Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pickets and Picnics and Pigs, Oh My! (Also Bears, My Bane.)

I enjoyed playing legos with my boys today, but people are accusing me of sneaking in a homeschool lesson on a Sunday. You be the judge.

Daniel assigned me to set up a "store" and stock it with merchandise in legoland.

Bear added that he refused to be sold as meat. I suggested that I could sell him as a bear skin rug, instead. He protested. What about bear claws? He still objected. Then I suggested selling bear fat. He began to protest, but I pulled him aside and whispered a business deal: I would help him lose weight, and he would submit to liposuction. He countered that he got to keep 33% of all my proceeds, not my profits. I sighed that he struck a hard bargain, but we shook on it.

Our jars of bear fat were pretty successful. I began marketing them as a cooking ingredient, or a way to waterproof one's boots, or a healing salve for chapped winter skin, or even a method for slicking back one's hair, if desired. I emphasized that this was an animal-friendly, fair trade process, and that no animals were being exploited or harmed.

Soon, however, Bear began demanding a bigger take of the proceeds. I declined, and began hunting for Checkov (Eric's Russian bear) as an alternate supplier. Bear thwarted this idea by organizing a union, though they did sign at the 33% figure.

When the contract was expiring, Bear attempted to use his collective bargaining power to push greedily for a 40% take. I refused.

Next thing I knew, there was a line bears picketing outside my factory. I brought in some pigs as scabs and started mixing bear and pig fat together, changing the labels from "Mommy's 100% Bear Fat" to "Mommy's Bear Fat: 100% Organic!"

The bears shouted some insulting things (and oinks) at the scabs. The pigs retorted "We may be working for only 25%, but at least this way she'll have an incentive to keep us alive; otherwise we'd be murdered this winter.") Bear claimed this demonstrated my unfair leverage over them and made the exploitation worse.

Then Ursa Major crossed the picket line. ("But I have a baby to support!") Bear was furious.

Bear launched a PR campaign to uncover my duplicitous labeling. It turned out my new jars were only about 10% bear fat. (But my labels weren't LYING, darn it!) Still, sales fell off.

After some unhappy financial consequences for both sides, we sat down at the negotiating table again. I agreed to 35%, plus free food to help the bears fatten up again. (They had already been low on fat storage, and the long strike hadn't helped.)

Things have now calmed down considerably, although Ursa Major is still not  being invited to the union picnics. ("No picket, no picnic!")

Later, Eric finished his emporium and announced it was "a bricks and mortar store." I couldn't help laughing. They asked for clarification, and I gave a brief--brief!--explanation of the dot-com bubble in the late 90s.

The whole thing was unplanned and unscripted. Really, it felt more like an impromptu bedtime story than a sneaky homeschool lesson. After surviving the dispute with the bears, the last thing I need now is a dispute with my own children.

So, what do my loyal readers think? I'll admit things got out of hand, but Bear totally started it.

I'm still not sure what happened to the pigs...

Monday, November 11, 2013

In the Manner of the Adverb--Hilariously, Compassionately, Contentedly

Today after homeschool and chores were done, we played "In the manner of the adverb." My thanks to Renae Kingsley for teaching me this game!

I could explain the rules, but you'll pick them up better in context. Let me just describe a few rounds and you'll get it.

I left the room while Eric and Daniel conferred. When they were ready, I came back in. "Eric," I said. "I want you to tap dance in the manner of the adverb."

It was comical to see him trying to tap dance. It was hard, though, to tell how much of the wild gesticulation was due to his mysterious adverb, and how much was due to his inexperience.

Next I asked Daniel to pretend to cook dinner in the manner of the adverb. He walked into the kitchen, picked up various ingredients lying around, and mimed dumping them into a pot. He made a point of mentioning that the pot was dirty, then "threw in" stovetop stuffing, cheesecake mix, various spices, empty jars formerly containing alfredo sauce, pieces of trash...

Finally, I asked both boys to pretend to dig holes in the manner of the adverb. Eric's "hole" was more of a "trench" that careened wildly all over the living room. Daniel comically mimed tossing dirt high into the air, and then flailing about with his shovel when the dirt landed in his face. (I'm pretty sure he "hit" Eric with his imaginary shovel a few times, but Eric didn't react appropriately. Tsk.)

After those three prompts, I had to guess the adverb. I tried "crazily," "randomly," and "wildly" to no avail. If I'd gotten a fourth try, I would have tried "haphazardly." Nope. They stumped me. It turned out their adverb was "untraditionally."

I laughed.

Next Daniel left the room while Eric and I conferred. When Daniel re-entered, he asked me to "build a redstone circuit computer in minecraft in the manner of the adverb." I stood sharply, saluted, and marched over to an imaginary computer screen. "Hmm," I boomed. "Yes, I can see the benefits to having a computer internal to minecraft. We could use it to calculate trajectories. This will require a lot of contract work. It will cost a million dollars and it will be three years late, but the end result will work, mostly. Remember it's vital to national security!"

(I was proud of that improvisation, by the way.)

Next, Daniel turned to Eric. "Eric, tell me what the adverb is, in the manner of the adverb." Eric froze. "You're not allowed to ask me that--" he began, but I pulled him aside. After a whispered consultation in the library in which I coached him, he returned to Daniel, saluted, and said, "Sir. That was an illegal order, sir!" (I wanted him to say "According to the UCMJ", but I figured he wouldn't remember that, alas.)

Finally, Daniel asked both of us to spar in the manner of the adverb. Eric and I began pretending to trade punches, and I started yelling. "You call that a block? You think the enemy will be impressed with your puny efforts, private? Drop and give me twenty push-ups, you miserable excuse for a recruit!"

Daniel said, "I know what you're doing, but I don't know the word for it. It's like you're in the army."

I gave it to him. "The word," I beamed at him, "was 'militaristically.'"

It was fun. Sam ran around, imitating everyone else and getting in the way. Jeff was asleep in the office.

I enjoyed playing with my boys.

Yesterday was hard. It was concurrently Marian's sixth birthday and the yearly kid's program at church.

As I looked at all the cute little girls singing "I am a Child of God" and "Families Can Be Together Forever," I thought "She ought to be up there." I reminded myself that every person has problems in life. Everyone has some heartache, often privately held. He might be facing divorce, addiction, guilt, cancer, infertility, debt, abuse, mental illness. She might be facing a floundering business, a dying parent, an unhappy marriage, a spiritual crisis. If Christ's infinite suffering gave him perfect understanding, surely my lesser griefs can give me expanded empathy for others.

One more reason to be kind to everyone; you never know who is suffering secretly.

Today was better. "You do not betray your sorrow to set it aside for an hour....Remember to take joy." [*1] I have four healthy, brilliant, creative, hilarious boys. Today I played with them. I enjoyed the moment, and then I recorded it for posterity. I chose to be thankful for my blessings, and happy in my circumstances.

In my head, I'm replaying the footage of Eric trying to tap dance "untraditionally." (It looked vaguely like Dick Van Dyke doing "Step in Time" in Mary Poppins.)


[*1 From The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold.]