Beware Daylight Saving Time Monday

According to a 2014 study, heart attacks increase on the first Monday of Daylight Saving Time. Specifically, they increase 24 percent compared with the daily average for the surrounding weeks.

Anything else that contributed to a 24-percent increase in heart attacks would be banned. Wouldn’t it? At the very least, this warrants a warning label.

And, while we’re slapping labels on Daylight Saving Time Monday, here are a few more that apply.

Warning: Drowsiness will almost certainly occur throughout the day, as may random tetchiness.

Warning: Complaints that it is not yet time to get up will be greater both in number and in volume than on other days.

Warning: Enticing children from their beds will demand extra effort. Bribery may alleviate this challenge.

Warning: Attempts of breakfast will prove fruitless, because who is hungry when, according to one’s body, it is not yet 6:00 in the morning? Nobody. Bribery will not alleviate this challenge.

Warning: You will abandon any ideals of your children consuming even a few bites of the most important meal of the day.

Warning: Unbreakfasted children will likely experience sudden-onset hunger on the way to school.

Warning: The light that you enjoyed last week on your morning commute will be no more, and you will drive once again in darkness. Resentment will ensue.

Warning: You may experience cynicism over the misnomer that is Daylight Saving Time. You may dedicate time to privately and more accurately renaming the phenomenon: “Daylight Reshuffling Time.” “Sleep Thief.” “Let’s-Change-Our-Clocks-to-Give-Ourselves-the-Illusion-of-Control-Over-the-Sun-and-Over-Time Day.”

Warning: Bedtime will involve a mutinous onslaught of protests regarding retiring for the night before it is yet dark.

Warning: Nobody with whom you converse about the subject will be able to explain the rationale behind Daylight Saving Time to your satisfaction. Suspicion will rest heavily upon you.

May tomorrow be less tetchy than today. Sleep well–even if it is not yet dark.

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Roots and Wings and Things

A few weeks ago our dinner conversation involved different stages of life—being born, starting school, being allowed to live on one’s own, and so on. Sonny and Ace seem to have glommed on to the same part of the discussion and perhaps even had a follow-up chat in their bunk beds later, because they both brought it up shortly afterward.

The next day Sonny plopped down on the couch next to me. In somewhat worried tones he got straight to his point: “Mom, is it true that when kids turn 18 they have to move out of their mom and dad’s house?”

“No,” I said. “They can, but they don’t have to. You won’t have to do that, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

He cheered visibly. “Good. That would be only 11 more years. I will probably live somewhere else when I go to college, but I will come back and visit on Sundays and Thursdays.”

I encouraged this, hoping to seal his promise of regular parental contact. “You’ll always be welcome in this house,” I told him. “Even after you move out.”

“And you’ll always be welcome in my house, too, when I get one,” he said. “You can come every Monday. Mondays will be ‘Chips and Dr Pepper Night.’”

Sounded good to me. “I’ll bring the Dr Pepper, and you can provide the chips,” I suggested.

He agreed, smiling because he won’t have to move out of this house in 11 years and because he can always return for a visit. Or maybe because he was blissfully anticipating a time when chips and Dr Pepper would be a regular part of his diet. But I choose to believe the former.

Roots: He’s growing them.

This child—the one who once was loath to let me out of his sight—is the same child who sprints ahead of me at church on Sunday mornings lest anyone think I’m walking him to Sunday school. And the same child who, when dropped off at Mimi and Papa’s house for a sleepover, allows only about five minutes before politely asking why I haven’t left yet—evidently my presence interferes with the occasion. And the same child who is counting the days until overnight summer camp, which he has been pining to attend since he was four years old.

Wings: He’s growing them, too.

The next day, Ace spoke up from the back seat on the way home from school: “Mom, I have to ask you something.”

“Yes?”

“Do you have to move out of your mom and dad’s house when you turn 18?”

I warmed up for another tender conversation similar to the previous day’s.

“No,” I began. “You’ll always be welcome in our house.”

He paused. His brow furrowed in the rear-view mirror. “But if you want to move out when you’re 18, can you?”

Oh.

Wings: Evidently he is growing some.

This is the same child who often, halfway through disembarking in the school drop-off line, often climbs back into the vehicle to give me a hug and say “I love you.” (Sorry for the hold-up, people behind us in the drop-off line.) And the same child who cannot be away for more than a day—even with J, Sonny, and me, and even when he is enjoying himself—without asking to return home. And the same child who loves old, and not yet old, family stories.

Roots: He has some already.

Sonny and Ace do almost everything differently, so it is no surprise that their roots and wings are taking different forms also. I’m just glad they are developing both, and I hope they never lose them.

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.” — “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

Anatomy of a Snow Day

It’s cold—6 degrees F, not counting the wind chill. Snow is churning. The winds are howling. Highways are closed due to low visibility and slick roads.

At supper tonight, Ace begrudged this waste of a storm, coming as it did on a Saturday. “On a regular day, this would have been a snow day.”

Sonny agreed. “I could use a day off from school.”

(No, today did not count as a day off from school. I know because I asked.)

I understand the appeal of snow days, but my kids are not deprived, having enjoyed one only last week. A good, typical snow day, it progressed like this:

The day before:

4:20 p.m.: A storm is brewing. The weather forecast suggests that it will not subside until 6:00 tomorrow morning. Will tomorrow be a snow day? Maybe it will.

8:13: Ponder whether to pack lunches. They might not be needed. But packing them unnecessarily beats throwing them together in a rush tomorrow morning if school is not canceled. Besides, Sonny and Ace can eat them at home. I assemble sandwiches and peel carrots.

9:07: The school Facebook parent page begins to light up with speculation on the possibility of a snow day.

10:46: Go to bed.

The day itself:

5:20: Wake up. Strain my ears to listen for snow. How silly. Forgive me, but it’s early.

5:30: The school-closing e-mail arrives. I turn off the alarm.

5:31: Numerous parents visit the school Facebook parent page, noting that school is closed.

5:38: I congratulate myself on having laid in a melty bead craft for such a day as this. Oh, and also for having lunch ready.

5:42: I can’t fall back to sleep. Oh well. I console myself with how nice it will be not having to drag groggy, protesting Sonny and Ace out of bed at 6:30 today. They can sleep in! How grateful they will be.

6:07: Ace gets up.

6:11: Sonny gets up.

6:12: I wallow in the uncanniness of it all. How do they do this? Every time, they do this.

7:00: J goes outside to snow blow the driveway. Sonny and Ace follow him with shovels.

7:46: J decides to brave the roads rather than work at home. He suspects it will be quieter at the office. Chances are he is right.

9:07: Sonny and Ace eat breakfast.

9:16: I head upstairs for a shower.

10:00: Sonny and Ace negotiate which game to play. Connect Four.

10:06: Unabashed ovations from the winner of Connect Four.

10:07: Dark accusations of cheating and other treachery from the loser of Connect Four.

10:29: Sonny and Ace decide to talk like Yoda for the rest of the day.

10:31: Sonny asks Ace if playing outside he would like. Ace replies that sledding fun to him sounds.

10:36: Sonny and Ace head out the door, bearing much resemblance to Ralphie of The Christmas Story.

10:49: The kids come back inside, announcing that cold they are, and inquiring whether hot chocolate may they have.

10:50: I assent and go to prepare hot chocolate. Alas, though: we seem to be out of cocoa. Oops. I surreptitiously scrape elderly chocolate fondue from a container in the fridge and plop some into each mug, stirring vigorously, hoping it will dissolve. It does, kind of. Well, sort of. I conceal the still-pale milk with marshmallows.

10:58: Both kids notice a chocolately lump on the bottom of their mugs and wonder what it is. I cast it as a surprise treat. Yum! They eat it with spoons.

12:00: Ace announces that hungry he is. Lunchtime! Lunch is already made; how convenient. I open the lunch boxes. Empty. It seems that Sonny and Ace ate their contents for a second breakfast while I was in the shower. I make more lunch.

12:12: Sonny and Ace ask if screen time they may have. I remind them to clean their room and practice their instruments first.

12:13: Sonny practices his guitar. (“There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his name-o . . .”)

12:28: Ace practices his violin. (“Lightly row, lightly row, O’er the glassy waves we go . . .”)

12:43: Sonny and Ace clean their room, deliberating over each toy, book, and clothing item. Who is picking up more? Who is not doing his share? Who picked up whose sock—a stinky sock, no less? I eavesdrop and note that either by forgetfulness or design, my kids have ceased to talk like Yoda. Bless.

12:59: Sonny and Ace run to the basement, eager for an hour of Netflix.

1:59: Laughter and the sounds of air hockey float up the stairs.

2:48: I find Ace in the kitchen, inhaling pepper, hoping to sneeze out his loose tooth.

3:14: Sonny and Ace liberally dip into the cologne set that Ace bought J for Christmas from the school Holiday Shop.

3:16: Sonny and Ace ask to read together. We settle on the couch.

3:16: Wow. That cologne is strong. Cough-inducing strong. I have flashbacks to the high school bus.

3:17: Ace takes a bath in the elephant bathroom.

3:17: Sonny takes a shower in the master bathroom.

3:28: We settle back on the couch, breathing fresh air, and read a couple chapters of Journey from Peppermint Street.

4:12: Sonny and Ace declare boredom.

4:15: I start making supper while Sonny and Ace plan for the snow day that they are sure will come tomorrow. They fervently hope so, anyway, their boredom notwithstanding.

5:35 Sonny and Ace dance wildly in the hall to the strains of ABBA. They invite me to join them. Sure, why not? Only one of the three of us is a good dancer, but who cares?

5:36: J comes home and notes that he’s never before seen anyone do-si-do to ABBA.

5:45: We turn off ABBA and sit down for supper.

5:47: J asks what we did on our show day. Sonny says we didn’t do anything. Ace reports that we watched Netflix all day.

8:00: Sonny and Ace go to bed. In his prayer, Sonny gives thanks for the snow day.

8:03: Ace proposes that tomorrow, on their snow day, they talk like Yoda all day. Sonny agrees.

8:22: Sonny and Ace are asleep.

8:23: I remember the melty bead craft.

8:56: I pack lunches, quite sure that they will be needed tomorrow. I am both glad and regretful for this.

10:48: I go to bed and set the alarm, quite sure that it will be needed tomorrow. Still glad and still regretful.

10:49: In my prayer, I give thanks for the snow day.

10:59: With ABBA in my head, I wait to fall asleep.

Stay warm. May your snow days be good ones.

Roll Down Like Waters

Last January Sonny burst through the door after a day of kindergarten and cornered me in the hall. “Did you know,” he asked. “Did you know that there used to be laws that said kids with black skin could not go to school with kids with white skin?” He rattled off the names of several classmates. “They wouldn’t have been able to go to our school! And their school wouldn’t even have been very good!”

Sonny was agitated. He stared me down, wide-eyed and waiting. Waiting for disbelief, for shock, for indignation that matched his own.

I hope he always becomes incensed upon reports of injustice. I hope that he always expects the same reaction of others.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last month Sonny, Ace, and I were reading a story about Jackie Robinson and the abuse he endured upon joining major league baseball as the first African American to play Major League baseball: taunts, hate mail, racial slurs, physical attacks, threats to his life. Midway through the story I heard low growls beside me: Ace, who was flopping around on the couch, plainly uncomfortable.

“Don’t you want to hear the story?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “But this story hurts my feelings.”

I hope that stories of injustice always hurt his feelings.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel

Sonny and Ace belong to a demographic that doesn’t experience racism. We in this demographic can too easily be oblivious to racism—the subtle kind and even the not-so-subtle variety. We can secretly, or unsecretly, believe that the Civil Rights Movement mostly eradicated racism and that any “vestiges” of it might best be quietly endured because, really, haven’t we come a long way? We in this demographic can easily be tempted to cherry-pick examples of stories that suggest claims of racism are fabricated or exaggerated.

I don’t want Sonny and Ace to ease into these traps, to remain sheltered from the reality of injustices, to become impatient or bored at the mere topic of racism. Not when this kind of thing is still going on. I want them to be outraged despite being unaffected. What can I do to help ensure this? Any ideas?

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:24

Death of a Goldfish

Sunday afternoon I wandered down to the basement to feign some interest in the football game that the rest of my family was watching. On the way back upstairs, I passed the fish bowl and did a double take: Did we now have half as many goldfish as we’d had only hours before? Yes, it seemed that we did, if we define “goldfish” specifically as live goldfish.

Fireman Fish had shuffled off this mortal coil and was doing the back float.

Fireman Fish and his bowlmate had joined our household in the fall of 2011, compliments of the fish pond (okay, plastic wading pool) at the harvest festival on the library lawn. The enthusiastic fish-pond director cheered and coached Sonny and Ace on to victory: “Keep trying! Here, go for that slow one. I’ll block him for you,” said she, obviously determined not to be saddled with leftovers. Upon their success she presented them each with an occupied plastic bag. “Enjoy!” she said. And they did.

Sonny named his goldfish Fireman Fish after his heroes. Ace named his goldfish Otto after the fish in A Fish Out of Water.

(Confession: The deceased may not actually be Fireman Fish. It may be Otto. Because Otto was originally brown, I could once easily distinguish between him and his companion, but then he inconveniently and inexplicably turned orange, confusing me henceforth.)

Would Sonny and Ace be upset? I didn’t know, and I wondered how to break the news to them. But they fortuitously paved the way with a discussion about pets. Maybe they could get one, they thought. A hamster, perhaps, or an emu. Maybe a proboscis monkey, or cats like Aunt Sara’s. Then it occurred to them:

“But we have pets! We have fish!”

“But you can’t pet fish. Petting would hurt them because it would rub their scales off.”

“Maybe when they die we could pet them.”

I know a cue when I hear one.

“Um, guys? I have some bad news. Fireman Fish died.”

They looked stricken.

Ace: “Can we still keep him for a decoration?”

Sonny: “Do we have a waterproof marker?”

Me, envisioning my organized seven-year-old attempting to write directly on the carcass to label it for posterity: “Why?”

Sonny: “So we can write ‘Here lies Fireman Fish’ on a little stone when we bury him. And it’s not fair, because now I don’t have a fish and Ace still does.”

Ace nodded sympathetically. After a brief conference they decided to share the survivor. He would need a new name, though, to reflect the new ownership arrangement. They settled on Lloyd as a good new name for Otto.

Sonny remembered how excited he had been to finally scoop a fish out of the little pool. Ace remembered the little TV he had made from aluminum foil and sunk into the bowl for Fireman Fish and Otto to watch a few months ago. They agreed that they would miss Fireman Fish but were glad that they still had Otto . . . er, Lloyd.

I probably won’t miss Fireman Fish himself, but I’m surprised to be feeling a little wistful. Maybe because his name was a vestige of Sonny’s devotion to firefighters, before his interest in lesser superheroes such as Batman set in. Maybe because my erstwhile preschooler and toddler displayed a level of excitement over the acquisition of Fireman Fish and Otto that they will probably never again exhibit over pets as mundane as goldfish. Maybe because Fireman Fish’s survivor looks a little lonely now.

I’m glad we still have Otto . . . er, Lloyd . . . too. Maybe we’ll read A Fish Out of Water tomorrow night, just because.

R.I.P., Fireman Fish (or Otto, maybe). Thanks for being our pet.

Here There Be Glow Sticks: The Teal Pumpkin Project

Sonny and Ace have been planning for Halloween for weeks. Maybe even months. Possibly since last November 1. It’s probably time for me to start paying attention to their plans—especially since none of Google’s results for “easy porcupine costume” look sufficiently easy. I foresee toothpicks and a hot glue gun in my very near future.

And candy. I foresee lots of candy, as over the last few decades people have grown generous with their offerings. While back in the day my sisters and I were generally issued one Tootsie Roll midge or hard pink bubble gum pellet per house, Sonny and Ace often score a multiple candy bars or a handful of Skittles packets with each ring of the doorbell. On the one hand, the plethora of sugar and food dye makes me cringe; on the other hand, without it how would I be able to surreptitiously pillage my sons’ treat bags for Milk Duds?

Fondness of Milk Duds notwithstanding, I consider it good news that FARE (Food Allergy Research and Communication) has launched a new tradition this year: The Teal Pumpkin Project. Participants in this campaign will display a teal-painted pumpkin or sign (download and print one here) to indicate the availability of non-edible treats. This helps kids with allergies, intolerances, diabetes, and other dietary restrictions to fully and safely participate in the evening’s fun.

The Halloween purists have popped up, however, questioning the distribution of anything other than sugary treasure on October 31. Common comments and questions about the idea include the following:

  1. Kids will resent being given a pencil or sticker instead of candy. Some will. But tastes vary. Some kids resent being given M&Ms. Some kids resent being given candy corn. Most kids resent being given those black licorice taffies or Necco. (Just being honest here.) And I recall resenting a certain mysterious rectangular confection apparently composed of nougat and birdseed. But that’s okay. Win a few, lose a few.
  2. Kids with allergies have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Oh, they’ve learned that already. They’ve learned that from foregoing cake at birthday parties. They’ve learned from ordering salad while their friends order pizza. They’ve learned from sprouting rashes after consuming even a smidgen of food dye. They’ve learned from sitting at isolated lunch tables so that peanuty air wafting from someone else’s sandwich won’t cut off their air supply. So, rest easy: receiving a glow stick or a spider ring instead of a Kit-Kat bar won’t catapult them into a life of egocentricity.
  3. If they can’t eat candy, they should just stay home. Really? Trick-or-treating is about wearing costumes and having fun in one’s neighborhood. Why should they skip an evening of laughter and running house to house—remember how much fun that was? These kids will have a good time even if some, most, or all candy is off-limits to them. (But being offered a pencil or a glow stick would be a bonus, don’t you think?)
  4. Why are these kids (or their parents) acting so entitled? Nobody is demanding anything. Nobody is acting entitled. Teal pumpkins simply serve as a signal that non-candy treats are being offered. Voluntarily offered. (Actually, isn’t the expectation that one should receive candy instead of bookmarks or little containers of PlayDoh in itself somewhat entitled?)
  5. Aren’t trinkets more expensive than candy? Not necessarily. This depends on the particular trinkets and the particular candy, of course. I spent only about five dollars for about 75 non-edible treats—spider rings, stickers, and Halloween erasers—from the dollar store.
  6. That plastic junk won’t last long. No, probably not. Spider rings break and tattoos rub off. Glow sticks fade within hours. But Milk Duds (just for example) don’t last long, either. (Not that I would know anything about that.)
  7. Won’t this stuff eventually end up in the landfills? Some of it will—along with all of those candy wrappers and possibly much candy itself. (Especially that composed of nougat and birdseed.) But some non-edible treats, such as pencils and erasers, can be used up instead of thrown away.
  8. Why must Halloween become so complicated? Is it complicated, or is it progress? Is it complicated, or is it thoughtfulness? It’s no more complicated to buy Halloween pencils than it is to buy Nerds; painting a pumpkin teal—or printing out a sheet, coloring the pumpkin with a teal crayon, and taping it to your front window—is no more complicated than preparing any other Halloween decoration.
  9. If I hand out trinkets, can I still hand out candy, too? Yes. It’s helpful to offer them in separate bowls to avoid the risk of contamination.
  10. Halloween is about candy! Non-candy treats takes the fun out of everything. Actually, they add to the fun for those who can’t eat candy. And at the risk of using the word voluntary too many times in one post— this gesture is voluntary. If handing out spider rings would ruin your fun, then don’t do it!
  11. Do I really have to do this in order to be considered a good neighbor? No. Nobody will point and tsk at you you if you hand out candy. (I recommend Milk Duds.)

Thanks for considering this. A safe and happy Halloween to all.

 

Weird Things I Once Believed

When I was very young I thought that the tails side of a penny featured the trolley from the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

tailpenny     rogerstrolley_437x220

When I was very young I thought that monkeys imprisoned in off-site towers operated the traffic lights. Someone had to control them, after all, and flipping switches at set intervals all day, every day would be too boring of a job for people, so: monkeys. Obviously.

When I was very young I thought that a bear lived in the cedar closet at the bottom of our staircase. My dad asked me once why I always ran up the stairs instead of walked. “I don’t know,” I answered, but I was thinking, “Well, because of the bear. Obviously.”

When I was very young I thought that old folks were wrinkled because everyone grows an additional layer of skin every year. Can eighty layers of skin lie smooth? Of course not. They naturally bunch up, creating wrinkles.

When I was young I thought that quicksand was an omnipresent danger. Every sand pile and patch of dirt was suspect. Keep to the sidewalk everybody, lest you sink helplessly into the ground!

When I was young I thought that nothing of inferior literary quality could be published. When I’d try to read a stilted or plotless book, I’d slow down or re-read parts, searching for hidden meaning or cleverly understated character development. Surely I must be missing something, because nobody would publish a poorly-written book. (Right?)

When I was young I thought that adults could be trusted to have kids’ best interests at heart. And that adults were never petty. And that adults always knew exactly what to do.

When I was young I thought that the sovereignty inherent in adulthood (the freedom to choose what to eat, for example, or to rent unlimited VHS tapes from Blockbuster, or to skip one’s chores if one felt like it) would eclipse any day-to-day adult hardships—assuming such hardships even existed.

I once thought that any baby could be easily trained to sleep through the night. (Certain books really ought to come with disclaimers; that’s all I have to say about that.)

I once thought that any child whose whining was not accommodated would quickly cease to whine. (I know, I know. Go ahead—point and laugh!)

I once thought that only someone who had been sappy since birth would tear up at her child singing “Away in a Manger” at the Christmas program, or bounding into school on his first day, or offering her a dandelion or tulip head picked “just for you, Mommy!”

And I once thought that I would be upset if my child beheaded the only surviving tulip in the yard.

As it turns out, I’ve often been wrong. And I still am. I still find myself on the trolley headed toward the Neighborhood of Make Believe once in a while. (The trolley that, in case you are wondering, I realize is not the subject of a penny’s tail.) To wit:

Expecting that late-onset elegance will wash over me any day now.

Believing that it’s okay to pass judgment on others.

Supposing that one of these days, my house will become perfectly (or even mostly) organized.

Thinking that extra patience will descend on me so that, with no effort on my own part, I will always speak calmly to Sonny and Ace.

Presuming that lecturing and nagging my kids will in any way be fruitful. (Doesn’t everyone just love to be lectured?)

Assuming that there will always be some other day for me to let people dear to me know how much I care about them.

I’ve come a long way since fearing a bear in the cedar closet, but I guess I still believe some pretty weird things.

What weird things have you believed?