November 30, 2009

The Motivational Speech that Wasn't

I love football movies.  I'm not a big fan of football, but I try to learn a bit about the game and watch with my husband sometimes just to be a good sport (no pun intended). However, I do love football movies and have watched just about every one that has ever been made.

The reason I love football movies is because, without fail, a football movie generally starts with an underdog, reveals said underdog's potential, creates a crisis to threaten underdog's success, then rallies the team via a great motivational speech by the coach who inspires the team to victory.

It's good. Formulaic, but so tasty and good.

I was raised in a "can-do" environment. The easiest way to get my mom to do something is to tell her she can't and she is compelled to prove you wrong. We were raised to believe we really could do anything we wanted to. My mother fostered in us the idea that we are limited only by the restrictions we put on ourselves which is a result of a weakness of the mind -- basically self-limiting dialogue such as "I can't" or "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm not graceful enough" or "That's a boy activity", etc. In our family you get called on it, challenged on it. My family does not allow its members to take the easy way out.

Probably to someone outside the family this sounds really horrible, but I've always considered it one of the greatest gifts my mother could give us. She considers adversity an opportunity to demonstrate her strength of will and her ability to solve problems. And sometimes I think that is really when she is at her best. Some people are just like that.

Because I admire those things about her and because I've reaped the benefit of this philosophy in my own life, it's an idea I want to pass on to my kids. They will be a step ahead of the crowd if they have good self-esteem, high confidence and some above-average problem-solving skills. In our day-to-day life I try to find opportunities to foster these skills.

The other day we were waiting in the Sonic drive-thru. Julius noticed a cool pen that was lying on the ground next to the building just a few feet away. He pointed it out to me.

I said, "Do you want to go get it? If you get it we can give it back to the lady at the drive-through."

"No. I don't think so."

"Why? You don't have to talk to her. I'll just give it to her and tell her we found it. Go on, do it."

"No. I think the police would see me and I'd get in trouble."

"For getting a pen off the sidewalk? No, that won't get you in trouble. You'd be trying to do something nice."

"Definitely I'm not doing it."

"Oh. Well, okay then.  I'm about to move up. Are you SURE you don't want to do it? I don't want you to be filled with regret once the opportunity passes..." Oh, I was so hoping he'd just do it. He's such a nervous guy sometimes.

"No, go ahead."

"Okay, but remember how proud you felt when you faced your fears at the water park. Remember how happy you were about that?"


"But you still don't want to go get the pen? Despite the fact that it would certainly be a good deed for someone and demonstrate how you would go out of your way to help a fellow human? Because, really, I don't want you to get stuck in a rut of mediocrity and apathy. The landscape is already crowded with people who don't care and don't make an effort to make the world a better place. We don't need to be another one of those people. Right?"


"So, think of the pen as a symbol of breaking free from focusing on the self and use it as an exercise to focus on others. And then we can tell your dad all about what a cool good deed you did, flinging yourself out of the car to save that lonely pen on the sidewalk."

"Um... no."


We sat in silence for another moment and the car ahead of us pulled away from the drive-thru window.

"Last chance. You sure?"

"I'm sure."

So, yeah, I have to work on my motivational speaking a little bit. Well, maybe a lot.

November 25, 2009

Rooting for the Home Team

My husband is a 49ers fan, therefore, by default, I am also a 49ers fan. This also means that during childrearing on Sundays during football season we diligently train our children to root for my husband's "home team".  Considering their wins during the last few years, it takes special courage and effort to be a fan of the 49ers.

On Sunday we were sitting around watching the game. Tristan seems particularly interested in football and without any prompting from us he'd periodically scream out, "GO GO GO".  Not always for the right team, but he was getting the idea, anyway.

I decided to team him to yell, "GO NINERS" because I thought it would amuse his dad. We practiced yelling that and "DEFENSE DEFENSE" with Tristan periodically shaking his fist at the television.

While having nachos there was one particularly tough play during which I was yelling, "Go Niners!"  I said, "Say it with me, Tristan... go niners!"

He put down his chip and, staring at the TV said, "It's not helping."

True, but we've been rooting for the home team too long to give up now!

November 23, 2009

How We React to Adversity and Danger

Last night we were all sitting in the living room watching the new Star Trek movie.  Our family rule with PG-13 movies is that Rob and I watch them first to preview them, then if they are okay with just a couple of bad parts we just diligently cover eyes and fast forward.  Frequently all the boys care about are the zooming space ships and stuff blowing up. Oh, and monsters.  They love monsters.

There is a great monster chase scene in Star Trek. Kirk is racing across ice fields from first a Big Furry Baddy quickly followed by Ginormous Slimey Baddy.  During these scenes we frequently yell at the television to encourage to protagonist to "run faster" or "jump higher" or whatever advice seems appropriate at the time.

In this case I was admiring what a good decision it was that he run away as fast as he could.
Me: I'd run, too, if that thing were chasing me.  How about you, Dad?
Rob: I'd run, definitely.
Me: What about you, Julius?
Julius: Oh yeah, I'd run.
Me: What about you, Tristan?
Tristan: I'd punch him in the penis!
I'm still trying to decide whether that makes him a whole lot braver than the rest of the family or just less smart.

November 18, 2009

Chivalry Isn't Dead, It's Just Been Sent Home with a Note to Its Parents

At my son's school they have a system of discipline that involves cards of some sort that the kids pull when they have been acting out. At cards two or three you start losing your recess time and around the fifth time (in one day) you have to go pull a card you get sent to the office.

We've been having an interesting time with the card pulling situation. In kindergarten Julius never pulled cards. For some reason in first grade he averages about three per week.  We have been puzzled by this and the nearest we can make out is that he's just not being kept busy enough and so he will dig through his backpack and look for stuff or go look out the window or stand in line at the pencil sharpener (only two people allowed at a time) or whatever and then he gets in trouble for "not staying on task" or "not following instructions".

The other day he came home and told me right away that he pulled a card and said, "But I can explain. You have to hear the story..."

Apparently he was at the pencil sharpener and a little girl came up and needed to sharpen her pencil. He, being a gentleman, offered to sharpen the girl's pencil for her. He claims that socializing at the pencil sharpener is what got him in trouble.

"All I did was ask her if she wanted me to sharpen her pencil!"

"Well, you were talking and that's probably why you got in trouble. I know you were trying to do something nice and that was awesome how much of a gentleman you were, but you also have to remember to follow the teacher's rules or take the consequences."

And what about the little girl in the story?

Julius says, "She really did want me to sharpen her pencil for her."

Yeah, score one for the red-headed cutie with the dimple!

November 16, 2009

A Day in the Life...

Here is a cross section of one of my days from last week.  I would describe this day as fairly typical.

The frantic hollering begins as I try to get two kids and myself ready to be out of the driveway in half an hour. This doesn't even include breakfast as both my kids get fed breakfast at their destination.

Tristan hides behind bed so I can't find him to put his clothes on.  Within moments he is found and begins screaming as I drag him out by one foot. This would be hilarious if it were anyone else's son.

Julius claims he has nothing to wear. I ask him how he can say that when all four drawers are crammed to the top with clothing items. He says none of the clothes are cool enough. I ask him how cool it will be when I drop him off in just his underwear.

Julius manages to find something to wear.

Beaming proudly, I am thrilled we are on schedule as I load everyone and everything into the car. That's when I realized the car has the first icing over of the season. Also, my oldest son doesn't have on his jacket. While I'm putting Tristan in the car seat I hear a big THUMP and realize that the noise is Julius smashing a rock down on my windshield to break the ice. I'd like to say that I calmly explained to him using simple physics what a bad choice that was and the ensuing consequences, but that's not the way it happened.

We make it out of the driveway, sullen and joyless with Tristan repeating over and over, "Joowus, make bad choice..."

Tristan dropped off at daycare. Typical day consists of him clinging to me and screaming, "Don't weave me, Mommy!" That day he discovered his friend Carson was there and hugged my leg and said, "Bye bye Mommy!" summarily dismissing me in favor of his friends. Huh.

Mom calls with a frantic, "WHERE ARE YOU?" I tell her and she said there is a big accident on the mountain south of me and she wanted to be sure I wasn't in that accident. She calls Rob to make sure he is okay. (He is.)

Nearly perfect cup of tea. Perfect would be half-n-half instead of milk.

Found out Donald Harington died. He was my favorite art history professor in college and I love his books. He's not very well-known, but has a strong cult following among fans. Decided to plan pilgrimage to Drakes Creek.

Meeting with clients to plan strategy for next door neighbor property acquisition. First time I had been back to their house since oil and gas well started going in next door. How can progress be so great and also suck so bad?

Realize my hair has static cling. Very annoying and I can't make it stop.

House showing. Owner changed locks and forgot to tell me. Key doesn't work. Customer has really nice booty packaging.

Awesome husband brings me authentic mexican food from Reyes Market who just started making lunch recently. Too much cilantro. I hate cilantro. Next time it will be perfect without it. Yum.

Ate too much. Can't stay awake. Spend some time contemplating purchasing tickets to new powerball lottery so I can retire. You can't win if you don't play, right?

Decide to pick up Julius at school instead of letting him ride the bus because Rob has showings and won't be there to meet him. While waiting for him to get out of school I call my 3:10 appointment to confirm she will be meeting me and get yelled at by someone who claims to be her husband and wants to know what business I have calling her. I hang up on him. He calls me back. He demands to know who I am and what I want. I refuse to tell him in case he's an abusive crazy person that she is trying to get away from. He yells again that he is her husband and says she has been in an accident. I apologize, but am still suspicious. I tell him I'm sorry and hope she is better soon and I will call back later.

Julius is in the car and Rob is on the phone telling me not to go meet the clients because they might be crazy killers. (Based on my previous experience I know this could possibly be true.) I told him I would only go with him if it were the lady I talked to on the phone and would not go if her crazy screaming husband were there.

Waiting on client. Get a bad feeling that the husband was telling the truth. Call my mom who says I should call back and apologize and try to find out more. I call my nephew with the sheriff's department to ask about the accident this morning and see if he knows who it was. He doesn't. Called first responder friend who recommended I call a state trooper. Call state trooper friend and ask if he worked the accident my mom called about this morning. He did. Asked if one of the victims was named Karena. It was. I'm an idiot.

Julius is hungry. My wallet is in the other car. We scrounge enough change to get him a burrito and a drink. Head out to woods to get a picture.

Call babysitter when I realize I won't make it back in time. Ask her if it's okay if I can be late today. She says it's okay.

Rob calls to say he will pick up Tristan and take him on showing with him. Yay!

Julius and I practice our Scottish accents. He's great at it. I'm not.

Julius and I are winding our way through woods trying to find the property. I told him we were looking for "Midget Road" and he spit Pepsi onto the dash of the car. He thought I was making a joke. I wasn't. He asked why it was called Midget Road. No idea. He says he thinks it must be because it's a small road. Turns out there was a mailbox later we passed that said "Clifton Midgett".  County Judge's office spelled the road wrong. Figures.

Back out on the pavement. Flat tire. I know the theory of changing a flat tire but have never actually done it. Husband is not available. I begin to look for tools to change tire. Can't find them. Call friend who tells me to look in the door. Sure enough, secret compartment! Tricky automakers!

Call babysitter to tell her God was looking out for her by sending Rob to pick up my son. She agreed.

Begin the tire changing process.

Two deputies show up, courtesy of my mom who can't leave well enough alone. They pull up behind me while my butt is sticking up in the air and I'm looking under the car trying to figure out where the jack is supposed to go. Deputies take over tire changing process.

After much discussion as to why my car has a scissor jack instead of a bottle jack, vehicle falls off jack and starts to roll toward me and oldest son. One officer jumps behind vehicle as if he is superhuman and can fend it off with his body weight. I scream and tell Julius to RUN RUN RUN. Julius freezes and says, "What? What?" I knock him into the ditch with my superhuman-adrenalized-mom-strength. Brake drum lands partly on flat tire, partly in dirt. That can't be good. We all sit and stare and breathe heavy for about five minutes.

I tell Julius to go sit over by the fence out of the way. He doesn't want to do it because he's afraid he will be eaten by wolves. Go mighty cub scout.

Husband arrives to change tire because it still hasn't been changed at this point. Tristan hugs police car then runs screaming through pitch black night down the highway. I tackle him and drag him back to the car and put him in the car seat. Rob says to take him on home and he will follow later. I'm freaking out because I have a city council meeting in an hour.

Finally arrive back home and realize I don't have a house key because I'm using the spare set of keys. Have to pee really bad.

Rob arrives to let me into house in time to brush teeth, hair, brush off clothes from laying under the car, do some council paperwork. Find missing check crunched up in the bottom of an envelope. Money! Woot!

Make it to council meeting with a few minutes to spare. Everyone asks me if I found the missing check and have to make the embarrassing admission that it was there all along.

Home finally. Kids are all in bed. House is quiet. The only fix for a quiet house is a really loud video game in which I kill a lot of slimy mutants and save the universe. Which I do, until I end up falling over in a narcoleptic heap on the carpet in front of the TV.

In bed for real during which I have some strange and lucid dreams that I can't remember now. But they are almost always fabulous and satisfying and amusing.

And in the morning we start all over again. Yet another "typical" day in my life. And like my dreams almost always fabulous and satisfying and amusing -- even on the bad days.

November 12, 2009

My 6-Year-Old Son is a Citizen of the Self-Diagnosing Hypochondriac Nation

I was pulling out of the driveway to take Julius to school when he declares that he is allergic to paper carpet.

Me: What's paper carpet?

Him: Well, you know, the leather carpet.

Me: I don't understand.

Him: The carpet in our house. I think I'm allergic to it. That's why I'm coughing so much.

Me: I think you might be right. You know we're getting rid of the carpet, right?

Him: Yeah, and I'm glad.

We rode in silence for a while. From the back seat he said, "Mom, I think I need some Omnaris."

Me: Some what??

Him: Some Omnaris. It's a nose spray. When you use it it helps reduce your nasal allergy symptoms.

Me: Oh. Okay. Well, how about we get rid of the carpet first and see if that helps. And then if it doesn't help I'll take you to the allergy doctor. Sound good?

Him: Sounds good.
Just say "no" to pharamaceutical commercials.

November 9, 2009

Monday Montage

I always fall back on the Monday Montage when the week has been full of marginally interesting things, but nothing that is worthy of a whole post. Actually, there was one small moment that could possibly be an entire post but I'm not sure I want to put myself or the other person through the humiliation of writing about it, so I'll just stick it into the montage and you can figure out which horrible moment in time that was. I'm sure it will be pretty obvious.

* * *

Late last week I was in the bottom of a "holler" with a snake, a lot of briars and a creek. My boots are brown boys' steel toed work boots with neon pink hawaiian print laces. They are waterproof which came in very handy that day. I was standing in a creek wondering how I could have let myself get so out of shape and marveling at how going DOWN the hill could possibly be worse than going up. My boots are also high topped and I appreciated that as I was standing next to a small ankle height little rock cave and wondered what was in there that could be coming out to get me at any moment.

On top of that I was late to an appointment and when I got to the top of the hill (about 400 feet straight up) I wanted to lie down on the deck of the cabin and die, but my clients were there and I thought it would be unprofessional. The Mrs noticed I was bleeding down my arm and insisted she take me into the house to dress my wound. Honestly, it wasn't that bad.

I went to my next appointment with leaves in my hair, a scabby arm and those little fuzzy hitchhikers that stick to your clothes. I look like I'd been rolled down the hill by angry Ozark elves.

And this is not even the humiliating part of the story.

* * *

My youngest son turns three today.  I'm the mother of a three year old and a six year old. My mother wants me to have a girl. I have declined, but sometimes wonder what I'm missing.

I'm way too tired to have three kids.

* * *

Yesterday my oldest son came running into the house bawling his head off because a little boy next door threw a rock and hit him in the back of the head, allegedly on purpose. Sure enough, there was a big knot on the back of his head.

I got my shoes on and went out the door and as soon as the little kid saw me he got a terrified look on his face and high-tailed it to his house and went inside. As I was sitting there debating how I should handle the whole matter, a man with sideways feet came walking down my driveway asking me if I would take a survey for the Census Bureau. He had an official looking badge and everything. I hope it wasn't fake. If it was fake then some freakish stalker knows I'm Scotch-Irish by birth. Of course, you can pretty much figure that out by looking at me.

The good news is he kept me from causing a ruckus next door. I'm still trying to figure out how to handle that situation. My mother's response was her standard answer which is "nip it in the bud."

* * *

Last week a person I have known for many years happened to be in the parking lot at my office when I arrived. She was waiting for someone and they were leaving one car at my office while they shared a ride to a nearby town. We chatted for a moment and just before she left she did a whirl around with her arms out saying, "By the way, do you notice anything different?"

Well, there I was on the spot.  I gave her a thorough looking over, but frankly, didn't have a clue as to what could possibly be different. I said, "Gosh, tell me, I'm sorry I don't know."

She says, "I've lost 40 pounds!"

So, I have no idea how I can possibly not notice 40 missing pounds. Although, I think the reason I didn't notice is because they left her and got on me somehow. Or maybe it's just because she's deceptively pear-shaped and it's hard to notice weightloss on that type of person.

File that one under "Awkward". Or maybe "Really, Really Awkward."

* * *

About two minutes ago I had a long conversation with Julius about the difference between Little Bo Peep and Mary. The basic jist after a very long analysis is that Mary is a much better shepherdess than Bo Peep. Right after that conversation he claimed he can read people's minds from Arkansas to California and to the east all the way to the Washington Monument. I hope not, because Christmas is coming up and that will just piss me off.

* * *

Rob and I just had our ninth anniversary.  I refer this as our "contract renewal period". I decided to go ahead and renew him for another year.

If you're a person who has a problem with committment, try this method.  It's not too hard to be married for a year.  We've been married for a year nine times now. In a row.


November 2, 2009

How You Know a Girl Likes You

I picked up Tristan at daycare. We sat in the car a moment waiting for a dad to move out of the way of our car so I didn't plow over him and his adorable baby daughter.

Tristan says, "Dat's Candy. I wike her and she wikes me."

"Yeah? That's nice."

"She wikes me and she wikes Twevor."

I always try to make conversation with Tristan because he likes to talk and for a long time didn't really have anything much to say. It's been fun lately because we can actually have a two-way conversation. Good times.

"So, she is your friend then?"

"Yes, she wikes me cause she wicked my hand."

This is a new thing, I guess.  When I was a kid you know a girl liked you when she punched you. But now it's looking like a girl likes you if she licks your hand.

"She licked your hand? And that's how you know she likes you?" (It's always good to clarify.)

"Uh huh. She wikes me. She wicked my hand. Das how she wikes me."