March 28, 2011

Please. Don't Help Me.

I was standing at the counter of a sandwich shop. I periodically scooted down the line as progress was made building my sandwich.

Scoot. Wait. Scoot. Wait.

Next to me was a woman who scooted alongside. We stood in silence. Every now and then I'd glance at her, every now and again she'd glance at me before we'd scoot some more.

After a while all that scooting got me down to the plastic cookie display. Before I got to that temptation I had already decided I needed some cookies because my mouth told me so. My brain didn't agree, but as is often the case, my brain was overrulled by my mouth so I ordered chocolate chip cookies from what looked like a 12 year old running the cash register.

My counter-companion scooted up next to me as I placed my cookie order and said, "Those are 225 calories a piece."

I looked over at her, my brows furrowed.  She'd just totally violated me with unsolicited information about a food product.  Not cool.   It's like telling someone who is about to eat a hot dog what's actually in the hot dog.  Or telling someone buying Coke about the news feature you just saw last week about how carmel coloring causes cancer.

What would possess a person to tell the chubby chick the caloric content of the cookie she just ordered? That's just downright hostile if you ask me.

I stared at her for a few seconds trying to think of something really clever to say, but couldn't and was really disappointed.  Then I thought maybe I should just punch her in the mouth, but realized that was just me being cranky because I was down about 225 calories or so and just needed a little sugar boost to maintain my powerful mojo.

So, I just did my best to authenticate a chuckle and say, "Oh gosh, yes, and I'm going to love all 225 of them. And possibly 450 of them if I have two!"

March 21, 2011

I am Still an Expert on Certain Things

It's spring break which means that all week there will be children in my office. Mostly we try to keep them busy trading off with mom and dad and various grandmothers.  Today, however, for thirty long minutes they were in my office constructing very long train tracks.  Under my desk were two plastic shotguns.  In my drawer were four plastic pistols along with the ammo. I'm totally loaded for bear if I'm attacked by, say, Big Bird.

My youngest peered around the corner of my doorway and said, "Tell me there are no monsters in the bathroom."

I glanced over the top of my monitor. "There are no monsters in the bathroom."

"Okay," he said, "But please tell me there are no monsters in the bathroom."

"Really. I promise. There are no monsters in the bathroom."

He nodded as if to indicate he actually knew that all along. "Okay, that's good."

I nodded and said, "Yeah, I think so too."

Satisfied, he went back to work on the train.

March 16, 2011

A Desire to Retard Social Growth

This morning I was sitting on the couch and my oldest son came in and sat at the other end of the couch and announced, "Mom... I think I am finally mature enough to ask Sally Smith to be my girlfriend."

Various responses went through my head at lightning speed some of which were an adamant "hell no you're not!", a sarcastic "really? didn't you just turn eight?", and a panicked and jaded "don't do it, son, she'll just break your heart!"

But instead I tried to play it cool and offered a non-committal, "Hmm. Really?"

"Yes," he said confidently. "I'm going to do it in a note."

"Well, okay."

He went off to get some paper and a pen. I sat there with my cell phone in my hand trying to remember why I had my cell phone in my hand and noting to myself that this was probably a really awesome milestone and possibly a great mother-son bonding moment that I just let slip past because of my parental ineptitude.

I wandered off to take a shower and when I came back he was sitting at the desk staring into space. When he saw me he crumpled the paper up and said, "Aw, I just can't do it."

I smiled. "It takes some nerves of steel sometimes, doesn't it?"

"Yeah," he said sheepishly.

"It's okay, though. I was thinking about what you said. You know you could just try being her good friend to start with and then it will be a real piece of cake if you still want to ask her to be your girlfriend later. Maybe it won't seem so risky."

He thought about it and bent down to tie his shoes. He has been a velcro kid his whole life and still isn't smooth with the laces. How can he be already interested in having a girlfriend when he still gets upset because he can't tie his shoes well? The natural order of life doesn't fit in with the desire my brain has for logic and common sense.

I added, "What about getting her a small gift or something?"

He grunted in a small panic that accompanied the contemplation of that scenario so I said, "I mean, it doesn't have to be a big deal. Take her some bubble gum or something. I don't know."

He laughed. I think it was part embarrassment and part ridicule -- mocking me to cover how he was feeling. I searched for a graceful way to stop the conversation.

"Well, you'll figure it out. Just wait til you're 30 or something.  That should be enough time."

Tristan was in the hallway putting on his (velcro) shoes. "Why does anyone even care about it?"

"Care about what?" I didn't even know he was listening.

"Having a girlfriend. Why does anyone even want to care about it?"

I asked him if he wanted a girlfriend and he said no.  I said some people when they get older they want a girlfriend and then I reminded him that he also didn't really need to worry about it until he was 30.

"But I want to care about it." As usual he is a bundle of contradictory statements.

"Well, then you can care about it. That's fine."

"Yes, I do want to care about it."

I sat for a while and listened to Julius explain to him how he was too young to have a girlfriend anyway. Sounded familiar.

I don't remember thinking about boys when I was eight.  I don't think I cared much about boys until I crept up to my teenage years.  There was too much adventuring to be had where I lived -- too many trees and cliffs to climb, too many creeks to swim in and silly games to play with my girlfriends, miles to ride on my bike, too many books to read and my own stories to make up.

The world moves so fast and furious and when I look at Julius sometimes it seems like I'm gazing across a chasm at him. Or as if we are both on moving sidewalks at an airport, only his sidewalk is beginning to move increasingly faster compared to the one I'm on. I see myself casting a hand forward to reach out to him and he smiles and waves as he moves into the distance.

It seems sad at times, but delightful at other times.  His maturity is amusing and precocious and I'm so proud of him many reasons.

Still, I do find myself wishing some days that he was a really nerdy kid who had no friends and who just wanted to stay home and read books and play video games and would live in my basement forever. Except I don't even have a basement.

Maybe I could dig one.

March 8, 2011

Observations, Realizations, and Diversions

It's time once again for a "tidbits" post, a lukewarm melange of tiny thingys that don't fit anywhere else. My mind is full of mental post-its and they are starting to come unstuck and drop down like falling leaves littering the floor of my cranial cavity.

Time to unload.

* * *

Despite having a fish curse, we got another tank and have stocked it with fish. One died yesterday.

* * *
Tristan gave me an out-of-the-blue compliment. It was so nice. He said, "Mom, you're pretty."  I beamed and thanked him at which time he added, "But you're only pretty with your makeup on."  This is not the first time he's explained this to me.

* * *

Charlie Sheen reminds me of a willful and omnipotent two-year-old who has had part of his speech pathways replaced by a random word generator.

* * *

While on the subject of Charlie Sheen, I think Hasbro should come out with a celebrity version of their Clue game and one of the possible murder scenario combinations should be "Charlie Sheen on the Rooftop with a Machete".

* * *

I knitted an adorable kid's hat with wool that I spun myself and the next day I showed it to someone who bought it and asked me to make another one in a different color. I walked on air all afternoon.  It boggles my mind that a person can take a wad of farm animal hair and turn it into something really nifty.

* * *

I'm tired a lot and finally went to see the doctor when I realized that if I sat still for too long I'd sometimes feel like I just wanted to fall over unconscious.  Turns out my hemoglobin is about half what it should be.  I can tell you that naps will not cure that.

* * *

Julius cried out indignantly during a news story about Michelle Obama giving international women awards for being brave and forward-thinking and helping make the world a better place for women and their civil rights. He said, "I don't get this -- Susan B. Anthony already fixed this problem and now it's back on! I just don't get it!"

* * *

Apparently calling a woman "girl" is highly insulting to some women. Apparently I have a bad habit to break that I didn't even know I had.

* * *

I have unwittingly discovered a combination of cleaning chemicals that will eat the chrome off of bathroom fixtures and enamel off the bathtub.  I keep wondering if I could market it for something, but I guess there's not really a big demand for chrome removal.

* * *

My kids are 8 and 4 now. I can't believe it. I don't even understand that. And when I think about it for more than 30 seconds it sort of makes me want to throw up.

March 1, 2011

We Teach Each Other

The other night Tristan and I did an impromptu raid on the local pizza establishment. Dad and Julius were gone and we sneaked out of the house under the cover of falling dusk and headed down to get something interesting to eat, just the two of us.

While we waited for our food to be ready, we played on the playground equipment. Tristan slid down the slide and climbed up the climbing wall. Over and over.  He begged me to slide with him, but I declined since generally slides never work out well for me.  I either go too fast and nearly fly over the side or I go to slow and have to do the undignified caterpillar-ass-wiggle to scoot down to the bottom.

Instead I stood at the top of the slide and gazed to the west at a strange light from behind the mountain silhouettes. I assumed it was the setting sun, but something wasn't right about it. High above it was a bright star, very clear, bold, huge. Tristan scrambled up over the edge of the climbing wall and I told him to look.

"Look at the pretty light, Tristan, and the star.  I think maybe that's Venus. Is it pretty?"

"I think that's Mars, Mommy."

My kids frequently whip out with these intelligent-sounding observations and it's hard for me to tell if they know what they are talking about or if they are just making stuff up because they do both.  Most of the time I just agree with them if I don't know the answer myself. I figure agreeing with them will give them additional self-confidence which seems to be in short supply with people these days. Or, if my mother is correct, it will make them boorish and egomaniacal. I spent a moment wondering which of those dysfunctions was easier to cure later in life.

"Mars? Well, maybe.  I really don't know.  I think that's a great observation and you could be right."

"Yes, I am right. Stars are really planets."

"Um, yeah. Okay." Now it starts to get annoying when people let science suck the romance out of your being in the moment. But he's four. What am I supposed to do?

Tristan takes off down the slide and I call my friend Ginny who is an astrophysicist turned archaeologist.

"Ginny, go look out the window to the west.  There is a weird light with a big fat star above it. What is that star?"

She indulges me, but claims she can't see it. This might be true or she might just be too lazy to get off the couch and leave the wine and chocolate. She claims it's too cloudy and then adds, "Stars are really planets, you know."

Thank goodness her plumber arrived just then so I didn't have the chance to explain how her science was sucking the romance out of my being in the moment.

Before we left the restaurant, Tristan conned me out of 75 cents for one of those little doo-dad machines that had tiny little plastic dogs in large plastic pop-open containers. Basically about half a cent worth of Chinese plastic that would kill him if he swallowed it.

He loved the little dog he got and asked me on the way to the car why the dog was in such a big container.

I shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe so it looks like you're getting something bigger for the money you are spending."

"Why do they do that?"

"So manufacturers can justify their greed and profit margins by creating the illusion that you're getting something substantial when you're not."

He thought about this for a minute while I buckled his car seat.

"So they are lying."

"Well, yeah, sort of. Pretty much." But then I felt bad about saying that because I'm simultaneously jaded about consumerism at the same time that I'm fascinated by it. "Maybe lying is not the best word for that. Exaggerating and misleading might be better words."

"They're lying."

I sighed. "Definitely it's prudent to be a savvy consumer and investigate all product claims. But, you know, if overpaying for a little plastic dog makes you happy and you're spending your money wisely in other ways, then it's probably okay, right?"

"I like my little dog."

"Me too. Ruff ruff!" Tristan laughed at his silly mother.

The strange light in the sky was gone by the time we got home, but I was curious about the star, sorry, planet we saw. It turned out to be Jupiter and that strange light was called a zodiacal light.  Fascinating.

If you keep your eyes and ears open you can learn something new and wonderful every day.