Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Never Mind. The Plague Continues

Jack has been sick for so long that I got a pissy call from the school today. The person on the other end of the line started by saying "I don't know if you have gotten the many voice mails I have left you but as of today your child has missed ten consecutive school days and if he is not in class today he will be withdrawn. Those are the rules. I have tried to warn you but you didn't return my voice mails."

Wow. It was 9:00 am and school started at 8:00. Jack was still sick yesterday but possibly recovering and I had decided that I would let him sleep until he woke up on his own and evaluate him then. I'm never totally comfortable waking up a sleeping child against their will. It doesn't feel like very long ago that I was nursing these kids and reading every book on the planet with a theory about how to make them sleep longer. The nursery was totally Feng Shui-ed, blackout curtains installed, white noise machine running, heartbeat/womb noise teddy bear blaring, dogs kenneled, door bell disabled, note taped to front door asking visitors to not ring or knock under any circumstance and if they needed me a text message was best but not a phone call because my ringer is turned off and if you don't know my cell phone number, I really don't want to come to the door for you because my guess is that you're selling something or we're really not that great of friends. knocking on my door right now will downgrade our friendship status from "not that great" to "dead to me". FedEx deliveries: leave it here and walk away silently. If you require a signature, please carefully forge the following signature on your slip. It's cool. You have my permission. I will not sue you. Unless you wake my baby up. Visiting Teachers: I know you're here to see if I need anything. You are so thoughtful and diligent and the best thing you can do for me is not even think about knocking on this door right now and it would be even better if you could just consider me visited for like 6-12 months. We both win. You're job is done and I don't have to straighten the house or risk a knock.

These days even when he is totally healthy I have to drag Jack out of bed against his will about fifty percent of the time but every single time I have to talk myself into it psyche myself out. Needless to say, if he is sick he doesn't get disturbed and strange rambling notes that offend ward members end up on my front door.

Back to the awesome phone call. No, wait. First let me tell you how I feel about voice mail. On my list of things that technology has done to make life much worse, Voice mail is right up there with Internet pornography, emoticons, and fatal car crashes caused by drivers who text and drive. I hate it. I hate that we are all expected to be available to everyone all the time. I can't stand listening to a 60 second message where the caller informs me that they called and rattles off their return phone number. I know they called. My phone tells me if I miss a call. It logs the time and date and it even stores the phone number. I have an app that will triangulate your exact location and display it for me on a satellite image. So I am not just aware that you called, I know you were at your kitchen table when you called and I can see that your winter grass still looks pretty good in the front yard but the back yard probably needs some fertilizer. I'm not using an old rotary dial phone with a curly cord and an answering machine that uses tapes. And these callers are most likely not at a pay phone at a gas station. Text messages are the way to go. I predict that in the not too distant future, phone calls will be considered rude except in times of emergency or really big news such as "You have cancer" or "I am gay" or "I am divorcing you". Those occasions totally warrant a real conversation. Actually those occasions warrant three separate real conversations because If I ever have one conversation that includes all three of those things this whole voice mail pet peeve will become pretty insignificant. But I will still hate voice mail and never ever check it. Ever.

The thing about having your kid miss ten consecutive days of school because of illness is that calling in the absence every day becomes pretty tedious. Last year Jack's school had an attendance number that was a dedicated line that was strictly voice mail. This is one of two very special cases where I prefer voice mail. Sure I hated listening to the outgoing message where the school goes on for like half an hour with detailed instructions about what it means to leave a message and what information is expected to be included in that message and then an explanation about how often that voice mail will be checked and then thanking us for reporting the absence and asking us to kindly disregard any voice mail messages we may receive today informing us of our kid's absence because there is a chance that the system will give us an automated call before this voice mail gets checked and the information gets entered into the computer. You don't need to call us and be all "I called and left a message that my kid is sick and then like twenty minutes later I got a message from the school saying that my kid was absent and if I don't call it will be unexcused." These things happen. Leave a message after the beep.

At which point I am basically having a seizure of irritation and wondering if there is anyone left on the planet that doesn't know the beep protocol and did they really need to take that long to explain something so freaking simple? Then as I anticipate the beep it doesn't come and the whole message starts repeating itself. In Spanish. If the message was hard to sit through in my native tongue it gets downright torturous in a foreign language and prompts me to spend the time calculating the real cost of illegal immigration. Then I am thinking about why in the world we don't secure the border. Or at least distribute leaflets to all of the border jumpers with some basic Spanish to English translations that will be required. Then we stop paying for things like signs that say "VOTE AQUI" at all of the polling locations on election days (as if they are being mobbed by registered voters who can't figure out the meaning of the word "HERE" even when it is in the context of being on a sign immediately after the word "VOTE" because they speak so little English.) Am I the only one who sees those signs and wonders how in the world someone like that got through the process of choosing a political party and thoughtfully examining the candidates and the ballot measures? I think we want the people who can't figure out that "HERE" means "AQUI" to get lost while searching for their voting precinct. I mean, even if they never decode "HERE", the word "VOTE" should be enough to get their attention. If we just did away entirely with the "HERE" and the "AQUI" and only printed and posted VOTE signs, everyone with any business participating in the American democratic process will figure it out. If there is anything I love, it is identifying and analyzing social filters. Like when you open a charter school and don't participate in the federal free lunch program which may seem irrelevant if you have no intention of ever having your kid apply for free lunches but which becomes very relevant when you realize that by requiring everyone to either buy a ridiculously expensive cafeteria lunch or put the effort into making and packing a sack lunch, you just eliminated poor families, lazy families, most of the Democrats, and all of the riff raff. And I can argue both sides of the public school vs. charter school debate all day long but when it comes right down to it I enrolled my kid at the charter school and if anyone asks why, three words sum it up: Free Lunch Filter.

Which brings me back to the damn phone call and why I long for an attendance voice mail line. When I have to call ten school days in a row and have a real conversation with a real person to inform them that my kid is sick again, I am totally unable to just say "absence due to illness." and let it go. I say things like "He is still throwing up and the fever just won't break." and then the polite person on the other line says something like "Poor thing. I hope he gets well soon." and then I say "You're telling me! This has been a nightmare. Everyone caught it and there is nothing quite as bad as being sick in bed and feeling like you might vomit at any second but then your kid vomits all over the couch and you scream for them to run for the toilet which makes them start running but they puke while they are running and end up literally spraying a thirty foot long path of vomit through the entire house and you wish you would have just had them finish puking on the leather couch where they started and then spend the next hour and a half on your hands and knees soaking up vomit which would be bad in the best of health but you get to do it while you yourself are super sick."

And then I immediately wish I could take that whole episode of unnecessary self disclosure back. Or that I didn't speak a word of English. "Jack es el sicko. Adios." Then the next day I rehearse the call to be sure I don't become that crazy mom that everyone dreads. "Jack is still sick." But then she'll say something like "We'll look forward to seeing him again." and I will say "Yeah, I look forward to you seeing him again too. He is bored out of his mind here but he's too sick to go anywhere and he feels like crap which makes him cranky and then he fights with his brother all freaking day long and I end up either lovingly spoon feeding him and rubbing his back or yelling at him and threatening to beat him like a bi-polar prison nurse." Then there is a bit of awkward silence and then I say "Habla Espaniol?" and hang up. Even on a good day I am compelled to mention that now a chest cough has started. or that he's becoming frighteningly dehydrated. I have some weird deep seated need to convince them that I'm not just keeping him home because I'm too lazy to pack his lunch or because I don't care about his education, He really really can't be there. In the first few days I was always making the case that I was doing them a favor because he was most likely contagious or that his coughing and vomiting is likely to distract the other students and disrupt the learning process. In the second week I was telling them how I'd happily send him in wearing a full Haz-Mat suit if I thought he could even sit in class for more than half an hour without collapsing. Eight school days into it I was pretty sure that they got the picture. On the ninth day I didn't call and I saw their missed call and I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they would figure out why he wasn't there. He's not ditching, we're not at Disneyland, we didn't run out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Capri-Suns, We didn't just sleep in and forget we had somewhere we were supposed to be. We have not been taken into custody by Immigration. Ditto on day nine. Which brings us to this morning when this broad is scolding me for not listening to her voice mails and calling in each and every day. I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I could get him there for at least half of the day he would be forcibly withdrawn.

I apologized profusely and promised that he'd be there. "What counts as an attendance? five minutes? five hours? give me the exact requirement." I was totally committed to bringing my kid in to solve this problem no matter what. The CDC be damned and the entire science of microbiology for that matter. He may need to be in the fetal position on the floor and you'll thank me later for recommending a really big vomit bowl be kept with him at all times. We will be there. We will disregard the spirit of the law at the peril of the entire class and we will fulfill the letter of the law and he will be there and will not have been absent ten consecutive days. Then when I drag him home I will know that the rules were followed. And that I just bought us nine and a half more absent school days. Heaven forbid we take ten. Missing ten days of school is just plain wrong. Nine and a half is totally acceptable. Everyone knows that. We are not getting kicked out of the charter school. We are the exact match to their target demographic and I own way too many of their stupid uniforms to even consider letting them kick us out. I'm sure she was completely confused when I started babbling about how we can totally afford their inflated hot lunch prices. Which she totally deserved.

Then I went upstairs to wake Jack up and force him to get dressed and he was unresponsive. So I pulled the covers off and put my hand on him. Fever. His lips were chapped, his cheeks were red, he was sleeping so deeply that my ice cold hands on his hot back didn't make him flinch. And that was the moment I got out my phone and told the charter school to take their enrollment and shove it.

Then I called the doctor and they got him right in. I loaded him up and drove him down there and learned they think he has pneumonia but possibly mono, valley fever or foot and mouth disease. WHaa? Each time I had to tell someone at the doctor's office that he had been sick for ten school days which is actually a lot more than ten actual days, I would realize how retarded I am for waiting this long. And then I would point out that I was just here last week with Abe and if you've seen one sick Kramer kid, you've seen 'em all, right? I'm an idiot. I can say "vote here" in  four, maybe five languages, but beyond that I am obviously not too bright. I probably shouldn't vote. They were definitely confused when they heard my strange rambling about the price tax payers pay to print twice as many signs than is necessary and the suggestion that we take all of those signs to the border and fashion a big long continuous fence out of them. Which they totally didn't deserve.

So now Jack is loaded up with prescriptions and he is technically unenrolled in school which is a bigger relief than anything else and until this kid is totally recovered I am keeping him here on the couch with me and a bowl and I will not even think about calling in absences or ridiculous threats of forced withdrawal when we all know that that school will gladly re-enroll him the very second we stroll in. There is like a week left in the school year and they're not turning down the cash that they get from the State. They are running a business and capitalism will do its job and inject some rationale into the situation. I'm not worried. And if that fails, I can totally blackmail them into re-enrolling him because I happen to know something about them that I am pretty sure they'd rather keep quiet. It has to do with free lunches and federal requirements. I prefer we not go there because if my precious free lunch filter is lost then we will lose interest in the place anyway, but don't think I won't leave threatening messages, because that is the only other very specific case in which I really prefer voice mail. When blackmailing and/or delivering threats.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Plague Has Passed

Every single member of this household has been so sick at some point this week that a visit to the Emergency Room was debated for each person. Now that we are all on the mend I realize that it was actually lucky that we were sick at the same time because we saved hundreds of dollars in copays just because no one with a driver's license could muster the strength it takes to sit in a waiting room.

Jack got hit the worst by far. he went about four days without eating and even then was able to produce large quantities of vomit. I can't even imagine where the chunks were made of and I considered saving a sample to have it analyzed in a lab but I was too busy cleaning puke off of every soft surface within a ten foot radius of where Jack was laying and dry heaving. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure our insurance doesn't cover lab work that serves no purpose beyond twisted curiosity. No wonder the Tylenol isn't bringing the fever down. If a hot dog from four days ago hasn't made its way into the bloodstream chewable grape-ish flavored fever reducers never had a chance. Then you get to decide if its safe to give another dose and find yourself combing through vomit for anything that could possibly have been grape-ish flavored. Welcome to one of those moments you never saw coming: the moment you honestly considered using chewable Tylenol as a suppository. On a person other than yourself.

Both of my kids and my husband have a thing for spiking high fevers. I've had enough experience with each of them to know that its not time to freak out until its over 105 degrees. Also, theres not much anyone can do about it beyond Tylenol and if you go into the hospital and demand answers the next thing you know they are asking you to sign papers allowing them to do a spinal tap even though everyone knows its just the flu. Then you turn down the spinal tap and say a prayer offering your next born child in exchange for the absence of meningitis.

John and I have a different opinion on when its time to involve doctors on an illness. I only want to go if I know for sure that they can do something for us that we couldn't do ourselves which basically means we need a prescription. The run-of-the-mill illnesses that pass through this house just need bed rest and 44 ounce Sonic slushes. I understand that even the most capable of physicians are not just trying to ease suffering but make a living and make payroll. No doctor likes looking a kid over and saying "It's a virus. It will pass. I recommend the lime slushes. We take cash or credit." Instead they always write a prescription for antibiotics in the off chance that its a bacterial infection and to make sure you don't feel ripped off and then you get sentenced to ten days of holding a kid down and pouring "bubble gum flavored" pink liquid down their throat. About six days later when your kid is totally healthy again and you come across the pink liquid in the fridge behind the pickles you wonder if the medicine made him get well or if he would have gotten well anyway. Then you have a pang of guilt that you didn't administer the whole ten day course and consider the possibility that you have unwittingly contributed to the creation of antibiotic resistant super bugs. So that co-pay you forked over and that two hours of your life you will not get back might have done more harm than good. To humanity.

A long time ago before we had kids John had a sickness that just seemed to go on and on and on. We were self employed and didn't have health insurance so I insisted that he not go to the doctor. a few more weeks passed and he still felt like he had a mild cold and he began to make his doctor request more often. I insisted that this was going to be a couple of hundred dollar endeavor for absolutely nothing. He kept insisting that he could tell it wasn't just a cold. He was sure that something was very wrong with him. He went to the doctor and returned triumphant with a solid diagnosis. He had Mono! Ha!

"See! I told you I was really sick! They did blood work and everything. Totally positive for Mono! I told you so!"

"And what can they do for you to make you feel better?"

"There's nothing you can do for Mono. You just have to wait it out."

"So we just paid a couple hundred bucks for nothing. I told you so."

Roughly ten years has passed since this conversation took place and we are both still unswayed.

Every time one of the kids gets even mildly sick John starts insisting that they get to a doctor. He has yet to volunteer to be the parent tasked with carrying this out. Then we exchange a well rehearsed dialog where I explain that doctors are just dudes who have jumped through a lot of hoops and paid a lot of money to a university. They are not healers, they do not have a crystal ball and they are generally not psychic. Then John delivers his lines about how he'd rather be safe than sorry and then we negotiate a compromise involving a strict timeline.

"If he is still coughing by 11:37 am I will call the doctor and see if they can get him in."

"I will see your 11:37 and raise you a visit straight to Urgent Care"

Even if he has caught the same illness and needs to be seen too and we (I) get an immediate appointment for both of them to be seen at the same time, I still have to attend the appointment. Which is a pain but it is way better than sitting home awaiting a full report and then having a conversation along these lines:

"What did he say? Did he make sure his ears aren't infected? Did they swab his throat? You remembered to mention the tonsillectomy from two years ago, right? Could he hear that kind of rattling sound when he breathes deeply? did you ask him about my grape flavored suppository idea?"

"Uhhh… I don't know. he gave me some prescriptions. I'm stopping my Sonic for a slush on my way home. Want anything?"

John and Jack both really like to be taken care of. I kind of suck at taking care of people. They both tend to milk illnesses for all of the pampering they can get. In fact, Thats how I know that they are really really sick. When they are feeling too ill to ask for things. I try really hard to nurture everyone through the sniffles and offer chicken soup and back rubs but I'm far more likely to send you to bed and tell you where the Kleenex is. The other day when John was feeling crappy he was getting dressed. We were both equal distance from the bin of clean socks. "Hun, will you get me some socks?"

So I got the socks and then dramatically held each one open for him to slide his foot into. I thought it would be funny. As if anyone needs their socks put on for them.

John just pressed his foot into the sock like it was totally normal and we both had to exert major force to get it all the way on. "Thank you, sweetie. You take such good care of me." He was touched by my gesture of kindness.

"John, I am kidding. I make Abe put on his own socks. I wasn't trying to be sweet, I was trying to make you laugh."

There is a reason I wasn't invited to The Last Supper. I would be like, "Hey, it actually takes more energy for me to sit still and let you wash my feet than it would take to just wash 'em myself."  I like to imagine myself having a Peter kind of response and insisting that I do the foot washing, but I know I'd probably be like, "hey guys, lets just all agree to keep our stinky feet to ourselves."  John is total Last Supper material.

It has got to suck to be a doctor in the Information Age. Everyone they see has googled their symptoms to death already and they come in expecting you to be totally familiar with every possible diagnosis off the top of your head. Its got to be hard to compete with WebMD. I'm sure the constant TV ads pushing pharmaceuticals are a total pain in the neck. They are probably right up there with shows about undetected full term pregnancies and frivolous malpractice lawsuits. And I have a feeling that any grown man willing to ask another grown man (or even worse, a grown woman) "Is my heart healthy enough for sexual activity?" has probably got bigger problems than sex or a weak heart. I'm leaning towards severe autism or Tourette's Syndrome. And I would know. I have a smart phone.

Since we have decent health insurance and a really great family doctor I'm not that opposed to taking a very sick kid in. The real hassle starts when you involve the pharmacy. Last week when Abe was extremely sick the doctor's office got him right in. We were in and out on our way home. Then the usual post doctor dilemma came up. Do you drop the prescriptions off on the way home and then go home and then leave the house again thirty minutes later to pick it up? or do you drag your sick kid into the pharmacy waiting room? This time I decided to go to a CVS in the opposite direction of home because it is by Home Depot and I have been needing to get some paint so I figured we could do that while the scrip was being filled. The prescriptions were for antibiotics (sorry about SARS), Albuterol and a nebulizer. Here is the chain of events:

CVS says that they don't carry nebulizers and recommends Walgreen's. (Nice sales strategy, CVS.)

Drive to Walgreen's and they say only the 24 hour location carries nebulizers. I ask if my insurance will even cover a nebulizer. I am told immediately that of course they will. I am suspicious that this response didn't involve a computer or a telephone but what do I know about nebulizers?

Drive further away from home to 24 hour location and drop off prescriptions. Am told it will be ready in half an hour.

Get paint. Totally infect race car shaped shopping cart with what may well be SARS.

Return to Walgreen's. Am told that they are out of both the antibiotic and the Abuterol but they can order it and have it by tomorrow. They would be happy to fill my prescription for a nebulizer. This would have been helpful info exactly thirty minutes earlier. They offer to send the prescriptions to a different location by my house. It will take them half an hour to fill. Thats good because thats how long the drive will take since I drove all the way to the stupid 24 hour location.

I drive to the new Walgreen's and am informed that they too are fresh out of antibiotics  but there is another Walgreen's that has all of it. Its only two miles away but it will take a half an hour to fill.

I drag sick kid to various time-killing errands like getting gas.

Gas pump sells me exactly five dollars of gas and then informs me that the bank will not authorize a purchase higher than that.

I frantically check bank balance. Plenty of money. No apparent reason for debit card debacle. I call bank. They assure me that everything is A-okay and I shouldn't have anymore problems. I give up on gas and head to pharmacy. If you are counting, this is pharmacy number four and Walgreen's number three.

Crazy long line at Walgreen's (which is understandable when you consider that they are the only location in town that sells antibiotics.)

My turn. "Picking up three prescriptions for Kramer."

I have two ready for Kramer. The third one, for the nebulizer is not covered by your insurance. Do you want it anyway? I'm sure I can borrow one but I'm considering the purchase just to have a large object to throw at someone. No nebulizer for us. Clearly God doesn't want us to have one.

"That will be twenty dollars."

"Here you go." Hand over debit card. (which must be done through a complicated metal drawer with a dirty plastic basket because everyone knows that it is a good idea to force all pharmacy patrons to touch the same surface. I give credit to the evil geniuses who run Walgreen's. They know how to get repeat customers.)

The card is declined. God doesn't want me to have a nebulizer and he hates me.

Drive to the freaking bank. Find out that there is nothing wrong with my account, there is just some odd issue with that particular physical debit card. I get cash.

Back to Walgreen's. Back to the back of the line.

Pay twenty dollars and have the nebulizer conversation again. "Just hand over the medicine, please."

"Sure, I just need to get the pharmacist to go make it."

"MAKE IT? It's not MADE? Yes, by all means, now is the time to begin the process of making the antibiotics. I'll wait right here." I passed the time searching for a hidden camera crew. This had to be a reality TV show where they provoke unsuspecting people to their breaking point. How did they get Abe in on the prank? Nah. Has to be God. He is totally holding me to that whole meningitis deal from 2005.

Cue the horrible coughing fit from the sick child who has been dragged all over town for antibiotics to treat a virus and Albuterol with no nebulizer with which to administer the Albuterol.

Cue the vomit.

Cue more vomit.

Lady is back. "It will be a few more minutes. I just need to have the pharmacist go over this with you. Has Abraham ever had this medication before?"

"We will figure it all out. Just give it to me. Please. I'm begging you. Just give it to me." I was scaring her. Now I know why they work behind bullet proof glass.

By the time I walked in the door and was greeted by John all I could do was point in the general direction of the garage and say "Go. Upholstery cleaner. Paper towels. Fabreeze. SARS. Lysol. Go." He was smart and got right on it without complaint. He was very sweet and thanked me for taking Abe to the doctor. I couldn't in good conscience say "You're welcome." so I settled on "Thank you for saying thank you." Then he mentioned that the car was really low on gas. Oh no you di'int.

My emotional state recovered at about the same rate as Abe. Kristen has literally half a dozen nebulizers laying around and I made peace with God and began the process of forgiving Walgreen's (which becomes exponentially more difficult each time I get a phone call from their automated system reminding me that Abe's nebulizer is awaiting pick up). Then I got busy googling the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which I would totally see the doctor about except that he will just write me a damn prescription.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Magic of Swearing

Abe has discovered bad words. Everyone has to stumble upon them at some point in life.

The other day when the iPad went dead he asked "Where is the damn charger?"

I calmly asked him to not say damn and stated firmly "We don't say damn."

He was totally confused. "Yes. We do say damn. I just said damn."

He had a point. Nonetheless, I held my ground. "I don't like hearing the word damn. Please don't say it."

At this point I was mentally making a list of things that I should probably eliminate from my vocabulary for at least the next fifteen years or so. The last thing in the world I want to do is to try and enforce rules I won't keep myself. Nagging kids is enough work already.

I know that Jack is well versed in all of the swear words but not because I can recall a time when he used them. Only the times he expressed his outrage at hearing them and demanded justice for the offender. He is a hangin' judge. He expects to live in a house where the law is enforced and he will resort to vigilante tactics if it comes to that.

Abe on the other hand just wants to be entertained. Being a normal four year old he experiments with naughtiness on a regular basis. He is good natured and easy going and all he really wants is to get a laugh. To him the only thing more worthwhile than getting a laugh is getting a tantrum of angry outrage. I'm sure you can see where the plot of this movie is headed and it is R-rated. For language and violence.

So a swearing four year old does not really intimidate me. I have read enough parenting guide books and child discipline research to have my strategy well established. But like every child rearing issue, reality is always just a little bit more complicated than the books can prepare you for. In this case, Abe didn't just come right out and say the bad words, he strategically said them only when he was very sure I couldn't hear and Jack could. So the scene that played out over and over today was two kids playiing nicely interrupted by Jack screaming and shouting and flipping out. He would spew out every harsh word he could think of in response stopping just short of actually swearing himself. His face would turn red and he would flail his arms in total outrage. So what should a good parent do when presented with an alleged potty mouth and a verified tantrum thrower? I don't have any idea. If you know any good parents please ask them.

I am far more inclined to punish a kid for freaking out than I am for bad language and I have been known to use the latter in response to the former.Needless to say, Jack was miffed every time when he ended up getting sent to his room and Abe walked free. We were headed for full blown revolution.

The next time it happened I did my best to ignore Jack completely. Focusing on Abe I said "Abe, even though I haven't heard you myself I know that you have been using bad words and I want to talk to you about it. It is not okay to use bad words. You must stop right now. There are some words that we should never never say because they will hurt people's feelings. You may have heard me say these words before and I want to apologize to you for ever saying them. It was wrong of me and I am sorry. I'm going to try my best to only use nice words from now on. Will you please do that with me?"

He looked me in the eye and said "So you say bad words, Mom?"

As luck would have it, he didn't learn these bad words from his mother and he was a little shocked by the news that I ever used them.

"Oh, me? Use bad words? Hell no. I mean, I may have said certain things in the past that could possibly be considered crude but mostly I stick to nice words. That confession you just heard? That was total bullshit. NO! It was bull crap. No! I don't even swear. Well, very rarely. And even then it is only at very selective times and it is usually only to be funny. Or to make uptight people uncomfortable, but only because making uptight people uncomfortable is generally pretty funny. Obviously you know what I'm talking about here. Never mind. Where did you learn those words, anyway?"

As if he could accurately account for where he heard a few words that wouldn't even get censored from prime time television. Its not like he was dropping F bombs. If you believe Jack's side of the story, Abe likes to alternate between A-S-S and B-I-T-C-H. Points to Jack for spelling accuracy and best dramatic performance in theatrical production. Thats my boy.

Anyway, I learned the hard way why you should never testify against yourself. If you are smart you will plead the Fifth Amendment. If you are on trial, do not take the stand. It is almost always a losing strategy and there is a reason why the Fifth Amendment exists. Incidentally there is a reason that the First Amendment exists too and while I don't condone the use of bad words I recognize that people have died in battle to protect my right to use them.

On an unrelated note, if you are ever outsmarted by a four year old when attempting to scold him for something you are totally guilty of, my advice is to begin a long disjointed lecture about The Bill of Rights.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scouting: a verb or a noun?

I am a girl. My husband is a convert to the church. How does this cripple us as we try to raise sons? Combined we do not posses a testimony of the Boy Scouts of America which means we cannot muster the effort it takes to even complete the application process let alone get our kid to a meeting every Tuesday. Even though we both know that Jack is totally going to love every minute of it as he has a genetic predisposition for anything that involves a uniform or a chain of command. How in the world did my husband grow up and somehow dodge this bullet? Perhaps he was too busy shining the brass on his marching band outfit. Or joining the army. Or plotting his law enforcement career. Are you seeing a trend here? The man loves uniforms. Saluting makes him happy. He is clearly the parent that should have been in charge of the Boy Scout application because I don't posses that gene.

Before I begin my tirade about how little I care if my kid can start a fire without a match or properly accessorize an outfit with an ascot (Now that I think about it, I specifically prefer that my boy not know how to do either of these things) Let me say that I am well aware of how karma works and I know that even the act of writing this exponentially increases the odds that I will be asked to accept a calling in scouting at some point in the near future. I am willing to take that risk.

My experience with Scouts consists of  badmouthing uptight parents who wouldn't let their teenaged boys get a drivers license until they had gotten their Eagle Scout. To those people I would like to say that your effort was totally misplaced and therefore counterproductive. Also, you are total cock blocks. Yeah, I said it. We were all thinking it.

I knew the day was coming when I would have to come to grips with this totally odd quasi religious/political organization and that when the time came I would need to prayerfully commit to drop my kid off at a weekly meeting and learn how to sew patches on to a sash. Easy enough. Holy crap, I just remembered the sash. An ascot and a sash? Its like they are asking to be ridiculed.

At this point we are a few months overdue to start this whole adventure and I would like to report that we are well on our way to Arrow of Light glory but instead I must report that I couldn't get through even the application without taking a break to complain let alone pay money for a uniform that I can only describe as "unfortunate". Did anyone catch the way I inserted the term "Arrow of Light" into the paragraph as if we all know what that is? Other people think you are schizophrenic if you ask another person if they are an Eagle. No. I am a human. Thats why we are not communicating in screeches and I am not feeding you to my hatchlings. Scouting is so much like the church in that there is a whole language and culture associated with it and the people who are accustomed to it throw it around like it is normal while everyone else is thinking "What the hell is Webelo?" They act like its normal to have your kid make an oath to an organization.

The application is pretty basic. Name, mailing address, email. But then you have to check a box agreeing to be "an active ScoutParent" Its a simple yes/no question but with the ominous use of capital letters and lack of space between the main words. Actually it is not a yes/no question. There is only one option. I assume that not checking the box is the equivalent of no. I checked the box purely out of peer pressure. These Boy Scout application creators managed to apply peer pressure without the involvement of any of my peers. Someone somewhere has a "subliminal manipulation" badge on their sash. This might even have been some guy's Eagle project.The word ScoutParent is obviously a legally trademarked term and less obviously a commitment to be something I can't even define. I immediately picture myself turning down an invitation to attend a jamboree (!?) and then I picture myself being grilled on a witness stand. "Is this your signature on this document dated May 7 2012  agreeing to be an active ScoutParent?" This fantasy sequence always ends with me receiving the maximum sentence allowed by law which is time in prison and/or camping. There is one other question: Are you a Tiger Cub Partner? I left that one blank because I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the way they filter homosexuals. I can't even make an educated guess of what a Tiger Cub Partner is but identifying myself as a "partner" might be the equivalent to coming out of the closet and I assure you if I ever decide that I am a lesbian I'm keeping the Boy Scouts out of it entirely. I will also leave all tiger cubs out of it.

I am well aware of the BSA's controversial history with gay rights and the huge legal battle the church had to wage. We all know that the church is totally capable of rolling out it's own program for boys and I'm willing to bet that that program is waiting in the wings. The day that happens the Boy Scouts is officially dead.                                                                                                    

When is comes to gay rights I support the Scouts wholeheartedly on this issue, I would like to point out that the millions of dollars spent in that legal battle is the price tag of outsourcing your young men's program. We saw this one coming with the Girl Scouts and avoided that headache in time to prevent our young women from becoming exploited unpaid cookie salesmen, but somehow stayed tied up with the Boy Scouts. The gay lobby could never resist a target with such deep pockets and did I mention the ascots and the sashes? Of course gay men were going to want to be pack leaders. Didn't Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have an entire episode devoted to those pansy looking hats?

And don't get me started on the fundraising. Once a year the church devotes a session of combined Relief Society and Priesthood just to tout the virtues of Scouting and to remind everyone what a worthy cause it is for their charitable dollars. They stretch two minutes of actual information into a very long hour. By the end of the class even the homosexuals are pulling their wallets out just to make it stop. But anyone who has actually sat through this meeting knows that even a huge cash donation will not make it stop. Because there is some fine print ACLU bull crap somewhere that prohibits the church from actually accepting donations on behalf of the Boy Scouts during a church meeting so instead they pass out these forms that request your consent to discuss Boy Scouts on a different occasion at a different place. They go on and on about how there is no pressure to check the yes box and it will all be kept confidential. At this point I am usually trying to push a blank check onto any adult male that will make eye contact with me. This is when everyone acts like my check is hot lava and if they touch it the church will lose its tax exempt status. Then I find myself apologizing for offering money which strikes me as odd every single time. Then just in case there are hidden cameras with direct feeds into the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, I loudly announce that no financial transaction has occurred here and thank everyone who may or may not have placed an American flag on my lawn for holidays which I am aware is a free service offered to all citizens and will be performed for anyone submitting a written request regardless of their tax deductible donation equal to the suggested $30.00 or sexual orientation. We communicate in a complicated code that involves semaphore and honeybee pheromones and eventually we all understand that if anyone happens to find a blank check under my doormat I will not alert the ACLU. The memo on the check will however include a snarky comment about ascots. I hope there is a merit badge awaiting all of these brave men.

Which brings me to my next point. Why is this organization for boys run almost exclusively by women? Who's idea was it to seek out the only demographic in the church that is very unlikely to have no scouting experience and tap them run things? Probably the same person who first attended an Enrichment meeting and realized that Mormon women have a penchant for getting crap done even if it is completely pointless. I swear that floral centerpieces and den mothers originated in the same meeting and that meeting probably involved handicrafts. My guess is toll painting. Okay, maybe blogging falls into the pointless category. Guilty.

And what is with camping? I have another term I like to use to describe a situation where my family must sleep on the ground in the wilderness: Failure. Have we become so spoiled rotten that we consider it recreation to crap in the woods? Its almost offensive. I like to think my ancestors were fighting wars and crossing plains specifically so that I could sleep on a sweet memory foam mattress with high thread count sheets. They were probably hoping that the day would come when we didn't have to even think about the possibility of wild animals eating our babies. And what did those guys do for fun? Pretend to have typhoid fever and force themselves to use only animal skins for a weekend? The cotton gin? Thats for wimps that can't handle roughing it.

Around here we consider it a hardship when we discover that our Internet purchased plush Angry Birds are counterfeit. Where is the merit badge for putting up with spotty WiFi or waiting longer than thirty minutes for a pizza to be delivered? I like to think of my great grand children not even knowing what an open flame is. I want them to be be capable of calculating the cost of gas and camping gear versus two nights at the Ritz Carlton and I hope they end up at the Ritz every time. I hope someone gives them a merit badge with a little abacus on it for that. I hope they don't know what an abacus is. I could go on forever

So basically I am hoping that when the folks at the BSA see that I have contractually agreed to be an active ScoutParent that they don't google it. The signature line of the application includes the fine print that by signing you are affirming that you have read or promise to read in the future a document about how it is everyone's responsibility to prevent Child Abuse. (I wish I were making this up) Sign here to confirm that the above stated address is correct and that you have no immediate plans to molest boys. If your address is incorrect or if you are concealing an impulse to fondle youngsters under the guise of placing flags in yards for free, please inform your attorney that we strongly advised you against both of these behaviors. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law the penalty of which is a maximum sentence of 50 years to life camping in the wilderness.

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys