Archive for November, 2008

Adding one more.

Those who know me in real life and those who have followed my story here in all it’s anonymous glory, know that I am a cat person.  My husband, though allergic, is a cat person.  And Spawn is a cat person.  We are cat people. 

Not this kind of cat people: 


More like this kind of cat people:


(Note:  not a family photo.) 

I don’t know how, exactly, we ended up with the legions of felinity here, but we’ve got plenty.  I think it has something to do with the irresistability of a certain small person we call Spawn. 

Anyway, in my quest to keep the Santa thing alive and coerce out of Spawn what Santa might bring, the only thing the kid has expressed a burning desire for is… a cat. 

Specifically, this cat: 


That, my dear reader, is a Fur Real Friends anamatronic cat. 

We have oodles and gobs of real cats, and this is the one true desire of my kid for Christmas morning.  Unbelieveable. 

And yes, I’ve already bought it. 

Just a little FYI if you’re thinking about buying one — they will start up at the slightest movement.  My mother and I went Christmas shopping the other day and I bought the thing, and for the rest of the day every time the car hit a bump or I turned a corner, that damn robot cat meowed.  I’ve got it shoved in the back of a closet and I am praying it doesn’t start up again. 

I thought about getting it out of the box and turning it off, but it’s wired so heavily into the packaging, and the on/off switch is on the bottom, that without cutting the box up I am SOL. 

In the meantime I have a meowing time bomb sitting in my closet. 


— Mox

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I can tell very quickly just how far I’ll be able to go in helping Spawn with homework.  As far as second grade math. 

Spawn came home last night with a note from the teacher, asking me to work with the kid to understand how to add columns of numbers. 

Oh holy crap.  Having to teach math.  This is my husband’s department, he’s much better with numbers than I am. 

But of course last night was one of those nights where my husband was out of town, and so that meant it was up to me to try to sort this out. 

My main problem with math and numbers in general is that I don’t fully grasp how the whole discipline is ordered.  Fortunately, second grade math is right about the level that I understand.  I mean, I can count by fives and tens and I can add and subtract.  There is no algebra in second grade. 

Spawn was having trouble understanding adding columns in which the sum of the ones column is ten or greater.  Like, for instance, 15 + 25 = ___.  Spawn was adding left to right, which makes sense since that’s how you read.  But as you know, adding columns goes from right to left, and you have to add the ones column first.  If the sum is ten or more you take that ten position number and carry it over to the tens column.  (See!  I understand it!) 

Which I explained to Spawn.  But apparently that was just a bit too technical, so I had to dial it back some. 

And then there were some tears and some eyerolling and some generalized attituding, and a big fat go-to-your-room. 

Followed by tears and screaming.  (Spawn)  And a desire to choke someone.  (me) 

Hey, I love math!  (Not.) 

After we had gone to our respective corners and things had settled out, I explained to Spawn that I am glad to help with homework, and all I ask for is a cooperative attitude.  Which got me an unprompted apology (one of the true joys of parenting life, your kid apologizing, unbidden, for bad behavior aimed in your direction) and a commitment to cooperating. 

So we tried it again. 

I explained how numbers worked, in sets of ten.  We counted by tens to one hundred, to illustrate the point.  I wrote 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 and explained that then we jumped to the next set of tens, 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20, and so on.  That seemed to make some sense. 

Then we tackled the columns of numbers.  Add the right column first, and if it adds up to more than ten, put the second number down and carry the first number up to the left column.  Then add the left column, don’t forget to add that carried number, and Bob’s your uncle. 

The light started to dawn.  I could see comprehension on Spawn’s face.  It looked like a faraway oncoming train.  I couldn’t hear the whistle quite yet. 

In first grade, when Spawn was learning to add single numbers, we used the concept of steps to add numbers.  I drew a set of steps and numbered them 1 through 10 and asked Spawn to picture standing on X step and going up X number of steps, and what step would you be standing on.  Same as with subtraction, just going down the steps.  Sometimes I had the kid to march in place to bring the point home.  It really helped Spawn to understand the idea of addition and subtraction. 

When I wrote out the sets of ten, Spawn seemed to “get” that they also worked like steps, which in turn helped the kid to understand the concept of ones and tens places.  Of course I got the whole “that’s not how Sister explained it in class” which I distinctly remember saying to my parents when they were helping me with the “new” math the schools were teaching back in the 1970’s.  Hey, I can only teach the kid what I know, and how I learned to do things.  The schools seem to want kids to memorize a lot of number facts these days, which is great in a lot of ways, but I also think you have to be able to have another way to arrive at the answer.  It seems to me that putting your hands in your lap and counting on your fingers will only work for so long. 

I hope that I was able to send the kid off to school today with a better understanding of the concept of adding columns.  I guess I’ll know if I get another note home from the teacher saying “just stay out of it from here on.” 


— Mox

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It’s a lot of work.

Now that I am in hibernation mode due to dark days, cloudy skies, and cold temperatures, my attentions have been focused on cleaning out my house.  One of the reasons we’ve never been hot to move to a new house is because we have twelve years of crap stored in the basement, which would need to be dealt with.  I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun. 

Following the tried-and-true formula of dividing my crap into piles of “keep,” “sell,” and “give away” has meant that my weekends are spent nose-to-nose with my possessions.  I shake my head and marvel at the sheer tonnage of stuff we’ve managed to hang onto, for no discernible reason.  I hang on to this stuff for so long that I begin to not even see it, and then one day I realize it’s there and wonder what on earth I was thinking, keeping it.  It’s sort of like those shoes that other members of my family will kick off in the middle of the floor; at some point I realize that they’re not picking themselves up and if I want it done I’m going to have to take some action. 

I spent my Sunday rooted to a chair at my dining room table, which is not so much a place to dine as it is a large and rather cluttered desk surface, where my laptop resides on the weekends.  Let me tell you, it takes a really long time to list upwards of 40 items on eBay.  A long time ago I swore off ever doing another yard sale, but somehow listing things on eBay is starting to feel just like dragging out the folding tables and putting stickers on stuff.  The only upside I can see is that I don’t have to get up a OMG-o’clock to deal with those pesky and annoying earlybirds that troll yard sales on the weekends. 

The giveaway stuff is presenting a larger problem, namely I have to somehow spirit things out of the house without (ahem) somebody stopping me and dragging it back in.  I figure, if it’s been in the basement for X period of time, it’s not going to be missed if it’s gone.  But seeing a piece of flotsam that heretofore has been forgotten about sometimes triggers intense feelings of “I can no longer continue to live without this thing” and if there is a recipe for making me crazy, this is part of it.  I think I may have to take a day of vacation, unbeknownst to my family members, just to haul stuff off to St. Vincent de Paul.  If they don’t see me do it then they can’t prove anything. 

I once went into a lady’s home that was filled to the brim with everything imaginable, one of those places that you hear about on the news, where there are just paths snaking through rooms that are piled high with all manner of trash.  I’ve often wondered how someone gets to that point, and sometimes I think it might start with just not having the time to dedicate to cleaning out your basement.  Since I’m already on my way to Crazy Cat Lady status, I don’t want to compound the problem by becoming a crap hoarder.  So I purge periodically. 

I usually tackle this type of chore twice a year — at the beginning of cold weather and at the start of spring.  Psychologically it’s a way to make myself feel less bogged down, and as a nice bonus I start to feel thinner, too. 


— Mox

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So I’m having a little bit of a crisis over here. 

Back when Spawn was still in preschool, and my husband and I were wringing our hands over the future of our Little Precious’ educational prospects, we had a dilemma to work through.  Either send our child to a subpar, underperforming public kindergarden and ghettotastic elementary school, or get our name on the list for the only other game in town, our local Catholic school.  Or, you know, sell our house and move to a better school district.  Or maybe homeschool. 

The latter two of that equation got some spirited discussion.  I totally squelched the homeschool thing out of hand, since I would be the one required to do the schooling, and frankly, the kid is smarter than I am.  Selling the house got some airplay for a while, until we discovered that to move into a more “desirable” school district, we’d have to downscale considerably in house size, while upscaling considerably in mortgage size.  This is what happens when you live on the fringe of the bad section of town — you get a great house in a nice neighborhood, and just so long as you don’t stray more than two or three blocks in any direction, you’re good. 

But the larger problem is that the upper levels of our school system here in Podunk are not all that great, either.  Elementary schools are practically a dime a dozen, and finding a “good” one is not hard.  But when you get to middle school and to high school, the options narrow down to nothing.  You have no choice — you send your kid to one of two middle schools and then to the one and only high school, which is practically a planet unto itself it’s so big. 

What to do… what to do…

The Catholic school here is top-notch.  It’s small, and it’s academically forward.  Even the struggling, straggling kids get their moments to shine.  And there is a highly focused policy in place that endeavors to teach the whole child, not just the part of the child that can do math computations or sink a three-pointer.  The students are encouraged to develop their philanthropic muscles, their humanistic talents, their inner spiritual life. 

I may be oversimplifying it a whole lot here, but the compare and contrast we did between the public school system and the private one only served to highlight what we felt was important for Spawn’s education.  We wanted Spawn to be able to be a big fish in a small pond. 

So Catholic school it is. 

I went into this with a little trepidation.  Although I was baptised Catholic I was not raised in the Catholic church, and I wasn’t too sure how they would receive me and my little Protestant family.  The school has a certain percentage of non-Catholic families who send their children there, so I didn’t worry overmuch about not having a community of shared experiences.  I just hoped that they didn’t make too much out of the “Them vs. Us” mentality that my parents (a mixed-religion couple) faced back in the 50’s and 60’s. 

As it turns out, I worried needlessly.  As I tend to do.  The school is very sensitive to its’ nonCatholic families, very loving and inclusive. 

Still.  I went into this school experience saying that if at some point Spawn wanted to become Catholic, I was fine with it.  I mean, the belief system you identify with is a highly personal matter.  Who’s to say where you feel most comfortable?  I expected this issue to come at some point, the point at which a teen starts to figure out who they are. 

I did not expect to be having this discussion with a seven year old.  Then again, my child is an unexpected sort.  Who is pretty tuned in to what’s going on inside. 

Spawn wants to become Catholic.  And I am not nearly as fine with it as I thought I would be. 

To be honest, my not-fineness has more to do with me than it has to do with Spawn.  I mean, I’ve been in the Protestant church all my life, so the implications for me are kind of off the charts.  I want for my kid to be part of something that makes sense, feels right.  It just so happens that Spawn feels very comfortable and part of the Catholic parish here.  Moreso than the Protestant church that we have thus far raised the kid in.  So what does that say about my job as Mom, in the realm of spiritual guidance?  That ultimately I’m not as influential as I thought I was? 

The larger issue for me is that Spawn wants for the whole family to become Catholic.  I’ve explained to the kid that that’s something that may or may not happen, that it’s not something that can be flipped on like a light switch.  But the kid wants to be part of the parish, and since we don’t live right next door to the church, there’s only one way that will happen.  So apparently I am destined to be sitting in the pews of a whole new church, until I have a change of heart or I don’t.  I’m open to that, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m also a little bit scared. 

My husband is rather sanguine about the whole thing, but then again he was never raised in a church.  He’s a part of my church because he’s married to me, and to him this is a whole lot like the NFL.  You ask to be traded to another team.  Clean out your locker and go suit up in someone else’s uniform.  The game is still the same.  It’s all football.   The main goal is to win the Superbowl. 


— Mox

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Experimental experimenting.

So right now I’m trying to see how long I can go before I have to hit Walmart again. 

We should be okay until we need cat food and toilet paper.  At that point it’ll be every man and feline for himself. 


— Mox

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So my Christmas Club check is cashed and in my hot little hands and I have a date planned to go Christmas shopping with my mother.  Which will be a little tricky, considering that somehow I have to sneak in a purchase for her gift while she isn’t paying attention.  I’m still working on a plausible distraction to get a few minutes away from her at the mall. 

I even have a few ideas for what to get my dad, which is no mean feat.  And my husband, by mutual agreement, is getting a small token of my affection, since what he would really like to have would compromise monies for gift-giving across the board.  In the world we live in nowadays, we all have to learn how to live without our wants. 

But for Spawn, I am tapped. 

I have been trying to get the kid to write a letter to Santa for a couple of weeks now, hoping that I could glean a few ideas from what would theoretically be a long wish list.  We operate under the premise of three Santa gifts, plus a few from Mom & Dad, simply because the kid’s birthday is almost three weeks later and by that point we’re both swamped and broke.  So I’ve asked Spawn to provide a list for Santa, so that the Old Guy will know what to pack on the sleigh. 

So far, however, Spawn has only written a general social note to Mr. Claus, assuring him of past goodnesses and inquiring about the health of the Claus household.  Crafty, to be sure.  I mean, butter the old guy up first, right?  But nowhere in the note is there a mention of what the kid wants for Christmas. 

One thing I know for sure that the kid wants is a puppy.  And we ain’t gettin’ no puppy. 

I think that Spawn is beginning to suspect the truth about Santa, and frankly I’m not sure how I feel about that.  There is no going back once the myth is deflated, and for me that means that a precious part of Spawn’s childhood will be over.  I’m in no hurry to lose the kid to the real world just yet, there’s plenty enough time to be skeptical about everything.  There’s something charming about a kid at Christmas, a kid that still believes.  In a way it lets me still believe, too. 

I wonder how long we’ll both get to participate in this charade. 


— Mox

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From the “when it rains it pours” department: 

Because it is literally raining today.  Lots and lots.  So that makes me cheerful (not). 

On the way into work this morning, my car started acting funny.  Now I realize that my tires are just about shot, but the way my car was slaloming around the road makes me wonder if maybe I’m having a power steering problem.  Tires, power steering — either way, not going to be cheap to fix. 

I am completely incapable of having a thought that doesn’t concern money right now. 


— Mox

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