Hyperbole is Killing Me

I have an embarrassing secret to share. My fourth-grade daughter continually puts me in my place in the math department, plus a few other subjects. I still can carry my own in science and grammar, but I need to up my game to prove I can assuredly assist in the homework world.

The retired television show, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” suggested kids can intellectually pass up their parents by the age of 10; but let me tell you, my child knocked me off my high horse numerous times in third grade!

“Hold on, honey. Let Mama read the question again… hmm. Oh, well! Dad will be home in an hour. He loves quadratic equations!

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s not that advanced, but the new math certainly feels foreign to this mom.

Some of you may be up close and personal with our country’s Common Core standards. I’ll add you to the prayer chain. This beastly teaching model produces hives on every parent who partakes in homework supervision. I realize someone who knows better is attempting to make our children smarter by ramming knowledge into their gray matter, but why must the powers at be make parents feel stupid in the meantime?

Recently, my anxiety surged a smidgen when my daughter asked me to define the word “hyperbole.” She’s 10! Why does she need to know that definition, let alone spell it right and use it correctly in a sentence?

How can I expect her to use this advanced word correctly, when I’m not sure of the answer myself? So I did what every other parent in the world does — I lied. Telling her she should do her own research in the dictionary.

Since the nut doesn’t fall far from the genetics tree, my parents also pretended they knew answers when asked the origin, definition or spelling of a word. My mother was notorious for having me get up from the dinner table to find the right answer. Doesn’t every family in America have a dictionary several feet from the kitchen table? It was wedged next to our 1960s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one was leaving the table until we knew the ins and outs of an earthworm’s reproductive system.

Because I obviously love to over-share, here is what I learned. “Hyperbole” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an exaggeration by effect and not meant to be taken literally.” Really? I seriously thought it was a story with a wild ending. Now if my daughter had asked what “onomatopoeia” meant, I would’ve exclaimed, “Wow! I know that!” but once again my fifth-grader-to-be caught me unprepared.

There are countless memorable stages as a parent. The first smile, that first step, when she’s finally potty-trained! But right now I’m living the assisting-with-your-child’s-homework stage. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. This phase could easily drive a parent insane, lead to premature aging, or trigger excessive drinking — not that I’m recommending any of these. Carrying those “ones” in a multiplication number sentence should be cautiously completed by a high-functioning, sober mind.

But if you get stuck, might I suggest secretly sneaking a tablet or cellphone to ask Siri? That gal has more right answers than any encyclopedia I came across.

(previously published in the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 23, 2016)

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6 Signs You’re Shopping With Your Child

Metal shopping cart isolated on white background

Shopping with your child is the WORST

For the past eight years I have struggled with taking my children grocery shopping. I love my girls, but their behavior in public is like getting stabbed in the ears with chopsticks. Their indoor voices aren’t their strong suit.

In fact, for years I’ve tried everything to make sure they aren’t with me when I’m at the supermarket. I’ve even written about their behavior in a book I co-authored – but did that change them? Nope.

If the kids are invited to a play date, I’ll grab my list, drop them off and set my GPS straight to market. Grandma asks to see the munchkins? “Hi and Bye!” I’ve got a little errand to run. Free at last. God Almighty, free at last!

Even when the Jehovah Witness’s knock at the door, don’t think I haven’t considered making a quick run to pick up a few necessities.

But the other day was the first time I made it through the entire event without my blood pressure raising the roof. No, I wasn’t drunk or showing signs of dementia. Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but my girls are finally helpful. Oh, sweet baby Jesus the day has finally come!!

Just like when they started tying their shoes for the first time – it happened over night. Can you imagine my surprise? So what is it about being 7 or 8 that turns them into helpful humans? I’m sure not going to sit around and analyze this miracle, but I wanted to share the glorious wonders of it all.

Shopping with your child…

1. If your child insists on reading every word of the grocery aisle signs and reminds you where the large vats of ice cream are…you might be shopping with a 2nd grader. Normally, when people point out my flaws or are telling me what to do, I get irked. But now the munchkins can read and help me find items or even read labels when I can’t locate my stinking old readers, they are little shopping sidekicks!

2. If your daughter remembers you need cheese IN the dairy aisle, instead of realizing you forgot it as you pull into your driveway…you probably are shopping with a 2nd grader. When you hit a certain age, perimenopause takes over your brain causing a pea soup thick fog to lead you through your day. This is why it is helpful to have fresh sharp brains right beside you, to keep you on track. College nightly adventures didn’t do my brain well. PSA: “Kids don’t do drugs…or drink heavily. When you’re older, you will miss all those braincells.”

3. When your kid begs to heave the groceries on the conveyor belt giving you time to chat with the checker to discuss important things like the weather, fruit ripeness and sporting events…you might be shopping with a 2nd grader.
I’m not sure why I thought I would be doing everything for my family the rest of my living days. These children who I carried for 9 months, and wrecked my abdomen, ahem; really can take over and give you a break from time to time. I’m not talking indentured slaves or free child labor, all day long; but we can share some of the family responsibilities to make our house a messy, but sanitary home.

4. If every. single. time you stop the shopping cart to turn and grab something, and you find your son riding the cart…he’s a 2nd grader. Really my girls do this too. I can’t keep the monkeys off the rails without threatening a “brown out” at our house. I guess I can’t blame them. If I had someone who would push me around on the side of a big, red Target cart; I’d be whooping and hollering like rodeo cowgirl who sat on a hill of fire ants. I like me some fun too!

5. If your daughters are discussing the difference between regular lemonade and diet lemonade and the words, “big butt” come up…you are hanging with 2nd graders. Body image talks have already started with my girls and the grocery store is usually a forced time to do it. I love asking the hard questions, especially discussing airbrushing while looking at the celebs in the checkout magazines. Suck it, Cosmo!

6. If your kids “ooh” and “ah” when they enter the chip aisle, like they are watching the grand finale of a fireworks display…yep. Second grader! As long as I can remember, my girls have been obsessed with chips. ALL chips. It’s like listening to Forrest Gump’s friend, Bubba talking about his favorite shrimp. Pringles, Doritos, Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cool Ranch Doritos, Fritos, Big Scoop Fritos… It’s like the store pumps in LSD into the air at the end of that aisle. Turn on the Grateful Dead and let my munchkins drool, stroke and hug the bags of chips. When people laugh at their behavior, I just tell them I haven’t fed them since last Tuesday. Then that ends that!

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For those of you who haven’t reached this magical time in your parenting career, I’m here to shake you back into consciousness and repeat, “It shall happen to you too.” It may seem like an eternity for the stage to arrive, but the payoff is so worth the tumultuous wait. Investment in ear plugs can be a smart choice too.

Now I find myself imagining how pleasant my summer is going to be. I relax by the pool, imagining how my shopping stress will be minimized. I dream of floating on a tranquil cloud down the aisles, giggling with my girls on our magic ride to the produce section. Life is good.

But if I’ve jinxed them by writing of this newfound bonding time, you can bet your sweet bippy I’m calling Grandma for a visit until they snap out of it!

When did your kids finally get to be helpful on shopping trips? Please leave your answer below in the comment section. I’d love to compare and whine.

 

Heaven is a funnier place now

Sometimes crying can stop us in our tracks

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Heaven is a Funnier Place

Whether it’s tears of joy, tears of relief, or tears during every single Hallmark commercial, they can range from a hiccup in your step to knocking you off your path. But the ones that pack the hardest punch are those Smokey Robinson tracks of tears triggered by great loss, and if it’s followed by a belly laugh — ah, catharsis.

The cemetery scene from the film “Steel Magnolias” is my favorite example. Just when the characters have hit the lowest point, a monumental joke causes viewers to scream of laughter through their tears, joining the characters on the screen. It’s a healing moment for everyone.

I’ve always tried to surround myself with funny people, those who lift my spirits at the most desirable time. So when my friend died unexpectedly, I was not only grieving the loss of someone dear to me, but also for the person who for decades had made me laugh harder and longer than anyone. Often I would be hoarse and exhausted by the time we hung up the telephone.

In my 20s, when I first struggled with severe anxiety, debilitating panic attacks would hold my body hostage, incapable of functioning. I started calling my comic buddy and within a few moments, the attack had passed and I could breathe again. His jokes were better than any drug. I only wish I had shared that with him.

It’s tragic to know the person who brought such joy to my life will never be there for me. There will be no calls when we have just sat down to dinner, or when I’m at the dentist, or the gynecologist. His timing was flawless — except with his exit from this world. The proverbial vaudeville hook nabbed him off the stage much too early.

I broke the news to my grade school daughters, explaining why I was weepy and distant the morning after his passing. My 9-year-old rushed around the breakfast table to give me one of her amazing hugs. As she nuzzled into my neck, I said to her, “I’ll be OK. He was one of my dearest friends, but he’s in heaven now. I’ll see him again some day.”

My girl continued to hold on a few more moments, until she whipped her head back and stared at me concerned.

“What if he’s in hell, Mama?”

My laughter exploded through my tears. When I had calmed down enough to talk, I told her my friend would have loved her question. I can still hear how his booming laugh would have filled the room with that one.

My daughter’s timing is perfect. She is capable of replacing the comic relief I will miss in my friend’s absence.

I guess my funny friend passed the giggle torch to my daughter. Thankfully, she’s young, because I’m planning on many years of her cracking me up. I only wish she could have learned from the master.

Loss is confusing and challenging, but one thing I take comfort in is that heaven is a funnier place now.

History of Prank Calls

baby girl with a mobile phoneWhen I was growing up, there were two kinds of phones. One had a 500-foot tangled cord and the other spun numbers around like a Sit ’N Spin. The older rotary-style telephone took forever to dial. It was so slow that sometimes, after you dialed all the numbers, you had to quickly hang up because you forgot who you called and why.

In the 1970s, you had two glorious color choices: goldenrod and split pea soup green. They even matched your refrigerator and Tupperware! When the vacuum at our house chewed up a cord, another color spiral would appear from the basement. You were considered rich if your family had the original phone cord.

Standard phone cords were 12 inches and rarely tangled; but if you had a teenager in residence, the 25-foot extended cord was mandatory. Now your kids could giggle in the stairwell two rooms over, and you wouldn’t have to hear any part of their conversation. Helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet.

As a child, I dabbled in prank phone calls. I was nowhere near making it an art form; but nonetheless, it was an adequate time killer. Actually, most prepubescent kids believed they were the masters of prank calls. No one older could be that clever or daring.

My friends and I heard if you dialed a number that wasn’t in the phone book, you could call accidentally call China. We could only imagine that it would cost a fortune! So we would search for the funniest last names in the White Pages, throw around some primo dialog, and pray we could hang up before our friends listening on the other line exploded with laughter.

The next generation of prank calls occurred on cellphones the size of a miniature Schnauzer. You plugged the phone into the cigarette lighter holder in your parent’s car and if you held your head still you could keep from losing reception. If the car were running, reception would be lost and since these witty verbal exchanges were with the opposite sex, you didn’t want to chance that. Thank goodness, we didn’t have caller ID!

BlackBerrys were for adults only. It missed adolescent silliness all together.

With flip phones, toddlers added to the pranking world. Clumsily pushing buttons, they imitated parents any time they could get their sticky fingers on it. Nothing is better than taking a shower and discovering the police are leaning on your doorbell and searching your shrubbery for intoxicated oafs. The percentage of young children being able to dial 911 is much higher than one would think.

Smartphones turned up the heat with pranks. Not only could a child text anyone on your contact list, but if you were silly and thought it was a good idea to teach your children to read and write, you might find yourself explaining ridiculous texts to strangers.

“I love bacon an Imeanit!!”

Take my word — it’s not fun explaining why your child is violent about cured pork products.

Thank goodness my young kids never figured out they could do FaceTime. I can only imagine what our accountant would think if a half-dressed toddler showed up on his work computer.

And as technology history shows us, it’s only going to get worse, folks!

Lord, help us all.
(Previously printed in The Kansas City Star on March 26, 2016.)

Sleep Deprivation Blamed on Kids

Woman sleeping
Have you ever been sick and tired of being sick and tired? Parenting has so many moments like this. It usually begins by the second trimester for women and some men learn of it by word of mouth after awaking from a full night’s sleep.

By the time children are sleeping through the night, and both parents and children are sleeping routinely in their assigned beds, everyday stress can keep parents tossing and turning for the next 15 years. Then when your children have all graduated, and have moved out of your basement, the aging process and hormones smack you in the groggy noggin to ensure minimal sleep is obtained.

So why is it that having children is taxing on your health? Shouldn’t eating an apple a day and taking two aspirin at sunrise keep you healthy and vibrant? Instead, it appears kids are the culprits, and they’re slowly hitting the nails on our coffins. That’s why you mustn’t let children play with tools.

Even though we love them with every fiber of our beings, parents are hazily rummaging through daily life; unfortunately, that includes having parents on the roads. According to a 2010 news story, “One in every six deadly car crashes results from a fatigue-impaired driver, estimates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s compared to about one in three caused by a drunk driver.” Lack of sleep decreases reaction time and impairs awareness and judgment similarly to drugs and alcohol.
The other night when I was tossing and turning in bed, the comedian and self-acclaimed redneck Jeff Foxworthy came to me in a vision. Thankfully, my husband was sound asleep so he didn’t kick him out because Mr. Foxworthy came up with a Breathalyzer scale for sleeplessness.

▪ If you’ve had the driver in front of you flip you the bird because your forehead kept leaning on the horn, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve ever imagined a flock of sheep flying single-file over the red light in front of you, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’re merging on the interstate and you find yourself nestling into the headrest while your seat slowly reclines, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve had to turn the A/C on high and blast ‘80s music to redirect the polar pull from your chin to your chest, it could be a sign you’re too tired to drive.

▪ If you realize you’re driving the wrong way on a one-way street and decide to just slow down and turn on your hazard lights, you are too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve ever started turning left at a light and half way into the intersection don’t know how many turn lanes there were, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If a mile from your home, people drive up beside you pointing out your gas cap is off or your super-sized grande coffee is on your car roof, you too, might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you are pressing buttons on your car radio, trying to find the “snooze” button, it’s a good sign you are too tired to drive.

▪ And if you have a case of 5-Minute Energy bottles in your glove box just for emergencies, parents, you might be too tired to drive.

Even though people may not make the best decisions when they are exhausted, it’s not a laughing matter. The research proves it and you don’t want to be another statistic. There are better ways to get in the papers.

So when the baby sleeps, don’t think it’s finally time clean the house. Go ahead and sleep. A nap might save your life and seriously, the house will be a mess until the kids move out anyway.

Previously published in The Kansas City Star on March 12, 2016.