Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the category “Parenting”

The Ties That Bind

Christmas break is officially over as the Odd Number bid his farewell this morning. He’s a sophomore at Boise State now and man, they have a long break! Long enough in fact, for me to notice that the young man didn’t know how to tie his shoes.

How can that be, you are asking yourself. The kid is 19 1/2, for crying out loud. Well, it gets worse. Her Royal Highness, age 22 next month, confessed that when she is in the locker room lacing up her ice skates, people critique her technique. That’s because we raised grown ass adults who still use the double bunny ears method of tying their shoes.

We’d bought them a book like this, and those little do-it-yourselfers seemed to have caught on quickly. At least I knew I wasn’t tying their shoes anymore. And maybe there were a lot of slip-on shoes or even Velcro … maybe I didn’t want to know the truth.

But when I saw the Odd Number looping those big bunny ears with his manly paws, I couldn’t turn away this time. We had issues and we needed to work through them. I knew that age had made me a better, more patient teacher, and that was good because Odd is still left handed.

We sat down and practiced a proper shoelace knot, with just the one bunny ear, and then over, under, around and through — now we meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through! Victory! We high-fived and I texted Her Royal Highness so she would know it is never too late to learn. And she texted me back and said now that one of my kids could tie his own shoes, I had a 50% success rate. “Still an F,” she noted, with the slightly superior texting tone of the college senior.

Slip-ons can cover up shoe tying deficiencies.

Odd headed out for the night, slipping into his laceless shoes. All was right with the world.

What Now?

We dropped Odd Number off at Boise State University last week, initiating a new era in family life. So far, that era is distinguished by the number of times people have asked us about ENS, or Empty Nest Syndrome. empty nest

Nothing that ends with Syndrome is ever good, so naturally I’m resistant to the phrase. If our house is indeed a nest, Iron Chef and I are still in it, as is our cat — the Worst Hippopotamus. Not to mention the fact that Her Royal Highness (now a college junior) uses the nest as a combination flophouse/storage shed in between her wilderness river trips. That behavior actually does feel like a syndrome.

Empty Nest or no, there is no doubt that having both kids in college will create a new dynamic. On one of the rare occasions this summer when all four of us sat down to dinner, the conversation was lively and fun. Odd soon peeled off to carouse with his friends, and it didn’t take Her Highness long to get a better offer, so they excused themselves and left us alone on the deck. Chef looked at me with what one might perceive as terror, and said, “What now?”

We both laughed hysterically after he said it, like you do before you ride one of those rides at the amusement park that simulates an elevator falling 40 floors.

elevator fallI’m mostly nervous because I’ve been using the children as human shields from some basic responsibilities. Like, “I’m sure I’ll dust more when I don’t have all this child rearing to do.” It’s been 4 days since we left Odd Number in southern Idaho and this now feels like a lie.

But maybe I really will be more thoughtful about birthdays, and clipping the cat’s nails, and not abandoning my blog for months on end. What now? Let’s just wait and see.



While the Cat’s Away…

Odd Number is 17 and a high school senior this year. So when Iron Chef and I both had to travel for work for a week, Odd pretty much had the run of the house. We left him some grocery money, the co-parenting of my Sidekick Lucy, and cat watching duties.

He’s a trustworthy, smart kid, so don’t mock me when I say I was surprised by the mischief he made while we were gone.img_0921

The grocery money didn’t go to groceries, well at least not in my book. If you must know, he blew it all on “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and “Mrs. Butterworth’s Pancake Syrup.” Both in quotations because they are neither butter nor syrup. Serum, perhaps, but not syrup. Frankenfoods. He bought Frankenfoods the minute we were out of sight.

I was left alone as a teen a time or two, but back then we were blissfully oblivious to the dangers of hydrogenated pseudo-oils. My parents didn’t have to fret about the evil omnipresence of corn syrup. Parents had it easy when the temptations were just cheap beer and wine coolers that tasted like Laffy Taffy. And Laffy Taffy.

When I came home and opened the fridge, Odd had left the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” tub front and center, like he was proud of this accomplishment. When I turned to face him (or rather look up to him now that he’s taller than me), I said in an even tone, “You’d better believe it’s not butter, mister.”

He shrugged and seemed not the least bit contrite. Neither was Mrs. Butterworth contrite, but rather smug with her arms folded calmly in front of her apron, as I gripped her neck.

“It’s so spreadable,” Odd said, and I swear to God Mrs. Butterworth, that temptress of the devil, winked at me.

Maybe Mrs. Butterworth tempted Odd with this promotion.

Maybe Mrs. Butterworth tempted Odd with this promotion.

Forced Family Fun 2016.2

There is no denying that I sullied my reputation as a Forced Family Fun leader last week, when I caused my family to over-extend their skill level and their fun threshhold on cross-country skis. This week, however, I am tasting the mother’s sweet, molten hot fudge of redemption.

Her Royal Highness is on extended college break. I gave her an early and inappropriate birthday present to help her fill her down time in Podunk. The Thug Kitchen‘s Eat Like You Give a F*ck is vegetarian and a tad edgy. I mean plant-based. I think vegetarian is now a political party and plant-based indicates a diet. I think.


When HRH put Mother F*cking Kale on our shopping list, I decided to peruse the book more closely.

“The first rule of Thug Kitchen is: Read the recipe. Second rule of Thug Kitchen? READ THE GODDAMN RECIPE. Be sure you read that shit all the way through before you cook.”

The inappropriate part? We’re not quite sure what to do with a vegetarian, er, a plant-baser, in Podunk.

paella_spreadClearly, Thug Kitchen improved my status with HRH. But there was still one kid with fresh memories of death march on skis.

Odd Number likes a good argument. He’s fortunate to have an English teacher who assigns current events blogging to the kids, and he gets rewarded with extra points for argumentative responses in the comment block. That is pure money for Odd.

So, I was delighted to share a blog post with Odd I had written for High Country News in which I was able to offend animal rightsers, Confederates, the literati, wolf haters, the Unabomber, and lichen — all in 750 words or less. Better yet, one of my gentle readers used the term “homo rapiens” in the comment box. Short of getting Sidney Crosby to autograph a puck for Odd, this constituted some pretty damned good redemption.

We finished the enchanted day with a rousing round of Scrabble. Odd shouted Thug-like profanity when he could not convince Her Royal Highness and I of the validity of the word “Qadi,” while HRH destroyed our dreams with a triple word score for “Curvy.”


All is right with the world.


Forced Family Fun: Episode 2016.1

My sidekick Lucy was out of town for the weekend and Podunk had buckets of snow. So, I strapped on some new skiiing buddies and headed for the hills. As you may know, Lucy and I, along with our friends Zephyr and Piso Mojado, form the elite mountain bike team known only as the “Lost Riders.” We have yet to find any nearby x-country ski competitions worthy of our fantastic skills, but if we did, we would most certainly be the “Lost Skiiers.” Sense of direction is not our strong suit under any climate conditions.

So, when I had the unique opportunity to ski with Iron Chef, Odd Number, and his gal, I knew I had to demonstrate best behavior because all they ever hear about is misadventure. On Saturday, I selected a known, traveled route, rich with signs and comforting blue diamonds affixed to lodgepole pine. The snow was lovely, the skiing barely invigorating, the vehicle obvious at the trailhead. Responsible recreation success!

Sunday, Iron Chef had to attend to his duties as King of Podunk Hockey, so Her Royal Highness stepped in for Forced Family Fun. I found myself recommending a new route, a trail I knew about but had not actually skiied myself. This trail not only had a trailhead, but a carved wooden map, unheard of in these parts, where our trail signing motto is, “If you don’t know where you are, you probably don’t belong here.”


Her Royal Highness is so far not concerned that we have lost the Blue Diamonds.

The skiing rookies were terrific sports as the trail, not a groomed trail but a mashed down by snowshoers and their dogs kind of trail, soon became unfettered powder. Pure, steep-slope, unfettered hip-deep powder. My colleagues remained in good humor as I expressed the benefit of being able to traverse uphill for long periods on one’s backcountry skis. And they mostly believed me as dramatic views of the Podunkian valley emerged.


Before the children lost all hope.

But then, the comforting blue diamonds went away, and my genetic disposition against retreat kicked in. “It’s not a crevasse — it’s an adventure,” I jingoed, pretending that I didn’t hear some of the words coming from my 16-year-old’s mouth.

“I have matches and a headlamp,” I offered, intending to inspire confidence in my party. Alas, the confidence was in short supply, and dejected, I led the group on a quite invigorating descent to the trusty Honda Pilot (see Honda, this could by your sponsored spot).

I believe the children questioned whether our 2 minutes of downhill bliss were worth the 1.5 hours we had plodded through the powder and pines. I missed Lucy, who like me, would simply marvel that we had ever found the vehicle.



Rainy Day Activities For Bored Kids!!! By Daddy Drinks!

So, Daddy Drinks posts even less than Podunk, but in a triumphant return to blogging, this Daddy earns today’s “Things I Wish I Had Written Award.” And Mom, sorry for the profanity. It’s not me, it’s him.

Daddy Drinks

rainy day craft

If you Google, “rainy day activities for kids” you’ll get a ton of suggestions from Pinterest Parents like, “design your own cooperative learning board game!” Or “build your own theater stage and puppets using only up-cycled materials!” Or my favorite, “make your own paper!”

Fuck you Pinterest. I don’t want to make my own paper.

I’m sure there are thousands of wholesome, nurturing ideas out there where your kids can spend an entire rainy afternoon expressing their feelings through leaf and stick art. A small part of me wishes I were a Pinterest Parent who kept drawers of popsicle sticks, egg crates and scraps of whimsical fabric on hand so we could make a “real working miniature windmill farm” when the mood strikes us, but apparently, I’m not that kind of parent. The only time I’m ever going to suggest we “make our own clothes!” is if the outlet mall…

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Ode to Romeo

Podunk has lost a great citizen. Actually, Podunk is now minus one especially naughty dog. My evil yet charming Romeo has moved on to the Happy Hunting Grounds. For him, that most likely involves Every Day is Trash Day. He wasn’t really much of a hunter, and recently struck a deal with a cottontail, allowing her to sublease my lettuce patch for free.

DSC04805Romeo had a knack with the ladies — somehow conveying an Antonio Banderas accent with his doggie face. A friend once admitted after keeping Romeo for a weekend that she would  promptly leave her husband for Romeo if he wasn’t, well, a dog. He had a crush on my sidekick Lucy. Tracking her voice throughout the neighborhood and downtown establishments seemed to be the only practical skill he possessed. Besides being able to hold my feet while I did sit ups. There went my sit up career.

Romeo was not a brave dog. He was afraid of other dogs, most cats, thunder, fireworks, deer, and cottontail rabbits.

Despite being cloaked in a border collie body, Romeo has the on-leash instincts of a lead sled dog and the swimming prowess of a lab. The water, in the end, proved to be his demise.

Romeo had the unfortunate habit of barking at his own splashes while paddling in rivers, lakes, or the neighbors’ drinking water reservoir. This summer, he became obsessed with this fun and dispatched himself to the Salmon River several times a day. Lucy diagnosed him as having gone “bat shit crazy” and I cannot disagree.

People commonly mistook his frantic barking and solo swimming style as distress, and rescued him to the pound, posted his mug on Facebook, etc. I was in the process of making him a lifejacket that read, “Leave me alone, I’m on my way to the Pacific Ocean.”

I’m saddest that I never got to see him ride that first wave on the Pacific, smiling his eerie Antonio Banderas smile. Paddle on, sweet Romeo.


Room for Growth

We’re in Missoula for Her Royal Highness’s freshman orientation at University of Montana. We are clearly part of a generation of New Age Parenting, because I, too, am attending Families of Freshmen Orientation for 2.5 f—ing days. Here was my parents’ orientation: “Here is where your kid lives now, and here is a bill you can pay. Any questions? No? Well, consider yourself oriented.” Now, not so much. But that’s not what I’m really reporting. Fortunately, the college has the good sense to separate Families of Freshmen from the real incoming Freshmen themselves. So, we check HRH into the dorm room that will serve as her lodging for a few days and her primary dwelling for the upcoming school year. “It’s like the cells in Orange is the New Black!” HRH recoiled upon seeing the cinder block enclosure.

Orange is the New Black, campus style.

Orange is the New Black, campus style.

I concurred that the accommodations were, in fact, austere. I went to check myself in to the Missoula downtown Holiday Inn. It is a complete wonder that I am not sponsored by Holiday Inn because thanks to Iron Chef, I am completely a Preferred Member. This is very meaningful because when I check in, I get asked if because of my loyalty (which involves paying a home mortgage worth of visits), I would like a) water, b) $2 off a $10 drink, or c) a bejillion points for a point system I don’t understand. I always choose points because I understand the other two choices and they are not that preferential. But sometimes, at least theoretically, Preferred Members get insider perks. I experienced this one time in Billings, Montana, when the front desk randomly gave me salt and vinegar potato chips, which happen to be my favorite. That was cool. In Missoula on this stay, my Preferred Member status earned me a wink and an upgrade to the mega king suite.

Karma is good.

Karma is good.

To be clear, when I’m traveling with the rest of my family and/or half of the girls and/or boys’ hockey team, we do not get the upgrade. But when I am a solo unit, Holiday Inn cannot provide me with enough square footage. Is it a coincidence that HRH is sleeping in the equivalent of a packrat trap? Only if you are godless.

Mixed Messages

A few days ago I chronicled Her Royal Highness’s graduation ceremony. But wait, there’s more.

After graduation is over, the seniors get whisked off to an all-night “party.” By party, I mean a lock-down situation for graduates only and their chaperoning parents that is intended to keep the kids from really partying. Now before you get all excited and turn me into PETA or something, let me state for the record that I am very much in favor of giving kids an alternative activity to do so they don’t resort to having toga parties at the lake and driving themselves off the side of a mountain. I get it.

But I’m afraid we sent the kids a mixed message.

When Iron Chef and I showed up for the 1:30 – 3:30 a.m. chaperone shift, the thrill was already gone for most of the small class of 2015 assembled. This in spite of the fact that a lot of hard working parents knocked themselves out to have a non-stop line-up of activities, as well as cash and prizes, to keep the graduates at the appropriately named Senior Sober.

Unfortunately, the activities included: Jell-o wrestling, poker, karaoke, and mechanical bull riding — all leisure sports invented with alcohol in mind.

Jello wrestling was invented to keep Daytona Beach from getting boring during college spring break.

Jello wrestling was invented to keep Daytona Beach from getting boring during college spring break.

Have you ever gone to Las Vegas' alcohol-free, smoke-free casinos? There's a reason.

Have you ever gone to Las Vegas’ alcohol-free, smoke-free casinos? Hmm.

They are called karaoke BARS for a reason.

They are called karaoke BARS for a reason.

No one rides the mechanical bull at the beginning of the night.

No one rides the mechanical bull at the beginning of the night.

To the kids’ credit, they sang “Livin’ on a Prayer,” stone cold sober. They monkeyed around on the bull. They played a few hands of five card stud. And they had the common sense to know that no one gets in a kiddie pool of Jello without being in a seriously altered state.

Our work here is done.

Her Royal Highness Graduates from Podunk High

I have a bona fide Podunk moment to share: Her Royal Highness is now a high school graduate. Iron Chef and I could not be more proud of this little she-devil valedictorian. Our Podunk family came to town, and we all cozied up on the Podunk High School bleachers for a cramped, but meaningful graduation ceremony. HRH’s speech as valedictorian was surprisingly appropriate, touching, and blissfully short as the gym temperature started to rise and deodorant products started to fail.

Her Royal Highness rocks graduation 2015.

Her Royal Highness rocks graduation 2015.

But then things started to get truly dicey. The commencement speaker, a 1985 Podunk High alum, was a complete and utter jackwagon. Because I know at least a few of my gentle readers believe that I am prone to exaggeration, I will now quote from Podunk’s newspaper of record, The Weekly Disappointment.

“[Jackwagon] told the class very personal memories, one was becoming a father in the 8th grade…[Jackwagon] continued to talk for quite a while, approximately 45 minutes of speech. He touched on all parts of his life and troubles he had and conquered. Many in the audience proceeded outside while [Jackwagon] continued to speak. He was even slipped a note to wrap up his speech and the gymnasium was becoming very hot.

Cheers were given to [Jackwagon] for concluding his speech and to [Her Royal Highness] for starting the senior slideshow.”

What the roving reporter failed to mention was the mayhem being caused in our 3′ x 5′ sauna bleacher box. Jackwagon’s speech went wrong for several reasons: 1) Jackwagon was under the impression that the soon-to-be high school graduates had the attention span to follow a 45-minute speech about nothing, 2) Jackwagon was under the impression that anyone in the audience cared what his 1985 wrestling record was, and 3) Jackwagon thought describing health ailments at a high school graduation would be as popular as describing health ailments over a lunch of pureed minute rice at a nursing home.

Good behavior in the audience started to erode after about 7 minutes of Jackwagon’s speech. Our sauna box section was no exception. My mother, the Notorious Babs, was part of a movement of people who tried offering a standing ovation to the speaker whenever he paused in an attempt to get him to quit. When he didn’t, Babs led the choir of “Oh No’s!” Not at all under their breath, by the way. My dad, Big L, was exhibiting uncommonly good behavior, until deep into a conversation about kidney ailments, Jackwagon brought one chapter of his endless story to conclusion by announcing a woman had very selflessly given him one of her kidneys to prolong his life. “I’d like to get my hands on her,” Big L burst out, Turret’s syndrome style.

The speech was an epic fail, without question. The muscle-headed speaker turned out to be not just an awful bore, but had also recently been charged with peddling steroids. We all got hot and crabby. But in retrospect, 45 minutes of nonsense is a small price to pay for the community bonding Podunk had an opportunity to experience at graduation. This was the kind of shared experience that usually requires a tornado, flood, or some sort of business that requires an insurance claim. Or the last episode of Seinfeld.

All in all, we got off easy. Congratulations, Royal Highness!

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