A Doll House for my Daughter

As a dad who can’t get enough of being one, I am always trying to find a way to prove that I am a better father than the next guy.  Not really, but I do feel the need to be thought of as a good father.

The fact is, I’m a little cheap.  I don’t like to spend a lot of money on something I could do myself.  My father was a general contractor, and I inherited all of his toys.  There’s nothing like needing to hang a picture on the wall, and knowing that all I have to do is step into the garage, turn on the 6 ft. tall Campbell-Hausfeld compressor and choose which nail-gun I want to use.  Oh, yeah.  So whenever I see an overpriced toy that I think my kid needs, I think, “I could make that.”

The last time it was a set of bins for her toy that were twice as large as the ones at Ikea, and cost me half as much (if you don’t count the trip to the doctor when I shot a nail through my thumb).

So, with my daughter’s third birthday arriving in a bout two months, I have decided to build…a doll house.  My niece has a cool one that is three stories tall, one room deep, and has the whole back half open for easy access.

I looked around and these things go for around $300.  Of course, I thought, I can build one of those.  I have been thinking about it for a few months now, and collecting materials along the way.  Last month, I did a rough sketch and bought a couple of pieces of MDF and a piano hinge.

I did some more drawing, and realized that I needed another piece of MDF.  So, I finally decided that last weekend, I would have to start it if I were to have any chance of finishing it before her birthday.

I decided that I would not hide it from her for several reasons.  The first was the fact that hiding it would be difficult.  The second was the fact that I thought she would appreciate it more if she saw the effort that it took to make it.  And of course, if it made her love for me grow greater, that would be even better.

So I asked my mother to come and watch her Saturday, and got to work.  It was not that difficult, but it was hot, and as with anything like this, the time seems to fly by when are actually doing it.  By Saturday evening, I had the whole frame put together, and the piano hinge on the roof.  The wood for the interior walls had been cut, and I had decided that a lot of the work from this point on could be done in the house where there is air conditioning.

Since Saturday, I have done a little work every day.  The interior walls are in now, and I have cut the wood for a couch, love seat and chair for the living room, and a couple of beds.

As with most things that I do like this, I have gotten carried away.  I tend to build things that are a little more elaborate or just plain big.  This would fall into the ‘big’ category.  It is 57 inches tall, 49 inches wide, and 18 inches deep on a 24 inch deep base.  There are 10 rooms including a living room, study/library, dining room, kitchen, pantry, full bath, master bedroom, nursery, child’s room, and kid’s playroom.

I plan to make as much of the furniture as I can.  My focus will be on functionality rather than reality.  For instance, I want to make a chair and table for the dining room that will last if my daughter wants to play with it for years, not an ultra-realistic piece of miniature art that will break the first time she plays with it.  And, I want it to be big enough for Barbie when she gets one.

Special thanks to my wife.  She has done most of the measuring and marking, and without her assistance, it would not be done at all.

I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I will continue to document this process in case any other parents out there decide that they want to attempt it.  Stay tuned for pictures, and further documentation.

Cost so far:

3 pieces MDF: $22.00 each

48 inch Piano Hinge: $15.00

Screws: $0 (already had these)

Nails: $0 (already had these)

Tools: $0 (already had these)

Scrap Wood: $0 (already had some of this. Also took two small pieces from a trash pile at a home being built in the neighborhood)

Total: $81.00

The Bachelor Exploits a Child

I watch a lot of Reality TV.  I have watched every season of Survivor, The Mole, The Amazing Race, and several seasons of American Idol and The Apprentice.  I have also watched several reality failures like the recent pirate debacle.

 

However, I have never enjoyed any of the programs based on relationships especially dating relationships.  I think that a marriage is simply too important to suggest that people should act as if they could ever enter into it though a television program where money is used as bait.  I also am uncomfortable with them men and women on these programs who use sex or their sexualityto help them get ahead (I know I am a little inconsistent here with regard to Survivor).  It is seedy and unseemly.

 

So, when I saw the touching commercial for the new bachelor program where the male contestant is a single father, I wanted to puke.  It was clear from the advertisements the his young son was going to be a big player in the plot of the show.  It is one thing for these people to screw around with each other’s emotions, but it is something else entirely when you involve a child and exploit him.

 

I find it hard to believe that no one at ABC objected to this, but I am sure that they thought all they had to do was to make a ‘touching’ commercial, and people would be all over it.  It is one thing for these despicable programs to present their warped ideas dating and marriage, but it is something else entirely when a child is brought in, a child who probably is looking for a mother figure.  So, they will put him on the program where these women will attempt to form emotional attachments with him in order to curry favor with his father in hopes that the father will choose them, and they will win the money.  The young boy will also get to see them throwing themselves at his father in a sexual way,… nice.

 

Shame on his father for using his own son to further a career in entertainment.  Shame on the women who use him for the same thing, and to win some money.  Shame on the producers for thinking up this tripe.  Shame on ABC for allowing this abomination to happen, and promoting it as if it is a good thing, and shame on everyone who helps this program in the ratings by watching it.

There is Nothing Wrong with ‘Xmas’

I remember when I was a child how offended my mother would get when she saw the word ‘Xmas’ on a commercial or at a store.  She would really become angry saying, “There they go again trying to take Christ out of Christmas.”  On some level, I can understand her unhappiness.  Today, with the ACLU and the court system actually trying to remove any reference to Christmas, it is understandable that Christians would be on the defensive.  Almost daily we are faced with stories about long-time traditional festivals that are replacing the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” or “Festival.”  Seinfeld sublimely underscored many of these attitudes with the famous “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode.

However, Christians who become offended at the word Xmas, simply have not studied what the word actually connotes.  In early Christianty, the X was actually a Greek letter pronounced “Chi” or “Kai.”  It was the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.

Due to persecution, early Christians would use the X as a symbol meaning Christ and denoting themselves as Christians.  The familiar Fish symbol seen on many cars goes back to this tradition.  The symbols that look like IXOYE (pronounced ‘ixthus’ or ‘icthus’), are really a Greek acronym denoting: Jesus, Christ, of God, Son, Savior.  The Greek word is actually an acrostic that spells out ‘fish.’

So, you see, when you spell Christmas with an ‘X,’ you are just paying homage to 2000 years of Christian tradition.  You can even use it as a tool to teach others when you hear them asking, “Why is Christmas spelled with an “X”?

Things that I am Thankful for

As I edge toward Thanksgiving Holiday, I ask myself what it is that I am actually thankful for.  Daily, it seems that we are being bombarded with news of the bad economy, and being a Republican is nothing like it was a decade ago, but here goes.

I am thankful that I am a Christian.  I may not hold to many of the more fundamentalist (or liberal) views of modern Christian denominations, but I believe that Christ died for my sins, and am thankful that my God is a god of grace who loves me in spite of my many failings.

I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my lovely wife and my wonderful little daughter.  Every day is a new adventure when you have a two year old.  My wife and I may be a good pair, but it is the little girl that completes both of us.

I am thankful for the grandparents.  My mom is wonderful with my daughter, and she does everything thing she can to help us through the everyday life situations that sometimes come up.  My in-laws are also great.  This year, there were a couple of times when I had to work some extended hours (once I put in an extra 155 hours in a month).  My mom and my in-laws really came through by coming to stay with us for weeks at a time so that the baby would not have to be in day care for eight hours a day or more.  To top that all off, this summer while I was having to work so many hours, my father-in-law practically put in a bar that I had been planning to do by himself, and it looks as good as a master carpenter could do.

My sister, her husband and my niece who is slightly older than my daughter are also a blessing.  We will not be spending Thanksgiving together this year because we will be at the in-law’s house, and my sister, who would normally be at her in-law’s house, will be staying at home because she is pregnant with what will be my new nephew.  Yeah!

I am thankful that I was born an American in Texas and in the Dallas area.  There is no place I’d rather be.

I am thankful for my education, the fact that I have a good job, and a good boss who appreciates the work that I do, and I am thankful that I have a customer base that, for the most part is easy to work with.

I am thankful that my wife likes some of the programming that I like to watch on television, and that she is willing to sit beside me and act like she likes some of the other programming that I watch.  I am also thankful that I live in the age of the DVR.

I am thankful that I live in an area that has a lot of sports related outlets.  Between, the Cowboys, Rangers, Stars and Mavericks, Dallas covers the sports world well, but it would be nice to see a World Series come through here.  We even have a professional soccer team, FC Dallas.  There are also three professional minor league baseball teams, several universities, and Texas high school football to satiate the sports fan.  And, of course we have the best local sports radio in the country, Sports Radio 1310, the Ticket.

I am thankful that I live in a safe, affordable neighborhood with good schools that my daughter will one day attend.

I am thankful that Texas still does not have a state income tax.

I am thankful that I have a few friends that go back as far a high school, and that I know I can trust at least one of them with pretty much anything.

I am thankful that I will not have to do anything to assist with the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I am thankful that my father-in-law finally paid for the local channels to be put on his Dish Network plan so it will not be snowing during all of the football games that I plan to watch this week.

I am thankful that I live in a time, and in a country where I can publish any opinion that I wish to anyone in the world who wishes to read it, for free (thanks, WordPress).  Being a student of history, I know that freedom of speech has been a rarity throughout the history of mankind, and I respect a person’s right to have an opinion even if I do not agree with what the person is saying.

I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I am thankful.

I Love Peanut Butter, as Any Good American Should

I did not need to have Obama come along with his quick-witted repartee in order to know the greatness and potential of black people as a race.  I knew the first time that I heard that a black man, the great George Washington Carver, had invented peanut butter that they had something.

I have always been a big fan of peanut butter, and if I know there is peanut butter in something, I’m probably going to try it.  Some of my earliest memories of my father are of him mixing up some peanut butter and syrup, and then eating it scooped up on some Wonder Bread with a glass of milk.  Yummm….  I, personally, have always been a fan of the Elvis- Peanut butter and banana on white bread with a glass of milk.  Ohhh Yeah.

Of course, everyone knows that the best peanut butter is Jif (creamy).  Though, almost any peanut butter will do in a pinch.  However, I’m sure everyone remembers the time when they were kids, and their mother decided to get that nutritional crap that purports itself to be peanut butter.  You know, the stuff that has to be refrigerated, and separates, and when you try to spread it on a piece of bread, it simply tears the bread up so badly that it can no longer be used in a decent PB&J.  Disgusting.

Of course, the pinnacle of peanut butter came when those two lovers ran into each other.  She got chocolate in his peanut butter, and he got peanut butter on her chocolate.  The greatness of the Reese’s peanut butter cup was born.  The original cup is still the best, though Reese’s has come out with a plethora of variations that are not as good in recent years.  That perfect blend of sweet chocolate and salty peanut butter is great.  Too many candies and cookies (especially chocolate chip cookies) do not realize that it is that little bit of salt that puts it over the top.  You can usually tell when you have a peanut butter candy that is not made by Reese’s.  They are the sickly sweet ones.

As I said before, if it has peanut butter in it, then I will probably try it.  I have had some great peanut butter cookies of all sorts, but I still am in search of a truly great peanut butter pie or cake.  A few years ago, when I moved to the Fort Worth area, I found a frozen custard (ice cream to the masses) place that would mix peanut butter in their ice cream.  I swear it tastes like real peanut butter on a ratio of one to one with the ice cream.  You can even order an Elvis there where they mix in some banana along with the peanut butter in the frozen custard.  Greatness.

The other day when I was having an Elvis at Sheridan’s, I was remarking to myself once again that no one (at least no one that I have tried) makes peanut butter ice cream that tastes this good and this much like peanut butter.  Suddenly, a memory flickered.  I was brought back to my college days when I discovered the greatest peanut butter treat that I have ever purchased.  For a few years, in the early 1990’s Mar Inc. produced a candy bar it called the PB MAX.  All apologies to Reese’s, but this was better.  It consisted of a crunchy cookie about two inches square.  On top of this was what looked like a heaping tablespoon of real (possibly even Jif) peanut butter.  On top of the peanut butter, several small pieces of cookie were sprinkled.  And, finally the whole thing was covered in chocolate.  Unfortunately, the PB Max only lasted a few years, but it will always have a found place in my heart.

Hey Mars, bring it back!

 

A Christian Family Halloween.

Last night my family got together for Halloween.  It included my wife, my two year old daughter, my mom, sister, her husband and my niece.  My bother-in-law’s father, sister, niece and his brother-in-law also were there.  On top of that, my sister is pregnant with my future nephew, as is my bother-in-law’s sister with his.  This was by far the largest family gathering of this sort since my sister’s wedding about 12 years ago.

I have to say, this was the most enjoyable Halloween of my life, and that includes when I was a kid.  I got to watch my two year old Daughter who has no fear.  She is amazing.  She watched her 4 year old cousin and her cousin’s cousin for the first few houses, and I even had to retrieve her from one house when she walked right in past the owner.  After a few houses, she had the hang of it, and at years old she was the one who got to the door first and knocked.  She would say, “Trick or treat! (it sounded like ‘tick-tee’)” and, “Thank you!”  Often, she needed no prompting, and she made me very proud.  There were a few times that she asked me to carry her to the next house, but when she saw the light on, she would run to the door.  She loved it and there was a couple of time when she grabbed me around the neck and just started giving me hugs and kisses repeatedly.  I guess she was just that happy.

The other thing that got my attention was the number of adults that were participating.  Almost every other house gave out candy.  The people were all very nice.  Some sat on their porches, and a few came down to the sidewalk to meet our children.  I noticed the ages of these people, and most were old enough that there children were out trick-or-treating on their own, or they probably already had grandchildren.  This made sense, as most couples with small children were roaming the streets getting the candy themselves.  This means that the numbers actually participating in the festivities were even larger than the numbers giving out candy.  Kind of amazing.  Isn’t America great?  All of these people could have been sitting in their respective living rooms, but they decided to take the time to give out candy that they bought from their hard owned money just to make people that they did not even know happy.

I wrote a post a couple of week’s ago about Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween.  Since, then I have been extremely busy with overtime work commitments, and have not had a lot of opportunities to write, but I have monitored my traffic and the search criteria that people have used to get to my posts.  The Halloween post has generated a lot of interest, though there have been no comments.  I was surprised about that because of the controversial nature of the subject.  It seemed like the people for and against were about even when looking at their search criteria.  I personally think that those who were against Halloween who read my post either did not stay long enough to read the article once they saw that it did not confirm their own ideas, or they, unfortunately, like most Christians do not take the time to form their own opinions and wait to be told what to think about ideas like Halloween by other Christians who often have no better reason than the fact that someone told them what to think.

I feel sorry for the Christian parents who did not take part in the festivities.  I was pretty nice about it in the last post, but now, I am just going to say it flat out.  They are wrong.  There is really no Biblical justification for their attitudes.  They are the kill-joys that drive people including their children from the churches.  It is a shame because it does not have to be that way.  Their noble intent of protecting their children will often build up resentments in these same children.  They, the children, as they grow up will know that the negative attitudes toward things such as Halloween are wrong, but often there is no one who can help them resolve the truth about the situation, and they end up becoming disillusioned with the whole Christian life because of the few problems that denominational Christian churches have including negative attitudes toward anything secular, including Halloween.

On Thursday, my family went to one of the Fall Festivals at one of the local Baptist churches.  We had a lot of fun, but it could have benefited from a little more organization.  That being said, they did not have to do it at all, and it was a nice attempt at a hospitable ministry to the community.  It is often hard to get a church to embrace these types of ministry activities because they cost money, they do not generate money, and they do not directly lead to converts during the activity, for the most part.  They are effective, however, because they bring in tons of people to meet the nice members of your church, and will result in people joining the church that may not have done so.

However, I read a couple of blogs last week that defended the “Fall Festival” idea last week.  These people felt that their party was being criticized as hypocritical by Christians who were against Halloween.  They went on to split hairs between taking part in Halloween, and attending their “festival” where you dress up, play games and give candy to children.  This is where I agree with the fundamentalists who hate Halloween.   If a Church has a “Fall Festival” as an alternative to Halloween, and denigrates the holiday at the same time, they are indeed being hypocritical.  But, where I differ from the fundamentalists is that I think having a “Fall Festival” or even a Halloween party at your church in accord with the generally accepted Halloween observances is a great idea, and a good ministry tool.  Let’s just not condemn Halloween while observing it in our churches.

In the end, it’s a shame on Christianity, my religion, when we allow the world to ‘show us up’ in the areas of hospitality, neighborly love and friendship, and if we continue to go down this road, we will become more and more irrelevant.

Ah, Sweet Bitterness

I have been a connoisseur of bitterness for a few years.  Wine is a good analogy for bitterness, because when it is done well, and aged to perfection, it can leave the objective observer with feelings of amusement and maybe even a little sympathy.  Often, it leaves you with a nice after reading piquant of, ‘Wow, at least I’m not like that guy!’ or ‘At least I’m not having his problems’ or even perhaps, ‘I wish I could be that bitter!’  Bitterness can go bad or rancid just like wine or, for example, in the case of unbearably crotchety Andy Rooney (Oh, if CBS would only figure this out.), but most of the time, good bitterness leaves me with a pleasant smile on my face.  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

 

I want to give a plug for the first story that I found on GordonKeith.com.  Gordon is a local radio and TV personality in Dallas who is otherwise known, appropriatly as ‘the prince of darkness.’  I posted a link to his blog on my blogroll.

 

With all of that being said, I would like to present this touching tribute.  Remember, you can’t get the last word in…when you’re dead.

Watching Movies With Mom

We’ve all done it.  You are spending the day at your folk’s house, and there is nothing on television to watch.  Your mom has fed you, so you do not feel like going anywhere.  Then someone has the idea to rent a movie.  Your mom doesn’t really watch movies, so you begin to run down a list of possible films that everyone might like.  You think of one of your favorite movies, and, of course, she has not seen it.  You rent it and hope for the best, but in the end you feel extremely frustrated for one reason or another. 

Of course, there are some movies you would never think of seeing with your mother.  Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction are far too sexual.  Predator is too violent. And, The Accused is both.  Movies like Animal House should also be obvious as they are too vulgar to watch with your mother. 

Sometimes, you start thinking about how great a movie is, and you give your mom the benefit of the doubt, thinking that she will be able to handle it.  You are wrong.  Mom’s are great, but they seem to have a knack for ruining a good flick.

I have organized some movies into categories that generally show some typical movie themes that will always cause head-throbbing pain if you try to watch them with your mother.

 

Complicated Plots with lots of Characters:

A lot mom’s have problems with organization and compartmentalization.  They have a lot on their minds and lots of responsibilities.  They often do not feel like they can devote the time required to keep up some movies.  As a result, movies with lots of stars or intricate plots are minefields for the person attempting to watch them with mom.  If you attempt this, you will probably find yourself answering a plethora of questions, and while you are answering these questions, your mom will be missing more plot points which will only add exponentially to the number of questions that will be asked.  Some examples of this are JFK, Goodfellas, and Blackhawk Down.  The Departed is another good example of this, especially, because the characters in this movie tend to blur the lines of good and evil.  The Godfather I and II also deserve special mention because they add the even more confusing element of moving backward and forward in time.  You might think you could sneak the Ocean’s 11 movies in on your mom, but remember they have a syncopated quality toward the end.  All of the technical planning- which your mom either did not understand, did not listen to , or did not have the time to devote her full attention to early in the movie- comes to a head.  Several characters are working to pull off the heist, and the camera is sometimes following several people at one time.  This type of sensory overload is too much for someone whose early exposure to the film medium included films with such complicated plots as The Sound of Music.

 

Good movies based on or involving Dark Themes:

You mom is not an evil person.  And often mom’s are not complicated people.  This is a good thing.  It is better to know that you have a mother who always takes the moral high-road.  For her, good is always good, and evil is always evil.  For this reason, she has trouble dealing with movies that contain dark themes.  Mom’s often have problems with the grey areas, and when a person does a bad thing, in her mind, that can never be good or lead to a good result.  The perfect example of this is Slingblade.

Another type of movie in this category is one that is Good or Interesting, but has a Plot Based on Evil Deeds or an Evil Person.  Good examples of this are The Shining, Fargo or The Silence of the Lambs.  Mom tend to want to protect their children from the evil of the world.  Having you sit in a room with them and being faced with this evil is often troublesome for them.

Still another type of movie is this movie that has a very ‘Good’ Hero, but Very Evil Situations that he must deal with.  Examples of this include, The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List and The Mission.  My own experience with this is that my mom would get to a terrible scene in the movie- such as in The Mission when the babies are thrown out in the rain- and simply stop watching the movie.

A final subset of this group is the Anti-Hero Movie.  Movies in this genre would include: Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill.  A perfect example of a movie in this group would be High Plains Drifter.  Come on!  He paints the town red and calls it Hell.  I know that these are cool movies, but my mother will never think they are cool.  She is more likely tell me that I am ‘warped’ if I show her one of these.

 

Movie with Language Issues:

The first subset of this category is Foreign Language Films.

I have to face it, my mother is pretty jingoistic and cannot deal with anything that is not in good old English.  A good example of this is Life is Beautiful.  Another example that adds the mom-confounding element of fantasy to being filmed in Spanish is Pan’s Labyrinth.

A second subset of this category is Films that use Verse.  Movies based on Shakespeare works often employ this.

A third subset of movies in this category involves Movies with Main Characters who Speak in Dialects.  Movies based on Irish characters are popular in this category,

 

Movies that require some Preexisting Knowledge of the Plot or Characters or Memory of a Previous Movie: 

Very popular movies can fall into this category.  The Star Wars films, The Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter films are included in this group.  Few things can be more of a beating than repeated questions such as, “What’s a Muggle?” from across the room.

 

Movies Based on Allegories:

Anyone should read Heart of Darkness before attempting to watch Apocalypse Now in the first place, but expecting your mother to be able to comprehend a movie that is a visual story about searching the depths of one’s soul will only leave you frustrated.  Remember, this is your mom.  She has no depth to her soul.  Her soul is simple and pure, and you like it that way.

The Chronicle’s of Narnia may be surprising to see on this list, but this movie is an allegory that your mom knows is an allegory.  You need to be prepared for statements like, “The lion is God, right.”  So, so defeating.

Edward Scissorhands would fit here, but there is a fairly good chance she would get this one.

 

Movies with Fantastic Elements to the Plot:

There are lots of movies that weave a fantastic element into every day life.  Two good examples of this are Field of Dreams and Being John Malkovich.  Remember, your mom is grounded in reality, and you like it that way. 

 

Movies that You thought were Funny:

Always remember, your mother has a sense of humor, but it is not as the same as or as funny as yours.  There are lots of movies that fit into this category.  The best way to figure out if a movie fits this category is this: If it makes you laugh out loud, your mom will not think it is funny, and if it makes you smile politely, she will probably love it.

The list here could go on and on.  It includes Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Better Off Dead, Napoleon Dynamite, Talladega Nights (anything with Will Ferrell), Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles.

Anything that is funnier when you are drunk, is not as funny with your mom.  Dumb and Dumber is a good example of this.

I’m pretty sure that my mom thinks that ‘irony’ is an adjective that describes the relatively wrinkle-free quality of shirts.  Therefore, Oh Brother Where Art Thou and comedies like it are not for her.

I try to remember that my mom thought Father of the Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding were funny, so I don’t get too fancy with my comedy choices..

 

Movies with a Twist:

O Henry was on to something when he introduced the world to the ironic plot twist.  These twists often make a movie more interesting, and the longer the director can keep the audience in the dark, the better the movie often seems.  A great example of this is The Truman Show.  Do not watch these types of movies with your mom.  Because she does not have the time to pay attention to the movie, she will often need things spelled out for her.  She will probably not figure out what is going on in The Truman Show until shortly before Truman opens the door at the end of the movie, and then be ready for the plethora of questions that will come your way.

Other movies in this category would include The Others and The Sixth Sense (any M. Night Shyamalan movie would fit here).

 

Movies that Involve Scientific or Science Fiction Themes:

Most mom’s are not a rocket scientists or a brain surgeons, and they usually are not interested in any of that stuff.  Movies like Contact, Blade Runner, AI, The Matrix, Dune, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Come on, You don’t even understand this.) are out of their scope of interest.  They often have problems understanding and following them because she just doesn’t care about the subject.  Women in general are more interested in relationships.  This goes for movies also, and movies where the characters whole lives are lived in tube-fed bubbles are probably not on Dr. Phil’s recommended list.

2001 or 2010 a Space Odyssey: just don’t do it.  It does not matter if you get past the apes, she still won’t care.

A subset of this category is: Movies Set in Another World with a Different Set of Rules:

A lot of people follow the old adage, ‘when in Rome…’ when viewing films.  Not my mom.  She does not care very much about Rome either.  Most fantasy and Sci-fi movies fit in this category.  The Road Warrior, Water World and other post-apocalyptic movies fit here.

Still another subset of this category is: Movies that involve an Element of Time Travel:

The logical flaws that usually plague these films are hard enough for anyone to put up with, and mom’s distractability tend to make these movies not worth the effort.  I am not being paid to be a physicist, so I don’t try to be one.

Déjà Vu deserves special mention here.   Unless you want to spontaneously explode, do not watch this film with you mother.  It has a major time travel element which is surprisingly done well, but my mom, after not paying good attention in the first part of this movie, would be a question factory as she tried in vain to figure out what is going on near the end.

Donnie Darko is another great example.  As I stated earlier, my mom doesn’t get darkness.  She does understand characters that are as complicated as the title character in this movie.  She has a positive outlook on the world, and as a result has trouble identifying with people as depressing as him.  Add a horrifying bunny and the element of time travel, and she will probably remember some house cleaning that she has to finish before the end.

 

Forgotten Dialogue or Uncomfortable scenes:

There are many movies that you remembered being great because they were, but when you showed them to mom, there was the unfortunate nude scene or sometimes a repeated ‘F’ word.  Good examples of this are Braveheart and Dances With Wolves.  It is important to note that even though your mom might like a movie like this if she were to watch it with your dad or her friends, she may not be able to enjoy it with you in the room.  You are still her baby (even if you are 40), and she may have trouble getting by that fact.  It is best to allow these movies to come to her through other venues, as she will be tainted by the fact that it was you that recommended it to her.

 

Memento– I placed the movie in a category by itself.  This movie is a pretty genius murder mystery about a guy who has no short term memory told from his point of view.  It is hard enough for any person to keep up with it while paying full attention.  My mom doesn’t stand a chance.  Never, ever attempt to watch this movie with your mom.

 

When you watch movies with mom, play it safe.  Go with the tried and true.  The Princess Bride, Mr Mom and Mrs Doubtfire are great choices.  If you are lucky, she may not even remember that she has seen them before.

 

If youv’e had any fun experiences watching movies with mom, please leave a comment, or if you think of a movie that I left out, leave that also.

 

Motherly Love

I recently read a post on one of my friend’s blogs about him slicing off the end of his finger with a razor.  Being a little sarcastic, and hearing my mother’s voice inside my head, I thought, “I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”  This brought a host of my mom’s sayings back to me, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would put My Top 100 Creepy People list on hold and talk about mom.

First, I want to say that I love my mother, and she has been the greatest influence on my life.  She taught me morals and the importance of being polite with people.  She led me toward Christianity, and basically taught me to be a good person.  She is an even better grandmother to my daughter and mother-in-law to my wife.

However, I have another good friend that I’ve dropped some of my mother’s ‘pearls of wisdom’ on over the years.  At one point, he told me that he was surprised that I turned as well as I have after hearing these words of encouragement all of my life.

There were no good manuals on raising a child when I was born, and I don’t think my mom was a big reader at that time anyway.  All she had to draw upon was tradition and the things she had heard her mother say to her.  My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and was a share-cropper at times.  It was a hard life and combined with the American tradition of ‘rugged individualism,’ the people of this generation did not have the time, patience or ethic for worrying about every scraped knee.

I decided to gather these sayings together to make sure they are remembered by someone other than my daughter (because I will not be saying them to her), and as a sort of cathartic experience for myself, not that I really need it.

“I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”-  This little gem would be delivered anytime there was an obvious wound to my body.  Imagine a six year old little boy falling down and skinning his knee all up.  Today, a good parent might rush to his side, pick him up, hug him and kiss his ‘booboo.’  Not during mom’s day.  No, she would take one look at it and scoreboard me by saying, “I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”  Now, I could never compete with my mother in these types of competitions.  She had grown up in a place called ‘the bottoms,’ and had literally at one time lived in the back of a broken-down school bus for a few years.  She may have indeed been the Kareem Abdul Jabar of suffering as a child, but I didn’t see the need for her to point out the skins on her wall every time I was in pain.

“I’m going to give you something to cry about”- This ‘life affirming’ threat could be delivered in a time of mild pain or severe annoyance for myself.  The prerequisite for this statement would be for me to be crying.  I don’t remember her every actually delivering on the threat, however.  Perhaps hearing this statement from my mother, who I thought I could bring the problem to, was enough to sufficiently jar my other concerns loose or perhaps my sadness was transformed into fear.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you./Don’t you give me that look!” or “Answer me when I am talking to you!”- When you are a kid that is in trouble with mom, it’s like walking through a minefield.  Often there is no right look or correct answer that is going to help.  Mom’s will ask rhetorical questions like “Do you know how much I have to do around here?”, and heaven help the ignorant child who makes the mistake of actually trying to answer her.

“I’m not always going to be around to do these things for you.”- Mom was trying to reinforce the need for me to learn to do things for myself, but children as a rule are filled with a certain amount of ‘separation anxiety.’  I heard this as a threat or warning of the possibility of mom not being there anymore, and that was truly frightening.

“It’s no use crying over spilt milk.”- Anyone who has a child knows that kids cry a lot.  I know now that mom was trying to toughen me up, and teach me that some things just are not that important, but as a kid, sometimes I wished she had a little more empathy for the way I felt.  (Waaaah!)

“A little soap & water never killed anybody.”- While this may have been true, the pain and unpleasantness brought about buy the rubbing of my face that usually accompanied this statement could have been used effectively by the Inquisition.  And, I was just lucky if there was sink around or mom would use her spit to clean me up.  Ewe!

“Close the door behind you — were you born in a barn?”- Maybe.  How was I to know.  Mom lived in a bus for a while, maybe I was born in a barn.

“Because I said so.”- If your mom were on Jeopardy, the question would be, “What is an acceptable answer to any question that is asked?”

“Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back”- Every kid needs a little encouragement, and sometimes you may even fish for a little praise from your parents,…not at my house.  This phrase would be delivered to those who were foolish enough to cast their lines out for such encouragement.

“If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.”- I was never sure if this line was issued to make me feel stupid and unobservant, or just to give me a nice, unnatural fear of serpents.  My guess is that it was both.

“If you fall off that thing and break a leg, don’t come running to me/You made your bed, now lie in it.”  Nice.  Never mind the logistics involved in this.  I mean, if I did break my leg, I would probably not be in much of a position to do a lot of running, but that aside, statements like these are what the Depression era mentality of rugged individualism is all about.  These wonderful words of encouragement imply that you are on you own, and mom is not going to help you.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the rear/I’ll help you pack/Is that a threat or a promise?”- These statements are always preceded by the threat from the child to run away.  Usually that threat is prompted by some deep seated feeling that the child has been treated unfairly.  For mom, the best way to deal with those feelings was to heap on a nice big scoop of ‘I just don’t care about the way you are feeling.’

“Well, people in Hades want ice water, but do you see me with a pitcher?”  Wow!  If mom is willing to sit by and watch a person burn for all eternity without even offering to help, I probably am not going to be getting that grilled cheese that I would like right now.

“Life isn’t fair/The Fair only comes around once a year.”  It is important to teach our children that there are certain inequities that we just have to live with.  However, it is important to note that we do not want to leave the impression that we just don’t care about fairness and justice.

“Someday your face will freeze like that!”- I’m sure mom delivered this line as I was looking at her in a disrespectful manner after getting in trouble for something, but it would have been nice if I had not felt that she was actually hoping my face would freeze that way as a type of further punishment.

“What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?”  This sometimes came across as an offer.

“You can get glad in the same pants you got sad/mad in.”- This is one of my all-time favorites.  Imagine a heartbroken child tearfully coming to his mother looking for little consolation.  Thanks, Mom!  I feel much better now!  That heartfelt empathy really hit the spot!

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”- This is a classic.  It implies that there is a simplistic solution to any problem a kid will face.  It’s all about attitude, and mom’s attitude was, “don’t bother me with those trivial problems.”

 

Happy mother’s day.

I love you mom!