Bathrooms and their mystique

As a thoroughbred American, I've come to have absolutely no expectations when entering and using an unfamiliar bathroom. Every one of them is different. Don't believe me? Without walking in, what do you know about a bathroom from the outside? Do you need to lock the door behind you or will you have an individual stall? Should the lights going to go on when you open the door, or will the light-switch be in a standard location? Once you're inside, what is automatic and what do you have to do manually? Flush? Turn on the faucet? Dispense soap? Turn off the faucet? Hand dryer or paper towel or both?

You don't know, but you've grown accustomed to not knowing. In fact, by dealing with this your whole life, you can even juggle all these variables while needing to go really bad.

I've developed my own lever jiggling, button searching, hand-waving dance for when I enter a new lavatory. Teaching my children this ritual however, has been daunting and slow at best. Since our first airplane ride together (admittedly air-potties are a whole separate breed of bathroom) we've had to coach the kids through a maze of what we affectionately call, "The facilities." Like newborn wildebeests who have to run within minutes of birth or be left behind by the herd, so too did my children have to figure out how to pee in a 2 foot square airplane toilet. Then they then had to learn how to navigate various airport bathrooms with their disorienting mix of autoflushers and automatic hand dryers. Keep in mind that the oh-so-helpful symbols usually show in bathrooms, like a hand with red wavy lines going across it, mean absolutely nothing. And it really doesn't ever get any more intuitive, you just get used to every bathroom being unique. You eventually gain a sense for how long you should flop your hands under a faucet before drawing the conclusion that the sensor is broken and you should move to a different sink.

Needless to say, over the past months I have been called into a myriad of bathrooms to see or explain stuff that are obvious to me only because dealing with bathrooms is so second nature. No, you can't control the temperature of the water. Yes, everytime you wiggle, the toilet will flush. No, I've never seen a handdryer so high-powered or heard one so loud. Yes that's still soap even though it's blue here, and it was pink in the last bathroom we were at. The list goes on and on.

So when I was beckoned into a truckstop bathroom by my son who had already been in there alone for a good 10 minutes, I just rolled my eyes and complied. I was about to say, "You have been in America for 9 months and have seen everything every stateside bathroom has to offer. For the love of all that's Holy can we please get back in the car," and that's when Habtamu pointed to the wall and said, "Daddy, what's that?"

"Ask your Mother," I said, totally flushed.


There's no insurance policy for your sanity. Try not to lose it.

If you have a kid or two or six, then you know that parenting and sacrifice go hand in hand. Things that are sacred to you, are just another curiosity or plaything to the sticky little grabby-grabby hands that seem to have been everywhere and yet are currently nowhere. The longer I'm a parent, the more I'm convinced that people claim to love their kids so much because as the years go on they've had everything completely destroyed that ever competed for their love and attention. There's nothing left to compare them to, so kids win. It's not their fault, it's their nature. My car which has somehow survived hail, 180,000 miles, and years of public parking lots, now has cart and bike scars along it's sides. Chris's scrapbooks have been manhandled during fits of rage. Cat's have been dangled over the second floor railing, Rugs have been thrown up on, the list goes on and you probably have one of your own. . Somehow, they even reach into the intangible and steal things away. Time, financial stability, sanity, and relationships with other adults all seem to vaporize.

So there's a significant amount of 'growing up' that happens to people that thought they were already grown up because they had jobs and spouses and mortgages. They thought they were mature, until some kid comes along and breaks their toys. You work through it as best you can, though, but I think the best thing you can do is know what your trigger points are and prepare yourself for their inevitable demise. At least try to consider the possibility that what you hold dear may indeed vaporize. Ask yourself, "What would I do if ___ was gone." and if the answer is, "I don't know, I think I'd just fall apart," then you better start thinking about Plan B. I know a family who had a custom stained glass window ruined by rough-housing teenagers. If *I* had made that window, oh there would have been blood. They somehow had more mature priorities and shrugged it off.

Chris and I have done our best to detach ourselves from all but our deepest and most essential "earthly delights." (Yes, I have Ben & Jerry's hidden in an organic burrito box in the freezer) But sometimes you just get blindsided and an accident can feel personal.

I had this conversation over the phone with my wife the other night...

Chris: Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I think we're going to get more back from taxes than we originally thought.

Me: I'm glad to hear it. Since you're in a good mood, are you ready for some bad news?

C: Why, what happened?

M: Well, our StarWars Lego game for the Wii is gone.

C: What happened to the disc? Did it get scratched?

M: Nothing, the disc is fine. Our saved game. It's gone.

C: WHAT?! You've got to be kidding me!

M: Nope.

C: What happened?

M: Well, I didn't see it but I know someone was kabitzing around in the menus when he was told he couldn't 'play' wii before dinner.

C: And he deleted our game?

M: All the games were wiped.


M: I found the memory options and I asked him if he had seen that menu before. He said yes, but that he just clicked 'back.'

C: Uh-huh. Unbelievable. Does he know what he did?

M: I think so. He's taking it pretty hard.

C: Well do you know what this means? I think it means no more wii for several days. He's GOT to stop clicking around in places he doesn't understand!

M: I don't know... I think what it means is that we should have bought a memory card last week to back up our stuff. The saved game is gone. There's not much to really do about it now.

C: Lee. We were 12 percent completed!!! (note: that's about 6 hours of play time) That's totally unacceptable! He's got to learn!

M: Um... when did I marry a 15 year old boy?

C: Why aren't you more upset about this?

M: Because this happened at 12 percent and not 80. It just means we get to run through Hoth again and this time we'll know what we're doing.

C: I guess that's true. But why does he have to do that? Why does...

M: Let it go honey. It's only a game. Let it go. Aren't you at church now?

C: Yes.

M: Good. Stay there until you calm down.


Who wants to be a Millionaire - Home Edition

Questions I've actually been asked by one of my children in the last 48 hours:

$100 question: Can I have more cereal?
$250 question: Can I play wii?
$500 question: Daddy, You say movie cost 10 dollars for one person, how much money for 4 people? 18 people? Daddy? 50 people? Daddy? Daddy?
$2000 question: Can I play wii, now? (Better ask the audience because I'm betting mommy already answered No)
$5,000 question: Dad? Why that cat not nice? Never nice to me!
$100,000 question: Why Yordanos never help, I *ALWAYS* help? HUH???
$500,000 question: Boy baby born no boy parts, yes? When boy parts come?

And the Million dollar question...
Daddy, why people die?


Pronouns, Brand Recognition, and my daughter

One of our local 2 year olds has been toodling around asking about "McDanos."

"No Honey," his mother corrected him. "Her name is YORDanos. YOOOR-Danos, not Mc-Danos."

It's reported that he now requests to see "MyDanos."


Pay no attention to the person behind the Cheddar Curtain

The other day, Habtamu was wearing his Chicago Bears jacket and a complete stranger came up to him with a big smile and said, "GO PACK!" H just sat there with a polite, but completely vacant smile. "I like the Packers," she said as she pointed to his jacket expectantly. My son just looked at her as if she was speaking a foreign language... which, you know... as far as he was concerned, she was. I leaned into his ear and said, "She likes the men who wear green and yellow, not the men that wear blue and orange." Then he gave a real smile back since he now at least knew we were talking about football.

I think that to not even acknowledging the existence of someone's favorite team is far more insulting than any form of chest thumping. My children's ignorance about such things usually reminds me about how much there is still left to teach them about life around here, but this time it was just amusing.


Group Therapy

Yesterday we went to a friend's fathers' 80th birthday party. Lee and our friend Matt played guitar and sang for the party. I wasn't going to go, because Lee offered to take the kids alone. I figured he'd probably need me to be there, so that he could play uninterrupted.

The party was in a park district (not ours) party room. Half of the room had mats and play equipment for kids. It even had a ball pit. Well, there were 20 (30? 40?) some kids there, so it didn't take long for the ball pit to be emptied, what with everyone chucking balls at each other.

It's so interesting to see different parenting styles in regards to this kind of activity. Nothing in the room said NOT to use the balls that way, but is that something that everyone should know is wrong? Heh... well, I didn't care except that some Moms were trying to stop it. 2 different times some moms made the kids pick up all the balls and put them back in the pit. Wanting to please the conservative faction I told my kids not to throw the balls anymore.

Well, at some point, the ball throwing resumed and I chucked a ball at Habtamu, and he chucked it back at me, and soon our whole family was weaving and bobbing and diving for cover and chucking balls at each other as hard and fast as we could. Other kids joined in, and eventually, some adults too. It was so much fun, that I forgot that my official "stance" was not to throw balls at each other. Then I figured that the park district was probably cool with us using them that way, since we all got good exercise and MAN, did it feel GOOD to chuck things at the kids... I'm sure they felt the same! :)

As we left, Lee said, "You know, we should do that once a month as a family." Couldn't agree more.


I love U2.

Sorry, Chris H. from church and Chris H. in China (if you read this). [Why do I know 2 Chris H.'s who love U2?!] This post is NOT about the band you both adore. I'm sure it's just you 2 who like them and not about a billion other people.

Neither of the kids says, "I love you," to us. They both say "I love you, too." Even if they're saying it 1st. I think it is because every time someone says "I love you," the response is "I love you, too." It's a call and response for us, but for them, it usually means they are being corrected.

If, for example, they say "I am put oning my bathing suit," I'll say, "Are you PUTTING ON your bathing suit?" [This is a common mistake they make... they turn prepositions into verbs... "I am "inning", "outing", "oning", "froming". It makes sense.]

I haven't had the heart to correct it, because it's pretty cute.

Yordanos has taken it to the next level, which is to plead, "Pleeeeeease? I love you, too." Pleeeeeese? I love you, too." (All while hugging me around the middle and looking up at me with those baby browns.) And I know I shouldn't encourage that, and I usually do not say yes to things like that, but I probably say yes enough that it seems effective to her. So sue me. At least I'm saying yes to things I would say yes to anyway. :)

Effective Anger Management

We have noticed that there are 3 things that affect Habtamu's anger level.

1. sleep (or lack thereof)
2. food (or lack thereof)

And the most important one:

3. poop.

There have been many a time when he will just be angry, upset, pissy, generally not fun to be around, and then he'll go poop, and voila! He is his usual goofy, happy self.

We have pointed this out to him on many occasions... pre-poop and post-poop.

The other day he was getting very upset with his Math. He likes math, and he knows how to do what he's working on, but he reverted to a 3 year old tantrum, and got up and left the table. He disappeared for awhile and I heard the toilet flush after about 10 minutes. He came back to the table smiling and said, "Hey, Mom! Do you know how I got rid of my anger? I POOPED it out!"

It's so hard to keep a straight face sometimes, but as a kid I hated being laughed at for (what to me were) revelations, so I said, "Did you POOP? And do you feel better?"

"Yes!" he said, relieved.

This story is for Jodi S., who caught me in church this morning and said, "You guys have to blog! I need a laugh!"


Ethiopian Mamas

Here is Yordanos with good friend Madelyn, playing Ethiopian Mamas.

Have I mentioned how Yordanos loves babies? She helped take care of the babies at the orphanage and at the Transition Center in Ethiopia, and she can't resist babies here. She's got 2 baby dolls that she takes care of. She has showed me how she bathed them and diapered them.

She often says she wants a baby. I always counter with "Yes, you can have a baby, after you finish school, after you meet and marry a nice man." And I told her that in a few years, she can watch other people's babies at their houses and that they will give her money. "Ooooh, that's nice," she says. So, get you orders in now for the girl that's going to be the best babysitter EVER.


Potty Humor

Yordanos' joke this morning in the Ladies' room at church:

Y: Knockknockwho'sthere?
Me: Um, who's there?
Y: Bathroom
Me: Bathroom who?
Y: Mommy in the Bathroom! HA HA HA HA
Me: Good one!

If you really are offended by poop, please do not read the following...

Knowing my son as I do, I thought he'd be interested in the following information. One morning I said "Hey, Habtamu!"

H: Yeah?
Me: I thought you'd want to know...
H: Yes? (continues coloring)
Me: This morning, when I pooped...
H: (now with his complete attention) Yes?
Me: It was THIS long (holding arms about a foot apart)
H: Really?
Me: Yep.
H: Really? THIS long (holding arms about a foot apart)
Me: Yep.
H: (nodding head) Cool.
Me: I thought you'd want to know.
H: (nodding) Yep, you are right.


Sweep the leg, Johnny!

We watched Karate Kid last night as a family. Aside from the ~10 swears (unnecessary!), it is a good movie to watch together. The 80's slower pacing made it nice for my kids, who were able to mostly follow the plot without help.

We were able to talk about the following:

Good choices vs. bad choices. (Did that boy do a mean thing? Why do you think he did that? Why would those boys want to hurt Daniel?)
Rich vs. Poor (Why do you think Ali's family doesn't like Daniel? Is that right?)
Mr. Miagi's training. (Is Mr. Miagi teaching Daniel karate? What is he teaching him? Does Daniel understand what Mr. Miagi is doing?)
Good teaching vs. Bad teaching. (Is the Cobra Kai teacher a good teacher? Why or why not? Why are his students upset about what he asked them to do?)
Fair play vs. Poor sportsmanship. (Why are the people booing Johnny and cheering for Daniel?)
Mr. Miagi being a father figure for Daniel. (What did Mr. Miagi teach Daniel? How is he like a father to Daniel? How is Daniel like a son to Mr. M?)

You may want to check it out. Lee and I give it 2 thumbs up for older kids.


Run Like the Wind

Since it is a balmy 55 degrees here today, I made everyone get out and take a walk. You would have thought I was asking two 90 year-olds to do the hula on hot coals.

No, really, Mommy, my ankle HUUUUUUURTS!

Mommy, my STOMACH! OW!

Oh, uh huh. Keep moving. I'm mean that way.



Heart stopping action here at the Gardners today...

So, the kids were upstairs playing computer, and came down when I called. Huh. What are the chances?

Habtamu said that Yordanos had said a "bad word" upstairs. (We'd talked earlier today about how even if Mommy doesn't hear something, God still does.) So I entered into Mommy mode and said "Well, God already knows what you said, so you may as well tell me." Habtamu kept urging her to "Just tell her! Tell her! Tell her! God already knows."

Finally, Yordanos whispered it to me.

The bad thing she called Habtamu? "Bad boy."

Oh, the sweetness! If only that were the worst bad word they will ever hear.

In sickness and in health

The GOOD news is that I have bronchitis and it will go away. The BAD news is that it is a viral infection and only time and more time will make it better.

The GOOD news is that we're a sharing family. The BAD news is that I have shared my virus with the rest of the family to varying degrees.

P.S. Those are MY used tissues. Only mine.