February 26, 2009

My Lost Nickname

I'm a Lost "cheater". I can't take the suspense of the show, so I am behind a few seasons. I rent them all at once on Netflix and do a Lost binge where I try to do a season in a couple of weekends until I think Rob's head will explode.

So, if this post spurs any Lost comments that are remotely related to anything current, I won't understand it. Just warning you.

Anyway, all this came up because I ran across this very cute Lost nickname widget. You can click there and get your Lost nickname from Sawyer. Go try it out and come back and post your nickname so I can see what it is. Mine is below.

By the way, Rob's nickname from Sawyer is "Old Man". Boy is he pissed.

February 25, 2009

Two Words

Big exciting news around our house... The Toddler finally said two words together. What a momentous, exciting day for us. I feel like we're making great progress. In fact, I was so excited I rushed right to the phone and called my mom because I was sure she would be equally thrilled.

"Mom, mom, Tristan said a two word sentence!!"

"Really?? WOW! That's wonderful! What did he say??"

"He said, 'Patrick farted.'"

Big silence.

Finally, after a very long pause, she said, "You must be so proud."

February 23, 2009

Treat Meal from Hell

The wind was biting. I was wearing no jacket, just a long-sleeved shirt. The kids weren't dressed for the weather either, but there we were, trapped by an obligation to attend the first baseball practice of the season.

My fingers curled through the chain link fence as I watched Julius throw the ball to his pitching-and-catching partner. The Toddler ran past me chasing a little girl in a pink coat with big fake fur trim on the hood.

An hour and a half later my mom was on the phone telling me I needed to get the kids out of the weather or we would all die. Thank goodness practice only lasted one and a half hours instead of the proposed two, because, well... you know. Who wants to die?

As an inducement to get the kids into the car in a reasonable amount of time I did the only thing a mother could do. I bribed them with McDonald's. As I was strapping The Toddler into his car seat I asked him what he wanted for dinner.

"Tea," was his response.

"Okay, but do you want a cheeseburger or chicken?"


"You have to eat something. Do you want chicken?"


"Do you want a cheeseburger?"

"No. Tea."

"Okay, listen... you can have tea. What do you want with your tea?"

"Um... tea."

I sighed. Let's try this another way. "Tea is a drink. You also have to eat. What would you like to eat?"


"Chicken or cheeseburger."


"Yes, you can have tea. You want tea?"

"Uh huh."

At this point I begin talking to him like he's hard of hearing, slowly and loudly. "With your TEA, you must have either CHICKEN or CHEESEBURGER. Which do you want?"


"Well, okay then."

I got into the driver's seat and started backing up. Julius puts his feet up on the dash and looked over at me. "Mom, ask me what I want for dinner."

"I know what you want."

"C'mon, just ask me."

"What do you want for dinner, Jules?"

"Tea," he says and then throws back his head and laughs hysterically.

February 21, 2009


The Toddler, I have mentioned before, is very high strung. Hence, I am very high strung. Or maybe I have that backwards.

Anyway, he has a new word... "relax". It's because I say it to him frequently. He now repeats it as I get him tucked in to watch a movie and calm himself, except when he says it it comes out very gutteral like, "Ehhr laaaaaacks" with his tongue curling over sideways and his face scrunching up painfully. I paused tonight wondering if he says it that way because that's the way I actually say it in my freaked out efforts to calm him.

I read a great parenting tip once, I can't remember where, that said to get into the habit of imagining a small mirror stuck to your child's forehead. What does your face look like? What a powerful parenting trick! I'm not even sure I want to imagine it.

At the moment, everyone but The Toddler is sitting in the living room. Toddler Prince is in the room watching a movie screaming, "Mommeeeeee!" When I ask him what he wants, he says, "Jyooooce!" So I tell him to bring me his cup and I will give him a drink. He yells back, "Here!" We are doing this right now for about the 12th time. My husband assures me if I hold firm and don't give in, eventually he will either stop yelling or he will bring the cup in. He reminds me I'm not a slave to The Toddler at which time Julius pipes in, "Yes she is!"

The wisdom of the 6 year old! He's got it nailed.

February 19, 2009

The Weird and the Wonderful

When I see something like the video below, I just fall in love with life all over again. It's not that it's particularly moving or inspirational or life-altering. It's just... weird and whimsical and it reminds me that there are strange and fascinating people out there who breathe life into the ordinary world around them.

That breathing-life-thing... that's pretty awesome.

February 17, 2009

Adventures in Health Care

Here's how efficient I am... I did the 24-hour virus in about 12 hours. While I'm sore and tired today, I take great pride in streamlining the whole adventure. And I won't regale you with any tales from that 12 hours since it mostly involved lying around moaning and some other horrible things like me screaming for help in the bathroom and what I thought was a broken rib that turned out not to be.

Four of the other 12 hours that I saved I spent in the emergency room with my mom who was having some sort of heart-related episode which was not a heart attack. During that time she managed to impress the nurse by making a veteran doctor go nearly berserk and lose his composure (as only my mom can do). The nurse was amused and impressed and said in all the time she had been working with that doctor she'd never seen THAT happen. I'm accustomed to my mom's behavior with doctors and even I found myself scrunching down in my chair and pulling the little portable table over in front of me for cover.

If you've ever been waiting with a patient in the emergency room you know there can be a lot of down time while tests are being run and x-rays being examined. Ever curious, I amuse myself by looking in all the cabinets. I'm not sure how it is in the city hospitals, but here in the country they don't really lock supplies up so I check it all out just for the heck of it. If one were so inclined and had a big purse you could really stock your first aid kit up while you were waiting. I am neither inclined, nor do I carry a purse. Although, I will admit to giving my son a tongue depressor once to keep him busy, but that's about the extent of my pilfering from medical facilities.

While I was looking around I spied the pen the nurse was using to write in the chart. I rolled it slightly on the counter to see what was written on it. "Aaron Beasley Embalming Services" is what it said. Really. Even my mom who was lying on a gurney clutching her chest had to laugh at that one.

Thanks, Nurse Ratched!

[photo: estherase]

February 14, 2009

Tristan Loves Lola

Tristan makes me play this video about twelve hundred times. He might be in love with Lola. Check out the Smarty Pants Dance!

How to Not Be Helpful

Have you ever passed a mirror or a store window and had the strange sensation that someone was following along beside you only to realize when you glanced over that it was just you after all?

Sometimes I feel like that when there's no mirror.

Take today for example. I was at the store getting stuff for Julius's birthday party. I had The Toddler with me, a brave act when I'm by myself. Upon entering the store he ran straight for the oranges, plucking one from the bottom, sending oranges rolling and bouncing. I heard a lady in the background exclaim, "Oh my!"

I got the oranges back where they started (sort of) in time to see him start running from Produce toward Pharmacy. I grabbed a basket from the greeter lady whose mouth formed into a perfect "O" as she watched me run past. From somewhere to my right came some snickering. Past customer service, past register 2, register 4, register 8, past two laughing supervisors, past a mom with two daughters who looked as harried as I felt.

Around register 12 and just about the time I was going to scream, "SOMEONE STOP THAT BABY," he spontaneously threw himself to the ground. Someone had made eye contact with him and that's what he does when someone makes eye contact with him. Or else he grabs me around the leg.

Catching up, breathless, I heaved him up and attempted to fling him into the basket, except he's getting taller and I'm pretty short. He refused to be helpful and lift his legs so I was able to get only one of his legs over. Unfortunately for him this meant hanging him up on the shopping cart by his crotch region while he was screaming, "NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOO!"

Right about this time, a sourpuss grandma comes cruising down the aisle toward me pushing her basket. She scowled at me. She scowled at Tristan. All the while I'm flopping back and forth trying to heave The Toddler's dead weight over the side of the basket but for some reason that ONE LEG just wouldn't go in. I looked at her with that "please help me, I'm a pathetic loser mom with a screaming toddler and his wayward leg that won't go into the basket." She just wouldn't stop looking at me. In fact, everyone was looking at me and nobody was doing anything at all that was remotely helpful, unless you consider making me feel completely inadequate helpful.

I thought about doing something snarky and passive-aggressive like loudly saying, "Thanks, you guys, for all your help. I appreciate it!" But instead I just slammed The Toddler around some more straddling a wire grocery cart with his diaper-padded crotch. Finally with a big sigh, I dragged him off and set him back on the floor and said loudly, "OKAY, I'll try this again then!" This time, lil squatty me hoisted him up like an eager groom hauling his lovely bride across the threshold and dumped him into the basket.

The moral of this story is that if you see a freaked out looking mom in the store with a limp kid and she looks like she's trying to get the kid in the shopping cart and she can't do it... FOR THE LOVE OF GOD... HELP HER!

February 13, 2009

Plague of Madness

I have always loved the expression "plague of madness", but never really have a great opportunity to use it. I suppose it would be easy to find occasion to us it. I could pepper my tirades with it when talking about banker bonuses, wars in the middle east, stimulus packages, my local weather and, on many days, even my home environment.

But I don't use it, because it seems like it just begs to be saved for a special occasion.

That occasion came last night at about 10:45 when I was pushing a basket around Wal-Mart trying to find some cool valentines for my son's party today. I wandered slowly around the candy aisle looking for just the perfect thing, then headed over to another section of the store where they had all the cheapie kids valentines.

That's when I saw it... the bathing suits. Or more accurately, the bathing suits in February when we've just had an ice storm and people STILL have no power and may not for another 2-3 weeks.

There they were, all skimpy and dangling from their plastic hangers. Look at me, they say, perky and dazzling. And that's when it came to my mind.... Plague of Madness!

The long running joke is that Christmas gets promoted by retailers sooner and sooner every year, but it's not just Christmas. Retailers have basically just taken the knob of the marketing year and twisted it half a turn so that we're buying Christmas stuff before Halloween and bathing suits in freakin' February.

Run through the house with your hands waggling above your heads and yell, "PLAGUE OF MADNESS!!"

It feels really good.

February 10, 2009

Swastikas and Cigarettes

I had a conversation with my mom yesterday afternoon about the wonders of parenting with her explaining to me how it was the most fabulous, worthwhile and rewarding thing a person could do.

She sat with her back to the window and, even mostly backlit, I could see the shine as her eyes welled up. She said, "The day you watch those boys walk down the aisle for their graduation... and when they reach up to move that tassle over to the other side of that cap, you'll think back to all these times you're writing about. All the times you're aggravated and annoyed and tired... you won't even remember those things. All you'll remember is how cute they were, how sweet, how much fun you had on those days. You'll see. I promise, you'll see."

She had me convinced. I left my office with a renewed vigor, with an improved attitude to not be such a fussy mom, to not yell so much, to be more relaxed and easy going, to be a FUN mom instead of crazy-control-freak-spastic mom. My life was changed. I had resolve!

For about three hours I had this resolve and then I got home and actually put my new attitude into action. I have two words for you: epic fail

I have to give myself credit. I started out really well, but soon met with a force that my anemic parenting skills were simply no match for. I entered the house with a positive vibe -- I helped hubby make dinner, we talked about the days events, we got homework all finished. I even managed to keep smiling when The Toddler mixed his ketchup in with his creamed corn and then refused to eat it because it was "dirty". I didn't bellow about not getting dessert until he was 25 years old. In fact all through dinner I only slightly lost it when our oldest stole all the potatoes off my plate and that was only because he already had a plate full of potatoes and what did he need mine for anyway? (Admittedly, they were good and we all went back for seconds, but STILL.)

I was on a roll, frankly, and being really awesome.

Then it happened that The Toddler was sitting in the living room and he had a piece of plastic something-or-other sticking out of his mouth. He sat there a while staring off into space then glanced over at me and said, "moke."

I blinked. Did he...? "Tristan, what did you say?"


"Did you say 'smoke'?"


"Are you smoking??"



He smiled and while I was yelling for his dad to get in this room right now he took the "moke" out of his mouth and was balancing it between his tiny little fingers and blowing invisible smoke rings out into the living room.

Okay, so I lost it a little. All this, however, was nowhere near as disturbing as what came later.

After dinner, we all relaxed doing our various household obligations. Mine was doing some work I brought home that I wasn't able to finish during the day. Rob and Julius were working on a thank you note to an aunt who sent birthday money. The Toddler was... well, smoking probably.

Julius sealed up his thank you note in the envelope and was drawing on it. He handed it over to me and said, "Mom, look at these cool American flags I drew."

I leaned over and took the envelope from him and there in bold red and black crayon was a big swastika flag. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.

"Um... uh..."

"What do you think, Mom?"

"Uhhh.... I, errrr... I..."

(All of that is shorthand for "I'm an idiot and have no idea what to say next.")

I concentrated really hard and tried to focus on my point which was WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING DRAWING SWASTIKAS ON YOUR MAIL TO AUNT PAT??? No, no, that's not my point. Okay, okay, my real point it...

"Hey, um, Jules, you did a really nice job on these, but this one right here means something really REALLY BAD."

I knew immediately I was on the verge of failing miserably when I saw how sad he was. He collapsed inward, his back rounding, lower lip pooched out, eyes downcast. He slumped backward onto the couch. Already I began beating myself up for what a miserable, inept human I am for not knowing exactly what to say.

I have parenting books on my shelves. Lots of them. I've even read them. None of them cover swastikas. NONE OF THEM.

Committed, I lumbered forward like a blind and hungry elephant all set to trample what was left of my son's delicate psyche. The trick here is how do you explain to your little man about the origin of that symbol, the violence, the deaths, the lingering culture of racism and hate. How do you explain just enough to make him understand why that little squiggle is bad and how much it says in its few little crooks across the page? How do you know where you stop so you don't say too much and go too far?

Because he's fairly precocious, I have to continually remind myself that he's only five. He talks like he's older, he understands concepts way beyond his years, but I am not ready to explain hatred to him. I just don't want to do it. I know one day innocence goes, but not today, not two days before his 6th birthday. We should not talk about swastikas today.

But we do anyway, we discuss it as a family and explain as best we can about how every now and then a bad man rises from the depths of the worst humanity has to offer and tries to exert his will on those who are weaker. But we finished with the good news, that the other part of being human is to rise up and fight for what is yours, to do the right thing and protect those who are weaker than you. The joy and wonder of being a person in your community is to exercise the power you have to say "no", and to join arms with your neighbors as you draw a line in the sand and say, "here it is -- this is the line you shall not cross."

He was a trooper and we ended the conversation on a light note and he later explained to me about how if anyone broke into our house he and his dad would protect me and The Toddler and how his dad is strong enough to throw the washing machine on the bad guys and maybe even the couch. He leaped on the couch to demonstrate a couple of martial arts moves that he'd be able to utilized and yelled, "And I could even throw some books on them or maybe even your computer!"

He wandered off to play and Rob and I sat in silence just staring at each other. Finally Rob broke the silence saying, "I'll tell you what I'm really glad about..."

"What's that," I asked, chewing my nails.

"That he didn't draw that picture at school."

We looked at each other and both collapsed back into the couch busting out in hysterical, nervous laughter.

February 8, 2009

A Belated Groundhog Day Tale

Only twice in my life have I ever seen a groundhog. We have them where I live, but you never see them. NEVER. I have lived here most of my life, I have been over hill and over dale, across the river and through the woods all the way to grandmother's house. No groundhogs anywhere.

Both times I've seen them I didn't recognize them. Always it is my mother that identifies them. Once was from a description. The second time she was with me when I saw it and it's her that this story is about.

We were on a drive into the countryside. Before long we came to a bridge that crosses a large creek that feeds into the lake that is a tourist attraction in our area.

(As an interesting side note, this is the same creek next to which I learned to drive a standard transmission truck -- by driving through a field with my crazy friend Ruth Ann. Also the same creek we swam in and I ended up with something that looked like a leech stuck to my foot. Also the same weekend that Ruth Ann's grandmother kept telling me how much I looked like her dead daughter.)

Anyway, back to the bridge we were about to cross...

Skulking across the bridge and low to the ground was a wriggling mass of brown fur that looked the same on the front end as the back end. The only way I could tell which was the front was because of the way it was moving. Unless animals can moonwalk. I doubt it. I slowed the car.

"What is that," I asked.

"Look at that!" My mother has this habit of pointing things out in a way that sounds like she is taking credit for the very existence of the object in question. "Do you SEE it??"

"Uh, yeah... what is it? Is that a beaver?"

"No, it's a groundhog," she states calmly. Then suddenly as if she were attacked by a sudden spasm of Tourette Syndrome she starts yelling, "PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL WAS WRONG! HE WAS WRONG! SPRING IS COMING! SPRING IS HERE!"

When she yelled, my arms jerked and we wobbled for a minute across both lanes of roadway and Lakeshore Larry the brave Ozark groundhog turned his head lazily toward us as if he were just waking up from a nice dream into some terrible nightmare. He froze for an instant, then turned back and waddled wetly off in the direction he originally came from.

For another minute we discussed why Larry would have climbed the huge hill to come up across the bridge instead of just following along the creek bed. We talked about the pros and cons of both methods of travel as if Larry might have some slight iota of reasoning ability. These are the conversations I always end up having with my mother, conversations that sound like we're two people having an unauthorized day outing from some "special care" institution.

But indeed this weekend we are having 60 and 70 degree weather. So, you heard it here first... Punxsutawney Phil is wrong and Lakeshore Larry is right. Spring is coming! Spring is here!

[photo: Vicki]

February 6, 2009

Boy in a Swing

When I'm sitting at my desk and look to the right there is a row of three large windows that take up most of the wall. Beyond the windows is a long expanse of grass, then a barbed-wire fence, behind which is a chainlink fence. Beyond that is a yard with a swingset and a house with a red door. All this I can see if I just look.

Today the air smells like springtime, a scent I've come to know as particular to my area. The winter air is still cool but has a different scent -- earthy, warmer, alive and inviting.

Today when I look out the window I see a boy sitting in the swing. His back is to me and he is alone, just swinging. Back and forth. Back and forth. He wears a blue jacket and no hat. His pants are too short and I can see his white socks above dark sneakers. He swings, staring straight ahead.

When I was eight or nine we moved from our small downtown to a bigger place in the country. It was a huge home next to a pond. My father subscribed to Mother Earth News and wanted to get back to nature. His big idea was to do things "more natural". He wanted to grow grapes to make wine, have a big garden, raise some chickens and ducks, have honeybees, fish.

My oldest brother was already gone. Married, moved to his own house. My middle brother was nearly ready to be out of school. Having much older siblings was a lot like being an only child and I was frequently sent off to entertain and amuse myself, a skill that became second-nature and which I continue to use to this day. Back then, before cable and satellite TV, before Internet and Gameboys, before cell phones and computers children went forth and amused themselves with sticks and rocks and dirt, bugs and dogs and puddles of filthy water.

Or if you were lucky, one day you came home to find your father installing a swing in a tree in your backyard next to the pond. Mine was yellow, a single strap of curved plastic at the end of chains that seemed a mile long. The branch my dad hooked the swing to was, I swear, 80 feet off the ground. Several times he measured to see if it was the right height for me.

I loved that swing more than any swing I've ever sat in. With the chains being so long I could swing in huge arcs that took forever to complete. On the upswings I could see out over the pond and the roof of the house. He only cleared enough around the swing so I wouldn't get whacked with branches and when I'd glide through the air on my swing it was like flying through the trees. I'd fly past branches and could see the places the squirrels and birds sit when I wasn't there swinging. It was an incredible sensation.

I think about this as I lean back and gaze at the boy on the swing outside my window. Back. Forth. Back.

The phone rings and someone is there telling me it's time to get back to my life. Moments later when I turn again toward the boy he is gone. The swing is still, as if he were never there in the first place.

February 2, 2009

Movie Night Candy Mystery

At night after the boys all go to bed I lurk around the house in search of a box of Butterfinger Bites. It's my "movie night" candy.

Every week we try to schedule a special movie night where all the family members get their own cool and special package of candy and Julius picks a great movie for the whole family to watch. Last week the movie was acquired and the candy obtained.

Unfortunately, due to a technical snafu we can't watch the movie. More precisely, our television is AWOL -- it decided a couple of weeks ago to spontaneously turn itself on and off as if motivated by a poltergeist that hates the History Channel and Noggin. A man came and took our TV away and it hasn't been back since and I don't think anyone got a receipt, so I'm hoping he really was the repairman.

As I think back, though, this seems to be the latest thing in a long line of failing things around our house, the list of which includes the outlet that powers our garbage disposal, half the light bulbs in the kitchen and 3/4 of the light bulbs in the bathroom, our water filter, the VCR in the bedroom, a lamp in the living room, one picture frame that the toddler broke in half with his bare hands, and a non-slip bath rug that is now slipping. I wonder how many of those can be explained by a poltergeist.

But back to the movie night candy...

Because we haven't been able to watch the movie night movie, Rob and Julius have been haphazardly grazing on their respective candies. Mine was lying on the kitchen table mixed in with some laundry that had been folded but not put away yet. The corner of the yellow box peeked out from under a stack of towels. As their candy stores dwindled I was really happy that my own candy was still there, hanging out, waiting for the movie night candy massacre that would surely come at a time when I really needed it.

Well, that day was about four days ago and I went back into the kitchen to retrieve that delectable box of Butterfinger Bites and, wouldn't you know, it was gone. Just gone. No sign of it. No empty box in the trash. No trail of crumbs leading to a lip-smacking perp. Nothing. Just gone. Gone as if abducted by Area 51 aliens and taken to a lab in space where they would be hooked up to electrodes and experimented on. Gone, as if I had eaten them myself in a hormone-induced feeding frenzy that takes place in a dark closet so nobody would notice that I'm eating every single piece of food in the house. Gone, as if they had never existed in the first place.

After a day of looking for them, I asked my husband, "Hey, um... did you eat my movie night candy?" I asked casually as if I didn't really care much about it.

"No," he said. That was it. Just no.

"Did you put it somewhere?"

"No," he said. "Not that I remember."

There's the trick, you see. He has a notoriously bad memory which conveniently absolves him of most sins.

So, for the last three nights after the boys go to bed I walk quietly through the house looking for this box of candy. I do it quietly as if I will somehow sneak up on it, as if the results of my search will turn out more favorable this way. It's ridiculous. I searched the new pantry to where we have moved all the canned goods. I have searched where we keep candy. I have searched where we don't keep candy. I looked in the fridge. I have done this for three nights straight.

Tonight I found myself talking about it as I was doing it.

"Okay, here I am looking in the pantry. This makes no sense. If they didn't eat it, where would it be? They ate it. They had to have eaten it. Looking in the bread basket. Looking in the candy canister. Man, there's nothing good in here. Looking in the ... Oh, a moldy avocado. Okay, THAT'S no good."

The good news is the moldy avocado is now in the trash. The bad news is I still haven't found the candy and I've run out of places to look. And now I'm eating the remains of a jar of Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears which are tasty, but not a really great substitute for peanut butter and chocolate.

On the other hand, it just occurred to me that maybe Butterfinger Bites might have been on the recall list and could this mystery be caused by my guardian angel? Do I even have a guardian angel? (Because if so, I want a review of my case file.)

Or maybe those boys are playing a dirty trick on me and when they say they are going into the room to tell stories before bed they are really stuffing their faces with some awesome snacks at Mommy's expense.

Damn them and their diabolical schemes of greed and selfishness! As soon as I finish this last pickle I'm going to look under the bed. Maybe I will find an empty box there. Or in the bread machine. I'm sure I've not checked there yet.