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ZippityZern's Uncommon Nonsense - A Declaration
Zippityzern’s Uncommon Nonsense

  (The Blue Book)

  A Declaration

  Linda L. Zern

  Copyright 2012 Linda L. Zern

  ~~~Parenting 101 – The Remix~~~

  Greetings to All and Sundry,

  Your baby should wear a helmet—in the crib. Did you know that?

  Since our exceptional granddaughter was born, I’ve been bedazzled by the space-age and cutting-edge advances that have been made in the art and science of parenting. How any of us managed to raise healthy, sane children in the days of the 8-track cassette is a mystery. My boys didn’t even wear helmets when they were jumping their bicycles over their sisters, who were tied to the picnic table at the time.

  Based on my primitive and rudimentary parenting practices, my children should have spines shaped like pretzels and the IQ of grapes. The following is just a partial list of stuff that I did WRONG:

  1) I forced my infants to sleep on their tummies. Of course, all the experts back then insisted that I put the baby on his/her tummy or he/she would die. The experts now insist that if you don’t put the baby to sleep on his/her back he/she will surely die. I’m so confused. When Zoe, our granddaughter, comes over, I just prop her upright in a corner.

  2) I never put a sleep helmet on my infants, which means that all my kids grew up with flat spots on their heads. This also means that it’s hard for my children to buy hats. A sleep helmet is a specially padded helmet that parents strap on their infants to prevent the backs of their heads from taking on the shape of a flat mattress. This is a direct result of having to put the babies to sleep on their backs so they won’t die.

  3) I never gave my kids toys that buzzed, beeped, vibrated, twisted, jumped, shimmied, flashed, sang, twirled, or detonated. Mostly they just played with sticks that they sharpened with kitchen knives. I have a theory that so many of our children have attention deficit disorder because all of their toys have attention deficit disorder.

  4) I often breastfed my starving infants in the car while it was in motion. I can now see the evil of this practice. But riding in a car with a screaming, starving infant is, for me, a lot like being in a firefight in a war zone. I’d really rather not, but if you must you must.

  5) I did not have a stroller that converted into lawn furniture. My children were practically raised in umbrella strollers, and their spines are just fine. Well, most of their spines are just fine. Adam’s spine is a little funky, but I’ve seen him stand up straight—once or twice, just this week.

  6) Instead of Baby Einstein (a series of videotapes designed to develop a baby’s mental abilities and undo any damage from having a flat head), I plopped my kids in front of The Guiding Light, where they learned stilted, soap-opera English, and an appreciation for bad acting.

  7) Sometimes when they did something stupid, I told them so. And sometimes I actually used the word stupid in their physical presence. For example, I would say, “Kiddo, tying your sister to the picnic table and jumping your bike over her was stupid.”

  This is just a sampling of all the horrific mistakes, missteps, and plain old superstitions I used to rear four, law-abiding, drug-free, tax-paying, church-attending adults. I’m glad we’ve come so far down the garden path of parenting. I’m glad I’m at the end of that path, waiting in the shade for the young ‘uns to catch up. Being a grandmother rocks, as the kids would say.

  I mean it,

  Linda (Where are all my kitchen knives?) Zern

  ~~~It’s Your Age, Kid~~~

  Attention Parents and Future Parents,

  My youngest son complains that I blame the good/bad/bizarre behavior of every child on his or her chronological age. I stand by my theory. Children have developmental (term used loosely) stages and phases that they pass through on their way to cynicism and paranoia (i.e., adulthood). And yes, I have been known to say, “You are so sixteen,” or “Is she twelve or what?”

  My son hates this. You see, he’s seventeen and still wants to believe that his quirks are unique to the universe. I don’t worry. Next year he’ll be eighteen and the grim reality that he’s just one of a ca-billion other clueless, wandering teenage types will make him much more open to my theories. So, while we wait for Adam to turn eighteen, here are my theories about the developmental stages of children in a nutshell.

  Mother Zern’s Age Characteristics of Children

  Infants (womb to a couple of days old) or The Blurry Baby Phase: You’re still in the hospital, and the good men and women of the medical profession are keeping you under control with really good drugs. The baby looks perfect and sleeps a lot. This is the blurry baby phase. You’re high as a kite—who knows what that kid is really up to. In my youngest daughter’s case, she was getting kicked out of the baby nursery for having “projectile bowel movements.” She was two days old. I kid you not.

  Talking Baby/Toddler Phase (3 days to 30 years) Note: Age span can vary; sometimes it’s much longer than 30 years: At this phase in the child’s development the child will become more uptight than the Queen of England. Activities that used to amaze and delight will now only bring regal disdain and an imperial, “NO.”

  They have discovered contempt.

  If you try to defy the royal will, you might be forced to remove your offspring from various public places by physically carrying them from the building under your arm, “stiff as a board,” and screaming. They will be stiff as a board. You will be screaming. Heather remained in a rigid state of temper for a solid year. We were afraid she was going to grow that way. We had to fold her in half to get her in the car seat. (Note: This is the age that our oldest son became furious with us for NOT letting him chug drain cleaner.)

  Childhood (about the age that children discover that words like “poop” and “fart” really annoy adults) or The “Can you do this with your Armpit?” Phase: Do I really have to describe this phase? Just let it go, okay?

  Preteen (sometime between the day children discover their own reflection in a mirror and the day they get really hairy and smelly), or The “It’s Going to be a Bumpy Ride” Phase: This stage of development is characterized by wild, unpredictable changes in habits, moods, clothing, metabolism, personality, sleep patterns, appetites, and amount of water usage. Do not be alarmed when your preteens refuse to shower for a year or two. It’s normal in a weird, bizarre kind of way. Living and smelling like a gerbil is just a precursor to the second half of this phase.

  In Part Two, the preteen will begin to shower nonstop from sunrise to sunset. He/She will shower so much that you will begin to worry about mildew growth; not on the shower curtain, but on the preteen. The experts agree that this is a time of self-discovery and self-awareness. No, it’s not. It’s the child’s chance to really perfect that whole “sucking my parent’s life out through holes in my parent’s head” deal. I knew that my husband and I were close to total collapse when one day I came out of my stupor to realize that we were huddled around our hot water heater, trying to figure out a way to DRIVE our oldest son from the shower by turning off his water source. We were holding miscellaneous tools.

  The Teen Years (This phase begins at about eight years old and lasts way too long.) I cannot think of a snappy name for this phase (sorry, I’ve blanked out); we’ll just call it Phase X: This phase can be broken down into subcategories. They are as follows: The Changeling Years, The Dumb as a Stump Period, The “I Want to Grow Up and Be a Cat” Phase, to be followed by The “I’m Not Going Out There” Crisis.

  The Changeling Years: This is when the elves steal your “good” child and replace it with a surly lump of a teenager. You will find yourself exclaiming, “Who are you, and where is the kid that showered a lot?”

  The Dumb as a Stump Period: During this period, the teenager will say idiotic things like, “I cannot make the phone call explaining my absence at the charity event I organized, Mother, for I have developed an irrational fear of the phone.” Whereupon the child’s father will inquire, “Boy, are you as dumb as a stump?”

  The “I Want to Grow Up and Be a Cat” Phase, also known as The “Born Lazy, Feeling Fatigued” Phase: The major characteristic of this phase will be the total lack of ambition on the part of the teenager. They will admire the lifestyle of the family house cat, although they personally will lack the necessary energy or gumption to groom themselves with their own tongues.

  The “I’m Not Going Out There” Crisis: At sixteen, the average kid knows more than Moses and Buddha. At eighteen, they’ve figured out that they might have to WORK and put their big, fat theories about life to the test. Ninety-eight percent of the time, they will refuse to leave home unless bribed with college tuition, dorm allowances, payment of car insurance, and credit cards. Pay the money—it’s worth it. Take out loans. Do what it takes.

  Please be advised that my theories are crackpot and my science is sloppy. All I have going for me is a vague idea that my husband and I have come out on the far end of raising children, older and . . . well . . . older. Whatever wisdom we thought we had was sucked out through holes in our heads, digested by our mutant offspring, and rejected with the words, “You KNOW how Mom and Dad are.”

  I’d like to dedicate this to my four children and say, It’s all good. Be free, my little sparrows, be free, and please send all correspondence to:

  Dear Old Mom and Dad

  General Delivery

  Cancun, Mexico

  Party on,

  Linda L. Zern (Mother to the Stars)

  ~~~Love Means Letting Them Live~~~

  What Up Friends,

  This is an emergency e-mail. Due to recent bizarre and disturbing world events, I have had several requests for a “funny” e-mail. Here it is—I think.

  In church recently, we were asked to share some of the ways we show love for our family. You see, it’s February—love month.

  Each woman mentioned a series of lovely, gentle actions. One woman talked about love notes she writes and puts in her family’s pockets. Someone mentioned writing poetry for her spouse. One mom talked about letting the dishes and vacuuming wait while she played games with her small children. I think I even heard someone mention getting up at four in the morning to put talc in her husband’s socks. Actually, that one could have been in my imagination.

  When it was my turn, I said the first thing that p
opped into my head.

  I said, “I don’t kill them.”

  I know. I know. I know. I had plenty of time to make something up, but I froze. I told the truth.

  Actually, it is the truth. I’ve heard my children say, “Wow, Mom didn’t kill us today. She must really love us.”

  Once in a while, on special occasions, around Easter, they sometimes remark, “Wow, Mom let us live two days in a row. She must adore us.” They’re right; I adore them.

  I absolutely loved the time that I was taking a bath and had a barely-could-stand-up Adam in the tub with me. Adam fell on my kneecap and dislocated it. (Adam was a very small baby at the time, in case you’re creeped out, and if you are creeped out then I think you’re weird for being creeped out. Besides, I’m part nudist and part Native American. It’s our way.)

  I adored being naked—unable to sit up, stand up, or flop out of that tub. I remember sitting there looking at my kneecap, which was hanging off the side of my leg like a ripe peach, thinking that even if I could get someone’s attention and we were saved, it was going to be pretty embarrassing when the fire department smashed through the bathroom door with a fire axe. Firemen would chop holes in my bathroom walls for no apparent reason, and then they’d drag me and the kid, both naked and pruny, from the icy bathwater. I finally just reached down and smacked my silly kneecap back where it belonged.

  I remember with total joy Maren’s minimalist teenage years. Those were the years when her vocabulary consisted of four English words. They were what, ever, shut, and up. Actually, you don’t really need many more words than that; she got by pretty well on four words in two years. I think I heard her say, “Whatever, shut up. Shut what up? What up? Up whatever. Ever shut up.” And then there was my personal favorite, “Up what shut ever.”

  With Heather, it was those Barbie doll photographs. One Christmas we gave our children inexpensive cameras, with the instructions that they should take sensible pictures and not just pictures of their own eyeballs or people going to the bathroom. When we developed Heather’s roll of film, for seven dollars and eighty-eight cents, I discovered that Heather had interpreted sensible to mean twenty-four pictures of her Barbie doll. There were shots of Barbie doing a split, Barbie waving, Barbie modeling her bra, and of course, Barbie smoking a tiny paper cigarette.

  Aric was just a world unto himself. When he wasn’t drawing pictures of dogs with blood-dripping fangs or kidnapping his sisters’ baby dolls and holding them for ransom (the dolls not the sisters), he was riding the pony naked. The kidnappings included ransom notes spelled out with individual letters cut from newspapers and magazines. I can’t explain the naked pony riding. It was hard to know how worried to be about that kid.

  Love does mean letting them live and be themselves. It can be tricky though, but also a lot of nutty fun. All I really want to say about showing love for our families is, “Ever up, up, up.”

  Keeping the faith in troubled times,

  Linda (Unhand that baby doll, mister, or I’ll take you into custody myself.) Zern

  ~~~Plunging the Depths of Parenting~~~

  Good Day Good People,

  When does it end? When does childhood end and they become officially, completely, and with finality, grown-up?

  What do you mean who?

  Our kids, that’s who I’m talking about, and I don’t mean grown-up in the sense that they have jobs and car payments. I mean grown-up in the sense that they take responsibility for clogging the toilet and responsibility for unclogging the toilet. You know, grown-up.

  So there I was, sitting in an easy chair. I was reading a book on the geopolitical ramifications of the history of the children of Abraham on the modern conflict in the Middle East, when I noticed that Adam, the eighteen-year-old, had been wandering in and out of our bathroom on a fairly regular basis all morning. It was annoying.

  Finally, I demanded to know what was wrong with the “other” bathroom that he couldn’t use it.

  “It’s still clogged,” I was informed.

  “So fix it,” I said.

  “We can’t find the plunger,” he said.

  Maren, the twenty-year-old, wandered by to use my bathroom as Adam loitered.

  “How long has your toilet been clogged?!” I asked. My book rested forgotten in my lap.

  She mumbled, “Oh, a while.”

  I perked right up, “What? Define awhile.”

  They chorused, “A couple of days.”

  “A couple of days,” I repeated. The book dropped from my lap as I lurched to my feet. “What were you going to do when you clogged up my toilet, start using a bucket in the corner?”

  They shrugged their bony young-adult shoulders.

  “Get a plunger! Now!”

  “You threw the plunger away,” Maren offered helpfully.

  A vague memory of tossing an accordion-shaped plunger into the garbage washed over me. My husband had justified the purchase of the accordion-shaped plunger by telling me that it “looked cool.”

  When he had bought that plunger, he had been like a crow attracted to a bright, shiny object. The problem was that the plunger was a bit flawed, and the only thing the accordion design seemed to accomplish was to splash foul water into the face of the user. I had, in fact, thrown it away.

  “Are you ACTUALLY blaming your clogged toilet on me?” I became light-headed with anger. “You both have cars. You both have driver’s licenses. You both know where plungers are sold. GO GET A PLUNGER!”

  Adam and Maren looked faintly bored; my husband just kept his head down. A long, stale moment passed and then . . .

  “Mom,” Maren asked, “do you have any money?”

  My hand shook as I handed the cash to my twenty-year-old daughter. I sent her off with instructions to buy a simple, classic, efficient plunger. Nothing fancy, I remember saying.

  Twenty minutes later she returned triumphant.

  “Look mom, I bought a pretty one. It’s purple,” she said.

  Is it possible to blackout from frustration?

  Later, as I unclogged their toilet, my two adult children swear they heard me say, “Down! Down! Go down, d*&# you!” But you’ll have to ask them about that; I have no memory of it.

  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the world: No one will take responsibility for clogging the toilet, and no one wants to take responsibility for unclogging it. And maybe if everyone ignores the clogged toilet long enough, Mom will be forced to put her boots on the ground, get up from that chair, put down that book, and do something about the plumbing crisis.

  Watch out—she just might.

  Plunge on, my friends, plunge on,

  Linda (Potty Mouth) Zern

  ~~~It’s a Gift, Kid, and It’s a Curse~~~

  Calling All Superheroes,

  Parents are superheroes because they have super powers. I know moms and dads that know if their kids have “been up to something” twenty-three minutes before those kids walk through the front door from “just hanging out” at Chad’s house. I can do it. It’s an uncanny, mutant ability caused by drinking contaminated tap water in my youth, or so I let my kids think.

  Overheard in the back seat of my car is a conversation that typifies the wonder and confusion that super powers sometimes cause the average young folk:

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