Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cannibals, Orange Ramen Noodles and the Reese's Puff Flu

          I did not use three completely random phrases in the title of my post in the hopes that more poor innocent net surfers would stumble across my otherwise scarcely viewed blog.  Like sides of a triangle, these three seemingly unrelated topics will come together to form a point.  But first, we must start from the very beginning (a very good place to start).  It began on Sunday morning.  We were in the midst of the usual Sunday morning shuffle.  With three kids to bathe and dress (not to mention fitting a shower for myself somewhere in there) and three heads of hair to fix, cold cereal was on the menu for breakfast.  I wasn't surprised in the least when my eight year old daughter asked for a second bowl of cereal.  The girl has a hollow leg.  She consumes more food than a grown man would at most meals, yet her pants size is still two years behind her age.  I must add here that I am a bad mother, and I buy my children sugared cereal.  We also eat Pop-tarts some mornings.  I grew up on Fruit Loops, Wonder Bread and Pop-tarts, and I turned out just fine, right (please take this as a rhetorical question)?  Anyway............back to the Stanger family breakfast table, where I happily poured my daughter a second bowlful of Reese's Puff cereal.  Morgan downed the second bowl, and I began picking up the 1,000 pieces of sugared cereal which Monster had hurled all over the kitchen (a few even made it into the living room) as Morgan slurped the remaining chocolate/peanut butter milk through her plastic straw bowl.  As I cleaned up the breakfast wreckage, all three kids ran circles around me chasing Hyrum's new remote control car.  When I could no longer take the bouncing, screaming, squealing, stomping madness, I told Morgan to hit the showers.  After her shower, I helped her dress in her adorable new Christmas outfit.  Then it was hair time.  As I stood there contemplating which of the three hairstyles I know how to do would look best with Morgan's new outfit, she began to look pale and she asked if she could sit down.  Mid ponytail, she informed me that she felt the need to throw up.  I let the hair slip through my fingers as she ran to the toilet.  Nothing happened.  A few minutes later, halfway into the second ponytail attempt, she again pulled away and rushed to the toilet.  At this point, I told her to go and change into her sweats and lie down on the couch.  I was sure she had contracted one of several nasty stomach bugs which had been making their way though our town.  There was no way she was going to church.  I called Dirk, who returned home early from the Branch he was attending so that I could go play piano in the Primary.
     When Dirk returned home, there was just enough time to grab some lunch before I took Hyrum to church (there was no way I was bringing Monster when Dirk could watch him at home).  Since Morgan was the invalid, we asked her what she felt like eating.  She decided she could probably handle a bowl of Ramen Noodles.  I personally detest Ramen Noodles.  I think I grew a little tired of them after eating them six to seven times a week as a starving student, and four to five times a week when I was newly married.  But, we keep them in the house because they are ridiculously cheap (can't imagine why cardboard shaped as noodles would be cheap), the kids like them, and they are impossible to screw up.......or so I thought.  Since I had only a few moments before I had to leave, I sat down with a pbj while Dirk cooked the Ramen.  Dirk has probably prepared more packages of Ramen Noodles in his lifetime than the average thirty-two year old man.  He had two years of foreign mission Ramen Noodle consumption before his years of starving student, newly married Ramen Noodle consumption.  During our early married years, he would even try to dress the abominable things up by cracking an egg in them and adding some peas when they were done cooking.  But I digress.  The point is that Dirk could probably prepare a package of Ramen Noodles with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back, and they would somehow taste  better than they do when made by anyone else.  So, I did not know what to think when a bewildered look crossed his face as he told me, "you better come have a look at this."  Was there a dead bug in it?  Weevils maybe?  Can cardboard grow mold?  I walked to the counter and stared down into the pan.  The Ramen Noodles, or at least the liquid surrounding them, was bright Halloween orange.  I stared; I sniffed.  They smelled normal, not like some radioactive chemical that would enter my children's bloodstream and make them glow.  We were mystified.  We checked the expiration date ( as if cardboard has a shelf life-pshaw).  They were good for two more years according to the package.  We were in the midst of debating whether to let our children eat them or throw them out and make a new batch (which would have meant all of $0.30 down the drain), when a light bulb appeared over Dirk's head.  "Isn't this the pot you made that tomato soup in last week?"  "Yeah, I think so", I replied.  "Have you made anything else in there since?"  I thought a moment....."No, I guess I haven't."  The soup I had made earlier that week (which, by the way, turned out tasting exactly like Spaghettio sauce- true story, but much too long to relate in it's entirety), had involved simmering sun-dried tomatoes in oil for a good half hour.  I scoured the pot after I was done making it, but I'm pretty sure some of the oily tomato residue must have been left over.  The orange Ramen Noodle mystery was solved!
     Hyrum and I went to church, where I actually heard a few words of the speakers, thanks to Monster being home with Dirk.  When we returned, I asked Dirk how Morgan was feeling.  "Great", he said.  "It's like she was never sick."' Sure enough, a moment later, Morgan came barreling out of her room looking like she'd never had the stomach flu a day in her life, much less that very morning. It looked like we had another mystery to solve.  Had Morgan been faking a stomach upset so she could stay home from church?  With many children, this could have been a plausible explanation.  But Morgan, my abnormally good child, loves church and is usually the one pushing us out the door on Sunday mornings.  We concluded that she did not have Sunday Schoolitis.  So, what then?  She had seemed sick that morning.  She had looked pale and like she might pass out if she didn't lie down.  Something had made her feel that way, but what...........another light bulb appeared over Dirk's head (it's like being married to a cartoon sleuth I tell ya').  "The Reese's Puff's!", he declared in a British accent.....ok, so he didn't really say it in a British accent, but doesn't that just make it seem so much more convincing?  In classic Sherlock Holmes style ( though maybe this was really more of a Scooby Doo type case), he began to recount the events of the morning.  "We had breakfast a little later than usual, so after one heaping bowl of Reese's Puffs, Morgan was still hungry and had another bowl almost as full.  After breakfast, she and Hyrum were running and bouncing all over the house chasing Hyrum's new remote control car.  Our daughter does not have Norovirus or Sunday Schoolitis.......what we are dealing with here is a case of..................the Reese's Puff flu!" There was, at this point in the conversation, a dramatic pause, and perhaps a few low ominous notes I may have ad libbed on the piano.  Another mystery solved!  Scooby Dirk was on a roll!  And I was tired.  We ate non-orange leftovers for dinner and decided to watch a movie.  After our strange and mysterious day, I was determined to end this Sunday on a good note.   Hyrum had been going through one of his whining phases, so we decided we could watch a movie and teach him a lesson all at the same time.  We put in 17 Miracles.  It is a movie about our Mormon pioneer ancestors and the hardships they endured on their trek west, as well as the miracles they experienced.  The first time I watched it, I had a profoundly new appreciation for hot showers and three daily meals, among other things.  I thought if my children watched this movie, they might have a similar reaction.
     Sometimes the plans we make as parents go badly wrong.  The movie 17 Miracles begins with a unit of the Mormon Battalion discovering the cabin where the Donner Party had partaken of their....let's say last supper. There are no gruesome images of human remains, but the general idea of cannibalism is implied.  This part of the movie lasts only a few brief moments.  The rest of the movie is filled with stories both tragic and inspiring, heroic and heartbreaking.  The movie ended.  Dirk and I sat still with tears running down our cheeks.  My six year old son, Hyrum, stared at me inquisitively and said, "So.........people really ate other people?"  I tried to explain to him the dire and desperate circumstances of the Donner party, and that no human in their right mind would ever do such a thing.(as I thought on this, I realized maybe Ramen Noodles weren't so bad). "But, they ate each other?", he asked again.  I decided to let this one go.  He would forget about it soon enough.....or so I thought.  The next morning before school, he sat at the table drawing a picture. "Whatcha' drawing?", I casually implored.  "People eating people."  What had I done?!  In trying to teach my son a lesson in sacrifice and gratitude, I had shown him a movie from which all he had remembered was "people eating people".
     Well, it's been a little over a week since the day of the sugared cereal overload, the neon noodles and the Cannibalism 101 lesson that never should have happened.  That was a baffling day as a parent.  Sometimes, you are coasting along, thinking you've got this whole parenting thing pretty well figured out, and then, one day, a sequence of events (sometimes it only takes one big whopper) brings you back to reality so swiftly that it's emotionally nauseating.  All at once, you realize that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.  Two Sundays ago I had one of those reality checks.  Somehow, in trying to provide my children with a happy, healthy lifestyle, I had nearly given my daughter early onset diabetes, fed my children radioactive cardboard and taught my six year old that there were "people who eat people".  Not exactly a red letter, gold star, mom of the year type of day.  But, with my feet now firmly planted, I am learning from my mistakes. This past Sunday, Morgan had one bowl of sugared cereal and made it to church in good condition.  I scoured my tomato soup pot five times and will now be pre-screening all movies for references to cannibalism before letting my children watch them.  The truth is, I am not going to change everything about my parenting style just because some days are less than perfect.  As mysterious as that fateful Sunday was, the biggest mystery of all is parenting itself.  Every single day brings new challenges.  And   there is no way to prepare for them.  Each day is like a brand new on the job training session.  We make mistakes, sometimes big ones.  Then we regroup and go back to the drawing board. As with most any job which deals with people, we just have to remember that things will eventually work out, as long as we truly have our clients' best interest at heart.  As terrifying as it can sometimes be that there are little developing human beings who depend on us for every physical, emotional and spiritual need to be met, it's also pretty awesome.  I think we just need to cut ourselves a little slack as parents, and maybe start noticing the good things we do a little more, and learn from our mistakes, then LET THEM GO.  Also, cannibalism is probably not a good topic of conversation in any situation.  Also, to end on a tangent.......why should I have to accept Ramen as a real food when my spell check doesn't accept it as a real word?