Take the money and run

I don’t try to protect my kids from every little bad thing that may happen to them. Bad times build character and teach important life lessons. When something bad happens, my response is usually, “Yep, sometimes life’s like that.” Luckily, my kids have their own personal champion and defender: Grammy. When Boy One’s Pokemon cards were stolen in Kindergarten, she volunteered in his classroom just to get a moment alone with the boy that took them.

Teacher: Ok, lets split up into groups.

Grammy offered her sweetest grandmotherly smile to the thief boy and said: Here, honey, you can be in my group.

As soon as they hit the hallway, her face darkened, she leaned over and, using her best Wicked Witch of the West voice, she said, “You need to bring back his Pokemon cards. Those are not yours and you shouldn’t steal. Understand?”

The boy didn’t have much to say, just quietly nodded and agreed to return the cards

So most of you know that Boy One has been running a little scrap metal business this summer. He drags Granddad all around Wabash and the surrounding counties on his days off to collect cans and other metal items from people to cash them in. He had a partial load stored behind the garage and it was stolen. I thought it taught him several good business lessons: people aren’t always honest so gotta stay on your toes; keep your inventory safe, etc.  It happened a couple of days ago so I thought we had moved on, but I was wrong.

Yesterday, Grammy decided to post a public service announcement on Facebook admonishing the thief that victimized her precious boy and indicting his upbringing that clearly lacked lessons in morals and respect. In doing so, she taught Boy One an even more valuable lesson: play your cards right and you can turn an unfortunate situation into a profitable one. After her post, messages and comments poured in from sympathetic people also disgusted with the degenerate scrap thief, offering to let Boy One pick up scrap from them. When I last heard, he had five pick-ups scheduled for today with more coming in. Luckily, it’s Granddad’s weekend off because it sounds like he’s going to be putting in a twelve-hour day at his side job with Swan’s Scrap, LLC.

At times like this, I realize there are still parenting lessons to be learned from my mom.

Don’t hate the player

We were at the city pool today and I noticed that Boy Two was hanging pretty tight with one particular girl. She was an adorable little brown-eyed beauty with long brunette hair, approximately six inches taller than him.  He is one of the shortest seven-year-olds around, but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in blue eyes and personality. I don’t know how to explain it, but the kid has game. He’s the polar opposite of his brother, who spent his day at the pool sitting along the wall, slathering gallons of sunscreen on his pasty, skeletal body and wearing a towel on his head Arabian-sheikh style because he is absolutely terrified of getting sunburned, all while incessantly asking when we are leaving until I finally let him call Granddad to come rescue him from the torment of the pool.

Boy One is a dweeb, but Boy Two is a total playboy. He’s that perfect storm of playfulness, intelligence, sarcasm, humor, indifference, and confidence just short of arrogance that drives girls wild. I know this because he acts exactly like his father. While The Husband isn’t the most physically impressive specimen of a man, I was a young girl once and I know the capabilities of that personality. Been there, done that, and I know it when I see it.

So anyway, Boy Two and Flirty Girl are having a great time at the pool. He even brought her over to introduce herself.

Hi, I’m Flirty Girl. I went to Kindergarten with him.

Oh, nice to meet you, Flirty Girl. I’m his mother.

When I decided it was time to take the baby home, Flirty Girl saw me packing our things and she rushed over.

Are you leaving?

Yeah.

Does he have to leave?

No he can stay here with his Grammy, if he wants. 

She seemed happy that he got to stay longer, but it dissipated quickly when he said, “Ahh, I think I’ll just go home. It’s too hot.”

Good work, son. Leave them wanting more. She heads toward the exit with us and talks to me as we go.

I like a different guy, ya know.

Oh, really?

Yeah. I used to like your son, but not anymore. Now I like a different guy.

Boy Two holds his tongue until just as he’s walking in the boys’ locker room. Then he calls over his shoulder with a smirk, “Hey, Flirty Girl! Tell your sister I said hi.”

Flirty Girl should have stalked off with her dignity at that point, but girls will be girls and, well, he is very handsome.

Alright, well, see ya later, Boy Two!

You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand

I (sometimes) enjoy observing the social interaction between the boys. At 8 years old, Boy One is becoming old enough to understand the merits of bargaining, cooperation, extortion, and manipulation. Boy Two still sticks with his old standby of brute physical force.  It’s a constant battle of brains versus brawn and I just sit back and watch it play out.

A few days ago, Boy Two received a painting craft as a gift. Paint is something of an anomaly at our house, and you’ve probably read enough of my posts to understand why, so this was a big deal.  He talked about it nonstop for days as he waited for me to finally decide it was worth it to risk my carpet just to get him to shut up about the stupid paint. I figured Boy One would throw a fit over the injustice of only Boy Two receiving a painting craft, but he didn’t say a word. “I guess he’s just not that worried about it,” I thought, but I underestimated him. He had a plan.

When it was finally painting day, Boy Two excitedly laid out his paints and went right to work. A few minutes later, I looked in to see Boy One working diligently with the paints while Boy Two played Minecraft. Both seemed content so I didn’t get involved. When the painting was finished, Boy Two thanked his brother profusely for completing it for him.

With that success under his belt, Boy One moved on to his next conquest. Within minutes, he was “helping” Boy Two build a structure in Minecraft while Boy Two watched. He even suggested that Boy Two cover his eyes so he could be “surprised” at the end result when Boy Two tried to exercise a little too much creative control over the structure.

This is a risky game that Boy One is playing because Boy Two is significantly stronger than him and he knows it, but so far we’re at Brains – 2, Brawn – 0 for the evening.

Can’t buy me love

Boy One is the most money-hungry child I’ve ever encountered. Everything in his life has a price. This is cool because you can buy his love. He would totally flourish in a situation with a rich step-dad trying to win him over. In fact, maybe I’ll try to work out something like that for him. Anyway, his love can be bought, but not by me because kids are freaking expensive and after funding everything needed to meet their basic needs, I have no money left to buy their love. So I just go without.

I would have a problem with Boy One’s prodigious greed, but I don’t say much because he has the work ethic to back it up. He will do any chore to earn a quick buck. This year, he decided to have a rummage sale. He packed up all of the toys he wanted to get rid of and instructed Boy 2 to do the same.

I’m having a rummage sale. You need to put all of your toys in this basket and I’ll tag them.

There was no agreement about who would receive the proceeds from the sale of Boy Two’s items. I’m pretty sure it was some sort of eminent domain situation. Anyway, it seemed like he was doing a pretty good job of managing his rummage sale empire until I started checking his prices: broken plastic John Deere tractor toy – $25 new, $60 at Boy One’s sale; Johnny Jump-up – $20 new, $40 at Boy One’s sale. I suggested perhaps his prices were a little out of line with the current rummage sale pricing index, but he didn’t care. For that reason, I decided to discourage the rummage sale idea and he moved on to his next venture…

Granddad taught him that he can make money off of scrap metal and now he is constantly scavenging for it. I don’t really have a problem with it, but I did have to draw the line when he started eyeing the trampoline poles.

You can only scrap things that we don’t really need or use. We need the trampoline poles if you want to be able to jump on the trampoline.

He said he understood, but that didn’t deter him from staying on the lookout for potentially unneeded metal. This is why, if you were at the public pool today, you saw my son rifling through the trash. It’s not because I haven’t fed him. He’s just looking for empty  pop cans, which is apparently more fun than swimming or going down the slide. With that level of dedication, I’d say this boy has a bright future as an entrepreneur. Or perhaps just the town junkie that scavenges for scrap metal….

 

 

Let’s see how far we’ve come

Some women are natural mothers, full of patience and kindness, ready to nurture and raise many children. It’s like they have a sixth sense about all things motherhood. That was not me. I have fumbled through raising kids in a constant process of trial and error. The boys were (and still are) a learning experience – kind of like Chernobyl or the Titanic.

Boy One got the worst of it.

He got to experience the trips to the ER for possible gastrointestinal bleeds and West Nile, both of which turned out to be nothing more than constipation.

He was the one that came with the poorly packed diaper bag that carried eight and a half pairs of shoes that no longer fit him, but no diapers. This resulted in him being diapered in a dish towel more times than I care to admit.

He was the one that fell off of the couch (more than once) because no one ever told me that a completely stationary baby can master the art of rolling over in one hour and, after that point, it doesn’t matter if you are standing right next to him, if you aren’t actually looking at him (even if it’s only for 3 seconds), you can’t catch him.

Which brings me to my next point: He’s the one that taught me that moms do not actually have eyes in the back of their heads. And they need them because…..

He was the one that taught me that a penny is the exact size of a nine-month-old’s windpipe and that screaming and flapping your arms wildly will not remove said penny and that you just better pray that The Husband happens to be standing there at the time.

He was the one that listened intently to Basic Contract Law for Paralegals instead of nursery rhymes because I was in the middle of my degree when he was born.

He got to deal with the dental issues because I was “that mom” that was too stupid to heed the warnings about sugary juice; however, for the record, I still believe that some people are genetically predisposed to acidic saliva, resulting in increased susceptibility to cavities.

He still suffers from inability to sleep solo because I let him sleep with me from Day One. And by sleep “with me” I mean we slept with our faces inches apart and our arms around each other, which is still his preferred sleeping position.

But hey, as of today I have somehow successfully kept this guy alive for eight entire years. I didn’t think I had it in me.

Take it on the run, baby

Boy One has this specific wooden rocking chair, designed for a child half his size, that he uses to sit directly in front of the TV when he’s watching YouTube videos. He has to do this because the videos are so annoying that I won’t let him turn the volume above 5 because I care more about my sanity than his retinas.

Anyway, on the rare occasions that Boy One ventures out of this special chair, Boy Two swoops in and steals it just to be a jerk. A huge (usually physical) fight ensues which ends in one or both of them injured and/or crying.

Today, The Girl decided to see what all the fuss is about with this chair, especially since it was originally brought here for her. She pestered Boy One until he finally paused his video to get up and get her a pink plastic chair as a substitute. Just like she learned from Boy Two, she seized the opportunity and pounced into the prized rocking chair.

I braced myself for the usual shrieking and prepared to intervene before he took out his wrath on her the same as he would Boy Two. Then this happened:

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I don’t really want to get her going. I just want to watch my show in peace. 

Very smart, son. You will make a good husband someday. A few minutes later, I look over and see this:

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And you, my girl, will make a typical wife.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

So the main attraction at the Great Wolf Lodge resorts is supposed to be the huge, completely awesome, indoor water park. It’s actually a decent deal because your water park passes are included with your hotel stay, but they make their money off of people like us:

Boy One is the perfect combination of addictive personality and electronics junkie and he can not – CAN NOT – walk by an arcade without going inside. When he’s in the arcade, he is in his element, along with all of the other scrawny, pasty kids that look like their eyes haven’t left the screen or seen sunlight in about two years. He probably has the makings of a fairly serious gambling addiction. He enters the arcade like he is Rain Man (or Alan from The Hangover), coming down the escalator, ready to count some cards. I should probably discourage this behavior or preemptively send him to some Gambling Anonymous classes or something, but it’s actually kind of fun to watch him do his thing.

So anyway, I play the part of Charlie Babbitt and enter the arcade behind him. He pauses to get the lay of the floor and scope out the hot machines. He first goes for a claw game full of rolls of tickets. He expertly maneuvers the claw and nets 125 tickets in one grab.  Bam! Then he moves on to a wheel-spinning game and gains another 40. He’s on a streak and it continues for the 45 minutes that my $75 worth of tokens lasts. He ends up with about 700 tickets and he’s happy with his take. Then comes the fun part.

With the money I spent, which took me roughly half of a workday to earn, he can cash in his tickets for a small pillow shaped like a smiley face, a two-ounce bottle of disappearing ink, or a miscellaneous combination of single pieces of candy and slappy bracelets. Hey, at least he got 45 minutes worth of fun out of it though, right?

But he has his eye on this “Annoying Orange” talking plush toy, which is apparently the brand of some “You-Tuber” that he is a follower of. Most of these You-Tubers are incredibly annoying, and this one even has the word “annoying” in its name so you know it has to be one of the worst. He doesn’t have nearly enough tickets, so I’m trying to explain to him that he needs to pick something else when The Husband comes up to tell me he’s figured out how to beat the house. There is a Connect Four game – winner gets 50 tickets and loser gets 20 tickets, so we’re guaranteed 70 tickets each game. So, rather than teaching Boy One to live within his means and avoid excessive gambling, we spend another $15 on tokens and play each other on Connect Four while the tickets pour in and Boy One cheers us on. And yes, a portion of our drive home was spent calculating how many tokens we would have needed to buy to get the 20,000 tickets for the Xbox prize (about $600 worth) while listening to the Annoying Orange incessantly repeat its three annoying phrases until Boy Two thankfully managed to “accidentally” break it. $90 well spent.