Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the category “Parenting”

The Formula Approach

When Her Royal Highness and Odd Number were wee babes, I operated under the assumption that if baby formula touched their infant lips, ruin would fall upon our household. The fears were multi-faceted and ranged from worries that baby formula would cause low IQs, delayed potty training, and/or severe psychological trauma.

I just made the rounds at Podunk Senior High’s parent-teacher conference last week, and I’m pleased to say that the breast milk seems to be contributing to great grades and perfectly acceptable toilet habits. Psychosis is difficult to diagnose, but I’ll play the odds and say we’re keeping our heads above water.

But it just doesn’t matter! Because now that they are big kids, and trust me, long since weaned — now, they’ve decided to move to formula. As HRH continues to hone her physique and Odd scavenges for calories to help him get bigger than his sister, they have dozens of mongo containers of formulas like Serious Mass stationed throughout the house.

Serious Mass!

Serious Mass!

There are so many I’ve started a design to use them as rain barrels in my yard.

But that’s not the point. The point is that the parenting books may have presented only one side of the coin. Oh sure, we can tell ourselves that nursing does wonders to create attachment between mothers and children, but seriously, so does allowance. What if, accidentally, I caused these kids to crave the comfort of a large plastic carton filled with whey?

This parenting business is tricky.

She’s Legal

Her Royal Highness turns 18 today.

101-0145_IMG_2As is often the case, she figured out the gravity of the situation far before I did.

“I can be tried as an adult now,” she reported.

Indeed. In a non-presidential election year, this might be as good as it gets.

Legalize HRH! And if you do go to jail, sweet thing, may it be a federal women’s prison with nice linens and an excellent gym.

The Wisdom of Elders

The absolute best thing about living in Podunk is our proximity to wilderness whitewater.

The Podunks recently joined up with my Sidekick Lucy’s family for a 5-day adventure.IMG_4720

I like a lot of things about being on the Main Salmon River — time with friends and family, the rapids, the food, the scenery, the crazy sky carpet of stars at night.

But my favorite thing is the complete lack of cell phone coverage in the river’s remote canyons. No 4G, no Wi-Fi, no service. For days, the children can rest their texting thumbs, think of answers to life’s puzzles without Wikipedia, and make faces at us instead of their phones.

Sidekick’s strapping 16-year-old son Forest rowed the teenaged boy boat. He’s an expert oarsman and a joy to watch on the river. But, as Lucy predicted, the nearly perfect judgment he exhibits through the waves falters at times on shore.

This most manifested itself during the “It Never Rains at Night on the River” incident.

Odd Number, prone to challenging such statistics, didn’t balk at this one, even as the thunder clouds blackened and huddled together over our camp.

The boys repeatedly scoffed at the offer of tents. The rest of us, less knowledgeable about the river’s meteorological certainties, were soundly asleep in our tents when the deluge began.


When Odd, Forest, and their 6’5″ buddy’s first option — a 3′ x 3′ vinyl tablecloth with flannel backing — provided inadequate shelter, the three invaded Little Bird and Her Royal Highness’ 2-person tent. HRH’s notoriously bad attitude caused the boys to slink into the wet creases of the tent’s edges. Claustrophobia setting in, Forest sought asylum in his parents’ tent. Before Lucy would move the tent’s zipper one centimeter, Forest’s ticket to entry was to acknowledge out loud, “My parents told me this would happen, and I am, in fact, an idiot.” Forest readily paid the toll.

Now that would have been a face for Instagram.

Going Pro

Any of Podunk’s shortcomings can be overlooked for its drop dead beautiful and panoramic views and endless outdoor recreation opportunities. If Yvon Chouinard hadn’t visited South America first, Patagonia would most likely have been named Podunk. You’d be referring to your favorite nanopuff as podunkgucci, and so on.

Kids here are out-of-this-world lucky. My sidekick Lucy’s big strapping teenager Forrest packs his kayak around like a skateboard in case the Salmon River gets unexpectedly sick, and Her Royal Highness Highness just had a final in rock climbing. Meanwhile, Odd Number has become obsessed with a centuries old ball-and-stick game. Don’t get me wrong, I know Kendama is way better than Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Its side effects include a fairly harmless click-clack noise and almost certainly improves hand-eye coordination.

The part that makes me nervous about Kendama is Odd’s insistence that people go “pro” in this activity. Considering the amount of time he spends practicing moves inexplicably called “bird” and “candle”, I can tell he would like to be one of these professionals.

This is thoughtless. What would Iron Chef and I tell our friends about this development? Yes, our only son has gone to the city (because certainly rural America does not go pro in Kendama) to accept a job playing the Japanese equivalent of yo-yo?

Still, Odd makes his preparations, most of which include purchasing new Kendamas that look remarkably similar to the ones he already has.

This is a model known as Focus, retailing for about $21.

This is a model known as Focus, retailing for about $21.

Then again, maybe Odd will be the first person in the family to secure a sponsor. And yes, you make a good point… at least he’s not a Broney.

This model is known as Focus Atack Complete. The difference? This retails for about $40. Yes, it's a ball attached to a stick by string.

This model is known as Focus Atack Complete. The difference? This retails for about $40. Yes, it’s a ball attached to a stick by string.

$20 Per Gallon Can’t Come Soon Enough

Podunk is the home of some damned expensive gasoline. Hovering close to $4/gallon, we’re a good 50 cents higher than the next closest city of any size, by which I mean Omaha, Nebraska.

But it’s not high enough. A few months ago, I wrote about Her Royal Highness’ desire at age 15 to take driver’s ed. If you don’t believe me you can read Not Licensed to Drive.

We eventually submitted, as we inevitably do, and now she has what is known in Idaho as a learner’s permit. Learner’s permit is code for “spend 50 hours scaring the living dog shit out of your parents.” Her Royal Highness is quite honestly the scariest driver I have ever ridden with. Her father — the Iron Chef — and I are trying to pinpoint the cause or causes of this affliction: legal blindness, fearlessness, club foot.

After a particularly frightening incident near Mud Lake (to understand my already despondent frame of mind, please see Remote Possibilities.) Allowing Her Highness to cruise through Mud Lake seemed fool proof, putting only tumbleweeds and feral cats in danger. But we hadn’t bargained on it being Combine Season. Now, if you are a Podunk, you might automatically get excited about Combine Season and even conjure up images of the awesome Lind, Washington Combine Demolition Derby.

Her Royal Highness hadn’t had a lot of practice passing cars, and in hindsight, practicing on a large tractor might not have been the right answer, especially with her entire nuclear family in the car. To make a short story long, she pulled into the part of the passing lane that the combine wasn’t crowding without acknowledging that what was our passing lane was also used by oncoming traffic as their primary lane. For a moment she seemed to acknowledge that she saw the oncoming vehicle not so far in the distance (but only a board-certified opthamologist can confirm this), but her resolve was iron clad … we would not retreat.

As we played chicken with oncoming traffic ahead of us, a large churning piece of industrial farm equipment to our right, and the barrow pit to our left, my own screams mingled with those of the Iron Chef in a melody that sounded like it belonged in the Monsters Inc Scream Extractor.

Boo in scream extractor

Our 13-year-old son — the Odd Number — looked up from his video game to see if anything was more interesting than his video game. He determined that it was not.

We made a new family rule that we would never again travel as a foursome with Her Royal Highness at the wheel, for fear that our genetic material might be chopped up and later stacked by a tractor.

And I determined that my light summer reading would be $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by the Forbes writer Christopher Steiner.

$20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner

$20 per gallon can’t come soon enough.

The Trouble with Violence Free Parenting

It’s T-shirt weather in Salmon, and I thought that was a good thing. But when I was driving around with our 12-year-old son, the Odd Number (this doesn’t reflect on the kid’s actual strangeness but more his fascination, some would say obsession, with odd numbers, in particular 1,3, and 7), I found out that springtime in the Rockies comes with a price. In mid-story, Odd reached across and shook the skin that used to house my tricep.
“Bat wings,” he calmly declared, and gave another thwap at my arm.
I’ve known people who blame all their adult-life problems on parents who were too cruel. What no one talks about is how twisted children become when they have no fear of getting a good hard smack across the face. My son smiled sweetly at me as I plotted his demise.

The truth is I have been pretty lackadaisical about my calisthenic routine ever since I mistook a particularly rigorous round of push-ups for breast cancer.

This is not a photo of me doing push-ups.

Fortunately, after a comfy mammogram and an ultrasound, the medical team brought back a verdict of overworked pectoralis major. Needless to say, after celebrating my restored health, I modified to girl push-ups and then mostly to no push-ups. And then, apparently, to flapping my bat wings.

But now the Odd Number has forced my hand, so I’m going to do what any post-40 female would do in my situation … I’m going to watch GI Jane…

This is not me doing a pull up.

and draw a Hitler mustache on my son while he sleeps in his snug little bed tonight.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: