February 14, 2011

Afghanistan and County Lock-Up are Not the Same Thing

Almost a couple of years ago I wrote about a weird incident I had with my neighbors and invited you to speculate with me about the origin of their weirdness.

After that incident I felt really weird being out in my yard in case I ran into them because they had such a strange vibe coming off them.

And then suddenly we didn't see them anymore and we thought they had gone away in the night.

And then it seemed like just as suddenly, their boy was over at our house every day, aggressively social, sometimes even walking into the house without knocking.  He'd stay for long periods of time, even eating with us.  I was an aggressive "check-in" kind of mom, calling his mom to ask if it was okay to feed him a hot dog or could he have juice or Kool-aid?  Was it okay if he did such-and-such?  I stopped calling her after a while because it didn't seem like she cared what he did or how long he was over here. I never saw the dad, but often would see her sitting out on the back step, smoking and staring off into space.

My oldest son told me that the boy's dad was in Afghanistan and I figured perhaps she was depressed and who knows what else was going on in her life. I wondered several times per week if we were going to get news that the dad had died over there or been seriously injured.

And then another woman showed up and two more boys my son's age. They ran around the yard together this rag-tag foursome.  For a while it was really delightful to see them making up games, playing outside. I loved that Julius was getting out, had friends, appeared to be a leader in his group. Until it started getting all Lord of the Flies like it does with boys sometimes.  One day the smallest boy whacked the next-to-largest boy upside the head with a big plastic machine gun. Blood gushed.  I ran out and sent them all packing back to their strange and mysterious apartment with their strange and mysterious mothers and told them they could not play in the yard if they were going to behave like heathens.

Apparently they took me seriously because they never came back and within a week they all disappeared. Later we heard rumors that they moved off to some other location -- a town just under an hour from here.

Rob was outside the other day and ran into the landlord walking his burly, drooling dog.  They chatted about neighbor gossip -- about a tenant we knew who left stealthily in the night after paying his rent with stolen money. And about the odd wife of a soldier reported to be in Afghanistan. The landlord described her as "crazy" and chuckled when Rob made sympathetic noises about her being married to a soldier during these hard times.

"Afghanistan? Hardly.  He's in jail for trying to meet up with a thirteen year old girl.  Turns out "she" was a county cop and now he's doing time in the pokey.  Definitely not Afghanistan."

That one was definitely not on my radar and didn't make even make the Top 7 Possible Reasons my Neighbors are So Weird.

But at least now we know.

February 11, 2011

Mean Mother

My youngest son and I stand at the kitchen sink while dinner simmers on the stove. I am washing dishes by hand and from the rinse side he washes them again and rinses them about 12 times each. I keep turning the water down to a slow trickle. He turns it back up. I weigh my need to be environmentally responible against my need for him to stop whining about wanting more water.

He's helping me with the dishes because I refused to turn the television on for him. It's late in the afternoon, verging on evening and I know within a little while his dad will want to watch the news. For some reason, what I think is the acceptable alternative (watching TV in my bedroom) is not acceptable to him and so, instead, he stands next to me at the sink and explains my shortcomings.

"I wish you weren't so mean, Mommy."

"Really? You think I'm mean?"

He nods and makes lazy swirls with a scrub brush on an already-clean plate. "Yes, because you won't let me watch TV."

"I'm making you a nice dinner. Is that mean?"

He shrugs. "But I'd rather watch TV than eat dinner."

"Well, I know, but dinner will make you grow big and strong and you were the one telling me you wanted to be really, really super big and strong. So, I'm actually doing you a favor. You can just tell me thank you instead of telling me I'm being mean."

He's not fooled by my powers of reason. "I'm pretty strong already."

"That's true," I agree.

"Do you want to feel my muscles?"  He holds up his arm to show me his bicep. Water and soap suds run down his arm.

I wipe him down with a dishtowel and thoroughly inspect the arm he's offered me. "Very nice. Very strong."

"You're strong, too, Mommy."

We go back to scrubbing dishes in silence, our biceps flexing strongly.

February 7, 2011

New Cousin

I heard the news on Facebook where all news seems to come from these days -- a new baby has been born to our family.  She is a little girl born to our niece, the second baby in that family.  We've not seen either baby in person as they are on the other end of the continent from us, but we have been watching the oldest one grow, also via Facebook.

I clicked on the picture that was posted and started yelling for the family to come see.  They all came running to see the newest baby girl, so adorable and pink and chubby-cheeked.

Tristan started whining immediately.  "I WANTED BABY ISAIAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

"No, this is cool, Tristan," I was quick to reassure him. "This is cool because this is a NEW baby cousin, like an extra one.  So you can have Baby Isaiah AND now you can have this new cousin Holly."

"Is she ours?" His voice was hopeful.

"No, but she is in our family.  This is cousin Avery's little sister."

"I want her to live with us for ever and ever and EVER."  He stomped off to finish his dinner.

Moments later he asked from the far end of the room, "Who laid that baby??"

Apparently, I have a bit of explaining to do.

February 3, 2011

Mad Skillz with Women (or at Least CYA)

In the kitchen, my youngest son, four, stands with his back against the stove and his arms stretched across the stove door handle. He leans back and gives me a good looking-over.

"You used to be SOOOO pretty. But now you're not."

I stop what I'm doing, which is slaving over a hot sink of dishes -- or something.  Some tedious chore or other thing that improves my child's life.

I raise my eyebrows at him and say, "I'm not pretty anymore?  That's really not a very nice thing to say."

He thinks about it for a split-second and then adds, "Well, without your make-up, I mean."

Excellent save, my child.