Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mr. Mom

Justin's surgery is tomorrow morning. This will pretty much end his stint as an at-home dad. He'll rest and recover and then be back to work.

Yesterday he took the boys to Aldi's, a discount supermarket, and Superman Returns, played chess with Johnny, fed J.J. bottles, and did all the other things that come with being an at-home parent.

After Aldi's he asked, "Did you know you have to put down a deposit on your cart? Did you know you have to buy your own bags?"

These are things moms around here know, but I can see how they would be surprising to first-timers.

Other lessons learned: Never change a diaper until you at least know the general viscinity of the wet wipes. If you're going to give Johnny a chocolate bar, you might as well give him a triple espresso to wash it down with because it makes him crazy hyper. Do not even make it appear that you're going to touch J.J.'s food. It's best to keep a 3-foot distance from his high chair. The distance from your parking spot to wherever you're going is "miles." At least it always seems that way. Let Johnny win in chess. Let Richie win at superheros. Let J.J. win at peekaboo. Because if they're happy, you win.

And my favorite, at the end of the day, Justin said, "I am so tired from watching the kids. I don't know how you do it."

Granted, Justin was watching the kids while injured and he doesn't have five years of on-the-job training under his belt. And I'm sure I'd say the same thing if I tried to be a carpenter for a couple weeks. Still, it was nice to hear.

After all this, I am one freelance client richer and more motivated than ever to find more. That way, I can keep doing the toughest job I'll never get paid for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns

Superman Returns opens today.

The boys are curious about Superman's powers. He isn't big and green like the Incredible Hulk, or made of rock like the Blue-Eyed Thing or a giant ape like King Kong. He's just a man. (Well, an alien actually.) So how can he be so strong?

"Who's stronger, King Kong or Superman?" Johnny asks.

"Superman," I say.

"But King Kong killed a T-Rex," he says.

"Superman throws bad guys into outerspace," I counter.

"I think they're equal," Johnny says.

"Who's stronger, The Blue Eyed Thing or Superman?" Richie asks.

"Superman," Justin says.

"But the Blue Eyed Thing can hold up a bridge with cars on it," Johnny says.

"Superman can stop earthquakes," Justin says.

"They're probably the same," Johnny says.

"Who would win, the Incredible Hulk or Superman?" Johnny asks.

"Superman," I say.

"I think it would be a tie," he says.

I guess that's what kids like about Superman. He looks so normal that no one can believe he's super. That's why he only needs a pair of glasses as his disguise. And yet, he always saves the day.

You'd think that a superhero that strong would be boring. Where's the conflict? What problem does he have to solve? Besides kryptonite, I mean. Well, love of course. Lois Lane is in love with the strongest man in the universe. Himself. Oh, wait, that's not much of a problem.

But Superman, somehow, is not boring. Oddly, we can relate to him. Everything he does, he does for love. And nobody looks big and tough in the face of love.

Superman is like us. So when Richie puts on his Superman cape, which came in the mail yesterday, and sings "Da da da da da da da..." he's must be just like Superman, too.

The other day, Richie's Nana sent a Superman figure that he forgot in Boston.

"You came back," Richie said.

"I love you," Superman said, through Richie.

You'd never hear the other super-strong heros say that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Super Birthday Party

Richie's superhero school birthday party was Sunday at 3 p.m.

Richie was dressed in his new Robin costume by 11 a.m. He came outside while I was filling up water balloons.

"You'll need these in case you see a bad guy," I said.

"So if I don't have powers, I can throw waterballoons!" he said, as if he'd just discovered the great secret of heroism.

He took off his powers--the costume--since he was hot, and later wore a Batman costume to the party.

Early in the party, Batman and Robin leaped down our back stairs, saying, "Hello, citizens." (My cousins Brett and Jono were mysteriously late for the party.)

Superhero school began.

"I'm having some trouble with my publisher," Batman said. "So I had to borrow my friend Superman's guide book."

He had a book on how to be a superhero--which he later gave to Richie.

Their first lesson was how to tackle a goon. Richie's friend Max played the goon and his friend Sophia was the superhero. As she chased him around the yard, Batman coached her to "Cut the distance! Cut the distance!" She caught the goon and tackled him.

Soon the lessons got harder.

"Raise your hand if you've ever been shot at," Batman said.

A few kids absent mindedly raised their hands.

"Come on," Batman said. "Raise your hands."

Soon all the kids were raising their hands, even J.J. They practiced running serpentine in case they were shot at again.

Next Batman asked, "Now, who knows what to do if you're exposed to radiation?"

The same kids who'd been shot at raised their hands. Batman explained, for the others, what to do, in scientific detail.

"Does everyone understand what I'm saying?" he asked. They stared at him blankly. I think that means they got it.

Other lessons were digging their partners out of the snow after an avalanche--"Faster! Faster!" Batman and Robin coached--and flying.

Richie was pretty shy through all this. He left the volunteering to his friends. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, "Stand here with me." Having his two heros at his party was pretty overwhelming.

Meanwhile, my brother Josh mysteriously disappeared.

Then, while the children learned how to be invisible, Robin yelled, "Holy villain, Batman!"

Two-Face was holding Richie's granddad up with two waterguns!

"Nananabooboo," Two-Face yelled before running into the front yard.

There, the kids threw the water balloons at him, and Two Face cringed dramatically with every hit, especially when one went into his mouth and the mask filled with water. Batman almost had to save his life.

Two Face went down, and Richie just stared at all this like he couldn't believe what was happening.

"Richie, Richie," said Batman. "We need you. Cuff him. Cuff Two Face."

Richie ran over, pumping his arms, and punched him right in the stomach. Though he had been shy around the superheros, he was not afraid of the supervillain.

He helped Batman put imaginary handcuffs on Two Face.

"I have to take him into custody now," Batman said. "Good bye."

Before going to jail, Two Face insisted on having the last word.

"Richie, you saved the day," he said.

Richie stared at them with pride. As the other kids threw the remainder of the water balloons, he just stood there, smiling. He did it. He was officially a superhero. He didn't have to fly. He just had to cuff the supervillain.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My 3 year old Just Turned 4

This is for my 3 year old, who just turned 4.

When you were 3, Richie, you fell in love with superheros. You had me tie a red and white striped kitchen towel around your neck while you waited for Santa to bring you a real cape. A Batman one. You thought you could fly.

Then one day, you needed to fly. A balloon flew to the top of our backyard elm tree and you ran inside, pumping your arms. And I tied that tea towel around your neck, even though I could see where this was going. And you ran back out, holding your fists up in the air. And jumped. Nothing.

You ran back in, sat down at your little table and wept, "I can't fly. I can't fly."

But that didn't stop you from wearing your Batman cape when Santa brought it. Because you never know when your powers will kick in.

Why, just the other day, you flew from one side of the couch to the other and said, "Watch this. I can fly."

So I hope, now that you're four, and for always, that you'll always think you can fly, despite all the evidence that says you can't.

When you were three, you met your new brother, J.J. You learned how to make him laugh by doing rasberries on his tummy. And how to make him cry by taking his soccerball, Nelson, away.
You learned to draw people with heads and legs, who look like goblins. But sometimes you still just scribble. Your favorite toy, besides superheros, is your watergun, which you shoot at the rain to make it go away. You mastered the following tricks when you were 3: turning on the hallway light, opening the front door, doing a somersault with no hands, and going potty like a big boy. 11 superheros called to congratulate you on the last one.

The night before you turned 4, a lightening bug flashed its light on the pillow between you and Johnny. As Johnny scooped it up and put it back in its jar, your eyes got wide.

"How old are you going to be tomorrow, Richie?" I asked.

"Um. I don't know," you said. "Will you tell daddy to come in here?"

You asked your daddy, "How old is I going to do when I'm tommorow?"

He told you and you asked, "Am I make a wish now?"

You said, "I want me and daddy to go to Boston Nana and Papa's house. And I want to catch a lightning bug."

Here's to your wishes, big and small, (but mostly small.) May they come true when you are 4 and always.

You've watched your brother catch lightening bugs. You've laid your sleepy head beside one. But you've never caught one. I bet, when you're four, you will. And knowing you, that will mean more than the average person would read into it. It will mean that you are a member of the great Justice League. It will mean you can fly.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Good news. Justin tore his miniscus. I know that doesn't sound right, but it's really a best case scenario, as far as knee injuries go.

We found out from his doctor yesterday that, if the workman's comp. people get back to them on time, Justin could have the surgery on Monday of next week. Recovery will take one-two weeks.

Thank you all for your help and support.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Work from Home!

Work from Home!

You see that advertized in every newspaper and magazine. Let me tell you, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Not when your husband and three children are in the next room, making all kinds of racket. As they should be. It is, after all their home.

Now that I have 10 articles to write by the end of next week, I'm beginning to yearn for that cubicle and the endless stream of phone calls at my old office. Crazy as it was, at least I could write fast there. I had deadlines. Not just the Friday morning one for the paper, but the 5:30 p.m. one every night, when I picked the kids up at daycare.

At home, I don't have to be anywhere at anytime. But I have to be everywhere all the time: the laundry room, cleaning the kitchen, playing with the kids.

Then I keep putting them off.

"Go see your daddy," I tell J.J. after a quick game of peekaboo.

"Ask daddy to get you a drink of juice," I tell Richie.

And I know they're thinking, "What are you doing, exactly? Playing on the computer?"

I saw a report that said the most ill-adjusted children are the ones of moms who work from home, something I did for two years before going to work full-time at the newspaper. Kids see their moms working and are like, "Why is she ignoring me?"

That's why, the second time around of being an at-home/work-from-home mom, I vowed to only work when the boys were asleep or at my mom's on Tuesday. Phone calls would have to wait. Working for the newspaper would be impossible.

Until now. With Justin home injured, I'm trying to pick up the slack, thus putting off my re-entry into the full-time work force for as long as possible.

My "office" now is a computer in our dining room. I make phone calls on our back stoop. Or leave messages, that is.

You know when a telemarketer calls you and sounds half robotic: "Hi, this is Sharon. Be sure to call me at 555-5555. I have a great deal for you on home mortgages." And you're like, "Do people actually call her back?"

I think the same thing goes through people's minds when a newspaper reporter leaves messages for them.

The good thing is, now Justin is home to pick up my slack. The boys love when their daddy watches them. It's all they can drink juice. All they can eat snacks. And all they can watch T.V.

The problem is, I miss my kids and they're in the room right next to me. I'm here, but I'm not here. I'm tuning them out, making it harder to bring them into focus when they ask a question or say something funny or sweet.

There is no easy way to be a working mom.

Then again, I have friends who stay at home without picking up side jobs and think this scenario would be fun. Going out to do stories. Getting a break from the kids here and there. Being home all the time, they probably feel obligated to do their laundry and clean their houses in a timely manner. Maybe they have to tune their kids out a little bit, too. I guess there's just no easy way to be a mom, period.

Whether we work from home, at home or away from home, we're all working moms.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Vocabulary Emerges during the Summer

When you throw kids into a new experience, their mind has a growth spurt. Summer is full of new places and new acts of bravery--for Richie, learning how to swim, for J.J., standing up by himself, and for Johnny, hanging out with the big kids at the pool.

Their vocabulary has grown as a result of this. They just don't know the definitions yet.

For instance, yesterday, on the way to swim lessons, Richie, 3, announced, "I have to go peepee. So...that's interesting."

Johnny, 5, remarked while watching an ad on T.V., "I didn't know that McDonald's abducted Cartoon Network."

When my aunt Mo offered him a bag of Cheetos he said, "No, thanks. They're too collectable."

What do you mean, we asked him.

"We'll eat them all in one day," he said.

J.J., meanwhile, learned his first baby sign language word. Not surprisingly, it is "eat--" holding his fingertips to his lips. I was rolling up turkey cold cuts for the boys when he stopped crawling to do this.

I also tried to teach him "more," which is putting your fingertips in the palm of your hands and "hold me," which is holding your hands out.

But instead, he says, "MMMMMM!" when he wants anything.

I try to guess what he's asking for. "More juice?" I ask, doing the sign for drink. "Get down?" I guess, holding my hands out. "Milk?" I say, acting likeI'm milking a cow.

He looks at me as if to say, "Okay, I don't know what the protocol is here. I'm not familiar with your culture. I don't speak your language. I just want a can of rootbeer. And I'd like to play with daddy's cell phone. And throw your car keys in the trash. And pull all the books off the shelf and dump out the box of crayons. What's the baby sign for that?"

Then he claps.

The beauty of baby talk is that if you sing Patty Cake they totally forget what they were going to say. So...that's collectable.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Kool-Aid Stand

Justin tried working yesterday, but his knee hurt too bad. I have some newspaper stories lined up to do during the next couple weeks. Justin's doctor appointment is Thursday.

It's still up in the air whether I'll go back to work after his surgery.

Meanwhile, Johnny, 5, and Richie, 3, have their business plan all worked out.

At 7:30 a.m. yesterday, they set up a Kool-Aid stand on our front driveway. Johnny brought his dinosaur piggy bank outside and Richie brought his Superman one. Richie kept shaking his bank until a quarter or nickel fell out. Then he handed it to Johnny and poured himself a cup of Kool-aid. He did this about 11 times.

Cars would drive by and Johnny would run over to the sidewalk and yell, "Kool-aid Stand!" but they didn't even turn their heads. If hippopotomuses were doing the can-can in our yard, I don't think it would have caught people's attention, either. It was, after all, 7:30 in the morning.

Meanwhile, Richie would shake his bank and when the money fell out, say, "Oh, here's another quarter. I'm going to have one more cup."

Johnny, on the other hand, was all business. He didn't even give up when it started to rain. In fact, he took the lid off the pitcher of Kool-aid so that it would fill with water and there would be more of it to sell.

Honestly, where did he learn these tricky business practices?

Finally they went inside.

"Richie was my only customer," Johnny explained.

Still, the Kool-aid was almost gone.

That's what brothers are for.

Monday, June 19, 2006


For Father's Day, Johnny, 5, and Richie, 3, made a list of what they loved the most about their dad. At the top of the list was, "He wrestles us."

It's their nighttime ritual. Some people take calming baths. Others drink herbal tea. Fathers and sons put the smack down on each other.

Johnny and Richie get on their jammies and climb up on our bed. If I'm feeding J.J. his bottle there, they tell me, "You need to go in the living room now. We don't want you to get hurt."

My kids obviously weren't there when I gave birth to them. Because then they would know that, in comparison, their wrestling moves feel like a fly landing on my shoulder. But I humor them.

Usually, I stear clear of this melee. There are some things that as a mom, you shouldn't watch: Your kids measuring sugar for Kool-aid, cracking eggs into a bowl, and wrestling. Disaster is inevitable, and it does no good to stand over them and yell, "Pour it over the pitcher, over the pitcher, over the...! Crack it on the inside of the bowl, the inside, no that's the...! Stop being so rough, somebody's going to get...!"

But sometimes I have to go into the room to get something.

"Have you ever heard of The Claw?" Justin asks them. "How about The Chin?"

In both these moves, Justin puts his hand or chin in the middle of the back, which sends them into fits of laughter.

Then they turn the tables on him, jumping up in the air and landing on him.

"Ow, ow, ow" he says.

It's amazing how a three and five year old, by sheer will and hyperactivity, can bring a grown man to his knees.

But not for long. Soon their daddy is tackling them at the same time, saying, "Ha ha. I'm your worst nightmare."

"No," Johnny corrects him. "You're my worst nightmare."

Either way, the boys sure enjoy this nightmare. But maybe not as much as their dad does.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cleaning Out My Dad's Office

For Father's Day weekend, I wanted to post this essay about my dad, which I wrote in October.

My dad is moving on Friday and I’m helping him clean out old law files. The Union Carbide building, where my dad joined my Granddad in 1972, soon will be condominiums, part of the downtown revitalization happening in Kansas City.

“They’ve gone and gentrified my building,” my dad tells people.

As we drive into downtown, the smell of the Folgers’ coffee plant mingles with the aroma of our Quik Trip frapechinos. On Baltimore, the new library — housed in an old bank — shines in the morning sun. Farther down the street, a family of kittens has vacated the alley, their caretaker gone.

In the Law Offices of Brewster and Brewster, files stacked to their tipping point cover every desk, copy machine, refrigerator and library table, where they have accumulated since Mrs. Browning, the secretary, died.

Though Granddad died three years ago, and retired five years earlier at age 91, his file cabinets are full. I sit in a worn leather chair and pull up a standing ashtray to put paper clips in. As I flip through coarse yellow typing paper, I wonder why, though this is just an office, I feel like my grandparents’ house is being paved over.

I read off file labels to my dad before throwing papers away.

“Giuseppe D-,” I say.

“Joe D-?” my dad says, chuckling. “Granddad kept him from getting deported and he paid him in a side of beef.”

The court transcript describes a 1953 trial by jury and an appeal. D-, an immigrant, was convicted of drug trafficking in 1943, and a new law said that he could be deported. It must have taken Granddad months of preparation.

“Boy, that was some good beef,” my dad says.

My dad also subscribed to the barter system. Growing up, we ate spinach pizza about once a month — payment from my dad’s client Sarah Patito.

When my mom passed around the figs for dessert, my dad always said the same thing: “Sarah Patito is the only person in Kansas City who can grow figs. She has a green thumb.”

I hated spinach and once got a mouthful of ants when I bit into a fig, but I liked the idea of bartering. The old-fashioned give and take seemed friendly and forgiving. Plus, it’s how we got our Atari.

Four file cabinets later, we recess for lunch. At John’s bar and grill down the street, my dad tells stories. Anymore, bartered food won’t pay the salary of a secretary, so it’s just my dad at the office.

One day, he was preparing a case for probate court. Papers and files covered his desk while a blizzard whipped through downtown. A window rattled.

“You don’t suppose…” he said, eyeing the already cracked glass. Just then the window broke, sucking in snow and icy wind. My dad leaped onto his desk and laid spread eagle.

“If I move, I lose the papers,” he thought. “If I don’t move, I miss the deadline to file the papers.”

“Help,” he yelled. No one heard him.

The funniest things happen when you’re all alone. Unless you’re always alone. My dad was the only person some of his clients talked to. At the funeral of one woman, he and the preacher were the only people there.

And so, he brought his clients poinsettias for Christmas and mowed their lawns if they were elderly. As he loaded a lawn mower into his trunk on Saturdays, wearing his Busch Beer softball shirt, my mom would joke that he should call his business “Law n’ Service.”

Once, a client called him with a legal emergency. He brought along my mom and when they arrived at the client’s apartment, it turned out she just needed her sheets changed. I’m sure she never got a bill for the maid service.

My dad pays for our hamburgers at the bar, where an old man holds twenty lottery tickets.

“The pot’s worth millions,” he explains.

“If I won that, I’d be about even for the year,” my dad says.

My dad never struck it rich. It seems a shame to shred the evidence of his hard work: files regarding divorces, custody battles, bankruptcies and contested wills — my dad always said death brings out the worst in people. The papers will be shredded and recycled into documents for the next generation to sign and date.

On the way back to the Union Carbide, we stop at my dad’s new office in the New England Life building, the oldest skyscraper in Kansas City. Marble floors shine in the lobby and my dad’s office is sage and immaculate. This should ease my mind. My dad is landing in the lap of luxury. But for how long?

I stare out the windows where new boutiques dot the sidewalk. As the downtown revitalization continues, changing banks to libraries and offices to condominiums, I hope that there’s always room for people like my dad. They don’t just work in old buildings. They work in the old style, accepting food for payment and providing more than legal advice.

They know that the papers they push won’t survive them and the money they accumulate will only cause their children to argue. So they live for the day, enjoying their clients, even — or maybe especially — the crazy ones. My dad didn’t just believe that everyone had the right to an attorney. He believed they had the right to a friend.

The sun sets on downtown. Before leaving, I step into the office library, breathing in the smell of old law books. Soon, this library could be someone’s dining room. I picture a young married couple, both of them lawyers, eating dinner where the library table now sits. They tell stories about court. They laugh. They cry. But considering their expensive mortgage, they don’t eat bartered spinach pie.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Things Are Back on Track

In one twist of the knee, things shifted out of place.

Now, with Justin feeling better and me finding temporary work at the newspaper I used to write for, things are coming together again.

This will turn out for the best, people told me when the doctor first told us Justin would need surgery. Good will come out of it. Actually, good things happened during it.

People are just so nice. First, when I went to pick Johnny and Richie up at the pool after Justin's doctor appointment and burst into tears, my aunts Mo and Maureen and friend Stephanie gathered around me and said, "We'll help you. We'll watch your kids. It'll be okay."

And I realized how silly it was to think that we were alone in this. What had seemed so big suddenly seemed so small. Not just because people would help us, but also because I remembered the other times I'd seen people circle around their friends and say, "We'll help you."

When somebody was gravely ill or lost somebody. All those times that you can't tell somebody that things are going to turn out for the best. Because they won't. Even when time takes the edge off missing someone, they're still gone. And they've usually taken something with them.

My mom gave me a facial for my birthday with her neighbor Lisa. Which at first made me feel like I was fiddling while Rome burned since I still hadn't found a job. But I soon forgot all about that. I felt, as she put all these lotions on my face, like everything would be okay. I wouldn't have to do anything I wasn't supposed to do. If I needed to go back to work full time, for instance, then that was the plan laid out for me.

When I got back home, our neighbor Mark was picking up toy dinosaurs off our grass.

"I'm going to do something nice for Justin," he said, "because he's always helping me."

Justin is the go-to person in the neighborhood when someone needs advice on home improvement or something moved.

Then Mark mowed our lawn.

The next day, my aunt Mo took the kids for the day while I frantically applied for freelance jobs.

Next I got an e-mail from my friend Ann, who I only really know through this blog. She e-mailed her friends in the publishing business to see if they needed freelancers and gave them the link to this blog.

Finally, my old editor, yesterday, said he could keep me as busy as I want to be in the next two weeks, writing stories for the newspaper in the Northland.

Now, after all that, Justin says he's going back to work on Monday. Even though he can barely walk. Still, I'll need the extra work to make up for the past couple weeks and ward off full-time employment a little longer.

Plus, Justin still has the surgery ahead of him.

All this made me realize that I need to be more helpful when people hit a spot of bad luck or worse. That I need to freak out less when something bad happens to us. That it is possible to be even bigger tightwads than justin and I were before, shopping at Aldi's and renting movies from the library. And that time with the kids is even more precious than I thought. Especially summertime.

Things are back to normal, or abnormal, I should say. The kids were speaking in Whine this morning. A language that, as Justin says, cuts straight through the forehead and makes it impossible to think. Which come to think of it, might be why he's itching to return to work on Monday.

Now, juked up on Magic Stars, they're shooting each other with a nerf gun and making plans to battle Nacho Libre, which would give them an excuse to wear their underpants over their clothing.

Richie just said, "Close your eyes," to me, and when I did, he licked my shoulder.

J.J. is talking to his blue and white soccerball, which he is in love with like Tom Hanks fell in love with that volleyball in the island movie.

Yep, this is a great job.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sibling Rivalry

My sons' favorite T.V. show is "Tom & Jerry." I love this because while I'm loading the dishwasher or checking e-mail, all I hear is classical music, kids' laughter and the occasional explosion.

Now, I always thought Tom and Jerry were enemies. When Tom strapped little Jerry to a model train track and put his engineer hat on, I thought that he really wanted to kill the mouse. Instead of laughing when I watched this show as a kid, I felt sorry for Jerry. So I never really understood the allure of "The Tom & Jerry Show."

But I can see why Johnny, 5, and Richie, 3, would relate to it. They spend most the day trying to annoy each other.

Yesterday, they were fighting.

"Give it to me. It's mine. Miiiiiiine," Richie screamed.

"I found it," Johnny said.

"No, I found it," Richie said. "At the pool."

"I mean I found it just now," Johnny said. "On the couch."

Richie dove on Johnny, as he yelled, "I NEVER get to play with it."

What was it? A brown hair rubberband.

Even sweet baby J.J. gets in on the sibling rivalry. Whenever I hold Richie or Johnny, J.J. crawls over and he pushes the big boys off of my lap.

He seems to say, "Why are these boys always at our house?"

"J.J.," I tell him. "They live here. These are your brothers."

"That's impossible," he seems to say. "I'm an only child."

"No, I'm their mommy, too," I say.

"I'll never believe it for as long as I live," he says.

But he believes it. When I drop them off at a friend's house, J.J. yells from his carseat, "Huh!" as if asking, "Where'd those big brothers go?"

After a couple hours, he's ready for them to come home and tell him some jokes, like the one about the paddycake and the baker man. Talk about hilarious.

Likewise, when Johnny went to Chicago, Richie cried at night for him.

"Will he be home tomorrow?" He'd ask. "Why? Whyyyyyyyyy?"

Even during the day, they ask me where the other one is.

"Why?" I wonder. "So you can wrestle him to the ground and take his toy?"

Finally, the other day, I sat down to watch "Tom & Jerry" for a few minutes.

Jerry wakes up in his nightcap and yawns. Then he marchess immediately over to Tom, who's looking out the window, and kicks him in the booty.

Naturally, Johnny and Richie howl at this.

In this episode, Tom is in love, so he doesn't even notice Jerry, as he does progressively worse things to the cat. Tom's too busy watching the glamorous feline.

Well, that's the end of that problem, I thought. Now the cat and mouse can leave each other alone and live happily ever after. Alas, the female cat runs off with a smooth talking alley cat.

In the end, Tom and Jerry walk off arm in arm and say something like, "Let's never let a dame interfere with our friendship again."

What? I thought. Those guys are friends? What a couple of clowns!

Now I know why Johnny and Richie love this show so much. Tom and Jerry love each other so much that they don't let anything come between them: not even themselves. They must be brothers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Hourglass

It's 6 a.m. I sit up in bed, having pushed the snooze button six times without even realizing the alarm was going off. You'd think, by now, I'd have run out of dreamland explanations for why an ungodly siren was ringing in my ear.

Oh, well. The boys should be asleep for two more hours. I'm not too far behind in my morning work.

"Mooooooooooooooooom. Mooooooooooooom."

Richie, 3, has woken up with a tingly hand and is reacting like it is one of the great tragedies of our time.

"My hand, my hand, my haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand."

Johnny wakes up and sulks to the couch.

"I have nothing to do."

Ever since I banned morning T.V. watching, this is the daily refrain. Oddly, I pick up thousands of toys every day. I might not be Angela Lansbury, but I know that somebody is clearly doing something.

J.J., 11 months, wakes up and wants his bottle. No, he wants to crawl around. No, his bottle. He doesn't know what he wants. Everyone is cranky.

Last night I remarked to Justin that all this job searching makes me want to drink up every drop of time with the boys. It's just that I wanted to drink my coffee first.

6:30 a.m. We do worksheets. I'm trying to teach Johnny, 5, to read.

As we complete a counting activity, Richie chimes in.

"One. Five. Eleven," he says.

I've been dedicating so much time to teaching Johnny that I've letting Richie regress.

Where has the time gone? We've been here all year. God knows we wake up early enough to put in a full day of work. And yet I have a list of things to do while the kids are little, and only a few are scratched out.

Time plays this evil trick on us. We spend the first half of our lives in the top the hourglass, watching the sand disappear all around us as we try to keep our footing. Then our kids move away and we retire and we suddenly slip down into the bottom of the hourglass, with more sand than we know what to do with. And it's not going anywhere.

My friend and I lived in my grandparent's condo in Phoenix for a while, where many of the residents were elderly. My friend was waiting for an important letter, so she'd sit by the pool and watch for the mailman. A lot of the older residents would do the same thing every day. Just sit and wait for the mail.

I bet, when their kids were babies and they were making sales calls or rushing around the house, they never thought they'd be doing that. Just waiting for the mail.

7:30 a.m. I pour everybody a bowl of Magic Stars cereal, which is like Lucky Charms except that it gets soggy faster. Their mood improves.

8 a.m. The house falls apart right on schedule. Justin, home with an injured knee, decides to clean out the junk drawer, so now we have a junk kitchen counter. Richie is playing hockey with the flyswatter and a candy wrapper.

Their aunt Mo is picking them up soon to visit their cousins at soccer camp, so they get dressed.

Richie comes into the living room wearing a pale blue Hawaiian shirt, tan jeans, black sandals and a "Yeah, baby," grin.

Johnny is wearing a full soccer uniform.

Seeing him, Richie says, "I thought we were going to church."

Richie gets the wrong memo about everything.

To kill time, we play superheros. I'm the Sandman, the villain from Spiderman. Johnny, not surprisingly, is The Eater, a superhero who eats sand. Richie is Robin, who has no superpowers whatsoever but looks good. I lose miserably, as I always do.

Mo arrives. Time to clean the house. Find some work to do. Run. Run. Run.

Sometimes I think all our wishes come true. It just happens too late to remember what we wished for.

I want more time. And one day, I'm sure that wish will come all too true.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Take Me Back to the Old School 'Cause I'm an Old Fool

A quick tally:

Number of jobs I've applied for:

1 temporary
1 part time
1 pie in the sky

Number of temp agencies I've registered with:

1 clerical
1 advertising and marketing

Number of blogs I've written about how I want to keep being a stay-at-home mom instead of going back to work:

Number of employers banging down our door to drag me unwillingly into the workforce:

Number of times Justin implied that I should stop freaking out about going back to work until I actually have a job:

Number of times I've cried just thinking about all this: 5

Number of times Justin has cried about having to make money for our family or about having a busted knee, for that matter:

Number of people who are worse off than we are: 2.3 trillion (approximately.)
So I'm going to stop waxing nostalgic about being an at-home mom until I'm actually a working mom. Besides, there's the possibility that Justin's knee will clear up before his surgery and he'll be back to work and we'll work things out. Then, when the time is right, I'll search for a job like a normal person, instead of like a crazed lunatic.

Whatever the case, I'm going to keep a stiff upperlip. Anyway, I have the tendency to worry too much. Case in point: I once had a nightmare with cold sweats because in the dream I was wearing the wrong kind of jeans. They were pin striped, as they were supposed to be, but they were the wrong kind of pin stripes. They should have been light blue but they were dark blue. It was terrifying.

So enough about the old fool.

Onto the next subject: the old school.

Ms. Pacman. Our friend Betsy gave this and other games to the boys this weekend.

Remember when Atari was this big expensive thing that you had to beg your parents to get you for Christmas? My dad traded legal work with my uncle to get ours. Then we all fell over each other trying to hook up all the wires and get the T.V. to the right channel. Well, now those old school video games are a little joystick you plug into your T.V. And the boys didn't have to beg anyone for it. They didn't even know such a thing existed.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, they thought video games were free entertainment at restaurants. You moved the joystick and pushed the button until your pacman got eaten by a ghost. Then you did it again. Miraculously, no matter how you played the game, the same thing happened every time. It must have been fate. At least, that's what they thought until a kid whose parents apparently owned a quarter-slot casino came over and started playing for real.

But now they have a real video game. And it practically fell in their laps.

Johnny, 5, is still in Chicago. So 3-year-old Richie had this all to himself last night. His favorite game was Galaxy, where your spaceship tries to shoot the alien spaceships before they crash into yours.

He would start out sitting on the couch. Then he'd stand, holding the joystick up in the air and inch closer to the T.V., saying, "Get him. Get him." Occassionally, he'd set down the joystick in the middle of the game and examine his tummy to see if it was still stained with Popcicle juice.

Once I came in to see his spaceship explode and "game over" flash on the screen.

"Tough break," I said.

"Yeah," he said. "I breaked the bad guy. I winned."

Here's the thing about Richie's new video game: No matter how he plays, it still always ends the same way. With Richie winning.

His tally looks like this:

Number of times his spaceship exploded:

Number of times his racecar ran off the road and collided with a billboard:

Number of times his mouse got eaten by robber cats:

Number of wins:43

Number of losses:
Are you crazy? 0

I think I must be wishing on Richie's star.

Dropping the Ball

I planned to spend the weekend catching up on mail, cleaning the house and going someplace special with Richie, since Johnny is in Chicago visiting his cousins. Instead, I'm scouring the Internet for job opportunities.

I've applied for three so far. Finding a job in three days is easier said than done. This, apparently, is why they say you should have three months of income saved in case of an emergency. Maybe next time.

The thought of piling more on my plate had me in tears.

Plus I've done this before. In high school, when I was staying up all hours to get A's, I always thought I'd be a working mom. But now I know what it's like to sit in a cubicle with my ear in the phone and think, "I spend more time with my coworkers than my kids. I'm losing a year of their day-to-day lives, and I'll never get it back."

And then the lady comes to the phone and I ask her how many ferrets she currently has as pets for a feature story on animal rescue groups.

"15, right now," she says.

"That's wonderful," I reply through tears. "So do you stay home with them?"

Don't get me wrong. I love writing. It's just that I like being a mom more.

This is all assuming that I actually find a job.

Justin, meanwhile, offered to take Richie to the pool. But Richie threw a temper tantrum.

"I want to go to the mushroom pool, the muuuushshroooooom pooooooool," he wailed.

The mushroom pool is an indoor pool that we don't belong to but went to one time.

I told him to stop whining.

He said, "I want to cry. I want to cry."

"You can cry," I said. "Just don't whine."

Whining is complaining while crying, something I'm trying not to do. I have nothing to complain about. I realize I dropped the ball in the strategic financial planning department. A more goal-oriented approach to my career would also have helped.

I'm hoping for a temporary job, but I realize that it might be time to go back to work anyway. It might be time to reconcile career goals with financial aims. There's more to mothering than reading stories and doing workbooks and making sandwiches and going to the zoo. You have to create security for them. It can't just be up to the dad to make ends meet. Not in today's double-income economy.

And as my nana pointed out on the phone, I've gotten to stay home for a long time with the baby, and I should be thankful for that.

I am so thankful, in fact, that I can't think about it without crying. This has been the best year of my life. I finally know how to be a stay-at-home mom. I know enough, after working full time for a year, to savor every (other) moment. To play Batman and dig for dinosaur fossils with them because pretty soon they'll be too realistic to do any of that.

Richie and his daddy ended up walking to the library, Justin on his crutches. They both fell asleep when they got home, and J.J. found a purple Botox stress ball under the bed, one of the accessories my cousin, a nurse for a plastic surgeon, gave me for my 30th birthday.

J.J. held it over his head and waved it. I sat across from him.

"Throw the ball to mommy," I said.

I watched him hold the ball out to side, up to the light and against the floor.

But when it came time to throw it, he couldn't let it go.

He raised his eyebrows and looked at me like, "Here we go. No, here we go. Okay, this time for real. Now. Do you have it? Shoot, I could have sworn I threw it that time."

He held it over his head and scrunched up his nose and made the throwing motion and said, "huh," but it still didn't budge from his man-hand.

Holding onto the ball was easier than letting go.

Finally, he accidentally lost his grip. The next time he lost it sort of accidentally on purpose. And at last, he held it underhand and opened up his fingers. It rolled to me and he laughed.

Now he's rolling it all over the place.

You can let go of something that's hard to let go of. You can even do it with a smile. It just takes practice. And just because you let go of it doesn't mean it's gone forever. It's still there, waiting for you to hold in a little while.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Plan

To clarify, Justin's knee did not pop out of joint. My brother Luke, a doctor, read that in this blog and called Justin ASAP. Apparently that is an actually medical condition that is very, very bad. I just thought it was a figure of speech.

What probably happened, the orthopedic surgeon told us yesterday, is that the sheath surrounding the knee tore and is caught in Justin's joint. That is the best case scenario. Another possibility is that cartilage tore. They'll do an MRI and then scope the knee to see what's wrong and fix it at the same time. In about six weeks, Justin will be back on his feet.

Meanwhile, I'm searching for a temporary job if you hear of one. I can write or edit anything, and also have public relations experience. I've written promotion peices, newsletters, articles, Web site material, press releases and letters for clients. I can also go to work long-term, if needed.

Other talents include: keeping my wits about me while everybody throws temper tantrums, eradicating poor behavior with a single guilt trip, loading 2,000 cups and glasses used just once into a household dishwasher, removing splinters while a three year old goes ballistic, making sandwiches as the ingredients disappear into little hands, etc., etc. Of course, I'll leave all that off the cover letter.

Now, I'm going to do some job searching.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Kids Appreciation Day

Today we go to the doctor for Justin's knee. In case he'll be out of work for a while, I'm trying to either drum up a huge amount of freelance writing work or find a temporary job. If it's an injury that will have him out for a long time, I'll find a regular job.

So, thinking I might be away from the kids during the day soon, I noticed more things yesterday.

Like how, when Johnny, 5, swims to me as I step backwards, he keeps looking up with a big smile. Only he has to keep his mouth closed in the water so the smile is all in his eyes.

How Richie, 3, gives a thousands hugs a day. J.J., 10 months, pushes Richie away and looks at me like, "How long has this been going on?"

Of course, this couldn't have been one of those days when the boys are wild and J.J. has baby insomnia and the car won't start and the house is a mess and I'm ready to work outside the home even on a volunteer basis.

No, this was one of the good days. We made Richie's birthday party invitations. The kids are invited to Batman's Superhero School, where they will learn to leap, fly, disappear from plain view, chase bad guys, and generally save the world.

I don't know who is more excited about this, Richie or me. But Richie doesn't know the rest of the plan. While Batman is teaching the kids, Robin will come running into our backyard and say something like, "Holy Halloween, Batman, we've spotted a bad guy in the neighborhood. It's Two Face. Where's Richie Heos? I need his help. In fact, I need all your help. Let's get him."

And they'll chase Two Face down the street. I bought the costumes a couple days ago. Batman, Robin and Two Face costumes: $65. Cake, plates, forks and juice boxes: free with my gift certificate to Costco. Watching a bunch of kids chase Two Face through Waldo: Priceless. At least I hope so.

If you are a 20-something male, be on notice: I need volunteers for this exciting acting opportunity.

We drove Justin to his truck, which is now safe and sound in the driveway, and went to the pool. The boys just hung out with me in the shallow end and then on the lawn chair. I don't know if they feel bad for their dad or are just tired, but they're very lovey lately.

On a bad note, Johnny found out that our pool has a snackbar. I was trying to keep that underwraps. There's really no point in joining a pool if you're going to spend money everyday on snowcones and candy. I mean, what's wrong with our water and graham crackers? My cousin Hannah even said that she found her slushy on the sidewalk so that the boys wouldn't know.

But yesterday, Johnny said, "I saw a girl walking with an ice cream bar and I think I know where the snackbar is."

A kid with generous, honest parents always ruins my attempts to save money.

It's like when I tell the boys at Waldo Pizza that they're playing Ms. Pacman and they're happy until another kid comes over and puts a quarter into a different game and the boys ask, "Why didn't we need quarters to play?" and the kid looks at their screen and says, "You're not playing. It says, 'Game over.'"

Then the boys had swim lessons and Richie volunteered to go first at swimming with the teacher. In the 2'6" pool he calls the "little big pool" he showed me how he can swim by walking in the water and moving his arms. "Is I big?" he kept asking.

Even J.J. was squatting down and putting his face in. When his red ball floated away he'd squat down, ready to swim to it. I guess he's recalling those days in the womb. Funny how we spend nine months swimming in our moms bellies and then, once we get out, it takes five years to learn how to swim again.

Just like sometimes you have to look for a job outside the home to appreciate being home.

Johnny and Richie collapsed into bed at night. J.J. crawled around the play area behind our couch and I moved a decorative palm tree from the living room, where it was a hazard to J.J., to the front of our house. I was out there maybe two minutes and when I walked in, J.J. was at the door. Justin stood with him, making sure he didn't fall outside.

J.J. was smiling as if to say, "Oh, look. Mom's here. Where have you been the past two minutes, Mom?"

He fell asleep rolling around in his crib, as if it were a sailboat on a stormy sea, just like Johnny used to do.

I hope the boys are terrible tomorrow so that I'm ready to dive into the paid workforce.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Everything has Popped Out of Joint

Justin injured his knee at work and has been home on crutches all week. It was supposed to pop back into place on Monday, and then doctors could do minor surgery so that this didn't happen again.

But we're still waiting for that to happen. In the ER on Tuesday, the doctor asked, "How does it feel to be an anomoly?"

Justin laughed, but honestly I don't think it feels that great. It hurts him, for one thing. For another, he can't go to his job on crutches.

Meanwhile everything around here seems to have popped out of place. While Justin and I made tagteam phone calls, everybody saw it as their opportunity to a. spill something (J.J. and Richie,) b. throw up on something (Skippy,) c. fight over something (Johnny and Richie,) or d. not see workman's compensation patients (our family practice doctor.)

I can't even describe what our house looked like yesterday. Suffice it to say that when the first Wednesday of the month tornado sirens blew, I prayed that it wasn't a false alarm.

And taking out the trash might be small potatos to Justin, but to me, it's hard work. Where are the big trash bags, I wonder? Will anything crawl out and bite me? Yes, I realize now that I've been living a bit like a princess, thanks to Justin's typically good health. This has been a learning experience for me. I just hope the bell rings soon so that I can put my tiara back on.

Finally, by trial and error, Justin got a doctor's appointment for Friday through his workman's compensation adjustor. We'll just wait and see what he says.

In case Justin is off for a long time, I've been researching writing jobs on the internet. There are a lot of them out there. People need catalog writers, newsletter writers, promotions writers, grant writers, technical writers. And I think I'm actually qualified for two of the jobs.

A game I like to play while I browse or is "What was the last guy like?" You can tell things didn't go well if the classified ad says, "Must have a car THAT RUNS, citizenship IN AMERICA and a sense of humor THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT." You know you're gonna look like a rockstar compared to that guy.

On the plus side of all this, J.J. learned to clap, so it is like the Ricki Lake show around here. We can say anything and he applauds us.

Justin: Would you mind getting me a glass of water?

Me: Sure.

J.J.: Applause. Then, as I walk into the kitchen, he chants, "Go Ricki. Go Ricki. Go Ricki."

So that's fun.

Also, he's pulling up on the furniture and shaking his booty. Now he'll do this on cue (When I sing "Honkey Tonk Bedonkedonk.") So that's fun, too.

And we still have the pool to go to. And Justin's knee is gradually feeling better. Or maybe it's the medicine. He's able to sleep anyway.

We're pretty lucky, when you think about it. I realized this when the homeless guy next to Justin in the ER woke up to the nurse asking him where he wanted to go from there.

He scratched his head like he couldn't even think of a place he didn't want to go. Like the whole concept of the city was behind a pea soup fog.

Finally, he said 12th Street.

The nurse asked what was there.

And he stared straight ahead as if thinking, "I presume a street sign that says 12th Street is there. Honestly, I have no idea."

Then an EMT with a mustache wheeled a woman in as she asked for a huge glass of water. She was a big, friendly looking lady. Someone who looked like she'd never meet a stranger.

"I'm going to ask the doctors to get you that glass of water," the EMT said.

"Will you stay here with me?" she asked.

I smiled to Justin, thinking she was joking.

But when the EMT said, "There are a lot of other sick people that I need to help today," tears came to her eyes. She was crying like you do when you know you're being unreasonable but you just can't help it.

I always think that most people have somebody they can call and say, "Listen, I'm in the ER. Could you just bring me a Big Gulp filled with water and sit with me for five minutess." But that's not true. There are people who have no one. Nothing falls apart when they get injured. No one relies on them and they have no one to rely on except a sweet ambulance driver with a mustache. And the whole city is relying on him.

Lucky for me, I have seemingly thousands of household members relying on me right now. But we'll all be a lot luckier when Justin's knee--and everything else around here--pops back into place. Here's hoping for that.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"Small Bill" -- Richie's T.V. Obsession

Before watching "Batman" Saturday night, Richie saw a preview for the T.V. show "Smallville." It's about Clark Kent's high school days in Kansas as he comes to terms with his super abilities.

Richie was sold on this immediately, and was obsessed with it for the rest of the night.

Only he misunderstood the name of the show and thought it was a movie.

"Johnny," Richie said. "Do you know a different Superman movie is coming out? It's called 'Small Bill.' Kids can see it. It's rated. It's rated...What's it rated?"

"PG-13?" I guessed.

"No. It's rated PG," he said.

"Did you hear what they said?" I asked. "Clark Kent lives in Kansas, where your cousins live."

"No, he lives at Kansas City Rock. Kansas City Rock n' Roll," Richie said. I guess that's kind of like Plymouth Rock.

Justin came into the living room.

"Daddy," Richie said, standing up on the couch, pacing a little. "There's a new movie. It's called 'Small Bill.' It's okay for kids to see it. We can see it at the movie veater."

It was bedtime.

"No, no. I'm drawing a picture of Small Bill," Richie argued. "I have to."

It would have to wait for tomorrow.

A few minutes later, I went in to tuck the boys in.

Johnny and J.J. were already asleep, but Richie was sitting up in bed.

"Mom," he said. "Remember that movie, 'Small Bill?'"

How could I forget?

"I want you to sing about it," he said.

But just as my falsetto voice hit the high notes--"Clark Kent goes to HIGH SCHOOL in KANSAS. He runs really FAST," Richie cut me off.

"I want you to talk about it," he said. "Just talk about it."

Richie's eyes got wide as I began. "Before Superman was Superman, he was just a little baby named Clark Kent. And his mommy and daddy sent him down to Earth in a big egg. Well, it wasn't really an egg..."

"Does that movie have bad guys in it?" Richie asked.

"I think so," I said.

"No," he said. "It doesn't. It's just P.G."

I swear, my kids ask me questions just to prove that I'm full of it.

"Clark Kent would run down the sidewalk," I continued, "and see that he was going as fast as the cars. And one day, he just took off and went flying into the sky..."

Richie fell asleep thinking of Small Bill, the T.V. show that proves that Superman is really just a boy and begs the question, "Does that mean Just a Boy is really Superman?" A boy like, say, oh I don't know, Richie?

Kids and their obsessions. Honestly, to get that excited about a T.V. show! Now, I need to log off and check out the "Lost" Dharma Initiative Web site before the kids wake up. The "Lost" season finale was a couple weeks ago and I'm still trying to make sense of it. Did fate crash the plane? What drew the group of loosely related lost souls to that magnetic island? I mean, besides the magnet? Who are really the good guys on the island?

T.V.--for all the bad it does--cutting down on reading time, keeping people inside instead of out on their porches--at least makes you think. And gets you hooked.

When I used to spend the night at my friend's house on Fridays, she'd wait for the ad to talk to her mom. Otherwise, her mom, would say, "Jen, I love 'ya. But I'm watchin' Miami Vice."

I would get excited about the show just because my friend's mom was. To this day, the Miami Vice theme song gets me humming along like no other, except maybe the one from "Golden Girls."

I'm going to find this "Smallville" on UPN or whatever teenager channel it's on and when I do, I expect to hear Richie say, "Mom, I love 'ya, but I'm watchin' Small Bill."

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Richie, 3, is in his own world. If you've ever had or been a three year old, then you're familiar with this Land.

It's the kind of place where you have conversations like this:

Johnny: Why do people cry at weddings?

Me: Well, they're just so happy that they cry. And they're also a little sad because the people are all grown up.

Richie: But I have a red coat.

The other day, I put on a pair of sandals for a party, and Richie said, "Those are delicious."

I was singing the popular song, "I Had a Bad Day," and he said, "But you look good."

Keep in mind that in Three Year Old Land, your mom or dad is also your fiance.

In fact, Richie asked the other day, "Am I getting married or not?"

It was as if he had no idea if he was supposed to be standing on the altar or drinking a juice box or what the heck his agenda was.

After I explained to him that all that was a long way off, he hugged me dramatically and said, "Let's get married right now."

Yesterday, I told him he could watch his Batman video tomorrow and he argued, "Today is tommorow. Tomorrow is right now."

Which sounds a little like a bumper sticker slogan, come to think of it.

I thought it would be helpful, for those of you who have a three year old in your life, to translate some words from this special world.

Boxers: Suitable men's outerwear for going to the zoo, a friend's house, church, etc.

Booty in the Butt: An all-purpose chant used for situations such as: you've just thrown cake across the table and want to kick things up a notch before getting hauled into time out.

Butt in the Pants: The mother of all bad words. The kind of thing mothers shield their children's eyes from when it's spraypainted on something.

Pantsy Pants: A nice alternative to Butt in the Pants.

Bubble Bottom: Technically, this is what happens when your swimtrunks balloon while you're swimming. However it can also be a terrible insult. Or a playful nickname. Or a battle cry before chasing the joker or catwoman. Or a converation starter while eating hotdogs at the kids' table. It can mean anything really. It's just fun to say.

Even: A word added at the end of sentences to emphasize that you're telling the truth, particularly if you're lying. Example: "But I am 5 years old. I'm older than Johnny. I am. Even."

Uh Oh, Mommy: What you say when you've just spilled an entire gallon of milk minutes before it's time to walk out the door.

Hero saves the day!: Something to yell a few times a day to remind everyone that all is right in the world. Batman always gets the bad guy. The nerdy Peter Parker always leaves his beloved science courses to fight for the greater good. Superman always rescues Lois Lane in time (or, if not, flies around the world real fast to turn back time.) And you, wearing your batman mask and cape, are their ace in the hole. The kid they call to congradulate on going peepee in the potty. The one whose birthday party they want to go to. One day, they'll land in your yard and ask for your help saving the world. And you'll be ready, yelling this phrase (and "Bubble Bottom!") as your tiny 3-year-old self lifts off into the sky.

Breast Cancer Walk

My sister in law Erin is participating in a the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago this weekend. Her link is:
She needed to raise $1,800. She raised $2,605.
This weekend, she walks 39 miles in two days.
Proceeds from the walk go to fund breast cancer research, and screenings and treatment, particularly for people who can't afford it. You can donate in memory or in honor of someone.
Erin said she started out raising without really knowing anyone with breast cancer, but since then, friends have told her about their loved ones who had or still have the disease.
Good luck to Erin as she rounds her final lap today.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Swimming Pool: Mom's Reward for Winter Misery

All winter, your day goes like this:

Make breakfast. Try to entertain the kids with Mother May I? or some other game. Which always turns into wrestlemania.

Suggest that the kids get some fresh air. It turns out that fresh air is 20 degrees, and the kids last three minutes out there. Which allows you to pick up one sock off the floor and throw it in the laundry pile. The kids immediately take off their four socks and throw them on the floor.

Run an errand, trying to determine who is having a worse time, you, the kids, or the clerks in the store who have to put up with all of you.

Go somewhere fun for the kids, like the library. Go home and eat lunch. Nobody likes it and you wonder if there are any foods your kids do like.

Have "quiet time." The rest of the day is a blur until dinner time, when once again, no one likes what you cook.

You read books. You tuck the kids in. They are suddenly sweet as pie. Hugging you, asking you to scratch their back and tell them stories, praying for you--petitions that are sorely needed at this point. Where were these angels all day? Bedtime stretches into your own bedtime. You fall asleep and start over again.

You feel like a gerbil that someone forgot to take off the wheel. You've done so much, yet accomplished so little. In fact, you must be running backwards because the house is falling apart. You are embarrassed when the mailman so much as walks past the window, the house is so messy.

But all of this is worth it come summertime. We joined the Leawood pool this year. They have a kids pool with a waterfall, zero-entry area, a whale slide, an aligator the kids can play on, etc.

Due to Justin's truck's piss-poor attitude (it breaks down at the slightest provocation) we don't have a car, but my friend Sarah has been kind enough to pick us up.

I sit in the zero-entry area as J.J. splashes the water. This wears him out to no end. It's like baby Lunesta. We come home and he naps like a grizzly bear.

Meanwhile, Richie does his superhero moves in the shallow end and Johnny practices swimming in the three foot area. They do this for hours, stopping only for adult swim. We go home and they actually eat the dinner I fix. They fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow.

I've done nothing, yet accomplished so much: sleepy baby, happy, hungry kids, clean house (due to us not being there.) It is so easy, that seeing Justin collapse on the couch after work makes me feel guilty.

Then I remember those winter days and don't feel guilty at all. I feel like I've won a prize for staying on the gerbil wheel for five straight months. And the kids get a share of the treasure. Everybody wins.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What Kids Believe

Do you ever wonder what happens in your brain to make you think more realistically?

One night, you're lying in bed calculating how impossibly small the toothfairy has to be to get through your screened window, and the next, you're wondering how quietly your mom or dad had to sneek the money under your pillow in order not to wake you up.

Last night, Johnny and Richie had a plan to sneak out of bed and grab some popcorn out of a bowl two inches away from me. All without me seeing them. You see, they are invisible unless I make eye contact with them.

Their feet pounded on the hardwood floors. They paused in the living room, one room over from where I was checking e-mail.

"Okay, now!" Johnny said, and they ran right behind me and reached in the popcorn bowl.

Finally, I looked at Johnny.

"Doh," he said, throwing his head back, as if it was the worst possible luck that I would turn my head right then.

"Go back to bed," I said sternly.

Richie still didn't realize they'd been caught. He danced away, saying, "Hahaha." Then, when I turned my head, he sprinted dramatically past me and grabbed his own handful of popcorn.

Johnny grabbed for a second handful of popcorn and asked, "Are we buying a new car tomorrow?"

Earlier in the night, I had told him our plans for today were up in the air because daddy might need our car.

"I wonder if I have enough money to buy us a new car," he said, emptying his gold plastic coins onto his little table.

It was the pirate loot he and Richie recovered in Plymouth, Mass.

Now, we don't actually need a new car. We're buying my late grandmother's New Yorker. What we need is a new attitude for Justin's truck. It breaks down for a new reason every day. It needs to read the Little Engine that Could and suck it up.

As I was tucking Richie in, singing, "The Rainbow Connection," by Kermit the Frog, Johnny walked in with a swagger.

"Yeah. 11 billion dollars," he said. "Is that enough to by a car?"

Among other things.

So he keeps asking me which dealership we're going to today. Obviously we're going to the one that sells solid gold cars with hot tubs in the backseat. But I think it's closed today, unfortunately.

Maybe we could design our own car, like Johnny did in science class one time. It had a kitchen in it. Like an R.V., I guess. It will have to be specially made. That will buy me some time.

But when does it click?

A few weeks ago, he wished on a star to have a robot that did whatever he said.

"What would you ask it to do?" I asked.

"I'd ask him to make me sandwiches," he said.

Last night he asked, "When do you think I'll get my robot?"

I guess he wanted a sandwich.

Three nights ago, he backpedaled from believing in the pirate boat we saw in Plymouth.

"Why was the boat so small?" he asked. "Why was the pirate so short?"

"Maybe he was a dwarf," I said.

"He looked like he was wearing a mask."

"You can say that again," I said. "He was ugly."

"I think he was a fake pirate," Johnny finally said.

"Really?" I asked. "I don't think so because would a fake pirate try to take Nana captive?"

"No," he said.

"And why would a fake pirate have a real treasure?"

He couldn't answer that.

I'm just dreading the day that he tries to buy a piece of candy with those plastic coins. Because once one golden belief turns out to be plastic, everything loses its shine. The toothfairy. The Easter Bunny.

But not the wishing star. Even grownups believe in that. We can see it shining night after night. A real star that works if we wish for the right things.

I wish Justin's truck would sit in our driveway and pout all day instead of working properly so that Justin could take it to work.

My wish came true! You see how that works?