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The Tertiary Period

Lately, I just don't know how much controlled, decisive action I can take to change or improve the various issues in my life. I have the illusion of control we all cling to, sure. I "choose" to go to work every day; I "choose" to do a good job there; I "choose" not to spank my kids despite the instinctual desire actually to rip their heads off when they defiantly throw something down the stairs for the fourth time after saying "okay, mom!" when I teeth-grittingly explain the basic household expectations again and again. But I guess I also "choose" to yell at them for things like trying to get me to laugh by testing the limit one last time and throwing just a single dirty sock down only the top two stairs before bath time, or to grab their arms as they dare to pull away from me in a public place when I kneel down to explain "the rules" to them yet again. And while I do those things, I don't really feel like I'm choosing. But I don't feel forced, either; it just feels like an out-of-body, third party experience, and when it's over and I feel like I'm back in my own skin, and I see Bryce wiping away his tears of anger and embarrassment for having been scolded so harshly in what felt to him like a completely unnecessary conversation in the first place (given that he was perfectly aware of the rules already, he was just choosing to ignore them because it was very important that he re-experience for the third, fourth, and fifth time the awe of pretending to be almost crushed by a mammoth in the acclaimed natural history museum we just drove two hours to visit), I am left wondering how much choice I actually have in all of this, and whether I will spend the rest of my life feeling like a frustrated, disappointed observer of my own "choices" just as I tell the kids I feel about some of theirs.

Which is more humiliating: the kid that won't come out from under the Mammoth's foot, or the one who's obsessed with the Mammoth's genitals?

Here they are digging for the fossils of my sanity. Note the disappointed looks on their faces, betraying the awful truth that Mom's Sanity never actually existed, and so they prepare to leave their paleontologist ways behind for the much more oxymoronic but simple explanation of Insane Design.

Apatasaurus: So huge, even the kids were stunned into respectful, deferent silence. Thank you, Apatasaurus. THANK. YOU.

These are the best poses we got when we said, "okay, guys, stand still for TWO SECONDS and smile at dad."

But then sometimes my kids make choices or observations that I might never have seen as possibilities, and they surprise me (and by "surprise," I mean humiliate in merely a different way than before, but it's all semantics). And I'm reminded in those times that our choices are always our own, always infinite. Bryce proved this to me again yesterday by getting over his public scolding and then waiting patiently for his chance to return to the Mammoth. When we took him back there, he did this (he's ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille):