Free Range Parenting

For over five years, I posted every day. Last year I tried every other day, then once a week. I would vow to Blog once a month but my rules always break. Years ago I agreed to babysit my granddaughter Zofia for her working parents on the condition that no playdates would occur in my home. After being maneuvered into a steady stream of playdates, my wife Mollie put my foot down and insisted on at least banning sleepovers for classmates. Exceptions crept in for emergencies like pouting. A couple weeks ago we hosted Zofia and another fifth grader overnight. They set an alarm for 4am “to see the sunrise.” While waiting for the mythical winter sun in Seattle, they took turns zipping each other into our biggest suitcase and pushing it down the stairs. I told them it was not a good idea, so I was shocked when Mollie discovered they kept doing it after I went back to bed. I explained that the girls insulated their torture chamber with a sleeping bag and pillows but Mollie just stared at me with a familiar look that silently screamed (profanity deleted): “I am married to a complete idiot!”

Amazingly, I have been accused of being a helicopter parent and grandparent, although I have always delegated all hovering to Mollie. Last November, I babysat Zofia (and a different classmate) for my daughter-in-law Asia in their 1200 square foot condominium. Asia returned after a few hours but interrupted my walk home with an angry phone call demanding (profanity deleted): “How dare you move my furniture around?” I wondered if she had put tape on the legs of her living room chair to catch me using her desk while passing the time on my phone. So I responded defiantly, “What furniture?” She began ranting at me, yelling that I was playing dumb and gaslighting her. So I returned to the condo and found that two skinny little girls had rearranged all Zofia’s heavy bedroom furniture (bed, bookcase, dresser, and desk). My helicopter has finally crashed into a smoldering pyre of gross negligence. Free babysitters are by definition worth nothing but at least Asia loves the rearranged furniture now that she realizes I had no part in the redecorating.


January 5th

January 5th is a big day in our family because two grandchildren share that birthdate. No Unites States President was born on January 5th, although we cannot be absolutely sure about Barack Obama. Only two Presidents were even born in the first four weeks of January: Millard Fillmore (7th) and Richard Nixon (9th). Calvin Coolidge died on January 5th and one Vice President (Walter Mondale) was born on January 5th. Likewise, famous people and celebrities born on this date are only pedestrian B Lister types you might expect to see on Dancing with the Stars or The Apprentice. So we are excited about the possibility that Sebastian (age 19) and Noemi (age 15) could become preeminent superstars of the January 5th Club. All they need to do is become President, cure cancer, or be the first to walk on Mars. The possibilities are endless. I like to think they are talented enough to pull something big out of the Birthday Hat. Maybe they can wipe out my disappointment at losing (so far) the battle for most prominent person born on August 20th to wimpy President Benjamin Harrison.

Confessions of Apath

Sam Mule and Ella Fant no longer get along.

Sam is stubborn ugly and Fant cannot forget.

One can be right only if other is dead wrong.

My friends and kin ask me not to shut the door yet.

But I lack energy to watch or pick a side.

I have no patience now that I exceed old age

Some fight on and others have gotten sick or died,

Leaving survivors with politics of bold rage.

I now trade in my disguise of faux empathy

And admit to being a sad and useless fool,

Wearing my scratchy cloak of listless apathy

While dogpaddling around that pathetic cesspool.

Sammy and Ella beg me daily for money

To buy my vote with ads of big lies and dumb hate.

I would find this so ironic and more funny

Except I live in an apathetic numb state.

Note: This Form of Poetry known as Crime Rhyme is typically found in preschool books, advertising jingles, and on restroom walls. This past February, Tom Brady and I looked foolish announcing our retirement, so I am calling my upcoming absence as just another break. My family needs me to spend more time meddling in their lives, although they do not realize it yet.

Confessions of Whiplasher

Broca’s Brain sat on my desk for a week as a prompt for last Saturday’s post but I could not remember why. Since I was downsizing Carl Sagan’s book, I finally blogged about hoarding. But the intended and now recalled storyline was Spirit Rapping as referenced on page 48. Margaret and Kate Fox were 14 and 11 year old sisters who became a sensation in 1848 for receiving coded messages from the Spirit World. As their fame grew, credible investigations debunked the authenticity and Margaret confessed on October 21, 1888, before 2000 spectators at the New York Academy of Music. She demonstrated how she made the rapping sounds by cracking her toe joints, a skill she and her sister perfected after years of practice when they were young with pliable joints. They also used power of suggestion with wealthy clients who wanted to believe. Margaret later recanted her confession as the sisters descended into poverty. Still after all the scientific debunking, failed investigations, and the confessional performance, many who had been deceived refused to accept the fraud. Even today, some consider the Fox Spirit Rapping as real. Sagan’s take: “People are rarely grateful for a demonstration of their credulity.” I am not so gullible to naively trust Sagan, so I conducted my research on Wikipedia. Meanwhile, I am tutoring my 11 year old granddaughter Zofia (a notorious knuckle cracker) on the fine art of big toe and ankle cracking because she will need a career in something other than Math or Music.

In unrelated news, Adam continues to insist that he was never told not to eat forbidden fruit in Eden. Furthermore, he never ate any fruit and never offered any to Eve. While she was eating fruit, he claims he was out secretly hunting animals.

Confessions of Hoarder

I downsize in slow motion. Every year I sweep the house looking for items to discard. On a shelf with ten books, I declare a 30% surplus and three are laid off. My wife raids the donation pile and puts Declutter Like a Mother back. The next year I see nine books on the same shelf because we bought Spark Joy. I declare a 33% surplus and so it goes. I also skim the books before discarding. Skimming leads to reading A Man Called Ove because no one can resist stories about old curmudgeons. Progress is slow but I have successfully eradicated most paperbacks. Culling the Word has also decimated books published in my lifetime. I retain undamaged hardbacks from the 1880’s through the early 1940’s because they look cool and I favor cosmetics over substance. I did toss a 1937 biography of Cecil Rhodes. My paternal grandfather signed his own name on the inside front cover but I do not want anyone thinking I admire Rhodes. I am a poser and have ten volumes of William Makepeace Thackery writings compiled and published in 1888. I may have read something he wrote but have retained nothing. I love the idea of Carl Sagan but I finally tossed Broca’s Brain. I do not have the requisite brainpower or attention span to actually learn any science. I was fascinated enough by Outer Space to attend a String Theory lecture. But all I remember is the Universe being like a tightly wound ball of string being threatened by Earth’s gravitation pulling too hard on a loose thread. I am going to take a Blogging break to skim Edward Gibbon’s two volume work on The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I may return sooner than I expect.

Confessions of Traveler

I thought my wife and I traveled on different flights to minimize the chances of both dying at once but she recently revealed that traveling with me is like dying a thousand deaths. Last week I forgot to reserve airport shuttle lot parking and ended up driving to the 8th floor rooftop of the expensive on-site parking garage where abandoned vehicles were already parked illegally. Panic attack. Next thing I remember was approaching the security screener while gulping down my water and contact solution and frantically searching for credentials. He asked, “Are you alright today, sir?” His tone had a sobering impact, so I smiled, calmly lied, and tried to cover the coffee milkshake stains on my shirt. I could only pack ten copies of Suicide Squeeze because I needed room in my luggage for birthday gifts, peanut butter, and my portable shower. My grandson Diego turned twelve and we gave him football cleats. Amazing how quickly we abandoned our position on the dangers of football after watching him score three touchdowns in a game. Next year we will probably buy him a motorcycle. Meanwhile, I distributed half my Suicide Squeeze inventory in Little Free Libraries. Regular libraries have long posted signs warning me against depositing non-library books in return bins. One Free Library with a lock required a QR code scan. Quickly Retreat. I could break into the box but would be a prime suspect because I do not write under a pseudonym. So I left two copies at covered bus stops, incorporated two others amongst the skeletons in front lawn Halloween displays, and inserted one in a dog house for sale in Alexandria, Virginia. When I returned to the Seattle airport, a long search in the dark eventually established that I had actually parked legally.

Confessions of Old Dog

I interviewed for a Gratitude Blog on WordPress but they assigned me to the Whinyland department. Even so, I am grateful every day I awake up alive, including last Monday at 12:36 am when I scribbled the words Ding Dang Dung in my bedside notebook. Apparently this quirky conjugation of unrelated words was hysterical in my dream. But I could not mold them into an amusing “ringy-dingy ring, rang, rung, sting, stang, stanged” post about the absurdity of the English language. Instead I will whine about what I have lost in the Age of Technology.

I miss walking into any drug store or grocery store to get my annual flu shot. Thanks Covid-19 for creating a reservation system. On Ding Dang Dung Monday, my wife labored on the computer reserving flu shots for that very day. Oops, the Confirmations say Monday, November 7th. I miss seeing doctors in person; the only one I want to visit on Zoom is my dentist.

I miss barber shop comradery. Now I need reservations on an app that notifies customers when to arrive. That is not convenient for a technology idiot like me. Luckily, I like long hair. Except in my soup.

I miss the airport where you could go out to dinner after Homecoming. Last weekend at the same facility, I was caught in massive gridlock because automated pay stations were down. I miss free parking or plugging a few coins in a meter.

I miss the aesthetics of old fashioned bookstores despite the efficiency of ordering books online. I used to surreptitiously plant my novel in the stores. Smuggling copies into Amazon Corporate Headquarters takes the fun out of that game. But I want my permanent electronic record to reflect that I am grateful about living to see the Future.

Confessions of Outdoorman

I spend quite a bit of time outdoors, partly because I have trouble finding my way home. I swam almost every day this summer but ran over my all-time favorite swimming goggles with my truck. They were gifted to me and had lasted two seasons. No problem. I went online to order another pair. They cost $48, so I decided to just swim with my eyes closed. But I needed a helmet to avoid concussing on the sides of the community pool. The lifeguards would forget to hook the stairs back after swim meets and I noticed an older lady would take a stepladder into the pool. I was too cool for that so I exited like a worm scaling the bait bucket. I was a beached whale flopping around with stand-up muscles made of rubber. Each day spectators gathered when I attempted to climb out of the pool.

I made another awkward exit on a hike in Mount Rainier National Park when the bottoms of my ski poles got stuck in the slamming door of the Sunrise restroom. Incoming patrons waited patiently while I extricated myself. I told a young man, “This is why you do not take hiking gear into the restroom.” He just smiled, probably wondering why anyone needed poles to hike or why I thought somebody would steal 45 year old poles if left unattended outside.

My latest outdoor epiphany occurred while watching my granddaughter roller skate with knee and elbow pads. I have decided to purchase some for running and walking because I do occasionally fall. I have not yet sustained a serious injury but cannot count on that luck holding forever. I have not seen any runners using such equipment, so I will either be embarrassed or start a trend.

Confessions of a Pet Sitter

Tomorrow is day ten of my current cat sitting assignment. My wife and I have never had pets although our parents, siblings, and children have been owned by a variety of cats and dogs. My brother Jamie turned a rat in the garage and a raccoon with cataracts into pets. They were not blessed with offspring. I almost created a fictional pet so co-workers and strangers on a plane would not think I was weird. But follow-up questions could expose the lie and make me even weirder. I am astounded when vacationing neighbors and family members entrust me with house keys to enable pet feeding. Unfortunately, security cameras have made snooping less fun.

I have three tips if you dogsit or catsit. First, do not use those words. They make your lisp sound vulgar. Second, do not sit for animals that are smarter than you. My sister-in-law Cindy’s dog can open her front door and I cannot. Third, make time to pray for the pets to survive your watch. I never saw one of my sister’s cats until my last day on duty. Shy cat was alive under an upstairs bed. It would have been embarrassing if an autopsy proved she died six days earlier.

I am currently staying overnight with Leo the cat and Zofia (age 10) at their Condo while the parental units are out of town. I did not prepare well. I live close by but my Fitbit charger, prescription glasses, contact solution, and Zofia’s trombone are always at the wrong residence. I did manage to drive Zofia the familiar two miles to school without my glasses. That boosted my confidence. As soon as we hook up a YouTube camera, I will drive the route blindfolded while Zofia shouts directions and Leo plays trombone.

Confessions of a Pillowcase

Last week I was a passenger in a carload of 75 year-olds traveling to Bend to visit friends. I was disqualified from driving when my last post went viral. I was further relegated to the seat-beltless luggage area whenever five geezers were in the Tahoe. Driver Duke pulled to the front pump at a gas station in The Dalles while preoccupied with the visual of drivers now pumping their own fuel in Oregon. My wife Mollie gave her credit card to Duke along with her rewards number. But Duke chose the option to save points when we were trying to use them before they expired. Suddenly he noticed the three options for the grade of gas were missing. I started yelling that he was at the green handled diesel pump. So we cancelled the transaction. The driver behind us was pinned in by a huge oversized vehicle in a growing line behind him. He asked if we had actually put diesel in the Tahoe. We assured him we were merely making a case for professionals to pump gas. Mollie and Duke began debating where the credit card went. He suggested we leave and find the card later. I insisted we find the card now since it had to be within three feet of our vehicle. After an extensive search of our vehicle, Mollie found it in her pocket. As we drove away, a lady in the long line for the other side of the pumps gestured and pointed. Duke retrieved the gas cap we left behind and we headed to the other gas station but their lines were worse. So we returned to the line we created at the original station and redeemed our rewards discount while I wore a pillowcase over my head.