Monthly Archives: April 2021

Conspiracy Theory

At night, especially when he’s had a stimulating day and therefore is tired, Arlo has a kind of frantic energy at bedtime. He’s a little like a whirling dervish, which puts him at risk for running into people or open doors, cracking his jaw on the countertop or shin on the footboard of the bed, or slipping in sockfeet on the hardwood. He can also be extremely uncooperative: lying on the floor while taking off his clothing, running out of the bathroom twelve times when he’s supposed to be brushing his teeth, putting his pants on backwards because he’s not paying attention, bouncing when we’re trying to floss his teeth, needling and ribbing his siblings to try to get a rise out of them. It seems like if an adult walks out of the room in which Arlo is, within two seconds an eruption of some kind occurs.

One evening, the day that my mom had had a thyroidectomy to remove a lymphoma, I was a nervous wreck because we were just hearing news about how the surgery had gone (it went well!) and was trying to take a shower in case I had to go to the hospital in the morning. Brian was tackling toothbrush and floss checks before reading to the kids, and Arlo was having one of his sparkplug nights, trying to talk while his father was brushing his teeth, which annoys us to no end. Brian asked him to wait to speak until after the toothbrush had left his mouth, but he continued talking. After asking him again to wait without receiving cooperation, Brian raised his voice, the result of which was Arlo fleeing the bathroom and running in to cling onto my leg (the shower had been running for at least five minutes at this point). He said it broke his feelings and made him feel sad when Daddy yelled (Brian didn’t really yell, for the record, but his tone was spiked with frustration). I told him I know, I understand, and I heard it too, but he was being really impatient and uncooperative, and I suggested he go tell Daddy how he felt. He said he didn’t want to, and I said, “Well, at least then just go and finish with your teeth in a cooperative way.” He did, thankfully.

About two minutes later, I walked into the kids’ bathroom to do…something…just as Arlo was running out, tossing the hand towel at the hanger on the wall in his flurry, and the towel fell onto the floor. “Arlo,” I called, “You’re not finished in here! Please come back!” He spun on a heel and yelled, “Yes, I AM FINISHED IN HERE!” with clenched fists and classic angry-kid face. Brian and I pointed to the towel, and I said, “I’m talking about that.” He picked it up and hung it properly. I said, “Arlo, I don’t like it when you yell at me. It breaks my feelings and makes me feel sad.” He hugged me with his whole upper body, even his head, and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy,” and dashed into the bedroom for reading.

When I finally made it into the shower, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I’d just gotten lucky with the way the situation had worked out or if Arlo had yelled on purpose to give me the opportunity for that bit of modeling. I’m telling you, it’s entirely possible. The kid’s a sucker for a good setup.

Light as a feather

As humans, we’re all enrolled in an unofficial continuing education course wherein we learn all manner of skills, facts, coping mechanisms, shortcuts, and tricks of the trade that help guide us through our days. As parents, we learn an unquantifiable amount about ourselves, our children, and the world around us in from a fascinating variety of sources. For instance, I’ve learned so much from the Kratt Brothers and Ms. Frizzle (did you know her first name is Valerie, by the way?). I could talk for hours about Thomas the Tank Engine and write a novella about Angry Birds or Beanie Boos. I know three different ways to accumulate twenty-two flat marbles (there should be a better name for those…the internet gave me “glass globs” but I’m not having any of it) in Mancala on the first move and can sing several songs from the Disney canon, word for word if not note for note, while being exactly half asleep. We all have a diverse and very specific skill set like this, a toolbox of knowledge and ability that is entirely useful in some situations, completely useless in other situations, and constantly under construction.

In an American Girl “Mini Mysteries” book I was reading to the kids, we stumbled upon the ancient Egyptians’ practice of removing the organs from a deceased person and placing them in a canopic jar to be buried alongside the body as part of the mummification process. Add this to the list of “things I probably never would have known if I didn’t have all these kids”! We went on to learn that these cozy jars of innards did not include the heart, which was left inside the corpse in accordance with the belief that a heart was inextricable from the soul, and it alone was necessary to determine the soul’s suitability for the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians believed that the heart would be weighed by the god Anubis (or, in some traditions, Osiris) to discover the caliber of a person’s goodness, and if the heart weighed the same as or less than the Feather of Maat, or the Feather of Truth, the soul was given a ticket to afterlife. If the heart outweighed the feather, however, the soul was either condemned to the Underworld or consumed by Ammit, a voracious demon of a goddess with the countenance of a crocodile, the torso of a lion, and the trunk of a hippopotamus.

The takeaway here is that ancient Egyptians prized the lighthearted as being more virtuous, more righteous, while associating a heavy heart with wickedness. Do our interpretations of the idiomatic notions of “lightheartedness” and “a heavy heart” have roots in this ideology? My limited research on the topic turned up inconclusive results, but either way it’s an idea I appreciate. Imagine for a minute that love does in fact originate in the human heart and emanate from within it. Now imagine that, with each act a person does that is fueled by love, a tiny shred of heart accompanies it, transmogrified into a kind of philanthropic energy, leaving the body of the giver forever to become part of a love-force (perhaps from which infant hearts are generated in this hypothetical scenario to account for the first law of thermodynamics). This would mean that each time a person acts selflessly, graciously, kindly toward another, as an expression of interpersonal love or for the general love of humanity, that person’s heart would lose an atom or so of mass. The more a person loves and acts as directed by love, the lighter his heart would become. Conversely, a person whose actions are guided by forces less magnanimous than love would have a heart much weightier. Having a “heavy heart” would mean living a life in which one was miserly with his love, or at least parsimonious in acting upon its force.

Perhaps, based on this principle, it would make sense that preparing dinner every night for three children who possess incompatible opinions about food makes me feel just the tiniest bit hollow inside 😉

Easter Eggs: the digital age’s comic strip

Remember “the funnies” in the Sunday newspaper? I imagine they still run weekly comic strips, though I can’t remember the last time I saw an actual newspaper. When I was in middle school almost three decades ago, during those years when a girl who’d been a friend decided that it would be a great use of a lot of energy and time to make my life as miserable as possible, I’d look forward to Sunday mornings all week, and after removing the colorful funnies page, would pore over them and cut out my favorites to paste in a notebook. I’m talking about Family Circus, Beetle Bailey, Rhymes with Orange, Sally Forth, Blondie, For Better or for Worse, Doonesbury, Hi and Lois, Non Sequitur, The Wizard of Id. It was a delicious feeling to sit down with that page each Sunday, followed by a nebulous kind of disappointment after finishing it and knowing that I’d have to live through another hellscape of a school week before feeling that excitement again, kind of like coming down after the high of a holiday. The other saving grace that buoyed me through those unfriendly seas of seventh grade was being able to look forward to watching the day’s episode of “All My Children” that my mother faithfully recorded on a VHS tape for me, Monday through Friday at 1:00 EST. Watching that day’s episode was my guilty pleasure and evening ritual after finishing homework, and it’s one of the reasons I survived those days of hiding in a bathroom stall to eat my lunch, feet tucked up under me so no one would see that there was a person in there, with a single shred of sanity intact. I have the fabulous Erica Kane, Adam Chandler, and Hayley Vaughan to thank for allowing me the escape into their on-screen soap opera world for that hour of time out of mind, away from my real-life soap-operatic social scene. Diagramming sentences in English class helped a lot, too, but I digress.

For me, the weekly funnies have been replaced by humorous internet content frequently delivered unto my social media feeds in the form of memes, or in the form of text messages from my many hilarious family members and friends (hi, Dad!). But one of my favorite kinds of comedic content is that which is inserted into the world in subtle ways that are only discovered by chance, and the surprise it provides is value added. So here’s a comedy reel to start off the weekend in the form of two screenshots, amusing discoveries made while conducting Google searches on my phone:

You’ve got to love software developers with a sense of humor.