Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Thunderdome.

Yesterday was Little J’s birthday; and added to the list of things I am unprepared for, is how fast these eight years have gone.  Motherhood was a hard transition for my very selfish soul; when G was born and I was responsible for her every minute, kindergarten seemed like it was 1.4 million light years away, and I wasn’t sure how I would survive it with my easy-baby-that- slept-12-hours-at-night (If I could go back in time, I would heavily medicate myself in 2002-2003).  And then suddently, time was GONE, and now she’s in her last weeks of elementary school and wearing a size 7 shoe.  It’s forever, or else it’s so close to being almost over--and for five minutes in the middle time stands perfectly still, which is, coincidentally, the moment when guinea pigs are purchased on sale at PetSmart.


My baby is eight.  It feels like this started on an operating table--wasn’t it just last week?  And now we are here, doing math and shooting a bb gun, and swimming a length of freestyle in twenty seconds.  Little J is funny and bold, with limits.  He’s aware of others, and his natural response is usually kindness.  He has started to eat (and like) salads, and NOTHING affects him more negatively than being tired.  


And in the spirit of celebrating Josh in all of his eight-year-old glory, we honored our every-other-year birthday party blood pact.  Which is how I learned that eight-year-old boys were *probably* the inspiration for movies like “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”.


Now, this post could also be filed under “What the Hell I do all day” because this party has occupied my thoughts since just after we entered 2014.  Josh has always stated he wanted to go to Sky Zone, which is like a gigantic warehouse full of enormous trampolines.  My hesitation was two-fold-- 1.) Head injuries and other such medical catastrophes, and 2.) The cost for 1 HOUR of jump time, which is comparable to that fortune the Goonies found on the lost pirate ship.


Childhood is a gigantic blinding hazard/death trap, including, but not limited to, dust mites and organic cheeses--so my comfort level with risk-I-could-never-anticipate-in-a-million-years has been somewhat neutralized.  I did, however, set out to research every possible idea for an eight-year-old boy’s birthday party--Bowling? Rock Climbing?  Indoor soccer and inflatable jump party?  Swimming?  Little J was flexible; but the cost/happiness ratio had to be analyzed for weeks, at midnight--because everyone knows, this is when non-essential decisions are researched to death on the Internet.  


The deal was:  We would take a handful of Josh’s friends to Sky Zone, and then come back to our house for cake and other activities that involve beating each other to death with pool noodles.  He has a pretty consistent group of pals, and this makes a lot of sense--except that there are really only 9 boys total in his class, a couple of friends that we wanted to invite outside of his class, and my deeply held belief that we ARE NOT going to be the family that excludes.  You see, it’s not only about the cost of the party, it’s about your CONVICTIONS too--which include being adamantly opposed to paying an increased rate for a “birthday party package” just for access to 45 minutes in a party room.  Screw that, we can pay to jump and then let the kids paint themselves with cake icing in our own home--thank you very much.  Just to recap--we are all-inclusive, and do not stand for party-room rentals--but I learned that this will drastically affect the carpool equilibrium, or how many children you can legally fit into a mini-van, and how LOUD that will be, exactly.  


I figured all of this out about six days before the party that I hadn’t actually invited anyone to--even though I had a seating arrangement and a schedule of events.  Which is just how it goes around here, and 90% of the kids were able to attend--so the universe has a way of just working it out, I guess.


Then it was Friday, the kids had a half day/pajama day--which we all know is from the DEVIL--and then the 7 & 8 year old boys descended upon our home for our afternoon of trampoline fun.  At least, I think it was fun.  Fun looks very different to 7-8 year old boys, than it does to...everyone else.


Sky Zone was awesome, and it was all kinds of magical, until the start of the dodgeball game.  Pretty much every boy wanted to play dodgeball--or I should say, that they all wanted to be the dodgeball champion of the universe, which is a very important distinction to make.  You see, I’m used to girls.  Girls who don’t really want to be hit in the face with bouncy balls.  Girls who don’t really care about the recognition that comes with being hit in the face with bouncy balls. Girls who tend to passive-aggressively show their emotions and insecurities (not saying this is better...just different).  


Here’s what happens with boys.


Some of the boys just don’t really give a rat’s ass about the rules, because this is the surest way to secure coronation as the dodgeball king.  I don’t really get that, but I can’t even deviate from a recipe, so I just sort of come at this from a fundamentally different perspective.  


The other half of the boys are CONSTANTLY tattle-yelling about how someone is cheating.  Constantly.  Because this is a second philosophy to winning--disqualifying everyone else based on ethics.  


And it all stems from the fact that everyone wanted to win, and the rules were just a “loose set of guidelines” for that purpose.  For about 10-minutes, I tried to officiate the game.  I tried to call it if boys were out, and now I imagine what God feels like, because you should NEVER TRY TO REGULATE 2ND GRADE BOYS DODGEBALL.  It isn’t rational, and so you should just enclose them in a small (bouncy) space and let them go at it until Jesus comes back like a champ and saves all the souls by catching all the balls, and it is finished.  Except that I guarantee half of the boys will think he is cheating.  


It appeared that we had exhausted them (physically and mentally), so we headed back to our house, and we had cake--which included just enough artificial sweeteners to really get the party started--and by party, I mean cage fight.  There was more trampoline bouncing, and screaming, and kicking, and some tears--because WOW, boys are so vocal and so physical, and it’s terrifying.  I’m certain they could overtake any fragile government, no question.


Josh had fun, but he was subdued; in any case, he was in the “Thunderdome” (as our trampoline became known, upon return from Sky Zone), and I’m not sure if he wasn’t a major instigator because 1.) He was having a major allergy attack, 2.) He knows we don’t tolerate violence, or 3.) He is on the calmer side when it comes to eight-year-old boys.  It all felt a little “rough”, but my solution for fixing it involved a lot of mediating, and was probably moving in the direction of a craft project with popsicle sticks.  Mike told me to go inside, because he knew the boys would turn the popsicle sticks into weapons, and also, that my need for order and decency does not mix with young boys--and so he assumed responsibility as sole protector of the Thunderdome, while I prayed for their physical and emotional safety.

In any case, kicking on the trampoline was eventually outlawed and all children were returned to their parents with no broken bones.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What the hell I do all day (a weekly series).

Internet, I'm not sure what I've been doing with my time...but it hasn't been laundry.  Every morning, I have an alarm clock, and it is my children asking me to find them socks.  Let me just clarify right now:  Yes, my husband gets the kids out of bed/fed in the mornings, as I am not *super* functional.  If we are talking about strengths and responsibilities as a married couple, then Mike's jobs involve keeping us alive, while I am more suited to over-scheduling our free time and making shoes out of paper mache at midnight (and things of that nature).

So anyway.  The kids are up in my grill about socks, which is a whole blog post in itself, because Mike thinks they should be able to handle socks on their own at this point.  Yes and No.  The problem is the laundry, and the 3,408,921 socks in rotation at any given point.  It's not that we don't have clean socks, per se, but that we don't have matching socks, because who the hell knows where they are in the four-week laundry cycle.

Here's where I am going to let you in on a secret:  I cannot handle mismatched socks.  It is the axis upon which my sitcom-like world revolves.

This is not because you can tell they are not matched, but because it will throw off the time-space-laundry continuum for all of eternity.  If the sock with the green toe is worn with the sock with the red toe, and the OTHER sock with the green toe has been sitting damp (but clean) in the washing machine for two days, then the chances of the socks with the green toes ever being reunited is near impossible.  If you solve this equation using new math, then puppies will die, and I will have baskets (plural) of socks waiting to find their other halves.  

I do not usually turn important papers into school in a timely fashion, and we don't eat vegetables every night--but THIS is the kind of sh#! I obsess over.  Well, this and trying to earn myself an orthodontics degree on the Internet (post for another day).

In the spirit of laundry confessions, I decided I was going to start a new segment called "What the Hell I Do All Day".   It goes something like this:

1.) Insert curse word of choice upon learning that the baggiest pair of jeans I own is marred with ketchup.  It wouldn't necessarily matter, but I have to go to Target and I have STANDARDS, people--they might not include showering, but I draw the line at stains that look like I stabbed myself in the thigh.  I carry the jeans to the laundry pile, where I am reminded of my "dirty little secret."



2.)  Well, since I'm here--I might as well start a load.  Insert curse word when I realize there is already a load of clothes in the washer, that has likely been there for days.  If there is a silver lining here, it is that Mike didn't go on a laundry bender and decide to wash our clothing with the rags I use to clean the guinea pig cage.  


3.) Move the clean, damp laundry to the dryer.  Insert curse words when I realize there is a full load in the freaking dryer too.  It's clearly Mike's work, since there is one bright green shirt in a load of WHITES.  



4.)  No time to fold it--because I have priorities, and they include purchasing my 11-year-old daughter new sandals at Target, but getting it ALL WRONG, because apparently we are the same shoe size now.  Also, insert curse words, because I forgot this was already there.


Sidenote:  I care deeply about socks-you-can't-even-tell-are-matched, but not so much about the original window shades? Curtains? What are those things?  that came with the house when we moved in.  I've been trying to change the color of my couches to ANYTHING BUT OLIVE GREEN, by working some sort of optical illusion with window treatments, but it's taken me a while to find magic curtains.  True story, I actually found some at Target a few months ago, but I got nervous, because of my allergy to returning stuff--so I only bought two.  I just picked up the other set that I need to cover the stupid windows, but neglected to get curtain rods, which means I am likely to get this accomplished in the next 32 years, at about the time I finish folding the damn laundry.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adventuring.


Last week was our Spring Break--which is the latest in my reasons for not blogging.  Routine is a life line for me, but sometimes it’s good to screw all the plans and expectations I have for myself, to jump off the proverbial cliff and realize that no one ACTUALLY dies from not keeping their normal schedule.  Routines are safety and control for me; but spontaneity is really only a half step down from the curb, and not the bottom-less canyon I often believe it to be.

And really, we’re just talking about what I did with my time, apart from the school/swimming routine.  Which is proof that it’s harder to remember how to LIVE, as your kids get older and their success in life seems to depend on how many hours they spend doing things that matter, like multiplying fractions.  There are grades now, and assessments, and shaving time off our 50-yard backstroke--and I know it sounds crazy, but it gets harder to understand where playing Minecraft fits into the bigger picture of molding decent human beings who can properly bathe themselves, because let’s be honest, there is barely time (or energy) for bathing.  And then there’s Spring Break, a week to relax and step away from the schedule, except for that pressure to make it all count, somehow.  And if we’re not on a beach, or mastering the concepts of area and perimeter, then we SHOULD be learning to play chess or scouring Target for the right color fitted shirt to pair with the skirts my girls are wearing for Easter--because there are 342 items to be purchased in preparation for that holiday, and ohmygod, it’s only three weeks away.  

I am a big advocate of downtime, because my tendency is to make it all mean something--and I am convicted that if left to my own instincts, I will raise children addicted to speed for the sake of performing and accomplishing an imaginary list of things that matter.  Parenting is a lot like having schizophrenia; there’s the mother I want to be, the mother I actually am, the mother with great intentions, the mother who needs to be sedated, the mother who makes bad decisions, and the one who makes good choices too (sometimes accidentally, if we’re being honest).  Contrary to popular belief, it is not a natural skill, or if it is, it’s not one I possess.  

It wasn’t always this way.  The children used to be with me, at home, for 46 hours every day.  I was responsible for filling all their time, back before we were really focusing on “character building”.  Oh, pipe down, yes I know character is being formed at an early age, like hot lava creating new landmass beneath the ocean’s surface--but a lot of those early years are about growing and consistency, and less about understanding.  But now there is less time, and it seems precious; it feels like we should be anticipating events in May, and running errands in preparation, because the end of the school year is coming, and history tells me it is a cluster of overstimulation.  Plus, it’s G’s last remaining weeks of elementary school, so you know, there’s the pressure to make it meaningful--except that I’m not quite sure what that means yet, because I haven’t defined it according to Pinterest.  It’s probably going to require a balloon arch.

But let’s back up to Spring Break.      
I just couldn’t head out of town this year.  Getting four children prepared for a week out of town, in a climate that is potentially warmer OR exactly the same as it is here (take a guess!)  is a TON of work that involves unpacking every box in the basement, though they will, inevitably, have none of the elusive clothing items I was looking for in the first place.  If you really squint, then it appears that I have hidden all the random crap I moved in to the house in September, but will never use again in my lifetime; the thought of having to upset the careful balance of halloween costumes and paint cans from five houses ago and research papers I wrote in college and summer clothing was TOO MUCH.  

Mike decided to take the week off, which was SUPER helpful with feeding the children before 10:00 a.m.  The week, however, started with the kids at their grandparents for 24 hours--during which we realized that the St. Louis Art Museum is NOT open on Mondays.  We were trying to be cultured, but it’s like the universe WANTED us to find that cool whiskey bar, which happens to be located one block away from the best cupcake bakery EVER.  There was the obligatory viewing of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and then the day that Mike decided to walk us to Illinois (via the Eads bridge) in the spirit of “adventure”.  Beautiful, but disorienting.  Mike thought it might also be a good day to go up in the Arch (like EVERY other person in the St. Louis area), and so we ended up just screwing around down by the river.  Like every good adventure, there was a bit of attitude adjustment over the amount of walking involved, and once that passed we decided to check out the renovated Central Library.  For me, the design  and the huge book quotes on the ceiling were infinitely inspiring; the kids were more capitvated by the lounge chairs/padded jungle gym in the kids section.  To each their own.  We left the library only to realize that one of my beloved off-spring left our van door WIDE open, with my purse in plain view, in downtown St. Louis.  I never have any cash, but my credit card, and the credit card that we cancelled last week on speculation of fraud were still in their rightful place in my wallet (along with 583 random receipts and punch cards for free pretzels)--which just goes to show you that sometimes adventures can restore your faith in humanity.

By then it was lunchtime, and Mike had an idea to eat a meal at a nightclub.  No joke.  He read some review on Yelp, and then we pulled up and it was CLEARLY, a nightclub that happens to serve food.  I was skeptical, but we were pushing a mutiny after all the walking, so I didn’t object.  Plus, they had a kids menu with mac and cheese, so clearly this wasn’t their first rodeo with families who wandered beyond their comfort zone in the city.  

Holy Crap.

The food was amazing.  Short rib nachos and huge bowls of homemade (organic) mac and cheese for the kids.  Sometimes you go on an adventure, and you accidentally realize that this organic food craze can be delicious.  If you are in downtown St. Louis, you should go to Plush.  Your kids will think the furry boas on the walls are “fancy”.

After lunch, we met friends at the train station, and they got wind that the NCAA basketball tourney was in town (I vaguely remember hearing this) and that practices were open to the public.  So we headed one block over, walked into the arena and caught 10 minutes of Kansas’ open practice.  Because that’s just the kind of day it was.

We went hiking an hour and a half outside of St. Louis on Friday, and in an attempt to enjoy the last of the 70 degree weather, we decided to toss around the ol’ lacross ball in the backyard that evening.  You see where this is going, a freaking hard, dense ball deflected off of my lacross stick and straight into my face.  Or more specifically, my sunglasses, which then left cuts and imprints on my face.  In an ironic twist, there was pain at the slightest twitch of my nose, but NO bruising.  And what’s the point of taking a ball to the face if you can’t milk it for a little sympathy, really.  

That was our Spring Break ‘14--remembering that adventure is sometimes a matter of perspective and attitude.





Friday, March 14, 2014

What love would look like, if it was made out of cardboard.

After that whole “mommy-blogging” debacle, and that post in which I brought you up to speed on my inner-most demons, some of you might have thought I was taking an extended leave of absence.  I should probably put that rumor to rest.  I’m still here, mostly because I’m a real a-hole if I’m not writing--I become very self-absorbed in my own teeny-tiny little picture of struggle and injustice, and geez do I HATE that.  

No, life goes on, and I’m dealing with it--thanks in part to a lot of you who have commented, or emailed me, or offered me some kind of encouragement.  That sh#! is life-giving, friends.  Don’t stop.  Do it for the people you see everyday, your neighbors, your kids--people, in general, fear being insignificant.  Notice what’s going on around you.  Listen when others talk.  Truth and encouragement are often the pieces that we miss when we stew in our own hurt feelings.  This is a longer post for next week; something I’m still chewing on.

For now, I’m going to tell you the other tale of what’s been happening in our lives for the past couple of weeks-- and like all great tales, it starts with a bottle of wine and delusions of gradeur.  We all know that there are only so many hours in the day with which to solve the worlds problems, so I had to prioritize.

And by prioritize, I mean that I had to build a five-foot tall chair out of cardboard.

Oh Mike, relax.  Yes, you *technically* built the chair.  But I drank the wine, and searched Google for hours and basically willed it into existence with my MIND.  And also threw a small fit about how your love corresponds to your willingness to build absurd crap out of cardboard, when you were talking about being a “simpler” character.  Contrary to the popular saying, Love DOES NOT mean never having to say you’re sorry; it means building furniture out of old boxes after your wife goes on a Chardonnay bender.

 So, last week was Trivia Night, to benefit the kids school.  If you’re not from St. Louis, you should know that this is a “thing” here.  Toasted ravioli, and actually telling jokes for candy on Halloween (this is a VERY time consuming tradition), and Trivia Nights.  Trivia Nights with THEMES.

I once donned a graduation cap and a tie as part of a Harry Potter table, and up until last week, this was the extent of my participation.  But then last year, we went to Trivia Night, and after a bottle (or two) of wine, I decided we were gonna rock the dress-up prize in 2014.  I was probably running low on ridiculous things to fixate on--it’s sort of like a blood-sugar problem with me.  

Well, a year passed.  And about a month before Trivia Night, we decided to “meet” about our theme.  I’m not gonna lie, some of the urgency wore off about 10 months prior, but we decided we were gonna “do this thing”.  

Theme:  Television Shows of the ‘70s and ‘80s.  

Theres A LOT of good material to work with here, but a good theme has to be...unique.  Totally recognizable, but quirky.

Clearly, this meant Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  

Any of you ever watch that show?  I did, although not enough to remember how freaking STRANGE it is.  Do yourself a favor and search YouTube for the Christmas special.  Watch the intro/opening song.  Yes, Oprah Winfrey (and Little Richard and Grace Jones) appeared in that episode, it actually happened.  These days, that would be the premise for a South Park skit.  

My point is that a bottle of wine is enough to convince anyone that this is a good idea.  Construct a pterradactyl costume?  No biggie!  

Mike was originally slated to be “Cowboy Curtis”, the character brought to life in cow chaps and purple shirts, by the incomparable Lawrence Fishbourne.  However, Mike, who was an avid Pee Wee fan, was CONVINCED that someone needed to be Pee Wee’s best friend, the gigantic talking chair that was, no doubt, a figure of Pee Wee’s imagination while on acid.  I was on board with the chair, but more specifically, with the kind of zeal that gets you into large-scale, impossible projects on a seven-day deadline.  

I set to work on sewing a flying dinosaur out of a green hoodie; Mike went dumpster diving for large cardboard boxes at appliance stores.  Twenty hours and a lot of rolls of duct tape later, we had ourselves a gigantic, WEARABLE, cardboard chair.

The plan was always to upholster it--you know, cover it with batting and blue velour fabric.  The plan was also going to cost $300 and a knowledge of upholstering, so it was quickly scrapped in favor of the more economical option, wall paint.  You know, decking yourself out for trivia night is always a PHENOMENAL idea, until you: 1.) have to build a chair,  2.) have to paint the chair, 3.) have to harness yourself in the chair,  4.) have to walk into a crowded room of people dressed as the chair, 5.) are sober.    For size reference, “Chairy” barely fit in my minivan, with the back seat lying completely flat--it almost required a flat-bed trailer.


This was a labor of love, all the painting and the creating of teeth and eyelashes out of felt.  I was so proud of putting so much f--ing effort into something so terrifying, that I actually forgot how much I hate attention.  Particularly, the kind of attention that happens when the giant chair won’t fit through any normal sized doors, and his accompanying pterrydactyl is constantly being knocked around by it’s enormously wide and protruding seat.

But I like to put it in perspective this way; my husband was recently acknowledged for being an entreprenuer and building a commercial real estate firm.  He successfully thinks outside of the box and takes risks.  The equivalent of that, in terms of my sphere of influence and the PTO, is winning the damn costume contest at trivia night.  We all have our measures of success and competence, right?

Thankfully, the rest of our table showed up in chaps and
turbans and full-green face paint, so the humiliation was equally distributed, and seemed to make some kind of sense, in this context.  And then the wine was open, and at some point there was a Gumby-Chairy dance off which was equal parts amazing and horrifying--but also something that you just don’t see everyday.

We didn’t take the prize--but we were the only Pee Wee’s Playhouse table, and certainly the only ones to include a costume that took up 739 square feet of space, so in my mind, we are WINNERS.  

Which is a very loosely defined term, as proven by Charlie Sheen.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

A family of six walks into an arcade...

Gambling goes against my genetic code.  I have gone to the casinos here in St. Louis two times, and each time, they left me with a lot of internal turmoil over ways that my money would have been better spent--a new pair of shoes, 15 pitchers of beer, or whatever self absorbed thing it was I spent money on before I had children.  It was the same way when I was a kid, making my way in Hawaii’s “Fun Factory”; and contrary to it’s name, the arcade was never fun, but always a stressful (and unsuccessful) attempt to reconcile my hopes and dreams with a dumb stuffed animal that was missing an eye.  Who am I kidding, I never had enough tickets for a stuffed animal--I probably walked away with stickers. Or plastic lips.

You learn these lessons, about the tiny (tiny) probability of God pouring out his favor in an impossible arcade game; and then you take your kids to the Incredible Pizza Company, 25 years later, and it induces Vietnam-style flashbacks, of coming up 894 tickets short at the prize counter.

That could be the title of my memoirs--”894 Tickets Short at the Prize Counter”.  

We generally avoid gigantic, overpriced arcades, except in the case of end-of-the-season basketball celebrations, as was the case on Saturday afternoon.  The nice thing is that these places now toss in an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet with the cost of crushing your hopes and dreams--so there is the opportunity to recoop your losses with the equivalent of 63 cheap pizzas.  Unless you are cutting carbs, in which case, beware of what happens to the human body when you try to eat $100 worth of iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing.

Of course, it’s near impossible to get the kids to eat their money’s worth, because they are instantly brainwashed by the big, blinking machines and the deformed stuffed animal prizes--which means they eat exactly $.32 worth of cheap pizza.  

#losing

Except if you are the Incredible Pizza Company, then you are #winning.

#maniacallaugh

The entrance fee also came with $5 loaded onto a game card, which is convenient in setting limits, right from the start.  Several of my children brought their wallets, or shoved random $20 bills in their pockets--which just PROVES to me that they do not yet know the value of money, or else they would hoard it like “the precious” ring that is destroying Middle Earth, or whatever.  I don’t really “do” the Hobbit, so I don’t completely understand this metaphor, but I am fairly certain that Frodo would never (ever) consider cashing in that ring for a small plastic duck dressed like a pirate.

After that business with the pizza was out of the way, we moved into the “arcade”--and it is here that the true personalities of my children were revealed.  Particularly in Little J, who is willing to throw all the money in the world at the big, flashing monstrosities that promise iPads if you can thread a key into a tiny hole with three pushes of an up/down button.  


“How much does this cost?” I asked, because there is no way something with this many lightbulbs costs less than the innocence of childhood.

“$2.00!  Sto--”

Too late, he was 2.4 miles left of the iPad keyhole.

I tried to persuade him toward ANY game that cost $.50--but Little J will have none of those stupid, whack-a-mole type contraptions that offer a two-ticket payout.  Nope.  He wants the giant wheel that will shower him with 10,000 tickets.  It’s really tough to explain how these things are proverbial unicorns--because kids who still believe in Santa and Skylanders are slow to recognize the figments of their imaginations.

But can we talk about how I will forever worry about what happens when Little J discovers Las Vegas.  Or women in string bikinis.  Because this kid is gonna have a weakness for big, flashy things.  I don’t worry about this so much with my oldest, who paces the arcade three times, trying to figure out which game is “worth” it.  Answer:  NONE of them.



Enter the moment when I actually watched a parent lose his freaking mind--playing the game, you know the one, where you have to guide the crane claw and pick up the gigantic bouncy ball.  Having failed at winning an iPad or 10,000 free tickets, Little J narrowed in on this one REAL QUICK.  Rule of thumb with a future gambling addict:  If it isn’t an iPad, then look for the BIGGEST, CHEAPEST, most impossible prize.  That costs $3.

#THREEDOLLARS

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play the game, because there was a dad fighting desperately for his soul at that very machine.  By the looks of the two toddlers licking the machine near his knees, and the one ball already in their possession--I’d say he was in the tough spot of having to spend $542 (and his sanity) to win ball #2.  We watched him attempt this three times (#NINEDOLLARS!), and every time, the claw would grab the ball and proceed to move it to the dispenser...only to have it eventually slip through its weak, metal grasp.  There were a few curse words uttered, and another $3 spent--but we all know that this ended in a deep and abiding rage, a kid throwing a temper tantrum, and the start of an inferiority complex that can be traced back to a toy made of toxic plastic in a Chinese factory.  

For us, this entire excursion ended uneventfully; I guided Little J away from the machine that would surely cost us thousands of dollars in counseling, and toward the skee-ball machines, where he proceeded to throw balls with wild abandon.  We took our game card to the prize center and that’s where I realized that “prizes” haven’t changed much since I was a kid, probably because NO ONE HAS EVER WON THEM.  In any case, Care Bears have not been *super* relevant since 1986, but there is something about that 4,500 ticket price tag that makes my kids want rainbow bear/storm cloud bear/ double heart bear with every fiber of their being.

#sigh



In the end, I think we spent $60 and walked away with a suction cup ninja star, a tiny plastic dog, a parachute guy and a spider ring.  Sounds about right, that first lesson in not being able to afford that gigantic box of nerds that will eventually end up in every floor vent in our house.

This, my friends, is the paradox of parenting and unconditional love.