Monthly Archives: October 2013

Call of the Canyon

This summer my family and I went on a 14-day Grand Canyon river trip. Not to be too cliched, but it really was the trip of a lifetime. Here’s the thing, though: “trip of a lifetime” could either mean the best experience of your life, or the worst. And that’s exactly how my daughter, Clementine, approached the whole idea of this trip.

As most of you probably know there is a lot of planning that goes into a river trip—even if you go on a commercial trip like we did (official shout out to AzRA: they are the BEST). This meant that even though our trip was in July we needed to start collecting the necessary gear for the trip months ahead of time. Which also meant that Clementine started to try her best to get out of going on the trip months ahead of time as well.

To give her credit, she was clever about it. She didn’t attempt to wear me down through whining (at long last THAT lesson has sunk in), but instead by casually mentioning, when I would least expect it, how much she really didn’t want to go on this trip, and how much better off I would be if instead I took someone who might actually enjoy it. She pointed out how much she dislikes camping, and hiking, and being away from her lap top and espresso. I, in turn, pointed out that the whole point of a family vacation is to spend it with your family. And so she went. Reluctantly, begrudgingly, and not too happily, but she went.

Now, in any other piece of writing I am sure this is the point where I would write about how the Canyon transformed Clementine: how she learned to fall in love with all the hard lines of rock and soft curls of sand, how the cascading notes of the Canyon Wren trickling down the Canyon walls every afternoon became her favorite sound in the whole world, and how at the end of the trip all she could do was speak wistfully about how she couldn’t wait to come back. In any other piece of writing, maybe, but in this one I’m going to write about how happy she was to see the bus that was waiting to pick us up at the take out, and how, as that bus finally began the long ascent that would take us up to Peach Springs, and then home, Clementine stood in the back of that bus and flipped off the Grand Canyon.

With both hands.

Not the most storybook of endings. Although, as far as break ups go, it was pretty epic. And, yeah, even after we got home and she had the chance to shower two weeks’ worth of Colorado River mud out of her hair, they’re still broken up. Which, actually, is okay with me. Sure, it would have been nice if Clementine had fallen in love with the Canyon, but that was never one of my requirements of her for our trip. In fact, the only requirement I ever had was that she not spew her hatred and misery on the other people on our trip, (both the guides and the other passengers), and she met this requirement admirably. She was pleasant, she was helpful, and, on occasion, she was an absolute joy. But she didn’t change her mind about not liking camping, or hiking, or being away from the internet.

She did, however, jump off a few waterfalls, learn the words to a few new songs, and find out that while it may not be optimal, it is possible to step out of your comfort zone every now and again without dire consequences. And while she probably won’t ever admit it, I think she still ended up kind of liking the Canyon.

Just a little bit.

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The other morning I received a somewhat unusual text from my son, Clyde. It was unusual both for the time of day I received it (ten o’clock in the morning, right in the middle of second period) and for the subject matter: it was a dirty joke. Well, a moderately dirty joke. It was that old chestnut whose opening line is “She has acute angina,” followed by a vaguely dirty punchline. It’s a pretty old joke, but still: at least I understood it, which isn’t something that usually occurs when Clyde tells me a joke. (This may have something to do with the fact that Clyde spends the majority of his free time reading and talking about Japanese anime, and I don’t.) And so that is why, in an effort to encourage a non-anime type pursuit, I responded in what seemed like the only responsible, supportive way possible: I sent him another dirty joke back in response, this one equally well worn, but with a punch line of “It must be your feet, then.” It was only a few moments before I got another joke back, and that’s when I started to feel uneasy. I didn’t know Clyde even knew how to spell “Consuelo.”

Suddenly I remembered that we had just gotten Clyde a new phone, and that, for some reason, all of the information from both his and my husband’s phone had become blended. Same calendars, same music—same texts. I quickly fired off a text asking who, exactly, I was texting, and sure enough, got back the reply I was dreading: it was my husband.

Now, most people would be relieved to find out that they had been exchanging somewhat salacious texts with their spouse, as opposed to their 12 year old son. And I was (except for the fact that I find bad jokes easier to forgive in a 12 year old than a 46 year old). The problem, however, was that, because of the phones’ freaky mind meld thingy, Clyde would not have received my husband’s opening text—all he would have received from me was a random dirty joke. In the middle of his second period class.

It wasn’t the worst joke in existence—it was certainly no “Aristocrats.” But still, I’m sure when he heard the “ping!” and glanced down to see that he had gotten a text from “Mom” this was not exactly what he might have been expecting. At least I hope it wasn’t the text he had been expecting. In fact, he probably hadn’t been expecting any kind of a text at all. Which means that the notifying “ping!” was probably at full volume. Which, in the silence that can occur in your average seventh grade classroom (despite the student’ best efforts to prevent it), can be pretty damn loud. Loud enough to get caught, at least.

And then, as I started to squirm uncomfortably at the thought, an even worse thought came and settled in the pit of my stomach: what if not only had I just sent Clyde some random dirty joke text, but I had also gotten him in trouble for it? What if he had been caught getting a text in class, and had his phone taken away, and the teacher glanced down to see who was texting him and…

I thought about sending him another text saying “disregard former text,” but what if that was the text that got his attention, encouraging him to scroll back through his texts until he found the one I was trying to get him to “disregard”? And then got him caught.

Yeah, there’s no doubt about it: this year is shaping up to have the most uncomfortable parent teacher conferences ever. And, for me, that’s really saying something.

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I once saw an outtake from Jaws where all of the actors in a particular scene showed up with a cigarette between their lips in order to make fun of Roy Scheider for smoking through practically every scene that didn’t involve being underwater. (And, on an aside, how many people remember when actors in movies smoked for some reason other than to show that they were morally bankrupt? Of course, in those days everyone smoked—I remember my pediatrician smoking while giving me a physical. Hey, I’m not saying that it was better back then—just different.) Anyway, back to Jaws: this “smoke attack” was, I believe, an effort to get Roy to tone down his obsessive smoking. Just a bit. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if it worked or not, but still: I certainly remembered it a few years ago when my daughter, Clementine, first discovered the joys of swearing.

It’s not that I have anything against swearing—I appreciate a thoughtful, uniquely offensive collection of epithets as much as the next sailor—but when it came to Clementine and swearing she was, unfortunately, a one-trick (or rather one-word) pony. And what was worse was that she wasn’t even using that one word correctly. I mean, I know that this magnificent word is probably the most versatile swear world in all the wide world of swearing, but even so it isn’t that flexible. Still, the fact that it was clearly her “go to” swear word made it that much easier for us when we finally had enough of it and decided it was time to “out Scheider” her.

“What kind of !@#$ cereal do you !@#$ want for your !@#$ breakfast?” I asked her one morning when she came into the kitchen. “!@#$ or !@#$?”

She blinked at me sleepily. “What?”

“Are you !@# deaf? Your !@#$ mother just asked you what you what you !@#$ wanted for your !@# breakfast. !@#$,” her father said.

That woke her up. “I don’t !@#$ know. I just !@#$ got up. Give me a minute. !@#$.”

I sighed. Well at least it was a start. And, in fact, the intervention eventually did work. Eventually. Although it took more “Scheidering” on our parts than I was actually comfortable delivering, and that’s saying something. But, yeah, by continually outdoing her on the swearing front we took away the shock value of it, which, if I remember correctly, was half the fun of swearing as a teenager. And now that she is seventeen I am happy to report that she swears almost like a normal person—well, normal for my house, anyway. Of course, that means that, just like clockwork, her little brother has taken up the swearing mantle instead.

When it comes to dealing with a younger sibling, some things are definitely easier. On one hand the younger sibling probably already has a good idea of the tactics that do not work. (For example, I learned from my older sister that holding the thermometer against a light bulb and then trying to claim a 107 degree fever was not the way to get to stay home from school.) On the other hand, however, they also learn what does work. And I’m afraid that, in Clyde’s case, he saw exactly how close we were to giving up on the whole “out swearing” tactic. In fact, I think he knows that, in this instance at least, he has a clear shot at winning.

It doesn’t help that—probably due to way too much online gaming—he has a slightly more extensive swearing vocabulary than Clementine did. Still, in the end it always seems to come back to that one word. Which means that, with a little perseverance, we still have a chance to win.

Thank !@#$.

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Fork Me

Well, it finally happened. We lost the fork.

This is not a euphemism. This is not like when you are trying to describe how things just went south in a relationship and you say “I don’t know what happened: one day we were so happy, and then, I dunno, somehow we just lost the fork.” No, when I say “we lost the fork,” that is exactly what I mean. We had one fork, and then we lost it. We are now, officially, the “House of Spoons.” Which is ironic, because last summer we lost all of our spoons and became known as the “House of Forks.” I guess that’s what happens when the after school snack of choice goes from being cereal to ramen.

Of course, that explains the “why” of forks vs. spoons. (Forks vs. Spoons. Best gang fight EVER. “When you’re a fork you’re a fork for the rest of your life…”) It doesn’t, however, explain the “how.” As in “How in the hell do these people manage to lose ALL of the silverware? And by “these people,” I mean, of course, my children.

Yes, I’m sure it’s my children. Why? I don’t know, maybe because before they came along I managed to live for years with the same set of silverware? In fact, I didn’t even realize that silverware was something you had to buy more than once in your life. I mean, it’s not like it ever wears out. It’s not like people eat their way through spoons. I have a set of silver that belonged to my great-great grandmother that will, conceivably, still be around for my great-great grandchildren to enjoy. Not a single item shows any sign of “lick fatigue.” (And no, those particular forks are not included in the household fork tally. In fact, I have made sure my children have no idea where that silverware is hidden. Some people might worry about their delinquent offspring selling the heirloom silver for drug money: I worry about them using it to eat take out.)

Speaking of which, I should probably order out more often, if for no other reason than to get the plastic silverware that comes with it. Because right now even a broken spork would get a place of honor at my house.

The thing about all of the lost forks is that I have absolutely no idea where they go. Lost phones, lost homework, lost bus passes—these I can picture easily enough, abandoned on busses and car roofs and bathrooms. And I have seen enough single gloves lying forlornly in the middle of the road to have no doubt where all of the lost gloves go. But forks? I have yet to see a lost fork in a bathroom (thank god), or a bus for that matter. I have seen a few lying in the road (and yeah, I always giggle at the sight of a “fork in the road”), but not nearly enough to make me think that losing them that way is even remotely common. (And no, I don’t know what “that way” entails: I have a hard time imagining a scenario that involves leaving your fork on the top of the car.)

I have tried, over the years, to enforce various “no food outside of the kitchen” rules, but real life always manages to get in the way. When it comes down to a choice between letting them carry their meals to different parts of the house (and beyond) and not eating at all, I tend to go with the former.

At least I do when there are plates and silverware to carry. Something tells me though that this is going to be the winter of eating with out fingers over the sink. And no: that’s not a euphemism either.

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