Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rules You Never Thought You'd Have to Make

Many years ago, when my stepchildren came to live with us, we hit some glitches. They'd been raised differently than we were raising our daughter, and it seemed like almost every day, something would arise that would stun me (who would ever have thought anyone would think that it was okay to....?) and stun them (who would ever have thought that anyone would object to...?)

The result was a video series--a series of brief "television spots" called "Rules You Never Thought You'd Have to Make, with Tiffany Sanders". All of the kids participated in filming, and I dressed professionally and spoke very seriously as host/narrator. We didn't have the technology back then to put red Xs through the bad scene and some kind of cheery encouragement around the good one, but we did it wrong first, then explained the hazards, then did it right. Very exaggerated. The kids sometimes dressed up for their parts, and everyone laughed a lot. Mission accomplished: the message came through loud and clear and was remembered without a lot of yelling and conflict, and everyone had a good laugh.

I was convinced, back then, that there was simply no way to anticipate everything that might arise, that no matter how many rules you made and how many scenarios you played out in your head, there would always be a surprise...a rule you'd never thought you'd have to make.

Until this week, that is. My daughter's middle-school science class made slime this week, out of glue and water and Borax and I'm not sure what else. And one of the boys in her class raised his hand and said, "Can we taste this?"

And without missing a beat, the teacher said, "You signed a contract at the beginning of the year agreeing not to eat anything we worked with during labs."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning My Life

Since I knocked off work at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday, I've cleaned up a few things. Some of them were the standard "spring cleaning" sort of thing--I took two Jeep loads of stuff to storage (not that any of it was Christmas stuff that's been boxed up in the corner of my living room for 2.5 months or anything), did a few loads of laundry, bagged up a bunch of stuff for charity, put shelving in my upstairs hallway so that we could keep all of our puzzles and games in one place instead of four different ones (though my daughter always insisted that she knew exactly which games were in which place and it wasn't a problem), filled a couple of garbage bags, bought some plastic file boxes so that I can get my old files out of my file cabinets and into storage, shredded a bunch of paper bills that have been sitting in a stack unopened for months because I pay my bills online, and finally cleared out the materials I was keeping on hand for a job I left over a year ago.

But it wasn't all work. I put out some calls for submissions for my webzine, Rational Outrage. Rational Outrage is a GREAT webzine (and that's not something I'd ordinarily say about something of my own creation), but it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. I pulled out a novel I started in 2003 and re-read the first 18,000 words in preparation for finally digging back in to it. I bought five CDs this afternoon. And, of course, this all comes on the heels of having cut off all my hair last week.

But perhaps the most significant thing I did today was to clean out my tub drain. The tub has been draining more and more slowly for weeks, but...well...who wants to go digging around in there? Who even wants to THINK about what's going on down there?

Today I equipped myself with some tools and some chemicals and dove in. Not literally, of course. I don't want to create the impression that this was an upleasant experience, but when the job was done and I was all pleased with myself and claiming victory, my daughter looked suspiciously at the tub and said, "Now you have to wash it." And so I did.

The last thirty hours or so have been very productive, and in the midst of them all I've managed to watch a movie and last week's episode of LOST with my daughter, spend a little time at my parents' house, do a favor for a friend, and talk to my stepdaughter on the telephone. And I'm not even tired (stand by for massive crash).

There's only one problem.

Since 10:00 this morning, while I've been storing things and throwing things away and hanging up clothes and reorganizing and creating all this great space in my life, I've been piling up things that I wanted to keep but wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with. I've been piling those my bed.

And now it's 12:30 a.m., and I've got lots of floor space, but nowhere to sleep.

I guess the next phase of my personal renovation should involve something about PLANNING.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

High Score...97

Unfortunately, that's not a test score. It's a bowling score. My stepdaughter's bowling score, to be exact--in our first game this evening, she unfortunately beat her boyfriend, me, my daughter and my stepson with that 97. Our "team" score was 351. That was just the first game, though. I swept the second one with a 132--just 32 pins below my once-upon-a-time average. But I don't think anyone was really in it for the bowling, anyway.

My daughter seemed primarily concerned with snapping pictures of her nephew with her cell phone. We haven't seen him for a few months, and he's changed a lot. Then, she showed him the pictures. I'm not sure he really got it, but it LOOKS like he's paying attention.

The boys had a good time.

But it seems that bowling was hard on the girls. They look more like they're stranded in an airport than out for the evening...

Mommy and baby cheer daddy on (while in the background, daddy falls on his butt as he releases his ball...)

Falling was a big theme of the evening, actually...Shawn tried to scoot over to pose with Andrew and his aunt, but something went wrong...something about only two legs of the chair being on the ground.... There was no alcohol involved in this evening, I swear!

Somebody's worn out at the end of the day.

In all honesty, the "somebody" is probably me--but this little cutie rubbing his eyes when he came in to say goodnight was too good to pass up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recycling 101

No, this isn't about environmentally friendly re-use of products. I'm all for that, but it's not what I came here to talk about. I came here to talk about the 80s.

Last night I ran across this link on Twitter. The post begins "You know you grew up in the 80s if...", but an interesting thing happened. See, I didn't exactly GROW UP in the 80s--I started high school in 1980. I expected to have missed a few of the trends, but then, I have a sister who is 8 years younger. I expected to recognize a lot from her days, and that's exactly what happened: SHE had Strawberry Shortcake dolls...SHE watched Fraggle Rock.

But the real winner--the person with the most "yes" responses and therefore, according to this list, the person who "knows" she grew up in the 80s, was my thirteen-year-old daughter (born in 1996).

Thus, I've concluded that the test is flawed. One bit of good news, though: we've decided to have an 80s party this summer, and she's agreed to let ME tweak HER.

PS: Apologies to Gerri for getting her hopes up with the title.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Never Ask a Question...

if you don't already know the answer. That's a fundamental piece of courtroom wisdom--you simply don't put a witness on the stand and go fishing, because when he answers, the judge and jury and opposing counsel are going to hear that answer, too...and it just might be a grenade.

Of course, there are times when this rule must be disregarded, but they're few and far between. I'm thinking that a middle school drunk driving lesson might NOT be one of those exceptions.

Earlier this week, my thirteen-year-old daughter's health class conducted an "experiment" in drunk driving. In order to simulate the effects of alcohol, they were asked to spin, fast, for a prescribed period of time. Each child was asked to perform the walk and turn test before spinning and then immediately after. They were scored on ability to stay on the line, consistently touching heel to toe, and speed. The lesson could have sent a strong message, but in our case, it didn't work out so well.

You see, once upon a time my daughter was a ballerina. Even before that, she was surefooted as a little mountain goat--at ten months she could stumble and catch her balance and keep walking. The heel-to-toe-straight-line thing was just no big deal for her...straight or "drunk". Zero errors, same speed.

Fortunately, my daughter has pretty good sense. When I pointed out that the fact that she was able to perform that test after spinning definitely DIDN'T mean that she wouldn't be impaired by alcohol, and certainly not that it would be safe to drive, she said: "Well, duh." And I think she meant it.

But you know...this seems like the kind of experiment where you might want to know the results BEFORE you start demonstrating stuff to the kids.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shoes, Take II

Some of you may recall that this blog was born because of a pair of shoes...or rather, a couple of shoes that were decidedly NOT a pair. Yesterday, I made the disappointing discovery that my shoe impairment is hereditary.

It came as a shock, to be honest. For me, it was a bit of a stretch to HAVE enough variety in shoes to mismatch them. My daughter is of another world. She has silver shoes and red sparkle shoes, orange sandles and hightops painted with roses. She has shiny cream colored shoes and high-heeled black boots and brown suede shoes with flowers on them. She has paint-spattered tennis shoes and shiny aqua Skechers and...well, you get the idea. She knows shoes. She pays attention to shoes.

Well, except these shoes:

In case you can't tell (since the contrast, admittedly, is nowhere near so dramatic as the contrast in the original shoe post), the shoe on the left is a size 5 1/2 little brown number, and the shoe on the right would be its perfect companion...were it not a size 6 1/2.

My daughter and her friend bought identical shoes for their show choir performance at Disney last week, and we all happen to have shared a hotel room. The result was that, about three days after we returned, Tori noticed that she had brought home the "pair" above. Apparently, another child has a mirror image pair at HER house...

The only piece of good news is that the smaller one is my daughter's, so at least I know she wasn't dancing with that plastic loop with the pointy thing on it inside her shoe. And maybe that she's not QUITE as shoe-obsessed as I had originally feared...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Great Thing About the Cyber Era

is that we can force you to watch videos of our kids even without having you over for dinner.

(Of course, on your end, the great thing is that you can just choose not to click...)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Two Girls, One Cup, and Your Kids

I usually try to keep the subject matter on each of my many blogs separate, but if you're a parent, please take a moment to check out this post on my social commentary blog: Two Girls, One Cup, and Your Kids.

Last week, as you undoubtedly guessed from the pictures, I traveled across the country with a group of wonderful kids aged 11-14. These are the "good kids"--well-mannered, talented, involved in extracurriculars, kind, good students, good families. What they knew made my blood run cold.