.  Every breath, every step, every thought is centered (or supposed to be) around loving unconditionally and openly.

Genuine laughing heals the soul.

                Ironically, along with that loving comes an awful lot of humor.  I have a great friend and mentor that passed on some wisdom to me a few years ago.  She said, “don’t call someone stupid, that’s rude.  But, by all means, call them an idiot”.  Ironically, that is the direct opposite of the actual definitions, but I like the way it sounds, so I’m sticking to it.  With that being said, I love and raise idiots.  Even the pets, all of them, straight up idiots. 

                Why?  Well, let me lay out some examples.  One of the boys used to turn on the shower, then dance around in the bathroom until he felt he had wasted enough time.  Then come out in clean clothes and act as though he had showered.  Oh, did I forget to say he was 15 at the time?  Another prime example would be one of my daughters that decided the best way to not get caught stealing food and hiding it would be to cut a hole in her pillow and stuff the evidence there.  That’s great if you actually cleaned your room and didn’t allow the hidden treasures to get so severe that they were falling out of the pillow case. 

                Wait, I’ve got more.  How about the time one of the boys faked a football injury so he could have rub downs and private time with the hot team trainer – for the entire season!  The fakery went to the extent of x-rays and cat scans and a specialist finally saying that there was nothing wrong.  He got caught in the lie when he smelled fried chicken and came running down the stairs . . . on the “injured” leg.

A little bit of crazy and a lot of love.

                We will definitely get more in depth with the levels of idiot I experience each day, but there is also a point to you and I coming together today.  A long time ago I knew I wanted kids.  I knew they would be my world, and I knew I wouldn’t birth them.  I actually sat in my doctor’s office at the age of 15 and begged the lady to cut out my “woman parts” and get it over with.  I had and still have no use for them.  Of course, she refused sighting some “first do no harm” clause.  Anyway, fostering and adopting kids has always been a dream of mine.  There are plenty of kids that need a home and a chance, I wanted to be those things for anybody that would come. 

                So, after our first year of marriage my used-to-be husband and I got approved as foster parents and the fun began.  We were very open about only taking in teens because that was the age group that was overlooked by most foster/adoptive families in our area.  We also sought kids that had traumatic pasts, due to my own education and profession, and were very open to special needs limitations, etc.  Basically, we wanted the kids that everyone else passed on.  And we definitely had no desire to take on any child younger than 12. 

We can learn a lot from animals. These two figured out their living situations weren’t changing so they agreed to disagree.

                As the story unfolds, you’ll see a lot of ups and downs.  But in all honesty, I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything I’ve experienced.  God has blessed me with the ability to find humor and happiness in almost any situation, and practicing love with my family has been the funniest experience I’ve ever had.  Someone asked me once, “what should a reader walk away with”?  I smiled and was very clear, “I want them to laugh and be ok with it”.  Kids, family, work, life . . . it’s not meant to be easy.  It’s meant to build character and exact purpose.  If we can’t find the humor in what we live through, then we most certainly aren’t finding the lesson either.  Because, what I want to you walk away with is this: WHEN WE SEEK THE LESSONS IN LIFE, WE STUMBLE UPON THE HUMOR OF THIS THING WE CALL LIVING. 00000000

Drop It Like It’s HOT!

Every person walks their own path. It is our job to guide and direct them. Sometimes, that means holding firm on issues that don’t and won’t seem logical. In the end, they will never lose, they will either win or learn.

I have had the greatest honor by being the parent of more kids than I can count.   Now, I use the word “parent” loosely because I certainly am not on all their birth certificates.  Heck, some of them may not even know how to spell my name correctly, let alone pronounce it.  I define “parent” as a person that guides and protects.  Over the years I have guided and protected hundreds of kids.  But, to appease those of you traditionalist, I have had 8 wonderfully talented, beautiful, and welcome children in my home at one point or another.  Those relationships are so sacred that I can’t imagine my life without each one of them.  Gah . . . it’s not time for the mushy stuff yet!  Back to “parenting”. 

  During one of my excursions as an Assistant Camp Director for the YMCA I learned how to make homemade pretzels.  Not being satisfied with the outcome, I tweaked the recipe and started making homemade cinnamon rolls.  I taught this wonderful skill to hundreds of kids, parents, and staff over the course of 18 months.  I only bring this up because it is the example I use when explaining to my kids about my unchangeable rule on fighting.  When you smell a hot and fresh cinnamon roll, one of the first things you do is go to grab it.  Forget the fact that it just came out of a 400-degree oven; or that you can visibly see the butter, icing, and other sorts of yummy goodness oozing out of it.  It’s human nature to snatch it up, bite it and drop it while fanning your mouth because you have just sustained third degree burns to your tongue and roof of your mouth. 

            My rule is straight forward.  I don’t care if Goliath himself is staring you down.  I don’t care if you are certain your death is eminent.  If in a situation where physical violence is about to or has already begun, you had better “drop it like its hot”!  Hit the deck, kiss the floor, dodge the ball, turn the other cheek, offer them a candy bar, do anything but do not engage!  Mama will not tolerate your hands touching anyone else is a way that is harmful or violent.  That, my loves, will be the end of your fun and happy life for a long and dreadful period. 

   Of all the lessons I’ve had the joy and heartache of teaching, this has been the hardest.  In our world it is such a foreign concept to communicate and be constructive, rather than destructive.  I wasn’t raised to be non-physical, that could very well lead to why I am such a strong advocate for it now.  Nothing good can come from hitting another person.  Status?  Well, let me tell you, status comes and goes.  I was popular last week, and then I passed gas from the piano on Sunday and all of a sudden, I’ve been avoided like a plague.  Status has no value and no purpose.  Reputation, my kids would say.  “Mom, I gotta let know I don’t play like that”.  My response, every time, would be, “No, you don’t play like that . . . ever”. 

            You see, its much harder to be a person of words, than a person of strength and intimidation.   Words take intelligence, they take practice, they take courage, and most of all they take humility.  Anyone can learn to throw a punch with a little practice, but learning the art of defusing a dangerous or violent situation is a work in progress.  My kids learned that they won’t always succeed, and they will probably get their butts kicked, but in the end, one day, they will see that it took way more ability to abstain than it did to clock someone in the jaw.

   At one point we had three teenage boys, all 16, in the house at the same time.  Not only were they the same age, but they were only separated by about a 14-week span in age difference.  As you can guess, this created some healthy tension in competition and that unfortunate attitude of “status”.  One of the boys deemed himself head honcho because he was the first one to live there, another of the boys demanded acknowledgement of his presence simply because he was bigger and stronger, and then the third (my favorite) sat back in his chair with an air of “I’m better and I don’t even have to prove it”.  While in the middle of a move to a new town, the boys were left to pack up the basement.  The basement consisted of my home office, our pantry overflow, general storage, and the kids game room and chill space.  Now, over the years I learned that the only way to combat idiocy with my kids was to install cameras.  However, the most amusing part of having your house on 24/7 surveillance will be the times that your kids forget that the walls have eyes.  Whilst packing, my lovely boys got into a turf war and guess who got beat up?  The strong and mighty took the fall . . . and my chill relaxed favorite knocked his lights out.

   I never said my kids followed the rules.  But these are teachable moments.  And I taught. . . to the tune of 50 boxes of books that had to be moved up two flights of stairs and out to the garage.  And those boxes, well, they could only be moved on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and evenings.  My point was well made, nothing good comes from putting your hands on another person.

   I once joked with my ex-husband that I was against physical violence simply because I knew I could never win a fight.  I much rather offer my adversary a candy bar and be on my way.  I mean, who can turn down a candy bar?  And if you can, we should meet, I need to get inside your brain.  But my joke was simply a smoke screen.  I grew up in the church.  I was taught, by all the adults in my life, save my parents, that the human body is to be treasured and appreciated.  And more importantly, that words have power.  I am sure there is some amazing research on how many fights are the result of miscommunications.  I’m not privy to that research, but it’s probably out there somewhere.  Think about it, how many times a day, or week, or month, or year, do you get angry because you think you thought you heard someone possibly say they might have heard that you were maybe thinking about doing something that could probably make them or someone they knew upset?  Did you follow that?  Anger serves us no positive return.  All anger does is zap you of the energy you’ve worked so hard to build up.  If we are continually draining ourselves by being angry at others, then who are we slighting?  Our mates, our kids, our friends, ourselves?  Drop it like its hot, my friends.   Give it time to cool off, its worth it.  Maybe not immediately, but someday you will see the benefit.  Walking away doesn’t make you weak, it actually shows tremendous strength.

A Preamble to “Love”

I was having a discussion with my lovely 15yr old daughter the other day about love and relationships. She’s a teen, she’s around boys all day, and well . . . in this particular part of her life, she is quite normal. She has a crush. I don’t think any of my other kids ever admitted to a crush. I’d just assume and then promptly bust them out in front of all the girls in their lives. I took, and still do, great pride in that. But, lets stay on track.

First, have you ever tried to “define” love? It is not that easy. Especially when the response to every statement you make is “but, why”? Take a seat, grab a drink, and relax. My view on love and relationships will likely leave you more confused, possibly suffering a loss of brain cells, and definitely wondering what you could have been doing for the time it takes you to read and recuperate from ridiculous, but legit conversation in my home.

Let’s say I have a bowl. It’s my favorite bowl and I protect it. In my bowl goes only the best cereal. If you even attempt to dump your Wheaties in my bowl, we are gonna have a go around. That’s gross. My bowl is special, it deserves better. Wheaties are so basic and one dimensional in flavor. There’s no surprise in the experience. Well, that’s not entirely true. There is definitely a surprise in how long it takes the fiber to work its way from top to bottom and in what agonizing speed it will chose to exit. But that discussion is for a different day.

It took me a very long time to understand my bowl. Sometimes I get done with my morning “bowl v. Chenon” meeting and I will have clearly lost the battle. Other days I finish as the champion, no milk splatter, no soggy endings, really, it’s the start to a fantastic day. But that bowl, I’m telling you, it’s tricky. Out of nowhere it will get an attitude and just shut me down. It jumps out of my hand, dives off the counter, or refuses to take a bath in time for its next scheduled appearance. Where does this bowl get off? Is there bowl rehab? I should look into that. I mean, we’ve had a conversation. I made it clear that IKEA has not ended its family line and there can be a replacement. If not that, at least a needy cousin that will be a perfectly good stand in.

Even with these obvious issues, I do not think I could ever intentionally go against my bowl. It knows what it wants. It wants Reese Puffs, Marshmallow Matey’s, smores cereal, and generic frosted flakes. I don’t dare throw a curve ball and change it up. This bowl has survived a marriage, a divorce, 7 kids, reckless roommates, 5 moves, and yes . . . some pretty nasty butt licking pets. Sure, it throws a fit every now and then, but I know there is a mutual feeling. We support each other, we know, when everything else falls away, we can take care of each other.

Have you figured it out yet? I don’t think I can be any more basic than this. Ok, fine. I will spell it out for you. Your heart is your constant companion. Take care of it. Obviously it knows way more than you do. Look at its job!! Its literally keeping you alive. I guess you could come back at me with your life saving career skills, but lets face it. You are not as cool as a heart, or my bowl for that matter (ehhh, maybe that was a bit too far).

This brings me to my epic parental response when the kid asked what she should do about this crush and how she would know when she was in love. I’d like to note that, no, she has not spoken a word to this alien being of a male as of this conversation. So being in love is a bit of a stretch. I sat back, and figured the best solution to the inquiry would be to confuse the hell out of her and come back to this discussion in say, 10 years. Makes total sense, right? My heart, oops, my bowl agreed.

“Ashley, love is an enigma. It’s hard to catch, but when you do, take care of it. Also, it is entirely possible to love something today, and a year from now simply like it. You look confused? Hmm, let me try to explain that a little better. You’ll be wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ for a better man. There will be days like this, and others will be like you got hit with a wrecking ball. Don’t act like you wear a halo. Keep your poker face in play, but not too long. If you don’t say hello, you might appear shallow. But don’t stop believing, you too will find slow hands and a guy from Austin. At the end of the day, he may say ‘marry me’ or he could say he has 99 problems and you aren’t one of them. A wise guy once said that if you sit on the dock by the bay, gravity will find you, and you will be unbreakable. If not unbreakable, you’ll at least find a slice of American pie and take a photograph”.

She walked away . . .