Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Parenting Lesson #367: How to be a hypocrite

Gibson: Mom? Why are words like Dammit and Hell bad to say?

Me: Well..... They're rude words. And they're just not very nice.

Gibson: But what makes them bad?

Me: (Thinking for a minute.... working the brain overtime so I can wow him with my mommy-wisdom.) I guess I don't really know exactly. (Mommy-wisdom failing me...) They're just words that people think are rude. And they aren't very nice to say. So if you use them people will think that you're not a nice boy. That's why we don't say them.

Gibson: (Looking confused.) But didn't you just say Shit?

Me: Uuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh....... Yes. Yes I did.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Rules.

First things first.... I took down that slide show set to music because, frankly, if I had to hear "somewhere over the rainbow" one more time I was going to shove a pencil through my eardrum. I guess I thought it was really cute when I posted it. Eighty-two repetitions of the ukulele have a way of changing your tune, so to speak. So, ummm, yeah. It's gone. And my eardrums just breathed a sigh of relief. I think they could sense the danger they were in.

And you know what else I did? I dug my "Good Parent" hat out of the depths of the closet, put it on, and made a behavior chart for the kids -- complete with clear expectations and consequences for poor choices. Why a behavior chart? Well.......... we were having a discussion at the dinner table the other evening that eventually, for some reason or another, came around to the fact that the boys don't kick each other at school; That, nay, they would never even dream about kicking each other at school. Or punching each other, or shoving each other, or -- in what might be considered Gibson's signature move -- grinding their foreheads into the head of the other. "Why not?" Mike and I inquired, since they apparently don't think twice about kicking the crap out of each other at home. And do you know what they said? They don't beat each other at school because "at school there are rules and stuff".

This answer of theirs intrigued me, because I swear to everything holy, AT HOME WE HAVE "RULES AND STUFF" TOO! And I am not making that up. We do! With consequences, mind you. And I'd be willing to bet that the consequences they have to face at home are stricter than anything the school is allowed to enforce. But instead of being frustrated and staring at them all slack-jawed in disbelief, we sat back and asked some questions.

"Like what, for example?"

Well, for starters, they are expected to have Safe Feet. Feet that don't kick. And Helping Hands, which by the way, don't hit. And Listening Ears. Ears that do what they're told. Ears that actually listen. Oh! And did I mention FRIENDLY MOUTHS? Well, yes! YES! Friendly mouths. Mouths that are not allowed to label someone else with an ugly name. Mouths that are not allowed to say inappropriate words. Mouths that are expected to speak in a normal tone of voice.

And do you know what sorts of consequences are implemented if there is any infringement on these rules? They have to move their alligators! Can you imagine? Every day they start on the comfort and safety of Green, but if they break a rule they must move to the not-so-comfortable Yellow. If they continue to misbehave it's Uh-Oh-Orange. Or, God forbid, RED. And no one wants to experience the horror of Red.

So you know what? I made a chart too. That very night, right after I excused myself from the dinner table. I pulled out Landis' copy of "THE RULES" and went right to work. (I mean, why re-invent the wheel? Landis's teacher did a fabulous job, and as far as I'm concerned, consistency is good.....) I went on-line and printed off pictures of the appropriate body parts -- Eyes, Ears, Mouths, Hands, Feet -- and I copied the rules, line by line, editing from the classroom for the family. I made little stick-figures to represent each of us -- Mike and I included -- because frankly, we could stand to work on the amount of yelling that both of us do. And to be fair, the rules DO dictate that if you yell, you don't have a friendly mouth. Of course, we yell because there are two little boys who are NOT using their listening ears, but we are all a work in progress, and I digress........

Last but not least, I attached the appropriate color envelope to move our "guys" into, and showed the new chart to the boys when they got out of the shower. They love it. And you know what else? It works! No one -- me included -- wants to move their guy! We remind each other every day to "use listening ears" or to have "helping hands". And yesterday, when I forgot to use my manners because I was concentrating on something else, Landis reminded me. And when I said "Thank you" he said "Well... I waited a minute and then I thought I'd remind you because I knew you wouldn't want to move your guy for not having a friendly mouth!"

It's not without it's kinks, but for the most part we're doing well. When I heard Landis call Gibson a butt-hole in the bathroom, I went right in. "Landis, do you want me to move your guy?"

"No! Nononononononono! I'm so sorry. I know I wasn't having a friendly mouth, and I'll stop. Please don't move my guy! I will always have a friendly mouth! I will not say butt, or butt-hole, or butt-crack, or butt-cheek, or wiener, or poop, or poopy, or poopy-butt, or farts, or farty-butt, or farty-pants, or boogers, or stupid, or shut up.
Oh! And crap.
I won't say crap!"
(Eyes wide, Nods with sincerity.)

So, yeah. Like I said... it's not without it kinks, but for the most part we're doing well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stupid is as stupid does.... Which might mean you're drunk

When I was a kid, there was this Public Service Announcement that used to play on Saturday mornings. It featured a disheveled looking dad walking into his teenage son's room holding a box in his outstretched hand. (It was years later before I finally put together the fact that it was probably supposed to be choc full of weed.) Disheveled Dad shakes the mystery box at angst-ridden son and says something along the lines of "Who taught you to do this?!" and after a few painful minutes angst-ridden son turns to disheveled dad and shouts "YOU, OK!?! I learned it from watching YOU!" At which point he storms from the room while disheveled dad stands in the doorway and adds "deflated" and "dejected" to his appearance.

Then the voice-over begins: Parents who use drugs have kids who use drugs.......

And there's a reason I bring this up...........

We have a Pumpkin Carving Party every year -- typically the weekend before Halloween -- and we usually get a small keg of good beer. (or 2). Our shin-dig is made up mostly of work colleagues and their families, but it tends to be a pretty large and diverse bash due to the sizes of the facilities that both Mike and I work in.

Everyone brings their own pumpkins -- we provide all the carving tools, tea-lights, food, beverages, etc... And at the end of the night we pass out prizes to the top 3 carvers, determined through a very democratic voting process -- except for the year that I legitimately won, but had to take a ribbing all night long because everyone thought for sure I'd rigged it somehow, since it was at my house and all..... (If you want to know more, you'll just have to come sometime....Which I highly recommend because it's really fun.)

But I tell you all of this because awarded with the prizes are specialty bottles of beer that Mike has carefully selected. They always have some sort of Halloween theme, and are usually the types of beers that you can only get at good liquor stores. You won't find them at your typical grocery.....

Landis, who is five, was helping Mike make the tags that were to go over the necks of those 3 specialty bottles, and when he was done coloring the areas of the tags that had been assigned to him, he came over to me and made a suggestion for our party. "I think we should have a beer race."

I don't know about you, but in my mind a "beer race" translates to a chugging contest, so I asked him exactly how he pictured this event taking place.
"Well...." he started, "First you invite a lot of adults over, and each one gets 2 bottles of beer. Then they take the tops off, and they drink 'em REALLY fast. And the person who finishes their beers first, WINS!" And then he grinned at me like a little jack-o-lantern who'd just come up with the best idea ever.
I turned to Mike and said "Uhhhhhhhhhh............ I think Landis just suggested a chug-off."
Mike, chuckling under his breath said "I heard."

I mean, Mike and I aren't hard-core, but we do, in fact, drink. We stock up the cooler pretty well when we go on vacation, or when we get together with extended family....
We sometimes have wine with dinner, and on occasion I come home with a bottle of decent red after an unusually hard day. And I'm not sure what this means for his future, or for studies in DNA, but I swear this 5 year-old kid has just come up with the idea for a chug-off fully on his own.

But before I could fully process the fact that my 5 year old was dreaming up the rules for drinking games in his spare time, Gibson turned around on the couch and said "Well you'd have to be careful Landis, because you could get DRUNK that way!" And since I can't remember ever having a conversation with Gibson that revolved around the word "drunk" in any way, shape or form, I'll go ahead and admit that I was more than a little taken aback. But I quickly gathered my wits, shook off the shock, and told him that he was right. And then and I asked him if he knew what the word "drunk" meant. "It means you're dumb." he explained. And then I laughed out loud because, let's be frank here, in all it's simplicity that's completely accurate.

By now I was completely intrigued because not only did he actually know the word.... he could pretty accurately define it. So I asked another question. "And where did you learn that?".

And in that exact moment, when the last syllable of the last word rolled off my tongue, I inexplicably and instantly had a flash back to that PSA that I haven't seen - or even thought about - in the past 15 years. And in that moment, I had a minor panic attack about my parenting skills - because in my experience, my kids speak the obvious, eye-opening, how-could-you-not-know-that-about-yourself?-truth. And even though in my heart-of-hearts I knew it was highly unlikely, I had this mili-second of a moment where I thought he was going to turn to me and shout "YOU, OK!?!?! I learned it from watching YOU!!"

But instead he shrugged all nonchalantly and announced that he learned it watching COPS. And also that his teacher told him. Which actually makes a lot of sense, because the last time we watched COPS, the drunks they were arresting were REALLY stupid. And apparently that was obvious, even to a 7 year old. And just for good measure here, I'll include the other life-lesson he's apparently learned from watching COPS: "Bad guys don't wear shirts."

I suppose it's a pretty good thing he didn't know us in college.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


We went for an evening paddle last night. The sun was setting, the weather was perfect, and since there's a beautiful river just teeming with wildlife 15 minutes from our house, we decided to have dinner in the canoe. Sort of a floating pic-nic if you will. And truly, it was fabulous.... (Though since we're discussing honesty here, you should know that the real motivational factor here behind our Norman-Rockwell-ish family float, was that Gibson simply would not shut up about it, and refused to let me lay on the couch in peace and quiet. He continually badgered both of us, beating us about the head and neck with his constant questions. Can we go now? Will you get the boat down? Can we go now? If you get the boat down can I help you load it? Let's load it. Come on! Let's go....Let's go.... Let's go.... Can we go? Can we go canoeing? I really want to go canoeing... Can we? Can we? Can we go tonight? Can we have our dinner in the canoe? Can we? Can we? Can we? Can we go right now? Until I was all "OH MY GOD, if it will make you be quiet for more than 2 seconds then OK!!" )

So we floated and ate our dinner, and paddled around as the sun set, and it was fantastic.

And eventually, because the sun was actually setting and darkness was slowly rolling in, we called it a night, loaded up our boat and headed home. As we were driving home discussing the pleasures of our evening pic-nic, the kids started vying for dessert. So, on impulse, Mike pulled into a fast-food restaurant that serves ice-cream cones for $1.00. (I won't tell you which one, but it's name rhymes with NcBonalds)

There we were, having placed our orders for 3 chocolate dipped cones, and one just-plain-vanilla (because I somehow married a man who doesn't seem to grasp the virtues of chocolate) waiting in line behind the one person in the drive through who carefully checks the entire contents of her bag before pulling away. I can only imagine that she's seen that Lethal Weapon movie where Joe Pesci expresses extreme displeasure at having received a tuna salad sandwich, and was fully aware of what calamities might befall her in the drive-thru. And true to form, they'd forgotten her double-cheeseburger. So she's waving and honking to get the attention of the drive-through guy, who proceeds to hang out the window, 2 chocloate-dipped cones in hand, to have a 3 minute discussion with her about what may or may not be in the bag and whether or not she paid for it.

Eventually the two of them come to some sort of consensus and she slowly drives around the corner, having negotiated a deal in which the double-cheeseburger drop would take place at an alternate location so as not to hold up the rest of the line. We pull forward and drive-through window guy, now completely frazzled, hands the 2 already-melting chocolate-dipped cones into our window, which we promptly pass back to our salivating boys. Then he passes the 3rd chocolate dipped cone (for me, of course, because I don't want either of the ones he's been waving around for the past 3 minutes) into our car and closes the window. And then he straight up disappears. For a LONG time. And there we sit......waiting for the obviously forgotten just-plain-vanilla cone.

I take this opportunity to chastise Mike by pointing out that had he just ordered the clearly superior chocolate dipped cone like all the rest of us, we wouldn't be sitting here in this Joe-Pesci-Tuna-Sandwich-they-&#^$*%-you-in-the-drive-through-predicament. And then I lick my cone a few times for good measure, and also because, dang, it's melting everywhere....

The logical thing for Mike to do at this point, naturally, is to start making smart-assed comments. And I knew it was coming. Because let's face it.... part of the reason I married him was for his insufferable sense of humour. And frankly, he married me because I think obnoxious things are funny, which makes me good for his ego. (See how that works?) He starts in. He makes self-deprecating comments about himself and his inability to conform, ornery comments about the woman in front of us who frazzled frazzled-drive-through-guy in the first place, and of course, he pokes fun directly at frazzled drive-through guy.

So I have to admit that I've already got a pretty hearty giggle going on when frazzled-drive-through-guy reappears, scurrying frantically back and forth behind the drive through window -- where we've now been patiently waiting for......Oh........ I don't know, like 10 minutes? He grabs the next bag in the line of food waiting to be distributed, and speaking to someone over his shoulder, opens up the window and begins to pass the goods. And as proper customer service would dictate, half-way through this action he turns to make eye-contact with the family he's passing food to and.... SURPRISE!!!! It's us. Still waiting for the just-plain-vanilla.

Frazzled-drive-through-guy's eyes get wide with recognition as Mike raises his hand in a small wave and I take an extra big lick of my ice-cream cone. He mumbles something incoherent, closes the window and proceeds with great haste to run for the just-plain-vanilla. Mike continues to poke fun at the poor dude, making up a running dialog that surely mirrors what the guy has to be thinking, while I, naturally, am yucking it up in the passenger seat, laughing uproariously at Mike's imitation.

Frazzled-drive-through-guy dashes back to the window, throws it open, and thrusts the plain vanilla in Mike's direction.
"I'm so sorry!" he says as Mike takes the cone.
"Hey, don't worry about it." says Mike. "It wasn't a problem".
And at that particular moment, Gibson leans up in his seat in order to make sure that frazzled-drive-through-guy sees him, shifts his eyeballs in Mike's direction, and says "He was making fun of you."

His statement causes everyone to pause for a second because it's SO obvious that that's EXACTLY what's been going on, and Mike - totally busted - starts to grin. I can't control myself at this point, and I practically choke on my ice-cream as I crow with laughter, cover my tearing eyes with my free hand, and do my best to maintain an upright position -- which is nearly impossible due to the intense abdominal contractions that accompany my hysterical guffaws.

Now luckily for us, frazzled-drive-though-guy has a sense of humor, AND he's fully aware that he totally and completely screwed up our order. So much to our relief, he and Mike look at each other and share a good laugh. And frankly -- I think that frazzled-drive-through-guy needed the kind of release that a good laugh can bring, and I like to think we did him a favor......

But Gibson -- our self-righteous, holier-than-thou child -- slides indignantly back into his seat and pouts. "WHAT?!" he practically shouts. "ALWAYS tell the truth!"

Indeed child. Indeed.

Especially if telling the truth will provide you with a free opportunity to embarrass the Hell out of your father.

Monday, September 21, 2009

When they butcher the phrase, yet somehow manage to make perfect sense........

"Hang on.... I'm going to go cut myself a big piece of slack."
You go, little man. Cut me one while you're at it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WARNING: This post contains unsolicated advice regarding dog ownership,which may be offensive to those with more patience than me.

So I was highlighting my hair... (because you may remember in an earlier post that my kindergartner decided his 60-something-ish teacher was hotter than me, and for cryin' out loud, I had to do something....) and after 30 painstaking minutes of trying to get the activator stuff in all the right places, I realize that it's eerily quiet in the house. So, naturally, like any responsible parent who hasn't been paying a lick of attention to anything but herself for the past half-hour, I wander out of the bathroom and start yelling the names of my children. Turns out that they're outside playing in the part of the flower-bed they've claimed for their sandbox. (On a side note, it drives Mike crazy that they play in there, stomping on the various greenery and such. But you'll note that while he claims to hate it, and makes a big stink every time they get to digging around and driving their trucks through it, he has NOT actually taken any steps toward putting in the sandbox they've been asking for for 3 years now..... But I digress......)

Since my children are accounted for, and since I don't particularly care if they play in that corner of the flower-bed, I walk into the kitchen and set the timer for 20 minutes. But something just seems amiss.....Something I can't quite put my finger on....... and then I realize what it is. No dog. And because the universe has a fabulous sense of humor, precisely when I have this realization the phone rings. It's my neighbor, Mindy, from down the street. She's at the pool with her kids and at least half the neighborhood. And so's my dog. Barking his fool head off at everybody, trying to get someone -- anyone -- to throw him the disgustingly slobbery tennis ball he's scavenged from the woods.

Apparently he's been there for right around 30 minutes -- which means that the instant he knew I was totally and completely distracted, he made a break for it. The kids get lost in their own little world of make-believe, and leave the door standing wide open as they trek in and out gathering more props for their story-line. Sammy, large though he is, can be incredibly stealthy, somehow shrinking in size and disappearing down the street like a theif making a mid-night get-away. Luckily, Mindy thinks it's funny that he's there -- barking incessantly as he tries to badger someone into playing fetch. But I know there are people there who don't, and I groan as I take stock of the situation. There I am -- highlight activator shit gooped into my hair, sporting a ratty old T-Shirt that I don't care if I get bleach on, and a pair of light colored Capri pants that totally show the navy blue pair of underwear I have on. Obviously, I wasn't planning on leaving the house anytime soon.

"Gibson!" I yell out the door. "Sammy's at the pool! Can you get on your bike and go get him?" He looks skeptically at me like he can't believe I'm about to send a 7 year old out on a solo retrieval mission. But I am, because I'm desperate. I describe my situation to my neighbor, who laughs and compares me to the crazy lady who shows up out in public in her bathrobe and slippers with curlers in her hair..... which, if I'm honest, is pretty close. "I'm sending Gibson for him, so keep your eye out, will ya'?" I ask. She agrees, and then I hear her talking to someone in the background. "Oh! Hey Rachel..." she says. "Robin is here and she says she can bring Sammy home if you want her to."


"Ummmm no, that's OK. Tell her Gibson's on his way.... but Thanks!"
Robin* is another neighbor of mine. One I had a falling out with last summer -- over the goddamn dog and his multiple escapes to the pool. (Seriously -- for a hundred pound lab, he's one heck of a Houdini.) She didn't know me very well then, and I think it's safe to say that she'd made some assumptions about me that weren't very accurate. And though that whole situation makes for a good long story, with lots of drama and name-calling, I'm not going to tell it here. We've patched things up, the two of us, and it's just not worth cracking the lid on that can of worms. I know that her offer to bring Sammy home is just an extension of her goodwill -- further proof that we've buried the hatchet -- but it makes my stomach hurt a little all the same.

I close my eyes and rest my gooped-up head against the cupboard while Mindy keeps me posted on the situation. Gibson's there.................. He's trying to get a handle on Sammy. Looks like he forgot the leash..................... Sammy doesn't appear to want to listen. He's laying down in the grass and won't get up.....................Oh wait.......... Gibson has Sammy's ball. Sammy's getting up now. OK -- Now he's following Gibson................. No, he's not............. Wait. Yes, he is.................. They're crossing the bridge........ Headed into the woods............ Looks like they're on their way home. Should be there in 5 minutes.
I thank Mindy and hang up, grateful that she was there to give me the head's up, and also grateful that I didn't have to show up at the neighborhood pool looking like the crazy lady in the bathrobe and curlers showing off her dark colored panties.

And at the risk of offending any dog-lovers who may be reading my incessant drivel..... I'm going to go ahead and state for the record that once you have kids DOGS ARE A GIGANTIC PAIN IN THE ASS. That's right. You heard me. A pain in the ass. And every time I hear someone who has children muse about how wonderful it would be to get the kids a dog I want to hurl myself at their feet and wrap my arms around their ankles begging and pleading with them -- for the love of God! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease -- not to do it.

I know the idea sounds romantic. I even know the images that they conjure up in their heads when they consider it. But here's what hasn't even crossed their minds. They have yet to imagine what it will be like when they're dealing with 50 other things that the kids have going on in the front yard and the dog decides to saunter into the yard next door and casually take a gianormous horse-sized crap RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE NEIGHBOR who just happens to be out working in his flower bed. They don't consider what it's like to drop everything they were holding to yell out "Sorry Ken!!! I'll be right there to get that!!!!!!! while they frantically dig around for a plastic bag and scramble over into his yard, smiling sheepishly and trying to make polite small talk while they scrape up the enormous poo mound.

I bet they haven't given any thought to how much fun it will be when they walk in the front door, having left the house to run a quick errand, to find the entire contents of the kitchen garbage can strewn all over the first floor of the house. Two days worth of coffee grounds, onion peels, broccoli butts, the leftover scrapings from last night's dinner, empty cereal bags, moldy cheese, egg shells, breadcrumbs and anything else that may have gotten stuffed in there over the past few days...... Everywhere. Every. Where. Ground into the teeny-tiny cracks between the hardwood planks so that once they have all the big stuff cleaned back up, it takes an additional 40 minutes of scrubbing - on their hands and knees, of course - to get all the gunk out of there. And how maybe, if they're lucky, their dog will be wearing the top of the garbage can like a cone collar that he couldn't get off his head once he'd decided to go for broke.

They don't consider how much fun it will be to wrestle him down and pry the can lid off, as he yelps in pain because the opening of the trash can lid isn't all that big to begin with -- purchased specifically so he COULDN'T jam his big head into it -- and all that backwards prying is hurting his ears. And I know they're not imagining that the wrestling match would take place after they'd spent a solid 10 minutes chasing him around the house, while he dodged their grasp like a slick pig because he knew that he was in trouble, but he's a lab and the garbage can was RIGHT THERE and oh-my-god-he just couldn't help himself.

And I'll bet they also haven't considered how much fun it will be when he trots inside after consuming approximately 5 gallons of dirt -- because HEY! Why Not?!?! -- unbeknownst to the rest of the family who were busily planting a garden next to the house. And how he'll accompany that tasty meal with about 5 gallons of water, because a meal of nothing but dirt can make a dog VERY thirsty. And then, they'll find out the hard way, that 5 gallons of dirt plus 5 gallons of water is just a taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad bit more than a doggy stomach can hold. And it'll be nothing but AWESOME when pukes it all back up on the family room floor an hour later while they're playing a bowling game with the kids, enjoying a family night for the first time in a month.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that they haven't even imagined yet how this might cause the husband of the family to scream "OH MY GOD!!!" while he runs for some towels to try to contain that gastro-intestinal disaster, while his wife stands there in horror, paralyzed by the sight of the gigantic black tsunami oozing it's way across the family room floor and underneath the kid's geo-tracks. And how she wants to move -- she really does -- but she can't, because she's still trying to figure out how that brackish puddle, easily measuring 10 feet in diameter, could ever have actually fit inside that stupid dog to begin with.

Pain in the ass, I tell you!

Oh -- We loved our dog once. We did! He even accompanied us on our honeymoon. But this was before kids - and like it or not, kids change everything. In fact, before you give me that "you-obviously-don't-love-your-dog-the-way-I-do-and-I-would-never-be-like-you-you-cold-hearted-bitch" look, I want you to know that I've been there. I've stood right in those shoes. You may find this hard to believe, but once upon a time, I stood in the middle of my sister-in-law's kitchen skeptically listening to her mother explain how once you have kids you look down and realize that your dog is just a dog. And I glanced up to see that exact look on my husband's face. And I knew what he was thinking because I was having precisely the same thoughts myself....

But HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Joke's on us. Because it turns out that she was right. At some point in between the middle-of-the-night feedings, and the rocking, and the soothing, and the diaper changing, and the laundry folding, and the bed-time-stories, and the meal preparation, and the kitchen cleaning, and everything else that goes into raising a family, he became just a dog. And one gigantic pain in my ass.

I could continue. Just go on, and on, and on, and on, but I won't. First and foremost because I have SO much material to support my case, that this post would never end. And second, because I think I've made my point.

So if you're thinking about getting a dog, by all means, don't let me dissuade you. I mean they're sweet, and lovable, and they're always happy to see you, and no matter what they love you so much, and yeah, yeah, yeah..... They're all of that. But don't be fooled into thinking that they're not a giant pain in the ass too.

I'm just sayin'............

And you should know that I'm not above saying I told you so.

* Name changed to protect the newly mended "hey, we like each other" nature of our relationship.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rhyming Fun. Brought to you by the letters F and U.

I know I've been writing about Landis a lot lately, but... well... he's the one providing the material these days. And lest you think I'm ignoring Gibson, don't worry. I'm not. He may be walking the straight and narrow right now, but I have no doubts that he'll do something obnoxious here shortly that I'll chronicle on-line for all the world to see...... Just hang in there.

So what was I saying? Oh yes. Landis -- Here's the deal. Lately he's been into rhyming the last word of whatever sentence you happen to be speaking to him at the moment. Any word qualifies for his new little rhyming game, and for some reason that makes sense only to him, he's rhyming them all with the letter F.

It's mildly annoying, this new Tourette's-like habit he's begun, but we go with it. Because it's not like he doesn't communicate or that he doesn't answer any questions you might be asking. He just rhymes first. And I imagine that this new little exercise will get old sooner than later and eventually he'll stop. (At least I hope he does. Good God, can you imagine his future job interviews?) But for the time-being, it goes something like this:

"Did you have a good day at school today?" Today, Foo-day! Yeah. It was pretty good.

"Do you have any homework?" Homework, Fomework! No.

"Ok -- Well get outside and play." Play, Fay! Will you help me get my bike out?

"It's time for dinner!" Dinner, Finner!

"Wash your hands....." Hands, Fands!

"Get your drinks......" Drinks, Finks!

"And come to the table." Table, Fable!

"Did you get to see any of your camp friends at school?" School, Fool! Yes, I saw Jonathan. I got to play with him at the playground.

"Oh, that's great! I heard Jonathan's teacher is Ms. Lucky." And as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized what was coming next. So did Mike. We connected silently across the table with that mildly panicky "oh shit" look as Landis replied to my statement - loudly, I might add - in his standard rhyming fashion.

And then I casually changed the subject and "Hey! More green beans anyone?" so that Gibson would not have an inkling that his 5 year old brother just yelled a serious profanity over the pork fajitas. I mean, they already get a cheap thrill from insulting each other with their arsenal of 'bad' words: Poopy-poopy butt-crack, weenus, crap, and of course, the infamous "S" words -- which every parent of young children knows are Stupid and Shut Up.

So let me take this opportunity to say Thank God for Ms. Hoskins -- and the fact that we never have to utter Ms. Lucky's name in our household ever again. At least not while we're still rhyming everything with the letter F.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Just one more way that having kids keeps you grounded

We haven't had a chance to meet Landis's teacher yet. They stagger the entry of Kindergartners here in Charlotte, so they only go 1 day during the first week of school. They do all their testing, get a chance to learn the ropes a little, and then at the end of that first week they get assigned to a classroom. My understanding is that this process helps make things more even and balanced in each classroom. Gib's teacher we met at the open house -- all young and blond and perky and cute and exactly what comes to mind when you think "1st grade teacher". (I predict that Gibson is going to come home with a crush sometime in the next few weeks, because, sheesh... I would.) But Ms. Hoskins remains a mystery -- a name announced in a message on our answering machine. So after the first few days of school, I asked Landis what she was like.
"Do you like her?" Yes.
"Is she nice?" Yes, but she doesn't let them touch the pictures on the walls in the hallway.
"Well, what else can you tell me about her?" He didn't know.
"What color hair does she have?" Brown.
"How old do you think she is?" Puzzled look.
"Hang on... Let me re-phrase that. Do you think she's older than mommy or younger than mommy?" Landis cocked his head sideways and studied me for a while. Younger.
"Is that all you have for me?" Shoulder shrug.

OK -- Since prying information out of Landis is a lot like prying info out of my husband, or my brother, here's what I can gather thus far: She's a nice lady who makes them exercise some self-control in the hallways. She's got brown hair, she's maybe late 20's -- which means she probably has some experience under her belt -- and he likes her. Good enough for me.

Last week, I opened Landis's "daily take home folder" to find a letter of introduction from Ms. Hoskins. "Hello" it started. "My name is 'I'm-not-giving-her-real-first-name' Hoskins and I have been teaching for 40 years." HUH?! Wha....?! Rewind! What did that say?!?! Did that say she's been teaching for 40 years? Surely not. SURELY I read that wrong. Let's try again, shall we?

"Hello. My name is 'I'm-not-giving-her-real-name-this time-either' Hoskins and I have been teaching for 40 years."

Math has never been my strong-suit, but let's see... ummmmm... 40 plus...ummm....average age of a college graduate.....let's see here.....ummmmmmmmmm.....carry the 1....... Based on my rough calculations she has to be AT LEAST 62 years old. Which, OK -- hooray -- she has all kinds of experience and she's rock-solid in the classroom, and yadda, yadda, yadda. None of that crap matters. Because y'all, the important part here, if you'll recall, is that Landis said that she was YOUNGER than me. And may I also point out that this determination of his was made after some careful study on his part.

Now I know that I had a busy summer. I know that my mornings were early, my days were long, and that my showers were not by any means regular. I can't even remember the last time I wore make-up to work, let alone spent time on my hair. But come on........ (Sigh.......)


I don't care if she's in her 60's. When I finally do get to meet Ms. Hoskins, she'd better be smokin' hot.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Do you have a minute? Because I have someone I want you to meet.

So I got this email from my friend Lynn the other day announcing that she has officially joined the land of the mommy-bloggers. Which, I have to tell you, is really good news. To be frank, I can't believe she didn't do it sooner. I mean, Lynn is actually a writer. She went to journalism school and everything. Studied the stuff. Unlike yours truly here, who majored in ...ummmmmmm...recreation. (No. Really. I did. Want to go whitewater rafting? I can take you. Set up a top-rope climb? Check. Plan meals for a backpacking expedition? No sweat. Understand the nuances of writing like a professional? Not so much.)

I write about butts and poop and how my life revolves around the bodily functions and potty humor of two squirrely little boys. I re-tell obnoxious stories about their antics around the dinner table. (Like how my 5 year-old stabbed half a cherry tomato onto the end of his fork and announced, in a self-satisfied voice, that he had a little pecker.) I roll over and show you our dirty underbelly -- how it's all covered in dog-hair and piled with dirty laundry, and just crying out for a good scrubbing.

Lynn? She writes beautiful prose about Aztec super-grains like quinoa, and how motherhood is the work of the heart. She conjures up spectacular images with her words, and her descriptions are almost tangible as they come to life in my imagination. My favorite line so far is her depiction of how motherhood and writing go together. "The two feed one another" she writes. "snakes swallowing each other's tails, a writhing circle of struggle and consumption."

Oh yeah? Well... Fart, Fart, Butt, Poop.

What else should I tell you about Lynn? She has 4 kids. Four kids that she gave birth to naturally. That's right. All 4 of 'em. I, in stark contrast to my labor-embracing friend, was that woman who grabbed the anesthesiologist by the ears, pulled his face within millimeters of my own so that there would be no misunderstanding, and in between my deep, panting breaths every 2 minutes, barked something along the lines of "LISTEN UP CHUMP! The last time I was in here my epidural didn't work because - unbelievably - the guy who put it in didn't get it in the right place! AND LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR THAT I'M NOT DOING THAT CRAP AGAIN!!! You'll put this epidural in, you'll put it in RIGHT NOW, and you'll damn well get it in the RIGHT PLACE! Kapeesh?!?"

My girl Lynn? She knew she was in labor, so she took a nap. She figured she'd need her rest if the baby was coming that day.

While I wrestled around with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy as a full-time stay-at-home-mom, Lynn relishes it. Finds purpose in it. Is fulfilled by it. Me? If I ain't bringing home at least a little bacon, I can't freakin' stand it. No matter how often Mike referred to it as "our" money, or acknowledged how much work goes into raising the boys and making the household run smoothly, I simply couldn't stand it. I don't care if I'm only bringing in ten dollars a week -- it's MY ten dollars. MY contribution. One I can see immediately. One I can deposit. One I don't have to wait 18 years for in order to determine the success of my work. Don't get me wrong -- I loved the time I got to spend with my boys. That part was wonderful. And I'm not by any means saying that I felt inadequate as a mom. Just as a partner. As a "contributing" member of the household. (And before you come through my computer screen screeching at me about how much stay-at-home-parents work and how much they contribute and how their sacrifices are invaluable I want you to know that I don't need the lecture. I know it. I've been there. I've done it. The issue is with my own ego and nothing more. I feel better about myself when I work -- for a paycheck.) My point here, is that Lynn is able to embrace it fully in a way I never could.

And regardless of our differences, I laugh at all of our commonalities.... We both really enjoy being moms. I know she totally gets how the times I want to pull my hair out by the roots are far outweighed by the times I have to hold onto my heart with both hands. I'm encouraged by the fact that she has piles of laundry so unattended that her husband's shirt molded. (I don't think we've actually hit mold yet, but we sure can work up a good wet stink.) And I love that she feels like she spends her life in the kitchen, feeding her hungry brood. Stuffing them full of love and encouragement, serving up support and clearing away the mess. Because I do too.

The difference is, she writes it down all pretty-like. So I think you should click on over and catch up with Lynn. You'll find her in her kitchen, feeding her hungry, and I'm sure she's serving something satisfying. Tell her Rachel sent ya.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Death, Entimology and Semantics

The kids found a dead cricket yesterday. They were going to keep him as a pet - which , if I'm perfectly honest is exactly the kind of pet I'd like the kids to have. The dead cricket would never need to be fed or let out. He wouldn't bark in my face while I'm sleeping, poop like a horse, or pant hot dog-breath in my face. He'd never barf on my floor after consuming untold amounts of dirt and garbage, try to sneak food off the table, or eat anything out of the trash can. We wouldn't have to make arrangements for his care when we left town, and the best part would be that the dead cricket wouldn't shed all over my house! YES! Please, God, Yes! Let's keep the cricket! But after a lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of having a dead cricket for a pet, they decided instead to bury the poor little guy in the flower-bed. They laid him to rest in their carefully dug cricket grave, filled it back in with dirt, gave it a reassuring little pat, and then went hunting for some bugs they could catch alive.

Sneaking around the side of the house with their bucket, they scanned the plants for a good specimen. And they found one. They captured him while he was feasting on the sunflowers. They created a little bug-house out of an old plastic container and sat watching him for a while. After much observation, Landis decided that what this new bug needed was a little companionship. A little companionship from a dead cricket. He wanted to dig him back up.

Me: Landis, let's not dig up the cricket. He's dead, so he wouldn't really be a good companion for your new bug. Let's just let him rest in peace.

Landis: He pees?

Me: No. "Rest in PEACE".

Gibson: Peace. It means quiet.

Landis: (Nodding solemnly) Ohhhhhhhhhh......... He rests in quiet. AND he pees.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Raging Bull

Let me give you fair warning. Gibson may not be for this world much longer. If you'd like to see him or talk to him before I have to take him out, now would be a good time. (And when I say "now" I mean right this minute, because if he flaps his lips one more time I refuse to be responsible for what happens next. In fact, if he even parts his lips to take a deep breath I might lose it.)

I don't know how he does it. This sweet-faced, wide eyed 7 year-old child is capable of pushing me to places I don't like to go. Pushing with his smart mouth. Pushing with his nasty attitude. Pushing, pushing, pushing - despite fair warning about what's coming next - until he can chink my calm demeanor, and my matter-of-fact answers about why there are consequences for poor behavior choices. And he's only 7.

It's almost audible. That sound that happens from deep within my body when he tosses out his very last smart-mouthed condescending remark.

And I can feel my self-control unwind, loosening it's grip on my tongue and unleashing the discretion I've been able to attach to the level of my voice each time I've turned to address him before now.

Stripped of my stoicism, I am reduced to a wild-eyed snorting bull, pawing the ground and nearly exploding with rage. I know it's obvious to him what's coming next. It's obvious to all of us. Steam is pouring from my flaring nostrils, and he's close enough to see it. But there he stands, chin jutting out, defiantly, willfully waving that red cape. And even though I know better -- Even though I don't want him to know he's gotten to me, I can't help it. I lower my head and practically roar while I charge.

And immediately, I see the recognition in his wide eyes that he's gone too far. That he's pushed me past my limit. Way past my limit. And he's already apologizing, stumbling all over himself to take it back, to admit that he's completely out of line. But my forward momentum is moving, and frankly it's too late for that. Positioning my own face inches from his, index finger extended, millimeters from his nose, I hiss at him to Shut. His. Smart. Mouth. With my angry eyeballs bulging out of their sockets, I remind him in no uncertain terms who is in charge in this household. He cries fat tears and begs forgiveness as I sentence him to 45 minutes hard time on his bed. In my final frenzy, I screech at him to use this uninterrupted chunk of time to think about the consequences of the choices he makes as he defeatedly drags himself up the stairs.

And then it's quiet. The only noises in the house are the sounds of his quiet sniffling and the sounds of my slowing breath as my blood pressure returns to normal.

And, OK -- I admit it. I'm not really going to wipe him out of existence today. Maybe not even tomorrow either, because here's the kicker.... After the 45 minutes have passed I inform him that he may get up. And when I ask him if he has anything he'd like to say to me, he comes up with this: " I'm sorry mom. I really am. At first I thought that you were the one being mean and unfair, but after I thought about it, I realized that I was the one being ugly. That I DID have a smart mouth, and I know I was being an ungrateful brat. And I'm sorry."

I sat there gaping at him, and he smiled. And he hugged me. And he even giggled a little while he shot me a sheepish grin. Then, like all was right with the world again, he turned and went downstairs to play, leaving me here staring at this computer and shaking my head, wondering how we got to this miraculous spot of self-realization. Is turning me into a out-of-control Raging Bull part of the process for him? And if so, (God help me) will I make it through his teenage years without suffering a massive coronary?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When evergreens attack

I know what that sign says!
It says if you stuff a tree into a doorway, it will try to get you!'"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Oh Landis..... I'm trying so hard. But I dropped your birthday cake all over the inside of the stove when I was pulling it out just now. And I think I can salvage some of it with some pudding and blueberries and whipped cream, but I feel so lousy because it's not the double-layer round cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles that I know you had your eye on.

And I owe you a birthday letter that I haven't even started.

And I said I'd be home early for your birthday today, but then things went crazy at work and I didn't make it when I said I would.

And I'm sorry.

I'm trying though... OK? I'm trying really hard.

BUT...... I did manage to get your specially requested dinner into the oven -- so we WILL have meatballs tonight! And because I was late, you did get to play with your friends at the pool for an extra long time, so... OK... I'm feeling better. You? Am I feeling horribly guilty for no reason at all? Were you ever even the slightest bit disappointed?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sundays at our house

We live in the south and we don't go to church. There. I said it. Does that count as confession? Do I need to make the sign of the cross or something? I'm not sure. I was raised Methodist -- and we didn't confess.

We're not anti-church, or anti-God, or anti-religion or anything.... I am, however, anti-drag-ass-out-of-bed-early-on-a-Sunday-morning-to fight-with-the kids-about-what-time-we-have-to-be-out-the-door-if-we-want-to-get-to-church-ON-TIME-and NO-you-are-not-wearing-that-and-OH-MY-GOD-DID-YOU-GET-DRESSED-OFF-THE-FLOOR-and-HURRY-UP-and-brush-your-hair-and-for-the-love-of-God-brush-your-teeth-and-when-church-starts-at-8:30-we-do-NOT-leave-the-house-at-8:30-and-if-I-have-to-tell-you-one-more-time-to-get-in-the-car-I'm-just-going-to-leave-you-here!

I'm also against voluntarily and systematically elevating both my blood pressure and my frustration levels on a weekly basis if I can help it. And frankly, nothing launches those numbers skyward faster than embroiling myself in a losing battle in which my 4 and 6 year old boys are required to sit still and be quiet for extended periods of time. I find that leisurely Sunday mornings spent reading the paper on the couch with the kids playing nicely upstairs beats the Hell out of smiling politely at a large group of people while I grit my teeth and whisper things like "Sit down! Sit up! Be quiet! Get out from under there! Stop whining! It'll be over when it's over! You can't hold it? Seriously? Because I'm pretty sure you pooped before we left the house this morning! Please don't touch that man's head again! I don't know why he doesn't have any hair.... He just doesn't. NO! We don't ask people things like that. He already knows he doesn't have any hair, you don't have to tell him so. We've been over this before: Men can't have babies, only women can have babies. Just because he has a big belly doesn't mean you should ask him when his baby is due. In fact, please don't ever ask anyone when their baby is due unless I tell you it's ok. OK? Now SIT STILL AND BE QUIET."

Not that I didn't get anything out of church when I was a kid. I did. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm sure it was those Sunday morning bulletins that nurtured my desire to cross things off a To-Do list. Prelude? Check. Lighting of the candles? Check. Processional? Check. Call to worship? Check. There was something very satisfactory about crossing off all that we'd accomplished -- knowing that with each crossed off item, we were closer to the end.

At hymn singing time, I practiced my harmony. My bother practiced his "Bob Dillon". He also did a really good Neil Young impersonation, and he even had my mom down-pat. He could belt out her "operatic" style -- assuming here that operatic is actually a word -- in a fantastic falsetto. Seriously, he was pretty good. He still is, so if you live near Eaton, Ohio you should stand near him in church. Though I'm not positive that his wife lets him get away with it anymore, since she doesn't find him to be nearly as funny as I do now that I'm not living with him.

I also honed my deductive reasoning aptitude with wild games of Hangman. You'll know I was raised in the mid-eighties if you can solve this hangman puzzle:
If I recall correctly, he was a regular solution to the game. I mean, really.... He WAS the coolest.

Another skill I picked up at church was the ability to strategize. Do you want to know how I sharpened my strategic know-how, each and every Sunday? The box-building game. I learned it from my best friend, Brooke, and now that I think about it, I'm not even sure if that's the proper name. We never really spoke it out loud -- we just passed the paper and pencil back and forth in the pew, each of us drawing our lines, one at a time, trying to outmaneuver one another and create as many boxes as we could. For whosoever believed that she could create the most boxes would not perish, but be the everlasting champion.

(You'll note that I gave her more boxes in my example because I want to be as authentic as possible -- and she always kicked my ass. Her "strategery" was better than mine.)

I also learned how to be resourceful. One particular Sunday I thought I'd figured out a great way to beat the system, and the perpetual boredom of that hour long service. I smuggled the latest Nancy Drew into the choir loft under my burgundy polyester robe. I thought I was brilliant -- it was a foolproof way to both pass the time AND be quiet. Two birds with one stone! And things were splendid until I caught my mom glaring at me from across the church. (She has a phenomenal evil-eye so it's worth noting that her solitary arched eyebrow can stop you cold in your tracks. Ask any of her former students.) Apparently I was not very covert. I mean, who would guess that being hunched down in the pew with the book propped up on my knees would be a dead-give-away that I wasn't paying rapt attention?

Brooke and I also proved that we had quite a knack for dexterity during those long church services. We were masters of the skillfully placed spit-ball, minus the spit. We'd take turns rolling very small pieces of paper into teeny little paper bombs, and then, in a display of expert marksmanship, we'd launch them off the balcony railing in an effort to see who was the most adept at accurately hitting the target below us. The target, naturally, was the rack of an anonymous woman* sporting the most enormous ta-ta's we'd ever seen. Not only did they extend straight out, they also stood straight up, and frankly, they were just begging to be used as a paper-ball-trampoline for our entertainment. We hit the majority of our shots, but our success was short-lived. Eventually, we were banned from the balcony. Our parents forbade us to sit up there ever again. At least not together.

So maybe I can't remember exactly why Gepetto** was swallowed by the whale, or why Joshua was so intent on winning the battle of Geritol***, but I do think I walked away with the important stuff. It's the stuff I try to pass onto my own kids. Be kind. Love one another -- not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard. Be tolerant and respectful of everyone's differences, knowing that variety and diversity make our lives richer. Judge not. Offer grace and a helping hand to everyone -- and especially to the ones who need it most. Say you're sorry. Practice forgiveness. Trust. Have faith, give of yourself, and do the best you can.

This is not to say that I have all those lessons nailed; That I exude grace under pressure, or that I'm tolerant of viewpoints that are one hundred and eighty degrees from my own. I can freely admit that I don't always have the most grace in that regard. But I work on it every day. We all do. Even when we're chillin' on the couch on Sunday mornings reading the paper instead of getting dressed for church. I'm at peace with our choices, and I know God understands. After all, She has children too.

* * * * *

* Let me take this moment to extend my apologies to this poor woman, who must have had to muster up all the inner-strength she had in order to stay in her seat and pretend there was not a steady stream of paper raindrops cascading down in front of her face and bouncing heartily off her chest. She would have been well within her rights to march up the stairs and throttle the kids who thought there was nothing funnier than watching little balls of paper spring up off her boobies. Lady, if you're out there, I'm sorry. But, dang, that was funny.

** Just kidding, mom. I know it was Jonah.

*** Mrs. Ertle let us sing it like that, so that's how I remember it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here, let me set the stage for you:
The neighbor kids are over, and just a few minutes ago they were all playing upstairs with the bedroom doors shut. I was (and still am) sitting at the desk right outside the bedrooms uploading some recent pictures onto our computer. One of the doors just swung wide open and Gibson came out of the room with a ring of old house keys in his palm. He slung the door shut and blazed onto the landing, surrounded by this air of purpose -- sort of like he was on a mission.
"What'cha doin' Bud?" I asked.
"We're playin' house." He replied. "So I'm goin' to work."

Which made me laugh because I guess that is a lot how "House" goes around here these days.

"Oh!" he paused mid-step and spun on his heel. Then he walked back into the room mumbling "I forgot to feed the kids and the dog......"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Scientific Method

I have pink toilet bowls. Not that they're supposed to be. They're not. In fact, they're supposed to be white -- your standard toilet bowl color. But mine are covered in about a quarter-inch of pinkish funk.

I know. Gross.

You may, at this point, be wondering A.) what in the world has caused this disgustingness, and B.) why in the world I would broadcast it to the public at large. Well, we in the Kafsky household, are in the middle of a colossal scientific experiment. An experiment that may just blow the minds of geneticists world-wide. Because you see, Internet, it would appear that I'm the only person in this household who knows how to flush. I have no idea why this is. Perhaps the inability to flush a toilet lies on the Y chromosome. Perhaps you have to be in possession of a uterus to actually be put off by urine fermenting in a toilet all day. And perhaps it is because I'm in possession of that double X chromosome that I'm driven not only to flush, but also to actually scrub a toilet once it starts to become unsightly.

Given the likelihood of the possibilities, I decided to conduct a real, true scientific experiment. That's right. The real deal. I'm using the scientific method, and I plan on reporting my findings to the United Scientists of America. Or maybe just to my other mommy-friends. We'll see.......

In order to be authentic and concordant with facts, we are doing this sucker by the book. Here is your exclusive inside peek at the scientific method at work:

1. Ask A Question:
As the sole possessor of a uterus, am I the only human being in this household who is bothered by funky toilet bowls to the extent that I will clean them?

2. Construct a Hypothesis:
Because I am an eternal optimist, I will hypothesize that those in my household who are in possession of a Y chromosome -- and thus not in possession of a uterus -- will, if given ample opportunity, take on the cleaning of the progressively funky toilet bowls in question. (I mean surely - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - another member of my household will notice the filth and see fit to clean them.)

3. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment:
I shall ignore the condition of the toilets in question for an extended period of time -- let's say 3 weeks so they have ample time to get good and disgusting-- what with all the non-flushing and marinating in urine thing they all have going on. During this time period, while I shall not initiate any cleaning, I will do my part by continuing to flush as usual.

4. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion:
Analysis: At the conclusion of the assigned 3 week time period, there continues to be a quarter-inch of pinkish slime coating the inside of all 3 toilet bowls in our household. There has been no attempt on the part of anyone in possession of a Y chromosome to rectify this situation, nor has there been any significant evidence that they have even noticed that they pee into filth. I, as the conductor of this experiment, find this to be completely baffling, being that the possessors of the Y chromosomes STAND UP TO PEE, and thus STARE INTO THE TOILET BOWL 18 TIMES A DAY.
Conclusion: Those in possession of a Y chromosome - and thus no uterus - seem to be incapable of detecting when, exactly, a toilet bowl is in serious need of a good scrubbing. Indeed, contrary to my stated hypothesis, given plenty of time and ample opportunity, they seem to be completely oblivious to filth in the bathroom. And if not oblivious, certainly not motivated to clean it.

5. Communicate Your Results:
Me: "I cleaned the toilets today because I couldn't take it anymore."
Mike: "Yeah..... They were pretty disgusting..."

Nobel Peace Prize -- Here I come............

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Facebook reunions go awry.....

I love Facebook. Love it. In the first year that I'd created my account, I spent a good chunk of time checking in every single day in any spare minute I had. My husband made fun of me, but I was enthralled. What was everyone up to? Who might show up in my in-box next? It was perfect for a small town girl -- the equivalent of rounding the grocery store isle and coming face to face with someone you grew up with, but probably haven't seen or spoken to in 15 years. If you have a Facebook account, you know what I mean.... Every time someone new pops up it's like: "HOLY COW! JOE SCHMOE!!!! What are you doing here? How have you been? What have you been up to? Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have any kids?" And you spend a few Facebook sessions chatting, or posting on each other's walls, looking through their pictures and piecing together the past few years. Stumbling into all these old friends and acquaintances was a blast -- and I ate it up. And then one day, while surfing through all my "friends" I made a fantastic discovery. A girl I went to school with lived right here in Charlotte! And not just anywhere in Charlotte...... Really close! No more than a fifteen minute drive. I immediately pointed this out to her in a wall post, and we went to work making plans to try to get together.

As it happens -- because we all have busy lives -- it took us at least 3 tries over a 2 month span to actually pull it off. But one sunny Sunday, we managed to connect at Outback for lunch. Mike was working, and her significant other was out of town, so of course we each brought our kids -- all boys. Mine ages 6 and 4. Hers, age 3. It was a fun - yet mildly chaotic - reunion, as it tends to be anytime kids are crowded around a public table. We did our best to catch each other up on the past decade and a half, in between placing orders, making bathroom runs, and corralling young children bored by our banter. After about an hour at the restaurant, we'd managed to have about 15 minutes worth of a conversation.

"Is there a park near here?" I asked. I felt like we were just getting started, and I wasn't really ready to wrap it up. We debated for a while about where the best place to go might be, and then I finally said "You know, I live close to here. It's a beautiful afternoon, why don't we pick up some beer and hang out at my house. We can hang out in the backyard and the kids can play." We agreed that it sounded like a good plan, we got into our cars, and she followed me to my house. We spent the afternoon indulging in a few cold ones, catching each other up on our lives, and gossiping about high school. The kids played in the yard, climbed trees, and pretended to be spies -- crawling around us on their bellies. It was fun.

It was an unseasonably warm day and one O'clock turned into three O'clock, which turned into five O'clock. I invited her to stay for dinner. "We have plenty" I said. "Y'all are more than welcome to eat with us. And you can meet my husband." We moved into the kitchen so I could put the pots on the stove, get the pasta started, and sautee onions and garlic for the sauce while we chatted. When Mike called to say he was on his way home, I filled him in on our afternoon, and then told him that I'd invited my friend and her son to stay and eat with us.

A few minutes later Mike came in the door and I introduced him to my friend from high school. He shook her hand and told her it was nice to meet her. She returned the greeting, then turned back to our conversation. We'd been talking about a guy we'd grown up with, and she'd been telling me that she'd always had a crush on him. We'd been giggling about it right before Mike came in, and the conversation steered right back to where we'd left off. Except that the conversation took a turn I wasn't expecting. "I always thought he'd have the biggest d*ck!" she spouted. "I mean, I totally would have F*&#ed him."

"WHAT!?" I turned and looked at her, and then shot a surprised look over at my husband. He turned and left the room. And then I laughed -- sort of nervously -- because I was so incredibly uncomfortable with what just happened. And did I mention that her 3 year old son was sitting on the couch 10 feet away? Well, he was.

And that right there should have been the first indication that this entire evening was about to go straight into the shitter. That everything was about to go terribly, horribly wrong. But in my eternal optimism, I reasoned with myself that it was just a slip -- I mean everyone has one now and then, right? And that surely she realized how inappropriate her comment was. Perhaps it was an attempt to be funny..... And when your jokes fall flat, you quit telling them, right? Right?

She followed Mike outside, and I got dinner on the table. I set the kitchen table for the adults, and set the table on the back patio for the kids. I thought they'd like to eat out there, and having them out of ear-shot would settle my nerves. But, of course, once we all started eating they came inside. "We want to eat with you!" they announced. I could tell that Mike didn't like the idea, but he was silent about it. Me? I didn't particularly like the idea either but I also didn't want to create a big scene. I mean the kids were oblivious to the rising tension -- as was my friend -- and I wanted to keep it that way. I figured that we'd shuffle some chairs around, shovel food into everybody, and then get them out the door to put an end to the rapidly deteriorating evening.

But the pasta was hot. Way too hot for the kids. I knew it would be, because in my haste to get this all done and over-with, I'd accidentally spilled the red-pepper flakes. The recipe calls for a few, but there were lots. I'd scooped out as many as I could, and added some more broth to try to even it out, but to no avail. It was on fire. And the kids were all complaining about it.

"You know.....It's OK. You don't have to eat it." I said. "Maybe just eat the tomatoes......" But even that wasn't working very well. "It's HOT!" they all protested. Her 3 year-old started crying a little.

"It's not that bad! Just eat it! Just eat it you pu$$y!" she yelled at him. Mike's head snapped up. I stared at her in disbelief. Did she just call her 3 year old something completely vulgar at my dinner table?! And then, to my utter dismay, and apparently just for good measure, she repeated herself. "STOP IT!" I said. "STOP SAYING THAT!!" Then, she stood up from the table, stared at her little boy, and cocked her fist back like she was going to hit him. He cowered a little, and she laughed, because you know, it's absolutely hilarious to pretend like you're going to punch your child.
"Eat it!" she said. "Shut up and Eat it you little pu%^y!"

Mike pushed his chair back from the table, and said in the quietest most steely voice I've ever heard "I am taking our kids to get ice cream, because we are getting the Hell out of here. Call me when this mess is cleaned up." I nodded in complete agreement and the two of us jumped up from the table. "All done?" I asked, as I swiped plates and dumped them in the garbage. "Here, let me get that for you..." In less than 5 seconds I had cleared the table, scraped the plates into the trash can, and stacked them by the sink. Mike leaned over my shoulder, "Rach," he said into my ear "You can't let her drive..... She's hammered. She's completely out of control. She'll kill somebody. And she can't drive with her little boy..."
"Don't worry..." I whispered. "I won't let her get behind the wheel.... Just get the kids out of here. I'll call you as soon as she's gone."

Mike swept the kids out of the house, loaded them into the car, and disappeared down the street. I went back into the house and then out the back door to find my friend, who had wondered out of the house in her stupor. "Let me call Brian." I said. "Let me have him come and get you." She sank down on the back step. "Please don't call him." she begged. "Please....... He hates me."
"He doesn't hate you....." I tried to reassure her.
"Yes he does." She cried. "He hates me for who I am...." And then she dissolved in tears right there on the back step.

I did my best to console her, and then dug the phone book out of the closet to start calling cab companies. After a few calls, I found someone who was in our area and who agreed to schedule the pick-up. In the meantime, she took a phone call from her boyfriend who I can only assume accused her of being out and drunk, because she protested again and again, and then insisted over and over again that she was just sitting at home. I wondered how she thought she was going to pull that off.

I checked my watch - it was 7:00pm - and speculated about how long it might take the cab to get here. I cleaned the kitchen while she wandered aimlessly out into the back yard. And as I loaded the dishwasher and counted the minutes dragging by, I heard her yelling at her little boy. She called him profane names because he was whiny, because he was tired, and because he wouldn't stand up. Names, by the way, that all my neighbors could hear through their open windows.

I took her keys and moved her car out onto the street. Then we stood together in the front yard and I explained that I'd called a cab -- that it would be here any minute. "You just can't drive, OK? You can get your car tomorrow......." She thanked me for calling a cab, and then tried to sit down on the edge of the flowerbed to wait. But instead of sitting down, she fell over. I helped her up, and we sat for a minute until the cab pulled up in front of the house.

Her son was understandably worried about getting into the cab with a strange man. He cried, and squirmed, and tried to get away from the unfamiliar car we were trying to put him into. She struggled with him, and he cried harder.
"Can you open the other door?!" I asked the driver. I'm sure I looked desperate. I was. The driver clicked the button and told me it was open. I crawled through the back to help her son calm down and help him sit in his seat.
"Hey buddy", I forced a smile at him. "It's OK. This man is going to take you to your house. He's going to drive you home." He stared at me with his earnest little brown eyes and stopped crying. I smiled harder. "I'm going to buckle you into this seat belt, and this nice man is going to drive you home. OK?" He nodded. "It's going to be OK, alright buddy? Everything is going to be OK." He nodded, and smiled, and that's what did me in. Because I was telling this child that everything was going to be OK, when I was pretty sure it wasn't. I mean, he'd get home safely.....that much was true. But I felt pretty sure that there was no way on God's green Earth that everything was going to be OK.

They pulled away and I walked back into my house as drained as one person can possibly be. How did she manage to drink so much without me realizing it? How did I manage to be so caught off guard? How did I not recognize that she was getting so out of control? But honestly, it was like a switch flipped the minute Mike walked in the door, and this whole other person emerged from her body. It was horrible. And the fact that her 3 year-old was caught in the middle of this horrendous experience? It was too much.

I called Mike to tell him she was gone and he told me that they hadn't ordered yet, so I went to meet them. The boys were thrilled about being at the ice-cream store, and chattered excitedly about which flavor and topping they were going to get. Mike put his arm around me, and I stood there running the last hour through my mind and trying hard not to cry in public. It took me days to shake it off -- to get rid of that awful pit in my stomach. In fact, I'm not really sure I have.

As it stands now, I don't log into Facebook as often as I used to. And these days, when I do, I do it with a little cringe. It's lost it's luster. The excitement I once had about re-connecting with people I grew up with has been replaced by a feeling of trepidation. Instead of being fun and carefree, I wonder what kind of can of worms I might be unintentionally cracking the lid on.

So if I see you on Facebook, I might chat you up a little. Perhaps I'll even send you an email. But don't be offended if I don't invite you over for a beer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And this is how you prove it.......

I'm not entirely sure what's going on in the cosmos lately, but the boys are constantly picking at each other over the most utterly mundane things -- and the tattling, the nit-picking, the non-stop arguing over who is's making me crazy. The latest in the long line of arguments happened after the bath last night.

Gibson, in all his self-righteousness insisted that Landis did not wash his neck thoroughly enough.

"YES I DID!" Countered Landis. And to prove he was right, he turned to me and demanded that I smell it. So, in order to keep the peace and put an end to the argument, I did. And it smelled just fine -- like whatever bar soap they have in there -- which I reported back to Gibson. "His neck smells fine. Now brush your teeth."

"Well, he didn't wash under his armpits at all!" yelled my oldest -- who, might I add, should be identified here as the main instigator.

"YES I DID!" Countered Landis. And to prove once again that he was right, he turned to me and demanded that I smell them. So, in order to keep the peace and put an end to the argument, I did. And they smelled just fine -- like whatever bar soap they have in there -- which I reported back to Gibson. "His armpits smell fine. Now brush your teeth."

"Well maybe he washed his armpits, but I know for a fact that he didn't wash his butt!" Gibson shot back.

At which point a thoroughly exasperated Landis countered "YES I DID!!!!" at the top of his indignant little lungs. And without further ado, he turned to me, dropped trow, bent over and demanded that I smell it.

Now, I don't know about you..... but I gotta' tell ya'........... as a parent, I've done some pretty gross things; Things I never thought I would do in a million years. And frankly, I'm so tired of all the bullshit and the fighting, that I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't briefly consider taking a whiff of that shiny little hiney, patiently waiting high in the air for my sniff and my verdict, just to shut them both up. But in the end, I declined. Because the arguing and bickering may be making me nuts, but I ain't interested in keeping the peace THAT badly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

And on this day, I managed not to pick a fight.

You know, Internet, this whole "going back to full-time work" thing is really putting a crimp in my blogging style. At work I've got, like, deadlines and stuff. And when I get home, my husband wants me spend some time with him instead of typing on the computer. I mean, where are his priorities? Geesh....

But he's at work today, and I'm at home with an entire house to clean and a couch full of laundry to fold, and lots of dust and dog hair staring me down............. So.....TA-DA! It's posting time! You know.... Priorities, right?

Anyway...........Here's a little tid-bit I wanted to share with you. And before I get started, I will present to you my bona fide disclaimer: Mike has really stepped up to the plate where the household chores are concerned. With both of us working full-time, he's been doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and taking the initiative on all sorts of things that fell under my "domain" as the stay-at-home-parent. He's doing a good job and I'm officially and publicly acknowledging it. OK? OK.

And now, with my pesky little disclaimer out of the way, I shall proceed with my story........
Mike cleaned the heck out of the upstairs the other day. The boys rooms were spotless, all the toys on the landing were put away, the beds were made and the bathroom was clean. That takes some serious time and effort, and I know that. I do it ALL THE TIME.

But Mike was huffy because two days after he'd spent his afternoon cleaning and organizing and making things nice, the boys had gone upstairs and played with their toys. I forget why he'd gone up there, but he came back down grumbling and frustrated that he'd spent all that time cleaning up after them, and they'd gone upstairs and messed it all back up! The poor man was so annoyed that you could practically see the hair standing straight up off the top of his head.

So I listened to his grumbling, and I nodded sincerely and said "Yeah.... I know....... It's really frustrating." And then I gave him a reassuring little pat on his back and left the room. Because if I didn't I would have added: "It's a little like how I bust my behind every single day to do the enormous amounts of laundry that you guys create. I mean, I get it washed and dried and sometime put back away, and you guys go right back in and WEAR THOSE CLOTHES! AGAIN!

And every freakin' Saturday I have to get my behind to the grocery store because we're almost out of food. For cryin' out loud, I spend all this time planning meals that fit into our budget, and spend all this money buying it, and you guys just turn around and eat it. You EAT IT ALL. And you eat ALL THE TIME.

And how I keep vacuuming the floor, and yet you guys insist on coming back inside! From outside. Where there's dirt. And dried up leaves. And grass clippings. And whatever else you drag back in. And the dang dog has the nerve to come inside and shed -- SHED -- right back on my floors!

And the last time I scrubbed the toilets, at least one of you had the audacity to actually go right on in there and POOP IN IT! I mean, COME ON! I just spent my time cleaning it. Do you really have to use a toilet?! Can't you go outside to the neighbor's yard or something? And at the very least boys, can you please actually HIT THE TARGET?"

But I didn't say that. I didn't say any of it. I just left the room and had my own private little laugh instead. Because, Internet, I am a good wife. And I know how to choose my battles.