Monday, October 22, 2007

The Constitution of The Laundry Room

By Karrie McAllister

I, The Mom of this, The Laundry Room, in order to form a more perfect home, establish peace, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the remainder of my family members, promote the general cleanliness, and secure the wearability of clothing for myself and my family, do ordain and establish this Constitution for The Laundry Room.
Article 1: The Branches of PowerAll Power herein granted shall be vested in a sole ruler, which shall consist of The Mom, because she is the only one who will accomplish anything in The Laundry Room.
Article 2: The StateThe State of The Laundry Room shall be under the control of The Mom at all times, and should never be blamed on The Mom. The Mom typically has other things to do besides just the tasks of The Laundry Room, and anyone whining about the speed at which items move through The Laundry Room shall be punished by hand-washing gym socks without the assistance of rubber gloves.
Amendment 1: Freedom of reachThe remaining members of this household are free to place their dirty clothes into a number of hampers that The Mom has strategically placed around the house in convenient locations. From the hampers, The Mom will removed the soiled clothing and return it in a much cleaner state to the owners of said clothing.However, The Mom will not be held responsible for dirty clothing that is left on bathroom or bedroom floors, in piles near the hampers, or in the garage.
Amendment 2: The right to bare armsIf family members do not cooperate by gathering their dirty clothes into the hampers, they have the right to bare arms, legs, and other such body parts because they were too lazy to pick the socks up and take the two steps to put them in the hamper.
Amendment 3: Search and seizure
The rights of the Family do not exist behind the door of The Laundry Room. The Mom may search all pockets for loose change and seize it as her own. The Mom also has the right to save the accumulated funds and spend them on herself in any way she pleases. Finders shall be keepers, and losers shall be weepers.
Amendment 4: Confrontation of witnesses
Upon the instance of a member of The Family leaving a tube of lip balm or an ink pen in the pocket of His or Her clothing, The Mom will not assume responsibility for the destruction of the other clothing in the same load. Instead, The Mom has the right to confront and berate the member who committed this heinous crime, unless of course it was herself, in which case it was just an honest mistake.
Amendment 5: Cruel and unusual punishmentIf, for some reason, a member of The Family thinks that He or She is doing you a favor by taking off sweaty exercise clothing and placing them directly into the washing machine and leaving them there, sealed and unwashed, to fester in their own filth, this hereby is considered Cruel and Unusual Punishment and the perpetrator shall be rightfully punished.
Amendment 6: The powers of The Mom
The Mom has the final power of decision when faced with articles of dirty clothing that have not been previously returned to their right-side-out state. Any t-shirts or pants arriving in The Laundry Room in an inside-out fashion may or may not be returned correctly. This decision is left to The Mom and likely depends on her mood at that time. Dirty, sweaty, grass-clipping-filled socks that have been taken to The Laundry Room will not, under any circumstances, be returned in their correct state. The Mom does not wish to reach her hand in any more than you, and will not be expected to endure such awful conditions.

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of The Mom in the Year two thousand and seven. She has hereunto subscribed her name…in fabric softener.

A pocketful of…mom

By Karrie McAllister

I play this little game every morning. It’s kind of a race against fate. The object? I must wake up early, feed the dogs, get the paper, make coffee, drink coffee, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and assemble two book bags before the sound of grouchy morning feet come stomping down the stairs demanding chocolate milk and cartoons.
The prize? Serenity.
Needless to say, I rarely win. But that doesn’t stop me from setting the alarm clock early every school day. Someone asked me why I don’t just put on some sweats and throw the kids into the car, and while my answer that day was “because I don’t like sweat pants,” now that I think about it, it’s really about the preparation for the day. I want to make sure that I have everything as ready as possible for my kids before sending them off to school, even if it means a little less sleep for myself.
And while I really enjoy my morning coffee, it’s packing those bags that gets me out of bed in the morning.
For my preschooler, I make sure he’s got his book bag. If it’s his snack day, I check to make sure we’ve got the right amount of napkins, cups, and goodies. I take the strings, cars, and make-shift guns out of the pockets of his coat, and line things up by the door.
For my kindergartner, I double-check her homework folder. I make sure I haven’t forgotten a surprise piece of candy in her lunch. I write out sweet little notes that I’m not sure she can read, and tuck them in her backpack and her lunch box. I know that she counts on me to remember these things to get her through her day. Once everything is set, I place her things by the door, too.
But for all of the packing and prepping they have come to expect, there’s one more thing I slip into their pockets before we walk out the door.
Myself.
A friend told me the other day that even though her son is older, she still goes through his day in his back pocket, even though he doesn’t know she’s there. “It’s 11:00,” she said, “he’s taking a chemistry test.”
I didn’t realize it until she put it into those terms, but I do the same thing. Since my son has started preschool and my daughter has started kindergarten, I feel like I’m right there with them.
At 10:30, I grab a snack because I know that’s what my son is doing.
At 11:30, my stomach growls a little because I know that’s when my daughter eats lunch. And then at noon I wonder if that boy is still chasing her around the playground, and which one of her friends is coming to her rescue that day. At 1:00 on Tuesdays I know she’s headed up to music class, and that she’s probably happy because it’s one of her favorite things.
Yes, my clock checking is a little neurotic, but I just can’t help myself. I suppose it’s because I miss them terribly.
Being a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve spent the last five years pouring everything I could into my children. I have driven them back and forth to the library and the park more times than I could count. We’ve gone through boxes and boxes of crayons, markers, paints, and glue. We’ve read stories, played games and built forts, and now it feels so strange to just stop doing those things, step back, and let my children go.
So instead of totally letting go, I pack myself in their back pocket, just like my friend does with her son.
I don’t know how long it will last, or if they’ll ever realize that lump they sit on all day is really their mother. But for the time being, I’ll keep doing what I do-- getting up early to make my coffee, and to pack lunches, book bags, and back pockets.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Spicy Bush

Some kids can name every type of truck. Some kids know each and every Polly Pocket doll name.
My kids are learning their nature, which my husband says makes them look like big nerds, but I think makes them look pretty cool.
A few months ago, we were taking a walk at a local state forest preserve and met up with a friend who frequently walks there for exercise. We decided to do one loop together, and because we usually point out plants and animal signs along the way, my kids (then 3 and 5), did their normal thing.
"Hey, mom, pointy leaves equals red oak!" "Ooh, jack in the pulpit!" "Did you hear that blue jay?" And so on.
Needless to say, she was very impressed that a three-year-old knew more than she did.
But our favorite (and the most impressive plant in their eyes) is the spicebush. Found in rich, damp soils all over the eastern US, it has these spectacularly scented leaves. It's a lemony scent, and you can use the leaves, berries and twigs to make a tea. (Just make sure it's from an unsprayed spot and use lots of honey to sweeten it!)
We're not big wild tea drinkers, but every time we walk this loop each kid is allowed to grab one leaf to carry and squish up in their fingers. They sniff it every few steps until by the end of the trail it's just a green gooey pulp and their little hands smell like lemon for hours.

I always wonder if that friend is still walking that loop for exercise, and if she ever grabs a spicebush leaf when she walks by. I know we can't pass on up without getting our lemony fix.

Visit this site for more information on the spicebush:
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/trees/spicebush/tabid/5419/Default.aspx

The Spicy Bush

Some kids can name every type of truck. Some kids know each and every Polly Pocket doll name.
My kids are learning their nature, which my husband says makes them look like big nerds, but I think makes them look pretty cool.
A few months ago, we were taking a walk at a local state forest preserve and met up with a friend who frequently walks there for exercise. We decided to do one loop together, and because we usually point out plants and animal signs along the way, my kids (then 3 and 5), did their normal thing.
"Hey, mom, pointy leaves equals red oak!" "Ooh, jack in the pulpit!" "Did you hear that blue jay?" And so on.
Needless to say, she was very impressed that a three-year-old knew more than she did.
But our favorite (and the most impressive plant in their eyes) is the spicebush. Found in rich, damp soils all over the eastern US, it has these spectacularly scented leaves. It's a lemony scent, and you can use the leaves, berries and twigs to make a tea. (Just make sure it's from an unsprayed spot and use lots of honey to sweeten it!)
We're not big wild tea drinkers, but every time we walk this loop each kid is allowed to grab one leaf to carry and squish up in their fingers. They sniff it every few steps until by the end of the trail it's just a green gooey pulp and their little hands smell like lemon for hours.

I always wonder if that friend is still walking that loop for exercise, and if she ever grabs a spicebush leaf when she walks by. I know we can't pass on up without getting our lemony fix.

Visit this site for more information on the spicebush:
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/trees/spicebush/tabid/5419/Default.aspx

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

And we have to think, did God make toilets?

It’s really my own fault. I’m always pressuring my kids to think.
“Before you talk, THINK.” “Use your brain and THINK.” Or the all-time classic, “Sit here and THINK about what you’ve done!”
But all the yelling aside, there’s not much actual thinking done by kids these days. Serious thinking. Critical thinking. Even creative thinking. Sure, they decide what they want to eat, and decide creatively about what they will draw, but they don’t think about the consequences of eating only cheese for a day or what will happen when they use an entire bottle of glue on one piece of paper.
This is the thinking I’m talking about. The “if this, than that” type of logical noggin-work.
So, wearing my dorky mom hat, we like to have intellectual discussions around the dinner table. Over such delicacies as bologna sandwiches and canned corn, I have explained earth history, social conflicts, and yes, even such wonderful things as why poop is brown.
All to get their little brains turning and moving, as I wait for that million-dollar response.
“But what about ____?”
And so, over ice cream or cookies, I might have to explain why it is that jellyfish don’t have backbones, cowboys and Indians, and yes, even such wonderful things as why sometimes poop is green.
Which leads me to my next thought: sometimes I think I have encouraged too much thinking.
My son started preschool this year, which will instantly tell you that a) he is three-years old, and b) he is in the stage of his life where bathroom-talk has pretty much taken over his psyche. If he’s not IN the bathroom, he’s talking about some aspect of it, and no doubt using countless bathroom adjectives to describe even the sweetest of things.
My son’s preschool is held at a church, meaning that they teach the children Bible verses and other basic principles of the religion. In our own home, we encourage our children’s love of God and faith in God, but we also hope that they will put some of those thinking skills to use and discover their faith somewhat on their own.
Now take the situation at school and mesh it with my son’s potty-mouth, and well, I’d have paid honest money to be a fly on the wall last week at circle time in his class.
“God created the heavens and the earth” said the teacher.
And up shot my son’s hand.
“Did God make cement trucks?” he asked, looking around the room for inspiration for his questions.
“Well, God made man, and man made cement trucks,” answered the teacher.
“Did God make blocks? Books?” he continued, not satisfied with her answer.
And after a short list of other questions, he saved the best for last. “Did God make toilets???”
I’m not sure how the teacher answered, or even if she could answer without giggling. I only know the story as it was told to me, and at first I admit I was a little embarrassed. Why, of all times, would my son choose that holy moment to ask such a goofy question? And why, of all things, would he choose to ask about a toilet?!?
Then I got to practicing what I preach, and did a little thinking myself. I resolved that in his own little heart and his own little mind, he asked the questions he needed to know the answers to, to help him better understand his idea of God.
And if he has to ask his teacher about God and toilets to find his faith, I’m all for it.
I’m just glad he didn’t ask me. I think I would have laughed canned corn across the dinner table.

Another case of the dreaded Abby Syndrome

I like to call it the Abby Syndrome.
As a teenager, when I started to realize what was going on in this world, we had a basset hound and a black Labrador retriever. Upon coming home, the Lab, “Cinder,” would run right up to you, stopping whatever she was doing, and welcome you with excitement, kisses, and hugs.
“Abby,” the basset, would instead scurry around the house, looking for something, anything, to find and present to you. A bone, a toy, an old sock. Anything that really didn’t matter to the person would eventually show up and be dropped at your feet.
That was Abby. Her frantic panic when someone arrived was what helped coin the phrase the “Abby Syndrome.”
Truth was, as a teenager, I saw this very disease attack my parents, but mostly my father. Whenever we’d have guests over, my mother would prepare what needed to be done to welcome the guests into the house. She would clean the parts of the house they would see and usually whip up some delicious food that they would eat.
And that was the end of preparations for her, so that she could be giving them exactly what they needed, like Cinder the Labrador.
My father, on the other hand, was a tragic sufferer of the Abby Syndrome. If we’d have dinner guests over, instead of helping where help was needed, he’d run around like the little basset and organize his tool bench, sweep the garage, and clean his gun collection. All things that the guests really would never see.
Now, in my own married life, I look back at what I learned from my dogs and my parents and it is a real eye-opener.
I used to think it was a male vs. female sort of thing, that men were the typical victims of the Abby Syndrome. I thought this because I have heard stories of my father-in-law straightening up his woodshop and have seen my own husband rake brush piles in the hidden corners of our yard before a dinner party.
But now I know the Abby Syndrome extends beyond gender lines. And it must be genetic.
Sadly enough, I’ve got it, too.
It became all too apparent to me that I take after my father (and my dog) when it came to hosting a meeting of a local service organization at my house. Being part like my mother, I dusted the living room, where they would all sit. I wiped down the windows in the dining room, where the food would be. I took care of the toys that would be in plain sight in the house and through the windows.
But then the genetic defect kicked in, and I started doing crazy things, things my father might have done. I scrubbed my stove and cleaned the bedrooms and dusted on top of my refrigerator and other such absurdities that no one will ever look for, nor notice.
Outside, I swept the front porch and trimmed the bushes, even though my guests will all arrive in the cover of darkness.
And so I ask my tired, worn out self, why? Why would I let myself get sucked in to the bad habits? Why must I scamper around like that floppy-eared drooler of my youth? (The dog, of course, not my dad…)
The only answer I can come up with is that I must indeed be wired like this. I must have a third-degree case of the Abby Syndrome, and I just need to grab the mop and accept it.
Besides, it’s not all that bad. The top of my fridge and my stove really needed to be cleaned.
Maybe I’ll have to have another big gathering in a few months when they get dirty again.

Hanging out with friends is a personal learning experience

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.” To this, I respond with, “A friend is one who will not leave the room or slap me when I start to think aloud. Instead, she will smile and nod and accept me for who I am.”
As much as we love hanging around with people who share similar thoughts and interests, I love to find diversity in my own circle of friends. Not only do they comfort me when I am thinking aloud, but each and every one brings a little something to my life that makes me a better person. From all of their traits and quirks and stuff that makes them tick, I only hope I can grab a little of what they teach me to put to use in my own life.
So in tribute to a few of the many great ladies I know, I’d like to share some of my favorite things about my favorite people…
“Deana” is my friend that is just a little too nice. If I called her up and told her that I really needed another finger, she’d promptly chop off her pinky and drop it off on her way home from work. She is the one who is always reminding me that there is a reward in giving, and that helping friends is one of the greatest prizes of all.
“Janey” is my friend that has the biggest ears and the biggest heart. Actually, her ears are pretty cute, and they are always there at a moment’s notice. If I had a problem I just needed to talk about, day or night, I could call her and she would give me nothing but the silence I need to let it all out. From her I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, and that a hug is worth more than a thousand words.
“Meryl” is my friend who always appears ultra-organized and under control. Her home is always clean. Her diaper bag is always supplied, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that her car doesn’t look nearly as much like a pig sty as mine does. She takes the time to get things done and even takes time for herself. I am constantly amazed by this one, and I have A LOT to learn from her!
“Kallie” is never afraid to be who she is. She calls herself the “square peg in the round hole” like it’s not a bad thing, it’s just what she is. Kallie and I meet on such an odd level that most of our conversations range from world religious to breastfeeding. She teaches me to think proudly, and not be afraid of who I am.
“Evelyn” is my friend who’s always game. She’s spontaneous, fun, ready for anything, and never afraid to embrace her inner child. She’s the one who will dress up on Halloween and host Christmas in July complete with gingerbread houses. From her I’ve learned that it’s OK to call today to make plans for today, and that no one really cares how your house looks as long as the coffee is fresh and fun abounds.
“Maura” is my short friend who is never afraid to stand tall, and who puts her children’s well-being first. She’s always telling me how she’s making a stink at school, but that she doesn’t care that she’s called the principal on the second day of school. I keep her motto close: “You’re the only one who is going stand up for your kids,” and even though I tower over her physically, I definitely look up to her!
There are more friends I wish I had the space to mention, but the important thing to know is that I keep a piece of each of them with me all the time. I only hope that my friends learn something from me, too.
My wish is that if you are reading this column, you’ll stop and take a minute to think about the special people in your life. And then take another minute to let them know how much they mean to you.
I just did.

Monday, October 1, 2007

"P Brain?" Nope. "O Brain."

At a recent outdoor weekend event for women, I learned that the opossum, our country's only naturally occurring marsupial, has the lowest brain to body size ratio of any animal. That means that it's brain is extremely tiny for it's body, and that it only knows how to eat, sleep, and make more opossums.

It has also apparently been too dumb to catch on to evolutionary traits, has a mouth full of different teeth even though it doesn't use them all.

So why am I posting this wonderful info here? Three reasons. For one, you can use these facts to entertain your children next time you see an opossum. Secondly, this new found trivia also confirms the fact that my dog is indeed not the dumbest animal on earth. Thirdly, to help coin the phrase "O-brain" as in "Opossum Brain." It will sound much better than "pea brain" in public when I'm yelling at my son, who incidentally is also off the hook for "world's dumbest animal" although I'd bet it'd be a close race given his behavior in the grocery store last week.

"P Brain?" Nope. "O Brain."

At a recent outdoor weekend event for women, I learned that the opossum, our country's only naturally occurring marsupial, has the lowest brain to body size ratio of any animal. That means that it's brain is extremely tiny for it's body, and that it only knows how to eat, sleep, and make more opossums.

It has also apparently been too dumb to catch on to evolutionary traits, has a mouth full of different teeth even though it doesn't use them all.

So why am I posting this wonderful info here? Three reasons. For one, you can use these facts to entertain your children next time you see an opossum. Secondly, this new found trivia also confirms the fact that my dog is indeed not the dumbest animal on earth. Thirdly, to help coin the phrase "O-brain" as in "Opossum Brain." It will sound much better than "pea brain" in public when I'm yelling at my son, who incidentally is also off the hook for "world's dumbest animal" although I'd bet it'd be a close race given his behavior in the grocery store last week.
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