Scenes from a Food Lion parking lot

So things have been pretty gray and nasty here at the Landfill of Love the past few days.  The weather in Nifongville has been crap…it can’t decide whether it wants to be 40 degrees or 65 degrees, but no matter what it is, it’s been cloudy and rainy.  All in all, miserable, and our moods have matched.  Call it winter depression, call it post-holiday stress decompression, call it what you will.  But we’ve all been a little cranky and blah in general.

And this afternoon was no exception, until…

Wooly bully

So during my strenuous work avoidance regimen this morning, I came across this article on CNN.com about bullying and its effects on children:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 30 percent of all children in grades six through 10 have been bullied or have bullied other children during a school year.

Clinical psychologist Mark Crawford of Roswell, Georgia, called the statistics unacceptable. “Bullying is not a rite of passage,” he said. “It always has a bad outcome.”

I notice there was no positive mention in there of the single most effective anti-bullying medicine:  A good stiff right to their nose.

But be judicious, she urged. Some parents can inflame the situation. “You will encounter situations where parents will tell their kids, ‘If you are hit, I want you to hit back.’ ”

Experts point out it is important for parents to keep emotions in check and to not encourage a child to hit back or retaliate.

Instead, (parenting expert Stacy) DeBroff suggested parents become strategic advisers to their child and help them avoid bullying situations.

I was bullied extensively all through school.  I was an easy mark–promoted two grades in elementary school, I was 11 when I started junior high, 13 in high school.  I was pudgy, soft, squishy, shy, uncoordinated, and worst of all, known all through our small town as “that smart kid.”  In short, I was perfect bully bait.  So I got flung headfirst into the girls’ bathroom in eighth grade, shoved into a trash can in 11th grade, shoulder-checked into the walls in the hallway, cheap-shotted on the football field in elementary school…the usual litany.  And never once did I hit back.

I should have.

My parents tried to enroll me in a karate class when I was 9, as bully preventative.  Trouble was, I didn’t want to do it.  Well, that, and the school they picked was an inner-city school in Lynchburg full of tough older kids that proceeded to–wait for it–bully me!  And to top it off, the school moved to another location after a few months…without telling many of its clients, us included.  (The sensei later got busted for drug possession, and later on got shot when he “tried to break up” a drug buy.  Uh-huh.)

Bad choices in martial arts training notwithstanding, it’s a simple fact:  The most proven way to stop a bully is to stand up to them.  Bullies are cowards.  They pick on the weak and the easy, and don’t have the sack to stand up to somebody who actually might give them a second’s worth of trouble.  Bullies thrive under schools’ modern idiotic “zero-tolerance” policies that remove the opportunity for self-defense, and punish a child for defending themselves just as much or even more as the bully for starting things.

We’re tentatively planning to homeschool Nublet, but should she be sent to a private or public school, my advice to her will be simple.  You never hit first.  You never bully (if you do, it’s Wrath of God time at home).  But if you are bullied, you stand up to them, and if somebody starts a fight with you, you finish it by whatever means necessary, dirty or clean.  And if you were fighting in self-defense, then we will back you up against the school if it comes to that.

Sometimes I think What Might Have Been if I’d actually applied myself in that karate class and stuck with it.  Maybe I wouldn’t be the slug I am now, and maybe I wouldn’t have had to deal with as much shit as I did later on.  But then I remember that the dude who slung me into the girls’ bathroom in eighth grade is now doing life in prison for shooting someone after they honked their horn at him at a stoplight, and think maybe things didn’t turn out that bad…

Alone-ness

In which your Gentle Host goes all emo and ruminates on the concept of “alone,” because, verily, it is a really slow day here at work.

– And slow days at work give me too much time to blog.>

Dude, my hand’s leaving trails

After a highly successful Karazhan raid in WoW last night, Wife Unit and I got to bed pretty late, around 1:00.

We were awakened at the stroke of 5:00 by two things–Fat Cat trying to lie down on my skull to crush it, again, and Nublet having her first genuine night terror.

Between the two of those, I never could get back to sleep.  So I ended up grinding out Quel’danas dailies and some Netherstorm stuff on my druid Amakawa, and shifting money around to get him on the way to his epic flight form.

All this is to say, if I post something today and it makes even less sense than usual?  It’s sleep deprivation, baby.  The cheapest buzz there is.

Oh, and I get to tank a Tempest Keep run tonight.  GO GO GADGET CAFFEINE.

If you give a moose a muffin…

We’re broke as hell, having trouble keeping up with our bills, getting pummeled by stupid little stuff like mystery bank charges and failing hard drives and depression and difficult daughters.  Some days, both of us are barely hanging on by our fingernails.

But right now, none of that matters.

Because my wife made me some homemade baked-from-scratch banana nut muffins to take to work for breakfast.  And these things are awesome.

Love ya, baby.

(If you’ve got kids, you’ll probably get the title reference.  If not, here you go.  It’s one of Nublet’s favorite books.)

Random acts of kindness

Have you ever had something really good happen to you…and not have the slightest clue how to handle it?

Wife Unit and I are slobs.  There’s no getting around it.  My last bachelor apartment before I got married didn’t get nicknamed the Dumpster of Love for nothing.  (As contrasted to our poorly-insulated apartment in Richmond, which I dubbed the Refrigerator of Love for those bracing winter mornings where it was 45 degrees in the closet, or our current place, the Landfill of Love.)  Then add on top of our natural slob tendencies, the fact that she’s been dealing with depression for over a year, and that I work full-time and am not in great physical condition and am just lazy in general, and…yeah.  We don’t have a lot of people over.  Maintenance notices tend to cause us much heartburn and frantic cleaning to get certain rooms up to a minimum oh-Jesus-please-don’t-evict-us standard.

So Wife Unit has a good Livejournal friend that lives nearby, Ursula.  Urs, a few weeks back, told us that she wanted to do something nice for us…she was going to get a couple of people together from her church and do some apartment cleaning for us.  If you saw what our place looked like, you’d realize that even the offer, much less the execution of it, is grounds for beatification.  We took her up on it, and the time was set…last Saturday.

Saturday morning, Urs rolled in, followed by her Sunday school small group leader, Anthony.  Wife Unit had made sure that suitable snacks and drinks were laid up and ready, and at that point, we left and gave them free rein over the entirety of the Landfill of Love, while we headed to the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science up on the other side of Durham.  We proceeded to have a wonderful morning.  The Museum impressed the hell out of me; it’s incredibly kid-friendly, with interesting indoor exhibits, and an outdoor climate-controlled butterfly house.  But the heat was brutal, and by 12:30, we were gassed, even after a half-hour lunch in the air conditioning.

We called Urs…and were told that the cleaning crew (now swollen to four people) wasn’t done yet.  But, Anthony immediately said, “oh, no problem, you can go to my house, I live nearby.”  And he called his wife, and made it so.  Thus it was that a half-hour later (after a sweaty 100-degree blast-furnace ride in my wife’s car, Stubby, with no air conditioning) we pulled up beside Anthony’s house and met his wife and their two cute kids, ages 5 and 2 1/2.

Nublet needed a nap, and without hesitation the wife insisted we put her to bed in their daughter’s room.  We retired downstairs to sit, watching Ax Men on the History Channel and trying to get our core temperature back down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 98.6 F.  Close on 3 o’clock, she came into the room, said, “I have to take the kids to a birthday party, if you leave before I do, just lock the back door.  Bye!”  And left.

Leaving two total strangers…in her house.  Alone.

These days, that in and of itself is stunning, that someone we’d never met before would trust us to hang out in their house alone.  But the day wasn’t yet done, and things were about to get even more mind-blowing.

Urs called about 3:45 and said they were done.  So we packed up and drove back over…and got the shock of our lives.

The place was clean.  No, not just clean.  It was move-out clean, and veteran renters know what I’m talking about.  Both bathrooms and the kitchen had been scrubbed to a fare-the-well.  All the carpets were completely vacuumed.  Every single toy had been picked up out of the floor.  The kitchen sparkled, with a load of clean dishes in the dishwasher and everything else loaded into the cabinets.

But wait, there’s more.

Our second bedroom has always been our “computer room,” while Nublet slept in our room.  No more.  They completely cleaned all the detritus out of that room, broke down our computers, and moved them and the tables they sat on into our bedroom, placing them perfectly for us to hook them back up later.  Then they took the bed we’d bought Nublet months ago but hadn’t had time or space to set up, and set it up.  They bought storage containers and bins and put away all her toys.  They turned that room from the epicenter of a geek slobquake into a nice room for a two-and-a-half-year-old girl.  They even got more storage bins and cleaned out the side alcove near the apartment entrance, the one that Avery had briefly turned into a beading nook before it got taken over by boxes.

We just stood there, dumbfounded.  I kept looking around for the TLC cameras, because surely we’d walked into some home makeover show, right?  The only way we could tell it was the same apartment we’d left eight hours earlier was that the stains on the carpet were still in the same place, and yes, that was still our ugly sofa…only now, we could see all of it.

Four people busted their ever-loving asses for eight hours on a 100-degree day, to do something nice for people that they barely knew, or had never met.  They gave up a Saturday with their own families to work like dogs for total strangers.

I’ll admit it.  After Urs left, I cried a little.  Cried because (a) I’m not used to having people do something this nice for us, ever; and (b) it makes me examine myself, and I’m not sure I like everything I see.

What we got on Saturday goes far, far beyond a clean apartment.  There’s a lesson in it.  I just hope I’m smart enough to learn it…and remember.

And to Ursula, Anthony, and their friends:  Thank you.  Words can’t express how much this meant to us.

For a lot of different reasons.

Nubletwatch, the Weekend

The weekend was the part of taking care of Nublet that I really was scared of.  No daycare, no backup, no nothing.  Just me, a chatty two-year-old, and two days to try and keep her occupied and happy.

In the end, that really wasn’t that hard.

Both days began the same way.  Get up, then feed her breakfast–one of Wife Unit’s homemade chocolate-chip cherry muffins, a banana, and juice.  Then, plant her in front of the idiot box watching some Disney pap (My Friends Tigger and Pooh or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) whilst I snuck off and snagged a quick shower.

Saturday, we went to the Super Target for grocery shopping.  She’s getting too big to ride in the cart, so she walked the store with me.  STRESS.  PUPPY.  TIME.  I mean, aren’t all supermarkets and stores full of sexual predators just waiting to snatch a toddler when they get out of your sight for one second?  Fortunately, the Durham Super Target apparently wasn’t, and Nublet stayed close enough that I could keep eyes on her anyway.  She was a good girl so I shamelessly bribed her with a reward.  I took her over to the toy section and told her she could pick out either a beanie Tigger, or a beanie Pooh.  She picked Tigger.  Five seconds later, of course, as we wheeled away, she started screaming for a beanie Pooh.

Sunday morning was taken up with me trying to get a little weekend testing done from home, and then it was off to the local mall, which has one of those indoor playgrounds where, as befits modern child-rearing, everything is padded and vinyl-covered and there are no sharp edges to hurt a child.  Except that for whatever reason, the outside wall of the area is still faced in rough-edged uncovered brick.  Go figure.  (How did I survive growing up with metal slides and ladders and monkey bars set up over rocks and dirt?)  After the play session, it was time to introduce Nublet to the nectar of the child gods…mall pizza.  OM NOM NOM NOM HULK SMASH.

After both those expeditions, it was afternoon nap time.  Saturday, she refused to nap, as she often does.  This is a bad thing, because when she doesn’t nap, she starts kicking on the wall separating her sleeping area from where I sit at the computer.  This is not conducive to chilling out and getting my head screwed back on straight.  Fortunately, Sunday, all the play caused her to immediately crash out hard, and I got in a couple of hours of uninterrupted time where I sat at the computer in a daze and forgot exactly what I wanted to do.

I’ll save you the boring details of the post-nap experiences, except to say that we ordered food out far too much.  And that she’s still the most amazing little two-year-old ever.

I just don’t understand how stay-at-home moms with multiple kids do this.  My mom stayed at home to raise two of us, and I knew she had a hard job and always respected her for it.  I just never knew how hard.

I’m at work now, where I’m catching up on my rest.  And Wife Unit is home, catching up on her rest, before I deliver Nublet to her from daycare this afternoon, and see the Joyous Reunion.

Not a moment too soon, either.