Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That Darn Blasted "Doghouse" Video and Why I'm Barely Able to Blog

For Christmas, I thought my husband was going to get me a wireless booster. Invisible forces often knock my internet connection to Kingdom Come, requiring a complete re-boot of the whole system with a run up the stairs. Since the husband told me about the relay, each time I ran up the stairs, I counted the days until Christmas.

He didn’t give me one.

After Christmas we were standing around Best Buy and I mentioned that I thought he was going to give me an internet booster. He told me he was, but he was afraid because of the “Beware of the Doghouse” video.


One of my girlfriends had emailed me the link. I laughed. When my husband was wandering around the kitchen, I hit play on my laptop. He laughed much harder than me. Now I haven’t gotten what I wanted for Christmas.

If you haven’t seen the video advertisement, some poor schmuck gave his wife a vacuum cleaner. Even though it was a “dual-bag” vacuum cleaner, she condemned him to fold laundry for all eternity down in the doghouse with other men who had made such mistakes with presents.

Since it ridiculed the women who would do this to their husbands, I thought it was funny. I never thought of myself as one of “those” women. The last thing I want is for my husband to waste money on jewelry when there are useful and fun-filled gifts for the picking. (For the record, he gave me something I adored but would never actually purchase, so he’s good.)

Over the weekend, one of my sister-in-laws said that her husband had laughed much harder than her when they watched the doghouse video. Since our husbands seemed to be laughing because they identified with the situation from personal experience, we were both slightly annoyed. We didn’t like being lumped in with these women, but men identify with the video because they feel like they never know the right thing to do.

I count on my husband to make my life better each day. He’s my “Can Do Pig”, a reference from a children’s book which I have always considered a compliment even though it doesn’t sound like one. At the births of our sons, he gave me the diamonds and pearls, so I’m not against sentimental jewelry. But what has become apparent in the last few days is that I depend on him to come up with the big solutions and erase all the problems in my life.

To me, that’s a much greater gift. I hope men figure out the right thing to do.

Update: Our nephew spent a day trying to install a wireless booster then returned it. Maybe the Doghouse saved us some trouble afterall!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Do You Do When Your Friend’s Kid Steals From You?

The past several days I’ve been wrestling with a situation. One of my older son’s friends has taken my younger son’s toy. It’s not the first time. What do you do about a situation like this?

During a sleepover with the friend, my younger son nestled his three Bakugan on their magnetic cards on his desk when he went to sleep. My husband saw them there at bedtime. This was his toy of the moment. He carried the little balls everywhere. Since they’re magnetic they were even attached to his silverware at dinner. He had to earn 10 extra homework points to get them and this took 21 days. The number of days is etched on my mind because earning the toys was as stressful for me as it was for my son. This toy meant a lot to all of us.

The friend was sleeping over on a school night. Just as the older boys were about to go to middle school, the little one woke up and said his Bakugan were missing. He was trying to get the boy to show him where they were, but it was time for them to go to school. As the vehicle pulled away, my son started to wail and I understood what had occurred.

Just before they had left, I told the boy that he didn’t need to take his overnight duffle bag to school. He had this slight panicked look and involuntarily started to move toward it, then stopped. I noted that his reaction was odd at the time. He had been upstairs going back and forth between the bathroom and my son’s dark bedroom several times. Just as I went to ask him what he needed, he dodged downstairs for breakfast. The whole morning had this slightly unsettled feeling for me.

Since my son was crying, I immediately went to the duffle bag. The Bakugan weren’t there but under the clothes I found my son’s coin collection and his cub scout flashlight. Since he wasn’t crying about these items, I ignored them.

What do you do? All I wanted was for the Bakugan to come back. Bakugan were the main thing on his Christmas list and now he was without the few he had earned.

I called the parent and happily reported that they were off to school on time. Then I explained that my little guy was crying because he woke up and his toys were missing from his desk. I didn’t think my older son had moved them. Could he ask his son about it? There was worry on both sides about how to handle this, but still hope for a happy ending. However, a couple of phone calls later, I was told that they were in my house. The boy claimed they had been playing a keep-away-game where he held the Bakugan hostage. The boy didn’t remember anything. When I explained that he had been keeping them “hostage” in his hoodie pocket until my son removed them, there was some anger from the parent. The boy is willing to share a few of his Bakugan with us.

Even my little one said, “He is just trying to make himself feel better.” Yes, I explained, it’s called “alleviating guilt”.

No one wants for anyone to be upset. I’ve lost two nights sleep.

I haven’t mentioned the other items in the bag or the fact that one day last summer all my older son’s best Yu-gi-o cards disappeared. They had been playing with them and when the boy left my son went over to his decks on the table and all the best cards were gone. We didn’t say anything. We don’t want to start trouble or accuse a friend. You don’t know how to make that phone call. I made the call this time but the parent believes his boy would not lie. I’m struggling.

One part of me thinks I should just forget about it. We already accepted that we lost our best cards a long time ago. We are hoping that the Bakugan my mother-in-law bought for Christmas are an exact replacement. In the meantime, we gave him one of his Santa presents and frantically paid a fortune online to get another one delivered so that Santa doesn’t look bad. You can’t buy these toys in stores because they sell out immediately.

But what do I do next time the boy comes over to our house knowing that he has probably been taking things each time?

Do I frisk him down and go through his bag? Of course, I couldn’t do that in front of the dad. Okay, I can’t do it at all.

Do I talk with the boy myself? Tell him all I know? Warn him? It’s not my place. What good would it do? He lies to me about things all the time. You can’t have conversations like this with someone else’s child.

What if he starts to steal MY things? It’s an awful feeling. This is the feeling my sons have now. We all know what is happening.

The boy needs help. He needs to learn that he can’t take things. What if I don’t say anything and he gets arrested for taking something? Don’t I have a responsibility to try to teach him right from wrong? I care about this family.

I don’t want to l lose the friendship because they can never visit us again. I don’t want to lose the friendship because I tell the whole story and there is anger at me. Bad feelings will hang between us. I’ve spent days trying to find the right words. If I tell the whole story, I still won’t be able to trust the kid, and I probably will have lost a friend.

I want my sons to learn from this situation and I’m afraid that no matter what I do it will be wrong. Do I teach that you keep friends you don’t trust and let them take from you? Do you discard friends when they do wrong? Do you try to help someone with a problem? Can the boy really be helped?

I think I’m going to lose some more sleep.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do You Want Fries With That "A"?

ABC News Reports the following and my mouth is hanging open:

California Teacher Gets Creative

"The budget is so tight in the suburbs of San Diego that at Rancho Bernardo High School calculus teacher Tom Farber didn't have enough paper to give practice tests. Then a bus advertisement sparked an idea.

"I said, you know, in the face of tough times, maybe I could do something similar in my classroom and advertise on my test," Farber said.

The bottom of each of Farber's calculus quizzes features an inspirational message paid for by parents or local businesses. He's not happy about taking such desperate measures, but the average public school teacher already spends around $430 of their own money on supplies, according to the National Education Association."

Has it really come to this? I was appalled when technology would allow advertisers to flash messages in the night sky from satelites. Thank goodness no one has pursued this method, but advertising on the bottom of tests is just as invasive.

I choose to use gmail and view the advertisements down the right-side column. While on Facebook, I fight the urge everyday to type in "sex toy" just to see if they have ads on this subject. I know the price and attempt to find humor as I trudge along in cyberspace.

In these situations I've chosen to use a service for free with the understanding that I will be subjected to advertising. We're the t.v. generation so we know that we need to pay the price with advertising or subscribe. But students don't have a choice and I don't want my night sky blocked by advertising.

The sad part is that teachers are so poorly paid that they must resort to such measures. In our community, the last two affordable housing proposals have been met with resistance. Expenses are up and we've all lost more than 30% on our investments. Times are tough.

I applaud ingenuity by our teachers, but advertising on tests, even if the message motivates, seems out of place.

Lets not miss the big point here, our school budgets should include enough funding for paper so that teachers can give tests.

Our PTA reimburses teachers for some of their out-of-pocket expenses. At the last meeting, we asked the teachers to tell us what we could purchase to make their jobs easier, especially since they were voting to forgo their salary increases. Perhaps the parents in San Diego could start a fund instead of paying for advertising.

Sometimes it's all about morale.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is It Better?

Tears keep welling up in my eyes. The same tears you find dripping down your cheeks at a sad movie. On occasion, I’ve had these tears for a couple at my church. Today the tears were at her funeral.

They both have a disability, special needs. When they were young, he went to her family and convinced them that he could take care of her. Together they could have a life. He would work, pay rent, get food, buy clothes, and have medical care. At first they wouldn’t let him marry her but they finally agreed.

For 22 years he has been completely and totally devoted to her. He often would do the speaking but her eyes were always bright and she would say a few words. After awhile, she would seek me out and have a good conversational question, one woman to another. She seemed proud to be able to do that and she would surprise me. They always made a fuss over our boys and would carefully remember and repeat their names. We heard stories of how it was when they were young. You could tell how much their parents meant to them.

He would always explain how they were taking care of all the details in their lives and even going out for entertainment, a full life. He lived to take care of her, just as he promised he would do.

When he mentioned her cancer, my first thought was that God couldn’t possibly take her from him. I couldn’t get past how absolutely cruel it would be for her to die. He would recount all the details from the doctor. He always knew exactly when the next appointment would be. Upon questioning, the facts didn’t sound good. It seemed serious but he convinced us that she would be fine. As he put his arm around her, you could tell that she believed him, so I did too. She went into remission.

The cancer came back. She wasn’t able to work and he had retired to take care of her. On one of my runs through the neighborhood, they were coming out of the church. I stopped briefly as she waited with a walker. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening to her, but thought it must be something else.

On Sunday we learned she was gone. Today he was so deeply sad, so slumped. Perhaps this is a breaking point for me. Another long-time couple ripped apart.

After my father died I thought I would be stronger in hospitals, as if I had built up immunity to the sadness. Shortly thereafter I went to visit my boyfriend’s grandmother in the hospital. Luckily she decided that she didn’t want to meet me in her condition because I was down at the end of a hallway by a window unable to handle the situation. I never met her.

About ten pages into a philosophy paper in college, I realized I had picked the wrong premise. I couldn’t crank out a paper supporting the statement “It is better to have loved and lost.”

On days like today, I still don’t know if I could.