Friday, February 20, 2009

Snake Whipping in Church

I've almost made it back to the point where I can enjoy the church service again. It's been about seven years. The boys are now able to make it through the program being for the most part entertained with coloring books, offering envelopes, pages from the hymnal and the like. It generally doesn't take more than a few threats or glares on my part. Only occasionally do I actually have to take them out any more.

I say I've almost made it back because there are still moments when I'm reminded that things can regress in an instant. I don't yet dare start taking naps again. If I want to risk reading through the bulletin I still need to be prepared to accept the consequences.

Last week we let the boys each pick out a nature toy to take. Evan of course took T-Rex, Braden took a rubber snake, and Nolan I don't think cared to take anything.

At one point during a prayer I saw Braden stand up. In the video reenactment this is where the slow-motion will begin. He reached over and picked up his rubber snake. Keep in mind this is one of those rubber snakes that is actually about six feet long when fully extended. Anyway, he takes aim and does an Indiana Jones bull whip on an elderly lady sitting two pews ahead of us. It was a direct hit. Right on the head. The poor woman visibly jumped at least six inches off of her pew. Holding her head with one hand, she looked around quickly to see the uncoiled viper draped over her shoulder. I don't know if it was the snake or my kid, but she had an easily identifiable look of disgust on her face.

I didn't know what to do. There is no etiquette for snake whipping in church. I grabbed the snake and pulled it back in, and then grabbed Braden, who was beginning to realize that things were not going to end well.

After the service, I told Michele that she should go and appologize to the lady for what her son had done. She eventually agreed and slowly approached. It turns out that the woman was a visitor who didn't speak any English. I can only imagine the impression that this poor woman left with. What kind of conversations is she having right now with her spanish-speaking elderly friends about the odd snake-whipping rituals that she observed first-hand?

Beware the Baby Monster

I remember being horrified as a non-parent about how some people handle their kids. Things seemed so simple to me. We obviously still try to keep our kids in check, but my view of the world has become a bit more practical as the quantity of kids that I call my own grows.

Let me set the stage for a recent episode that drove the whole change of perspective home. Recently, Michele was at the local library with the boys. She was reading to Nolan. Braden was crawling around sampling unidentified tidbits from the floor, and Evan was having the run of the place.

Michele noticed that Evan was periodically running up to a lady and her daughter who were sitting close by. She couldn't hear what he was saying to them, but there was no screaming, so she let things be. After a while, the lady happened to walk by Michele and Nolan.
"Is that your son?" she asked, pointing to Evan, who was stacking books and jumping off of them.

"Yes, was he bothering you?" answered Michele.

"No, not at all. He's a very smart little boy. He was telling us all about humpback whales [one of Evan's current obsessions]. Also he kept talking about a 'baby monster' and telling us that we should hide. Do you know what he's talking about?"

"Oh yeah. He's talking about his youngest brother. He and Nolan here like to play a game where they pretend that the baby is a monster, and then run screaming from him and hide."
Michele later told me that as she told the lady the background behind the "baby monster", the woman got an incredulous/horrified look on her face, mumbled something akin to "how nice", and made her leave. Michele tried to get in a "he loves it, too", but the woman was already gone.

"You know," Michele told me later, "the funny thing is that I was the one that made the game up for them. They were both complaining of Braden following them around and grabbing them, so I told them to run from the baby monster. It was one of my better games, and all three of them loved it so much that they've been playing for weeks now."

Hey, it keeps them from killing each other, and entertains them too. Let's all run from the baby monster!

Pull My Finger

It's every father's prerogative to play the "pull my finger" game. While there are those that frown upon the vulgar practice, they obviously do not appreciate the subtleties of the tradition. It's an art form that every dad perfects over the years. Proper execution requires a sense of timing, discreteness (waiting until Mom is not around), and slapstick performance skills.

Evan was first introduced to the game this past week. Rarely have I seen such a reaction. Don't get me wrong, the boy loves to laugh, and actually has a very good sense of humor, even at the age of three, but this particular joke was beyond hilarious to him. He actually fell to the floor he was laughing so hard.

For my part, I was very proud of myself for the well executed buffoonery. Little did I realize the pungent set of events that I had set in motion.

It wasn't long after this that Evan came bouncing up to me, index finger extended, giggling so hard that he could hardly stand. "Pull my finger, Daddy!"

Now how could you resist, right? Imitation is the highest form of flattery, no? I must have been very impressive indeed. Michele was giving me the one-eyebrow treatment from across the room. I'm sure that she was imagining the next play group outing, and Evan's new trick being demonstrated for each-and-every Mom in turn.

Well, I decided to risk it. I reached down and pulled Evan's finger. Slowly his cute smile turned into something more of a grimace. His eyes narrowed slightly, and a reddish hue spread across his face. There was a distant look of intense concentration on his face. After a few silent seconds, he gave up and informed me that "it didn't work Daddy".

He was obviously disappointed, and I felt bad. Michele was now within arms reach, so I decided against a lesson in technique at that moment.

It was a couple of hours later after worship and stories that Michele noticed a stain on the backside of Evan's pajamas. It was suspiciously skid-mark in nature, and further inspection revealed our worst fears. The poor kid had learned how not to do the "pull my finger" trick!

The scary part is, I think his intent was to just go to bed and not tell anyone...

Blackish-purple-brown People

Nolan today made one of his "statements" to Mommy. Often he will just blurt out something that he's obviously been thinking about because he's not sure about it, but he says it as a matter of fact, and as if he's an authority on the matter. Today he observed that:

"sometimes people with blackish purple skin are called browns"

Now we don't have regular sensitivity training around our house, but we don't call black people blackish purple either, so Michele decided to inquire into the matter a bit further. Turns out that he had been watching a few minutes of a home makeover program on HGTV with Michele, in which a black family, named the Browns, were the recipients of the home makeover.

Michele did her best to correct him, and we're both grateful that he didn't choose a less opportune time to educate us, such as when we were talking with some of our black friends. As for the purple part of his confusion, who knows...

"It Must Have Been Evan, or Maybe the Cat..."

It's no fun trying to get all three kids ready for bed at the same time. The other day I had to do it by myself while Michele was getting her hair done, and let me tell you, I was worn out by the time things were wrapped up.

A few weeks ago, I was at church practicing for worship team, and Michele was here getting the boys their baths and feeding Braden. Nolan and Evan had been washed and were playing in the tub for a few minutes while she was with Braden in his bedroom.

She was just thinking that tonight was going pretty well when Nolan yelled from the bathroom. "Mommmmmy! We have an emergency in here!" Michele went running into the bathroom, to find Nolan, Evan, and about 3 pounds of poop in the bath tub.

"What happened?" she asked. "I don't know," replied Nolan. "Well, who pooped in the bath tub?" insisted Michele. "I don't know," Nolan said again. "Nolan," said Michele, "was it you?" "No, I don't know who did it."

Michele quickly assesed the situation, and determined that identifying the party at fault was less important than extracting her boys from the poop-water. As she was cleaning up, Nolan continued to consider how this could have happened, if he wasn't the one that had relieved himself in the tub. Finally, he announced his conclusion.

"Mommy," he said. "It wasn't me, so it must have been Evan, or maybe the cat." We hadn't actually SEEN Evan do the deed, so we aren't sure that it was him. But on the other hand, how the cat climbed up on the side of the tub, squatted over the edge, and produced that quantity of poop while the boys were bathing, without being seen, is perhaps a bit more of a mystery.

Pass the Squirrel, Please.

My kids are obsessed with meat eating right now. None of them actually eat meat. It's the very idea of doing it that intrigues them.

Every evening, after stories and prayers, Evan classifies everyone that he knows as either carnivore or herbivore. "Grandpa eat meat, Mommy not eat meat," (at least not in front of Evan). This goes on until we've covered everyone. Then he starts in with various classifications of animals. Grandma Powers got the boys a book last year about a frog that eats bugs, but then at the end meets an unpleasant demise himself when a fish eats him. So, Evan must cover in detail how "Frog eat bugs, and big giant huge fish eat frog".
The whole thing could most likely go on indefinitely, but we've found that we can generaly calm him down by asking him if he eats meat. "No! Yucky," comes the reply, and that's is generally the end of the conversation.

This whole thing started several months ago when I was talking with Nolan and Evan about how Grandpa Powers hunted for deer. I told them that while not everyone liked to hunt, hunters play an important role in keeping deer populations in check. Their blank stares prompted me to offer a simpler explanation of why it was OK. "It's OK because Grandpa eats the deer that he shoots."

Nolan gave me a horrified look, and it took me a few minutes to realize that he thought Grandpa was sitting down and devouring an entire deer on the spot after shooting it. Fifteen mintes later I had for the most part corrected that misconception. I finally rounded things off for him by pointing out that Grandpa doesn't get a deer very often anyway ;)
I left that conversation thinking that I had done a pretty good job describing the whole topic. It was a few weeks later that I realized things were still a bit confused in Nolan's head, at least. We had some friends coming over for a cookout. Michele had bought some turkey dogs in preparation. Nolan and evan heard us say "turkey dogs", and of course this reopened the whole topic of meat-eater vs. vegetarian, and why even though we don't eat meat, it's polite to provide guests with food that they at least have a chance of enjoying.

Nolan thought this over and decided that it might make some sense. "Mommy," he said, "maybe we can go in the back yard and get them some squirrels to eat too. There are lots of squirrels back there, and that would be a nice thing to do."