Inventions are bane and blessing of mom’s existence

Categorized as 10/11/10 Goshen News column

From microwaves to light bulbs, telephones to vacuum cleaners, it’s clear that in America, we have some very bright minds. Two of my personal favorites are air conditioning and the heated leather seats in my mommy van.

On the darker side, we’ve got nylons, the inventor of which suffered a mysterious Jimmy Hoffa-like disappearance in the summer of 1969 when the heat index went through the roof. No one knows for sure, but my secret suspicion is that he was strangled with a pair of his own creation by an angry, overheated female who, thanks to the humidity, couldn’t straighten that twist. But that’s just my hunch.

A modern-day invention that’s turned out to be a mixed blessing is the cell phone. What started out as a device the size and weight of a bone-in ham with a three-foot antenna is now the size of a credit card and fits in your pocket.

The upshot of it is that you can reach your children anytime, anywhere. The downside of it is that your children can reach you anytime, anywhere. There’s no such thing, we’ve discovered, as going anywhere sans kids, not when the little people have your phone number.

Whoever added the QWERTY keyboard is a genius, in my books. The advent of this technology puts the old method of texting about one notch above communicating via smoke signal. That is, of course, after you’ve rubbed two sticks together to start the fire you’re going to signal with.

Another invention that was good for its time is Morse code. In the dark ages, before the aforementioned cell phones and texting, it was an important means of communication. After all, we’d never know what really happened to that one big ship that went down if not for Mr. Morse.

Then, too, people were able to get election results almost immediately instead of waiting for the Pony Express to come riding in months later with the headlines. Suddenly, pooped ponies were a thing of the past and the news, for once, was fresh.

Then America’s children got hold of it. Mothers everywhere who’d fled to that one remaining bastion of quietness and solitude (i.e., the water closet) found themselves inundated with messages from the offspring.

“She looked at me funny,” they’d tap. “He’s wearing my socks,” and, “How many cookies can we have,” were also popular. It’s no wonder, then, that the last anyone saw of Mr. Morse, he was headed for the Canadian border with a pack of angry, plunger-waving mothers in hot pursuit.

A far newer invention that this mom wholeheartedly celebrates is the installation of a DVD player in the family van. Personally, this has saved a few of our own family’s vacations. As long as the crowd behind us is watching Nemo or Spider Man, no one is hitting, arguing, or raising any other type of Cain. Mr. Schrock and I can actually have a conversation and there is, for at time, peace on earth.

Without it, the ruckus starts up again and the van begins to rock. After hearing the dreaded “are we there yet” question 53 times in a 25-mile stretch, we begin to look longingly at every rest area we pass. We picture ourselves laying rubber in the now-quiet vehicle, heading back out onto the interstate with the offspring lined up, looking forlorn, beside the drinking fountain.

We’ve never given in to this dark temptation, of course, thanks in part to the assistance of that player. Piffle if you want, but that’s how we all six made it to Branson last summer and how, with any luck, we’ll all make it to Tennessee this Christmas.

I don’t have to mention, do I, my regard and appreciation for the person who figured out how to grind the coffee bean and, further, to infuse it with flavoring? This, a white chocolate mocha, is also known as “the nectar of the ‘little-g’ gods.” Inventor of the espresso machine, we salute you.

The Clapper is another invention I could use with just a little tweak. This particular device was wonderful, especially for the elderly and disabled, enabling them to turn lights on and off with a simple clap of the hands. “Clap on, clap off,” the female voice sang cheerfully on the commercials as the lights blinked on and off.

What I need is something called Clapper Kids, a small unit that could be implanted to ensure that my own small task force remains – well, on task. Or off, as the case may be.

I envision a future where, with a simple clap, the dishes are washed straightaway. Or the mowing is completed without 43 pit stops and no sibling chases. Or the laundry is folded calmly with no roughhousing atop the jeans and the towels.

I dream of a future when, with one small clap of the hands, all activity ceases at bedtime and every pair of PJs stays put. Oh, I dream. If I can find a quiet moment, that is.

Clap on. Clap off.

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