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Incense, (Peppermints) and Guns

12 Jul

Photo: Robby Mueller

You would have thought I was negotiating to form my own drug cartel, what with the references to automatic weapons, marijuana and LSD. Throw in the odd request to stop at Burger King to appease a serious case of munchies and it’s no wonder I was feeling a little like I’d been dropped into an Al Pacino movie.

The conversation up front was all about allowing incense burning in our house. I graduated from high school in 1976. As I told my son, “I know about incense! First it’s incense and then it’s marijuana and pretty soon you’re a has-been rock star chatting about your dysfunctional family with Dr. Drew.” Ok, maybe I didn’t really say that, but only because I was interrupted by my daughter, who wants a gun.

I was prepared for the conversation with my son. I’ve lived through decades of don’t-do-drugs messages. It started with my mom saying, “Don’t do drugs,” rolled through “this is your fried egg on drugs,” then it was “Just say ‘no’ ” and I’m now firmly established in “Parents: the anti-drug” territory. As an anti-drug, I am supposed to be a powerful force in preventing my son’s appearance on Celebrity Rehab.

I am finding, though, that the anti-drug, like all things good for you, is best taken in small doses. So, the drug talk is a hit and run operation. I wait for an opening, drop in a “don’t do drugs because blah, blah, blah” and move off the topic. I have a short list of reasons for not doing drugs and I rotate them. One day I might use, “Drugs are illegal and you’d be eaten alive in jail.” Another day it might be, “Drugs impair your judgment. Just look at what the hippies wore!” Frequently, it’s “If you die stupid, I won’t go to your funeral and I’ll cry forever.” This one is particularly useful when a celebrity dies stupid.*

The incense issue came to the fore over a video game tournament my son has planned. My son isn’t big on organizing events, so when he decided an all day Zelda marathon was the way to while away the summer, I was onboard. Bewildered, but on board. Each of his friends was assigned an iteration of The Legend of Zelda that he would play through while the others watched. One friend wants to burn incense to “help him concentrate.” I try not to judge, but as the anti-drug, I am highly attuned to disturbances in my son’s force field. This friend is also enamored of the Beatles’ Maharishi Whatshisname period and wants a sitar.

So, it was easy to just say “No” to the incense. The Zelda marathon will go on, but there won’t be anything other than Axe body spray hindering my pot-detecting senses.

That brings us to the gun.

There are certain conversations you expect to have when a daughter comes into your world. There’s the one about how it isn’t nice to chase the boys and kiss them when they don’t want to be kissed. There’s the one about strangers with puppies. A little later, there’s the one about bra-lettes. And a little later than that, there’s the one about, you know, THAT.

I never expected to have a conversation about guns with my daughter. I know, shame on my feminist self.

Seems all the girls have guns now. Nerf guns, that is. But my daughter won’t be content with the little manually powered pump action gun. See, my daughter aspires to be a ninja like the ones in those bad Asian action movies. She’s already well on her way. Combining her gymnastics training with a friend’s Nerf gun, she’s turned target practice into something out of The Matrix.

She’s very good, she assures me, at performing a cartwheel, friend’s Nerf gun in hand. On landing, she executes a perfect bull’s eye into the target. The pump-action model is holding her back, though. “I have to stop and pump it up to shoot again,” she complained. The ideal gun, she assures me, will allow her to execute cartwheel after cartwheel, shooting all the while.

Her dream gun is the NERF™ Dart Tag Swarmfire Blaster. It has “a full-auto 20-dart attack! . . . and a rotating barrel for rapid blasting and a removable stock for high-mobility attacks!” Obviously, the euphemistically named “Blaster” also comes with lots of exclamation marks.

This cartwheel/weapon maneuver could well prepare her for a career in the military.

Here’s the fly in my daughter’s machine gun ointment, though. It will be a cold day in hell when I buy her a gun of any kind. And it will be a colder day when I let her sign on for a tour of duty. It’s not just the getting killed in action—or inaction—that scares me. It’s the fact that she’s more likely to be raped by her comrades than killed by any foreign enemy. Just for the record, I took the same stance with my son. No guns; no military duty.

Anticipating outrage from several quarters, I do not in any way believe that military service is not honorable. My dad and brother served and my niece is in the Navy. I realize, too, that my kids could die any day by just about any means. Still, I’m not out there pushing them in front of buses just to tempt the fates.

So, there will be no guns and no incense. Peppermints might be nice, though.

* Dying stupid includes: suicide with or without weapons, accidental overdose, accidental overdose involving either of the Olsen twins, aspirating vomit, driving cars into solid objects, stepping in front of buses, getting involved with drug addicts and being accidentally killed, allergic reaction to burning incense, choking on sandwiches, etc.

How to Drive Yourself Crazy This Summer

25 Jun

Enroll two kids in a few summer activities and let the good times roll. I’m not going to add up the mileage I’m putting on my little red Rav; it’s enough to tote up the cost of driving them. One more reason to look forward to the school year starting!

Here’s the link to this week’s column:

Why I’m Not Buying My Kid a Car

4 Jun

I was not given a car when I turned 16, when I graduated from high school or when I graduated from college. In fact, I have never been given a car. So, maybe it’s jealousy I feel when I see my son’s 16-yo friends getting cars–brand new ones!– but I think it might be something more sensible. Here’s my Monday newspaper column on the subject.

Did you have a car in high school? Who bought it? I used the family car until I bought my own.

Snoop Dogg Got Nothin’ On Me

30 Apr

I always thought it would be cool to be a spy and will admit to opening a few medicine cabinets in friends’ houses. Unfortunately, no one ever had anything like microchip plans or other valuables to sell. So, teaching and writing for me. Speaking of writing, here’s the link to my parenting column:

This week’s topic is covert operations in the familial sphere. In other words, spying on your kids.

Say you want some evolution?

2 Apr

I thought the idea of evolution was pretty much established as the way species work in our world. But, that’s not what I found when I looked into the subject. Here in the United States, you just can’t tell if your kids are getting the proper foundation in this foundational concept in modern science.

Here’s the link to my Naperville Patch column on the subject.

Match Dot Mom

8 Mar

I have reached a truly pathetic stage in my life. I have so little contact with adult females I like that I almost consider the mail carrier a friend. She’s about my age, she’s sassy, she remembers things about me that we talked about months ago and she makes me laugh. Friend, right? Forget the fact that I’ve never seen the entire lower half of her body. I don’t have time to see her outside of her little white truck anyway.

When we moved to Naperville, our primary motives were good schools and a population that wouldn’t make our daughter feel like the speckled chicken in a farmyard full of Rhode Island Whites. While Oak Park prides itself on its diversity, it’s a reputation earned years ago by fighting white flight. I realize that Naperville is one of the places white people from Oak Park flew to, but it’s since become a destination location for people from around the world.

Of course, I had concerns moving here. In particular, I was worried about my son. The entire first year we lived here, he had no friends. The next year, he had one friend. Finally, in year three, he found his tribe and he’s been Mr. Popularity If You Like Outrageous And Obscene Humor. And really, who doesn’t?

My daughter was only two or three but she didn’t miss a friend-making beat. Within a year, she had friends at preschool and friends on the block. Within two years, she’d solidified BFF status with the girl who lives across our backyard. Obviously, the child doesn’t live in the yard, but what do you call the people who live in the house that abuts your backyard?

I never even thought about my husband and friends. He made some friends about forty years ago and is content to never again go through the agony of finding new ones. He never sees them; he’s fine with that.

I, on the other hand, like friends. I had friends and family in Oak Park. (Ok, my sister technically lives in River Forest, but I think of River Forest as a subdivision of Oak Park.) My Oak Park friends and family worried about me making friends. I didn’t. I should have.

It’s not that Napervidlians aren’t friendly. I’ve found plenty of friendly people. It’s not that there aren’t PLUs (People Like Us) here. There are lots of people like us. The problem is that the place is so darn big that actually meeting friendly people who are like us is a job.

I tried church. It worked in Oak Park, so I figured it would work here. So I went to church. I joined the choir. At the first choir rehearsal, I sat next to a friendly alto my age. “Hm ,” I thought, “potential friend material.” She noted that I was reading a fantasy novel during break. She talked about her most recent visit to Comic Con, where she dressed as a particular Star Trek alien and snagged autographs from her favorite science fiction writers. She invited me to join her next time. I never went back. So, not only was I out a friend, I was out a church, too.

I tried the PTA. Think fundraisers and petty fiefdoms. Think poking sharp sticks in your eyes.

I finally made some really good friends when I went to grad school. It’s hard to spend two years with a group of people discussing educational philosophy and bitching about crappy professors without forming some really satisfying friendships. And, get this: we were the cool kids! I’ve never been a cool kid before. We were even the mean girls for a while. It was a gas!

Grad school came to an end and we’ve stayed in touch. Though I’ve failed to find a full-time teaching job, I did meet people I’ll consider friends for life. And it only cost $30,000! Now, if we could just get together more than once or twice a year.

For now, I’m pulling back from the friend hunt. My plate is pretty full anyway. When I’m ready, I could start really local. BFF’s mom is pretty cool and the awesomest neighbor ever. But I’m afraid it’s sort of like having a really good male friend. Take it to the next level and it could be great. Or you could lose a really good friend. I’m not ready to lose the awesomest neighbor ever.

Come summer, I might take a chance and have her over for a margarita in the gazebo. We’ll see. Until then, you’ll find me peeking through the curtains Monday through Saturday, on the lookout for a little white truck.

Screaming Kids Make Me Want To Scream

27 Feb

Here’s the link to my latest Naperville Patch article. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s about screaming children.What’s not to like?


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