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I am the future Edward Snowden’s mother

I am the future Edward Snowden’s mother

Back in the wonderful 1980s, when I was in junior high, my parents realized that computers were going to play a major role in everyday lives. They promptly signed me up at a place called “comp u serve” and I diligently learned to program Apple 800s. Flash forward several decades, and I would classify myself as an average computer user: I’m not going to win any awards, but I manage to function in today’s world, and semi-successfully stalk my older stepkids online via social media sites.

In trying to ensure my little one, now five, stayed ahead of the game, I taught him how to play a few educational games on my iPod when he was two, then moved him up to his own kid’s tablet and now a laptop. We’ve had a few issues along the way, like when he started deleting apps on my phone, to make room for his apps, but in general, no problems. He was four when he did that. Maybe that was a sign.

As with many five year olds, one evening, out of the blue, he says, “Oh no! I got into BIG TROUBLE today with Miss Nancy.” She is the director/owner of his after-school care program (and formerly his daycare). This is the equivalent to going to the principal’s office. As far as I know, this is a first offense. I blank my face of emotion, though my heart starts being a bit faster, and ask what he did to be sent there. With a gleam in his eye, he responded, “I downloaded a bunch of apps on the Nooks at school!”

It takes me a few seconds to comprehend. I knew he used the e-readers there, and he had explained the various books and apps available to him. “So, how did you do that?” I ask, rather surprised they had internet access. “Well, usually we can’t, but my friend (names omitted to protect the guilty) showed me how to flip this switch and then it came on!” Hmm…. this sounds sketchy. I have a different brand of e-reader, so I’m not sure what this means exactly. I encourage him to continue. “So I clicked on the ‘e’ and the internet opened. I wanted to download a Cartoon Network app, but that’s a big word so I put in ‘CN’ because that’s what the TV has in the corner, and you know what? IT WORKED!”

My mind is spinning, trying to keep up with a 5 year old’s thought process.

“OK…” I say, dreading what comes next. “What did you do then?” His smile broadens, as he looks at me conspiratorially. “I found that app I keep asking you for, you know the one that costs money? I clicked on it, and it DOWNLOADED!” I close my eyes briefly. “Then, what?” I say, almost a whisper. He informs me his buddy picked his favorite app, which also downloaded. He face suddenly falls. “That’s when we got into trouble,” he says sadly. I look at him rather expectantly. “The apps started showing up on EVERYONE’S Nook, and someone told the teacher. The teacher got Miss Nancy, and she asked who did it.” I ask if he admits to it, and he looks around, nods slightly, and then says, “Well, I admitted to it when everyone started pointing at me.” Little narcs, I think. I tell him he made the right choice. “We had to go to the office,” he says, very matter-of-factly. I nod, concurring. “She told us we were never to go on the internet again. Those two apps costed her six dollars,” he says solemnly. It’s SO hard not to laugh. I’m trying to match his expression. “OK, well, I think you and your friend made a bad choice, but it’s always important to tell the truth and then not repeat it,” I tell him. Wow, that sounds so lame, but he’s five and he buys it. “I’m sorry. Can I play Skylanders?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, “but only for fifteen minutes.” He smiles and begins to excitedly tell me about Shroomboom’s most recent upgrade. I smile and shake my head and hope I can keep him out of prison.

(This was written over a year ago, but I never published it. I showed it to one of my friends, who encouraged me to do so, even though many people have forgotten about Ed. I haven’t.)


Don’t tell me I don’t understand love

Don’t tell me I don’t understand love at your age. I realize over two decades separate us in age, but I remember my first love like it was yesterday. I
remember what it felt like when he first whispered those words, and I knew with every fiber of my being that he meant it. I remember what it felt like to be with him, and it seemed like the rest of the world just vanished. I remember looking into his eyes, as he looked into mine, and our souls touched. Don’t you dare tell me I don’t understand.

I know how you view me: crazy woman, always talking on the phone or on her laptop, dealing with work issues. You step into the door, I pause briefly, say hello, then continue on my maddening pace. I’m cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, dealing with your little half-brother. I’m asking you “mom” questions like if you need new socks or if you are hungry. You see me for 48 hours and then you are gone.

You know I love your dad, but I’m old. Old people don’t “get” love. We don’t “get” all the struggles you face. We don’t “get” how difficult life is. I hate to break it to you, but I’m a child of the eighties. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, baby. More than half of my friends’ parents were divorced. Drugs were more available than alcohol. EVERYBODY was “doing it.” Fast Times of Ridgemont High showed how easy it was to get an abortion. We didn’t worry about sexually transmitted diseases. AIDS didn’t impact us (or so we thought). It was one big party.

In the middle of all of that, my friends were getting high, getting drunk, and cheating on their significant others. Classmates died from drug overdoses and suicides. I was trying to get out of high school without getting pregnant or getting arrested – and I was one of the good kids, little miss goody-goody.

So, sorry to burst your little bubble, but yeah, I do “get” it. It’s been a long time ago, true. My issues now are perhaps more complex, but I would say that infidelity, arrests, pregnancy and death are way bigger than some of my problems now. So cut me some slack. Listen to me when I give you a little advice. I don’t do it often, and I never say, “Oh this isn’t a big deal.” I know it is. I know what it feels like to love and to lose that love, especially the first time. It feels like you’ve lost your entire world. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be love.

Don’t tell me I don’t understand. I do.

How Trick or Treating turned into a life lesson

Our community is home to a very small zoo. Each year, as one of their main fundraisers, they host “Boo at the Zoo.” Kids can come in costume, play games, “trick or treat” at various stations, and take a haunted train ride. We have attended since our son was four.

He and I arrived ten minutes before the gates opened. Anticipation was in the air, with kids excitedly waiting for admission. Once through the line, our first stop was the mad scientist lab, where we able to help with “experiments” and learn how to make slime.

As we exited, there were several games nearby. I was juggling a wet painting, a bag of slime, and trying to wipe the “gak” off of my son’s hands, which was really just cornstarch and water. As it dried, it turned to powder and flaked off. Of course, this could not happen fast enough for my little first grader. He played one game then walked to the next one. As he finished the pumpkin bowling, I realized that I did not have his blue plastic pumpkin, now holding his slime and painting. I vaguely remember handing it to him to wipe off the stuff on my hands. “Where is your pumpkin?” I inquired, looking around. His look turned to panic. “I don’t know!” he said, frantically looking around. I thought it couldn’t have gone far; he just sat it down for a moment. The seconds started to tick by, with us looking next to the games, by the line of people that had formed behind us, and in between the two games.

Gone. His blue pumpkin was gone. In less than sixty seconds, it had somehow disappeared. He hadn’t forgotten it along the way. He sat it down to play a game, and now it was missing. My helplessness turned to anger quickly. Who steals a little boy’s pumpkin? Did another child accidently walk off with it? I was immediately comforted by this thought, as this did not make my child a victim of a crime. My guilt was through the roof. It’s my job to protect him. He’s seven. That includes his pumpkin. I explained to him that maybe no one stole it, but maybe a small child wandered off with it. I consoled him with a sword that lit up and made sounds. I had the bag that was given to us when we entered, that most children are using to capture their candy and prizes. After a few games, some face painting, and a promise of fast food on the way home, he was seemingly over the incident and had fun. I told him that I was very proud of him. While a devastating event occurred, he recovered after a few minutes of sadness and was able to put the past behind him . We made it to our car unscathed, enjoyed a very late treat on the drive home, and recounted the tales of the evening to his father.

As I prepared for bed that evening, the narcissistic part of my brain went into overdrive: what if this had nothing to do with the pumpkin or my son? What if this was directed at me? Was this a stalker? Mommy paranoia made an appearance. What if my son has a stalker? A few deep breaths later, I was able to reclaim my sanity. Common sense tells me that a child did this. Whether it was a three year-old mischief maker or a ten year old meanie, I’ll never know. All I can do is stay vigilant. The world is not always a kind place. It’s not fun to learn that while trick-or-treating. The important lesson, however, is to not let that one bad moment ruin the future. My little guy has a good grasp on this. I should take a lesson from him.

Don’t be a gecko

While flipping through TV stations, my husband found a listing for the movie, “We bought a zoo.”  As we have a five year old, we try to choose what is on the big screen very carefully.  I remembered the story line from the trailers and had always wanted to see it.  It seemed like a safe bet.  Our son was printing numbers, and playing with toys.  I didn’t expect him to really sit down and watch it, but I thought some parts might interest him. 


The movie did catch his interest, and it was reaching a pivotal point:  would they be approved by the USDA to reopen?  During this scene, this adorable little girl, close to my son’s age, informs the inspector that people call him a ….. (male body part, rhymes with sick). 


My husband and I looked up at each other and then to our son.  He was staring, fascinated, at the TV.  My husband buries his face in the computer, hiding behind the screen.  Thanks, Dear.  No white knight is coming to my rescue on this one.  Colin looks at me, with this little twinkle in his eye, and says, “What is a…. (see word reference above)? 


My brain was running a million miles an hour trying to dodge this one. 


“No, no, he said ‘gick’,” I reply, smiling, looking right in his eyes.  “What’s a ‘gick’?” asks my child.  “You know, it’s another word for gecko: the little lizards.” 


I pause, still looking him in the eye and smiling.  Wow, I am making this up as I go along, but so far so good, I think. 


“Why would you call somebody a lizard?” he asks, now looking a little confused.  I said, “It’s kinda like calling somebody a chicken.  It’s just calling somebody a name, which we shouldn’t do.  So we shouldn’t call people names.” 


“So, we shouldn’t say, ‘Don’t be a gick!’” he says, eyes gleaming at me.  He’s such a little booger.  He will use any excuse to use a bad word in such a context as to not get in trouble.   I wonder where he gets it – must be his father. 


I repeat that we shouldn’t name-call, and we continue watching the show.  Several minutes later, my husband re-emerges from behind the laptop, and looks at me with a look of incredulity and a bit of distain.  “Gecko?” he murmurs, one eyebrow cocked. 


I started giggling, then laughing, tears streaming down my eyes.  My son shushes me, giving me a very disapproving look.  I am apparently disrupting his movie-watching. 


We make it through another day of life, and I have a new phrase:  Don’t be a gecko. 

Things I never thought I’d say in church

Do not walk like Yoda

Do not pretend you have a light saber.  No – not even a pretend one. 

Get down from those steps!  You may not jump like Spiderman!  

No, you cannot play the drums on the stage.  Get down!  Right now!  

No, I don’t think Jesus has a light saber.  He really doesn’t need one. 

Yes, God could beat both Spiderman and the Hulk.  At the same time. 

You may not fly down the hallway (arms outstretched, like Superman)

Please do not push people and say “Coming through!”  It’s rude. 

I don’t really think Jesus said, “Don’t color in Sunday school” now did he?  

I understand you like the water fountain, but you may not gargle and spit out the water. 

Discrimination in preschool

“Mom, I need to talk to you about something,” my 4-year old said. Uh oh. This is NEVER good. Never ever. “Sure, what’s up?” I asked. “I don’t think some of my friends like you,” he explained, “and I think they won’t be my friend because they don’t like you. Because you are different.” Hmm – OK this one has me stumped. Nothing is entering my mind. All the general reasons for discrimination are running through my mind: I’m white, I’m straight, I’m married, I dress decently but not overly high-end…. Oh wait – I am probably 15-20 pounds over my ideal weight. I gear up mentally to deal with this, as I ask, “How am I different?” He takes a deep breath, looks me right in the eye, and says, “You have curly hair, and I don’t think my friends will like you because your hair is different.”

REALLY? I immediately think of two other mothers who have hair that is curlier hair than mine.

It was so hard not to laugh. I mentioned the two other moms that have curly hair. He looks at me like I am the dumbest person in the world, and he really doesn’t have time to explain this – he is playing with his new Star Wars light saber, after all. “MOM,” he says, full of exasperation, “their hair is BROWN.” I’m a blonde.

Oh – well THAT clears up everything!!!

We spent some time talking about how people have different hair: different colors, different lengths, etc. It was actually a great way to talk about differences and why we shouldn’t judge people on physical traits. He still isn’t sure that his friends will like him because of his mother’s hair, but he’s OK with that. Let’s hope I can continue that throughout his life, with other more critical issues.

And life goes on…

Fireworks, tresspassors, and pirate ladies

This year, personal fireworks usage was banned in our county, due to drought conditions. The city, however, was allowed to continue their tradition with a lovely show that takes place over a large river. My husband thought it would be a good idea to watch from a nearby parking garage, on the other side of the river, to avoid traffic. The show wasn’t going to start until 10pm, and that is very, very late for our 4 year old.

We packed a few things and headed to the garage, a few miles from our house. We arrived about 20 minutes before the show was to begin, and there were just a handful of other cars (SCORE- we gotta remember this next year). As we got out of the SUV and opened the back, which was going to be our seating area, my husband noticed somebody on top of the stairwell, by the fans. This is all encased and locked, meaning the person had to scale the fire escape and climb over a locked gate, assuming they did not have a key. We are talking 6-7 stories above ground. As my husband works for the university which owns this parking garage, and after some very unfortunate incidents with students where they don’t belong in recent years, he decided to call it in – that is, until he saw his buddy, a police officer, there as a spectator. His buddy called it in, and the K9 unit showed up. They made the guy come down, searched him, and off he went. Nothing too spectacular, but interesting none the less.

While we are watching this event unfold, one of our “neighbors” for the evening was chatting with me. We wandered over to the edge of the garage to get our bearings and to figure out exactly where the fireworks will be launched. I came back to the SUV, and my two boys were lounging in the back. The four-year-old says, “Who was that pirate lady you were talking to?” You see, my new friend was wearing a bandana around her head. Our oldest just laid down in the back and laughed. Later, he asked, can we have any kind of family outing without some kind of event happening? I looked at his dad and brother and said, “Not with those two.”

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