Friday, May 31, 2013

To Boldly Go

Two weeks ago the entire Common Household went to see Star Trek Into Darkness. I am not a big movie person, but this one I wanted to see.  It has both Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbund in it.  Hooray for pasty white guys!  It was very exciting and violent and fast-paced and explosive.  And now I’ve filled my movie-seeing quota for awhile.

My husband loves movies, though, and for several days, has been asking Youngest Daughter to go see the movie Epic with him.  She refused, but I can’t remember her reasons.

Tonight after dinner the topic came up again.  He asked, she refused again.
Her brother had an idea.  He suggested, “You could go to the movie just to get some snacks.”  (Once again, he manages to imply that we never feed him.) Youngest Daughter replied,  “I don’t want to spend any of my money on snacks.  I might owe $100 for a lost textbook.”

I put my head in my hands. This was the first I had heard about this transgression, a pretty grave one considering that there are only 3 days of school left.

Seeing my reaction, YD said in a contrite voice, “I’ll go look for it now.” She took a few steps, but didn’t leave the dining room.

Me:  Don’t just look for it.  Clean your room!  That’s how you will find it.

Son, channeling Obi-Wan:  Use The Force.  Search your feelings.

Me:  No!  Don’t search your feelings!  Search your room!  And clean your room!

YD came back to the table and sat down.  “It would be easier to use The Force,” she said.  Considering the state of her bedroom, she is correct.

(Later, at about 8 PM…)
Me:  YD, have you found your textbook yet?

YD: No.

Me:  Well, go clean your room. 

YD:  I do my best work at night.  I’ll look for it later.

So this weekend the Common Household screenplay will be Textbook Trek Into Darkness. I’m thinking that textbook is better hidden than the Enterprise was at the beginning of the movie.

How about you – have you seen any good movies lately?  Do you feel like you are living in a movie?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Common Household Teen Work Ethic

The Common Household Husband went outside to trim the hedge Saturday morning.  I called on our reserve forces, one 17-yr-old and one 13-yr-old, to pick up the clippings.

The teens came outside and started to work, but not without protest:

Youngest Daughter:  Why should I have to do this? 
Me:  Many hands make light work.
YD: Why does the hedge even need to be trimmed?
Me:  It’s the law – we have to keep our property well-maintained.
YD:  That’s stupid.  I don’t see why that should be the law.
Me (thinking that is probably isn’t the law, but that our neighbors would be displeased if we didn’t maintain things):  Well, even if it wasn’t the law, it is what good neighbors do.
Son:  It probably violates the Kantian Imperative.
Me:   What IS this Kantian Imperative that I keep hearing about?!
Son:  I don’t know.  I think Oldest Daughter made it up.

* * *

That’s the danger of giving your kids a good education.  They keep coming up with Imperatives other than “Because I Said So.”  If and when these kids ever get a summer job, will they refuse to make sandwiches / stock shelves / refill the ketchup dispensers because doing so violates some philosopher’s Imperative?  Or because there isn’t a law requiring it? 

I admit I got less argument from Son, who is a Boy Scout and has seen the value of hard work, than I did from Youngest Daughter, who is not yet of age to be eligible for a summer job.  As they worked, her arguments subsided, and the kids launched into complaints about who got the best rake. 

Son:  How come YD gets the good rake?
Me:  Her rake is heavier, you know.  We don’t have any really good rakes.  We’ll buy new ones in the fall.
Son:  Hey, YD!  Do you want to try my rake!
YD:  No way!

* * *

I thought maybe he would try the Tom Sawyer approach, and sell the use of his lousy rake to his younger sister.  But no, they just continued to argue about it.

Then my husband discovered that I was using a plastic garbage bag for the clippings. 

Husband:  The township won’t pick up these bags, you know.  Everything has to go in the bin.
Me:  But there was no more room in the bin.  It’s so heavy I can’t even move it.
Husband, looking in the bin:  Nonsense! There’s plenty of room in here.

* * *

Making it fit

Son was quite willing to climb in the yard waste bin and jump up and down to compress the grass and hedge clippings.   Picking up the clippings isn’t fun, but turning them into a trampoline is.  (Thankfully, a few days ago I had cleaned out the toxic mold that was growing on the grass residue in the bin.) Working together (!) Husband, Son, and Youngest Daughter managed to fit two large trash bags of clippings into the bin.

Now that this chore is done, I consider how my children are like the first of the two sons in the parable (Matthew 21:28-32). The father asked the first son to go work in the vineyard, and the first son said he would not, but changed his mind and eventually showed up for work.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how much that son argued, or whether he got to jump up and down in the grape bin.  I am grateful that my kids showed up to help with this chore – it gives me a glimmer of hope that someday they might show up for a day of work at a paying job.

Forsythia hedge, trimmed

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Einstein's Night Out

It’s been all busy all the time in the Common Household lately.  Birthdays, the college kid coming home, reacting to late corn planting stats, end-of-year concerts, extra transport to and from AP tests, and the like.  A lot of stuff is happening on the mother-in-law front, but I am not allowed to talk about it here.  I am also not allowed to talk about the holes that the plumber put in the living room ceiling.

Last night the Common Household Husband and I accompanied our son to the American Chemists Society award banquet.  As we were leaving the house, at the last minute I decided to put Einstein in my purse. Einstein has been staying at our house since the Science Bowl back in March, but since then, he hasn’t been out much.

As we were driving into town, my husband started humming “Strangers in the Night” in a particularly schmaltzy way. Son said, “Dad.  You’re not going to embarrass me at the banquet, are you?”

We got to the banquet, and I suddenly got really nervous about making small talk with chemists, despite the fact that I make dinner conversation with scientists nearly every day.  I embarrassed myself by bumping the table and spilling everyone’s water, by dribbling food on my lap (because I couldn’t get close enough to the table without bumping it), and doing other inept things. 

We finished dinner and it was time for awards for aspiring chemists in middle school and high school, and accomplished chemists who had been members of the ACS for 50+ years.  Lots of clapping, but no undignified hooting and hollering.   Then the formal part of the event was over.  Time for Einstein to party!  I freed Einstein from my purse, and started taking lots of photos of him, until Son said, “Mom!  You’re embarrassing me!”    Yes, and it won’t be the last time I do that, either.

I think Einstein had a good time.

Einstein approves of the banquet program.

Einstein in the official photograph corner.  Nice logos, eh?

Every scientist should have Einstein in his or her pocket.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hallmark Day Vignettes

At breakfast this morning no one else was up but my son and me.  I passed him the Sunday comics, before I had even read them myself, because I’m that kind of Mom. He usually doesn’t speak during breakfast, but today he said to me, “Oh, Happy Mother’s Day….It’s a good thing that Charlie Brown mentioned Mother’s Day.”

* * * * *

In the afternoon I successfully avoided having to go see the movie Iron Man 3.  Youngest Daughter also opted to stay home.  After the others left to go to the movie, she asked me, “Mommy, would you like to go upstairs for several hours while I make a Mother’s Day surprise for you?”

Every mother shudders to think what ‘surprises’ her child could concoct, given several hours alone, and how expensive it would be to make the repairs after such surprises. 

I said, “Okay, but you have to use a real recipe!” Then I decided to throw caution to the wind – I went upstairs to take a nap.  How much trouble could a 13-year-old make?  I heard some clattering of dishes, which was okay.  It’s when there is no noise at all that you know real trouble is brewing.

She made a sort of ‘spice bread’ which was tasty but had not quite enough baking powder in it.  This is the sign that she made up her own recipe. I said, “But I told you to use a real recipe.”  She said, “I never promised to do that.”

* * * * *

When the others got back from the movie, Oldest Daughter asked me, “Are you interested in playing a Mother’s Day game of ‘Settlers of Catan’?”

Um, no!  Instead I read my book, which is Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.  To me, it’s much more fascinating than settling Catan.

All in all, a very good day, especially for someone who doesn't like Mother's Day.  I hope all my readers had a good day, too.

Trying to break the record for the most number of times
a photo of Settlers of Catan is posted to a blog.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Unemployment stats

The national unemployment rate for teenagers is 22.5%.  On Monday the Common Household unemployment rate for teenagers was 100%.  In their defense, the two household teenagers eligible for summer jobs have been concentrating on taking exams, and that is as it should be.  They did make some effort to find jobs in early April, before all this test-taking started, but without success. 

From my completely unbiased perspective, local businesses should be fighting to hire these two worthy individuals.  Hey, Local Businesses, these are hard-working, trustworthy kids.  Please hire them for the next two months.  You could even get a two-fer – hire both of them at the same time.  A sibling package!

On April 15, I expressed my frustration that neither kid had been able to line up a summer job yet.  I said to my son, “I don’t understand it.  You and Oldest Daughter should be highly employable.”  He said, “Well, at least I’m tax deductible.”

The next day, he was planning to go out hunting for a summer job.  I was hoping he was finding the right method to follow on this task.  I asked, philosophically, “Have you found your path?”  Son said, “I can find the length of a path using integrals…”

He had applied to Subway sandwich shops.  I asked him why he wanted to work there, and he said he hoped they would give him free sandwiches.  He made it sound like all we fed him was hardtack and gruel, like he should wear a sign that says “Will Work For Food.”  (Actually that could save me quite a bit of money.) He also applied to the local ice cream shop, probably for a similar reason.

 He was very disappointed to find out recently that the ice cream shop was not hiring anybody else for the summer.

His latest thought: “Maybe I could get a summer job at the Ski Shop.”

On Wednesday we brought Oldest Daughter home from college.  By Thursday afternoon she had been hired on the spot as an aide at a local nursing home. Thanks, Local Business!  The Common Household unemployment rate is dropping fast.  Demand for the family car will be increasing accordingly.