Inventions inspired by guerilla warfare

Categorized as 10/20/08 Goshen News column

There are certain things in the life of a mother that seem to just naturally catapult her into the heavenly realms. Angelic interludes, I call them.

Stop the violins. I’m not talking about the kind where a sleepy child kisses your cheek with whispered words of love. I mean the things they do that push the red launch button and you find yourself up in the air, harping for a bit.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. I say desperation is the mother of invention. And if it’s true, as someone once said, that parenting is part guerilla warfare and part joy, then I’ve had some of my brightest ideas while engaging with the guerillas in our particular jungle. I figure I could be a millionaire by now if I’d captured some of that brilliance on paper and gone directly to the patent office.

I had a doozy this week. You know how kids expect you, their mother, to be at their beck and call 24/7-365 no matter where you are? For the Schrock kids, this includes anywhere you have cell phone coverage and everywhere their little feet can possibly follow you. Including the bathroom.

For some reason, when the two middles get off the bus in the afternoon, they are ready to talk. Generally, I’m ready to listen. Once in awhile in the flow of riveting post-school conversation, I find myself needing to – um, use the facilities. So I head that direction. They follow close on my heels, still talking. We are now approaching the perimeter. They’re still talking. I close the door, leaving two sets of nostrils pressed up against the wooden panel. Still talking.

Like a thunderclap, inspiration struck. What we need, I thought, is a speaking tube. I could continue receiving updates, shout back the appropriate replies, and then both parties could get on with their respective homework and transcription duties. This could be a tremendous timesaver. Further, it would bring clarity to the countless unintelligible, shouted questions that accompany the relentless pounding when I’m in the shower.

As creative as the guerillas can be, it’s a wonder they’ve never taken to slipping notes under the door in their feverish attempts to communicate with me. A secret fear of mine is that one day they’ll discover Morse code, and they’ll take bathroom communication to a whole new level. At least with a speaking tube, I can literally “put a sock in it” when I feel a need to break radio contact.

Recently, I was faced with the grim reminder that pantry security is an absolute joke around here. If someone could breed a dog with the personality of a pit bull (i.e., snarling, slavering, deep woofs), but with rubber teeth, I would plunk down the money tomorrow. Seriously. When the brand-new peanut butter jar has a 48-hour shelf life, something’s got to give. It’s obvious that I’m not snarling loud enough or biting hard enough, so a little help would be nice.

Surely someone with a fertile imagination and some CAD experience could whip up a shaker that could empty out all the pockets that boys seem to fill. I was thinking of something like a Christmas tree shaker, which is used to shake the dead needles out of your tree before you take it home. This one, however, would be constructed so that you could hang the boy upside down by his sneakers and jiggle all the treasures he’s collected right out of his jeans so they’re safe to wash.

Over the years, I’ve found sticks, rocks, paper clips, firecrackers, crayons, rubber bugs, coins, candy, and countless other objects in their pockets. Some of them I have actually caught before laundering. Some, but not all. I had an angelic interlude the day the crayons slipped through undetected and painted a load of dress khakis, good shirts, and other whites with the colors of the rainbow. I’m not kidding. I need this machine.

There are plenty of other inventions that I could use. Wouldn’t it be great to have an alarm that sounds in the house every time the weeding stops? Or how about a buzzer that sounds and delivers a small electric jolt to the seat of the pants when a sinner engages in a bit of history revision? My maternal lie detector is pretty keen, but it’s not an exact science.

Or how about a GPS device that attaches to the ankle whenever you go grocery shopping? That way, you could quickly locate exactly which clothes rack the monkeys are hiding in. Come to think of it, I could use one of those for Mr. Schrock. I’m always losing him at the mall and the bookstore.

While I wait for someone to bring my bright ideas to life, I’m going to start brushing up on my Morse code just in case the boys discover it. That way I can frustrate them utterly when they tap, “Can we have some cookies?” by feigning ignorance and tapping back, “Sure, you can wash the dishes. Now, get going.”

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