Thursday, October 28, 2010

For the harried housemaker in us all...

Go here, to, for the newest blog posts and more to come...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Questions for the (school) ages

*This is a final post to the blog here...the next report will be filed through Commando Mom’s almost-ready website, with links to the archives here.
Spokane, a jumping off point for this Commando Kid
Change gripped Camp Gustafson recently, with a new base camp far from Spokane into the wilds of Seattle, a young adult troop headed off on extended TDY to University quarters, and the youngest recruit now navigating the obstacle course of Kindergarten.

Still, the more things change, the more the basic tenets of the Commando remain the same: Do as much as you can, as often as you can (and earn bonus points by giving your mother grey hair in the process).

I thought life was tough when my oldest was a tween, but it's like overdrive now that I am—tween kindergarten and college-age kids. It’s like trying to provide air traffic control at the same time as basic training. I have more questions than answers much of the time, and it’s hard to be commanding when you’re actually slightly confused.

For those along for the long ride, new digs and new drills become new opportunities to test the boundaries of the Commanding Officer, and my Commando Kid is the one who proves the rule.

Questions we’ve addressed lately include:

“How long can I put off choosing pants until Mom comes in and dresses me?”

“How many unapproved chocolate rations can I requisition in my Scooby Doo lunchbox today, and what is the magic number of change-order requests after which Mom just says ‘fine, whatever’ to anything?”

Then, there’s the age-old rhetorical question (rhetorical because you don’t really want to know the answer):

“Is there an inverse ratio between how late one is to school and how slowly one marches to the car?”

Meanwhile, drop-in cadets have three simple questions in perpetuity:

“What do you have to eat?”

“What time can I come over to do laundry?”

“Can I have your debit card number again?”

(A side note: in interest of seeing said college student once a week, an open invitation to eat and wash clothes has been extended—and in her defense, she also does not want to take all of the camp's rations—just what she can fit in her trunk alongside the clothes).

Add to these life changes a relocation (as every military mom can attest to, and as my role model, my mom, did 22 times in 21 years) and you get a compound return on rhetorical questions that you actually must answer:

Go West, young Commando
“How do you fit 1,500 square feet of toys, clothes, and snow tires into 900 square feet of apartment?”

“Where in the heck did I pack the can opener?”

and don’t forget:

“What does this screw in my pocket go to again?”

*In keeping with the moving love, visit again next week for a redirect to the new Commando Mom website, where you’ll find lots—but not my lost can-opener (I still swear it got tired of tuna and went AWOL).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Commando R&R

Serious Commando Kids know the value of letting their hair down year round. They can be found running around home base in geometrical configurations, playing imaginary superhero games, and removing all objects from the shelves, following with vigor the theory of deconstructionism.*
But when summer vacation rolls around and preschool lets out, followed by shouts of joy from the Commando’s teachers, that’s when the real R&R--Running & Rabblerousing—begins.

In those last few days of blissful preschool, the Commander might have taken one little bubble bath, and in the midst of shoving toy boats and submarines out of the way, entertained a momentary notion of a peaceful and relaxing summer by the poolside, watching her robust angel bob gently up and down in the kiddie pool.

If so, she forgot Commando rule number one for water rotations—if it splashes, splash it on Mom.

For the better part of three months, a Commando Mom plays lifeguard and moving target for marine exercises, marked by brief breaks to refuel summer Commandos, who literally grow like weeds when exposed to sun, water, and dirt.

There is, in fact, about a two-hour window between the time a platoon of Commandos barrels through the preschool graduation procession and Commando Moms find religion. You can hear them in every park and McDonald’s PlayPlace, praying for school to begin again soon.

After finding religion, the Commander struggles to keep herself from taking up swearing link a sailor, then works on staying off the bottle at the end each a long day in the surf and sun.

She bravely faces stretch marks and swimsuits to keep her active Commando occupied at pool and beach, and makes enough peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks each day to feed her Army of one each day.

In the end, she reminds herself, school, discipline, and a few hours of peace and quiet at work will return the barracks to the normal chaos that a base camp thrives on, in lieu of the summer freefall and sticky chicken fingers of R&R.

*See the not-yet-published field guide, Bootcamp for Babies, for an advanced explanation of the Theory of Deconstructionism

Friday, April 23, 2010

Commandos on the Grow

Commando Mom has spent the last two weeks not shirking responsibilities, but rather, shoveling food day and night into a seemingly bottomless pit that used to be her Commando Kid, but now has apparently graduated to Commando food processor status.

At the same time, it has become Commando Mom’s second profession to perform recon missions to find longer uniform pants and sleeves all day and night, as Commando Kid now looks like ye olde English lad in knickers and white stockings.

If this were Star Trek, he’d be a tribble and would have overrun the city by now with this rampant growth.

But it’s not Star Trek, so simply with holding rations and uniform upgrades doesn’t appear to reign in the overpopulation of Commando in the camp.

Trying not feed him after 6 p.m. proved unnecessarily painful for everyone, and reminded Commando Mom why she’s never liked the Stairmaster.  Many recent nights have passed endlessly as Commando Mom trudged up and down the stairs a dozen times or more for cheese sticks, peanut butter, or a fresh leg of zebra, to the commanding refrain of “but I’m still hungry!”

The boy can no longer eat cereal for breakfast—at least two eggs and three links of sausage are required to give him the energy to last the 6-minute drive from home to preschool without starving to death, and by the time he arrives in the classroom, he needs a longer pair of pants again. He arrives at preschool just in the nick of  time, in order  to eat his second breakfast.

When he arrived home one recent afternoon, Commando Mom asked her Commando Kid why his father had changed him into shorts after school, but then realized the shorts had actually been pants that morning. Underclothing replacements to have been made to prevent future infertility, too.
Child or Incredible Hulk—you decide. All Commando Mom knows is, the buttons are bursting left and right, and the cupboards are bare day and night.

Commando Mom has therefore come to the conclusion that it would be wise to stock a bunker (maybe the spare bedroom or store room at Camp Gustafson, and maybe the garage too) with emergency rations and an industrial strength sewing machine to keep up with the troop’s basic necessities in a few short years—or perhaps, weeks—when he exceeds standard regulation height and stomach depth.

Commando mom will start hoarding scraps of food and material to feed and clothe him after he’s consumed or outgrown everything else in the city.

The other morning, when the Commando Kid woke for reveille to the sound of his own growling stomach, Commando Mom recounted for him his previous day’s snacks.
Not including the typical meals, these included:

2 yogurts,
3 cheese sticks,
6 saltine crackers,
2 packages of fruit snacks,
1 peanut butter sandwich,
half a package of blackberries,
2 banana,
2 handfuls of pretzels,
part of a chocolate bunny,
1 sucker (red),
1 hardboiled egg (blue).

A good laugh was had by all, including the growling tummy, but by the time Commando Mom finished the recounting, he had outgrown another pair of pajamas.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Commando Mom Marching Cadence

In honor of National Poetry Month, we present a special marching cadence to carry Commando Moms through those long marches through the house, picking up toys, following behind Commando Kids, or just trying to keep their eyes open after getting up with a growing Commando for snacks, drinks, and potty breaks three times last night.

Commando Mom Marching Cadence

I don’t know but I’ve been told,
Raising kids will make you old.
Commando kids will beat them all,
Driving mommies up the wall.

Gray hairs—one, two,
Gray hairs—three four
Count ’em, one, two, three, four, one, two, three four

Feed them mush, rush them to school,
Commando kids break all the rules.
While that kid’s gone take a nap,
There’ll be no rest when he gets back

Gray hairs—one, two,
Gray hairs—three four
Count ’em, one, two, three, four, three four

Hide the sugar, batten the hatches,
Commando kids will reach the latches.
If you want things done, prepare to fight,
They’ll wage war all through the night

Gray hairs—one, two,
Gray hairs—three four,
Count ’em, one, two, three, four, one, two, three four!

When Commando bedtime’s come and gone,
You’ll find out who’s number one.
Mom picks her battles, she’s no slouch,
Commando Kid’s crashed on the couch.

Gray hairs—one, two,
Gray hairs—three four,
Count ’em, one, two, three, four, one, two, three four!

With a glass of wine in her left hand,
Commando Mom will make her plan.
To catch some winks, get up, and then,
Prepare to do it all again.

Gray hairs—one, two,
Gray hairs—three four,
Count ’em, one, two, three, four, one, two, three four.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Commando Cold

Despite a Commando Kid’s valiant efforts to outrun everything, sometimes a cold will catch up with him, and his nose will give him a run for his money. Such an occasion will cause grumpiness, barking commands, and extra latrine duty, but the Commando should not worry—Mom will feel better as soon as every single germ is eradicated from base camp.

A Commando’s first line of defense is, of course, to deny any illness. Illness is a serious impediment to doing more and doing it more often. The Commando must execute daily drills like running, jumping, performing aerial acrobatic moves, and building ramps and digging in the yard, not resting in bed and reading books and having "quiet time."

Not only does illness bring such unwanted activity restrictions, but also, because of her zeal to run a healthy ship and avoid the dreaded doctor’s visit, the slightest sniffle causes the Commando Mom to attempt to insert thermometers, weird tasting chewy grape things, and tissues into places where the Commando Kid knows they do not belong.

The Commando shall commence tissue evasion maneuvers immediately, sucking it up, moving the head rapidly from side to side and, if all else fails, wiping the nose on Mom’s sleeve before she can wipe it with the dreaded tissue. For any stray detritus Mom misses, the world is the Commando’s tissue, so long as Mom’s not looking.

To be avoided at all costs: the bulb-style nose sucker. Mom will try to impale the Commando’s nostrils with this device of torture, but the Commando need only cry at the thought of it to render it a useless exercise anyway.

The Commando must also resist oral medications, chewable or liquid, if at all possible, even if they actually taste good. This is a matter of principle more than practicality—the Commando can exert true control over precious little at base camp, except what goes in and what comes out.

When and if the illness can no longer be denied, however, and the Commando is confined to bed duty, he should attempt to view the unwanted restrictions from an opportunity perspective.

For example, Moms are well-known for seriously limiting screen time, but even Mom knows that the best way to distract a fussy Commando so she can continue with at least a few normal duties, is to institute a movie marathon mission or unregulated computer-game time. If she happens to resist, still clinging to the notion that she can avoid the inevitable, the Commando is encouraged to enter full-throttle whine mode, which is made easier by the fact that he feels whiny anyway (but he is not sick!).

It’s also a good time to ask for ice cream, pudding, toys, anything the Commando wants. Illness is about the only time a Mom will wait on a Commando hand and foot in the hopes of keeping him still for more than five minutes to rest.

In the event that this works, the smart Commando will take full advantage, and pretend to feel sick (even though he definitely is not sick!), thereby suspending all regulations regarding bodily functions, table manners, and t.v. limits.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Improv for Commandos

For the Commando Kid, there is nothing more crucial than quick thinking for doing more, and doing it more often.

If a Commando Mom notices, for example, that the cat's whiskers are only one inch long on the left, who's she going to ask about that, and what quick response will the Commando come up with to handle the situation without losing safety-scissor clearance?

Luckily, the Commando already has many skills that can be further developed using simple games, much like those used by Improvisational Theatre troupes. Those unfamiliar with these improv games might at times think the young trooper is simply being repetitive, or trying to distract and conquer.

The Commando Kid actually is learning valuable skills, however, that he or she will use later to dodge a barrage of parental questioning with quick retorts, or to measure just how much attention Commando Mom is paying as a way to ascertain how much he or she can get away with on any particular day.

Yes, someday, the Commando Kid will become a Commando Teen, and improv will become a way of life as a battle skill to carry out daily evasive maneuvers.

The Commando already has a natural affinity toward these games, which are based on audience suggestion(in this case Commando Mom or an older Zen sibling). The games are meant to be played repetitively to sharpen the Commando Kid mind, and are just a little different each time they are played, keeping  a Commando Mom slightly off guard, or at least keeping her guessing. (That’s precisely why adults revisit them at Comedy Improv shows—to recapture the pleasure of being the kid in the game.)*

A few favorite Improv games, played Commando style:

What Are You Doing?**
The most classic and earliest-learned game. The Commando Kid asks a simple series of questions to Mom, who, until she learns the game, keeps trying to respond with a logical answer. Really, the Commando knows that to play this game properly, Mom must respond by saying she is doing something totally different from what she is actually doing, thus learning to think on her feet, while trying to count the number of cups of flour she’s supposed to be putting into her banana bread batter.

Wrong:Commando: What are you doing?
Mom: Making banana bread
Commando: oh. Mom?
Mom: What?
Commando: What are you doing?
Mom: (mildly annoyed) Making banana bread.
Commando: oh. Mom?
Mom: (steam rising from ears) Making banana bread!
Commando: What are you doing?
Mom: Making banana bread.
Commando: oh. Mom?
Mom: What?
Commando: What are you doing?
Mom: Walking on a flying trapeze while hopping on one foot and tying my shoe with one hand.
Commando: oh. Mom?
Mom: What?
Commando: What are you doing?
Mom: Fighting off a wild bear with both hands tied behind my back, while playing a tiny piano with my left earlobe.
Commando: oh. Mom?.....

Big Booty
The Commando picks a silly, very annoying phrase (such as ‘Number one big booty’), and chants it repeatedly and with a sarcastic attitude, until Mom loses all track of what she was trying to do and puts the clean frying pan away in the freezer and pours cat food into the coffee maker filter.

The Commando Kid gets a suggestion from his older sister, the family cat, or a Lucky Charms commercial, to ask Mom to take him to the circus, which won’t be to town for three months, but he really has to go to the bathroom, giving the circus question much more urgency and making it impossible for him to form an intelligent sentence that contains and words with the letter p, such as peanut.

While doing the potty dance, he tries to explain to Mom what he wants, using only pantomime and gibberish words that don’t contain the letter p.

When Mom doesn’t understand, he storms out of the room crying and letter p’s in his pants, turning it into a game of 20 questions and dirty laundry.

Everything that Mom says is responded to by the Commando Kid with a rhyme. Commando Moms usually can’t resist these games, and inadvertently (wink wink) encourage its continuation by peppering in certain words for a Commando Kid’s off-color rhyming pleasure, eliciting Commando squeals of delight.

Mom: Hi Jane.
Commando: Hi airplane.
Mom: What would you like to eat?
Commando: I wanna’ eat some great big feet.
Mom: Have you seen my great big foot scoop?...
or, alternately
Mom: I need a big foot shopping cart....

In some war games, everyone wins.

*Just ask master of improv, Jill Bernard, who teaches adults how to bring out the kid in their audience by playing the game.
**Thanks to Commando Kid Ami for the suggestion to include “What Are You Doing?”