The Male Reptilian Brain

One thing that is unique to living with a group of men is the astounding capacity for memory. As a woman, I often get noted for remembering all sorts of things that should be dubbed as “to-be-forgotten”. Things like; who broke my favorite crystal candy dish, or the location of socks and baseball jerseys to the chronological order of the required steps to prepare boxed macaroni and cheese are all but useless bits of information to the male mind. What I have actually discovered is that male memory has everything to do with the reptilian brain.

We remember learning about the reptilian brain right? It’s the flight or fight core of the mind where human instinct comes from.

It’s what gives each and every human being the capacity to survive by creating a response we gravitate to. Much like how birds fly south when the weather gets cold, our reptilian brain gives humans a basic ability to survive and endure a longer life through gravitating to basic human necessities. This was pointed out to me just yesterday.

Currently my husband and I are enjoying some much needed time alone, out of state, under the guise of celebrating a wedding of a family friend’s daughter. The five boys are under the skillful care of my long suffering mother in law, who also happens to live with us. Each night we have talked through the schedule of events with grandma and the boys to make sure all the bases are covered.

My 16 year old requested to go to a college night with his girlfriend at the local community college. He assured everyone that he had transportation covered with the girlfriend’s family and would be gone from 6pm until about 8:30pm. I enjoyed a lengthy discussion with said 16 year old son about coming home right after school to check in with grandma, eat and get some homework done before venturing out for the evening. So, imagine my surprise when my husband makes the daily call home around 8pm and grandma informs him that she has not seen hide nor hair of her blessed 16 year old grandson since she dropped him off for school.

Now, here’s the difference between men and women: I assume my son has met some terrible circumstance of dire consequences that detain him from meeting the requirements of coming home after school. My mind immediately goes into panic mode and plays through a million scenarios; some that include broken limbs and natural disasters. My husband however, cups his hand over the phone as says to me “Get that kid on the cell phone now and let him know I am pretty ticked off!”. I oblige. The call goes like this:

Son: “Hello?”

Me: “Hey, where the heck are you?”

Son: “Ummmm, I’m at Dairy Queen, we decided to stop on our way back from college night.”

Me: “Really? What happened to coming home after school? Grandma was expecting you.”

Son: “No she wasn’t, I told her I would be late.”

Me: “No….I told YOU to come home after school, remember?”

Son: “Oh”……long pause…..”I forgot about that.”

Now here is what my husband instinctively understands due to his identical chromosomal alignment with our son. Once a 16 year old boy has a cute girl that requests ANYTHING of him, the reptilian brain kicks in and obeys. Just the mere mention of going to her house after school means HE MUST GO. The reptilian brain says so. There are no rules, no consequences and no perceived disadvantages. Like lemmings falling off a cliff, bears hibernating in a cave and the swallows return to Capistrano, the teenage male must oblige the reptilian brain.

This conditioned basic-need response falls into play in more than just situations with the opposite sex. For example, if there is a game on television, it must be watched. If the grass needs to be cut, and nap must be taken. If a soccer sock smells so bad it causes you to gag, it must be thrown back into the sports bag to cultivate. These are the given responses to the male brain.

Once I begin to understand this, then I can plan accordingly. I know better than to request a substantial household project during the NCAA final four tournaments, I always empty out the sports bag while holding my breath, and if there is a girl involved,…..someone is going to be grounded for an entire weekend until he understands how to override the reptilian response.

Table Manners

Table manners are important.  This was something that was impressed upon me at a very young age. viagra from canada

  Behavior at the table speaks volumes about you, especially in a public place.  I remember being strongly reprimanded by my parents for poor dinner table etiquette.  At one point, we even had a bank with a list of rules and corresponding fines on the center of the table.  No doubt this was placed here by my frustrated parents that never seemed to enjoy a meal in peace with their five children.  The rules included things like “Don’t feed the dog under the table.”, “Ask to have something passed to you instead of reaching across.”, “Don’t eat with your elbows on the table.”, and the ever important “No swearing.”.

I reflect back on my childhood dinner experiences and remember the worst things done at the table were verbal.  Those would be the things that tried the patience of my long suffering parents.  Yelling at a brother or sister or complaining that the food was subpar was probably some of the worst offenses.  But, never; I mean NEVER, would any of us have dreamed of doing what my family does at the table.

I’m not talking an accidental slip of some gas followed by blushed cheeks and an apology.  I’m talking about full-out, earth shaking belches that the neighbors could hear.  Usually followed by a fist pump or a high five, those burps are highly entertaining for everyone around the table except me.  Not to be outdone by someone else, the next guy around the table tries to burp louder and longer than the last gas-infused kid.

The first time, even the second or third time, I can laugh along.  Sure, one burp can be funny and spark a chain reaction.  I’m not a complete stick in the mud.  But it is as if they have just uncovered the body’s ability to release gastric build up; a new discovery each and every meal…..possibly in the name of science. And science is a frontier that must be explored. But after about the forth replay of this belching game, I’m done.

Come on!”, I say, “Give me a break!  Don’t burp at the table.  It’s disgusting and I’m eating here.” Just as the apology is about to leave the lips of my 5 little angels and calm and decorum is reinstated at the family meal, the gentleman sitting to my right leans over, looks at me right in the eye while his entire chair reverberates with a sound similar to the truck slamming on the Jake Brake.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????

Let me clarify who the person sitting to my right is.  I’ll give you a hint; he’s bald, over the age of 50 and once told me that I smelled like roses.  In other words; MY HUSBAND JUST FARTED IN MY GENERAL DIRECTION!!!!

Et tu Brutus?

Of course, this brilliant development on my attempt to have a protocol lesson on table manners has just been trumped.  As if there was not enough entertainment value happening before the head-table-flatulence, now this entire meal has credits worthy of a Comedy Central show in my boy’s eyes.

Dad farted.  Therefore a burp is a mere misdemeanor.

At this point everyone is laughing hysterically.  Everyone but me.  I am completely grossed out.  I fantasize and immediately play out scenarios in my mind that next time (and yes, there will be a next time), I will get up from the table, grab my keys, and go to a nice quiet restaurant where classical music is played in the background and abnormally large plates serve surprisingly small amounts of food.  These are plates I will not wash and food I did not cook, and I will enjoy every minute of it.

A girl can dream right?

The Christmas Train

This last week we have been dragging all of the Christmas decorations out of the attic and putting them out for the holiday season.  I absolutely love decorating for Christmas.  I have fond memories of my father, who enjoyed decorating so much that he gave our tree themes.  One year, it was all blue and silver, another year red, green and gold.  It was always different and tastefully done.  In true Clark Griswold style, he also loved trimming the outside of the house with lights on every gutter and shrub.  He even made a gigantic NOEL sign out of plywood with the “O” as a musical note.  He hand painted it, outlined the perimeter with flashing lights and backlit it with giant multi colored bulbs; a signature piece.  The other hobby my dad excelled at was model railroading. He had an “N” gauge layout that was about 25’x15’ and took over the majority of our basement.

Something about Christmas always makes me think of my dad, so each year I pull out the cheap plastic Christmas train set from WalMart that my sister in law bought over 15 years ago and set it up.  It no longer works so it’s just “for show”.  I purposely place it on a transect support beam that sits about 8 feet up from the ground.  Setting it up this way was a requirement when I inherited this train.  My kids were so little they simply couldn’t leave the thing alone.  Just having it at ground level was an invitation to push it along the track, sideways, and break off every single wheel, which is exactly why this train no longer works.  Everyone still gets a nice view of the Christmas train scene as you go up and down the stairs to the second floor…..and no one can see the broken wheels.

Now that my boys are teenagers, I still set it up in the stratosphere.  This year I decided to splurge an extravagant sum of $19.95 on a few cheap and exceptionally fragile ceramic houses and village scenes from Home Depot.  The younger boys love setting this train up for two main reasons:

  1.  They get to use a ladder.
  2. There is an entire epic “Chirstmas Runaway Train” storyline complete with bodies laying on the track and dogs peeing on Christmas trees.

 

Here’s how it goes.  My oldest two are way too cool for the train so just the youngest three are helping with the set up. There are a bunch of arguments between sons #3, 4 & 5 as to who gets to go up the ladder with a couple pieces of track first.  Finally when I have had enough of the bitching and moaning I determine an order of assent.  Son #4 climbs the ladder and Son #3 acts as a counter weight on the opposite side of the ladder.  But wait……somehow even though we are nowhere near an active fault line, there is an earthquake and the ladder must be shaken violently to freak out the younger brother.  Then it’s #5s turn.  He climbs the ladder with his selected pieces of track.  Then another argument ensues about which pieces of the track are the “right” ones.  It appears that a he is just “doing it all wrong” and the train will now look stupid.  Eventually the track is laid intelligently, the major earthquake subsides and we are only left with mild tremors while climbing the ladder.

Next to go up are the cars.  #3 really wants the caboose and #5 really wants to place the engine which leaves #4 with the middle two cars.  I am actually pleasantly surprised at how they worked this out among the 3 of them.  Maybe all the love and harmony of a family Christmas isn’t just the stuff of legend!  But, alas, the temporary peace on earth comes to a halt because now it is time for the houses and figurines.

All three boys are trying to shove as many pieces into their hands as they can possibly manage.  Despite my warning about the fragility of the made-in-China-dollar-store-wanna-be miniature people and the need to use their hands for more practical things like holding onto the sides of the ladder, they still attempt to climb the ladder with handfuls of mid century carolers while holding onto the sides with their wrists.  A couple of pieces hit the floor and we now have a headless dog being walked by a boy with an amputated hand.

This is just fine as it adds to the fact that this has now become a Christmas zombie apocalyptic scene where headless dogs urinate on flocked trees.  Each and every human figurine takes it’s turn during the placement process getting a voiceover by one of the boys.  This includes crying and screaming for help as unwilling characters are being laid down on the track to suffer the imminent doom of getting run over by the oblivious conductor of the holiday train.  This train is, in fact, going the speed of a silver bullet destined for the heart of a zombie terrorizing the bell ringing Santa, despite his painted on jolly appearance.

When all is said and done, the train is up, no one has fallen off the ladder and only two small pieces have been broken, but are still usable.  To the untrained eye, viewers will pass the Christmas train scene and see a lovely centerpiece commemorating my childhood memories.

Little do they know it’s actually a story line that includes the soon to be demise of that lady at the end of the track with her back to an oncoming train.  Next up…..the Christmas tree.  Lord help me.

 

Mama's Got Ballz

Thank you for indulging me in a slight hiatus from my blogging-with-boys adventure.  These last few months were football season at our house.  tadalafil no prescription We, along with a couple of fantastic friends, run a youth sports organization in our town.  This means I have spent every weekend for the last 10 weeks schlepping nachos and beef sandwiches at a concession stand for 8 hours a day…..or as my boys put it; Skittles-for-breakfast!

I want to impart a little wisdom I have learned after being a sports parent from everything from football and soccer to baseball and cheerleading (yes, I said cheerleading), for almost 20 years.

 

****SPORTS PARENTS ARE INSANE******

 

I mean this in the nicest way.  All of these parents are nice, normal human beings that coexist with one another in relative harmony off the field.  They hold jobs, negotiate contracts, adjudicate conflicts, adhere to OSHA and drive the speed limit.  You’ve met them, befriended them, had beers with them and even facebook friended them.  They pay their bills on time, go to church and volunteer at soup kitchens……however, there is the occasional parent that once they have given that initial consent to their child to participate in an organized team sport you must know the following important facts:

  1.  Their child is the best and most talented natural athlete this sport has ever, or will ever see.  Michael Jordan, Pele, Babe Ruth and Joe Namath were uncoordinated morons compared to their child and soon the world will know it.
  2. Coaches and league officials need to follow their advice ………on everything.

 

I have witnessed this time and time again.   Sports fans in general are a little kooky….but sports parents are certifiable.

 Referees can attest to this on a stack of bibles.   Not only will parent craziness come into play with the calls of the official but also with the way the organization is run in general.  I have had everything from the amount of cheese on a serving of nachos to appropriate delivery of uniforms come down to something slightly short of a national crisis in need NATO negotiating.  Let me reiterate one exceptionally important fact here.  Like 99.9% of everyone else coaching, mentoring and nachoing your kid …..I am a volunteer.  I have always lived by the adage that if you want to see some change or don’t like the way something is going, then put on your big girl panties and a plastic glove and dip your own beef sandwich in the gravy!  Most of our parents do exactly that.  They are fantastic volunteers.  We all have those moments of fan-crazed parenting, but a few parents are just a little “better” at the crazy stuff then others.

This was all new to me when entering big boy world almost 20 years ago.  I have the coordination of an invertebrate.  I ran the 50 yard dash in 20 seconds.  I can’t do a somersault and I have the competitive spirit of a Trappist monk.  Sports were just not my thing. The idea of screaming like a tormented soul on the verge of complete brokenness because my son was just yellow carded bewilders me.

Needless to say, I’m happy to have this fall season over with.  Not only can I go back to my man cave and watch back to back to back to back episodes of Big Bang Theory and Pumpkin Chunkin’ with my trebuchet loving brood, but I now have time to clean the urine off the seat without having someone call into question “how” I’m cracking down on it.  I have several months to rest up and gear up for the next wave of insanity the following fall.  Yep, that’s right….I’ll be back for more.  Because I’m just as insane as the rest of them!

 

Whine Like A Baby

After a couple of weeks of everyone taking turns at being sick, I have confirmation on the following:

A running nose and sore sinuses open a gigantic can of whoop ass on testosterone.

All of the ladies that just read that pay for homework statement are rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.” Nothing turns a man into a heaping helping of self pity like a common cold. Suddenly, the same person that can play an entire soccer game with a broken finger becomes completely paralyzed without copious amounts of cough drops and Robitussin.  The world stops revolving and anyone that can breathe through both nostrils is clearly sitting in a seat of superiority.

Each of my men have taken turns under the “comfy blankie”.  There they sit, talking about their litany of aches and pains when getting up from the sofa to perform basic duties such as walking, urinating and lifting a fork.

The same guys that proudly show off their scars from many less-than-judicious decisions, like wrestling on pavement or playing football in bare feet, somehow turn into a puddle when infiltrated by a microscopic virus that runs its course in 24 hours.

Being sick stinks. I hate it too. But somehow, the kinder, gentler species knows the phrase press on a little more intimately. Women still go to work, grocery shop, pick up kids, even work out when they are sick. Guys are sniveling wimps. I wonder how the same boys that can strategically plan for a zombie apocalypse or other catastrophic events that will never happen on this side of reality simply don’t comprehend moving through the inevitable cold and flu season.

It’s no small wonder that nature has designed reproduction to be carried by a woman. I’m certain that if men were required to give birth humanity would have ended several millennia ago. Just imagine the whaling and gnashing of teeth that would ensue if a guy had to go through anything that involved pain and bleeding anywhere near the area of their unmentionables. There would probably be a cure for childbirth or every company would have a mandatory one year leave policy complete with post traumatic stress therapy and a smokin’ hot stay at home nurse.

In the end, all is well when the flu bug has exited the building.  The chest thumping and locker room talk will commence again.  All will be right and well with the world. My guys will go back to their walk-it-off-its-only-a-flesh-wound mentality and I will retain my title as ……the toughest chick in the building.

Meat in Bulk

There’s a guy that comes by my office selling wholesale, restaurant quality meat out of his truck.  I know what you’re thinking…..it sounds a little fishy.  Who buys meat off a truck?  Well, I do.  I can tell you from experience that this meat is legit.  After all, this is Chicago and if you are true second city, you have to “have a guy” that sells meat.  I gotta guy. The stuff my guy sells is amazing, and he knows it.  He will gladly push you the first box of prime, aged, melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly marbled rib eyes for next to nothing because he knows you will come back, slobbering and crazed for more.  This has earned him his well deserved nickname……..The Crack Dealer.

Once he found out my husband and I were feeding a small army of carnivores he has just happened to “be in the neighborhood” about twice a month.  Just last week he came in to see if I needed anything.  Of course I am in dire need of hundreds of dollars worth of steaks, lamb chops, polish sausage and Kobe burgers.  What self respecting mother isn’t?  At the end of the workday I pull into the driveway, walk into the house and give the usual instructions:

Me:  “Hey guys, go empty out the back of the truck.  I have food in there to put in the freezer.”

Sons 2-4:  “Really?  Is it crack dealer meat???”

Me:  “Yes.  Lots of it.  And he threw in a 3 pound package of bacon.”

Chorus of boys:  “Yeessssssssssssss!”

Only then, as I hear those words of gratitude fall from the lips of my blessed little darlings do I realize I’m the only mother on the block that lets her children refer to anyone as “The Crack Dealer”.  I make a mental note to myself to lecture the boys over our dinner of marinated skirt steak about being very selective where they utter the words “mom knows a crack dealer”.

One thing is for sure, over the course of the last 18 years I have found very creative ways to feed the meat eating habits of six men.  The invention of wholesale bulk stores like Sam’s and Costco are something akin to a messenger of God telling me I have a meat tree growing in the back yard.  I am currently having conversations with one of my high school friends about buying one of her heritage pigs and giving the slaughter house my cut order.  I can make at least 15 different meals out of bacon alone.

One of the most telling signs of our meat eating addiction was several years ago when #4 was in pre-school and we had a family night at the school.  It was a craft project making table runners for our family Thanksgiving table.  You could bring in photos and they had cute cut outs of scrap paper to glue onto the runner that was then put through a laminating machine.  I gave all six of my men a paper leaf and wrote on the top “I am thankful for”.  I asked them to write in just a couple of words something they were grateful for.  Just like all the other families, my guys were grateful for “family”, “Uncle Herb”, “Grandma and Abuela”, all the usual suspects.  But my four year old was just learning letters and needed some help.  It was then he asked….

“How do you spell MEAT?”

 

WMDs

One thing I was very insistent on when raising my boys was trying to maintain a decorum of non-violence.  The moment son #1 came out of the womb I solemnly vowed to have a strict “no guns” rule at which my husband verbally patted me on the head and said “Yeah, um….ok.”  This is pretty easy to achieve for about a year when all the toys are nonfunctioning color blocked blobs developed to attract the attention of a six month old.

Once my little boy reached about 18-24 months of age, it was apparent this diplomat-in-the-making watermark was going out the window.  Every single toy in the house became a weapon of some sort.  It didn’t matter if it was his beloved sleepy time stuffed Barney.  The dinosaur also doubled as a battering ram for monster trucks.  Toy cars never simply raced or followed a track; they collided and exploded with countless casualties.   It didn’t matter how hard I would try to steer my little darling to peace loving activities like sidewalk chalk and building blocks, because as soon as I would leave the room I would hear self play babble that sounded like “bee-ew, bee-ew, bee-ew”.  He had fashioned a gun made out of lego blocks as big as his head.

I considered the fact that maybe “this” boy was just different and my next child would be the harbinger of peace and all things lovely.  However, son #2 was born in camouflage and was smashing GI Joes together until they decapitated themselves a year later.  As a matter of fact, now at 15, his world pretty much revolves around, bacon, military history, and duct tape.  Sons 3, 4, and 5 have me hiding all things ceramic and pretty much followed suit.

I would not claim defeat.  I still felt strongly that I should do my best impression of NATO, and call an arms treaty.  TV Viewing privledges we contained only to PBS for 10 years.  I read them stories about choo choo trains that had positive outlooks.  I even made sure all my boys went to church and heard a lot of nonviolent preaching.

A few Christmases ago, my 90 year old great Uncle Willard built beautiful crucifixes for everyone in my large extended family.  Out of solid oak he had handmade each member of my generation a cross about 10 inches high, stained them a lovely honey color and signed his name to the back if each one.  Each of our children also received a 6 inch high cross similar to the larger “family” crucifix.  I’m certain it was Uncle Willard’s intent that each child hung that cross in their room.  However, my five boys immediately flipped those crosses upside down and held sword fights in the car on the way home.

Yes, you read that right.  My five blessings from God where waging war, gladiator style, with the very wood that symbolized the salvation of the world.

I was battling a fictional, allbeit, fully armed enemy.  To a boy, everything is better with an explosion, crash or zombies.  All is right and well knowing that somewhere in the world there might be ninja stars with their name on it….and that badass costume that goes with it.  Vacations are meant to be planned around decommissioned air craft carriers, civil war battle sights and the occasional sporting event.

I concede.

I have left the raising of the future ambassadors of the world to those of you with multiple gender households.  Now, I just go with the flow and pray to the god of sword fighting that there’s enough duct tape and bacon at my disposal to amuse them all while I get a pedicure.

The Power of the Axe

I often think that if detecting odors was an Olympic event, I would win the gold.  I have been able to sniff out all sorts of rank smells, from a rotting food under a bed to stinky socks mindlessly returned to the dresser.  After 18 years of dedicated service through motherhood, my sniffer is now highly attuned to every delicate imbalance in the bouquet of the universe.

In the last couple of years there has been a shift in the odor of things.  Pubescent boys across the country have been embracing a new substance that will forever change the fragrance of this planet. 

It’s called AXE.  It comes in many forms; body spray, underarm deodorant, shampoo and body soap.  Short of burning the nose hairs right out of my schnozzle, nothing has managed to mask “man smell” better than this ground breaking substance.  Not only will it cloak the tang of the one adorning it, but it will perfume a 20 foot radius around the individual for all to enjoy.  Walk on any high school football stadium and take a whiff.  Because as all things with teenage boys, nothing is in moderation, and I promise you will not be prepared for the musky scented garland that will accost your olfactory. 

It is blessed relief.

Never was this more apparent than in my recent family vacation that involved boating and swimming in 90+ degree weather.  I was sitting in the back seat of the boat transporting my six men and a dog knowing, full well, that I was the only individual in the afore mentioned boat that had sufficiently showered in the last 24 hours.  Some individuals had gone into the lake water adding the ingredient of fishiness to mix of “nature”, wet dog and sweat.  As the boat climbed up to speeds past 30mph, I was second guessing my wisdom of my downwind seat selection.  It was then I beheld the power of the AXE.   The lake breeze flowed through my hair as we skimmed across the glass like surface but only the pleasant aroma of “Essence – 24 hour invisible solid” wafted to the backseat.  As I beheld this minor miracle I embraced a sense why is herpes contagious (scent) of gratitude and asked myself, “What is that fresh manly scent?”.  Only to remind myself, “Ah yes………it’s Axe.”

Thank you, Unilever.  I am forever indebted to your chemical prowess.

The Seat Is Always Up

We all tend to live in our own bubble.  Life hums along at its usual pace and we settle into a standard routine for us that we call “normal”.  It’s not until a manic experience moves us to see our own life through someone else’s eyes that we then realize how odd your life really is.

There were a few tell-tale signs along the way.  I found a Hot Wheels car in the toilet because there was an experiment to see if a whirlpool really could suck down an automobile.    My garden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was decapitated by a swift kick of a soccer ball.  Perhaps it was the fact that nature has a smell and it permeates every corner of my house even though I live indoors.  Every time the aroma of cinnamon candles hits my nose or I see anything clean and white, I realize that my life is as unique as pink zebra.

Over 20 years after college I still live in a fraternity house, where there’s always a belch at the dinner table and a support cup on the living room floor.  Even though I am a woman who loves to paint her toenails, soak in a bubble bath and have 3 hour long hair appointments, I live with six males ages 50, 18, 15, 13, 12 and 11.  With all the chaos, clamor and cacophony of laughter that comes with them, I reside in a home that has a decibel level that requires my Uncle to turn down his hearing aids the minute he walks in the door.  When I go to use the washroom, I have learned the importance of always keeping the seat up when I leave, or having a substantial amount of Clorox wipes at my imminent disposal upon my arrival.

This is my blog about living in a sea of testosterone……..and loving every minute of it.