Gutter Language: Going Off the Rails

   Photo: Andrew Riggs/The Collegian/Cal State University – Fresno

Yesterday we signed our six year old son back up for Saturday league bowling.  Last year he was in the “Bumpers” league, but this year he has moved up.  Translation:  He will not be bowling with bumper rails anymore.  He loved it last year, but after his first day this year?  Meh!  Not so much.

Here’s why.  He rolled a lot of gutter balls.   At six, when the bowling ball weighs about 1/6 of your skinny body’s weight, it is kind of hard to muster up the strength to get the ball rolling fast, stay centered, and annihilate the pins at the end without the aid of some bumper rails to help you along the way.  Several times the ball rolled so S-L-O-W-L-Y, it came to a complete STOP just shy of reaching the end of the alley.

So my little munchkin did what any child who is embarrassed would do:   He deliberately rolled another ball in the gutter to push the stalled ball out of the way.  It too stopped.  As did the third one.  Help was summoned.   Yes my child was the recipient of attention when the cavalry was called in to relieve him.  The attendant at the desk carefully made his way down in league-sanctioned shoes, as not to damage the floor, and with a whisper of a push, drove all three balls to their rightful destiny.

Remember when you were a little kid, if you were fortunate enough to have a bunk bed, your parents wouldn’t dream of letting you stay on the top bunk without rails to keep you secure.  Never mind the fact that they felt totally safe letting you sleep the two or three feet off the ground without benefit of rails previously.  Falling six feet onto a barrage of plastic toys beneath is just too dangerous. 

As a little kid you are taught to hold the rails on everything!  Staircases, escalators, you name it!  Somewhere around age five, you realize rails are more fun to hang on, climb on, and weave in and out of when standing in boring long lines.  Their original purpose to keep you safe becomes obscured as you grow and learn to either ignore them, or hang all over them as if they were jungle gym equipment.

Since everything is a metaphor in the mind of Liz Logic, I quickly made the connection yesterday how bowling resembles life.  Profound, no?

We spend our days trying to knock down the pins and get the highest score.  That is to say, we are driven to reach our goals, walk the straight and narrow, or preferably run (for the ultra-ambitious) the (rat) race with endurance, and “get ‘er done”.  Don’t deviate from the path.

Don’t go off the rails!

     Everybody knows someone completely off the rails .  As soon as you read that, you are thinking of someone fairly cuckoo, maybe kind of crazy.  They probably were attracted to seeing what’s on the other side of the rails, or made some choices that took them to the gutter of life like a magnet drawn to steel.

Yes, when we live life without benefit of rails, if you are prone to temptation, you might wind up in the gutter.  That being said, if you are curious, and prone to innovation, then maybe you should risk walking just past the gutter, into the other lane and see what answers or fortunes await you.

Taking risks, asking why, and thinking in terms of “I wonder what would happen if I….” are the dominant thoughts of great scientists, inventors, artists, and technology creators!

Life is full of danger both externally in the world around us, and especially internally by the choices we freely make.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, you become aware the rails are slowly lowering, until one day they are level with the ground.  Soon it’s up to you baby!

  • Sink or swim.
  • Straighten up and fly right.
  • Color inside the lines.
  • Walk the straight and narrow or else!

A little caveat here—this same son who has experienced the embarrassment of a stalled bowling ball (several of them, several times actually!) is also the same child who once when playing skee ball threw the ball so badly, it not only deviated from the walls of his lane, but actually skipped over into the neighboring lane, rolled up the hill, and landed in the 40-point bin.  Score!  Even if it’s for the other team!

What can I say?  That’s my boy!  I love him.  I’m proud of him—even when he veers toward the gutter or jumps the track entirely.

Here’s to you and the choices you make today.  Enjoy life, aim true, and navigate safely when the rails are lowered!

Post script to story:  So I’m surfing Facebook today (8/19/12) and I run across this lovely gem of a pic.  Since I also have a daughter who dances, I had to put this in here.   Stay UNIQUE!

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Back In the Day: Life in the Twenty Fish Century

The Great One and Various Other Actors

My six year old son always keeps us in stitches!   Tonight it was announced during our family dinner of Stouffer’s lasagna, sweet corn on the cob, and sliced home baked pumpkin vanilla chip bread* (not made by me) that following supper there would be a performance play of epic proportions to be performed by:

The one, the only—–The Great One!   Our little six year old!

 He dictated to us the start time (ASAP) and length of our required attendance (one hour)!   So no TV tonight!

It was past 9 pm.  Most children are long asleep.  I’d already received six phone calls full of details that had made my head spin during the preparation of dinner.  My husband and adult children came in intermittently as they all got off work.  My mom came over.  My needy cats needed food and medicine.   So I was already a wee bit tired when my theatre star son announced the required play we would all be attending.    I really wasn’t in the mood for another play choreographed, produced, and acted by the same person who starred in last night’s play.

Alas, the emperor had spoken and my wishes were simply that—wishes.   Dinner was to be wolfed as quickly as possible so we could all see the amazing and fantastic play.  Oh, and audience participation would be required.

I got the dishwasher loaded.  I got off a long-distance call from my dad whom I hadn’t spoken to in months.  I took Tylenol for the migraine that was returning from the night before.

I sat down and tried to dig deep into my exhausted body and muster up some enthusiasm.  I was sitting beside my mom.  My husband was in a chair beside her with our cat’s Elizabethan collar upside down on his head.  This collar prescribed by our vet is used to keep animals from licking injuries, but my husband calls it “The Collar of Shame” from a movie I clearly never saw.  His lampshade-attachment like choice of accessorizing made him appear to be a rickshaw driver.  Do not ask me why he was wearing the cat’s collar.  I have learned in my world it is better not to question some things.  My six- and-a-half foot tall adult son stood beside me near the door in case he needed to make a hasty exit.  My daughter was given a pass by my six year old since there was no more room for people or pets to sit or stand in our sunroom that doubles as a Toys-R-Us, when it’s not being used for off-Broadway plays.

The house lights were darkened.  The conductor (my son) flipped a switch and the programmed organ began to play a classical rendition of Deck the Halls sung by tonight’s soloist (my son). Then the star of the show (also my son) made a compelling announcement to the audience!

Welcome Everyone!  This Play is About:   

Back in The Day of the Twenty Fish Century!!!!!!

Dun Dunna Duh Duh he trumpeted!!

Well okay then!  Maybe this play won’t be so bad after all.  I’d love to hear about life in the TWENTY FISH century.  I wonder if it’s better than the twenty-one-ways-of-communication century I’m living in every day!    I figured I was about to be entertained by a riveting story similar to the times our Lord and Saviour lived in.    A story where people baked bread with yeast, and made loaves that fed multitudes.  A place where the roads were made of dirt and only the prosperous or the greedy had sandals or donkeys anyway.  A story where fish really had a starring role and where fishermen fished for real men AND fish.  Regrettably, I was about to be disappointed.

Where’s the concession stand I wanted to know!  I would like a Moonpie and an RC Cola please!!

Ain’t happening.  Take your seat I was informed!  My tall grown up son was roughed up a little bit and tapped on the back with an umbrella hook by security (my son) for attempting to leave in the middle of the play, which sort of (okay—a lot)  was lacking in plot, character development, and believability.    It didn’t matter.  This displeased the emperor (my son) and so security (also my son) was called in for non-compliant patrons.

The rest of the obedient audience, that is my mom, husband, and myself, continued to endure the show:  a mixture of a laser light show (a light from a broken electronic slinky), a frightening song about ghosts being on the ceiling and inside of our head which was penned and performed for the first time ever, on the spot, by the singer (my son).  Then we were treated to a stirring rendition of Für Elise set to a backdrop of an electronic metronome.

Occasionally the actor in his limited reading ability did seek help from his grandmother to help him read the verbal script that she had helped him prepare prior to the show.  He stumbled on one line, quickly gained composure, and then delivered this line perfectly:

     Okay, this is the part you are really going to freak out!

Again, however, the plot weakened.  I didn’t freak out, but I did look at my wrist praying a watch had somehow materialized.    That’s when the emcee (also my son) announced the play no longer had a set time to end.

That did it!  I revolted!  I turned on the lamp and thanked him for the amazing and exciting performance.  We were all affected beyond belief!  We would not forget this night ever.  We could not if we tried!     You see, we love the movie star who was in it.  Even though the entertainment can sometimes be sub-par, he really has a way of hooking the audience—literally!    Every star makes their share of box office flops; why should my child be the exception?  The point is this—it’s the passion and the intention of what he was trying to get across:

I love my family!  This is so much fun!  Thanks for coming to see ME in MY SHOW!  Creating this for you has been my supreme joy!  This audience rocks!

The truth is, we had lots of moments when we laughed.  There were indeed moments I thought I might cry.  There were boring parts and there were parts with music.  Not a lot different than when we shell out $11.95 at the theater to go see a movie on a Friday night after our tax refund finally arrives!  Okay, so the story was a bit lacking.  But you know?  You get what you pay for!

But spending quality time with a family you just might be too embarrassed to go out in public with anyway after a delicious dinner, in the presence of a rising star?  Well now, that’s priceless!

 

All Aboard The Care-of-Self!!

Having a two-year old is like having a blender that you don’t have the top for. — Jerry Seinfield

There’s a certain word my son just can’t seem to say.  All kids go through this phase when they are toddlers and learning to speak. Generally,  by fix or six, they have mastered the pronunciation of most words they know.    But one word, my son never bothers to correct, even though I have told him the correct way to say it, is:  CAROUSEL!

He has always insisted it’s called The Care-of –Self.   Which knowing him and his sweet personality, it fits.

When he was a baby, much to my sometimes horror, he would lovingly pat any woman who held him, in the chest—top, dead, center as it is known in mechanical terms.   As a toddler he called these lovely items:  Mashers.  I noticed from the time he could speak, whenever he didn’t know a word; he just gave an item a word that seemed to fit.

Certainly mashers fit the name of someone prone to his proclivity, as well as the aforementioned item being squashed by small hands.   I used to warn moms, grand moms, and even young teenage girls, if they were to pick him up, “If you’ve got them, he’ll get them!”  Thankfully, he’s outgrown this innocent toddler behavior—well hopefully until at least the late teen years.

I wish I remembered more of this early vocabulary he created.  At five, he first became aware that people die and ultimately are buried in cemeteries.   So whenever we’d pass a cemetery in the car, he’d say, “Look Mom, there’s a ghost hive!”  On Mother’s Day, he always wishes me “Happy Saint Mother’s Day!”

One of the funniest words I recall was about a time he had used the bathroom and unfortunately the toilet clogged and ran over.  “Mom!  HELP!”  I came running as fast as I could.  He was tearing up and said, “Help!!  There’s “toilet juice” all over the floor!   It’s disgusting!”   Indeed it was, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at his description.

Another time, even though he was already five, he pointed at a robin scampering across our yard.   Strange little creatures, you’re more likely to see them on the ground, then above your head.  But he saw it and pointed out, “Look mom, it’s a Robin Red Chest!”

Once at the playground, a child bolted down a plastic curvy slide so fast, that his hair stood totally on end!  My son noticed this scientific phenomenon and yelled out, “Mom, his hair ran out of gravity!

Only a few months ago, he observed an apartment close to our home that had burned down several months ago.  Construction crews had started stripping it down to the foundation, removing all of the burned siding, and clearing out the burned interior.   When we passed this apartment, he noticed the new crews working.  He pointed at it and said, “Now all the house needs is its skin on it.”

I wrote down a handful of these words over the years, but the majority of this creative-speak simply evaporated into the atmosphere and that makes me sad.

See he is growing up now.  The first trimester of childhood, that is the first six years, is already up.  How can this be?  He’s my mid-life baby whose sole responsibility is to keep me young, busy, and on my toes until my late fifties!

I have just one piece of advice to all you young, and young-at-heart wonderful mommies out there.  Somehow, somewhere, write down those cute little things your boy-wonder or little starlet says.  I know you already take a million digital pictures, but make sure you jot down somewhere those “first REAL words”.  You think you won’t forget this ever, and by next Tuesday you’ll have no idea what that cute thing was, only that they said “something” adorable.  Keep a notepad in your car, your diaper bag, or purse with attached pen so that you can capture it.  Even if you just shove all your little notes in a folder with your kids name on it, you’ll be glad later.

I know the days of early motherhood can be long.   The duties are harsh, your “to do” list borders on cruel and inhumane, your body is tired and worn out, and all your efforts are consumed with orchestrating nearly everything:

  • Coordinating play dates!
  • Providing top-notch educational experiences!
  •  Teaching little ones to tinkle and stinkle in a potty!
  •   Learning how to read words!
  •  Breaking up fights among siblings!
  • Planning three nutritious meals a day and snacks that are nibbled yet never entirely consumed!
  • Hourly diaper changes!
  •  Grocery and supply shopping!
  • Acres of dirty laundry and hours of cleaning that are never seen!

You spend your days navigating the disaster zone of spilled cheerios, leaking sippy cups, and a minefield of sharp, talking toys, as well as the brigade of ten thousand tiny pieces (kit toys).

Yes, I know!  You moms are at your most amazing, when you feel the least visible and the most vulnerable to losing the last shred of YOU!   Time moves simultaneously at the speed of light and slower than a snail’s pace.

Just remember this:

These sweet days will pass.  These little darlings will grow.  You will get through this!  And ultimately you will be begging your mind to remember one day those subtle moments when each of your sweet children said something precious or did something adorable.

The journey of motherhood is an arduous one.  You will learn a new language and skill set right along with your baby.  So whenever you can, however you can, find the ways to rest your body, and nourish your soul:

  • A call to a friend while sitting down, not tending to a child
  • Read a great book or magazine at nap time
  • A box of chocolates!  Calories don’t count if you’re near tears anyway.

As I hit submit on this post, I am praying this simple prayer:

“Lord, for any mom today that needs encouragement desperately, please let her know she is super amazing!   I don’t know who she is, but I know she’s giving with everything she’s got to her family.  Reward her faith and let her feel appreciated and loved.  Make sure she is blessed with the knowledge that she is a good mom and may she at least once today have the opportunity to board “The Care of Self”.

Don’t Sink the Boat Son!

     The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.
~Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

Today was a good day.  I got things the house picked up and took a break from writing.   I got out a bit and enjoyed my life with my six year old son.

We played two rounds of miniature golf.  He is a real free spirit and tends to slump his shoulders, swing while his feet are in motion, hold a club that would make any reasonable golfer cringe, and listens to instructions about as closely as I listen to foreign language translations while impatiently left on “ignore”, when calling customer service numbers.

Yet for all my attempts at teaching technique, he easily tied my score, simply by playing the way Frank Sinatra would have advised, “I did it MY WAY!”  That is to say, he dragged his club while swinging, tapped around each hole faster than Gregory Hines, and skipped from hole to hole with no regard to keeping score or winning.

Since he’s been born, I’ve always known he possesses that “something different” quality.  I keep trying to teach him, mold him, shape him, and above all instruct him to please follow directions!   I want him to do well in school!  I want him to pay attention!  I don’t want him to get picked on.  I don’t want him to be a teacher’s “pest”.   Basically, I want to spare him any trouble that comes from being a non-conformist.

But you know what?  I can’t.  I can demand, argue, and rationalize why it’s so great to follow directions and how it makes life easier, but it sort of falls on deaf ears.  It’s not that he is bad, or doesn’t want to follow directions; he just has such a strong sense of self—and a propensity to be distracted, because everything is interesting in his world!

When he hears the word no, that is his cue to no-gotiate!  When he gets in trouble, he may not hear you the first five or six times, but then he will turn on the charm to soften any anger after the fact.

He is our creative, and highly hilarious little bug-a-boo!  He is the one who clings to all of us,  from parents to siblings to grandparents.  He loves so deeply and so pure.  A talk show host would say he possesses “rugged individualism”.  Yes…all forty two pounds of it!

At one point, when he was haphazardly hitting the ball all over the place, I asked him for about the tenth time to please stop and LISTEN to my directions.  I want you to succeed in life!  You need to listen and follow directions.  I don’t want you to be like that boat over there; I don’t want you to sink!!    He just looked at me and kind of shrugged and skipped to the next hole.

Do you know what that little stinker did next?  He got a hole in one.  Yep!  For the rest of the day, Mom went into overdrive, competing against a six year old with a vengeance, determined  that if I could not beat him, I would at least join him in the “hole in one” club.  Many shots later, in our second game, I finally got mine!   Ah, sweet victory!

What is the lesson in all this?   The thing with free spirits is somehow things always seem to work out for them.    Sure, they have to accept basic responsibilities in life, but for kids who are determined to find their own way in sports, academics, and in life choices, I’m learning as a mom,  to take a breath, and bend like a willow, rather than stand tall and hard like the mighty oak.

The older I get, I’m learning to follow my own inner voice too.   I am setting speed records these days in giving up control and organization in order to follow my creative side that has been lying dormant for some time.  I’m learning to embrace my weird, wild, quirky, funny, sad, obsessive, angry, and faith-filled sides of my personality that makes me, ME!  No one pushes back harder than I do, when I feel misunderstood or that I don’t measure up in some area or another.  Why would I expect him to not feel the same way?

I think my son is seeing that.  He is learning the joy that comes now by living in the now, seeing where the day takes us, and finding the smallest things that make life joyful.   So color outside the lines, my baby.    Collect other people’s pistachio shells on our walks and give me these “clues” to take home.    Hit all the buttons in the elevator so we can see how each floor is different than the one before.    Bring me your stash of pigeon feathers despite the germs they may carry.

Be you and be happy.  Because your mom loves you always, exactly the way you are!