Percentiles mean diddly

Frankly, I don’t put a lot of stock in statistics and percentile charts.

Maybe it’s because both of my kids rank in the 5th percentile for weight and height.  I know that they’re likely destined for shrimpdom like their mother.  I accept this fact with resignation.

However, since I clearly have too much time on my hands… and because some might describe my OCD tendencies as pedantic, I’ve put together some graphical representations of random percentiles that I’ve been pondering lately. 

The Word of the Week brought to you by the Nerd Mafia.  As if I wasn’t pedantic enough.

Everything I learned about parenting, I learned at the card tables

Before my children were born, we spent a good amount of time in the casinos.  I prefer poker.  But I also spent my fair share of time at the black jack and Paigow tables.

Sadly, our gambling escapades are few and far between nowadays.

But while I’m still figuring out this whole parenting thing on a daily basis, I have found that the tips I gleaned from my card playing days have come in handy over the past few years.   In reality, there are a lot of random parallels between parenting and playing cards.

You can’t win unless you put your money into the pot.  This is especially true for us.  We were married for seven years before we had kids.  We had always planned on having children, but the timing was never absolutely perfect.  Finally, we just decided to push all in.  And, looking back, I can’t believe it took us that long to get in the game.

Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot.  You’ll have the days chock full of you’re-the-best-mommy-ever’s, i-love-you’s and this-is-the-best-dinner-i-ever-had’s.

And other days, you’ll feel like you’re getting the bad beat in the parenthood department.  Those are the days rife with the you’re-soooo-mean’s, i-want-daddy-instead’s and this-dinner-smells-like-zebra-poop’s.

When the bad beats come, you’ll feel like walking away from the game.  Quitting.  And then you’ll feel awful for ever thinking that.  Because you love poker your kids with all of your heart.  So you ante up for another round.

The free cocktails can make you play a little looser.  And enjoy the game a little more.

The free cocktails can lead to other things as well.  (See also: “What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.”)  Maybe not immediately, but 9 or 10 months down the road.  Just sayin’.

There’s always going to be another player at the table who criticizes the way you play.  In poker, you can just ignore them, and gloat in the fact that your chip stack is bigger than theirs.  In the game of parenthood, the criticism stings a littler harder.  Just remember you’re holding a different set of cards then they are.  You play your hand, and they play theirs.  In the end, you’re both on the same side of the table.

You’ll make mistakes.  Lots of ’em.  Don’t dwell on them.  ‘Cause if you do, you’ll start playing on tilt, which is never a good thing.  Mistakes can be learning experiences.  How else would you figure out that feeding your child blueberries before doing airplane rides around the living room was a very, very bad idea?

As soon as you think you’ve got parenthood figured out, you may decide to double down.  And, if you’re lucky, you may get dealt another kiddo.  If this happens?  Rest assured, everything you ever thought you learned from the first go-around will promptly be thrown out the window… because no two hands of cards ever play out exactly the same way.

You’ll pick and choose your battles.  You’ll find yourself compromising in areas you never thought you would. As Kenny Rogers said so eloquently, you’ll learn when to hold ’em… as well as when to fold ’em.  Sometimes you’ll walk away from a battle with your children.  And, sometimes, you’ll run.

Sometimes you’ll feel like the pit boss, standing off to the side while watching other people gamble and get sloshed while you have to work.  You’ll feel left out, and a little envious of the life you used to live pre-kids.

You’ll also have those days when you wonder why you chose the job in the first place.  But at the end of the day, you get paid.  In more ways than you can possibly imagine.

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Ah, Vegas.  The happiest place on earth.

Something wicked this way comes

In the dark, quiet house, a family of monsters lies sleeping.  Momma and Poppa Monster snuggle in their bed, kept warm by layers of downy quilts.  That, and the natural gas created by Poppa Monster.

Momma Monster stirs.  She thinks she hears something.  She glances at the clock.  4:28.  With any luck, she has a few more hours of sleep until the Little Monsters get up.

Some mornings the Little Monsters are awoken early, by dreams of spooky things, or by the Boogey Monster hiding under the bed.

Other mornings they sneak quietly in, and hover ghoulishly by the bedside.  They stand in the dark silently, willing the big monsters to wake up at an ungodly hour. 

She hopes this will be the morning they decide to sleep in.

But, alas, it isn’t.

Their little biological clocks can’t be fooled by the hands of time.  Their internal alarms have always run  frightfully ahead of schedule.  They wake most mornings at the butt crack of dawn, far earlier than should be humanly allowable.

This morning, butt crack seems to have arrived sooner than normal.

At 4:35, they burst into the room, howling like wild banshees.  “Wake up, wake up!” they yell excitedly.

“It’s too early!!  Go back to bed!” groans the Momma Monster.  Her hair is wild and disheveled, and resembles that of Medusa.  Her morning breath smells positively frightful.  She hopes one of those factors might scare the little monsters back into their rooms.

No dice.

“It’s five o’clock somewhere,” they reason with her.

“Can we come up there and watch Dora?” one of them asks.

“No!” snaps the Momma Monster irritably.  She recalls the last time they tried that, the Little Monsters cackling “Swiper, no swiping” maniacally in her ear as she tried to go back to sleep.

“I hate daylight savings time,” Momma Monster grumbles to Poppa Monster.

“I’ll take them downstairs,” he says between yawns.  He gets up and stumbles zombie-like towards the bedroom door.  Momma Monster looks at him gratefully as he gallantly shuffles the little monsters down the hall.

As she burrows back into the covers, she can hear them fixing breakfast downstairs.  Poppa Monster is preparing a cauldron of Cocoa Puffs for the Little Monsters.  No doubt pouring on the chocolate milk and heaping on spoonfuls of additional sugar for good measure.  She knows that when she does wake up, the Little Monsters will have a wicked sugar high.  But right now, she is too tired to care.

Momma Monster drifts off to sleep, recalling a time when they used retire for the night just a few hours before that.  When sleeping in meant sleeping past noon.  And when daylight savings time meant you’d actually get an extra hour of sleep.

Does the thought of daylight savings time send chills up anyone else’s spine?

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Her nose knows

My daughter has an innate sense of smell.

“Ew, what is that smell?” she demanded when she walked into the kitchen the other day.

“It’s sausage stromboli,” I said, proud of myself for making something for dinner that didn’t come out of a box.  “It’s going to be so yummy!”

“Well, it smells like zebra poop,” she said, matter of factly.  How she knows what zebra poop smells like, I have no idea.  But in all fairness, I did sneak some broccoli into the stromboli, and it did smell a little less than savory.  Certainly not like zebra poop, mind you.  But a little wonky nonetheless.

She can also smell human poo from a mile away.  “Mom, Chippy’s diaper smells like poop,” she wailed at me another time.

I bent over to give my son the sniff test.  Sure enough, Chip’s diaper bulged wonkily.  And there was definitely something festering in there.  “You’re right.  Thanks for telling me, bud.”

“Thought so,” she said, with an air of satisfaction.  “I told dad, but he couldn’t smell anything, and told me to see if you could.”

(In our house, this last scenario actually happens more than I’d care to admit.)

With this refined sense of smell, it does baffle me sometimes as to the things she doesn’t smell.

Case in point: the other night, I walked into the room where Bobo and my better half were lying on the bed playing a game.  Something smelled positively wonky.  My eyes immediately began to water.  I have no idea how my daughter could stand it in there.

“Um, who tooted in here?” I inquired casually.  Of course, I already knew the answer.

“That would be dad,” Bobo answered back, not even bothering to look up from her game.

Jay giggled silently, and then, in typical dad fashion, tried to point the finger the other way.  “Really?” he said, feigning innocence.  “Are you sure it wasn’t momma?”

“Mom doesn’t make that smell, dad,” she answered indignantly.  “Momma always smells pretty.”

As I exited the room, still laughing, the stench trailed after me down the hall.

And then I figured it out.  It’s clearly not that my daughter can’t smell farts.  It’s just that when it comes to certain smells, her olfactory sense just doesn’t recognize them any more.  Like dad’s flatulence.  Apparently, it’s so rampant in our house, it’s made her poor little nose a little wonky. 

I take comfort in the fact that she can still clearly smell my farts.  Because, smart little cookie that she is, she recognizes that mine always smell like roses.

If you don’t believe me, just ask my daughter.  Her nose does not lie.

Side note: Sadly, I have to ‘fess up.  While my daughter believes I always smell like roses, I know better.  If you read yesterday’s post, you may or may not be surprised to hear that #6 did indeed happen.  As did all of them… except #3.  I never ran with the bulls in Pamplona.  But I have stepped in plenty of poop.  And that’s the honest truth.

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The WoW is “wonky”

Bamboozled

The scene when we walk through the front door is familiar.

A few residents sit watching TV in the living room.  Today, Dora the Explorer is on.  Another resident has dozed off in a nearby recliner, buried underneath a patchwork afghan.  An upright piano stands against one wall, covered in plastic.  I wonder if it has ever been played.

And there she is.  A frail, white haired woman nestled in the faded floral couch staring at, but not really watching, the adventures of Dora and Boots.

Would this be the day she recognized me?  Will this be the day I will bamboozle myself back into her memories?  I suspect as soon as I see her it will not be.

“Hi Grammie, it’s me!”  My attempts to sound upbeat and carefree sound feeble even to my own ears.  “How are you today?” I continue lamely.

She looks up from her cartoons.  “Hello, dear,” she answers back.   She sees me.  But she does not see me.

We join her on the couch.  We make lame attempts at small talk, while the kids watch Dora.

“How are your parents, dear?” she asks.

“They’re good,” I say, knowing my dad had visited her the day before.

We talk about what the kids are learning in preschool.  What they’re going to be for Halloween.  How my daughter takes after her mom more than I’d care to admit.

“Monkey see, monkey do,” Grandma quips back.  I can’t resist smiling about this.  The memories may be gone.  But her sense of humor is something that has remained intact.

Our small talk winds down, and I realize our visit is nearing an end.  I wave my daughter over, and say, “Come give Great Grammie a hug before we go.”

My daughter hangs back.  “No,” she pouts.

“Come here,” I hiss.  She cowers by her father’s knees and digs in with a resolution and stubbornness I know too well.  I know it is not going to happen.

She is scared.  She doesn’t really know her great grandmother.  I felt guilty.  Because it’s my fault.  We live 10 minutes away.  And yet, we visit rarely.

I make a thousand excuses for this.  We get busy with our daily lives.  But the truth is, my excuses are a lame attempt at bamboozling myself.

The truth is, I’m scared to visit.  I wonder when we walk in the door if it will be a good day, or a not-so-good day.  I wonder if she’ll remember me.  I wonder if I’ll have glimpses of the grandma I remembered growing up, or if she will be as much of a stranger to me as I am to her.

The truth is, I’m selfish.  When we visit, she is there physically.  But she has not been there in other ways for some time now.  I miss her.  And I’m scared that I won’t be able to recapture moments when she looked into my eyes, or those of my children, and regarded us with more than gratitude to a stranger for coming to visit a lonely old woman.

As if reading my mind, my toddler son steps up to the plate.  He reaches out and grasps her hand.  He looks down, seemingly surprised by how soft it is.  Almost like his own.

Grandma caresses his fat little fingers between her own.  She doesn’t recognize him.  But, perhaps, in the back of her mind, she recalls raising seven children of her own, and a time when her own children had hands that perfect and small.

“How old is he, dear?” she asks me for the fourth time since we arrived.

“He’s almost two,” I answer again.

“You’re doing a wonderful job with them.  I can see how much you love them.  It’s important to pass that  onto your children.”

My vision suddenly goes blurry.  I don’t want to cry in front of her.  Or my children.

“Just like you did, Grandma,” I say.  She just nods and smiles back.

“I love you, Grandma,” I say as we get up to leave.  “We’ll be back to visit again soon.”  And I know as soon as I utter the words that I may just be bamboozling myself again.

But my last words seem  to resonate with her.  She looks excited for the first time since we walked in the door.  “Oh, would you, dear?  These visits are what keep me going.”

I can only nod my head as I get up and try to make it to the door before the floodgates open.  We will be back.  I swear to myself, that next time, I’m not going to bamboozle myself with excuses not to go.

I owe it to myself to get over my own selfish excuses.  I owe it to my kids to have memories of their great grandmother.

And, most importantly, I owe it to her.

Written for WoW.  But inspired by a beautiful post by Left of Lost.  Thank you for writing.  And for inspiring me to get off my ass and go visit.

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